Tuesday, December 29, 2009
By Purple Pride
December 24, 2009
MANHATTAN, Kan. -He’s been gone for a year now, and little positive has been said about former Kansas State coach Ron Prince. But after reviewing the accomplishments of his final recruiting class … Prince signed a good one.
Little positive has been mentioned in the same sentence with the name Ron Prince in the last 12 months, but it may be time to give a belated salute to his last recruiting class that was ranked among the Top 30 in the country.
On signing day back in early-February, 2008, the class numbered a whopping 32 players – 19 from the community college ranks, plus 13 high schoolers.
First, seven of those – Dustin Bell, Javonta Boyd, Kwamaine Brown, John Finau, Tony Gillespie, Kenny Session and Jack Hayes (stayed for 10 days) -- never arrived on campus for a variety of reasons putting the class at 25.
In reality, the number will soon be six who never arrived on campus as Boyd, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman, has recommitted with the Wildcats after a two-year stay at Butler County Community College.
But let’s now consider what the class that did arrive accomplished:
• Brandon Banks – Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year, 2nd team all-Big 12 wide receiver, shattered all kickoff return records and ended as a Top 10 type receiver in Wildcat history, 2008 Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
• Daniel Thomas – While a late arrival, he was a part of the class and emerged as the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year and a 1st-team all-Big 12 running back after leading the conference in rushing.
• Brandon Harold – A 2008 Freshman all-American, among all freshman in 2008, Harold led the nation in tackles for losses.
• Ulla Pomele – A two-year starter at linebacker.
• 2008 starters from the class – Banks, Logan Dold, Harold, Blair Irvin, Billy McClellan, Edward Prince, Pomele, Aubrey Quarles, Hansen Sekona
• 2009 starters from the class – Banks, Daniel Calvin, Antonio Felder, Attrail Snipes, Thomas, Wade Weibert and Braden Wilson.
• Others in the regular two-deep rotation in at least one of the years – Joseph Kassanavoid, Collin Klein, Blake Slaughter, Ethan Douglas, George Pierson, Josh Berard and Grant Valentine.
That’s 15 players who were regular starters, plus another seven who were high-profile backups. That totals 22 of the 25 players who arrived on campus with the 2008 recruiting class and could be defined as true contributors.
Monday, December 28, 2009
A quarter century of Buckeyes: Bill Livingston unveils his All-Ohio State team
By Bill Livingston, The Plain Dealer
December 26, 2009
BILL LIVINGSTON'S ALL-OHIO STATE TEAM (1984-2009).
Big-game performance was the tiebreaker in the picks. Some positions, like wide receiver, were so ridiculously crowded with great players that I decided to pick four and do away with a tight end. That also means only one tailback and no fullback.
Partly, that's because it's my team and my rules. Another part of my thinking is that I never saw tight end John Frank play in the early 1980s. But I just can't see Ricky Dudley taking up a spot that could go to one of the many wideouts who made your blood sing on Saturday afternoons.
QUARTERBACK: Glenville's Troy Smith (2003-06) over Joe Germaine (1996-98).
Smith, like Germaine, was the recipient of the last scholarship given in his recruiting class. Smith won the 2006 Heisman Trophy and Germaine was barely mentioned in 1998. But Smith was out of shape in both body and mind in the national championship game and laid an egg suitable for a giant's breakfast. His three victories over Michigan and his superb play in each game, as well as a big Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame and a stunning 54/13 TDs-to-interceptions ratio, made the difference.
Germaine might have been the better pure passer. He unjustly sat behind Stan Jackson until his senior year, along the way winning the 1997 Rose Bowl out of the bullpen. The 1998 team's loss, at home, to an ordinary Michigan State team, after holding a nine-point second-half lead, is just too much to ignore.
Honorable mention: Craig Krenzel (2000-03), Bobby Hoying (1993-95), Mike Tomczak (1981-84).
TAILBACK: Keith Byars (1982-85) over Eddie George (1992-95).
George (1,927 yards, 24 TDs) won the 1995 Heisman Trophy, but he was overshadowed by Tim Biakabutuka in the staggering season-spoiling loss to Michigan. George had critical fumbles that cost OSU the game against Illinois his freshman year. Until his sensational senior year, coaches carped that he left too many yards on the field by not seeing cutback lanes or getting to the hole in time.
Byars (1,764 yards, 22 TDs) had already lost the 1984 Heisman before Doug Flutie threw the Hail Mary pass to beat Bernie Kosar's last University of Miami team. That was simply because the diminutive Flutie represented the romance of college football. But I still remember Byars running for a TD after throwing a shoe in a shootout victory over Illinois. He did everything to win the Heisman except be the runt of the litter, like Flutie.
Honorable mention: Maurice Clarett (2002) because the national championship never happens without him, Euclid's Robert Smith (1990-92), Akron Garfield's "Beanie" Wells (2006-08), Akron Buchtel's Antonio Pittman (2004-06).
WIDE RECEIVERS: Tailback used to be the signature position at Ohio State. It just might be wide receiver now. It might be best that Woody never lived to see it.
Terry Glenn (1993-95) -- Ohio State's only Biletnikoff Award winner as college football's best receiver was a one-year wonder. But what a year, and what a wonder! He seemed to spend half the year in mid-air. Glenn had seven 100-yard games receiving in 1995 for 1,411 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had feet fit for "Dancing with the Stars," tight-roping the sideline for eye-popping catches. Along with Eddie George, Glenn, as Bobby Hoying's favorite target, gave OSU so much firepower, it was hard to believe they could lose -- until John Cooper worked his big-game magic against Michigan.
Cris Carter (1984-86) -- I'll always remember Carter's one-handed catch against Brigham Young in the 1985 Citrus Bowl. Unfortunately, by taking money from an agent, he sabotaged coach Earle Bruce's OSU career.
Joey Galloway (1991-94) -- Galloway (top four in yardage and receptions, second in TDs at OSU) was a consistent performer with speed enough to take Ohio State's passing game into the modern age.
David Boston (1996-98) -- The Texan scored 34 touchdowns and caught the pass -- after turning an Arizona State defender into a pretzel -- that won the 1997 Rose Bowl. Boston also set the school one-season record with 85 receptions in 1998.
Toughest omission: Michael Jenkins (2000-2003). Jenkins was one of the great clutch receivers in OSU history, witness his catch of the fourth-and-2, last-gasp bomb to beat Purdue in 2002 and his 17-yard reception in overtime on fourth-and-14 vs. the Miami Hurricanes in the national championship game.
Honorable mention: Santonio Holmes (2003-05), Dee Miller (1995-98).
OFFENSIVE LINE: I'm not hung up on positions here. I'm just picking five guys.
Orlando Pace overwhelmed nearly every defender he faced during his exemplary career with the Buckeyes.
Orlando Pace (1994-96) -- With two Lombardi Awards (best lineman or linebacker) and an Outland Trophy (best interior lineman), the giant tackle might be OSU's most gifted blocker since Jim Parker in the 1950s. I still see Pace, 60 yards downfield, bullying a helpless Rice safety on a long touchdown pass in 1996.
Korey Stringer (1992-94) -- The late tackle blocked for Robert Smith, who'd have won a Heisman if he had stayed for his senior year, and Eddie George. Enough said.
Jim Lachey (1981-84) -- Lachey became a Pro Bowl left tackle in the NFL with the Redskins, but he played guard at OSU and was platooned until his senior year at OSU. (Take a bow on that talent assessment, Earle.)
