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Rod Rutledge Jersey Retro

On Thanksgiving Day 2000, with 4:13 left in the fourth quarter, Detroit led New England 34-9. Drew Bledsoe had just thrown a pick-six. Ballgame over. Most of the 77,923 in the old Silverdome headed to the exits, if they already weren’t in cars headed home.

(Gary Moeller 34, Bill Belichick 9, by the way.)

On the verge of being 3-9, the Patriots yanked franchise QB Bledsoe and sent in a skinny sixth-round rookie for his first NFL snaps, playing out the string in a nothing game. Tom Brady was the fourth quarterback used by Belichick that season, following Bledsoe, Michael Bishop and John Friesz; the coach was just trying to see who he had for the future.

“All I remember,” said New England’s second-year center, Damien Woody, “is we’re getting our teeth kicked in at the Silverdome. Lotta fights in the stands that day. Very rowdy.”

Brady’s first pass: off the hands of running back J.R. Redmond; incomplete. Second pass: an out route to the right, incomplete for the late Terry Glenn. Third pass: a completion to Redmond, negated by a Patriot penalty.

Brady’s third official pass: complete to tight end Rod Rutledge in the right flat for six yards. That was the lone completion of Brady’s rookie season.

“I get this question all time,” Rutledge said the other day. “ ‘What do you remember about the play?’ My answer is always the same: Not very much. The moment was insignificant. Nothing to look at. I remember Tom being calm and cool in the huddle, but it was just a regular football play. I caught it, and onto the next play.”

The next season, Brady’s determination and work ethic kept catching Belichick’s eyes, and he earned the backup job to Bledsoe. “Bill was purging the roster, and adding guys, and Tom kept leapfrogging guys,” Woody said. “He leapfrogged Friesz, and Bishop. He was just methodical. Every day he kept playing and doing things right.”

My call to Rutledge was only the 4,000th reminder about this one moment that seemed so insignificant at the time, in one game that was a lost cause, in one season that was a trial for the future.
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“People see on my Wikipedia page I caught the first completion of Tom’s career,” Rutledge said from Alabama, where he is in real estate. “So it’s a conversation-starter. Then they’ll say, ‘Do you still have the ball? Did you keep the ball?’ Did I keep the ball? Are you kidding? It was just a play.”

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Tomur Barnes Jersey Retro

Illustrious basketballer Robert Horry has more NBA titles than Michael Jordan. But if Jordan was His Airness, Horry, in lifestyle terms, was His Groundedness. Being frugal helped the winner of seven NBA championships maintain his bank balance in a culture notorious for reckless spending. According to a survey by an American sports magazine in 2009, almost 60 per cent of basketballers went broke within five years of retiring, despite an average salary of $5 million a year.

“I did not have a dog with a diamond collar,” Horry, 48, says during his visit to Mumbai recently. “I was never flashy. I would see guys [basketball peers] with the shades on, the suits on, $1,000 bags. I had a teammate whose motto was, ‘If I make a million dollars, I must spend a million dollars’.

I was like, ‘If I make a million dollars I’m hoping I can keep a million dollars’.” Nicknamed ‘Big Shot Bob’ for his ability to score at key moments, the 6’9″ Horry now does commentary and runs sports and rehab centres in Houston. But he admits some of his financial moves failed.

Hardik Pandya, Rani Rampal, Peyush Bansal: Sports And Business Leaders Reveal Their Tools O…1 of 10

The Tools Of Success
17 Oct, 2018
By ET BureauCome Dussehra, leading business and sports names reveal their tools of success and the instruments that play a role in their professional lives.In pic: From left (Hardik Pandya, Rani Rampal, Peyush Bansal)

In 2011, he was sued by a business partner, Tomur Barnes, for defrauding him of his investment in Horry’s enterprise. According to a report, Horry said then that their contract was not enforceable.

