Thursday, January 28, 2016

Neil Cornrich Featured by The Ohio State University College of Law

Athletes as clients: Take a look inside the wide world of sports law


The Ohio State University Law School Magazine | Winter 2016

The glitz. The glamour. The excitement. Brushing elbows with the athletic elite and sharing in a fast-paced, extravagant lifestyle—all while negotiating multi-million dollar contracts.

Perhaps that’s how sports law is portrayed on television and in the movies. But those in the industry today say there is so much more to a career working with athletes than simply reading over their contracts and sharing in their success.

The ultimate agent

“We’re involved in all aspects of their career— contracts, endorsements, and marketing –whatever they need. There is no typical day,” said nationally renowned sports agent and founder of NC Sports Neil Cornrich ’83. “I work with, objectively and quantifiably, the best and brightest in the world at what they do. There are so few positions, and they’re so good—the best in the world. I think it’s difficult for most people to understand.”

Breaking into the industry is challenging. Building trust with the players, creating a name for yourself, and succeeding in a market teeming with a multitude of variables out of both the player and agent’s control, like career-ending injuries, can make it difficult to start a business from the ground up.

Cornrich considers himself lucky. When he decided to become a sports agent, he was able to support himself by working at his father, Sidney Cornrich ’51’s firm in Cleveland as he built his practice. Friendships he started while in law school also helped, particularly that of Larry Romanoff, current director of external affairs for Ohio State.

“Larry’s insights had a profound effect on my understanding of student-athletes and played an integral role in the genesis of my career,” he said. It also helped Cornrich land a top pick from The Ohio State University football program, who went on to have an immensely successful career in the NFL, as his first client.

“I was lucky that Kirk Lowdermilk chose me to represent him. Fortunately things went well from the beginning contractually and he had the right things going for him; he was a tough, bright, durable player—in the sense that he could survive this brutal game—and having a player like that teaches you a lot about the game. He was then nice enough to start recommending me to other players like Jeff Uhlenhake, who was a team captain and All-America at Ohio State. Jeff was the first rookie to start at center in Miami Dolphin history and is currently working for the Ohio State football program as a strength and conditioning coach. One led to another, from Jeff to Joe Staysniak and, that same year, Jeff Davidson, who were both team captains and Academic All-Big Ten,” Cornrich explained.

Although he didn’t picture himself becoming an agent when he first entered law school, Cornrich said he became fascinated by contract work in his first-year course on the subject, taught by Professor Jerome Reichman, as well as classes on federal income taxation and legal problems of financial information with Professor Morgan Shipman. That appreciation for contract execution—which is a large part of what Cornrich does as an agent—as well as a an independent project he completed with Professor Stan Laughlin ’60, which allowed him to study lawyers’ roles within sports, started him on the path to where he is today.

He now represents a number of highly successful professional-level and college-level coaches, general managers, and club presidents. Names like Bill Belichick, Ted Ginn Jr., Montee Ball, Robert Smith, Glen Mason, John Cooper, Luke Fickell, and more recently first-round NFL draft pick and Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff, have all called on Cornrich and his team for their expertise.

Through it all, Cornrich said, the most important thing has been to continue working with the client to do things the right way and to do what’s in their best interest.

“I realize every day that the coaches, general managers, and players for whom I work are trying to improve their teams, and that can include their own personal representation. I understand the need to keep improving my own work and earn the respect of my clients on a daily basis. It’s nice that I’ve had good results in the past, but what’s important is continually getting good results for my current clients.”

And that philosophy has proven successful for both Cornrich and his clients. His impressive career was recognized by Sports Illustrated as one of the “15 Most Influential Sports Agents,” in 2013. “It’s obviously flattering, but I just feel very fortunate and humbled and lucky,” he said.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Geno Atkins' Advice: Don't Make Marshal Yanda Upset

Bengals DT Geno Atkins says Marshal Yanda is in the top three of offensive linemen he’s faced.

By Ryan Mink
January 27, 2016

Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins is one of the four Pro Bowl captains, meaning he has a special place even among the game’s biggest stars.

But there’s one man that even Atkins seems a little leery of. He wouldn’t go so far as to say he hopes he doesn’t have to face him in Sunday’s annual all-star game, but he’s definitely not going to cross him.

That man is Ravens guard Marshal Yanda.

“Don’t get him upset, I can tell you that,” Atkins said Tuesday at the Pro Bowl’s introductory press conference. “One of my teammates [Domata Peko] got him upset and I felt the brunt of it the next play. It was pretty bad.”

What did Yanda do?