Nick Mangold (2002-05) is my center, over LeCharles Bentley. It has nothing to do with Bentley's star-crossed five minutes as a Browns snapper. Mangold didn't win the big centers' award (the Rimington) while Bentley did, but Mangold was on the goal-line offense as a true freshman in the championship game. He also was a bulwark on some very good teams.
St. Ignatius' LeCharles Bentley (1996-2001) -- Bentley played seven games at guard and one at tackle before moving to center for his junior and senior seasons.
Honorable mention: Jeff Uhlenhake (1985-88), Berea's Alex Stepanovich (2000-03), Rob Murphy (1996-98).
DEFENSIVE LINE: Will Smith (2000-2003) -- The leader of the ferocious front four of the 2002 national championship team, he recorded 10.5 sacks and set the tone for the upset of Miami with a bear-paw swat that floored Hurricanes quarterback Ken Dorsey for a loss on the very first play.
Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson (1992-93) -- Don't let the bust his NFL career became as the No. 1 overall pick dim what a force he was for the scarlet and gray. He had 23.5 tackles for a loss and was in the face of Louisville's Jeff Brohm, forcing a wild pass on the two-point try that would have beaten OSU in the 1992 opener.
Vernon Gholston (2004, 06-07) -- This pick is going to get me in trouble. Gholston was a late-bloomer, like Terry Glenn. In 2007, he found the can of spinach or something and turned into Popeye with a score to settle with Bluto. He exploded for 14 sacks, an OSU record, in his junior year, then turned pro. A disappointment in the NFL, Gholston tended to get his sacks at OSU in clusters, sacrificing consistency. But when he was rolling, few were ever more disruptive. He had an overwhelming game against Michigan in 2007, even victimizing the overall No. 1 pick in the 2008 NFL draft, Jake Long.
Mike Vrabel (1993-96) -- A top linebacker in the NFL, Vrabel racked up 36 sacks and 66 tackles for losses, both career OSU records, at defensive end. He had the one-season record for sacking and pillaging backfields until Gholston came along.
Honorable mention: Almost anyone who played alongside Will Smith on the 2002 front four -- Tim Anderson, Darrion Scott, Kenny Peterson (who delivered the game of his life in the championship game) -- and Quinn Pitcock (2003-06).
LINEBACKERS: Andy Katzenmoyer (1996-98) -- The 1997 Butkus Award-winner as the best college linebacker, Katzenmoyer wore Archie Griffin's No. 45 after it was un-retired and was simply a game-changer. He specialized in huge plays (18 tackles for loses, six interceptions) and huge hits. Pieces of Missouri quarterback Corby Jones' equipment and, indeed, body might still be airborne in Columbia, Mo., after Katzenmoyer teed him up in the open field.
Chris Spielman (1984-87) -- The all-time leader in solo tackles with 283, Spielman won the 1987 Lombardi Award. He was the first great Ohio State player I saw. Bruce put him in at the start of the second half in the 1984 opener "and I think he made about 26 tackles," said his assistant coach at the time, Jim Tressel. Spielman kept it up, week after week, season after season.
A.J. Hawk (2002-05) -- The 2005 Lombardi winner moved from so-so recruit to the No. 6 pick in the NFL draft. I still see him sacking Notre Dame's Brady Quinn on fourth-and-short in the red zone early in the Fiesta Bowl.
Toughest omission: James Laurinaitis (2005-08). This is another pick (actually, a non-pick) some fans will disagree with. He was a three-time All-American, but ... the Nagurski Award (best college defender) and Butkus Award winner, Laurinaitis was a coverage linebacker in a read-and-react scheme. That's an untraditional role, and it led to too many tackles too far downfield. He really only made one game-changing play, forcing a fumble against Texas near the goal-line in 2006.
Honorable mention: Bobby Carpenter (2002-05), Anthony Schlegel (2004-05), Pepper Johnson (1982-85), Elyria's Steve Tovar (1989-92), Elyria Catholic's Matt Wilhem (1999-2002).
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Another treasure trove position with lots of lockdown guys and big hitters.
Shawn Springs (1994-96) -- He never had an interception. Foes accorded him the ultimate respect by, Deion Sanders-like, seldom throwing at him. Springs reduced Arizona State's heralded Keith Poole to inconsequence in the Rose Bowl. Unfairly remembered for the slip that let Michigan's Tai Streets go all the way in the only loss of the 1996 season, Springs never pointed out that OSU still led, 9-7, at the time. But I will.
Antoine Winfield (1995-98) -- The Akron Garfield product won the 1998 Thorpe Award as the nation's top college DB. He was the most physical cornerback in the Big Ten a decade ago and now has the same distinction in the NFL.
Mike Doss (1999-2002) -- A three-time All-American, Doss gave OSU the lead against Miami with a pick and rambling return of a pass by the beleaguered Dorsey.
Chris Gamble (2001-03) -- Hard to see the 2002 national title happening without this three-way threat (he also played wide out and returned kicks) who was on the field for 107 plays against Miami. On his interception of a deep ball to an ostensibly open Purdue receiver in 2002, he covered so much ground, it is comparable to Willie Mays and the ball Vic Wertz hit in the 1954 World Series.
Honorable mention: Shaker Heights' Nate Clements (1998-2000), Glenville's Donte Whitner (2003-05), Malcolm Jenkins (2005-2008), Will Allen (200-03).
Punter: Brecksville's Tom Tupa (1984-87) over B. J. Sander, who won the Ray Guy Award as college football's best punter in 2003. Tupa's 1984 (47.1) and 1987 (47.0) averages are the best in OSU history. At practice, it sounded like a small explosion when the ball met his foot.
Kicker: Mike Nugent (2001-04) -- All-time leader by a lot in field goals, he had a leg that could just deflate opponents.
Toughest omission: Josh Huston (2001, 2003-05). I will never forget his booming kickoffs forcing Minnesota to take the ball at its own 20 over and over again in a shootout Ohio State victory in 2005.
Kick returner: Glenville's Ted Ginn Jr. (2004-06) -- As the most dangerous return man in school history, his fingertip snag of a Michigan punt while he and Santonio Holmes played you-take-it, I-got-it and then his zig-zag return for 82 yards in 2004 could no more be plotted on a play diagram than the flight of a bumblebee. How much different might it have been if "friendly fire" didn't fell him after his kickoff return for a TD on the first play of the Florida debacle? Ginn was a huge part of the game plan that night.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
By Bill Huber
October 27, 2009
Life has put Aaron Kampman to the test, and he has tackled the challenges with a deep inner strength. Get to know the Pro Bowl player who has become a fabric of the community and is using his celebrity to make the world a better place.
You know Aaron Kampman as one of the greatest pass rushers in Packers history.
You know Aaron Kampman as the fifth-round draft pick who worked his way into becoming a two-time Pro Bowler.
You know Aaron Kampman as the player who was the focal point of the Packers’ defensive switch during the offseason.
This story is not about that Aaron Kampman. In fact, this story has absolutely nothing to do with football.
This story is about the Aaron Kampman who has gone through a few life-changing events over the last year-and-a-half. There was the tornado that stormed through Parkersburg, Iowa. There was a trip to Africa with teammate Donald Driver. There was the murder of his high school football coach.
“There’s definitely been a lot of things back home, and they haven’t necessarily been positive,” Kampman said.
It all started on May 25, 2008 — the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend — when a massive tornado tore through the Iowa communities of Parkersburg and New Hartford.