“Sometimes, as an athlete, you think everything you touch can turn into gold. [But] Some things don’t turn into gold,” Horry says. “I had a couple of investments that didn’t go my way. That’s why I laugh at guys who say, ‘Oh, I’m going to open a clothing line, I’m going to start a restaurant’.
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You think with brands like Chanel or whatever around they are going to go to your store? It [the business idea] has to be realistic.” There were times Horry loosened his purse strings and enjoyed his success. “I bought my mum a big house, my dad a big house and myself a big house,” he says. “I owned two Ferraris when I was playing [he retired in 2008 and now drives a Toyota Tundra pickup truck]. I also liked watches but have sold many of them. That’s where my frugal part kicks in.”

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Ray Crittenden Jersey Retro

As Eastern Illinois football toils through fall camp under first-year coach Adam Cushing, the JG-TC is examining each position group. Next in the series: the secondary.

Returning players: DB Corneliuss Page (R-Sr.), S Ray Crittenden (R-Jr.), S Edwyn Brown (R-Soph.), S Iziah Gulley (R-Jr.), S Bryce Dewberry (Soph.), CB Xzavier Shugars (R-Sr.), S Marcus Bornslater (R-Soph.), CB Mark Williams (R-Jr.), DB Charles Shelton IV (R-Fr.), CB Jordan Jackson (R-Jr.), CB Jonas Filer (R-Soph.), S Darius Waddell (R-Fr.), DB D.J. Perry (R-Soph.)

Incoming players: CB Donovan Perkins (Fr.), CB J.J. Ross (Fr.), CB Nile Hill (Fr.), CB Dylan Hughes (Fr.), CB T.J. Davis (Fr., walk-on), S Matt Ross (Fr.) DB Jordan Williams (Fr.), S Brandon Guido (Fr., walk-on), DB Connor Aldrich (Fr.)

Departed players: CB DySaun Smith (Sr.), DB Ryan Mosley (Fr.), WR/DB Javon Turner (Sr.)

Biggest offseason development: Smith, an 11-game starter at corner, is out of eligibility. As is Turner, a former Penn State wide receiver who started one game at corner in 2018. But those two are the only notable departed starters from last year’s secondary. Darshon McCullough and Courtney Rowell moonlighted as defensive backs last year but are now back at their original running back position. McCullough started three games at the “star” hybrid spot.

In short
EIU returns the primary starter at three of the four main positions. Both safety spots featured a revolving door of starters, but the primary guys (Brown and Crittenden) and the occasional starters (Gulley and Dewberry) are back. Page and Crosby both started at the star, along with McCullough.

Defensive coordinator Chris Bowers cautions against reading too much into that, though. He and Cushing don’t care who did what last year. No one has earned snaps based on their 2018 job title. Heck, the coaches don’t even know those titles.

“I’d read about us and think, ‘I wonder who they are,’” Bowers said. “I hadn’t paid attention. I think everyone knew from the moment we got here that from January 7 on would determine what happened.”

What to like
Bowers isn’t faced with identifying contributors from a cadre of entirely unknown commodities. While the receiver room and the offensive line faces that issue, EIU has eight defensive backs who have started at least three games in their careers. Mark Williams, the group’s most experienced player, started all but one game in his first two seasons at EIU.

“He has played a lot of football,” Bowers said. “He’s a heck of a player. You can trust him out there.”

That group should be past the stages of adjustment to the college game’s speed and complexity. Their growth has to come from technical improvement and execution of assignments, and that’s where the coaches will have their biggest impact.

Several of the returners played significant snaps early in their careers. Williams started as a true freshman. Brown and Gulley cracked the rotation to become starters as redshirt freshmen. Dewberry was a rotation player and three-game starter as a true freshman. Shugars was a part-time starter as a freshman and a regular in 2017 before an injury wiped out his 2018 season.

There’s experience, but the unit still youth and room to grow. Dewberry and Brown are still underclassmen, but it doesn’t quite feel like it because of their high snap counts as freshmen. Everyone except Page and Shugars has eligibility for 2020, giving EIU’s secondary a chance for anther offseason of continuity.

“The secondary’s going to be a mix,” Bowers said. “You have some old and young.”

That “young” includes nine freshmen defensive backs. Several of them have already seen the field a lot in call camp. With the NCAA’s four-game redshirt rule, it’s expected that most will have a chance to play at some point this season. But there likely will be some who don’t redshirt, because they instantly emerge as one of the unit’s best players. J.J. Ross, the former Cincinnati commitment who held some Power Five offers, is on his way to getting there.

