Friday, July 12, 2024

Rex Burkhead headlines 2024 Nebraska Football Hall of Fame class

NATE HEAD Lincoln Journal Star

Jul 11, 2024

One of the best running backs in school history is among the eight-player 2024 class to be inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.

Rex Burkhead, who rushed for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns from 2009-12, headlines the class, which also includes Keven Lightner, Tyrone Byrd, Terrell Farley, Chris Kelsay, Jared Crick, Monte Johnson and Mike Miller.

Johnson was selected from the "Legend" category, and Miller is the year's state college inductee (Nebraska-Kearney).

The class will be inducted at a banquet on Sept. 13 in Lincoln and will be recognized during Nebraska's home game against Northern Iowa on Sept. 14.

Burkhead's big year came in 2011 when he rushed for 1,357 yards and scored 15 touchdowns to garner first-team all-conference honors. The 34-year-old enjoyed a 10-year NFL career, including two Super Bowl titles with the New England Patriots

Crick was teammates with Burkhead for three seasons, anchoring the Huskers' defensive line as a two-team first-team All-Big 12 pick and two-time second-team All-American. His breakout season came as a sophomore in 2009 when he posted 73 tackles and 9 1/2 sacks. Crick played five seasons in the NFL.

Lightner helped power one of the top rushing attacks in the country in 1987 as a first-team All-Big Eight selection. Lightner, who played from 1985-87, went on to be an assistant football coach at various programs, including Omaha.

Byrd is still fifth in career interceptions at Nebraska (11). The Arizona native started from 1989-92, finishing with 209 tackles.

Farley played two seasons, including 1995, when he helped the Huskers go 12-0 and win the national championship. The linebacker had 62 tackles and five sacks that season — two of which came in the Fiesta Bowl win over Florida.

Kelsay is an Auburn native who logged 135 tackles over four seasons (1999-2002). He was a two-time All-Big 12 selection, including in 2001 when he had 17 tackles for loss and five sacks as Nebraska marched to the national championship but lost to Miami.

Johnson played on the defensive line for Bob Devaney's final three seasons as head coach and was part of back-to-back national championship teams in 1970 and 1971.

Miller finished his career at Nebraska-Kearney as the program's all-time leading rusher (4,818 yards).

Photo: Former Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead (22) gets a block from Spencer Long during the 2011 Capital One Bowl.

‘Dream that never died’: Michigan wrestler bound for Paris Olympics

Posted: Jul 9, 2024 / 12:03 PM CDT

Updated: Jul 9, 2024 / 12:04 PM CDT

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — Adam Coon has been down this road before.

Twice, before the Olympics in Tokyo and Rio, a heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler from Fowlerville in mid-Michigan came within a hair’s breadth of living out his Olympic dream. Twice, he fell just short of qualifying.

He even hung up his singlet at one point to pursue a professional football career. He was invited to a couple of NFL camps, but wrestling never lost its grip on him.

“Call it gut feeling. I just felt like the sport wasn’t done and I wasn’t done with the sport yet. So the body was still healthy enough to continue to compete, and that’s what I want to do,” he said.

When Coon sets his mind to something, he goes after it, no matter how difficult it might be. His first dream was to become an astronaut, so he studied aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan (where he also wrestled).

“To hopefully get in the industry, where I can bump shoulders with the astronauts, maybe become on myself. We’ll see. We’ll figure that out in the future,” he said.

It will have to wait. In April, he realized another dream. He succeeded at the Olympic Trials and qualified to compete in Paris.

“There was just that relief of finally overcoming. The guy that I beat in the finals, I had lost the last five straight against,” he said. “So there was that overcoming the obstacles that were thrown my way and there was that relief and excitement all at the same time of the relief that I finally am taking that step and on the journey that was toward my dream.”

A dreamer of the highest order, Coon embraces the pursuit and deals with the results, good or bad. No matter how many times he’s been thrown on the mat, he gets up to fight some more.

“It’s kind of that dream that never died as a little kid,” Coon said. “I just have those dreams and goals that I want to do. And I know that each step is a path along that journey to get to eventually where I want to be, and just taking those baby steps one step at a time.”

Photo: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids WC) and Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC/New York AC) wrestle in the Greco Roman 130kg Championship Finals of the Olympic Wrestling Team Trials on April, 20, 2024 at the Bryce Jordan Center in University Park, PA.

Monday, June 24, 2024

NFL veteran Trey Flowers hosts third annual Flowers of the Future Field Day Extravaganza


NFL veteran Trey Flowers hosts third annual Flowers of the Future Field Day Extravaganza (

More than 300 kids signed up for a fun-filled day at the Shurney Legacy Center.

By Cam Derr

Published: Jun. 22, 2024 at 6:56 PM EDT


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - In a time where video games keep kids inside during the summer months, two-time NFL Pro-bowler and Huntsville native Trey Flowers returned home, Saturday afternoon to provide kids in his community a day full of fun in the sun. His foundation Flowers of the Future hosted its third annual Field Day Extravaganza.

More than 300 kids signed up for the event that featured bouncy houses, water slides and horse-back riding, as well as some friendly competition.