“I was in Kansas City visiting family,” Kampman recalled. “We were going to leave that night, my brother-in-law and I. But then we heard there was a gas leak so they were evacuating the town. We figured, ‘Well, it does us no good to drive there and sleep in the car if we can’t do anything and the town’s evacuated.’ So, we waited until 4:30 or whatever in the morning to get some sleep, and we proceeded to drive to Des Moines. We stopped at Menard’s and bought a bunch of chain saws and some other debris-cleanup items and made our way into Parkersburg, through the barricades due to my being family. Then we got to work.”
But not before seeing the shocking vision of a town a shambles.
What's left of Aplington-Parkersburg High School is seen at the bottom of this aerial photo.
While Kampman’s parents in Kelsey were unharmed, his grandfather, Claas, needed surgery after being thrown from his home by the storm. The home of the parents of Kampman’s wife, Linde, located just a block away from Class, needed its roof repaired. Aplington-Parkersburg High School, where Kampman and fellow NFL players Jared DeVries, Brad Meester and Casey Wiegmann starred, sustained massive damage. Gone were Parkersburg’s gas station, grocery store and city hall. More than 40 percent of the city’s homes — 350 — were destroyed, and another 100 or so received major damage. In all, eight people died, including six in Parkersburg.
“It was a shock,” Kampman said. “The images that you’re accustomed to — the horizons, the landscape — it’s been there for years, and it’s completely gone. I guess it would be similar to putting the whole town in a blender and dumping it back out again. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures. It was just complete devastation.”
While the cleanup continued, life went on. It had to go on. With the high school reduced to rubble, the students crammed into the middle school to take classes. Through it all, making sure the football season would be played was a top priority — even though the field coined the “Sacred Acre” was strewn with rubble and broken glass, the light poles were snapped and the scoreboard was missing.
So, on Sept. 5, 2008, Kampman and Linde, along with cornerback Will Blackmon and his wife, Shauna, and trainer Pepper Burruss hopped on the plane of Packers board member Jim Christensen and flew to Iowa to watch the Falcons provide an uplifting diversion for the community.
That the Falcons won 53-20 didn’t really matter.
“Just like Coach Thomas mentioned to the young men and I did the same,” Kampman recalled, “they had already won, so to speak, by just being there that night, by being part of something that was pretty important to the community by giving them something that they were accustomed to and to bring some normalcy back to their lives — that being the football field and the football season. There was a sense of redeeming, I guess, that something that was so ugly — there was a redeeming value, a spirit present that night and a sense of overcoming and celebrating. It was pretty powerful.”
A year-and-a-half later, the rebuilding continues, and it’s not far from Kampman’s mind. There’s a gas station and a grocery store. A glittering high school was built. The academic wings were finished in time for the 2009 school year; the gyms, auditorium, weight room and wrestling room are set to be complete in November.
“The mark the tornado left will be there for years and years to come,” Kampman said. “It takes years for trees to grow back. My grandfather, who’s since moved back into his home this past month, told me he was just out planting an 18-inch tree in his backyard. He told me that will be for the next generations. That’s kind of the reality of it is that it’s going to take awhile before the trees grow again. But that’s how time is. Time seems to heal wounds, and that’s kind of what the community is in the midst of right now.”
Ed Thomas was the NFL High School Coach of the Year in 2005.
The community suffered another punch in the gut 13 months after the tornado. Ed Thomas, the beloved coach who was voted the NFL High School Coach of the Year in 2005, was murdered on June 24 in the high school’s temporary weight room. The Sports Illustrated magazine cover featuring Thomas and the headline “A Good Man Down” sits inside Kampman’s locker at Lambeau Field.
“Coach Thomas was a tremendous man,” Kampman said. “He was a man that stood for values and principles that seem to be under attack these days. It was obviously an honor to play for him, to know him. Even after I was done playing, obviously, we continued to keep our relationship alive over the years. Always when we’d go back to visit our families, my wife’s parents are from Parkersburg and mine are from Kelsey, so it’s all real relative. When we go back there, we’d always make sure to stop in and say hello to Ed and (his wife) Jan, and if I’d go up to the schoolhouse, I’d go up there and get the keys from him for the weight room. I could talk for a long time about him.”
Kampman, along with Thomas’ other NFL players, were among the pallbearers at the funeral a few days later.
“He was a tremendous influence on my life and the lives of many, many other young men,” Kampman said. “One of the well-known quotes that’s been said but he really lived it and believed it, he would tell us that, ‘If all we do is teach you how to block and tackle, we failed you as coaches.’
A woman pays tribute to slain coach Ed Thomas.
“That embodies a lot of the ethos of Coach Thomas’ coaching philosophy. He was about developing the character of young men.”
The one-two punch of a tornado and a murder of an iconic coach might be too much for some people to withstand. But Kampman — just like most people in Parkersburg — has abundant inner strength to draw upon.
“I’ll never forget Coach Thomas,” Kampman said. “The night that I was there for that game, at his pregame talk to the team, he challenged the boys that he hoped that they understood the grace that they had been shown in that whole rebuilding — the resurrecting, so to speak — of the community to get to that point. To me, that kind of embodies why we’re able to go on, because we understand that our hope doesn’t lie just in this life.
“So, yeah, I think that the community, myself included, we look forward to the realities of what’s to come. I know that sometimes people say, ‘Well, hey, that’s someone leaning on faith or religion when bad things happen,’ but, yeah, it’s true. We’re supposed to.”
Broadening his horizons
Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene arrived in Green Bay in February. It didn’t take him long to gain an appreciation of Kampman.
“I think he’s a God-fearing person that has his priorities in order,”
Greene said. “He’s got a great heart and he’s a true pro. I totally respect him and what he brings to the table for the Packers.”
That heart took Kampman to Africa in late February. Joining him were Linde and Donald Driver and his wife, Betina. It was the Kampmans’ second trip to Africa. Among the highlights of this 10-day trek to the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, and some of the surrounding areas was delivering soccer balls to a school. During the Kampmans’ first visit to Africa, Kampman was hit hard by holding AIDS-infected twins.
Aaron Kampman and Donald Driver pose with a Kenyan girl wearing a Packers T-shirt.
“When you grow up in the slums, sometimes there’s not a whole lot of hope,” Kampman said of the sobering counterpoint to life outside of football.
Driver and Betina came at the Kampmans’ invitation, and Driver agreed at the urging of Betina. The surroundings weren’t exactly what an NFL star is accustomed to, though the mosquito nets in their room were appreciated. At the end of the trip, Driver — who spent part of his youth living out of the back of a U-Haul — had grown a deep admiration for the people he met and a deeper appreciation for Kampman.
“It was a great experience,” Driver said. “You really don’t understand until you get there. I lived a life of being homeless but nothing, nothing compared to what they go through. To be standing over there with those families and seeing every morning how they wake up and go through the things that they go through, I couldn’t imagine going through that. I sit back now and I think about it and how maybe I was just complaining as a kid and as a young man, just complaining of all the hard things I went through. Those families, they wake up every morning not complaining. They’re just happy to be able to breathe and see a brighter day. That’s amazing. There’s no way that I could be able to go through the things that those mothers and fathers and children go through every day.”
Aaron Kampman and his wife, Linde, pose with students.
The trips are just another way in which Kampman is broadening his horizons. And while a trip to Africa is out of reach for most of us, a difference can be made in your own area, whether it’s volunteering with children or donating to a food pantry.
“They’ve shaped and impacted us a lot,” Kampman said of the trips, “because as we look forward to when my playing days are done — and even now, we continue to think about what that will look like — but just practically, it helps us to feel a sense of responsibility, an opportunity if you will, to share some of the global realities that are a part of our world today.”