“Our expectations are high,” Cushing said of Ross. “What’s been most impressive is that he came in this summer and was in great shape when he showed up. He’d been doing the workouts we sent him after he signed.”

After less than two weeks of practices, EIU already has some obvious candidates to start. It’d be a surprise if Williams did not open the season as a starter at one corner spot. Dewberry has stood out at safety. Nearly every play in 7-on-7 or full-team work, he seems to find his way around the ball.

“Bryce had a heck of a spring. He’s a quarterback for our defense,” Bowers said. “He combines great intellect and understanding of the defense with great instincts.”

The other safety spot and snaps behind Dewberry are still up for grabs. Brown, Jackson, Crosby and Crittenden figure to be in the mix in there, among other spots. Ross will have a chance to become a starter at the other corner spot, which remains pretty open.

“If we were playing a game tomorrow, Bryce Dewberry plays,” Bowers said. “Mark Williams plays. J.J. Ross will get a chance to play lot of snaps. Ray Crittenden has a great camp.”

There’s no hiding it: EIU fielded one of the FCS’ worst defenses a year ago. Only eight teams allowed more passing yards per game than the Panthers did. Is returning a large chunk of the players who comprised such an ineffective unit entirely a good thing?

“You’re the returning starter on the 118th-best defense in the country, that gave up 492 yards per game,” Bowers said.

Returning starters can be a deceiving stat because it assumes everyone who comes back a year older is automatically a better player. That’s not always the case. Sometimes a player just isn’t cut out for a starting job in a defense that wants to take a step forward. Bad coaching is often involved in poor-performing units, but there has to be some talent and ability present too.

That’s the devil’s advocate look at it.

On the other side, EIU’s defensive staff likes plenty of the returners, thinks they have room to develop and believes there are some impact players in that group. Progress there will be best seen over the course of the entire season. How much of it occurs will determine how much better EIU’s defense can become.

“The only way you really develop is to go play,” Bowers said. “Outside of the O-Line, who can go eat peanut butter and jelly and lift weights and get better, the rest really need game snaps to develop. And nowhere is that more true than the secondary.”

In line with that, Bowers said he expects six to eight of the freshmen to see the field against Chattanooga. The earlier they play, the earlier EIU knows what it has in them and how much they can be trusted.

EIU ran a 4-2-5 base last season under former defensive coordinator Cary Fowler. Bowers is keeping his plans secret other than saying, “we will be multiple.” With college football’s pass-happy ways, though, the nickel or hybrid linebacker/safety is at minimum a key part of the defense, if not part of its base.
Ray Crittenden Jersey Retro

Key stat
8.4 – the number of yards per pass the Panthers allowed in 2018, eighth-worst nationally.

Bold prediction
J.J. Ross becomes a starter by the end of September. He’s too skilled to sit on the bench and he possesses a college-ready frame (6-foot-1, 190 pounds). Cushing and staff have leaned on the coachspeak saying that they will play the best 11 guys. It’s hard to imagine he isn’t one of those by the end of the first month.

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Andy Tomasic Jersey Retro

It was 1987, and D.J. Dozier was watching a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game on television with a couple of friends.

“I can do that,” Dozier, then a star football player at Penn State, muttered.

“All of a sudden the two guys turned their head toward me and said, ‘You can do what, that, play baseball?’ ” Dozier recalled recently. ” ‘Man, get out of here. You can’t do that.’ ”

The roommates didn’t let up and continued to badger Dozier.

“They said these are major league players,” he said. “We know you’re a great athlete, but come on, there’s only so far that goes.”

Dozier didn’t back down from his comments, and he went on to prove his friends wrong.

Five years later, Dozier had played five seasons in the NFL, and on May 6, 1992, he made his Major League Baseball debut with the New York Mets.

Later in the season on Sept. 26, Dozier went 1 for 2 with a double against the host Pirates.

Sitting in the stands watching the game were the same Penn State friends who questioned Dozier’s ability five years earlier.

“That was a great moment,” Dozier, 53, said, laughing. “After the game, these guys were like, ‘This is crazy. You told us you could do it, but there was no way that this could happen. To see you out there is absolutely insane.'”

