Tagged: Johnny Manziel

The Plight of the Two Sport Athlete

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Like any publicity obsessed blogger, I often take a detour through my stats page to see the amount of reads I get in a given day, views from around the world, and links I get to other sites.

My mock drafts have been viewed by team-centric message boards and blogs, my opinions on controversial topics (Like Ben Wetzler-gate) have been analyzed, and recently, college football fans have debated whether or not a prized quarterback recruit will go play there or opt to be a baseball player.

The intent of this article is not a massive ego stroke, believe me, I love the attention, but I’m not a whore for it. No, rather, it’s answering the question, would said athlete, Allen High School shortstop and quarterback Kyler Murray, consider turning pro or enroll at Texas A&M.

Kyler Murray is perhaps one of the greatest beneficiaries of Lamarckism due to both his father’s and uncle’s athletic abilities. Although undersized as a quarterback, he’s made himself into one of the most sought after recruits in college football history, eventually deciding to sign with Texas A&M. In baseball, he’s considered a raw talent with a very high ceiling, a speedster with some hitting ability, and the talent to play shortstop.

Murray’s also a trailblazer in the fact that he played in the Under Armour showcases for both baseball and football, a feat that had never happened before.

Kyler Murray is no doubt one of the more interesting athletic recruits in the nation. Not only that, but he also has major leverage thanks to his uncle Calvin being a sports agent.

But that doesn’t address the question: Where will Kyler go?

To answer this question, one has to look at the past five years, where at least one major dual sport athlete was drafted out of high school.

To begin this half-decade journey, one only needs to look at current Dodgers prospect and former LSU quarterback commit Zach Lee.

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Lee was the original Kyler Murray, a top prep multisport athlete considered a tough sign due to a commitment to play for Louisiana State’s baseball and football teams. In his senior year, the McKinney High School product posted NFL-style numbers, and was named the offensive player for the year in his district. It was safe to say that in order for him to sign, a team had to be willing to pay big for him to drop his commitment.

Concerns about his signability dropped him from an early first round pick to a late pick, even in mocks. In fact, some mocks took him out of the first round entirely.

Finally, on draft day, Lee was taken 28th overall by the Dodgers, and signed with a hefty $5.25 Million bonus at the deadline.

Since being drafted, Lee has been moving at a typical pace for a prep player, and expects to be in the majors by this spring. He most recently finished in AAA Albuquerque, going 7-13 with a 5-44 ERA, extreme numbers even by PCL standards.

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Bubba Starling and Archie Bradley only increased awareness of the highly valued dual sport prep athlete.

Starling was a star quarterback and outfielder for Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas. Considered arguably one of the best athletes in memory, he had both pro baseball scouts and University of Nebraska football and baseball fans salivating. Starling was a no-doubt first rounder in baseball, mainly because he was a five tool player, rare for a high schooler.

Archie Bradley was also a highly touted two sport star from Broken Arrow High School. Considered one of the top prep athletes in Oklahoma history, Bradley was named one of ESPN RISE’s Elite 11 quarterbacks, in a class that included Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Golson, and Cody Kessler, among others. He had a commitment to the University of Oklahoma as a two sport star as well.

Both Starling and Bradley ended up being top ten selections, with Starling going to the Royals fifth overall, and Bradley going to the Diamondbacks seventh overall. Because of their leverage as potential college athletes, they were able to sign big contracts with bigger bonuses, incidentally, this would be the second to last year that bonuses went unregulated. Since then, Bradley had become arguably one of the top pitching prospects with the Diamondbacks, with a major league debut projected at 2015. Starling’s development has been more protracted, having just finished his last season in Wilmington, the high-A affiliate of the Royals.

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In 2012, Hueytown High School quarterback/pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston was a highly touted dual sport athlete. A top talent, Winston supposedly would have been a high draft pick had he not been so intent on playing football at Florida State. The Texas Rangers would draft Winston in the 15th round, and in an attempt to get him to sign on, offered to let him play football at Florida State. Winston refused, and has since become one of the top quarterback prospects in the NFL draft, and a former third team All-American utility baseball player.