“I’m not going to say,” Atkins said. “It’s embarrassing. He got me pretty good.”

As AFC North foes, Yanda and Atkins have gone to battle twice a year since 2010 (except when Atkins was injured in 2013). In the 10 games over that time, Atkins has registered five sacks and 22 tackles.

Atkins faces a lot of good, tough-minded offensive linemen in the rough-and-tumble AFC North. But he says Yanda stands out from the pack. He puts him in the top three players he’s ever faced.

“When I tell my son or daughter about football, I’ll tell them that was one of the best guards I went up against in the league,” Atkins said.

“He’s got nastiness, he’s physical and he has finesse. He’s strong, but if you try to beat him with a little finesse, he can handle that too because he’s got good feet. He’s got the whole package.”

The other guards joining Yanda at this year’s Pro Bowl are the Steelers’ David DeCastro, Bills’ Richie Incognito, Buccaneers’ Logan Mankins, Cowboys’ Zack Martin and Packers’ Josh Sitton. None of them came close to having as strong a season as Yanda, per Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Yanda was PFF’s top-rated guard for the second straight season, beating out Incognito with an overall rating of plus-43.1 to 35.0. Yanda was rated as the NFL’s third-best offensive lineman, just barely behind Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith and Browns tackle Joe Thomas.

During Wednesday’s Pro Bowl draft, Atkins will find out whether he has to face Yanda once again.

“If he’s on my team or if he’s not, it’s going to be a good matchup,” Atkins said. “I pay him twice a year, so it could go that way, or he could be on my team. That would be a good thing too.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ted Ginn finally gets his payback on Cardinals

By Darin Gantt

January 25, 2016

Ted Ginn was good enough in 2013 to earn a chance at a payday, and he chased it all the way to Arizona. But the Cardinals were so unimpressed they cut him a year later.

So when he returned to Carolina, a chance to show his former team he could change a game was something he clearly relished.

“I tried to take ‘me’ out of it, but it meant a lot to me,” Ginn said after helping the Panthers thrash the Cardinals 49-15, via David Scott of the Charlotte Observer.

Ginn might not have been wanted by the Cardinals, who threw just 26 passes his way all year. Since he catches about half what’s thrown his way, that means a mere 14 receptions for 190 yards and no touchdowns. The year before with the Panthers, he caught 36 passes for 566 yards and five touchdowns. But his return has been even better. With Kelvin Benjamin out for the year with a torn ACL, Ginn has stepped up to be the de facto No. 1 receiver in Carolina, with 44 catches for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns this year.

In short, when he’s in Carolina, he’s great. He has 15 receiving touchdowns in 31 games with the Panthers,
and 11 touchdowns in 104 games in all other places.

So suffice it to say General Manager Dave Gettleman wanted him back, and Ginn was glad to be wanted.

“I felt like deep down inside that [the Cardinals] thought I couldn’t do it,” Ginn said. “They sent me back out to the wolves. But then [Panthers coach Ron] Rivera, Gettleman, [owner Jerry] Richardson, even Cam [Newton], they stood on the table and said, hey, we want this guy back. All I can do is go out and play as hard as I can.”

He repaid that faith in all three phases of the game Sunday night.

He caught two passes for 52 yards, ran for a 22-yard score (which covered at least 75 yards) and had a 32-yard punt return which he nearly broke for a touchdown. But his most impressive play might have been on defense, preventing a touchdown after Patrick Peterson intercepted a Newton pass.

Ginn was at the goal line, and spotted the not-slow Peterson 10 yards. But he chased him down at the Panthers’ 22, setting up another Carson Palmer interception, and preventing the kind of swing the Cardinals needed.

It was the kind of raw speed moment that made you see why the Dolphins took him ninth overall in the 2007 draft.

But it took getting to Carolina to deliver on that promise.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What do Cardinals think of Ginn now?

Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton celebrates his touchdown run with Ted Ginn (19) during the second half the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

By Steve Reed

January 25, 2016

Charlotte, N.C. — Ted Ginn Jr. got the last laugh against the Arizona Cardinals.

Discarded by Arizona just one year into a three-year contract, Ginn did just about everything against his former team on Sunday and helped power the Carolina Panthers to a 49-15 win in the NFC championship.

Ginn caught two passes for 52 yards, set up his own 22-yard touchdown run with a 32-yard punt return and chased down Patrick Peterson after an interception to save a touchdown.

Ginn admitted he left Carolina after the 2013 season to ''chase a check,'' but was seldom used in Arizona last season. He caught just 14 passes for 190 yards and no touchdowns and was released.

