Posts Tagged ‘Cretin-Derham Hall


Miami Twice?

Miami Hurricanes Head Coach Randy Shannon and Seantrel Henderson (Photo by Vince Muzik)

Much to my surprise, USC released Seantrel Henderson from his letter of intent today. I thought they’d fight harder, but I think the decision will serve bother parties well. Based on what I know, I’m not sure Miami wasn’t Seantrel’s first choice to begin with. And here’s why:

Between 1:00 and 1:30 p.m. CST on National Signing Day, Feb. 3, a PIPOL (person in a position of leadership) at Cretin-Derham Hall High School (CDH) got a text from Trel. He was in New York waiting to announce his college selection on Tom Lemming’s TV show. The message? “Miami.” The PIPOL at CDH texted him back for confirmation: Miami? “Yes, Miami,” Trel said. That person went on to show a bunch of other employees at CDH Trel’s message. (I can name a bunch of them who saw it.) I don’t think it was a coincidence the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran that information on their web site around 2:30 p.m. Except it turned out to be wrong.

At 4:30 p.m. CST when Seantrel made his announcement, he picked USC. Either Seantrel had a change of heart or he was just being a prankster, just to tug at the chain of his superior. I’m not sure we’ll ever know the answer to that one. However, I do know something.

The visit the Miami Hurricanes got from Seantrel that last weekend in January, the NFL Pro Bowl Weekend as it turned out to be, was the visit Oklahoma was supposed to get. Heading into December, the schools on Trel’s list were “the Big 5 plus one.” The Big 5 were USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida and Oklahoma. The “plus one” was Minnesota, the local school. Two other schools were on the periphery, Iowa and Miami. Oklahoma had tried to arrange a time for Trel to visit, but things just didn’t work out. Keep in mind, Seantrel’s high school football team played until the last Friday in November when they won the state championship. After that, basketball season started and the Christmas holiday wasn’t too far past that. The available weekends for visits withered away. When Oklahoma faded, Miami became appealing and got him to visit. From everything I heard, he had a great time meeting the brotherhood of Miami Hurricanes. It does pay to persevere, doesn’t it?


News Flash: Seantrel Henderson is not at USC

All the boys from So Cal: The Kiffins (Monte and Lane) along with James Cregg and Ed Orgeron.

It sure didn’t take long for the word to get out about Seantrel Henderson not showing up at USC last week. Yesterday afternoon I got a call from someone from the west coast who had a source at USC tell him not only was Seantrel not coming, but that USC wasn’t going to let him out of his letter of intent (LOI). Interesting. Seems to me the athletic department at USC leaks information like my bathtub faucet leaks water.

I couldn’t help the guy. To be honest, I have no idea what’s going on. And if I did, I wouldn’t tell anyone let alone a sportwriter. (Duh!)  But I know enough that if I were a betting man, I would wager where there’s smoke there’s fire. (Actually, the Star Tribune did a good little piece on this scenario.) Something isn’t quite right here that much I can tell. Seantrel’s a neat kid with immense talent who deserves some sort of closure on this chapter of his life. I just want to see him playing ball this fall for somebody’s school, and I want the best for him.


Joe Mauer… college football quarterback?

Joe and Me at the Vikings-Giants Monday night game in 2001. And he drove! (Photo by Carlos Gonzales)

If you live in Minnesota, you are prone to fanciful thinking these days. After all, who could have ever envisioned the Minnesota Vikings chief rival, Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers, ever leaving the Packers in the first place and then winding up with the Vikings — and coming within an overtime field goal from leading the Vikings to a Super Bowl appearance? Never in a million years! Or so we thought.

So, I read with some amusement Michael Rand’s blog piece from a couple weeks ago wondering if it might be possible — just possible! — Joe Mauer could ever wind up playing college football after he calls it a baseball career in a feat similar to what Heisman winner and fellow Cretin-Derham Hall alum Chris Weinke did. This time, Mauer, whose current deal ends in 2018, would stay home — hear that, Seantrel! — and play quarterback for the Minnesota Golden Gophers at the ripe old age of 35 years old. Rand called the University of Minnesota compliance office and got the low down from Andrea Smith, the assistant director of compliance (with a specialty in eligibility). Her verdict: “There wouldn’t be anything preventing someone like that from competing.”

Well, that got me to thinking… how on earth could Joe ever be a college student in the first place? He’s arguably the most famous person in Minnesota. He couldn’t walk across campus without being hounded for autographs or pictures or propositions of some sort or another. Could he be a full-time online student and play ball as well?

Seeking to get a few answers, I called my “anonymous source” contact within the Minnesota Golden Gophers football program. “The first thing I’d want to know is can he be a good quarterback. Brett Favre honed his craft playing almost 20 years in the NFL. Joe hasn’t payed football in a while. And how is he physically after playing a demanding position like catcher for so many years? Could he hold up at QB? Those are the first things I’d want to know,” anonymous told me.

