Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Lukas Van Ness credits Kirk Ferentz, Hawkeyes’ ‘developmental factory’ for NFL readiness


Posted: May 22, 2023 / 04:51 PM CDT

Updated: May 22, 2023 / 04:52 PM CDT

The Iowa City faithful have known Lukas Van Ness as a freak of nature for quite some time. He threw around opposing quarterbacks like ragdollssteamrolled the best offensive lineman in the sport — all while leading the team in sacks and pressures in 2022.

The Green Bay Packers were sold on “Hercules,” and selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Lukas’ new defensive staff is getting their first hands-on look at the 6-foot-5, 275-pound behemoth. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry is seeing what Hawkeyes already know.

“Have you seen him in person? He’s a big, big man, and he’s young,” Barry said. “Putting my evaluator hat on, when you see a guy that walks in a room — he’s got length and explosion. And then you look at the fact that he’s 21 years old.”

“It’s scary when you get a young player like that to close your eyes and think about what those guys will be three, four, five years down the road when they are 25-26 years old.”

Lukas, as always, looks the part — even in trading his black and gold for green and gold. One of the things that’s stood out to the young Van Ness is the reverberating importance of honoring history. He gushed about how his Hawkeye roots allowed him to blossom into one of the most coveted football prospects in America.

“[Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz] is a big history guy, loves to bring up past teams, past players — and the way they went about their business and the standard that they held,” Van Ness said. “That’s the standard they set and the standard they want Coach Ferentz to uphold.”

“Having a coach like Coach Ferentz who has been in the NFL and coached at the collegiate level for a long time — he’s had a ton of experience and he’s really good. We’re a developmental factory at Iowa — he takes guys that are underrecruited, he develops them into true men and true football players and prepares them for the NFL.”

“There are so many guys who have rolled through the university of Iowa that have gone on to play at the next level. There are lists of people I’ve watched and learned from. Coming in there was a couple of guys on the way out — A.J. Epenesa, Chauncey Golston and Jack Heflin was up here for a little bit. So, I came in at an awesome time.”

“I surrounded myself with vets and guys who succeeded at a high level and learned from them.”

For more Hawkeyes coverage, follow @HawkeyeHQ on Twitter and Facebook. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

World Medalists Coon and Kikiniou among 10 to Advance to Final X with World Team Trials Challenge Tournament Greco-Roman Titles


By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | May 20, 2023, 8:53 p.m. (ET)

Adam Coon takes down Donny Longendyke in the 130 kg finals at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. Photo by Robbert Wijtman.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Senior World medalists Adam Coon (130 kg) and Aliaksandr Kikiniou (77 kg) were among 10 Greco-Roman champions from today’s World Team Trials Challenge Tournament at Discovery Canyon High School to punch their tickets for Final X.

Today’s winners will compete in Final X against the 2023 U.S. Open champion at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., June 10.

Coon, a 2018 World silver medalist, scored a 9-0 technical fall over Donny Longendyke in the finals. Coon advances to Final X to face Cohlton Schultz of the Sunkist Kids who defeated him in the U.S. Open finals in April. Coon had not wrestled until recently after pursuing professional football after the 2021 season.

Kikinou, a 43-year old who won a 2009 World bronze medalist for Belarus, recently received U.S. citizenship and was second at the U.S. Open. He won his finals today with a technical fall over Payton Jacobson, 10-0. He earned a Final X rematch against Kamal Bey who defeated him in the U.S. Open finals.

Kikinou was among three Olympians who were able to advance today to Final X, joined by two-time Olympian Ildar Hafizov at 60 kg and 2020 Olympian Alejandro Sancho at 67 kg.

Hafizov, a 2008 Olympian for Uzbekistan and a 2020 Olympian for Team USA, stopped Randon Miranda, 8-4 in the finals. He earned a rematch with Army teammate and 2023 U.S. Open champion Dalton Roberts in Final X.

Sancho did not have to compete in the finals, when Army teammate and 2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke did not wrestle in the finals match. Sancho will face U.S. Open champion Robert Perez III in Final X.