The Panthers welcomed the speedster back with a two-year contract – and the move paid off. Ginn caught 44 passes for 739 yards and 10 touchdowns in the regular season.

Carolina Panthers' Ted Ginn runs for a touchdown as teammate Cam Newton runs with him during the first half the NFL football NFC Championship game against the Arizona Cardinals Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

But he may have saved his best game for Sunday.

With Carolina leading 3-0, Ginn fielded a punt and weaved through traffic for a 32-yard return to set the Panthers up in Arizona territory. Five plays later he took a pitch from Cam Newton, raced around left end on a reverse, changed fields and scored.

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, a big fan of Ginn's college team of Ohio State, Tweeted after the play ''Do work @TedGinnJr– 19!! I see you out there.''

Ginn later caught a 39-yard pass over Peterson.

And when it looked as if the Cardinals might have a chance of making a comeback, Ginn chased down Peterson after an interception, saving a touchdown.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Brandon Scherff named to all-rookie team

Redskins guard Brandon Scherff. (Roger Steinman/Associated Press)

By Master Tesfatsion

January 19, 2016

Redskins right guard Brandon Scherff was named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s all-rookie team on Tuesday. The fifth overall pick in last year’s draft missed just one snap this season, playing all 16 games and the team’s only playoff contest during the first round.

Scherff made a seamless transition from a tackle out of Iowa to a guard in the NFL. Despite some key injuries along the offensive line, the unit allowed just 27 sacks this season with Scherff serving as a reliable cog in the trenches.

Although it was an impressive rookie class, Scherff was the only Redskins player named on the all-rookie team. Linebacker Preston Smith didn’t make the cut despite leading all rookies with eight sacks this season. Here’s the complete all-rookie team list:

QB: Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB: Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams; Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks
WR: Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders; Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings
TE: Will Tye, New York Giants
C: Mitch Morese, Kansas City Chiefs
G: Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins; Ali Marpet, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
T: Rob Havenstein, St. Louis Rams; Donovan Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

DL: Malcom Brown, New England Patriots; Eddie Goldman, Chicago Bears; Danielle Hunter, Minnesota Vikings; Leonard Williams, New York Jets
LB: Kwon Alexander, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stephone Anthony, New Orleans Saints; Eric Kendricks, Minnesota Vikings
CB: Ronald Darby, Buffalo Bills; Marcus Peters, Kansas City Chiefs
S: Adrian Amos, Chicago Bears; Landon Collins, New York Giants

Special teams
PK: Josh Lambo, San Diego Chargers
P: Matt Darr, Miami Dolphins
KR/PR: Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Guard Marshal Yanda is lone Ravens player on PFWA All-NFL team

Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda (73) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. | (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Guard Marshal Yanda was voted to the Pro Football Writers of America's All-NFL team for the second straight season, the only Ravens player honored league-wide.

Punter Sam Koch, along with Yanda, was named to the All-AFC team. The two are the Ravens' lone Pro Bowl selections.

Yanda, 31, started all 16 games and was the top performer on the team's offensive line. He was voted the team's Most Valuable Player by media who cover the team.

The Ravens signed Yanda to a four-year, $37.4 million contract extension in October.

Monday, January 18, 2016

B1G person of the year is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz

January 14, 2016

By Brian Bennett ESPN Staff Writer

Each of our Big Ten writers was asked to pick a Big Ten football "person of the year" for the 2015 season. Today on the Big Ten blog, each writer will lay out the case for his choice.

America loves a good comeback story. The once washed-up actor who turns in an Oscar-caliber performance. The politician who overcomes a scandal. The athlete who battled injuries. They all make for irresistible plot lines.

But that kind of revival isn't supposed to be possible for longtime college football coaches. Their tenures are too short, their fan bases too impatient. Once the downward spiral begins, it's almost never reversible, as athletic directors and donors fear losing recruits, revenue and "momentum."

Certainly no one would expect a booming career renaissance from a 60-year-old coach, one who'd been at the same school since before the new milliennium and who carried a reputation for being conservative, if not outdated. Yet that's exactly what Kirk Ferentz achieved at Iowa in one of the more remarkable one-year turnarounds in recent memory.

All the way up until this season's opener and perhaps a little beyond, nothing but negative talk surrounded Ferentz's status. The Hawkeyes finished just 7-6 the previous season despite a dream schedule and got drubbed by Tennessee in their bowl game. Iowa had gone 34-30 in the five years since the 2009 Orange Bowl season. Ferentz's enormous contract and unwieldy buyout were the only national talking point about the program. Season-ticket sales were cratering as fans grew tired of the mediocrity. It looked like 2015 could get ugly if the team got off to a slow start.