Whether it’s a devastating tornado, the murder of a mentor or the smiles of hundreds of dirt-poor children, it all makes the hubbub of moving from defensive end to linebacker seem sort of irrelevant. It also provides a place to find the strength when times are difficult on the football field.
“Well, I think a lot of times in our life, we want things where we can escape from the realities,” Kampman said. “I’m part of the entertainment world, so I can’t point a finger at it. But in the end, I think what matters are relationships with people who are closest to you, and from a missional standpoint, those people that don’t know about that hope that I talked about, really, you boil it all down, and I think it becomes a pretty more clear picture.”
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
From "Sparano: Henne needed to make better decisions"
December 22, 2009
(On Brian Hartline making big plays yesterday) - "The play that Brian made at the end of the game yesterday is a tremendous play, really tremendous play because he became a defender on the player. That was really an interception. The ball was in the kids hands, Brian stuck his hand underneath the ball to play defense with it and knocked it out and then out wrestled the safety for the ball. Heck of an individual effort by a young guy in a critical situation. He made two big plays in the course of the game yesterday. Consistency at that position in that position is important too. You see the two big plays; I see some of the other things. He is getting better and better, but we got to continue to get consistent."
Thursday, December 17, 2009
(PHOTO-John Sleezer/Kansas City Star Mike Vrabel (50) and the rest of the Chiefs defense didn't have much success in slowing Correll Buckhalter and Denver in a 44-13 loss on Dec. 9. But Vrabel means more to Kansas City than just his on-field performance, says Bill Livingston.)
By Bill Livingston
December 17, 2009
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- A basketball player once told me Red Auerbach built the Boston Celtics to last, "like the Roman Empire."
The player was M.L. Carr, who later became Boston's general manager in the 1990s, about the time the Visigoths overran the empire.
The Celtics got old together back then. Management forgot about replenishing the team with youth and speed, sentimentally letting veterans play out the string together. After that, they had no one to remember the specs of the blueprint for victory.
In the old days, the Romans used career soldiers called centurions to indoctrinate the men in the ranks. Among the new centurions in the NFL is Mike Vrabel, of Walsh Jesuit, Ohio State and the Browns' opponent this Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Before New England's coaching staff made Vrabel a central element of three Super Bowl champions, he was a spare part in Pittsburgh. After New England, he and Matt Cassel, who baby-sat the quarterback position when Tom Brady was hurt last season, were traded to Kansas City for a second-round draft pick.
Cassel is the player of the future; Vrabel is the veteran exemplar.
“You have to lead by example. You have to let the games and the practices come to you.”The Browns have tried to do this in the past, but ex-Pat Willie McGinest, a Romeo Crennel favorite, often played as if he was 45 years old. Jeff Garcia, Butch Davis' solution to the quarterback problem, tried to tell everyone how he did it in San Francisco.
"You can't come in yelling and talking 'When I was here, we did this,'" said Vrabel. "You have to lead by example. You have to let the games and the practices come to you."
Vrabel didn't come into the NFL as a golden child. He was a third-rounder, the 91st pick overall. He started as a special teams crazy. Although he had to switch positions from down lineman at Ohio State to linebacker, he made himself into a Pro Bowl player.
"He's a special guy," said Browns coach Eric Mangini, who coached Vrabel in New England. "You can't coach his toughness. You can't coach his instincts. [He is] a guy that wasn't highly drafted, worked his way up. Really, we had brought him in initially as a special teams player and he established himself as a really good defensive player.
"Even talking to [Jason] Trusnik when he was a young guy first starting out, I talked to him about emulating a guy like Mike Vrabel whose work ethic, every day in practice [he] worked. He knew the defense, not just his assignment, knew the defense, could draw up the defense, could coach the defense."
In practice, Vrabel would want to play safety. "He'd disguise stuff," said Mangini. "He used to frustrate Tom [Brady] to no end. He'd get Tom all fired up."
In Kansas City, Vrabel and his three Super Bowl rings would only work if he could still play. He certainly had the pedigree. He was one of the best defensive linemen of the last 25 years at Ohio State and held the season sack record until one-year wonder Vernon Gholston broke it. He still leads the Buckeyes in career sacks.
In the NFL, besides playing linebacker, he has caught nine touchdown passes over the years in the goal-line offense, plus two in Super Bowls. "He's one of our best defensive players, if not the best defensive player," said Chiefs coach Todd Haley.
Although Richard Seymour, another exiled Patriot, criticized mastermind Bill Belichick for getting rid of too much talent as they rebuilt, Vrabel wouldn't pile on.
"There's a lot of emotion when you get a phone call in late February or early March [saying you're traded]," Vrabel said. "When the dust settled, it was a good fit for everybody."
Mangini sees Vrabel -- who lives in Columbus, works out with the current Buckeyes in the off-season, and says he's "as big a homer" about their Rose Bowl chances as anybody -- as a future major college coach.
"He's already coaching," said Haley.
The Chiefs are only 3-10. Then again, Rome wasn't built in a day.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
December 15, 2009
Typically, members of the Kansas City Chiefs linebacking corps are charged with snuffing out all hope that opposing teams have when it come to moving the ball. However, earlier this week they joined together with Variety Children’s Charity and showed their softer side during a holiday extravaganza. Led by Jovan Belcher, Mike Vrabel, and Pierre Walters, this Chiefs contingent was sure that everyone involved departed with big smiles and some holiday cheer in addition to a gift or two.
The day started with 400 special needs children watching the premier of a children’s animated movie during a private screening. After the movie, these kids were treated to visits from Santa and some of his red-clad elves… the Chiefs linebacking corps. As Christmas Carols played in the background, it was obvious that everyone involved was having a tremendous day.
“This is something that we all really enjoyed,” noted Vrabel. “We joined together with Santa and handed out gifts to these special, special kids. They really seemed to have a blast and so did we. It really warms your heart to see just how much fun the kids had today.”
In all, over a dozen local agencies such as Children’s Mercy Hospital, Della Lamb, Don Bosco, Marion Hope House, Spofford Home, and The Children’s Place were in attendance. These youth represented a group from throughout the metro invited to this holiday movie screening.
Variety Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City is dedicated to raising funds in assistance of special needs children and their families. Additionally, the organization seeks to strengthen and reinforce agency programs for these local individuals. An international, volunteer-driven organization with 52 active chapters worldwide, Variety Children’s Charity is committed to bettering the quality of life for all special needs children.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In the zone: Tight end Dallas Clark hooked up with quarterback Peyton Manning for three touchdowns as the Colts improved to 13-0 with their record-setting 22nd consecutive victory in the regular season.
Monday, December 14, 2009
The Browns and their fans are still smiling after the win against Pittsburgh, but the victory may be extra-special for a player who has endured losing the most...
By Steve King
December 14, 2009
Whenever the Browns had beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers three times in the first 10 years of the expansion era, kicker Phil Dawson has played a big role in each one of them.
In the new Browns’ first victory over the Steelers, a 16-15 thriller on Nov. 14, 1999 at Three Rivers Stadium, Dawson ran onto the field at the last moment after some confusion on the sideline and, without enough time to go through his normal pre-kick routine, delivered the 39-yarder game-winner into a stiff wind as time expired.
In a 23-20 triumph on Sept. 17, 2000 at Cleveland, he hit three field goals, including two unanswered in the fourth quarter that allowed the Browns to rally from a three-point deficit.
And in a 33-13 rout at Heinz Field on Oct. 5, 2003, he connected on two more field goals.