Of course, Winston hasn’t ruled out professional baseball either, and has considered a baseball and football career, like Bo Jackson, another former Heisman winner.

 

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Before Kyler Murray, however, Texas A&M fans had to look forward to Kohl Stewart as Johnny Manziel’s replacement. Stewart was a highly rated two sport star who was set to play both sports. There were questions about his health, however, as he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. This however did not deter the Twins, who took him fourth overall. Stewart signed rather quickly, with a signing bonus set at $4.5 million and in his first two seasons, has made it to Low-A Cedar Rapids, a good pace for a prep pitcher

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Lee’s Summit High School outfielder Monte Harrison was an immensely talented wide receiver as well and was considered a tough sign from the beginning. His strong commitment to play football and baseball for Nebraska dropped him to the second round. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him, and he signed quickly, however. Harrison had a so-so year to start his career, but is one of the Brewers’ top prospects already given the strength of the Brewers’ system.

Even if a prep baseball player isn’t a dual sport athlete, teams will often look for ways to ensure a commitment to them as opposed to a college. Look at the Chicago Cubs last season. In order to get highly rated prep pitcher Carson Sands, the Cubs spent their first three picks on high floor college talent, catchers Kyle Schwarber from Indiana and Mark Zagunis from Virginia Tech, and pitcher Jake Stinnett from Maryland. Knowing full well they could sign their first three picks for less money, they treated Sands as their first round pick and signed him for about the amount of a late first rounder.

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It’s a tough pill to swallow for football fans, but in the business of sports, money rules everything. Draft a player high and offer him the moon, while still being within the limits of the bonus pool, and a player will sign. It doesn’t matter if the player could be the best quarterback in university history, the player will go where the money is. Unless Kyler Murray explicitly tells teams not to draft him because he wants to play football in college, ensuring that he drops to a day 2 or 3 pick, you can bet there is going to be at least one team willing to pay whatever amount is necessary to get him on their team as the shortstop of the future.

Journalism and Society in the Microcosm that is Michael Sam

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It’s been exactly a week since the NFL Draft ended, and yet still people are talking about it. However, it isn’t for the reasons you think it is. Ever since the draft ended, there have been two prospects whose names have been highlighted. One is a polarizing athlete who is expected to be the next big star for the hapless Cleveland Browns, the other is a 7th round draft pick who’s being admired for his courage for being the first openly homosexual football player.

Days after days on end, football fans have been told that Michael Sam is a hero, and that the St. Louis Rams did the right thing in using one of their picks to get him. Also, footage of his reaction to being drafted has somehow made it on TV every day this week, of him kissing his boyfriend. ESPN, NFL Network, plenty of news networks, President Obama, all of them have admired Sam for his courage. Sam is the ultimate human interest story, despite being milked to the point where there is nothing to milk, his kiss is still being shown, his courage and heroism is still being lauded, and so on.

The question that we must ask ourselves is whether or not this is actual courage, and whether or not he is a hero.

First off, let’s start off with the dictionary definitions of courage and hero.

Courage is defined as strength in the face of pain or grief. while hero is defined as a person who is admired for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

Let me be the first to ask the question, how is Michael Sam courageous?

When he admitted his homosexuality, first to his football team, then to the media, he was embraced. lauded, and touted as courageous. People said that he overcame adversity through strength. How exactly did he do that? Unless the Missouri football team treated him poorly after he came out, unless the media bashed him for being homosexual in possibly the most testosterone injected sport in the world, I don’t see any adversity. Sure, there obviously were people against him, the Westboro Baptist Church, plenty of fundamentalist groups, and such, but those represent the lunatic fringe, not society in general. We get that his father wasn’t exactly supportive of his sexuality, and probably still isn’t, but again, this is the smallest minority. In fact, plenty of people, homosexual or not, were praising him for coming out. Even when he did his workouts prior to the draft and bombed them, there still was a great majority of people behind him, people who wanted him in the NFL. The NFL wanted him in the NFL. And when he did get drafted, people cheered, and there was talk of progress, and a great step forward in society.