Two-time World Team member Patrick Smith won the title at 72 kg, with a 4-0 decision over Noah Wachsmuth. Smith returns to Final X to face rising young star Justus Scott, who defeated Smith at the U.S. Open.

Six World Team Trials Challenge Tournament champions qualified for Final X for the first time: Kikiniou plus Dalton Duffield (55 kg), Xavier Johnson (63 kg), Ryan Epps (82 kg), Zachary Braunagel (87 kg) and Christian DuLaney (97 kg).

Duffield, who was No. 3 on the Senior National Team last year, scored a 10-0 technical fall over 2022 U23 World Team member Camden Russell. He gets a Final X rematch with Brady Koontz, who beat him in the U.S. Open finals.

Johnson, a past National Team member, defeated two-time World Team member Sammy Jones in the finals, 7-4. Johnson, who started his career with the U.S. Marines and now wrestles for Army WCAP, draws 2023 U.S. Open champion Hayden Tuma in Final X.

Epps scored a tight 2-1 win over two-time Olympian Ben Provisor in the finals. He will battle 2022 World Team member Spencer Woods in Final X.

Braunagel, a student-athlete at the University of Illinois, used a 6-0 victory over Richard Carlson. Braunagel advances to Final X to face two-time World Team member Alan Vera in Newark.

Dulaney, who was a National Team member last year at 86 kg, has moved up in weight to make his first Final X. He defeated North Carolina student-athlete Cade Lautt in an 8-0 technical fall. His Final X opponent is two-time World Team member Joe Rau.

The World Team Trials Challenge Tournament will continue on Sunday with four women’s freestyle weight classes (55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg) and three men’s freestyle weight classes (61 kg, 92 kg, 125 kg). Session times are 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. live on FloWrestling.

At Colorado Springs, Colo., May 20, 2023

Greco-Roman results

55 kg
1st - Dalton Duffield, Army WCAP, tech fall Camden Russell, MWC Wrestling Academy/New York AC, 10-0
Duffield advances to Final X to face Brady Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC)

3rd - Billy Sullivan, Army WCAP tech fall Jacob Cochran, Army WCAP, 12-1

60 kg
1st - Ildar Hafizov, Army WCAP dec. Randon Miranda, Rise RTC, 8-4
Hafizov advances to Final X to face Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP)

3rd - Dylan Koontz, Dubuque RTC/Titan Mercury WC tech. fall Jonathan Gurule, NMU-National Training Center, 8-0

63 kg finals
1st - Xavier Johnson, Army WCAP dec. Sammy Jones, Sunkist Kids WC, 7-4
Johnson advances to Final X to face Hayden Tuma (Suples WC)

3rd - Dylan Gregerson, Brunson UVRTC tech fall Corbin Nirschl, MWC Wrestling Academy/New York AC, 9-0

67 kg finals
1st - Alejandro Sancho, Army WCAP forfeit Jesse Thielke, Army WCAP
Sancho advances to Final X to face Robert Perez III (Sunkist Kids WC)
3rd - David Stepanian, New York AC tech fall Joel Adams, The Best Wrestler, 9-0

72 kg finals
1st - Patrick Smith, Minnesota Storm dec. Noah Wachsmuth, New York AC, 4-0
Smith advances to Final X to face Justus Scott (Army WCAP)

3rd - Michael Hooker, Army WCAP dec. Jack Ervien, Viking WC, 4-2

77 kg finals
1st - Aliaksandr Kikiniou, California tech fall Payton Jacobson, Sunkist Kids WC, 10-0
Kikiniou advances to Final X to face Kamal Bey (Army WCAP)

3rd - RaVaughn Perkins, New York AC pin Jesse Porter, New York AC, 1:11

82 kg finals
1st - Ryan Epps, Army WCAP, dec. Ben Provisor, New York AC, 2-1
Epps advances to Final X to face Spencer Woods

3rd - Barrett Stanghill, Minnesota Storm dec. Tommy Brackett, New York AC, 6-4

87 kg finals
1st - Zachary Braunagel, Illinois RTC/Illini WC dec. Richard Carlson, Minnesota Storm, 6-0
Braunagel advances to Final X to face Alan Vera (New York AC)

3rd - John Stefanowicz, Navy WC dec. Timothy Young, Army WCAP, 4-0

97 kg finals
1st - Christian DuLaney, Minnesota Storm, tech fall Cade Lautt, Tar Heel WC, 8-0
Dulaney advances to Final X to face Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC)

3rd - Nicholas Boykin, Sunkist Kids WC pin Brandon Marshall, Big Game WC, 0:43
advances to Final X to face Josef Rau

130 kg finals
1st - Adam Coon, Cliff Keen WC/New York AC tech fall Donny Longendyke, Minnesota Storm, 9-0
Coon advances to Final X to face Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids)

3rd - Brandon Metz, North Dakota dec. Darryl Aiello, Dubuque RTC, 4-0


Thursday, May 11, 2023

Tyler Linderbaum: Top NFL player by jersey number


Sorting all the best at every single digit


May 8, 2023 at 12:10 pm ET

Is it the player that makes the jersey, or the jersey that makes the player? Surely it's the former. But it'd be foolish to deny that uniforms -- and, specifically, jersey numbers -- hold a special place in many NFL players' hearts. Only in recent years has the league permitted skill positions to rock single digits, and starting in 2023 the No. 0 will also join the rotation, marking an even more diverse wardrobe for the stars of the game.

Whether it's Patrick Mahomes' red No. 15 or Aaron Donald's blue No. 99, certain numbers have become synonymous with the NFL's best talents. And it's with that in mind that we decided to assess every single digit, identifying the best player to wear each number, 0-99, for the upcoming 2023 season:

Note: Player ages are as of Sept. 1, 2023.

64 -- Tyler Linderbaum

Position: C | Team: Ravens | Age: 23

Bengals OL Ted Karras is another possibility here, but Linderbaum wasted no time integrating to the NFL, drawing Offensive Rookie of the Year votes for steering Lamar Jackson's front.

Monday, May 08, 2023

Aaron Kampman 2.0? Packers hope Lukas Van Ness can be another productive Iowa player


May 6, 2023


GREEN BAY — There’s not much extra space on the tiny regional jets that fly in and out of the Cedar Rapids, Iowa airport. But for Aaron Kampman and Lukas Van Ness, what the flight lacked in legroom it more than made up for in across-the-aisle interaction.

“I was in a single seat (on one side of the aisle) and he was alone with a double,” Kampman recounted with a chuckle. “So, it all worked out pretty well.”

The two obviously had plenty in common — both former University of Iowa standouts, both edge rushers with a knack for getting after the quarterback and, after Van Ness went in the first round of last weekend’s NFL Draft, both Green Bay Packers.

Kampman, who played 112 games over eight seasons in Green Bay (2002 through 2009), now runs a leadership development company and visits his alma mater frequently at the behest of Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz. That’s where he and Van Ness had crossed paths before their cruising altitude conversations.

“Kampman was a guy I continuously saw over the past few years in the building, and he’s always been a guy who was around and you could ask questions,” Van Ness said during a break in the Packers’ two-day post-draft rookie minicamp. “I rang a bunch of questions off of him.

“He’s always been a great resource, a guy that I could text and ask any question. I’m super thankful for Aaron Kampman.”

While their draft pedigrees are vastly different — unlike Van Ness, who as the No. 13 overall pick figures to get a $17.4 million rookie deal (including a $9.6 million signing bonus), Kampman came in as a little-known fifth-round pick (No. 156 overall) — the Packers would be thrilled if Van Ness becomes the player Kampman did.

Before the Packers shifted to a 3-4 defense under Dom Capers in 2009, Kampman had been their best overall defensive end in their 4-3 system, recording 50.5 sacks, 57 tackles for loss and 84 quarterback hits over his first seven seasons.

