Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Current, former Patriots players salute Super Bowl champ after retiring


Retired New England Patriots offensive lineman James Ferentz. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)AP


Updated: Feb. 19, 2024, 5:31 p.m.

Lauren Campbell |

James Ferentz announced his retirement Monday after spending the last seven seasons with the New England Patriots. An under-the-radar center was part of the Super Bowl LIII winning team and played a big role for the Patriots in 2019 when David Andrews missed the season due to blood clots.

The 34-year-old leaves the NFL after 10 seasons, two Super Bowls and leaves behind an impact that was clearly felt by current and former Patriots.

After Ferentz announced his retirement on Instagram, several teammates, past and present, saluted the offensive lineman.

Quarterback Mac Jones: “Appreciate you bro!!! I remember you were the First dude I ever met in the locker room and one of the best!!! Goodluck in your next chapter!”

Guard Mike Onwenu: “Thank you for the example you set James. Congrats!”

Former Patriots quarterback Jarrett Sitdham: “Thousands of snaps together. Congrats on the career dude!!!”

Former Patriots safety Devin McCourty: “Little lineman!!!!! Congrats man. Always enjoyed turning around and talking about the greatness of (Rutgers University)...enjoy the family.”

Former Patriots running back Rex Burkhead: “Congrats brother!! Great career!”

Ferentz spent the 2023 season on the Patriots practice squad, but still found ways to provide a veteran presence for the rookies. He often traveled with the team to help the offensive line throughout the year. What’s next for the veteran is unknown, but he leaves the NFL having played 61 total games and winning two Super Bowl rings.

Patriots OL James Ferentz retires


By Charean Williams

Published February 19, 2024 03:59 PM

Patriots offensive lineman James Ferentz announced his retirement on Instagram on Monday afternoon.

“After taking the time to collect my thoughts and speaking with my wife, Skylar, I’ve decided to retire from playing football,” Ferentz wrote.

He did not indicate whether coaching is next for him. His father, Kirk, has been the head coach at the University of Iowa since 1999 and his brother, Brian, has been an assistant coach at Iowa since 2012 after four seasons coaching for the Patriots.

James Ferentz, 34, played only one game in 2023 as he spent time on both the active roster and the practice squad. The Patriots, though, valued his knowledge in the offensive line room and on the sideline on game day.

He played eight seasons, winning two Super Bowl rings.

Ferentz spent time with the Texans and Broncos before landing in New England in 2018. The interior offensive lineman appeared in 61 games with 10 starts in his NFL career.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Thorburn: Jay Sawvel has quickly found his stride as Wyoming Cowboys head coach


Feb 9, 2024 Updated 16 hrs ago

Wyoming quarterback Evan Svoboda scores a touchdown in the Cowboys' 42-9 victory over Hawaii on Nov. 18 at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.

LARAMIE – Jay Sawvel didn’t feel quite right about asking someone to pick up his dry cleaning during a busy week.

“I’ve never done that in my career,” Wyoming’s new head coach said. “I feel terrible.”

Pokes fans should be feeling great about how Sawvel’s hectic first two months on the job have gone.

UW added 11 more players, including two impact transfers from the Power 5 level, during Wednesday’s signing day after landing 27 prospects in December as part of a recruiting class that remained intact despite Craig Bohl’s retirement and changes to the coaching staff.

Sawvel conducted Wednesday’s press conference via Zoom, but the excitement and momentum inside the High Altitude Performance Center was palpable coming through the computer screen.

“It’s really easy to come work in this building right now with the way our players are and the coaches that we work with and the people that we’re adding to the program right now,” Sawvel said.

Two years ago, Bohl posted a help wanted ad on social media seeking quarterbacks. The old-school coach had to recalibrate his approach to relating to today’s players and roster management following a mass exodus of talent to the portal.

Since the Cowboys capped Bohl’s four-decade career with a 9-4 campaign and a dramatic victory in the Arizona Bowl, no players that were expected to have a major role on the 2024 team have transferred.

UW added seven transfers, headlined by North Carolina running back DJ Jones and Texas Tech wide receiver TK King, to give brawny quarterback Evan Svoboda more explosive weapons to work with.

I asked Gordie Haug, the program’s executive director of recruiting, how the Pokes avoided attrition and accrued several high-end players during a coaching transition.

“It kind of just speaks volumes of the university,” Haug explained. “Our culture, our program, the athletic department, the fans, the support that we get … people are starting to understand it’s not always greener on the other side. This is a good place to develop and turn into hopefully the best player they can become.”