I’m sorry, where’s the courage? Where’s the adversity?

Sam was practically carried to the point where he was drafted. He’d be more courageous if he was a prospect during the years that homosexuality was ridiculed. If he had been a college football player eligible for the 1998 draft and had come out sometime between the draft and the Matthew Shepard murder, then he would be courageous. The only real adversity he has endured during the period between coming out and getting drafted was the uncertainty of whether or not he was going to be drafted. However, there were those who believed that him not being drafted would have caused a backlash in the LGBT community. Former football player Wade Davis, who came out after retiring from football, said that it would have been seen as homophobic if he wasn’t drafted. Exactly who is struggling through adversity now? You have 32 teams, with 256 selections divided among them. The options are clear cut. Either draft him, be constantly praised by society for “doing what’s right” and have the media converge on your practice facility just to watch Sam to the point where it is a Tebow-like media circus, or let him become an undrafted free agent, have everyone who doesn’t know about football cry discrimination and deal with the impending PR fiasco. It comes to the point that there was a slippery slope here.

Frankly, I’m not bothered as much by that, but rather by the constant showing of Michael Sam’s kiss. Before accusing me however, at least hear me out though.

Sam has every right to kiss whom he wants, He could have kissed his mother, he could have hugged his father, he could have done whatever he wanted to do, and he did want he wanted to do by kissing his boyfriend. We saw it. Plenty of people loved it, some obviously hated it, others have no reaction. However, instead of leaving it at the one kiss, we have to see it again and again on TV  for the first few days after the draft. It’s almost as if the media is forcing us to accept something that we can clearly formulate our own opinion on.

I was fine with the kiss. I saw it exactly for what it was, a kiss. However, like an english major writing a term paper on a book and rereading a passage, looking for symbolism where it shouldn’t be, the news networks felt the need to play it over and over and over to the point where it became more ingrained in my head than that annoying ear worm of a song they played during ESPN’s coverage of the draft. I had to change the channel a few times to stop seeing something I already had an opinion on.

This unfortunately is what’s wrong with media and journalism today. What was once objective and based on fact has devolved into fluff and an overabundance of human interest. It’s someone saying “People are too stupid to form their own opinion, let’s force it down their throats and make them join our side, and if they don’t like it we can label them as anti-gay.” Exactly what is being accomplished here? Are you trying to ferret out those who really don’t like the kiss by pulling a Clockwork Orange-like Ludovico technique, waiting for them to jump on social media and say “stop showing the kiss, it’s been way overplayed” so that people can accuse that person of homophobia? Is it not enough that two athletes who watched that same clip the first time voiced their displeasure and are now being ostracized for their opinion?

Moving into that, we saw the negative reactions from ordinary people, but it was the sports world that saw two really bad examples of negative reaction. Miami Dolphins cornerback Don Jones tweeted “OMG” and “horrible” after watching the kiss, and has now been slapped with a fine, been forced to undergo education training in order to be reinstated, and has had to apologize to Sam for what he tweeted. I’m not supporting Jones, but I’m fairly certain he had a right to his own opinion and if he didn’t like what he saw, he had every right to voice his displeasure. Sure, he played for the same team that last season underwent major media scrutiny because of a massive bullying scandal, but really, was Jones going to do anything after voicing his displeasure? And of course it’s a miracle that GLAAD, the anti-defamation alliance for homosexuals, hasn’t called for his head like they did with Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson after he made public his opinions on homosexual marriage.