So it seems only fitting, then, that the only player left in the NFL from that 1999 expansion team, should have also played a significant part in Thursday night’s 13-6 win over the Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium – maybe the biggest win, for a variety of reasons – the new Browns have had over their arch rivals.
Dawson drilled a pair of 29-yard field goals, which was no small feat considering it was brutally cold – 15 degrees at kickoff with a minus-6 wind-chill factor – and there was a 25 mph wind out of the west-southwest that was swirling like mad once it got into the stadium, wreaking havoc on him and Pittsburgh’s Jeff Reed.
“The one kick at the Dawg Pound end (in the first quarter) was really tough,” said Dawson, who, after missing five games early on with a hamstring injury, is 9-of-10 on field goals this year.
The fact he made that one, and another one at the west end of the stadium halfway through the second quarter, only served to add to his satisfaction, but he still would have been happy if he had done nothing more than kick off, as long as the Browns won.
For while the victory was special for everybody on the team, including head coach Eric Mangini, who helped his stead considerably as the 2-11 Browns stagger to the finish, it was even more so for the kicker because of his strong ties to the team and to the community.
A dyed-in the-wool Texas guy who grew up in Texas and talks about Dallas it as if it’s the Emerald City in “The Wizard of Oz,” Dawson moved his full-time home to Westlake in Cleveland’s western suburbs because he had become so entrenched in being a Brown – not just any ol’ Brown, mind you, but someone who has seen it all since day one in this expansion era. He is, in fact, to the expansion era what Otto Graham, Dante Lavelli, Bill Willis, Marion Motley, Frank Gatski, Mac Speedie and Lou “The Toe” Groza, the last of whose records he has been chasing all along, were to the original Browns, players who became part of that first team in 1946 almost before Paul Brown had commissioned the purchase of enough footballs, shoulder pads and helmets to begin practicing.
As part of that, Dawson had experienced all the losing – 43-0 in that first game back in 1999, ruining the Browns’ glorious return to the field after a three-year absence, 36-33 in the 2002 playoffs after the Browns had a 24-7 third-quarter lead and a 33-21 advantage with just four minutes left, 41-0 – in Cleveland, no less -- on Christmas Eve in 2005, turning Browns fans into a bunch of Ebenezer Scrooges, 34-7 on opening day in 2007, causing the Browns to trade starting quarterback Charlie Frye two days later, 31-28 in Pittsburgh later that year in a game that went a long way toward keeping the 10-6 Browns out of the playoffs, 31-0 in last year’s finale and then 27-14 back on Oct. 18 at Heinz Field.
Going into Thursday, the Browns were 3-19 against the Steelers in the expansion era and had lost 12 straight, and Dawson had been there for every one of those miserable moments. He was in Cleveland putting up with it, trying to find a way to deal with it, long before anyone on the team now had joined the Browns.
Having said all this, then, it was interesting to see Dawson’s reaction in the locker room after the game. Normally as serious and low-key as the day is long, he walked the long distance from one end of the room to the other and, upon seeing a friendly face, very uncharacteristically raised his hand as he approached from 15 feet away in a move that begged for the media person to give him a high-five.
That was as close to letting it all hang out and getting wild and crazy as Dawson will ever get.
He was thrilled to death, though you would have never known it.
“With all due respect to the other guys in here, I don’t know how many of them understand how special it is to beat these guys,” Dawson said. “I enjoyed the few other times that we’ve beaten them, but I enjoyed this one the most.
“So many times after playing the Steelers, I’ve left the locker room frustrated, disappointed and distraught, and now that we beat them, especially with so many of their fans in our stadium, I can walk out here happy and with a great deal of satisfaction.”
And then Phil Dawson did just that, with a little bounce in his step – and understandably so. He probably high-fived a few more people before he pulled into driveway, and maybe even a few more after that.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Brian Hartline has been getting it done.
By Edgar Thompson
December 9, 2009
Many wondered what Brian Hartline was thinking when left Ohio State after a 21-catch junior season.
Now they know.
Hartline’s unexpected impact as a rookie kicks off today’s talking points.
Hartline makes a play nearly every time he catches the ball.
Hartline’s 21 receptions are fourth among Dolphins’ wideouts, and sixth overall.
But 17 of those catches are for first downs, including a team-high three touchdowns, the most by a Dolphins’ rookie wide receiver since Chris Chambers had seven in 2001.
Hartline leads the team in average per catch (14.8 yards), and also has chipped in four special teams tackles.
When the Dolphins drafted Hartline in the fourth round last April, he appeared to be a copy of Greg Camarillo. Both run excellent routes, but Hartline has an extra gear Camarillo lacks, however he makes up for it with the best hands on the team.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
From Peter King's "All-Decade Team: NFL"
December 8, 2009
Teams in 2000s: Steelers, Patriots, Chiefs
Seasons in 2000s: 10
There are scores of players who have a better statistical résumé than Vrabel in the decade (50 sacks, 11 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles), but he's here because of his versatile playmaking skills and ability to play all over the linebacking corps. The three-time Super Bowl champions are going to be represented on this defense, the same way the rock-ribbed, team-minded Steelers are with Aaron Smith. Vrabel came to New England cheaply when the Patriots had no money to spend in 2001 free agency, and he was the keystone of that class in the franchise's construction of the team of the decade.
Team in 2000s: Baltimore Ravens
Seasons in 2000s: 10
My Defensive Player of the Decade. Lewis was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 2004, and the Super Bowl MVP in Baltimore's rout of the Giants in 2001. He made one of the most amazing plays I've ever seen, running halfway across the field in Super Bowl XXXV to catch Tiki Barber from behind on an end sweep. He'd be the captain of this team, for sure.
Teams in 2000s: Rams, Bills, Redskins
Seasons in 2000s: 10
I've got an athlete, Ray Lewis, playing sideline to sideline, and now I'll take a tackling machine to clean up the run game. I gave Fletcher a nickname, the black Seau, he loved back in the Rams' glory days, and he produced like Junior, average 140 tackles a year and missing zero games because of injury in the decade. Fletcher edges Zack Thomas, James Farrior and Brian Urlacher not only because of his production but also for his durability and leadership.
Team in 2000s: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seasons in 2000s: 9
"The one edge no one will ever have over me is the mental edge of knowing players,'' Brooks said last year when he painstakingly went over video of Adrian Peterson while showing me how he prepared for games. He watched how runners planted their feet and turned and how they deked so nothing would surprise him on game day. It helped him catch Peterson -- and stun Peterson -- on a pass out of the backfield in a Bucs-Vikings game.
By BILL SCOTT
DECEMBER 7, 2009
Rose Bowl Game legends Barry Alvarez, Tom Hansen and John Hicks headline the 2009 Rose Bowl Hall of Fame class to be installed at the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Dec. 30, 2009. The Hall of Fame was established in 1989 to honor members of the Rose Bowl Game family who have contributed to the history and excitement of the game, and those who embody the best of the passion, strength, tradition and honor associated with “The Granddaddy of Them All.”
Alvarez is currently the Athletic Director at Wisconsin. He spent 16 seasons building a nationally well-respected program before retiring in 2005 to his current post. Alvarez is the winningest coach in Wisconsin football history and is the only Big Ten coach to win Rose Bowl Games in back-to-back years (1999, 2000) and joins Ohio State’s Woody Hayes as the only Big Ten coach with at least three Rose Bowl Game wins.
