Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chiefs Safety Donald Washington Raises Awareness and Funds for Breast Cancer

Stebbins High teams up with Pros to tackle breast cancer

By Cornelius Frolik

March 29, 2011

RIVERSIDE — Two NFL safeties will team up with Stebbins High School on Thursday to tackle breast cancer by raising awareness of the disease and also money for an organization committed to finding a cure for it.

Philadelphia Eagles star safety Kurt Coleman and Kansas City Chiefs safety Donald Washington will be the guest speakers at the 7 p.m. event, and they will discuss their rise to fame and the challenges they faced as they ascended from high school to The Ohio State University to the pros.

But Coleman, who graduated from Northmont High School in 2006 and OSU last May, will also talk about his personal connection to breast cancer.

His father, Stebbins Assistant Principal Ron Coleman, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in November 2006 after he discovered a suspicious lump in his chest. A month later, he underwent a successful mastectomy and tests since have shown the cancer is gone.

Ron Coleman said the event will stress the importance of early detection and knowing family history.

“Cancer isn’t a death sentence, you’ll get through it, there are other people out there and many avenues for support,” he said.

Ron Coleman is one of the rare male breast cancer survivors. About one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer sometime in their lives, but only about 2,000 men were diagnosed with the disease in 2010, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ron Coleman said he hopes Thursday’s event raises a nice sum for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Red Cross to help relief efforts in Japan. There will also be a raffle featuring a variety of sports memorabilia.

Tickets for “An Evening with the Pros” are $10 for adults and $5 for students and children. The event will be hosted at the Stebbins High School auditorium, located at 1900 Harshman Road.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NC Sports Clients Ginn, Smith, Krenzel among best of Tressel era

By Adam Stang

March 14, 2011

So who are the best players of the Jim Tressel era? Read on to find out.

Honorable Mention—DL Cameron Heyward, 2007-2010

Heyward earned a starting position on the defensive line in 2007 and hasn't looked back.

In the most important games, Heyward came up big. Against Penn State in 2009, he made 11 tackles—three for loss—and two sacks in a dominating performance. In this year's Sugar Bowl, Heyward had 1.5 sacks and arguably deserved to be named MVP.

Heyward is considered a top defensive end prospect in the 2011 NFL Draft.

10. K Mike Nugent, 2001-2004

It seems odd that a kicker would make this kind of list but Nugent has earned his due.

First off, he broke or tied 22 records in his four-year career at Ohio State including most career points (356).

His senior season was particularly monstrous—he was an All-American, won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's best kicker and was named team MVP. That's right, the kicker was named MVP.

Nugent was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets, making him one of the highest drafted kickers in history.

9. WR Ted Ginn, 2004-2006

Ginn was one of the most exciting players to ever don an Ohio State jersey.

In his career, he returned six punts for touchdowns, a Big Ten record. In the 2007 National Championship Game, he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown
but was unfortunately injured in the ensuing celebration and didn't return.

Ginn was such a prolific return man that he earned first-team All-American selections in 2004 and 2005 as a returner.

He was also an accomplished wide receiver who provided a legitimate deep threat. In his final two seasons, he caught 51 and 59 passes respectively.

8. RB Beanie Wells, 2006-2008

Wells was a rare power/speed combo back that made him a pleasure to watch.

After a solid freshman season in which he shared carries with Antonio Pittman, Wells exploded for 1,609 yards and 15 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign.

Due to his performance, Wells was frequently named as a preseason Heisman candidate. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury the first game and missed the next three. Despite that, he still managed to rumble for 1,197 yards and eight touchdowns, earning team MVP honors.

7. CB Malcolm Jenkins, 2005-2008

During his career, Jenkins racked up numerous accolades—three-time All-Big Ten, second-team All-American and first-team All-American. He also won the Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back.

Due to his outstanding play, Jenkins was considered a shutdown corner.

Jenkins would be higher on this list but as a member of Ohio State teams that lost three consecutive bowl games, he carries the stigma of being unable to win the big game.

6. LB James Laurinaitis, 2005-2008

Laurinaitis played at the same time as Malcolm Jenkins and they teamed up to form an intimidating defensive duo.