Similarly, Mississippi basketball player Marshall Henderson posted a series of tweets condemning the Sam kiss, but cited being a subject in a psychology experiment done by his friend. Here’s the problem with Henderson, however. He was a top basketball prospect, but unfortunately his tweets incriminate him as a homophobe, psychology study or not. His draft stock has definitely taken a gigantic fall, probably to the point where he wouldn’t even be offered a tryout with an NBA team. While we will never really know if Henderson’s tweets were his own personal opinion or those for a study, it’s clear that his actions have made him a pariah.

So really, the question is whether Sam is really showing courage, or if people are laying out the red carpet for him. Here’s the thing. If Sam really was facing adversity, we’d know it. The lunatic fringe is not the majority, rather, it represents a microcosm of society. Almost widespread acceptance and adulation from the public is not adversity, and Sam is not showing courage by walking down a red carpet. People are calling Sam a role model, and he is, most definitely for LGBT people, maybe for those who support gay rights. But Sam shouldn’t have to be a role model to everyone, nor should people be forced to accept him as a role model. If there are people who want to view him as just another football player, fine, let them. If there are people who don’t want him as a role model, then they have every right to say no, and nobody should force them to say otherwise. The media should stop forcing the “openly gay football player” epithet down our throats, and let us decide whether we want to refer to him as such, or refer to him the way we want. We have a right to our own opinion, and if we want to say that Michael Sam isn’t special, then we have every right to that opinion.

Lastly, we have to ask ourselves, what about Michael Sam? If he saw what was coming forth, the reactions, the positive, the negative, the witch hunts for the homophobes, what would he say?

While I can’t speak personally for Sam, I can probably say that Sam didn’t want this type of media frenzy. At the end of the day, he’s just another football player trying to make the team. As a seventh round draft pick, he has less of a shot at making the team’s 53 man roster than a higher round pick. His homosexuality is not going to be used as a means to advance his career. I can’t possibly imagine coach Jeff Fisher going over a roster and saying, “Michael’s going to make the team because he’s gay”. If Fisher wants Sam on his team, he’s going to award the spot to him because of his ability and his performance in training camp, not because of Sam’s sexual preference. And if Sam is cut, it isn’t because he’s gay, it’s because he didn’t do well in training camp. This is obviously going to present the biggest problem, because Sam is literally a moneymaker right now. He already is going to be doing a series on his experience as a football player, produced by Oprah, no less, and his jersey is currently the second best selling jersey among rookies on NFL.com’s shop. Cutting him will send the wrong message, not only to those who view him as a barrier breaker, but those who were impulsive enough to by the jersey before figuring out if Sam made the team. Again, I point out. if he doesn’t make it, it’s nothing on his sexual preferences, the team isn’t discriminating against him and Fisher isn’t a homophobe, and honestly, the consumers are the real idiots because they felt the need to show their solidarity by putting an investment into a 7th round draft pick’s jersey.

So in conclusion, Michael Sam is a human interest story, but in no way did he overcome adversity, or is courageous. It is the media, and society who has made him to be a hero when in truth, he is another football player looking to make an impression through his play. Let Michael be who he is, but don’t put him on a pedestal quite yet. Being gay doesn’t necessarily qualify you as a hero, and to be completely honest, nobody should be a hero simply by stating their sexual preference.  I wish Sam the best of luck as a football player, but I hope that he knows that his sexual preference does not serve as an advancer on his career.

 

2014 NFL Draft: Where not to get your next quarterback.

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It’s the halfway point of the NFL regular season, which means that teams are getting ready either for the playoffs or for the 2014 NFL draft. For those teams looking forward to the draft, there are players that they need to evaluate, talent from schools that when tapped, will certainly either provide the needed resources to win, or will come back to bite teams. That being said, let’s look at this year’s talent, where it came from, and whether or not it should be picked.

Please note that certain players will not be used as they have not indicated whether or not they will go pro.

Quarterbacks:

Top Prospects: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, Zach Mettenberger, LSU, Tajh Boyd, Clemson, Stephen Morris, Miami, Derek Carr, Fresno State, Aaron Murray, Georgia, AJ McCarron, Alabama

Players to avoid: Mettenberger, Boyd, McCarron.