Ferentz, though, used the offseason to reinvent, or more accurately, renovate his way of doing things. He made the bold decision after the bowl game to elevate C.J. Beathard to first-string quarterback over a two-year starter in Jake Rudock. He changed the team's practice routines, giving players Thursdays off. He accepted a little bit more freewheeling style of play, at least by Iowa's normally buttoned-down standards, by giving Beathard license to use his athleticism, by faking punts and going for it on fourth downs.

Kirk Ferentz led Iowa to its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1991. AP Photo/AJ Mast

Ferentz drew laughs in September by joking to the media that "It's a new me." He really hadn't changed much. One of the coach's greatest strengths is his unflappability and consistent demeanor. He might have grown up in Pennsylvania but is now as much an Iowan as anybody, having spent 26 years at the school including an earlier stint as an assistant. The Hawkeyes still lined up with fullbacks and tight ends and embraced old-school Big Ten values.

But from Week 1 on, there was clearly something different about this Iowa team. It played with confidence. With fun, even. And it kept winning games, week after week. The punditry dismissed the Hawkeyes as a product of another soft schedule and fans waited for them to go away. Yet they continued to win and climb the College Football Playoff rankings until they were 12-0 and No. 4 in the country heading into the Big Ten title game. Even in a bitter, hard-fought defeat to Michigan State, Iowa earned begrudging respect from some of its most serious doubters.

In his 17th season as head coach, Ferentz managed to scale new heights. Iowa recorded its first 12-win season. It reached the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1991. The Hawkeyes fell flat on their faces in Pasadena against Stanford, but that couldn't take away from all they'd accomplished.

Ferentz understandably won the Big Ten coach of the year honors for the fourth time in his career and took home three national coach of the year trophies as well. In an era when schools rush to fire coaches after one or two bad seasons to chase after the new hot name, Ferentz and 2015 Iowa counteroffered a testament to patience, stability and experience. This season will be worth remembering the next time a fan base is howling to get rid of someone in the midst of a downturn.

After all, there's nothing like a great comeback story, and Ferentz showed that even an old football coach can author an inspiring one. That's why he is the easy choice as the Big Ten person of the year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The top-graded player on every NFL team

January 13, 2016
By Gordon McGuinness

Using the Pro Football Focus player grades, here's a look at the top-graded player on all 32 teams, listed in alphabetical order by team:

Atlanta Falcons
WR Julio Jones: 96.0
The second-best wide receiver in the league behind Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, Jones led the league with 1,871 yards. He had 10 drops to Brown's five, but that doesn't take away from his incredible season.

Arizona Cardinals
QB Carson Palmer: 98.5
Saving his best season for his 13th in the league, Palmer has had an MVP-caliber year in 2015. Particularly impressive going downfield, he threw for 1,123 yards on passes travelling 20 or more yards downfield.

Baltimore Ravens
OG Marshal Yanda: 92.6
It was a down season for Baltimore, but once again Yanda was at the top of his game. He allowed just one sack in pass protection and was a force in the running game.

Buffalo Bills
OG Richie Incognito: 90.0
Incognito played every snap for the Bills this season, and he had by far the best season of his career. Solid in pass protection, where he allowed two sacks, five hits and 12 hurries, he really excelled as a run-blocker, posting the second-highest PFF run-blocking grade.

Carolina Panthers
LB Luke Kuechly: 99.9
Earning the highest PFF grade ever given to a linebacker in a single season, Kuechly was incredible against the run and in coverage. He recorded 59 tackles resulting in a defensive stop and missed just six tackles.

Chicago Bears
WR Alshon Jeffery: 94.2
It's telling that Jeffery was the Bears' best player despite missing seven games, but that's how good he was when he played. He dropped only two of the 56 catchable passes thrown his way.

Cincinnati Bengals
DT Geno Atkins: 93.1
Finally getting back to his best after suffering a torn ACL in 2013, Atkins was once again Cincinnati's best player this year, racking up 15 sacks, 10 hits and 61 hurries, while impressing against the run, too.

Cleveland Browns
OT Joe Thomas: 94.3
As has been the case since he was drafted in 2007, Thomas was again the best player in Cleveland. In 753 pass-blocking snaps this year, he allowed just two sacks. For his career, he allows a sack only once every 217.5 pass-blocking snaps.