Alvarez finished his career with 118 coaching wins, a Wisconsin record, an 8-3 mark in 11 career bowl games and garnered the 1993 National Coach of the Year and two Big Ten Coach of the Year awards.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Ted Ginn Sr. with his team at Glenville, the first Cleveland public school to play for a state title.
By GREG BISHOP
December 5, 2009
CLEVELAND — On Thursday, the football team at Glenville High School sauntered into the gymnasium, their bodies swinging to bass beats. This was not a normal pep rally. Recruiters from major colleges lined the walls. A local radio station hosted.
When it ended, the players headed to their final practice before they become the first Cleveland public school to play for a state championship on Saturday. Swept up by euphoria, they bounded past the writing on the wall, two words that summed their season. Making history, it read.
“To take an inner-city school in Cleveland and compete like this, it’s an it-only-happens-once thing,” said Stan Parrish, the Ball State coach and Ohio native. “It’s something you read about in a book, or see in a movie.”
Glenville has produced the track icon Jesse Owens and the creators of the Superman comic book, but never a state football champion. The high school is located east of downtown, past neighborhoods pocked with boarded-up houses and men sitting on stoops, sipping tall cans of beer on a recent morning.
The majority of the players attend nearby Ginn Academy, the brainchild of Ted Ginn Sr., who doubles as Glenville’s football coach. Earlier this week, they met with a youth minister and scribbled their distractions on scraps of paper.
This is a sampling of what they wrote: “My father doesn’t want me” “I used to watch my mom get beat by my stepfather” “We worry about not having a roof over our heads” “My mom lost her job and now I have to pay for groceries and bills.”
The players come from all over, from the suburbs to the projects, from neighborhoods infested by gangs and drugs. They come for structure, for father figures, for football, but mostly, they come for Ginn, whom Parrish described as “where peaceful waters flow.”
Ginn cares little about history, dismissing the obvious narrative — inner-city team beats opponents with more students, more funding, more everything — as too simplistic.
At his academy, the focus is on mentoring, not football. But the core values — discipline, love, passion — remain the same. His is a sociological experiment, Ginn said, with football as the vehicle to disprove myths and perceptions about inner-city schools.
As Ginn built Glenville into a state power, he watched opposing coaches stalk off the field after losses, embarrassed. The same coaches who used to laud Ginn for the impact of his work, now say he cheats or that he recruits, Ginn said.
Therein lies the twist. Can his team teach others their core values through football? Can they prove they are like anybody else?
“That’s what they will confront in corporate America,” Ginn said. “This game, it ain’t the game we’re playing. We’re playing the game of life. I’m teaching everyone, my opponents, this community, you, that the scoreboard will not define us.”
More than 100 of Ginn’s players have earned athletic scholarships, including 21 in 2005. Five play in the N.F.L. This is not his most talented team, but it might be his most unlikely championship candidate.
Strange fruit, Ginn calls this group, sweet and sour and streaky all at once. Like Jayrone Elliott, a senior linebacker who earlier this season lay on the field, as if seriously injured. As Ginn sprinted to his side, Elliott winked and said, “Conserving energy, Coach.” That is strange, Ginn said.
This team always appears lost in space, not paying attention, but they seem to retain everything Ginn says. Before road games, they put on talent shows in the team hotel, providing perfect impressions of their coaches.
Ginn said that was their genius. They are goofy, but faithful. They win because they love their coach, their program and their community.
The unlikely championship contenders follow a man with unusual methods, a visionary who sees in them what others miss. Ginn rules with a heavy hand and a soft touch.
He suspended 29 players for a playoff game last season and lost by a point. He benched quarterback Cardale Jones earlier this season.
But beyond the basic rules, Ginn individualizes his teachings. He often brings a medicine bag and a stethoscope to school, and he “treats” each of his patients/players one by one, giving them Lifesavers candy as “medicine.”
“I’m the doctor,” he said. “The doctor of love. I wake up counseling. I’ve got 300 patients here. I’ve got to operate every day. My emergency room is always open.”
Ginn learned this approach here, where he played for Glenville and worked as a security guard before he opened the academy. At 19, his mother died, and his landlord raised his rent by $10. This infuriated Ginn until he realized the man had done so because his wife would wash Ginn’s clothes, cook his meals, fill his refrigerator with food.
Right then, Ginn decided he would spend his life giving back to the community that raised him. He also learned that trust builds loyalty.
Just ask Tony Overton. He grew up near the school and played football for Ginn when a city championship marked the highest expectation. When his father fell ill, Ginn stepped in, and now, Overton said, they are like Joe and Jay Paterno.
“He had bigger visions for us than we had for ourselves,” said Overton, now the offensive coordinator. “What you’re seeing now is a dream that started 30 years ago.”
This year’s team started slowly, losing their first game and falling behind by two scores in each of their next two contests. Each quarter proved its own adventure, but in each game after the first, Glenville won.
Each time, Ginn gave a more rousing pregame speech than the one before. He referenced President Barack Obama, told them this was a year for change. Before the state semifinal, he spoke about leaning forward, like a sprinter, at the finish.
They triumphed in that game, too, accomplishing something no other metro public school had done. To Elliott, the why was simple. Other schools, he said, did not have Ginn.
“You heard of the Miracle on 34th Street?” asked Ivory Albert, an assistant coach known as Ace. “Well, this is the miracle on 113th Street. And it’s real.”
For a struggling community, the football team presents a welcome reprieve, a focal point for progress. Like “you’re walking around in a fog of excitement,” said Jacqueline Bell, the principal at Glenville.
Everyone pitched in. Donte Whitner, an alumnus who plays for the Buffalo Bills, purchased cleats. Someone else donated temporary lighting for the practice field, and before that, parents parked their cars and turned their headlights on. For lifers like Bell and Overton, congratulations have poured in, dozens of letters, e-mail messages and phone calls. Overton has to remind them that the real success came long before, in the players who did not succumb to the dangers that surround them.
Parrish calls Ginn “Mr. Cleveland” and “the most visible person” in the city besides the basketball star LeBron James. But Ginn says this is not about him, even if everyone else disagrees.
He says this is about the mission, the process, the children who have each taken “a little piece” of him, until he feels like “one of those patched-up leather coats, pieces of kids all over me.”
Jones once thought people only made history when they died. But through this team and the history being created, Ginn’s lessons have been reinforced.
“They get it now,” said Michael Ruff, the executive director of the Ted Ginn Foundation. “Most of them have only seen success on television, or read about it. Now, they’re part of it, part of history.”
Friday, December 04, 2009
Offensive lineman wins back starting job after tearing three knee ligaments last year
By Aaron Wilson
December 4, 2009
OWINGS MILLS, Md. – The return of Marshal Yanda to the starting lineup against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a moment built through countless hours of rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee.
Now, the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive guard has his starting job back as he supplanted Chris Chester on the right side during a 20-17 overtime win Sunday night.
Yanda tore all three major knee ligaments last season against the Indianapolis Colts, including the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament.
Marshal YandaAPRavens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda
“It was a tough road,” Yanda said. “I got hurt last year and you just keep working. It was a significant injury. It was a long road for me. You take it day by day and good things happen. Now, I’m back in the lineup and you just got to keep on pushing.”
Yanda was convinced that he was healthy enough to play a while ago, but didn’t question the coaches’ decision.
With Yanda back in the lineup, his presence injects a physical, nasty nature into the offensive line.
Yanda started twice at right tackle when Jared Gaither injured his neck.
The Ravens rushed for 138 yards against the Steelers’ stout run defense with Yanda back in the lineup.
