Archive for May, 2012

 There was a time when the University of Miami had at least one of their players get selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

High profile Hurricanes selected in the first round in the last ten years include Sean Taylor (RIP), Super Bowl winner Jeremy Shockey, stud wideout Andre Johnson, Jonathan ‘just give me the fine Roger’ Vilma the linebacker and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.

Between 2001 and 2004 the ‘U’ managed to get 19, yes 19 of its players selected in the first round.

Oh how times have changed. For the fourth consecutive year the team who invented swagger (see the excellent ESPN 30 for 30 documentary ‘The U’ for proof) failed to get a player announced by the Ginger Prince in round one.

In fact the last time the call came in the first round for a Miami grad was in 2008 when the New York Giants selected safety Kenny Phillips at pick #31. 

In 2012 players from the ‘U’ went in round 3 (Vernon Olivier DE and Sean Spence LB), round 4 (Lamar Miller RB and Travis Benjamin WR) and round 6 (Tommy Streeter WR and Brandon Washington OG). 

The University of Miami’s leading quarterback for the past four years, the skinny but rocket-armed Jacory Harris didn’t even get drafted. He has invites to a couple of NFL training camps including the Dolphins, but that isn’t exactly a great way to end four years of toiling in the sunshine.

The home team Dolphins did draft two of their own by nabbing Olivier at pick #72 and lightning running back Miller at #97. Other teams to select ‘U’ alumni in the 2012 draft included the Steelers, Browns, Ravens and Eagles.

Perhaps the most interesting member of the ‘U’ draft class of 2012 was wideout Tommy Streeter. Streeter was the ‘U’s’ leading receiver in 2011, grabbing eight touchdowns and averaged just under 68 yards a game.

The Baltimore Ravens picked up Streeter late in the sixth round, looking for him to potentially replace Lee Evans somewhere in the near future. It could a positive omen for Streeter that he is heading to Maryland, as the Ravens were the team who drafted ‘U’ rookies Ray Lewis (1996) and Ed Reed (2002).

Lewis and Reed are both going to end up with big bronze busts at the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day. no I’m not saying Streeter will follow, but I’m sure Reed and Lewis will look after a fellow ‘U’ graduate when it comes to rookie hazing in May.

Having seen the ‘U’ play live (I was at the 2009 home win 21-20 over Oklahoma) I have first-hand experience about how important playing for the ‘U’ is for these young men.

Somehow it doesn’t seem right that there are no Miami players being selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Maybe the Class of 2012 will change that? 

ImageGrowing up there was no more dominant defensive figure than the New York Giants outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor, the imposing figure in blue and white who gave offensive coordinators nightmares for over a decade. 

LT as he was known was one of the most influential, if not THE most influential defensive player that ever played the game. He struck fear in the hearts of opponents, from offensive tackles to tight-ends to full-backs (who were commonplace in the 1980s).

I don’t think it is possible to see the number #56 on an american football players shirt without thinking of Lawrence Taylor, ears pinned-back, haring around an offensive tackle en-route to a devastating quarterback sack, and on many occasions a forced fumble.

Not may athletes can lay claim to a number as theirs, with the exception of a few (Jerry Rice #80, Joe Montana #16, Reggie White #92, Mark Gastineau #99 come to mind immediately) and just seeing that #56 makes me think relentless pass-rush, chaos in the pocket and thwack as a quarterback bites the dust.

Taylor was not without troubles in his life, having been a heavy drinker and a former cocaine addict, his sheer will to cause havoc on the field was paralleled in his desire to live a flamboyant hedonistic life outside of football. 

He earned millions and flushed millions down the toilet, but no-one will be able to take away from him that he won two Super Bowl titles, earning two heavyweight Super Bowl rings. 

Taylor gave his rings to his son, and this is where we are up to today, May 19 2012, 2.00pm (UK time) as his Super Bowl XXV (25) ring is currently part of an online auction. 

I have just been onto the auction site and this, ‘life-worn’ ring is now at a highest bid of $98,525, having had 23 people submit bids all over the reserve price of $10,000. 

With just over 12 hours to go to bid it is highly likely that the ring will fetch over $100,000. 

Not that I have the money, but if I did, I would certainly move the bid into six-figures. After all this was the 25th Super Bowl, the one that Whitney Houston sung at, the one that took place during the Gulf War, the one that ended with the infamous Scott Norwood “wide-right” kick at the death. 

LT’s son – Lawrence Jnr is the one selling the ring. It was Lawrence Jnr who inducted his father into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with a speech that included the following lines: “When I was young growing up in New Jersey, which I live now, I knew my dad was special.  But not only to me, but to other people.  When I was young, going to school people used to ask me to get my dad to sign all kinds of things.  And I was even more convinced then that my dad was special not only to me but to them too.”

Its a shame that Lawrence Jnr has to sell his fathers ring, I have to confess I don’t know why, but  I do know if LT was my father I wouldn’t sell that ring for all the tea in China. 

Shame on you Lawrence Jnr – your children and their children will miss out on wearing a piece of NFL history that is worth more than the money the gold an the jewels that makes it. 

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There is never anything sexy about selecting an offensive lineman in the first round of an NFL Draft, but if you want to be a contender when it comes to getting your grubby mitts on a Vince Lombardi trophy it all begins with the big uglies. 

The Detroit Lions were a 2011 season playoff team, but they were steam-rolled in the WIld-Card round by a rampant New Orleans Saints team, losing 28-45, including conceding 35 second-half points. 

One of the key reasons the Lions failed to roar in the Bayou was an inability to establish a running game, with Detroit’s leading rusher being the brittle-kneed Kevin Smith who underwhelmed America with 21 yards on six carries. 

The Lions drafted Illinois running-back Mikel Leshoure as a second-round pick in 2011, hoping he would solve the backfield blushes, but he tore his Achilles is August and has never played a down. He has also been caught twice possessing ‘mary-jane’ this year, so the Lions may be less inclined to show their full support to him becoming the featured back in 2012. 

Aside from the running game, the Lions offensive line was in need of a serious upgrade, and this brings me neatly on to the Silver and Blue’s first-round pick in 2012, junior offensive tackle Riley Reiff from Iowa.

This pick was pure necessity and Reiff will be an immediate upgrade on Jason Fox, and the successor to stalwart Jeff Backus.

If you can cast your mind back to the turn of the century you will recall ‘the greatest show on turf’ the St Louis Rams, led by former shelf-stacker Kurt Warner and Swiss Army knife skilled running-back Marshall Faulk.

What really made the difference in that team was the first overall pick made by the Rams in 1997, five-time All Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler Orlando Pace. Yep a man monster at offensive tackle.

Now I’m not saying that Riley Reiff is ‘THE’ answer, but I am projecting the Lions to win 1-2 playoff games in early 2013.