Dallas Cowboys
OT Tyron Smith: 93.3
Five sacks are the most Smith has allowed since his rookie season, but he also had his highest PFF grade as a run-blocker -- by some distance -- and allowed only 22 total pressures.

Denver Broncos
OLB Von Miller: 91.8
Miller still had a dominant season as a pass-rusher, despite posting the second-lowest sack total of his career. He had 11 sacks, 21 hits and 50 hurries, and had a positive grade against the run for the fifth straight season.

Detroit Lions
WR Calvin Johnson: 89.4
Johnson, who is contemplating retirement, remains the best Lions player. He finished the 2015 regular season with a ninth straight positive grade.

Green Bay Packers
DE Mike Daniels: 91.2
Five sacks and six hits might not seem like much, but Daniels added an impressive 42 hurries. He finished the regular season with 32 total defensive stops, proving he can handle the run, too.

Houston Texans
DE J.J. Watt: 95.8
What's ridiculous is that this was somehow a "down year" for Watt, who had been even better the past three seasons. He was still outstanding in 2015, however, racking up 18 sacks, 34 hits and 39 hurries.

Indianapolis Colts
LB Jerrell Freeman: 90.6
What an improvement from Freeman, who missed just five tackles all season after posting double-digit missed tackle numbers in his first three seasons in the league. He finished 2015 with an impressive 53 total defensive stops.

Jacksonville Jaguars
WR Allen Robinson: 87.6
In his second year in the league, Robinson averaged a whopping 17.5 yards per reception, the most of any wide receiver with more than 50 receptions.

Kansas City Chiefs
OLB Justin Houston: 92.4
Houston had eight sacks, five hits and 47 hurries in 11 games this season. He also graded positively against the run and committed just one penalty

Miami Dolphins
DE Olivier Vernon: 92.2
Vernon was fantastic in 2015, edging out the grade of teammate Ndamukong Suh. Vernon's 10 sacks might not sound dominant, but he added 30 hits and 40 hurries.

Minnesota Vikings
DT Linval Joseph: 94.2
Outstanding against the run, Joseph had his best season by some distance. He had 26 total pressures as a pass-rusher.

New York Giants
WR Odell Beckham Jr.: 89.0
It was another tremendous season for Beckham, who dropped just four of the 100 catchable passes thrown his way.

New York Jets
DT Damon Harrison: 91.3
Harrison might be a player who excels far more in one area than the other, but the man known as "Big Snacks" again feasted on opposing offensive linemen against the run. His 51 defensive stops were tied with the Rams' Aaron Donaldfor the most by a player on the defensive interior.

New England Patriots
TE Rob Gronkowski: 96.4
Gronkowski was his usual impressive self this season. He led all tight ends with a ridiculous 16.3 yards per reception; the next closest was at 14.8. Gronk was one of just 18 tight ends who had a positive grade as a run-blocker.

New Orleans Saints
OT Terron Armstead: 90.9
Armstead made an impressive jump in Year 3, as he allowed just three sacks this season.

Oakland Raiders
OLB Khalil Mack: 95.8
The AFC West is the place to be for pass-rushing outside linebackers, and Mack is the best of the bunch. Dominant against the run for the second year in a row, he upped his performance in 2015, finishing the season with 16 sacks, eight hits and 58 hurries.

Philadelphia Eagles
DE Fletcher Cox: 90.3
PFF's second-highest-graded 3-4 defensive end, Cox racked up 10 sacks, 13 hits and 54 hurries. He was no slouch against the run, either, finishing with 44 defensive stops.

Pittsburgh Steelers
WR Antonio Brown: 96.6
Brown was the best wide receiver in the league for the second year in a row. He forced 23 missed tackles en route to 1,834 receiving yards, and he dropped just five of the 141 catchable passes thrown his way.

San Diego Chargers
CB Jason Verrett: 86.6
It was a tough season for the Chargers, but Verrett's play was one of the few bright spots. He had just two games with a negative grade in coverage. He allowed 616 receiving yards and three touchdowns while picking off three passes and breaking up three more.

San Francisco 49ers
OT Joe Staley: 86.7
Staley has finished every season of his career with a positive PFF grade, and this year was no different. Solid both as a run-blocker and in pass protection, he didn't allow a sack or a hit in the final four games of the season.

St. Louis Rams
DT Aaron Donald: 99.9
Donald's first step is terrifying, and it helped him to one of the best seasons ever by a defensive player. He registered 11 sacks, 26 hits, 42 hurries and 51 defensive stops.