During his career, he was a three-time All-American, Dick Butkus Award winner as the nation's most outstanding linebacker and Bronco Nagurski Award winner as the nation's best defensive player among others.

Laurinaitis is one of the best linebackers in Ohio State history.

As with Jenkins, Laurinaitis will unfortunately carry the stigma of leading defenses that were trounced in consecutive national championship game appearances.

5. LB A.J. Hawk, 2002-2005

Hawk was the best linebacker of the Jim Tressel era.

He was a beast on the field, making 394 tackles despite starting only three seasons.

He was All-Big Ten every year as a starter and won the Lombardi Award as the nation's best college football lineman or linebacker.

Hawk was so impressive that he was selected fifth overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He is a solid contributor for them to this day.

4. QB Terrelle Pryor, 2008-Present

He isn't always pretty but Pryor gets the job done.

He has been criticized for supposedly not living up to his status as the nation's top football prospect.

Despite the criticism, Pryor has been extremely successful, boasting a 31-4 record as the starter. Against Michigan, he is a perfect 3-0. In BCS Bowl games, he is 2-0 (Todd Boeckman started the 2009 Fiesta Bowl), ending a three year skid by beating Oregon in the Rose Bowl and ending Buckeye futility against the SEC by winning the Sugar Bowl over Arkansas.

Pryor has one season left and though it will be shortened due to suspension, he has the opportunity to add another win over Michigan and a third BCS Bowl victory to his resume.

3. S Mike Doss, 1999-2002

Doss played two seasons under Jim Tressel and so makes the list.

Doss was a three-time All-American, three-time All-Big Ten, two-time Thorpe Award finalist and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2002.

He was the leader of the 2002 Silver Bullets, the best defensive unit of the Tressel era. They yielded 13.1 points per contest, second best in college football that season.

In the 2003 National Championship Game against Miami, Doss made a key interception of Ken Dorsey that gave Ohio State the lead. He was named game MVP.

2. QB Troy Smith, 2003-2006

Smith did not come to Ohio State with much acclaim but left as a Heisman Trophy winner and Buckeye great.

Since he began taking snaps his sophomore season, he matured into the quarterback that threw 30 touchdowns in an outstanding 2006 campaign.

He was named team MVP, won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's best quarterback and the Heisman Trophy with 86.7 percent of first place votes, a record that still stands.

Adam Rittenberg listed Smith as "Big Ten player of the decade."

Smith would be numero uno on this list if not for the whipping Ohio State received at the hands of Florida. In the 2007 National Championship Game, Smith was 4/14 for 35 yards as Ohio State lost 14-41.

1. QB Craig Krenzel, 2000-2003

In terms of statistics and accolades, Krenzel may be the worst player on this list.

In his career at Ohio State, Krenzel threw 28 touchdowns, a number Terrelle Pryor nearly matched in 2010 alone.

Krenzel's greatness was not in shiny statistics but in grit—he was smart, accurate and made plays when they were needed most.

Take Holy Buckeye for instance; down 3-6 with less than two minutes to play, Krenzel completed a 37-yard pass to Michael Jenkins on fourth down for a touchdown.

In the 2003 National Championship Game, Krenzel completed key fourth down conversions that saved the game for Ohio State. He was named co-MVP of the game along with Mike Doss.

In his career, Krenzel was 24-3 as starter.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Redskins must pay Tom Tupa for back injury

March 8, 2011

By Mike Jones

The Redskins must pay former punter Tom Tupa workers' compensation for a back injury that ended his career in 2005, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled.

A 17-year veteran at the time, Tupa was injured while warming up during a preseason game at FedEx Field in August of 2005.

He did not return to action after that injury. Tupa, who punted in all 16 Redskins games in 2004, filed the claim with the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission in 2007, according to court documents and won the claim. The Redskins appealed, however, but lost their appeal Feb. 28 and must pay partial disability and medical expenses to Tupa.

"I am happy for Tom and feel like this is a well-deserved victory," said Tupa's agent, Neil Cornrich when reached by phone.