The Flowers of the Future foundation is a non-profit, started by Trey Flowers, that’s mission is to instill a healthy mindset in youth, whether it be through nutrition, exercise or mental health.

“This is where I grew up at and I just remember in the back yard days, back at my house, we played kick ball, we played basketball, we outside all day,” said Flowers, “It’s definitely fun just to be able to come back, show the community good energy and a fun time.”

This was the third time the Field Day was put on in Huntsville and is an annual summertime event.

Friday, June 21, 2024

The 10 best offensive linemen in the history of the Baltimore Ravens


The Ravens have built some walls up front.

By Mike Luciano | Jun 19, 2024

San Francisco 49ers v Baltimore Ravens / Rob Carr/GettyImages

No team can build a foundation for success without a tremendous offensive line, and the Baltimore Ravens are no different. In their early years, decade-plus of dominance in the early 2000s, and recent runs, the one common thread has been well above average play up front.

While offensive linemen are never celebrated to their full potential due to their lack of tangible stats and highlight-reel plays, there is no more non-quarterback unit more important to nail than the big boys in the trenches. Baltimore's short history has produced some Hall of Fame talent at these positions.

These 10 offensive linemen have cemented themselves as the best the franchise has ever seen. Prospective stars like Tyler Linderbaum have multiple examples of consistency and excellent performance to model themselves after. Perhaps they could end up on this list soon.

Criteria for selection

These linemen were chosen based on a combination of:

·         Statistical Achievements

·         Impact on Success

·         Longevity

·         Memorable Moments

The top 10 offensive linemen in Baltimore Ravens history

10. Michael Oher

Fans may remember Oher for his Hollywood story chronicled in The Blind Side, but the film has overshadowed his overall performance as a player. Picked in the first round by the Ravens out of Ole Miss, Oher became a solid starter in five seasons with the Ravens in the early 2012.

When the Ravens made it to the Super Bowl in the 2012 season and won the franchise's second-ever championship, it was Oher who started at right tackle. At his best, Oher was a solid pass blocker who was able to go up against a gauntlet of top edge rushers in the AFC North and come out unscathed.

9. Orlando Brown Jr.

One-half of the father-son duo that had some of their best and brightest moments with the Ravens, Brown's time with Baltimore was only three seasons long. However, his time with the Ravens was so effective that he was able to pile up the Pro Bowls.

Brown was named a Pro Bowler in his last two years with the Ravens, beginning a streak of four consecutive Pro Bowl nods for one of the biggest players in NFL history. Ultimately, Brown found his way out of town when it became clear that Brown was not going to get the big left tackle deal he was looking for.

Brown ultimately was traded to the Chiefs (where he won a Super Bowl at Baltimore's expense) before signing with the rival Cincinnati Bengals. While it stinks to see him putting on rival colors, and his time with Baltimore didn't end on the best of terms, his Ravens tenure puts more respect on his family's name.

8. Orlando Brown Sr.

In terms of his value to the Ravens, Senior's six-year tenure gives him the edge over Junior. The first thing anyone ever thinks about when referring to Brown, however, is his infamous penalty flag incident. After an errant flag hit him in the eye, Brown missed three consecutive seasons due to a bout with temporary blindness.

Brown, nicknamed "Zeus" in his prime, was an original Ravens who spent his first few years in Cleveland. A powerful right tackle who helped keep Vinny Testaverde upright during his Ravens tenure, Brown's return to Cleveland was sullied by the penalty flag incident. Luckily, he spent. a few more years with the Ravens after returning.

While far from the physical force of nature he was during his time before the accident, Brown managed to start 35 games in three seasons and still be effective until he turned 35. Brown unfortunately passes away at just 40 years old, but his legacy as a Raven is still solid gold.

7. Matt Birk

Birk's career was defined by a very productive stint with the Minnesota Vikings, as the former Harvard alum was named to six Pro Bowl squads in eight years. Birk didn't join the Ravens until he was 33 years old, but he made his mark as one of the best interior linemen the franchise has ever seen.

Birk did not miss a single game during his career with the Ravens, making him one of the most durable and reliable players up front the league had during his 14 seasons in the pros. Having him help a young Joe Flacco find his way was an invaluable tool.

While Birk never made a Pro Bowl with the Ravens, he routinely was considered one of the best centers in the league. The Ravens' Super Bowl-winning offensive line was nothing short of elite when they were at full strength, and they wouldn't have been as well-regarded as they were without Birk.

6. Ben Grubbs

Grubbs finished his nine-year career, in which he was named to two Pro Bowls, with stints as a Raven, Chief, and Saint. The 2007 Ravens first-round pick translated a stellar college career at Auburn to the pros, as the Ravens' strong running game was due in part to Grubbs clearing the way.

Grubbs played for five seasons with Baltimore, making a Pro Bowl and putting together multiple seasons that were worthy of consideration alongside it. While the Ravens did win a Super Bowl without him, that doesn't negate the fact that they turned him into a reliable run-blocker who helped New Orleans' offense stay elite when he made the trip over.

