Myron Rolle – Role Model

November 29, 2008

Last week Florida State University safety Myron Rolle delayed a trip to Maryland with his teammates in order to interview for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Myron’s decision to take the interview proved to be a wise one. He won both the scholarship and the game. Soon he will have to make another decision: whether to study at Oxford University for several years or study formations in the NFL.

Make no mistake, Myron Rolle is an elite athlete and will likely make an immediate impact as a pro player. But more importantly he is also a special scholar who after less than three years in college has already earned his bachelor’s degree and is working on a master’s. It is my hope that after this season he goes to England as one of those rare Rhodes Scholars on his way to becoming the physician he’s always dreamed of being.

Myron Rolle, the son of Caribbean immigrants, wants to be a medical doctor even more than he wants to play in the NFL. It is his lifelong ambition.

If Myron plays NFL football that will be a bonus. But I believe pro football can and should wait. Myron’s special gifts are his brain power, his will and his determination – attributes that other athletes should emulate and fans should take special note of and cheer for.


Reggie Bush In Trouble: What About the Vultures?

January 25, 2007

Reggie Bush is in the news again. This time though its not about doing flips while scoring touchdowns for the New Orleans Saints. Published reports suggest that audio tapes exist of Bush and or members of his family striking a deal with a start-up sports marketing firm for thousands of dollars under the table while Bush was still enrolled at USC. A federal prosecutor is looking into allegations that the firm – New Era Sports and Entertainment – attempted to extort money from Bush after Bush decided to sign with another firm when he announced he was turning pro last year. New Era contends it provided a home and cash as part of a loan to Bush’s family in exhange for a promise that Bush sign with the sports marketing firm after he left USC. For the record Reggie Bush has consistantly contended he’s done nothing wrong.

Bush just completed his first season with the New Orleans Saints helping lead the team to its first ever NFC championship game last Sunday against the Chicago Bears. Although the Saints lost the game Bush’s spectacular play and his contributions to the hurricane recovery efforts in New Orleans during the season have been hailed by just about everyone. But with unanswered questions about whether Bush and his family took money while he was playing football at USC his quick start in the pros may be slowing to a crawl, tarnishing the sparkling image he’s crafted since winning the 2005 Heisman Trophy.

There is also the possibility that Bush’s problems could cost his school the national championship it won while Bush was a sophomore and could cost Bush the Heisman Trophy he won 14 months ago. While Bush is the focus of all of this attention very few people are talking about the real villains – New Era Sports and its principles Lloyd Lake and Michael Michaels. Making this even more ludicrous is the fact New Era Sports is apparently not being charged with making the alleged illegal inducements to Reggie Bush and his family. The firm is only being investigated for attempting to essentially blackmail Bush and extort money from him. This is ridiculous.

Let me be clear I do not condone athletes taking money under the table. But I have a much bigger problem with agents, marketing firms, boosters and others who illegally induce vulnerable, often cash-strapped athletes and their families into violating college rules. These illegal deals are almost always instigated by folks who absolutely should know better. While schools and athletes often take the fall, corrupt agents and other sheisters get very little attention or blame for the trouble they cause. These vultures are seemingly allowed to go after just about any athlete they please with little or no repercussions for it. There ought to be laws against illegal under the table payments with the vultures that think up the schemes bearing most of the blame and all of the potential jail time.

I’m not saying Reggie Bush and his family didn’t put themselves in a very bad position. And I’m not saying they didn’t have the capacity to say no to any proposition offered them by New Era Sports. But what I am saying is that without tough laws and stiff fines to end the corruption instigated by the people and organizations with dirty money who seek to curry favor with star athletes this problem will never end.

An Underdog in Name Only

January 2, 2007

It had to be the most improbable conclusion to a game in Bowl history. Its hard to imagine any higher drama than what played out in the closing minutes of the Fiesta Bowl last night. The Boise State Broncos – undefeated, but utterly disrespected – against one of college football’s most storied programs, the University of Oklahoma Sooners, winners of the Big 12 title game with its best player, Adrian Peterson finally back from injury. On paper it played out as David versus Goliath. To most of the commentators leading up to the game it was a decided mismatch. But on the field it was a completely different story.

Let’s start from the beginning. From the first few minutes of the game it was clear that “tiny” Boise State a former junior college, was the equal of seven-time national champion Oklahoma if not more so. A 14 – 0 Boise State lead eventually grew to 28 to 10 by midway into the third quarter. The Broncos were led by their tough under-rated defense, a poised senior quarterback, Jared Zabransky and a slick hardnosed running back named Ian Johnson.