Three players that could have garnered significant interest in the portal – defensive tackle Jordan Bertagnole, wide receiver Alex Brown and linebacker Shae Suiaunoa – decided to return to UW as super seniors.

“It’s three really good recruits,” Sawvel said. “That’s probably the best work we could have done in the transfer portal.”

Bertagnole, an all-Mountain West player from Casper, was injured late in the season and wants to improve his NFL stock. Suiaunoa, arguably the most improved player on the team last season, will slide over to middle linebacker to continue the tradition of excellence at the position established by predecessors Logan Wilson, Chad Muma and Easton Gibbs.

Sawvel, who promoted Aaron Bohl to defensive coordinator, returns nine starters on that side of the ball.

There’s also a lot of potential on offense based on the small but tantalizing sample size the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Svoboda displayed in relief of Andrew Peasley.

Starting running back Harrison Waylee returns and will be pushed by Jones, Dawaiian McNeely, Jamari Ferrell and Sam Scott.

Svoboda already has great chemistry with his roommate, John Michael Gyllenborg, who has NFL tight end traits.

King adds Olympic speed to a promising, albeit unproven, receiver room that includes Devin Boddie, Caleb Merritt, Will Pelissier, Jaylen Sargent and Justin Stevenson.

Sawvel’s ability to connect and retain players has been as impressive as those three-piece suits he had dry cleaned.

What really stood out to me was what Sawvel said about Brown, who has really only had one shining moment – the game-winning touchdown catch at Colorado State in 2022 – during a quiet career.

“He just feels like he’s got unfinished business in the fact that he really wants to put together a really good last year. I like Alex a lot and I talked to him about that,” Sawvel said. “As a head coach, he’s a guy I want to put time in myself. I want to be a big cheerleader behind him because he’s a really good kid. He’s got a lot of talent, and I want to see him have a really good year and elevate himself.”

At his introductory press conference on Dec. 6, Sawvel made the analogy that the Cowboys’ pursuit of the program’s first MW championship was like a 4x100 relay.

Bohl ran the first three legs and handed the baton to his protégé with a lot of momentum for the final lap.

So far, Sawvel has quickly found his stride and the Pokes have not stumbled.


Thursday, February 08, 2024

Plano football legend Rex Burkhead announces retirement from NFL


Feb 6, 2024

Plano Senior alum Rex Burkhead, a 10-year NFL veteran, was a star on both the football field and basketball court for the Wildcats.

After 10 seasons in the NFL, Plano alum Rex Burkhead announced his retirement from the league on Monday.

Burkhead's decade-long career included stints with the Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots and Houston Texans. He was a sixth-round draft pick by the Bengals in 2013.

"To all my coaches, strength coaches, trainers, doctors, ownership and other staff, thank you for the opportunities to live out my childhood dream and making sure I was performing to the best of my abilities," Burkhead said in a statement on social media. "It was a privilege to go to work every day with you all."

Burkhead totaled 1,908 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, as well as 1,534 receiving yards and nine receiving scores.

The running back appeared in two consecutive Super Bowls during his four-year run with the Patriots, including in a 13-3 win over the Los Angeles Rams in 2019.

Among the rusher's career highlights was a two-touchdown performance that same season in New England's 37-31 overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC championship game.

Prior to suiting up in the NFL, Burkhead authored a prolific high school career at Plano. Burkhead was an all-state rusher during his junior and senior campaigns, helping lead the Wildcats' football team to a Class 5A Division I state semifinals in 2007.

During the 2007-08 seasons, Burkhead totaled 3,530 rushing yards and 57 touchdowns.

Burkhead was a two-sport athlete during his Plano days, also playing for the Wildcats' boys basketball team. He was part of Plano's 5A state title team in 2006 and earned all-district honors as a junior and senior.

The Plano alum has also been instrumental in raising awareness for pediatric brain cancer through his work with the Team Jack Foundation, of which he is a board member. In 2012, while still in college at Nebraska, Burkhead was named the Uplifting Athletes Rare Disease Champion.

"I'd like to thank all my friends, fans and other family who cheered me on throughout my career," Burkhead said. "From the days as a Plano Wildcat, Husker, Bengal, Patriot and Texan, you all have encouraged me every single day and I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart."