Yanda is a throwback blocker who grew up on an Iowa pig farm. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound grunt is the personification of blue-collar.
“It’s an attitude where we’re going to get after it,” he said. “We’re going to stay on them and try to drive them into the ground and finish plays. That’s just part of the offensive line is being physical.
“I love that part of the game. I love being physical and getting after guys. Hit guys in the throat, cut them when you have to, do whatever it takes.”
Unlike many other players around the league who suffer a serious injury, Yanda’s work ethic and abilities weren’t forgotten by the coaching staff.
“When guys get hurt in this league, you sometimes forget about them," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "They go back and they rehab and they're forgotten about, and in some ways they don't feel like they're a part of the team. But they are and they're around every day, as much as they can be. Marshal has been through that for a whole year, but got back probably from an ACL sooner than most people would, and now he's back in the mix. He really has been all year, and he's starting to play at the same level that he did when he got hurt against Indianapolis last year."
Meanwhile, Chester was utilized in a Jumbo package as an extra blocking tight end against the Steelers.
And he isn’t inclined to question being replaced.
“Obviously I would prefer the opportunity to play all the time,” he said. “It’s their decision. I felt good about the way I was playing. They made a decision to switch Marshal and I. When I get a chance I’m going to continue to block well. It’s more of a strategic thing.
“Marshal and I are kind of interchangeable. They felt it would be an advantage for him to be in there. They thought it would be a better move to put Marshal in there.”
Glenville coach’s best victories come off field
December 4, 2009
Ted Ginn Sr. doing what he does a lot, giving advice and direction to a student. This day it happened to be in Ginn Academy, but he often does it outside of the school. - (Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)
Glenville football coach Ted Ginn Sr. gets about five hours of sleep a night but even when he sleeps, one eye seemingly is open.
It's not endless hours of game film and visions of X's and O's that make him restless. Rather, off-the-field concerns with troubled youth, including frequent middle-of-the-night calls, and not just from his football players.
Like the 3 a.m. call Olivia Farr made on a spring Wednesday more than 10 years ago. Her granddaughter, Sune' Stamper, had run away from home.
"I felt my grandma was too strict so I got mad, packed a bag and left," said Stamper, a Glenville junior at the time and a member of the Ginn-coached girls track team.
Ginn knew where to go, driving to the house of one of Stamper's other relatives and simply said, "Get in the car." He wasn't mad and he didn't yell at Stamper on the ride back to her grandma's, but he told her smarter decisions were needed.
A two-hour conversation in grandma's living room among the three followed. Ginn then went home, only to return a few hours later to pick Stamper up for school.
"He was always looking out for me and the others," said Stamper, 26 and an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Recreation Center.
Glenville football coach/mentor/adviser Ted Ginn Sr. watches over the morning assembly at Ginn Academy. - (Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)
Stamper earned a bachelor's degree in education from Central State, where she ran track.
Ginn's focus never wavers, whether it's the mighty Tarblooders football program as the team prepares for its first-ever appearance in Saturday's state championship game against Hilliard Davidson; directing the growth of his Ginn Academy school for at-risk youth; or serving as deacon or singing in the men's choir at Historic Greater Friendship Baptist Church.
Helping his athletes is part of Ginn's mission -- he wants to save all the troubled children, an obsession that began while growing up in Louisiana with his grandmother Mull Burton.
Lonely childhood in Cleveland
Ginn was born in Louisiana. His parents moved to Cleveland when he was a toddler, but he soon returned to live with his grandmother after his mom and dad separated. At age 11, his mother, Lear Ginn, got custody and he moved back to Cleveland.
"My grandma died of a broken heart not even a year after I moved away because she never got over the fact I had to leave," Ginn said. "My mom died when I was 19 and I believe she, too, died of a broken heart because she never got over my grandmother's passing.
"I had two half-brothers but I was basically an only child so I was by myself after that. Loneliness is a horrible feeling, one I don't ever want any child to feel."
Ted and his wife, Jeanette, met in high school and have been together 35 years. They claim they can't remember the year they were married.
He never turns down a kid in need
Shaunte' (Berry) Jackson was lonely as a Glenville junior in the mid-1990s, living with her drug-addicted mom and alcoholic grandparents. Nobody was allowed at the house and she and her six siblings weren't permitted to visit friends. Jackson took out her anger by getting into fights.
Jackson was a track teammate and friend of Ginn's daughter, Tiffany, and often found refuge sneaking to the Ginn home. She was on the verge of being thrown out of the house because of continual fighting with her mother.
"Ginn talked to my mom and defended me," said Jackson, now 31 and married with two children. She is a teacher's assistant, assistant volleyball coach and head cheerleading adviser at Glenville while working toward a bachelor's degree in physical education at Cleveland State. "Ted got a hold of me and turned my focus to track, which helped turn me in the right direction."
Said Ginn, "Every kid has a story. If you don't listen to their story, you can never help them."
Ginn is a good listener and he relates well to both boys and girls. Besides daughter Tiffany, there's son Ted Jr., a former Glenville/Ohio State standout now playing wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins.
The elder Ginn listened intently to Steven Hryb when he met him seven years ago while watching his older brother compete in a track meet for Kenston.
Hryb's hobby is photography and the conversation got deeper while showing Ginn some pictures he shot of Ginn's son from Ohio State games.
Ginn, however, sensed something was wrong. He thought Hryb lacked confidence. Despite the fact that Hryb competed in cross country, basketball and baseball, people were always telling him what he could and could not do, and he found it discouraging.
Two years later, Hryb bumped into Ginn outside a Bureau of Motor Vehicles office after just receiving his driver's license. They recognized each another and Ginn invited Hryb to his house in Cleveland's Collinwood neighborhood, where they spent two hours on the back porch that afternoon.
" 'Uncle Ginn' told me nobody should put limitations on anyone," Hryb said. "He told me to decide what I want to do and go for it."
Hryb, now a junior sports-management major at Ohio University, will be interning at Rosenhaus Sports Management this summer.
Sherrae M. Hayes could always run fast, but when she met Ginn, he taught her how to run far.
Hayes was a standout sprinter at Wilbur Wright Middle School before competing for Glenville's track team as a freshman.
Ginn had her compete in the 3,200-meter run, a long distance event, during her first high school indoor meet. Hayes wondered what was going on but never questioned the decision.
"Ginn just told me to finish the race and I did," said Hayes, a 2004 Glenville graduate. "I finished every race I ran for that man and ended up being a pretty decent middle and long distance runner."
Hayes was valedictorian at Glenville and Tennessee State, where she got a bachelor's degree in speech communications. She will have her master's degree in Africana studies from New York University by the end of the month and is applying to Northwestern, Penn, Harvard and Yale graduate schools for a dual doctorate in African-American studies and communications.
Hayes' experiences as a runner come in handy when she becomes overwhelmed.
"I still can hear Ginn yelling, 'Finish, finish, finish,' " said Hayes, who wants to be a professor.
No price tag for helping others
Ted Ginn Sr. talks with Ginn Academy senior Devon Hall on Nov. 2. Ginn’s reach beyond the football field to the students and community is emblematic of “The Dream of Change” poster. - (Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer)
Contrary to what some believe, money has never been important to Ginn and it irritates Demetrius Davis when outsiders look at his friend/mentor as a money machine.
"Everyone wants to read Ted's bank account and not pay attention to the man and his vision," said Davis, a former Tarblooders safety/tailback and now a special-education teacher at Collinwood. "Heck, he coached the first five years without getting a paycheck.
"He told me 25 years ago he was going to have his own school someday. If that's not vision, what is?"