5. Edwin Mulitalo

It didn't take very long for the gargantuan Mulitalo, a fourth-round pick in 1999, to become a starter after taking to the role during his rookie season. His career with Baltimore after that ascension made him one of the best guards the team has ever seen and an underrated performer when compared to his peers.

Mulitalo never made a Pro Bowl for the Ravens, but he is one of just four offensive linemen in Ravens history to start over 100 games for Baltimore. Mulitalo was the starting left guard on the Super Bowl-winning 2000s team and a 2003 offense that helped Jamal Lewis run for 2,000 yards.

Mulitalo ending his career as an injured member of the 0-16 Lions is a travesty, as it ended a very solid career on a sour note. Not only is Mulitalo one of the best linemen in team history, but he is clearly one of the most effective Day 3 selections this well-drafting franchise ever made.

4. Mike Flynn

While it would take even the staunchest Ravens fan a bit of time to single out Flynn as one of the top performers of his era, his impact on the team's offensive line should be held in higher regard than it is. Flynn was an omnipresent fixture on some of the most memorable teams in franchise history.

Flynn, who got his start as an undrafted free agent from Maine in 1997, played both center and right guard for the Ravens while serving on the same championship-winning offensive line as Mulitalo. Flynn played 10 seasons with the Ravens, starting 115 games in the process.

Bringing versatility, effort, and power to the table in one compact package, Flynn was one of the most rock-solid players Brian Billick had at a time when his offenses were often in flux. The fact he seemed to always level up in the postseason, especially when blocking for Lewis and Trent Dilfer in 2000, should be noted.

3. Ronnie Stanley

While Ravens fans may be used to the declining player who has suffered some destabilizing injuries, the overall body of work Stanley has put together in Baltimore puts him in a class very few tackles in team history have ever reached. Stanley heads into the future trying to recapture his past glory.

Stanley has a Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nod under his belt, showing there was at least one year where some writers believed the Notre Dame star was the best at his position. Injuries have taken their toll, as he played seven games in two seasons after 2019 and hasn't played more than 13 games in a season since that campaign.

Stanley's time in Baltimore may not extend much further than this season, but his overall body of work appears to be much more impressive than his recent downturn in form would suggest. The Ravens took a risk by picking him at No. 6 overall in a deep draft, but Baltimore would likely still say they are happy with this choice.

2. Marshal Yanda

If Yanda doesn't end up in the Hall of Fame relatively soon, the committee has made a severe technical error. Yanda was as good a right guard as the game had for a decade, which isn't bad for a player the Ravens took a chance on as a third-round pick out of Iowa.

Yanda was named a Pro Bowl player eight times in nine seasons, playing just two games in the lone season without those honors he had mixed in. To further add to his greatness, he was a First-Team All-Pro twice in that span while adding five more Second-Team nods. No. 73 did it without bending the rules, as he was called for holding just 11 times in his 13-year career.

Yanda has the distinction of starting in between Birk and Oher for Baltimore during their Super Bowl run. A Ravens lifer, Yanda was a unanimous selection to the 2010s All-Decade team. In a world where anything and everything can be debated, Yanda's status as one of the best guards of his era and the best guard in Ravens history is unquestioned.

1. Jonathan Ogden

The Ravens' inaugural first round will go down as one of the best such rounds in NFL Draft history. While they landed an all-time great linebacker on Ray Lewis later in the draft, they used their first pick on a player who would become an immovable object at left tackle for a decade.

At 6-9 and 350 pounds, the former UCLA star toyed with opposing defenders on his way to a championship and status as one of the greatest to ever play this game at any position. Ogden's tape was comical at times due to his dominance, and his accolades back up his legendary status.

Ogden, who has just 11 holding calls and 13 false starts in 12 years, was an 11-time Pro Bowl, with his rookie year being the only time he missed out. He was an All-Pro nine times, four of which were First-Team selections. Ogden was honored as a 2000s All-Decade First Team performer alongside Seahawks great Walter Jones and a Hall of Fame tackle in 2013.

Ogden was added to the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, making him just one of just seven tackles to be honored as such and one of two who began their playing careers after 1990. It is by no means hyperbole to call Ogden the greatest offensive player in Ravens history and a top-five offensive tackle in NFL history.

The 3 best offensive linemen in Ravens history by games started



Years with Ravens



Jonathan Ogden




Marshal Yanda




Mike Flynn




Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Phil Dawson to be inducted into the 2024 Class of Browns Legends


Former Cleveland Browns kicker Phil Dawson smashes a San Francisco 49ers styled guitar, October 15, 2023, at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

John Kuntz,

By Mary Kay Cabot,

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Phil Dawson’s Browns career began with former coach Chris Palmer warning him, “we’re going to start with you” and see how it goes, to Dawson being immortalized in team history as a member of the 2024 Class of Legends.

The Browns announced the honor on Tuesday, and he’ll be inducted during a halftime ceremony in Week 3, when the Browns host the Giants at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sept. 22.

“I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t ever dream about it,” Dawson said in a release. “You see these things through the years, and you get to know some of these former players, and you look up to them, and you start dreaming like, man, I want to be one of those guys someday. And that certainly was me. And it’s not about me. I want to represent the Browns and to have a chance to come back home and be recognized like this is about as humbling recognition as I’ve ever received, and it’s all because of the way I love Cleveland and I love the Browns organization. So, it’s as impactful of recognition as I’ve ever received and it just kind of blows me away, to be honest.”