For continued news and coverage on the local sports scene, follow Matt Welch on Twitter. Email him with sports story suggestions at

Katie Smith helping Upper Arlington girls basketball as volunteer assistant coach


The former Ohio State and WNBA star has shared her wisdom and experience with the Golden Bears


20 HOURS AGO (fEBRUARY 7, 2024)


Katie Smith is not only one of the greatest professional women’s basketball players to lace up a pair of sneakers, she’s also a well-respected basketball coach, who currently is the associate head coach for the Minnesota Lynx of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

So when John Wanke was hired to coach the Upper Arlington girls basketball team in 2021, and heard from a mutual friend that Smith owns a home in the community, he decided to reach out to her to ask if you she would be willing to help out.

It took just a three-minute phone conversation for Wanke to convince Smith to join his coaching staff as a volunteer assistant coach, and the Golden Bears’ entire program has benefited greatly from her contributions over the past three seasons.

“That’s not an exaggeration to say that was the most productive three-minute conversation I’ve had on the phone,” Wanke said, with a chuckle. “Katie’s name by itself carries a lot of weight and she’s a huge presence, and I believe that great leaders surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are, so I wasn’t intimidated to bring her in.

“Katie’s arguably the greatest player of all time, and our girls are getting coached by someone who is likely going to be the greatest coach who they will ever learn from. I can’t imagine there are many high school coaches anywhere in the nation, who have earned three Olympic gold medals as a player and who also have her coaching experience.”

Smith said it’s been a pleasure coaching high school athletes for the first time in her illustrious career.

While playing basketball at Logan High School in southeastern Ohio, Smith first gained national attention when she was recognized as the Gatorade National Player of the Year as a senior. She capped her senior season by leading the Chieftains to the 1992 Division I state final, where they lost to Pickerington 53-46 in front of a record crowd of 12,385 fans at St. John Arena, despite Smith scoring a game-high 24 points.

“I’m having a lot of fun and getting just as much pleasure out of the experience as they are,” Smith said. “This is the first time I’ve been around high school basketball players this much since I was in high school, and it brings back a lot of great memories. There’s a certain innocence and excitement, because high school basketball is not a business, and they are doing it only because they love it.”

Smith helps out in a wide variety of ways, most notably working with athletes to help improve their individual skill sets.

Some of Upper Arlington’s players were a little intimidated by Smith when she first joined their program, but she quickly put them at ease and began making them better.

“Much like polish on a shoe, Katie helps refine things for our players to help them take their games to the next level,” Wanke said. “Katie could have an arrogance to her, because of what she’s accomplished, but she doesn’t. She has an amazing grace, empathy and humility that helps her blend in as one of the members of our team, and makes people comfortable around her.”

Smith sometimes has to miss practices, or more rarely a game, because of scouting duties for the Minnesota Lynx. She lives in Upper Arlington with her wife, Yesenia, and two children, Yesslynn and Lenin for about half the year, and lives in an apartment in Minnesota for close to six months.

“I wasn’t looking to be a high school head coach because that would be too much on top of my (WNBA) and family duties,” Smith said. “But John’s an awesome coach who has done an exceptional job of putting things in place, and he was supportive of me coming around to help out as much as I can.

“I feel blessed that I’m able to be around the coaches, kids and staff here at Upper Arlington.”

Upper Arlington senior point guard Quinn Buttermore said Smith makes a big impact in the time she spends with the Golden Bears.

“Katie has so much knowledge and insight, and she’s such a great resource as a coach,” said Buttermore, who is averaging a team-best 3.7 assists. “Whenever she chimes in in practice, it gets very quiet, because we know what she has to say is legit, meaningful and helpful.

“When we were struggling with our shooting in practice recently, she gave us pointers and told us to slow down and make sure we were shooting with good form. We listened to her, because whenever Katie shoots in practice, it always goes in. She’s definitely an amazing, one-of-a-kind coach and person.”

Smith also helps out with tactical advice during games.

“I have a certain system and scheme that I’ve put into place, but when Katie and my other assistants offer me feedback, I always listen,” Wanke said. “She offers a lot of invaluable feedback to us as coaches, as well as to the players.”

The Golden Bears are thriving under the direction of Wanke and his staff, which includes varsity assistants Kendal Glandorff, Brianna Lowry, Smith and DuJuan White, freshman coach Jarret Hubbard and volunteer assistants Jennifer Green and Jodi Green.