Why? Though these quarterbacks are having great seasons, history has not been on the side of quarterbacks from these schools. In the past ten seasons, LSU has had none of their quarterbacks achieve NFL success. Matt Mauck was a career backup who is now gone, Jamarcus Russell is arguably one of the biggest busts in NFL history, and Jordan Jefferson and Ryan Perriloux both never entered the league thanks to various run ins with the law. Mettenberger  has the skill set to be a quarterback, but the system that he is in will not translate to the NFL. At best, he could be a backup to a decent team, but if one has to rely on an LSU star to pilot their team, you know that the worst is coming.

Clemson may be a juggernaut, but they are more for playmakers of the non-quarterback variety. Guys like CJ Spiller, DaQuan Bowers, Dwayne Allen, Andre Ellington, have all established themselves as playmakers for the Tigers and in the NFL too. You look at the recent quarterback history in Clemson, nothing stands out. Before Tajh Boyd was Kyle Parker. Parker turned down the NFL in favor of a baseball career. Before that. the last notable Clemson quarterback was Charlie Whitehurst. Whitehurst is still playing, but he is a backup on the San Diego Chargers. Tajh may be able to break the Clemson stigma, but teams should approach him with caution.

Alabama quarterbacks are known more as game managers, getting by because of the team around them. AJ McCarron had the benefit of playing with playmakers, plus the Alabama defense helped the team win the two national championships. McCarron’s predecessors, in turn, Greg McElroy and John Parker Wilson were also game managers. McElroy had the benefit of playing with a Heisman winner, while Wilson came on during the reestablishment of the Tide as a dominant program. While the Tide have had their share of legendary quarterbacks, Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Ken Stabler, to say that an Alabama quarterback is the reason why the team is good is a major overstatement. An Alabama quarterback needs to have a good team around him in order to survive the NFL, or else they are just as good as an average quarterback.

Let’s take into consideration other schools that have had great college quarterbacks who couldn’t cut it in the NFL.

USC: Matt Barkley cemented his place in the ever expanding list of USC quarterbacks who failed to ascend beyond college stardom, joining Mark Sanchez, John David Booty, Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Rob Johnson, Todd Marinovich, and Rodney Peete. The problem with these guys is that like Alabama, there is enough talent around them to artificially enhance the USC quarterback’s stats to make them look appealing. Matt Leinart wouldn’t have won his Heisman without Reggie Bush or Mike Williams, Carson Palmer. It also doesn’t help that at USC, there is a certain pampered ego aspect. Avoid any USC quarterbacks at any cost.

Notre Dame: Maybe it’s the hype of the program, but Notre Dame has not had a legitimate NFL quarterback since Steve Buerlein. Again, I’ll repeat that, Steve Buerlein. Like USC, Notre Dame is a heralded program whose commitments make them appear to be a strong contender every year. It is with that that each quarterback is expected to be good, and because of that, the Notre Dame quarterbacks are often put under a lot of pressure. Guys like Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, and Everett Golson were not only under intense pressure to succeed on the field, but also to abide by the moral code established by the university itself. Because of that, these quarterbacks often crumble under intense pressure. That being said, it looks like Gunner Kiel may find himself touted as the next big thing one year, but if and when he does falter, it’s another Notre Dame quarterback bust.

Oregon: Joey Harrington, Kellen Clemens, Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli, and Darren Thomas all came through Oregon’s system, and while they carved out decent college careers, their NFL careers have been far from excellent. Masoli and Thomas have an excuse, Chip Kelly’s offense has shown to be faulty when used in the NFL, plus with teams adapting to the mobile quarterback model, it’s obvious that there’s almost no chance for those two to succeed. Clemens, Dixon, and Harrington were all pegged as conventional signal callers, and yet they still could not hack it as legitimate options. Clemens has at least a chance to bring some respectability back to the Oregon quarterback, as he currently is starting for the St. Louis Rams while Sam Bradford is on IR. My personal belief as to why the Oregon quarterback is unsuccessful in the NFL is the fact that like USC, they are spoiled. Phil Knight, the CEO of Nike makes sure that Oregon has the bells and whistles in their uniforms to give the Ducks a competitive advantage, and while it’s nice to some, it doesn’t help a quarterback succeed in the NFL.