In his 14 seasons with the Browns, Dawson was voted the 2012 Browns Player of the Year by the local PFWA chapter, the 2007 Dino Lucarelli “Good Guy” Award honoree by the PFWA, the 2006 Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates and the 2006 winner of the Doug Dieken Humanitarian Award for his charitable and community efforts.

“I was very fortunate that I had a long run in one place,” Dawson said. “A lot of guys in the league these days don’t have that. So, because of my 14 years there, I was really able to build relationships and develop a love for the city of Cleveland. It became a home for my family. We were plugged in. And so, as I look back on the whole thing, just the relationships I was able to build and then my love for the city – I really felt a connection with the people of Cleveland. I was one of them. It was my home. And I was very fortunate to be able to be in one place long enough for those things to happen.”

Signed by the Browns during their expansion season of 1999, Dawson won the job during training camp and held onto through the 2012 season, retiring as a Brown in 2019. He holds team records for most career field goals (305), highest career field goal percentage (84 percent) and highest field goal percentage in a season (93.5 percent in 2012). He also holds team records for most field goals in a game with six on Nov. 5, 2006, most consecutive field goals made with 29, and most consecutive games with a field goal at 23.

His 1,271 points are second-most by a Brown, and his 215 games are the third-most in club annals. His 14 seasons with the Browns are tied for second-most in club history.

“I had a very kind of a boutique role on the team,” Dawson said. “I got a handful of plays a game. It was an opportunity for me to go on the field and help my team. I wanted to be a guy that could be counted on at any moment, at any time, to do his job. And so, I really took a great deal of satisfaction – whether it was a long game winner that everyone remembers, or a nothing burger of a kick early in the game that really didn’t have an impact on the outcome – I’ve looked back really fondly on just knowing I was able to do my job meant a lot to me.”

Two of his most memorable kicks came during the 10-6 season of 2007, one in which they narrowly missed the playoffs. His 51-yard attempt bounced off the stanchion in Baltimore, and was originally ruled no good. But they overturned it, and Dawson went on to kick the game-winning field goal in overtime. His two field goals in a blizzard to beat the Bills 8-0 are among his favorites.

“That one means a lot to me, because on face value looking back on it, I had no business making those kicks,” Dawson said. “But somehow, someway, in that moment, was able to figure out a way to just kind of get the ball through the uprights. That’s one I really look back on.”

In 2008, he denied the Bills again, this time on Monday Night Football, when he boomed a 56-yard game winner with less than two minutes remaining.

“Playing on Monday Night Football and being a Texas kid – even though I’m at home in Cleveland – just chance for everybody back home kind of see what I’m up to,” Dawson said. “And so that was a big win for our team. It was a big personal moment for me, because anytime you can hit a long one on Monday Night Football at the end of the game, that’s pretty cool.”

But his most cherished memory, as he stated during his retirement press conference, was his love affair with the fans. He felt it again in full force when he served as Dawg Pound Captain last season and smashed the guitar to the roar of the crowd.

“The connection that I had and still have to the City of Cleveland is my most cherished accomplishment of my career,” he said.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

1 NFL Player at Each Position Who Will Explode into Stardom in 2024




Offensive Line

Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum | Michael Owens/Getty Images


Center: Tyler Linderbaum, Baltimore Ravens

One of the NFL's most athletic interior offensive linemen, Tyler Linderbaum is everything teams desire in a cornerstone at the pivot.

Tasked with identifying the "Mike" linebacker and relaying protections to either shoulder on each down, Linderbaum has been nothing short of sensational for Baltimore since entering the league as the No. 25 overall picks in 2022.

Linderbaum, a fleet-footed pass protector with the unique ability to pull from the center spot in the run game, didn't allow a single sack on 572 pass-protection snaps in 2023, per PFF.



Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Two-Time Super Bowl Champion Coach Dean Pees to Keynote BGSU’s Gridiron Classic


Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Football

by Vincent Briedis, BGSU Strategic Communications

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – BGSU alumnus Dean Pees, one of only eight defensive coordinators in National Football League history to coach in a Super Bowl with two different teams, was announced today as the featured dinner speaker at this year's Gridiron Classic.  The Gridiron Classic, scheduled for Monday, June 17 at Toledo Country Club, is an annual golf and dinner event with all proceeds going to support the BGSU Football program.

The 15th annual Gridiron Classic golf field has a very limited amount of foursomes still available, but dinner guests for the evening are encouraged to register online HERE for an elegant outdoor dinner overlooking the Maumee River after the golf outing. A Coaches Social and Silent auction in the River Room at the Toledo Country Club starts at 5:30 pm on the June 17, followed by dinner and a program with emcee, and fellow BGSU alumnus Jerry Anderson, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Pees graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1972, then became an English teacher and the head football coach at Elmwood High School. Six years later, he became the defensive coordinator at the University of Findlay where he helped the team win a national title and two conference championships. He spent a 25 seasons as a college football coach, including stops as an assistant at Miami (OH), the U.S. Naval Academy, Toledo, Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Pees was the head coach at Kent State from 1998 to 2003. As a college coach, Pees' teams won two Mid-American Conference championships at Miami (OH) and Toledo and reached bowl games in four consecutive seasons — three times at Michigan State and once at Notre Dame.