As far as school goes, the university could make special arrangements for Joe to be on campus if he wanted to get his degree — and play football. “If Joe wanted to play, we’d welcome him,” anonymous said. “He’s such a gifted athlete we wouldn’t turn him down. Would you?”


ESPN’s 30 for 30: “The U”

ESPN must have a thing for running this particular documentary on holiday nights. The first time I watched “The U” by Billy Corben was back on Christmas night, then I caught it again last night (Easter).

This happens to be my favorite documentary so far in the “30 for 30” series,  a documentary series of 30 films commemorating ESPN’s thirtieth anniversary. It has some really good insights into how the University of Miami, a small school located in Coral Gables, Fla., with no history, no tradition and no facilities, became a national football power quickly, a “microwave dynasty” as former Hurricanes player Melvin Bratton put it. Between 1983-2001, the Hurriances won five national titles, four in a nine-year stretch (1983-1991) with three different head coaches (Howard Schnellenberger, Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson).

After learning about college football recruiting from my time spent at Cretin-Derham Hall High School and watching Seantrel Henderson go through the process — and he saw at all! — a few things stood out about how Miami built their program.

When Howard Schnellenberger stood at the podium in 1979, he said it was his plan to win a national championship at the University of Miami within five years. I’m sure lots of people thought he was smoking something else besides tobacco in that pipe that became his trademark. In short, he was really a genius. Give some due credit to his wife, Beverly. According to the doc, she convinced him to give up his gig as the offensive line coach of the Miami Dolphins and take the job at the school. Schnellenberger knew that football is a way of life in South Florida. High school games routinely outdrew University of Miami games.There are a lot of kids who play, and a lot of good athletes.  Most of them are black. He decided to win “the state of Miami.” Some of that “state” is pretty tough. Even today there are parts of the city you wouldn’t want to get stuck in when the sun went down.  In the late ’70s inner city Miami had it’s share of problems, lots of crime related to drug trafficking. That didn’t stop Schnellenberger from going into “the hood” to recruit the best players he could find. Schnellenberger went there; he didn’t just send his assistants. That’s one key in the recruiting game: If the head coach shows up to recruit a kid, that means that school is INTERESTED. In other words, they are making a priority to get that player. As one player said in the doc, “They (Schnellenberger and his staff) went to places where others wouldn’t go.” And I’m sure word got around: The guys at Miami were sincere. They got to know all those players better than any other college team could because they were local and they used it to their advantage.

Coach Randy Shannon - Photo by Vince Muzik

I had a chance to meet current Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon, a former linebacker at “The U,” when he came through Minneapolis-St. Paul to recruit Seantrel. The list of great players that wore that definitive “U” logo on the Miami Hurricanes helmets is endless. Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testeverde, Michael Irvin, Steve Walsh, Warren Sapp, Eddie Brown, Alonso Highsmith, Ed Reed, Benny Blades — and on and on. They played with an attitude, and some of them in the film haven’t lost it even as they’ve hit middle age. Naturally, I wondered what the reaction was to it. Coach Shannon told me he received a lot of positive feedback from this film, even though he wasn’t in it.

If that’s so, here’s one parting thought: For Miami to get back on top Coach Shannon needs to use the amazing story told in “The U”  of the Miami Hurricanes emergence as a power to his advantage. As it stands now, Miami’s web site doesn’t even scratch the surface of the testimonies of those Hurricane alumni. In fact, their web site is really whitebread! As I learned from him, there’s a brotherhood of past Hurricanes. In the NFL off season, those guys come to Miami because of the loyalty to the program. In terms of digital marketing, they need to remind recruits of that. The Florida Gators have taken over college ball in that state. Miami’s brand is as definitive as their white helmets and orange jerseys. They even have music to go with it. Don’t lose that edge because… it’s a ‘Canes thing!


Seantrel Wins USA Today’s Offensive Player of the Year

Cretin-Derham Hall offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson was named the USA Today Offensive Football Player of the Year today, the first time in the 27-year history of the award a lineman has ever won the honor. As a caveat, Seantrel’s picture ran in the upper left corner of the paper, two inches away from a photo of Michael Jackson, even in death the most famous guy on the planet.
Seantrel had a great quote in the article, one one with some intelectual punch but that’s humble at the same time. He showed why when gets a little more mature and a little more comfortable in front of a microphone he’ll be a lot of fun to listen to:

 “A lot of people don’t understand that everything starts at the front line… The offensive line, we’re protecting all those all those other offensive guys that are getting the ball and are getting those awards.”