Seattle Seahawks
WR Doug Baldwin: 91.7
Boosted by a spectacular second half of the season, Baldwin was the top Seahawks receiver. He dropped only two of the 80 catchable passes thrown his way.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB Doug Martin: 87.8
This was the Martin of his 2012 rookie season, and then some. He forced 57 missed tackles and had the second-most rushing yards in the league.

Tennessee Titans
TE Delanie Walker: 92.1
A tight end who doesn't get the credit he deserves, Walker was very good both as a receiver and as a run-blocker. He forced 16 missed tackles in the passing game, tied for the most at the position.

Washington Redskins
OT Trent Williams: 86.5
Williams had a positive PFF grade both as a run-blocker and in pass protection for the fifth straight year. He gave up just two sacks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Marshal Yanda named to Pro Football Focus All-Pro Team

January 12, 2016

Khaled Elsayed reveals Pro Football Focus' 2015 All-Pro roster, featuring this season's top-graded players from around the NFL.

Right guard: Marshal Yanda, Ravens

Second team: Zack Martin, Cowboys

There isn’t a season that goes by where we don’t get excited about Yanda. He may not get a lot of publicity, but he continues to be one of the very best linemen PFF has ever graded.

Honorable mentions: T.J. Lang (GB) and Trai Turner (CAR)

Monday, January 11, 2016

Riley Reiff wins Top Offensive Lineman Award

Tackle Riley Reiff was named the Eric Andolsek Top Offensive Lineman Award winner by his teammates.

January 10, 2016

The Eric Andolsek Award is presented to the team's outstanding offensive lineman.

This award is given in memory of the Lions' Eric Andolsek, who was emerging as one of the top young guards in the NFL when he was killed tragically in an offseason accident in 1992. He started every game from 1989-91, making his 50th consecutive start in his final contest, the 1991 NFC Championship Game. He was named to the USA Today's All-Pro Team that year, his first such honor as a Lion.

This year's Eric Andolsek Top Offensive Lineman Award, as voted by the players, goes to left tackle Riley Reiff:

  • Reiff led the Lions with 1,138 snaps in 2015 according to Football Outsiders.
  • He was the highest graded Lions offensive line starter by Pro Football Focus.
  • He recorded the sixth-highest run-blocking grade among tackles by PFF.
  • His 8.9 run blocking grade was the highest on the team from PFF.
  • The six penalties called against him were the 7th fewest by any tackle that played as many snaps as Reiff in 2015.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Phil Dawson named 49ers MVP

Kicker Phil Dawson #9 of the San Francisco 49ers scores a field goal against the Dallas Cowboys in the second quarter of a preseason game | Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

January 7, 2016

By David Barclay

49ers place kicker Phil Dawson has been named the 2015 Bill Walsh Award winner. The award, with voted tabulated by the teams coaching staff, is handed out annually to San Francisco's most valuable player—Dawson became the first 49ers kicker to win the award since 2005, when Joe Nedney was co-MVP with linebacker Derek Smith.

Dawson, who is scheduled to become a free agent this offseason, had an excellent year for the 49ers. He made 24 of 27 field goals, two of his misses were blocked kicks. He converted 20 of 21 extra point attempts as well. Thursday, Dawson reacted to the honor in a statement released through the 49ers website.

“Any award with Bill Walsh’s name attached to it is a big deal,” Dawson said in the statement. “In my three years in San Francisco, I’ve grown to learn even more about coach Walsh and respect him all the more. So that’s a tremendous honor in and of itself. But, then to consider that the coaches were the ones voting on this, just puts it over the top.

“In most places, the kicker is just kind of an afterthought or a necessary evil. I’ve always tried to just be a football player and just come to work and do my job. This means quite a bit given the fact that I am a kicker. There are certainly other guys on the team who are deserving and I hold them in high regard. So, when you mix all that together, it’s a pretty special deal.”

Wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is also scheduled for free agency this year at age 35, received this year's Len Eshmont Award. Considered the most prestigious honor, the award is handed out to the player who best exemplifies inspiration and courage—it is voted on by the players. Additionally, Boldin was San Francisco's nominee for this year's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, for his commitment to the community and philanthropy.

“This really means a lot to me,” Boldin said in a statement. “Those are the guys that get a chance to see you everyday, day in and day out, get to see you put in work. So, it’s big to earn the respect of your peers and an honor that they voted me the winner.”

Left tackle Joe Staley was honored as this year's winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award winner for best representing the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by the long-time 49ers offensive line coach.

“It’s an honor to win the Bobb McKittrick Award,” Staley said. “It’s a very long standing tradition with what Bob McKittrick meant to this organization and coaching the offensive line. It stands for a lot.”