In 2004, he became linebackers coach and then defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. In 2010, he was hired as the Ravens linebackers coach before taking over as defensive coordinator. While in the NFL, he was a part of seven divisional championships, three AFC championships and three Super Bowls — 2004 and 2007 with the Patriots and 2013 with the Ravens.

Contact Nathan Anderson at or 419-372-9446 with questions about golf or dinner at the Gridiron Classic, or register for both online HERE.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Browns history: Catching up with DE Anthony Pleasant, where is he now?

25 questions with a defensive force who owns two Super Bowl rings

Defensive lineman Anthony Pleasant #98 and linebacker Mike Johnson #59  Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In 1989, the Cleveland Browns went 9-6-1 under new head coach Bud Carson who had taken over for Marty Schottenheimer. The franchise had never had a losing season under Shotts and most had the impression that Carson’s roster was simply Schottenheimer’s team thus the winning win-loss record.

The defense under Schotts and DC Dave Adolph played the 3-4. Carson was also a defensive mind and his scheme was the 4-3 which meant the roster had to have more defensive ends.

Cleveland’s defensive front was beginning to age with Al Baker and Carl Hairston well into their 30s, but Michael Dean Perry was a much-heralded defensive tackle from Clemson who was named First Team All-Pro and selected to his first Pro Bowl. Robert Banks manned one of the defensive end positions and was just 26 years old.

1990 Topps Anthony Pleasant rookie football card #14T

In 1990, then-GM Ernie Accorsi traded out of the first round and then drafted FB Leroy Hoard in the second round. In Round 3, Accorsi selected DE Anthony Pleasant out of Tennessee State.

On the night before the draft, Pleasant was in a hotel in Dallas with his agent.

Pleasant (6’-5”, 280 pounds) played quite a bit as a rookie with 50 total tackles, a forced fumble, and 3.5 sacks. He became the starting right defensive end in just his second season at age 23. He played alongside Perry and James Jones in the middle, while Rob Burnett became the left defensive end.

This was a time when Perry terrorized offensive lines and was named to the Pro Bowl three years in a row with linebacker help from Clay Matthews and Mike Johnson.

Cleveland Browns head coach Bill Belichick Set Number: X45018

In 1991, something occurred with the Browns that changed just about everything associated with the franchise, especially the defense: Owner Art Modell hired New York Football Giants’ defensive coordinator Bill Belichick as the new head coach.

The Giants had just won Super Bowl 25 over the high-flying Buffalo Bills (13-3-0) who had won the AFC Championship Game 51-3 and destroyed every offensive category during the season. The strategy that held the Bills to just 19 points was all Belichick.

By the 1992 season, this Cleveland defensive unit was ranked the #4 defense being sixth against the run (1,605 yards), fourth best per carry average (3.3 yards), second-fewest rushing touchdowns (5), and sixth fewest rushes for first downs (86).

Pleasant’s best season was 1993 when he had 66 total tackles, 11 sacks, and one forced fumble. He moved to Baltimore when the franchise relocated for the 1996 season.

Belichick is known for being a very loyal person. He had “his guys” and wanted them around him. For Belichick, one of the aspects to be grouped into this category was one thing: integrity, which describes Pleasant to a tee. In Cleveland, Belichick brought in linebackers Pepper Johnson and Carl Banks, former Giants defenders as well as S Everson Walls who were all “his guys.”

In 1998, Belichick was the DC of the New York Jets and brought Pleasant to play for his defense once again. When Belichick was hired as the new head coach of the New England Patriots in 2001, he again brought Pleasant with him where he played his final three seasons. The Pats won Super Bowls 36 and 38.

Pleasant was skilled at sacking the quarterback.

For his NFL career, Pleasant played in 202 games with 157 starts, had 534 total tackles, 58 sacks, 13 forced fumbles, two interceptions, and three fumble recoveries. While with Cleveland from 1990-1995, he played in 94 games with 71 starts, had 297 total tackles, 33.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, and one fumble recoveries. He also started seven career playoff games. In 1995 Pleasant was the NFL forced fumbles co-leader.

In 1994, Pleasant was part of a Belichick-led Browns defense that helped Cleveland earn its last playoff victory for 26 seasons.

Defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant of the Kansas City Chiefs Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Pleasant did go into coaching briefly after hanging up his cleats. He was the assistant defensive coach for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2010-2012 under head coach Todd Haley and then Romeo Crennel. Pleasant became the assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Houston Texans in 2014 who then elevated him to assistant defensive coach in 2015.

He grew up in Northwest Florida in Century just north of Pensacola and went to Century High School. When he was just two years old, his father passed away. He was essentially raised by his mother Betty who worked in a school cafeteria and taught him character and Christianity.

In 1986 when he was a senior, there were 542 households in Century, out of which 29.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them. Pleasant was an all-state performer as a defensive lineman and helped Century High School win the North Florida championship. Being a small community school, players had to play both sides of the ball and be mentally tough where they ran every day and practiced over three hours a day. Pleasant also played basketball and baseball.

Football was not Pleasant’s favorite sport nor his dream. He loved basketball and his focus was on shooting hoops, not playing on the gridiron. But at some point, his high school basketball coach told him candidly that even though he was a very good basketball player, he was outstanding on the football field and he should probably shift his emphasis to that sport if he had any intention of going to college and play sports beyond his hometown.

He listened. Everybody has at least one person who could alter one’s future. For Pleasant, that one man who changed his life forever was basketball coach Lorenzo Jones.

At Tennessee State, he had 12 sacks in 1988 which tied a record for the fourth-most in a single season. He also led the squad with 14 tackles for loss. At the end of this season, he was named First Team All-Ohio Valley Conference.

In his final year, he was again named First Team All-Ohio Valley Conference.

After his career was over, the Town of Century honored Pleasant by naming a 22-acre park “Anthony Pleasant Park”, a sports complex. The civic playground includes a full-size football field with other amenities. The recreational area lies adjacent to “Showalter Park” which is a baseball park that honors fellow Centurion Four-Time Major League Baseball Manager of the Year Bucky Showalter.

Pleasant, now 56 years old, lives in the State of Kansas with his wife of 33 years.

Dawgs By Nature’s Barry Shuck caught up with Pleasant to discuss how the NFL is different today, why he went to martial arts school, and what Bill Belichick is really like.

DBN: You grew up in Century, Florida in Northwest Florida. While at Century High School, you played football, basketball and baseball. At what point did you decide to pursue football over the other two sports?

Pleasant: I continued to play each sport all the way through high school. I had a phenomenal year in my junior year in baseball and went to a basketball camp where I was co-MVP. I had decided to pursue basketball. My high school coach and I played some 1-on-1 at the school gym and he told me I was a much better football player than a basketball player and that I should pursue that sport. I was playing tight end, receiver, defensive end, and running back. Today I think back about what if I hadn’t listened to him. What would I be today? Just a knucklehead stuck in my own ways?

DBN: Ainsworth Sports ranked football players from the State of Florida with you included in the list. These are guys like Emmitt Smith, Harold Carmichael, Ray Lewis, Jack Youngblood, Deion Sanders, Deacon Jones, and Joey Bosa. Your thoughts?

Pleasant: I never thought about it. I don’t usually think about what people say about me. The same people who pump you up are the ones who later try to bring you down. Don’t let them dictate how you think you are. You can get big and complacent, and then a player can suddenly be out of a job or not doing so well, and where are those same people? Keep your confidence.

DBN: How did you end up at Tennessee State?

Pleasant: My high school coach knew a guy named Mark Orlando at Tennessee State who then came down to see me. We talked and he watched film on me and asked me to go and play football at their school.

Editor’s note: Mark Orlando is currently the offensive coordinator at Grambling State

Tennessee State 75th Anniversary Team: #50 Anthony Pleasant (upper right)

DBN: Tennessee State is known for some great defensive ends that made it big in the NFL such as Richard Dent, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Claude Humphrey, and Joe “Turkey” Jones. Is it something in the water at your school?

Pleasant: Yeah, it must what it is. When I went there, I started out at outside linebacker because I ran well. Then I was sent to practice with the defensive ends. They finally made me stay there. That is another situation of what if I had said, no, I am going to stay with the linebackers? Again, I had people who saw things in me that I didn’t see myself. Being a pass rusher came natural to me.

DBNIn 1988 you had 12 sacks and the following year you were named All-American. How did you find out you were selected with this prestigious honor, and who was the first person you told?

Pleasant: I got a trophy that was sent to me is how I found out. Sent out by AP (Associated Press). Back then you didn’t get many phone calls. Before cell phones. I didn’t tell anyone about the honor, had too little time to do anything with trying to study and practice all the time. When I got home I put the trophy on the shelf at my mom’s house and that was the end of it.

DBN: Back in 1990 when you were drafted, the NFL draft wasn’t the big event it is now with Primetime coverage. How did you find out you have been taken in the third round by the Browns?

Pleasant: A couple of my teammates had an agent named Steve Weinberg out of Dallas. He invited us to come down and got us a hotel. That night, the day before the draft I prayed, “Please God, don’t let me go to Cleveland.” In my senior year, we played against Central State in old Cleveland stadium and won by one point. It was cold, cloudy, rainy. That was my experience with Cleveland. The wind coming off that lake. We were watching the draft and the phone rang and they said on the line, “Son, welcome to the Cleveland Browns.” But I was happy. I called my mom and told her I had made it. Again, God knowing something more than me.

Pinnacle football card

DBN: You went to a southern university. You grew up a southern kid eating cheese grits, freshly picked vegetables from the garden, all meats are fried, drinking sweet tea while eating boiled peanuts grown right down the road. Now, you are told you are going to make a living playing pro football in Cleveland. That’s Ohio. In the cold. What was your first reaction to this news of playing up north?