Cornrich declined to say exactly how much the settlement was for, and Tupa -- now 45 years old and the recreation director at a community center in his home town of Brecksville, Ohio - could not be reached for comment.

Improved benefits to retired players are one of the many issues the NFL Players Association is fighting for in the ongoing CBA negotiations.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Stephen Neal retires with "dignity and class"



Ponderous thoughts I was pondering on the highway to hoop heaven:

- As the poker players say, I've gone "all in" in my coverage of the MIAA boys' and girls' basketball tournaments and have put the Patriots-related news, what little there has been, on the back burner for a while.

But I'd be remiss if I didn't offer at least a few thoughts about the retirement of offensive guard Stephen Neal, which was announced late last week and was anticipated for some time. Injuries have been the bane of his existence for the past few years, and at some point, you have to get out before you're saddled with lingering pain and impairment for the rest of your life.

I've always thought that Neal was a decent guy, more of a "regular guy" than some of his peers, probably because he came from a much different background than a lot of football players. You know the story - collegiate wrestling champion who didn't turn "pro" like some of his fellow collegians and instead opted to travel a more legitimate avenue of sport by re-learning how to play football.

He did it well. Throughout the past decade, Neal has been an important part of an offensive line that helped keep Tom Brady safe from harm during a dynastic period for the Patriots, and that had to be a lot more satisfying than taking acting lessons and wearing neon-colored tights while doing Vince McMahon's bidding.

Offensive linemen rarely experience the same level of exposure that the so-called "skill position" players receive in the NFL. Neal didn't seek the spotlight, either. He went out there every day, doing his job, learning as he went under the trusted tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia, and he became an anchor of one of the best offensive lines in the game, something he admitted he never envisioned when he got the word from agent Neil Cornrich that the Patriots might want to give him a try.

Not long ago, I and several other writers wrote of Neal's behind-the-scenes efforts to keep the wrestling program alive at Cal State-Bakersfield, his alma mater. Budget cuts were threatening the program that made him an NCAA Division I champion, and he wanted to do everything he could to give something back to the school that gave him the athletic opportunity of his lifetime.

A while later, I and the other scribes received in the mail hand-written notes of thanks from Neal for the stories we wrote. They weren't form letters. He took the time to thank us individually for just doing our jobs, and it underscored the deep-down decency of the man.

Neal said during a conference call with the media last week that his next injury might be serious enough to cause a permanent level of disability, which would seriously impact his ability to be an active father to his kids. And he admitted that with the NFL's current labor uncertainty and the possibility that he might not be able to use the team's doctors or facilities in his latest rehab, the best option for him was retirement.

So, he enters it with dignity and class, and a documented legacy of achievement. I offer my heartiest congratulations to this two-sport champion, and my most sincere wishes of happiness to him and his family as they embark together upon a new chapter in their lives.

Friday, March 04, 2011

World wrestling champion Stephen Neal retires from pro football after 10 seasons with Patriots

By Assorted Sources

March 2, 2011

The New England Patriots have announced that offensive guard Stephen Neal has retired from professional football.

Neal was a 1999 World champion in freestyle wrestling for the United States, and a 1999 Pan American Games champion. He was also a U.S. Nationals champion and a runner-up at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. In college, he was a two-time NCAA Division I national champion and four-time All-American for Cal-State Bakersfield, winning titles in 1998 and 1999. He won the 1999 Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation’s top collegiate wrestler. Neal also finished second at the 1997 NCAA Division I Championships and fourth at the 1996 NCAA Division I Championships.

Neal did not play football in college.

He has remained active in wrestling, helping lead the effort to raise funds to save the wrestling program at his alma-mater Cal-State Bakersfield last year. He served as honorary captain at the Big Ten vs. Big 12 dual meet at the 2010 NCAA Wrestling Championships. He also helped coach Cal-State Bakersfield wrestlers during the off-season from football

Pats' Stephen Neal retiring

By Mike Reiss

March 3, 2011

New England Patriots offensive lineman Stephen Neal's unexpected 10-year NFL career is coming to an end. Neal, who improbably went from collegiate wrestler to professional football blocker, is retiring, the team announced Wednesday.