Kampman’s peak years were in 2006 and 2007, when he recorded 27.5 sacks and 56 quarterback hits on his way to earning back-to-back Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro selections.

And having watched Van Ness throughout his two seasons at Iowa, Kampman sees a guy who — despite never starting a game for the Hawkeyes — could be far more of a field-tilting player than he was in his heyday.

“I think he’s got some speed-to-power type assets in how he rushes (like I did),” Kampman said during an appearance on ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” last week. “He didn’t play a full college career, so I think he’s probably just scratching the surface. He’s got even more tools than I had. He’s definitely a more polished rusher than I was coming out of college.

“Like every NFL player, if he can stay healthy, he’ll have an opportunity to have a great career. And I specifically was very happy when I saw Green Bay, because he’s a good young lad.”

Kampman acknowledged he was often short-changed when it came to his athletic ability and technical skills as a pass rusher, with his success often being attributed to his effort and motor.

Now, the Packers believe they have a player who has the same work ethic but greater physical gifts. In the 6-foot-5, 272-pound Van Ness — nicknamed “Hercules” by his Iowa teammates — they believe have a versatile, hulking specimen who can attack quarterbacks and set the edge against the run outside, then can move inside on passing downs if need be.

“That was a label, for sure,” Kampman said of his try-hard persona. “But the reality is, I did try hard. And, I also had some ability. And those went hand-in-hand.

“I think for Lukas, that’ll be his opportunity, to really figure out who he is and who he’s going to be as a complete football player who plays both the run and the pass. He can do everything.”

Added Kampman, who was listed at 6-4 and 260 pounds during his playing career, chuckling: “He’s taller than I was. He’s a big young man. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he does.”

Like many who watched the draft-night coverage on TV, Kampman saw highlights of Van Ness getting the better of Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson, both of whom were first-round draft picks themselves.

Those clips showed Van Ness using power moves; the challenge for him will be to diversify his pass-rush approach.

“As you’ve previously seen, at Iowa we were very power-oriented. I’ve always had a lot of power in my game. I feel that’s the way I dominate,” said Van Ness, who has been working out in California with pass-rushing coach Eddy McGilvra, whose pupils include Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark, a two-time Pro Bowler. “I’m trying to expand my tool bag and just work on as much as possible.”

One reason the Packers were drawn to Van Ness — general manager Brian Gutekunst said he was one of the players the team had in mind when it moved up two spots in the first round in a pick swap with the New York Jets as part of the Aaron Rodgers trade — was the 21-year-old’s best football is in front of him.

Not only did Van Ness not start a single game at Iowa, but he came to football later than most and split time between football and hockey throughout high school growing up in Barrington, Ill. He also is adjusting to a scheme change, having played in a 4-3 defense at Iowa.

“There's a lot of growth (potential) there, and the physical traits are all there for him to grow. So there's no real limitation on him,” Gutekunst said. “I just think there's so much in front of him and I think that's where his best football will be.

“None of these guys come in polished very often, especially as pass rushers. There’s so much technique to that to be able to win in this league. It all takes them a little bit of time. But I would expect him to be able to help us this year.”

That’s Kampman’s expectation, too. Having played at Iowa himself, he waited his turn just like Van Ness did — he just stuck around for a full college career.

And with his final season with the Packers having come in 2009, Kampman’s parallel for Van Ness’ potential is fascinating: Clay Matthews, the Packers’ all-time sack leader (83.5) who was a one-year starter at USC before being a first-round pick that year.

“Obviously, he has the talent to be a starter. That wasn’t how he was utilized at Iowa, (but) in the end it’s probably to his advantage. He’s got more tread on his tires,” Kampman said. “I’ll liken it to when Clay Matthews got drafted. He played one year (on defense) really as a starter at SC. And what a great opportunity for him.

“The body only has so many reps in it. When you’re young, you don’t think so. But when you’re in Year 8, 9, 10, you find that out. He’ll probably look back on it and be glad he didn’t because he’s got the ability to develop and turn into the player he can be, reach his potential and he didn’t have to expend as many reps in college.