Pleasant: The Browns had worked me out several times, so I knew they had an interest. But when I heard I had been taken in the third round, I went, “Wow, man.” I was the Browns second pick of the draft because they took Leroy Hoard in the second round and didn’t have a first-round pick that year. I thought they must have seen something in me to have drafted me that high. It’s all in what people see in you. The weather was good when I first got to the area, but when it got cold it was a different cold that what I experienced while growing up. There were a lot of things that I missed eating, but the food is good everywhere you go. And my mom cooked my favorites anyways.

DBN: What was your first training camp like?

Pleasant: Training camp is like mini-camp with pads on. I came into camp with a chip on my shoulder coming from a smaller school. I had to really prove I could play at this level. It was a hard camp but I was determined.

DBN: Your first head coach was Bud Carson who was fired then replaced by Jim Shofner. Your second season, Bill Belichick was now the head coach. What are the differences in coaching styles between the three coaches?

Pleasant: Bud Carson was a defensive coach and was more up to speed on pass rush and didn’t play the run. The defensive linemen rushed the passer and the linebackers played the run. That was our job. There wasn’t any technique involved in the run game. We played a 4-3 and every play it was just up the field. Shofner was just the interim coach and didn’t change anything with the defense. When Bill came in we still played an over/under defense but it was a two-gap. That means I now had responsibility of two gaps. I didn’t use my hands very well so that was a big transition. Bill brought in bigger guys at linebacker and defensive tackles who had girth on them. The Browns had me and Burnett who were athletic defensive ends and had to learn his system. I struggled that first year.

DE Anthony Pleasant celebrates sack of Cowboys QB Troy Aikman Photo credit should read TIM ROBERTS/AFP via Getty Images

My defensive coach John Mitchell told me martial arts would show me how to use my hands, so in the off-season that is what I did. I found a school to teach me which helped me with hand placement and hand fighting. When I came back the next year it was night and day. That helped me hold onto my position and had 11 sacks that second year under Bill.

DBN: It has been said that being on a Bill Belichick team is hard work. Your thoughts?

Pleasant: I had always played under hard-nosed coaches who practiced you hard and made you run a lot of sprints. So hard work never bothered me and is what I was used to. Some high school practices were harder than NFL training camp. Belichick’s camps were hard, but I have gone through that. Tennessee State practiced us hard. Bill’s practices were just a different kind of hard, and if a player did not know how to work, they struggled to keep up.

DBN: In 1993 you had an 11 sack season and your highest number of tackles with 66 whereas you had just 10 sacks in your first three seasons. Was this a difference with Belichick’s defense, your martial arts training, or that you had finally found your groove being the league now four seasons?

Pleasant: It was me coming into my own finally and developing my skillset. Bill once told me that other players that came from big schools had weight rooms and training facilities that I did not have in college and that I would naturally be behind in development. He directed me into proper training and had the highest standards. He had expectations on me which made me determined to prove I could play in his system.

DBN: Where in Ohio did you live while playing for the Browns, and where was your favorite places to go out to eat?

Pleasant: I lived in North Ridgeville. On Fridays my wife and some friends would all go out to TGIFriday’s. We really liked the Glass Garden in Westlake.

DBN: Everything came together in 1994 with the Browns with a playoff berth plus a playoff win over the New England Patriots. How different is playing in an NFL playoff game versus a regular season game?

Pleasant: The intensity, focus, and speed are ramped up more. Each step during a season just gets harder with more on the line from mini-camp to training camp, from training camp to preseason, then from preseason to the regular season. It is all more important than what you just went through. The playoffs just become another level that it gets ramped up to. Everyone seems to elevate their game. You end up getting the best plays out of everyone because we have all worked all season for this one game. And then for the next just one game. There is a sense of pride that sits there. It’s an honor to be playing in the playoffs and only a select few get to do it.

DBN: In 1995 you led the league in forced fumbles with six. What was your secret?

Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Pleasant: Work hard, work ethic. Sometimes see opportunities for the ball instead of trying to get the sack. A fumble can damage an offense a lot more than a sack even if it means you don’t get the stat, but it can turn a game around. My move was to come down on the quarterback’s arm and then drop all the way to the ball in his hand.

DBN: Tell us something about old Municipal Stadium.

Pleasant: It was old, but I loved that stadium. It was nothing like coming down that tunnel. They had these speakers that would be crackling. You would go down the tunnel from the Indians locker room and you could hear the crowd getting louder as you got closer to the dugout. And then you go up the steps of the dugout and would run out and it was just so loud as you got out with that speaker going, “” then some words then back to the crackling sounds then it would hum “ummm” then more words. And the crowd would just be loud.

DBN: How did you find out that the Browns were moving to Baltimore?

Pleasant: We kept hearing rumors about it. I remember Art (Modell) had told Bill he was going to be our coach when we moved to Baltimore. That was a really big distraction from about the fifth game to the end of the season. A lot of people forget we started 3-1 and went downhill from there.

DBN: Selling your home, finding a new house, schools, where to live, changing doctors. That move to a new city had to be difficult. And going from one old stadium to another old stadium. Please explain.