The decision does not come as a surprise. The 34-year-old Neal had considered retirement last offseason before re-signing with the Patriots for two years.

"They don't come any better than Steve Neal," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "In terms of improvement and development as a player, Steve may have accomplished more than any player I have ever been around. His toughness, intelligence and competitiveness were at rare levels and all contributed to him going from being a champion in an individual sport to being an integral part of championship teams. I congratulate Steve for an incredible career and thank him for everything he did for me personally, our team and organization."

Neal's progression from college wrestler to pro football player was one of Belichick's favorite stories to tell.

Neal had not played football at Cal State-Bakersfield; instead, he was a top wrestler, posting a 151-10 record that included two Division I titles. In 2001, Neal signed with the Patriots as a rookie free agent and Belichick has joked in the past that the team had to teach him how to put on football equipment.

By 2004, Neal broke through as a consistent starter, the balance and leverage he had utilized in wrestling transferring to the field. One of the high points of his career came that season when he was the starting right guard as the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX.

In all, Neal played in 86 regular-season games, with 81 starts. He also played in 12 playoff games, starting each of them.

Injuries have been mounting for Neal in recent years. In 2010, he was limited to eight games with a shoulder injury and was placed on season-ending injured reserve Dec. 2. After the season, Neal said he planned to rehab his shoulder injury and then make a decision about his playing future.

Six-year veteran Dan Connolly, who took over Neal's spot at right guard last season after his injury, is the team's projected starter entering 2011.

This could be one of several changes for the Patriots along the offensive line, as starting left tackle Matt Light is scheduled for unrestricted free agency and starting left guard Logan Mankins has been assigned the franchise tag.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Opening statement from retiring Patriots' lineman Stephen Neal

March 3, 2011

By Christopher Price

Before his Q-and-A with reporters this afternoon, Stephen Neal delivered an opening statement. Here is the full transcript of what he said before he took questions from the media:

"I never really was one who enjoyed the spotlight, but rather loved sport and competition. My first love was football, but graduated high school at 17 years old and being 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, limited my opportunities. Wrestling was my best option and I attacked that challenge. Thanks to T.J. Kerr and Darryl Pope, my college coaches at Cal-State Bakersfield, I became a four-time All-American and a two-time National Champ, and a World Champion in 1999.

"In 2000, I failed to make the Olympic team, but that allowed me to meet Neil Cornrich, who is my agent. And thanks to him, he got me to the doorstep to the NFL, so thank you Neil. Then, I met coach [Bill] Belchick, and he opened that door, so thank you, coach Belichick. I learned the sport of football and the dedication needed for success in the NFL from Bill and Dante Scarnecchia. The dedication that they showed being the first one into the building and the last one to leave is something that's truly amazing and the reason for the success of the Patriots each and every year. So, thank you Dante, for everything. And then having success in this league is only possible with great ownership, and so I want to thank the Kraft family they really made me feel like part of the family when I was there.

"And it is truly special what happens in New England, and its something I will definitely miss. The sport of football is a brutal sport, and injuries are part of this game. The training, strength and medical staff here are top notch, and they are a huge factor to my success and the teams success. So thank all of you very much. You helped me stick around for so long.

"Of course, football is not an individual sport. I want to thank each and every teammate and coach who have walked through this building in the last 10 years. They have all helped me to have success in this game, so thank you guys. I want to thank each and every one of you. Without the media and the fans, the sport could not continue at the level it is at, so I would like to thank you for the coverage and the support you have shown me over the years. We definitely have the greatest fans in the country, and being in New England, when the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Pats all have success, its just a great environment and something I will never forget.

"I also want to recognize two good friends I made in New England. We have Chris Robertson, who is my go-to guy at Stop and Shop. He is a great guy. Thanks Chris. And Rich Burns, who is a great friend and fan, neighbor, and a great guy. So thank you Rich I will give you a call in a day or two.