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman —who led the league in tackles his first season back from knee surgery— was honored with Ed Block Courage Award. The award is handed out by all 32 NFL teams, and is presented to the player who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage. A banquet is held each year for the 32 players honored with the award in Baltimore, Maryland.

NFL Football: Yanda reeling in awards

Former Anamosa superstar Marshal Yanda earned his fifth straight Pro Bowl berth recently, as well as being named Baltimore Ravens team MVP this season. (Courtesy Baltimore Ravens)

January 7, 2016

BALTIMORE, MD — It’s becoming as predictable as the sun rising in the east.

Former Anamosa superstar and current Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Marshal Yanda was named to the Pro Bowl team recently.

Yanda will be making his fifth straight appearance in the prestigious contest.

While the Ravens’ season didn’t go exactly as planned this year, as Baltimore wrapped the 2015-16 campaign with a 5-11overall record after a 24-16 loss against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Jan. 3, Yanda kept his play at an elite level all season long.

“Football is the ultimate team sport, and you don’t do anything in the league on your own,” Yanda told the Baltimore Sun. “I want to thank the coaches and my teammates for helping me along the way this season.

“We all grind together with the goal of achieving greatness.”

Yanda ties Haloti Ngata for the fifth most Pro Bowl appearances in a franchise history.

Only Ray Lewis (13 Pro Bowls), Jonathan Ogden (11), Ed Reed (9) and Terrell Suggs (6) have gone to more Pro Bowls in Ravens history than the Anamosa native.

Yanda was chosen to the Pro Bowl without regard to conference after a vote by fans, coaches and players.

Yanda and the rest of the Pro Bowl selections will be assigned to teams during the Pro Bowl draft, set for Jan. 27.

Not only was Yanda selected as one of the best in the NFL at his right guard offensive lineman position, but he also earned yet another prestigious honor being named the Ravens’ 2015 team MVP.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “We all want to be great at our jobs, and it’s great to be recognized.”

Yanda has arguably been Baltimore’s best player for several years now as he continues to defy the tests of time by getting better each and every season.

“I feel better now than I did when I first came into the league nine years ago,” Yanda said. “I’ve still got a lot of good football ahead of me, too.”

Marshal Yanda named a first-team All Pro

Baltimore Ravens guard Marshal Yanda (73) during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

By Jeff Zrebiec

January 8, 2016

Right guard Marshal Yanda continues to be regarded as one of the NFL's best at his position.

For the second straight season, Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda has been named an Associated Press first-team All-Pro.

Yanda, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was the lone Raven on the first team, which included six members of the NFC's top-seeded Carolina Panthers.

Of the players selected to the first team, 15 were from the NFC and 12 were from the AFC. Yanda and the Pittsburgh Steelers' David DeCastro were the starting guards on the first team.

Yanda, 31, started all 16 games for a third straight season and was the top performer on the Ravens' offensive line. He was voted the team's Most Valuable Player in a voting by the team's media.

The Ravens locked up Yanda to a four-year, $37.4 million contract extension in October.

Yanda and punter Sam Koch are the Ravens' lone Pro Bowl selections.

Monday, January 04, 2016

After 17 years at Oklahoma, Stoops is still climbing

December 29, 2015

By Dave George - Palm Beach Post Sports Columnist


Bob Stoops can laugh about it now in the interviews leading up to Thursday’s national semifinal game between 11-1 Oklahoma and unbeaten Clemson.

In fact, he volunteered what he called a “funny story” about feeling overwhelmed in his first weeks as coach of the Sooners back in December of 1998.

“I went back to Florida for the holidays to see my wife and child because they weren’t out there in Oklahoma yet and I had just started recruiting,” said Stoops, who was 38 and flying high as Steve Spurrier’s defensive coordinator when the Sooners hired him away. “My car dealer picked me up in Jacksonville to take me to Gainesville and I said to him on the way home, ‘I may have just ruined my life. What did I just go and do taking that job?’

“Obviously, though, I’m pretty glad I did.”

It’s a gig that has produced more victories (179) than any Division I coach has amassed in his first 17 seasons.

Bud Wilkinson didn’t win 179 times at Oklahoma. Neither did Barry Switzer, and each of them won three national titles with the Sooners.

Those are big names in college football history, but for the players on Oklahoma’s current roster there is only one. Stoops has been coaching the Sooners for nearly all of their lives, all the way back to the 2000 national championship of their Sesame Street years and even earlier.