“One of the things I think about the NFL — and frankly any profession — is, over time, it helps reveal who you are, why you’re doing what you’re doing. There are first-round picks who come in and think, ‘Hey, I’m a big deal. I don’t have to work as hard.’ My view of Lukas is that will not be the case.

“I told the guys at Iowa who got drafted, ‘When you show up, make a good first impression. Yeah, if you’re drafted high, you’ll get more opportunities, but when you line up in a 1-on-1, your draft status doesn’t matter. What matters is, can you get to the quarterback or not?’ I think Lukas has that in him. I’m hopeful he continues to take that mindset. Because if he does, Green Bay is just such a wonderful place to focus on football.”

Friday, May 05, 2023

Nate Ebner relived this important play from 2013 season


Thu, May 4, 2023, 10:40 AM EDT·1 min read

Former New England Patriots special teams standout Nate Ebner was a key part of the organization. He played from 2012-2019 with New England, before finishing his career with the New York Giants in the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Ebner made a bunch of key plays as a valuable member of the special teams unit. However, there is one play in particular that was notable. Ebner went on “The Boom Cast” Podcast earlier this week, and the hosts helped him relive a crucial play.

It happened when the Patriots took on the Denver Broncos in 2013. New England trailed 24-0 in the first half and then proceeded to make an epic comeback to take the game into overtime, where a heads-up play on special teams from Ebner helped them secure a victory.

Ebner exemplified a player who was not afraid to make the gritty, heads-up type of plays. He was an important part of two Super Bowl-winning teams, and plays like this show exactly why.


Robert Kraft video calls Mike Vrabel with Hall of Fame news


Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Mike Vrabel voted in as newest member of Patriots Hall of Fame



MAY 3, 2023 / 3:19 PM / CBS BOSTON


BOSTON -- Mike Vrabel will finally be getting his red jacket in Foxboro.

The three-time Super Bowl champion was voted in as this year's inductee to the Patriots' Hall of Fame, beating out retired lineman Logan Mankins and former head coach Bill Parcells.

Vrabel joined Bill Belichick's Patriots in 2001 as a free agent, after four years in Pittsburgh where he played sparingly for the Steelers. He carved out a critical role in a hurry under Belichick and Romeo Crennel, though, starting 12 games in '01 and setting a new career high with three sacks. He helped the Patriots' defense limit Kurt Warner and the Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXVI, and he'd end up recording three sacks in the Patriots' run to another Super Bowl two years later, including two in the Super Bowl win over Carolina. In the 2004 playoffs, Vrabel had two more sacks, including one on Donovan McNabb in the Patriots' win over the Eagles.

With 48 sacks, Vrabel ranks seventh on the Patriots' all-time list, despite playing in just 66 games.

He also pulled double-duty as a goal-line tight end, catching 10 passes in his regular-season career, all of which went for touchdowns. He also caught two postseason touchdowns, with each of them coming in a Super Bowl.

Vrabel will be the eighth three-time Super Bowl champion inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Kevin Faulk, Ty Law, Matt Light, Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour.

The date and time of Vrabel's induction has yet to be announced, though it will have to fit into the schedule of Vrabel, who's currently the head coach of the Tennessee Titans.

"Mike's leadership and versatility were principal to one of the most successful eras in franchise history, propelling the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles in four years and establishing multiple NFL records for consecutive-game win streaks," Robert Kraft said.

"Many Patriots players have made contributions in all three phases of the game, but none more significantly than Mike. He was an eight-year starter on defense who also regularly contributed on special teams and is the only player in NFL history to score touchdowns on his first 10 career receptions, including touchdowns in back-to-back Super Bowl victories. He was respected for his football intellect and was destined to become a head coach in this league. I look forward to welcoming him back to New England, where his induction will preserve his legacy as one of the greatest players in franchise history." 

This year marked Vrabel's seventh consecutive year as a finalist for induction. He'll be inducted along with retired offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who will enter as a contributor.

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