"And all this is really possible because of my family. My Mom, my Dad Mike and Dave, my brothers. They all believed in me and never doubted my dreams. They were always there for me. And my wife Jodee put everything down in Bakersfield to follow me out here to New England. She has been my support through this entire journey. Always there for me after a win, loss, injuries, everything, with her arms wide open. She is there raising our beautiful girls, Colby and Jillian, and our stubborn copy of me, Gunnar. Our little guy. I just cant wait. My family is my new team, and I hope we can go undefeated for the rest of our lives. Thank you guys. Any questions you have, I will try and help you out."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Donald Washington: Through the Roof

By Josh Looney

March 2, 2011

Despite a number of eye-popping combine performances, Donald Washington can still out-jump everyone

From Oregon State DT Stephen Paea’s record-setting 49 bench press reps to Nevada DE Dontay Moch’s 4.45 40-yard dash, this year’s NFL Combine wasn’t short of remarkable physical performances.

Despite the load of eye-popping results turned in over the last week, one of the event’s most impressive records remains intact. Donald Washington’s 45-inch vertical.

Opting to leave Ohio State as a junior, Washington put on a physical show before NFL scouts in February of 2009. He jumped through the roof that day in addition to posting an 11-foot, 3-inch broad jump. The same distance that Alabama WR Julio Jones jumped to set the football world abuzz Sunday afternoon, Washington’s broad jump was just one inch short of the combine record.

But the 45 inch vertical is the mark that still stands, 2.5 inches better than this year’s best performance turned in by Nevada TE Virgil Green.

To put Washington’s 45-inch vertical into perspective, take a look at the best jumps turned in at the NBA’s Pre-Draft Camp.

According the good folks at, only one hoopster has topped Washington’s mark since the site started tracking results in 1989 – Kenny Gregory’s 45.5-inch jump in 2001. Coming in second, a full 1.5 inches below Washington (43.5, 2004) is NBA slam dunk champion Nate Robinson.

A Combine warrior, Washington also posted an impressive time of 6.84 in the three-cone drill and a 4.49 40-yard dash to round-out one of the Combine’s best overall performances in 2009.

Coming out of Ohio State a year early and regarded as a raw athlete, teams knew that Washington’s skills would need polishing before he’d become a regular contributor at the NFL level. Kansas City took a chance on Washington with the second pick in the fourth round, but would have to wait a little longer to get Washington fully entrenched into the system.

Due to Ohio State’s academic schedule set in quarters, Washington’s class schedule took him into June and NCAA/NFL rules prevented him from reporting for the majority OTAs. Development was delayed.

In his first two NFL seasons, Washington has played in 20 games (two starts) and posted 27 tackles. He also owns 13 career special teams stops.

It’s a bit early to get into spotlighting players who have a critical off-season ahead of them, but Washington certainly fits that mode. He’s served mostly a reserve role since joining the Chiefs, but is still just 24 years old and plays in multiple areas of the defensive backfield where the Chiefs are searching for depth.

Washington switched to safety last season after playing cornerback as a rookie.

The Chiefs placed an emphasis on developing in-house talent last off-season and, specifically, Head Coach Todd Haley keyed on players entering their third NFL season. After all was said and done, Kansas City’s third-year players played a critical role in the Chiefs re-claiming the AFC West title.

If the class of threes hadn’t performed the way they had in 2010, it would have been hard to imagine Kansas City still winning the division.

Here are the third-year players that finished the season on Kansas City’s 53-man active roster.

Running Backs (3): Jackie Battle, Jamaal Charles, Mike Cox

Offensive Linemen (2): Branden Albert, Barry Richardson

Defensive Linemen (2): Glenn Dorsey, Wallace Gilberry

Linebackers (1): Andy Studebaker

Defensive Backs (2): Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers

Specialists (1): Thomas Gafford

“The cupboard wasn’t bare when Todd and I arrived to Kansas City,” GM Scott Pioli said at the scouting combine. “There were some pretty good football players there.”

Both Haley and Pioli referenced three years as the barometer for evaluating a draft class. Next year brings a new group of threes that the Chiefs will count on for further development. In addition to Washington, that list includes players like Tyson Jackson, Jovan Belcher and Ryan Succop.

While Washington continues to work on his pro game, his record vertical lasts another year. It’s a jump that may stand for quite some time.

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