“That’s who I grew up watching,” Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “He’s a living legend to me. How he handles himself and how competitive he is and how he wants to win and how he gets the job done, I’ve always respected it.”

Stoops has gotten the job done by adjusting, again and again, as the Big 12 evolved into a high-scoring league.
In the process Oklahoma has developed many top quarterbacks, like Sam Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner who led the Sooners to a BCS title game match with Florida.

Mike Leach and Kevin Sumlin, meanwhile, are on the list of offensive wizards Stoops has employed to push all the hot buttons on that side of the ball.

They moved on to head coaching jobs of their own and so one day will current Sooners play-caller Lincoln Riley, 32, who recently was reported among the prime candidates for head coaching jobs at South Carolina, North Carolina and Maryland that eventually were filled by other men.

All are looking for the kind of lasting structure and security that Stoops has built for himself in Norman. NFL teams have repeatedly tested his interest in leaving, but the toughest decision may have been in January of 2002, when Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley visited Stoops’ home in search of a sure bet to fill the massive hole left by Spurrier’s resignation.

Stoops said no thanks, however, and Foley wound up hiring Ron Zook, a real stretch.

“I never acknowledge whether I had the opportunity or not,” Stoops said of the Florida flirtation. “Timing in life is everything. Sometimes the timing is right and sometimes it isn’t.

“I can’t say I ever anticipated 17 years when I started at Oklahoma, but I did know Oklahoma was not a stepping-stone job. It was a destiny job. A destination job, and it’s a job that when you do well, you stay there.”

Would he have achieved more than one national title as boss of the Gators instead of the Sooners? Probably not. Urban Meyer won two championships at Florida but he didn’t last. Nobody, not even Spurrier, has ever come close to 17 years as Florida’s head coach.

On top of that, Stoops isn’t finished at Oklahoma yet. He’s 55, and still a master of motivation. Take October’s loss to Texas, a real stunner.

“The first thing coach Stoops said in the locker room after the Texas game was ‘Guys, don’t forget what Ohio State did last year,’ ” Mayfield said.

He was talking about running the table, which is what the Buckeyes did in 2014 after a season-opening loss.

He was living the legend, too, with a group of players who can’t see him any other way.

Ex-Chargers GM Beathard 'tried to hire Ferentz'

Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz talks to reporters during the teams media day in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. After a 25-year absence, the Iowa Hawkeyes are back in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Stanford on New Years day. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) The Associated Press

The former NFL boss said he targeted Iowa's Rose Bowl-bound coach in San Diego

By Bryce Miller

December 31, 2015

One-time Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard said he tried to lure University of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz to lead the NFL team.

“I tried to hire coach Ferentz years ago,” Beathard said.

Beathard was unsure of the year he attempted to land Ferentz, but said he thought it was "around Gilbride." The Chargers transitioned from Kevin Gilbride to June Jones in 1998. The Hawkeye coach declined to confirm the discussion or timing of it through a university spokesperson.

Ferentz and the former Chargers boss remained in touch. Iowa’s coach, who will be tied with Oklahoma’s Bobby Stoops as the longest tenured coaches at one program after this season, later recruited Beathard’s grandson, C.J.

The younger Beathard, who visited his famous grandfather in the Oceanside area as a kid, is scheduled to start at quarterback for Friday’s Rose Bowl matchup with Stanford.

“When he called to say he was recruiting C.J., I told Kirk, ‘There’s no one I’d rather have him play for,’ ” Bobby Beathard said. “When he made the visit, he liked everything about coach Ferentz and the staff. It wasn’t a hard decision for him.”

NFL notes: Trevathan, Williamson finish as team tackles leaders

January 3, 2016

Former University of Kentucky linebackers Danny Trevathan and Avery Williamson each finished as his respective team’s leading tackler.

Trevathan had a game-high 10 tackles Sunday in the Denver Broncos’ 27-20 defeat of the San Diego Chargers. Eight of those were solo and one was for a loss.

That performance gave him 110 tackles for the season. He also had two interceptions this season, including one on Dec. 6 against San Diego that he returned for his first NFL touchdown.

It is the second time in four seasons that Trevathan has reached the 100-tackle mark. He only played three games last season because of injuries.

Williamson made a game-high nine tackles in the Tennessee Titans’ 30-24 loss at Indianapolis. Eight of those were solo, which pushed his season total to 102.

Williamson also had 3 1/2 sacks and one interception this season.

Titans teammate and fellow ex-Cat Wesley Woodyard made four tackles Sunday to give him 87 overall. He also had five sacks and one fumble recovery this season.

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