After finishing 3-14 overall during the 2020-21 season, Wanke’s staff led the Golden Bears to a 15-9 record the following season and a 17-7 mark last season.

This season, Upper Arlington is 16-3 overall and 7-2 in the Ohio Capital Conference-Central Division.

Elizabeth Hunt is averaging a team-best 16.9 points per game, followed by Ava Harrigan (6.5), Buttermore (5.5), Ella Hanky (4.6), Hannah Hunt (4), Tatum Thrush (3.8) and Lucy Martin (3.6). Thrush also averages a team-leading 7.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

“We’re playing with tempo, offensively and defensively, because we’re eight or nine deep on this team,” Wanke said. “We’re defending at a high level, primarily playing man-to-man, and it’s translating into wins. Our first three losses were by a total of seven points, so we’ve been competitive every game.”

Katie Smith poses on the bench with the Upper Arlington girls basketball team. Smith has been serving as a volunteer assistant coach o for the Golden Bears. Katie Smith

Many of Upper Arlington’s players didn’t fully grasp how famous Smith is in Columbus until the Golden Bears watched the Ohio State University women’s basketball team defeat Iowa 100-92 in overtime in front of a program-record crowd of 18,660 fans at the Schottenstein Center on Jan. 21.

Smith’s No. 30 uniform now hangs in the rafters at the Schottenstein Center, after Ohio State honored her on Jan. 21, 2001 as the first female Buckeye athlete to have her uniform number retired.

During her freshman season, Smith averaged 18.8 points per game to lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and earn both Big Ten Freshman of the Year and All-American honors. She also helped lead Ohio State to its first NCAA Final Four appearance, where it eventually lost to Texas Tech in the championship game.

In four seasons at Ohio State, Smith averaged 20.8 points and led the Buckeyes to an 80-44 record while making 124 consecutive starts. She scored a career total of 2,578 points to become the Big Ten’s career scoring leader in both men’s and women’s basketball.

As a senior, Smith scored an Ohio State single-season-record 745 points to earn All-American honors once again and be named the 1996 Big Ten Player of the Year.

Smith, who was a three-time academic all-Big Ten selection while earning a degree in zoology, was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in October, 2001.

“We knew she was a great player, but I don’t think we realized what a big deal she is, because she’s so humble and she never puts a spotlight on herself,” Buttermore said. “When we were at the Schott, we saw her uniform number hanging up there retired because of how great she is. And then when she came to say hi to our team, people were looking at her and stopping her for photos, and I think everyone realized how fortunate we are to have her as our coach.”

The Golden Bears also got to see firsthand the impact that Smith is continuing to make at the professional basketball level, when they traveled as a team to Indianapolis, Indiana in the spring of 2022 to watch Smith’s Minnesota Lynx play at the Indiana Fever.

Smith has coached in the WNBA since the fall of 2013.

After serving as an assistant coach for New York Liberty for four years, Smith was Liberty’s head coach for two seasons.

When her contract was not renewed after Liberty went 17-51 during her tenure, Smith served as an assistant coach for the Lynx from January 2020 to December 2021, before being promoted to associate head coach in January 2022.

“Watching Katie coach in the WNBA was very cool,” Buttermore said. “We usually forget that she’s done so much stuff, because she’s so mellow and cool to talk to. She doesn’t talk about winning gold medals or her other accomplishments unless we force it out of her.”

During her playing career, Smith also enjoyed an impressive run as part of the USA national team, helping her squad win gold medals in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics, as well as in the 1998 and 2002 World Championships.

“Only a select few get to represent their country in the Olympics, so that was my dream after I started playing in the fifth grade,” Smith said. “I hoped that I could play in college, be an Olympian, and then come back home to become a dentist, because the opportunity to play professionally didn’t always exist.”

Katie Smith goes up for a layup as a member of Team USA

Katie Smith

However, as fate would have it, Smith was drafted in the first round of the newly-formed American Basketball League in 1996, and she would go on to lead the Columbus Quest to back-to-back ABL championships in the only two full seasons that the league existed in 1997 and 1998.

Smith then embarked upon a legendary WNBA career, in which she averaged 13.9 points while playing for a total of five teams in 15 seasons, in Minnesota (1999-2005), Detroit (2005-09), Washington (2010), Seattle (2011-12) and New York (2013).

In 2006, Smith helped the Detroit Shock win the WNBA championship to become the only player to capture both ABL and WNBA titles.