Using these three schools, we can determine that a lot of good quarterbacks who go to good football schools are not given the adequate tools and knowledge to succeed in the NFL. Whether it’s the innovative offenses, like in Oregon, or the talented recruiting classes that take the effort out of the hands of the signal caller, it seems as if the best course of action is to avoid quarterbacks from great football schools altogether.

What then is the best option? Quite simply, go for a quarterback from a decent school, but not a perennial national championship contender or an under-the-microscope school. These quarterbacks had to make due with the weapons they had, and in all likelihood, it was they who made their weapons look good, not the other way around. A quarterback that comes to mind is Andrew Luck. Luck not only has an NFL pedigree, but also an ability to manage games and yet still come out as a leader. That ability has helped him lead the Colts to a 5-2 record and the lead in the AFC south. Luck did not have the types of weapons at Stanford that schools like Texas, Alabama, and others had, and that was fine. He defied expectations and brought the Cardinal back to the John Elway glory days. Hopefully he will bring Indianapolis to a Super Bowl one day and be mentioned in the same vein as Peyton Manning.

So there you go. The best way to find a quarterback is to look for one who is good, and who makes his weapons look good, not the other way around. Hopefully Jacksonville and Cleveland and any other team looking for their next franchise quarterback will take that advice.

Denard Robinson should be the next Jaguars quarterback

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The Jacksonville Jaguars have been nothing short of a dumpster fire. At 0-5, with two of the worst quarterbacks in the league, a running game that looked best when the first iPhone came out, and absolutely no defense, the chances of the Jaguars getting the top pick in the 2014 draft are as high as Skip Bayless’ man crush on Tim Tebow. That being said, one of the biggest problems with the team is that they have no quarterback. Sure, they have a quarterback per sé, but really, Blaine Gabbert has about as much business being an NFL quarterback as I do, and Chad Henne is inadequate as a fill-in. That being said, the Jaguars should seriously reconsider who is behind center. With no one else to turn to, the team should opt for a quarterback who has experience running a spread offense in college, who has played in a big time bowl game (and won), and who, as a hometown favorite, would bring fans to Everbank Field. That player is Denard Robinson.

Robinson is by no means a conventional passing quarterback, something that would play to his favor. Regarded as more of an athlete out of high school, he played on the Wolverine teams led by Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, While at Michigan, Robinson developed chemistry with wide receivers like Roy Roundtree and Junior Hemingway, and with the ample backfield of Fitz Touissant and Vincent Smith behind him, he was able to lead a high level offense.

Robinson may not have Roundtree, Hemingway, Touissant or Smith at his disposal in Jacksonville, but what he does have is a potentially dangerous wide receiver duo in Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. Shorts has proven to be invaluable to the anemic Jaguar offense, while Blackmon, fresh off a 4 game suspension, showed his form by ripping off a long touchdown against the Rams last week.

Robinson is a runner as well, and in today’s NFL, a running quarterback is starting to become a viable option, as seen in Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Geno Smith, and Terrelle Pryor. If he is unable to go after his offensive weapons, he can just as easily tuck the ball and gain sizeable chunks of yardage.

Robinson is also a local kid, as he came out of high school in Florida. Given the Jaguars’ popularity is next to nil these days, putting a Florida kid in may just entice a few more brave souls to make the trip to Jacksonville.

It’s a thought, but perhaps if the Jaguars do not want to look completely pathetic, maybe they should opt for Robinson instead of waiting the slow and agonizing wait for Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel.