Posts Tagged ‘NCAA Football

25
May
12

Why Michael Floyd Will Succeed

After returning from the NFL Draft in New York City, I ran across a piece on Yahoo! Sports about Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner at Colorado who was drafted in the first round by the Chicago Bears 17 years ago. Four years later his football career was finished. The piece takes its quotes mostly from a recent Chicago Tribune story on Salaam. To use the popular sports vernacular, he was a “bust.” According to the story, he partied a lot and used marijuana, which led to his downfall. “I had no discipline. I had all the talent in the world,” he said. How did the Chicago Bears miss so badly in their evaluation? How can anyone think they can treat their body like that and excel at their profession?

One guy you wouldn’t have to worry about is Michael Floyd, the Notre Dame grad from St. Paul, Minn., whom the Phoenix Cardinals selected with the 13th pick in the first round. Yes, he had brushes with the law during his college career over drinking, but I know the guy so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I believe he’s gotten his wake up call and won’t wind up like Salaam. Move past that and you realize this is a guy who works at his craft. Moreover, he loves playing ball and doesn’t mind the training it takes to be an elite athlete. Blessed with natural talent, he’s worked hard to become a first round draft choice. Work ethic isn’t something you can easily measure though. It takes doing homework.

The NFL Combine, which happens in the dead of winter at the end of February, has become it’s own TV event. It’s kind of a cross between an old ABC-TV “Superstars competiton” and a job fair for prospective on-the-field NFL employees. And it serves its purpose: It’s a way management and scouts can get a last look at players before the draft and get last-minute information on players. The physical tests — 40 yard dash time, bench press test, etc. — serve as a way for NFL GMs to collect as much tangible information on the physical qualifications of their prospective employees. And, in a round about way, to justify their picks. Peter Lynch, the money manager who ran the Fidelity Magellan mutual fund  in the ’80s, explained why so many on Wall Street invest in the big familiar names (IBM, GM, etc.) as opposed to the smaller, more unknown growth companies. The reasoning is simple. If IBM goes down, people will ask, “What’s wrong with IBM?” If you invest in a small regional auto parts retailer like Pep Boys and it goes down, people will wonder, “What’s wrong with you?!” Relating it to the draft, the Kansas City Chiefs took Dontari Poe with the 11th pick even though he didn’t have a great deal of production on the field during his career at Memphis. The guy proved to be an athletic freak at the combine, so if he doesn’t pan out the Chiefs can at least offer the excuse that the guy had all the physical tools but he couldn’t pick up the pro game. Ironically, that’s what you’re looking for — players!

Unfortunately, having great “measureables” doesn’t mean a guy can play let alone if they’d make an ideal team mate. What exactly does a work out in shorts and a t-shirt at the NFL Combine prove? Shouldn’t a concrete evaluation of every prospect’s talents already be in the hand by this time? Personal interviews are part of the combine, too, and there’s a benefit to a face-to-face conversation. However, in my experience if you want to find out about a player’s work ethic, one group of people you want to talk to are the equipment managers. They deal with the athletes every day on a personal level and will give you an unbiased evaluation. Unlike a coach, they have no ego invested in a player. But that’s where the effort on the part of the scout comes into play. You can’t just show up at the games and expect to get that sort of information. It takes more work than that. I seriously wonder how many scouts put it in that sort of effort.

Great talents like Michael Floyd in football are like great talents in other walks of life — they make things look easy. But it’s not. James Kaplan, the author of a recently-published biography on Frank Sinatra, “Frank: The Voice,” told Fox News he was struck by Sinatra’s work ethic. While Sinatra knew he was a gifted singer, he didn’t just rely on his talent to make it. “One of the big surprises working on this book for me was to learn how incredibly hard he worked on his singing, on the lyrics, on his breath control, on every part of his craft,” Kaplan said. “He made it look easy. It was not easy!”

Take from the Chairman of the Board. If you want to make it in New York, New York, or the NFL or anywhere else, work ethic can’t be replaced.

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01
Jul
10

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.

19
May
10

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?”

23
Dec
09

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.

02
Dec
09

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.

25
Nov
09

Everybody’s Number One: Seantrel Visits to Ohio State

Seantrel Henderson, Tom Lemming and rivals.com’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.

22
Nov
09

Iowa: The Unofficial Visit

Seantrel Henderson takes in the Minnesota-Iowa football game last Saturday in Iowa City along with his teammates James McGuire and Mark Alt.

As my friend from the University of Iowa Athletic Department told me, Seantrel Henderson, the No. 1 high school football recruit in the country, was the talk of the press box before last Saturday’s Minnesota-Iowa game. The conversation went something like this: “Gee, isn’t he big?”  Judging by the number of Brainerd High School players staring across the field before their game against Cretin-Derham Hall (CDH) the night before — which CDH won — being the biggest thing going has its advantages.