He’s right. The offensive line is the engine of a football team. If you can’t run the ball, you can’t control the clock. If you can’t pass protect, you won’t be able to defend the de facto leader of your team, the quarterback. Good luck hearing that on ESPN or FOX or any other network when they show football highlights. Most of that stuff is for fantasy football players, not for those wanting to understand the nuances of the game. Perhaps the movie “The Blind Side” will change all that in the future. Let’s hope.


Minnesota Guy Andy Bischoff, Canadian Football Champion

For 14 years Andy Bischoff held various positions at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, including a two-time stint as Dean of Students and the assistant football coach of one of most powerful programs in the state. In the spring of 2008 he took up Marc Trestman’s offer to join his coaching staff of the Montreal Alouettes. A native Minnesotan, Trestman had compiled an impressive career resume as an NFL assistant after starting his career with the Miami Hurricanes where he coached a Cretin-Derham Hall alum, quarterback Steve Walsh. “Always a bride’s maid never a bride” when it came to head coaching jobs, Trestman finally got his shot in the Canadian Football League in Montreal — and Bischoff took the leap of faith and headed to Canada.

In their first season, their team made it all the way to the Grey Cup Championship game, but lost. This year, their second season in Montreal, they prevailed in the Grey Cup last Sunday night (Nov. 29) by the most dramatic of means. Down 27-11 with 11 minutes to go in the game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, their team won on a last-second 33-yard field goal. Actually, it was their second try. The previous play their kicker missed a 43-yard field goal, but Saskatchewan was flagged for too many men on the field. With a second chance, kicker Damon Duval put it right through the uprights. Game over, Alouettes champs.

Here’s a little Q & A with Andy:

Describe what being a member of the Alouettes has been like since winning the Grey Cup?

It’s been unbelievable. Amazing. The city has been incredible. From what I understand, although I’m leaving in a few days, there will be a different organization that wants to throw us a party or have our organization over for something for the foreseeable future to celebrate. I’m very humbled by it; It almost didn’t happen for us.

Your team was down 27-11 with 11 minutes to go in the game. What was the mood of your team?

Our guys just kept playing. There was no visible display of panic. When we got down by 16 points, we knew we had to use our time well. We were able to move the ball down the field relatively quickly. The defense came up big. When we needed a stop, they made a stop. We got a touchdown which made the game an eight-point game. Then our defense got a turnover, we got another score and were able to cut it to 27-25. We just kept composed and our guys just kept playing until there was no time left on the clock.

Coaching had to play a part in that? You can’t just turn on your team’s composure in the fourth quarter of a championship game if it hasn’t been there before.

Marc (Trestman, the head coach) does a great job of practicing situational football. A lot of teams do it, but I don’t know if as many do it as diverse and thoroughly as we do. Overtime, down by two, two-minute drills — it runs the gamut. Our last drive in the Grey Cup started at our own 30 yard line, down by two with no timeouts remaining. We did that before during the season. We scored a ton of points in that same situation throughout the year. Those things don’t happen by being lucky. Players and coaches make that happen together.

I was in the box for the game. On the field goal that won the game, we were holding onto each other for dear life. I didn’t collapse emotionally on the first kick because I saw the flag right away. It came from the part of the field where the only possible call was going to be against the defense. Our kicker had a tough game. This guy set a CFL record for points this year, but had his toughest game of the year in the championship. In the end he got a chance at redemption — and he did it. I couldn’t have been happier for him.

I got on the elevator to the field as fast as I could. When I got there, the Saskatchewan fans were totally stunned, kind of like the Vikings fans were after Atlanta beat Minnesota in the ’98 NFC Championship at the Dome. They were in complete disbelief at what they had just seen. A championship was in their grasp and it got away.

This had to be a game where everyone on the team got a game ball. Your defense kept your team in the game the first half, but your offense came through in the second when you needed the points. Fair assessment?

Give our defense credit for the whole game. It could’ve easily got out of control in the first half because our offense wasn’t clicking. Our defense kept us in the game, kept us in the game long enough for our offense to get in gear and get some points. Definitely, both sides of the ball — and our kicking game — made plays when we absolutely needed it. It sounds kind of cliche-ish, but it really was a total team victory.

You sent me a text message from Molson Center when the Alouettes were introduced before the Canadiens game. I saw the video on YouTube and it sounded like you received an extremely loud ovation. What has been the biggest honor that stands out in your mind since winning the Grey Cup?