Pleasant: Basically I had to leave all the grunt work to my wife. She had to travel to Baltimore and see what the schools were like, and what houses she wanted. This was during the season and I didn’t have 2-3 days to fly to Baltimore to look around. So a lot of the weight was on the spouses. It was the unknown of going to a different environment. I had made Cleveland my home and was now rooted there. I had grown to love the state. I love Cleveland. That is all I knew was Cleveland. The fans were genuine and loved their Browns. Baltimore got the same winters and was more of a political place. The fans were welcoming despite having to play in a worse stadium than the one we left before the new stadium was built.

DBN: Your entire NFL career you were known for being able to get to the quarterback with good sack numbers. Was this because of technique, film study, or coaching?

Pleasant: All of the above. There are some things that you can’t teach - you either have it or you don’t. But you can learn to be better. Some guys don’t have that edge to be able to rush the passer but can stay home and be good run-stoppers. No matter how much you try to teach them, they still won’t have what it takes to be a good pass rusher. All of that you mentioned all goes together and add in hard work.

DBN: For the 1998-1999 seasons you were re-united with Belichick with the New York Jets. You played in 31 of 32 games and had two great seasons. Belichick is known as a very loyal guy. Were you considered one of “his guys”?

Photo credit should read WAYNE SCARBERRY/AFP via Getty Images

Pleasant: In looking back, I think he came to respect me as a person and as a player. He saw my journey and where I came from going from “A” to “B” as far as my technique and how I learn. I excelled under him. I gave him my hard work and commitment. If you know Bill those are two things he is all about.

DBN: Your first season now in New England under head coach Belichick the Patriots played the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36. The Rams were lights-out on offense going 14-2. This game was also coming off the 9/11 tragedy and security was strong. That was Tom Brady’s first year as the starter. How did your team handle the pressure of playing the NFL’s biggest scoring team, the 9/11 situation, plus an unproven quarterback?

Pleasant: We had played the Rams on a Thursday Night game and they beat us 24-17 and we said if we meet again we will win. Bill was good at keeping the distraction out of the locker room. Keep the focus. So he turned off all the TVs in the building so that the outside noise about 9/11 would not affect us. This was before the Patriots had accomplished anything yet. It was perfect that our colors represented the United States in that game. It was also David against Goliath. The Rams were the “Best Show on Turf” and when they had beaten us we were 5-5. No one expected us to win the Super Bowl. And Bill told us the only people who expect a Patriots win was the people in our locker room. That was his mentality. The night before the game we changed our hotel and drove somewhere way out. All the pressure was now gone. Bill had a great gameplan and in the team meeting he showed us how we were going to win. The Rams had been winning big by making big plays, so our DBs just played deep and let them have all the short stuff. Brady showed he had a presence about him, we had a great defense, and their short completions did nothing.

(L-R) Anthony Pleasant, Tebucky Jones, Ty Law and Tedy Bruschi douse head coach Bill Belichick (C) Photo by DON EMMERT/AFP via Getty Images

DBN: The Patriots won Super Bowl 38, your last season. Which is more difficult: get to the Super Bowl or get back?

Pleasant: Getting back. When you are the champs, teams play you a lot harder because beating you makes them feel better about themselves. And no surprises. You get the best from every player and every member of their coaching staff. Their game plan is to beat you the defending champs. Every regular season game is a Super Bowl to your opponents.

DBN: You became the DL coach with the Chiefs. What was it about coaching that you liked? Are the new breed of players different than from you played?

Pleasant: Teaching. Showing guys how to play the game and techniques. Taking a guy from “A” to “B” which is how they taught me. Teaching life to them and making them better at what their talents are. I think the system has allowed players to be different than when I played. We had to grind in training camp. These guys take regular breaks. You can’t be in camp but for so many days. We used to be there for six weeks without our families. Back before my time they took all players way off to some small college and left them there. They have taken the mindset of the toughest out of the game. We weren’t entitled that anyone owed us something. The system has allowed players to have a different mentality about the game. It’s a lot easier for players today because they don’t have the wear and tear on their bodies.

DBN: Anthony, out of all the former Browns, only Joe Thomas and Paul Brown have a stadium named after them. There is a stadium and park named after you in your hometown of Century. When did they contact you about this being a possibility, and when you go to games do you get free nachos?

Pleasant: I was surprised and could not believe it. I was honored. It was in 2010 when I was with the Chiefs. The hot dogs are good there.

DBN: Besides money, how is the NFL different than when you played?

Pleasant: You have all these females coaching now. And referees. In practices there are certain things you can’t do. Like hitting. We hit somebody every day and it was our way to show what type of player we were. There is a lot more consciousness of protecting the players which is a good thing. They did away with a lot of things like chop blocking and taking out legs. They have made the game safer overall for the players, but at the same time have taken out the aggressiveness. And the physicality of the game.

DBN: What is your fondest moment of being a Cleveland Brown?

Pleasant: Every thought comes to walking in the tunnel of that old stadium, and walking out of the dugout. Then as the loudness of the crowd grows, running out onto the field. You knew you were going to play football today. And I loved the old Dawg Pound. Not the one they have today. Those fans were like no other in the stadium and the other team’s players hated going down into that end zone. Those fans embraced the Browns. It was an honor to be a Brown.

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