Soon though Oklahoma with its historic pedigree and host of talented players elbowed its way back into the game, led by redeemed senior quarterback Paul Thompson. The Sooners staged a remarkable comeback and looked to just about everyone that although it took four hard quarters, that they were finally asserting dominance over a plucky but overmatched team. With just over a minute to play Oklahoma took what looked to be a game deciding lead when cornerback Marcus Walker intercepted Zabransky’s errant pass and ran 33 yards for a Sooner touchdown. But no the game wasn’t over.

Even as the clocked ticked down, Boise State collected itself to gain a couple of key first downs in a march to tie the score. With less than 20 seconds left – 4th down and 18 – the Broncos went into the trick bag. A pass from Zabransky to Drisan James and a shockingly beautiful hook and lateral sprint by Jerard Rabb to the endzone took our breath away. The extra point kick tied it up. Now it was time for college football’s version of overtime.

Oklahoma got the ball first. In college overtimes each team gets the ball 25 yards from the goal line. On the first play Oklahoma’s Peterson scoots through Boise State’s defense almost untouched for a touchdown. Now it was Boise State’s turn. And Oklahoma made them work for it. With fourth down and two from the five yard line another trick play; with quarterback Zabransky going one way and receiver Vinny Parretta getting the ball – lofting it into the endzone to Derek Schouman for the touchdown. The question for Boise State was do they go for a tie and kick it which would lead to another overtime exchange or do they go for two and win the game outright? Well, they did what Hollywood would script and went for two. Not just going for two but doing it in the trickiest, most old-school way possible – a statue of liberty play – with Jared Zabransky faking a pass to his right and handing off behind his back for Ian Johnson to sprint in to the left for the two points and a win for the ages.

The wacky, historically dramatic and unbelievable finish to the game nearly obscures the fact that this was a real, hard fought game, between two very good teams. This was absolutely not a mismatch. It was never a mismatch. Not at all. Thanks to the conclusion it was simply one of the most satisfyingly delicious college football games ever played. Period.

It should be a lesson to us all that we should shut up and just let the kids play the game. Then watch and enjoy it. Damn our prognostications. Damn our ridiculous assumptions. Both teams on this night could have played with any college team in America. And for certain Boise State was an underdog in name only.

Trust What You See

December 11, 2006

The final score: Tennessee Titans 26, the Houston Texans 20 with a thrilling overtime finish capped by THE RUN. The game was an emphatic statement for Houston native Vince Young who is earning more and more believers every week. Even though he was wearing Tennessee’s blue, Young electrified his homecoming crowd with a closing 39 yard sprint for the winning touchdown that will hopefully shut up Young’s nay sayers.

Vince Young is on a roll. He’s led the Titans to four straight victories and has won five of the last six games. Most of them come from behind thrillers. Yes, in only his 10th game as a starter he is already building his NFL legend. Young is enhancing the legend he crafted in college when he won the national championship last winter.

The problem is there never should have been doubters. The doubts crept in when Young allegedly earned a low score on the NFL’s “Wonderlick” intelligence test last winter. The doubts grew when many said he didn’t have the proper throwing motion to succeed as a top level pro passer.

But what I saw then and what I see now is a superb athlete and a gifted leader with rare motivational skills – the same skills that allowed him to lead the University of Texas to the National Championship in the Rose Bowl. What I saw was a uniquely skilled football player with an uncanny knack for making the right play at the right time. What I saw then was the greatest performance a college quarterback has ever had when the chips were on the line on the biggest stage. What I still see is a magical athlete who barring injury will thrill football fans in Nashville and around the country for years to come. I trust what I see. I hope you do too.

Vince Young Wonderlick Fiasco An Outrage

March 12, 2006

I believe what I see. Watching Vince Young’s virtuoso all-time performance at the BCS Championship game was all I needed to see to validate Young’s long term potential in the NFL. But just weeks later I am outraged by the nonsense about how Young’s alleged low “Wonderlick” intelligence test score suddenly changes how scouts should appraise the University of Texas quarterback. Vince Young won 30 games in three years as a starter at Texas – a phenomenal achievement. But because of the “Wonderlick” we are now being asked to believe that Jay Cutler from Vanderbilt who won only 14 games in four years, with no bowl appearances, is actually better than Vince Young. It’s ludicrous!