The Canadiens game was the first special moment. To be honored by the Canadiens was special because the Canadiens dominate the sports scene in hockey-crazy Montreal. After that, the parade in the city was unbelievable. The parade was down St. Catherines Street. St. Catherines Street is the Grand Avenue of Montreal. Imagine Grand Avenue as you know it, double the size of the crowd you’ve seen at a Grand Old Day celebration and then realize it’s only you they’ve come to see in the parade. We only had five floats in the parade. That’s it. It was just people as far as you could see. At the end of the parade route, there’s an arts/theater part of town where the stage was set up. I remember people running down there to fill up the grassy space at this park. It reminded me of a Who rock concert from the ’70s when they had festival seating and people would run into the stadium when the gates opened trying to get a spot for the show.

I’ve been playing or coaching football for 24 years and I’ve only finished on top twice — with Cretin-Derham Hall in ’99 and with he Alouettes this year. It’s very humbling to see those people want to spend the day with you because you are a champion.


You Had to See This Game: 97th Grey Cup Finish!

You could count the amount of Canadian Football League games I’ve ever seen on one hand. This particular one I watched because my friend Andy Bischoff is the running backs coach of the Montreal Alouettes and his boss, Marc Trestman, is from Minnesota and destined to be an NFL head coach in someday. Montreal went 15-3 in the regular season, clinching their division five weeks before the regular season ended. They were heavy favorites in the championship game against the Saskatchwan Roughriders but were behind by 16 points with 11 minutes to go in the game. In one of the most dramatic finishes I’ve seen in years, Montreal pulled out a 28-27 victory on a last second field goal.

Qu’est-ce qu’un jeu! Félicitations Alouettes!  (Translation: What a game! Congratulations Alouettes!)


Cleveland Plain Deals Dials My Number

Doug Lesmerises, the Ohio State beat writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, called me this early evening to inquire about the YouTube video I did on Seantrel Henderson’s official visit to Ohio State. Word has got around about Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel’s home visit to the Henderson’s home this evening. The head coach was accompanied by his brother, Dick, the running backs coach at OSU who was the head football coach at Hamline University in St. Paul for 21 years (1979-2000). Lesmerises did an update in his Buckeye blog incorporating my video. Check it out.


Everybody’s Number One: Seantrel Visits to Ohio State

Seantrel Henderson, Tom Lemming and’s No. 1 high school football prospect in the country from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn., takes you through his recruiting trip to Ohio State, including his sit down discussion with Head Coach Jim Tressel.

What impressed me most about Seantrel’s visit was that the president of Ohio State, E. Gordon Gee, was at the game and made a point to introduce himself to him: “Seantrel Henderson, I know everything about you…” Memo to football recruits: If the president of the university you are visiting bothers to be there to introduce himself to you, they take football seriously! Another thing was the avuncular demeanor ( i.e., like an uncle) of Coach Jim Tressel. He seems like a cool guy, one you would like coaching your son. Can’t wait to meet him the next time he’s in the Twin Cities.


Congrats, Joe Mauer — and thanks for proving me right!

Joe Mauer, Elizabethton, Tenn., Aug. 9, 2001

Congratulations to Joe for being named, in practically unanimous fashion (27 out of 28 votes), the American League MVP. And it did my heart good to hear sports columnists-turned radio talk show hosts Dan Barreiro and Pat Ruesse actually admit this week they were wrong in their appraisal of Joe. When the Twins selected him No. 1 overall in the MLB Draft in June of 2001, Barreiro and Ruesse along with others were vocal critics of the Twins. Part of their thinking was that the Twins already had a veteran team and that adding a ready-to-go pitching ace like Mark Prior from USC would put them into contention for bigger things. The other part of their criticism was that Mauer was simply going to come a lot cheaper to sign for a smaller market team like the Twins than Prior, who’s three years older than Joe.

Did these guys bother to watch him play in high school? I’ll tell you what did it for me — watching Cretin-Derham Hall’s (CDH) game versus Brainerd in the state baseball semi-finals at Midway Stadium. I got to the game in the fourth inning, I believe. CDH is losing, 4-1. Joe had just been selected by the Twins in the draft and the place was full of TV cameras. Talk about pressure. Joe comes up tp the plate and hits a three-run homer. Game tied. Then his coach, Jim O’Neill, put Joe on the mound to pitch in relief. (Yes, I have a photo of him.) The radar gun was operating that day and Joe’s pitches were clocked at 92 mph. He struck out eight or nine guys and CDH won, 5-4. CDH went onto win the state tournament. Walking away that day made me think I’d just seen a John Elway-Michael Jordan-type performance: One guy went out there and took control of a championship-level game.

Since I don’t have my own radio show, the best verification I have is my friend Sue Ann Robak. She was working as a TV sports reporter in Lacrosse, Wis., at the time. I called her right before the Fourth of July that year and during the course of the conversation said, “You’ve heard of that guy Joe Mauer, the catcher the Minnesota Twins just selected in the draft… he’s going to be great.” Ask her.

PHOTO GALLERY: Joe Mauer Through the Years