Even people who've known Ginn for a long time learn something new every day.
Theo Washington and Ginn have been friends for 38 years and last spring were in a clothing store in Mayfield Heights. They noticed a young man from Euclid trying on a suit for his prom, only his mom couldn't afford it.
Ginn told him to get the suit and not worry about it, the bill was covered.
"When the kid asked how he could thank him, Ted told him to send him an invitation to his high school graduation," said Washington. "The kid went one better. He also sent Ted a picture from his prom."
Ginn's goal is to save all the children but he knows he's not perfect. He has a hard time saying no and feels he gives people too many second, third and fourth chances.
He takes setbacks personally and has had more than his share recently involving former players.
Lamontios Bentley was 24 when he was run over and killed in September during a drug deal. In August, Ryan Driggins, 20, was sentenced to 38 years to life in prison for murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and gun charges.
And budding talent Anthony Gordon was 16 when he was shot and killed in 2006.
"Ted tells all the kids this is probably the last place they're going to be where they can get a chance over and over again," said Ginn's longtime friend and volunteer coach Tony Fox. "He tells them when they get out in the world, their first mistake could be their last."
Ginn Academy senior Devon Hall said he was going down a path similar to Driggins and made a terrible mistake two years ago before Ginn stepped in.
Hall was looking at an eight-year prison sentence for gun possession during a robbery. Hall's dad, Victor Freeman, played for Ginn and called his former coach.
"Mr. Ginn wrote a letter on my behalf to the judge," Hall said. "The judge then gave the letter to the magistrate and I was given six years probation."
Hall, who entered Ginn Academy as a sophomore, is getting good grades, works at a neighborhood restaurant and plans to study criminal justice/political science at Clark Atlanta University with aspirations of being a lawyer.
"We tell Ted he can't save everybody but he feels it's his responsibility," said Glenville graduate and offensive coordinator Tony Overton. "I told him one time to take a break, just relax.
"He said the children will be neglected if he relaxes."
Thursday, December 03, 2009
December 3, 2009
Miami Dolphins kick returner Ted Ginn Jr. was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for November, it was announced by the National Football League today.
In five games in November, Ginn racked up 646 yards on 21 kick returns, a 31.7 yard average, while taking two of the returns for touchdowns. The highlight of the month came on November 1, during a Dolphins' 30-25 victory over the New York Jets, when Ginn became the first player in NFL history with two touchdowns of 100 yards or more in the same game. The third-year veteran from Ohio State also became the eighth player in NFL history with two kick-return touchdowns in a game.
Additionally, Ginn became the first player to record two returns for touchdowns in the same quarter since Green Bay's Travis Williams accomplished the feat November 12, 1967 vs. the Cleveland Browns in Milwaukee County Stadium. Ginn also recorded the second most kickoff return yards in a game in NFL history with 299 which is second to Tyrone Hughes of the New Orleans Saints who registered 304 yards against the L.A. Rams on October 23, 1994.
On the season Ginn has returned 29 kicks for 836 yards, a 28.8 yard average, which is currently tops in the AFC.
Ginn is the second straight Dolphin to win the monthly honor for November as kicker Dan Carpenter was honored with the award during the 2008 season. He is just the third Dolphin ever to come away with AFC Special Teams Player of the Month accolades, joining Carpenter and Olindo Mare, who was honored in October of 1999.
By Kevin Van Valkenburg
December 3, 2009
Maybe what the Ravens have been missing recently on offense is a little dose of nastiness up front.
Maybe what they've been missing is right guard Marshal Yanda.
That seemed to be the opinion of the coaching staff, which inserted Yanda into the starting lineup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in place of Chris Chester, who had started every other game this season. Yanda, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound bruiser from the University of Iowa, was originally slated to be the starter this season, but his recovery from major knee surgery was slower than hoped and he lost his starting spot. Yanda played tackle for two games after Jared Gaither went down with a neck injury against the New England Patriots in week four, but he has the mentality and build of a guard.
Against the Steelers, having Yanda inside helped the Ravens open holes, which allowed the team to rush for 138 yards in a 20-17 overtime victory. The Ravens used Chester in several situations, bringing him in as a part of their Jumbo formation, in which an extra lineman takes the place of a tight end.
Nastiness "is just a part of being an offensive lineman," Yanda said. "You have to embrace that and take it to the game. To have to be physical and just get after people. That's what I like doing. That's football to me, a lot of contact."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Yanda's injury last season, which required reconstructive surgery on three major knee ligaments, was difficult for Yanda because it isolated him from the team's success in 2008.
"When guys get hurt in this league, you sometimes forget about them," Harbaugh said. "They go back and they rehab and they're forgotten about, and in some ways they don't feel like they're a part of the team. But they are, and they're around every day, as much as they can be. Marshal has been through that for a whole year but got back probably from an ACL sooner than most people would, and now he's back in the mix. He really has been all year, and he's starting to play at the same level that he did when he got hurt against Indianapolis last year."
Chester said the coaches told him they felt Yanda gave them some advantages, and that while it bothered him, he wasn't going to make a fuss.
"I think it's just human to have something like this be on your mind," Chester said. "I wish I could be in there, to have the opportunity to play guard, but the coaches have made their decision, and I'm just going to go with it. If I want to get a chance to play, I'm going to have to go out there [to practice and games] and do my best. ... I've felt good about the way I've been playing. I've felt like I've been doing a good job, and I say that with great humility. It's their decision to make, and they thought they'd get an advantage with Marshal in there."
Yanda said he didn't think his knee injury was really holding him back at the beginning of the season but that he wasn't going to dwell on it.
"It felt great in training camp and during the first part of the season," he said. "But that's just the way it goes. I'm not going to look at the past. I'm just happy to be out there now. As an offensive line, I thought we played pretty well [against Pittsburgh]. But we can make some corrections and get a lot better, too."
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
From Pat McManamon's "First and 12: Somehow that seems appropriate, no?"
December 1, 2009
Good afternoon Pat,
It’s hard to disagree with your assessment about Brady Quinn’s incomplete. But there is something I’ve seen the last two weeks that bothers me, to the point I wonder if he’ll ever pan out. On about 75 percent of his passes, he looks completely out of sync, like a power pitcher trying to throw to first base after fielding a slow roller in front of the mound. His motion is not right. How many times is he going to fire the ball into the ground at the receiver’s feet? There is no rhythm to his delivery. His wrist is tight, not loose. On a couple throws he looked like he was trying to throw a sinker, his wrist snapped so hard downward at the release. And that’s where the ball went – straight down.
Browns played Bengals close both games – and that’s the team that dominated the Central Division this year. The glory of the ‘Tradition’ of the Cleveland Browns has just expanded. It now includes the opponent scoring on extra plays awarded at the end of halves/games by penalties on the defense. Rogers’ play cost us three points. At the end of the game, that could have made a difference. In any event, we played them pretty tough this year. Silver lining?
How bad is a franchise when, over a 10 year period, its best players, year in, year out, are the punter and place kicker. Phil Dawson has to be the unluckiest player in the NFL. I think he might be the best place kicker the team has ever had. We just don’t realize it because he hasn’t been there to win big games for us. He’s such a classy guy. Think what a huge star he would be had he played for Indianapolis or New England the last 10 years.
And our punters have been very good as well. Dave Zastudil is as good as we’ve ever had.
So when you assess the cloud hanging over the Browns, ask yourself how many teams in the history of the NFL have lost both their place kicker AND punter simultaneously for an extended period of time.