Two years later, Smith was the MVP of the WNBA finals while leading the Shock to a 3-0 sweep of the San Antonio Silver Stars.

“Winning those championships in Detroit was awesome, because it meant we were the best at the highest professional level.” Smith said.

By the end of her career, Smith was the all-time leading scorer in women’s professional basketball history with a total of 7,885 points, including 6,452 points in the WNBA.

The versatile, sharp-shooting guard also was named a WNBA All-Star a total of seven times (2000-03, 05, 06 and 09), was first-team all-WNBA in 2001 and 03, and was the WNBA scoring champion in 2001.

In 2018, Smith was inducted into both the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

“When you think of a great basketball player at every level, she’s it,” Wanke said. “Katie has a little bit of an aura around her, and I think she’s helped spark enthusiasm for girls basketball in our community. Our youth program has doubled in size in the past three years, to where we now have 40 kids in grades three through six. And we had 211 kids in our last youth summer camp.”

Upper Arlington has three regular season games remaining, including its league finale on Friday at Dublin Coffman and the sixth-seeded Golden Bears will open the Division I district tournament on Feb. 21 by playing host to 38th-seeded Central Crossing.

“We just want to keep building for the tournament, and hopefully, we can make a run,” Smith said.

More importantly for Smith, she hopes to continue to teach valuable life lessons to Upper Arlington’s student athletes.

“I’ve coached the elite, and these kids make the same mistakes that we yell at them for,” Smith said. “I just want to do my best to teach them what I can, while also making this the best possible experience for them.

“This experience is part of what will shape them as they become young adults, and all I want for them is to be prepared to work hard and treat people well, so they will be successful wherever their life journey takes them.”


Monday, February 05, 2024

RB Rex Burkhead retiring from NFL after 10 seasons



Feb 5, 2024, 03:49 PM ET

Running back Rex Burkhead announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday in a post to social media.

"I've been blessed to be able to play the game of football for 26 years and looking back there are many people I would like to thank," Burkhead wrote, proceeding to thank his parents, his wife Danielle, his two children, his coaches, ownership and support staff and his teammates and fans.

Burkhead, 33, played for three teams over 10 seasons, last appearing in an NFL game in 2022.

Drafted in the sixth round out of Nebraska in 2013 by the Cincinnati Bengals, Burkhead had 3,442 total yards 26 touchdowns in his career.

He signed as a free agent with the New England Patriots in 2017 and set a career best with eight touchdowns that season (5 rushing, 3 receiving), and helped the franchise win a Super Bowl after the 2018 season when he scored three touchdowns that postseason. He finished his career with the Houston Texans after signing with the team in 2021, setting a career best in rushing yards that season with 427.

Thursday, February 01, 2024

Bengals’ Darrin Simmons now NFL’s longest-tenured special teams coordinator by large margin


Darrin Simmons has survived several turnovers, and his longevity speaks to how solid he has been for Cincinnati.

The Enquirer-USA TODAY Sports

This is the time of year when many fans have eyes on the coaching carousel in between playoff games.

The NFL has always been a “what have you done for me lately” league, but since the turn of the millennium, we have seen owners get impatient quicker, with many head coaches seemingly getting only a couple or maybe even one year. That can be even worse for coordinators around the league who can often be scapegoats for a team’s struggle.

In the midst of these flurry of moves — that includes Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan taking the head coaching opening for the Tennessee Titans — Bengals fans can appreciate the solid bedrock on their coaching staff that has been special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons.

Simmons joined Cincinnati alongside Marvin Lewis taking over the Bengals. Ever since then, we have not seen a change to that position, nor has it ever really been in doubt. We have seen kickers enjoy high levels of success like Shayne Graham, Mike Nugent, and most recently, Evan McPherson, who kicked two last-second field goals in the 2021 playoff run that sent Cincinnati to the AFC Championship game and then the Super Bowl.

It is also worth noting that Simmons' 22 seasons with the Bengals are more than any head coach entering the 2024 season as well, with the closest being Mike Tomlin (17 years) and John Harbaugh (16 years).

Simmons survived a couple of times when Lewis had to clean house of his defensive and offensive coordinators, as well as sticking on the team when Zac Taylor came along.

At this point, it seems like Simmons can stick around as long as he’d like. He will head the search for a possible replacement/competition for rookie punter Brad Robbins after a pretty bad season.

Otherwise, it will be bringing along the next Stanley Morgans and Cedric Peermans to be ready for 2024.


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