Dozier is one of just seven athletes since 1970 to play in both the major leagues and the NFL. The others are Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders, Brian Jordan, Drew Henson, Chad Hutchinson and Matt Kinzer.

And according to a Sporting News story published early this year, Dozier was just the second player to go from a football-only career to a baseball-only career and reach the major leagues. The other was Andy Tomasic, a former NFL punter, halfback and defensive back who pitched two innings for the New York Giants.

In all, fewer than 70 athletes are known to have played in both sports at the highest level, including Portsmouth native Ace Parker.

It’s an accomplishment that still humbles Dozier.

“Leaving high school and not playing baseball, you’re pretty much done,” Dozier said about his chances of playing in the majors. “Then two years after college, to then pick it back up and experience what I experienced, it was a gift.

“Personally I wanted to play at least five years in the majors, but that didn’t happen. I wanted to play at least eight years in the NFL, but that didn’t happen. What did happen is I had a chance to experience some things that not many people do.”


William Henry “D.J.” Dozier Jr. was a three-sport star at Kempsville High in Virginia Beach who played football, baseball and basketball. In football, he was a two-time first-team All-Tidewater selection at running back and was a Parade All-American. He also won the Hertz No. 1 Award as the best athlete in Virginia.

Kempsville teammate T.J. Morgan was Dozier’s backup for two seasons.

“He was definitely the most dynamic athlete that I have ever seen,” said Morgan, who was named the 1983 Abe Goldblatt All-Tidewater Player of the Year a season after Dozier graduated. “He was great catching the ball out of the backfield and he was an amazing open-field runner. He would break ankles on almost every play. And he was super-fast.”

Dozier and former Booker T. Washington standout receiver James Church were teammates in a Virginia high school all-star game. Church had heard about Dozier’s exploits but saw them first-hand on the first day of practice.

“D.J. took a draw and two guys went to hit him, and he made a move where he spinned out and the two guys collided,” Church said, laughing. “D.J. just took off and no one even touched him. I had never seen an athlete who was more amazing.”

Knowing the opposing all-star defense would key on Dozier, coach Billy Morrow drew up a play in which Dozier would throw a halfback pass to Church.

“He threw me a pass in the game and it was like the longest play of the game,” Church said. “We laughed about it. Again, it was a thing where Coach knew D.J. was a good athlete and could trust him with the halfback pass, because people weren’t doing that play back then, and this guy hits me in perfect stride like it was nothing. I told everybody, that’s one of the best athletes that I had ever played with, and I’ve played with a ton of great athletes, like Hall of Famer Bruce Smith.”

Morrow laughed when reminded about the play. He agreed with Morgan and Church about Dozier’s phenomenal ability.

“All the years that I’ve coached, he’s been one of the greatest athletes that I’ve ever had an opportunity to coach,” Morrow said. “He had the size. He had the speed. He had the quickness. And he had the mentality. He was awesome.”

As good as he was in football, Dozier was just as good in baseball. He was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the 18th round of the 1983 draft. But instead of signing, he opted to play football at Penn State.

“I knew I was a good baseball player, and if I hadn’t gone to college, then there was a good chance that I would have been a first-round draft pick,” he said. “So I ended up not playing baseball, but it was always on my mind. I never stopped thinking about it.”


At Penn State, Dozier and Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno had an agreement that he could play both sports only after he played just football as a freshman. But Dozier never got on the diamond because he had arthroscopic knee surgery after his sophomore season. And after his junior year, he thought it would be best to focus on football heading into his senior year.

Morrow said seeing Dozier play at Penn State was a thrill for him.

“When he went to Penn State, I was excited because I grew up about 40 miles from Penn State in Williamsport,” he said. “I was excited for him and he did well up there. People in the community where I grew up … all they talked about was him.”

Dozier left Penn State as the second-leading rusher in school history with 3,227 yards (he’s now seventh).

Dozier also left a lasting impression after his game-winning touchdown in the January 1987 Fiesta Bowl national championship game against Miami. Penn State trailed 10-7 in the fourth quarter before an interception return to the Miami 6. Two plays later, the 6-foot, 200-pound Dozier barreled his way into the end zone. Dozier raised the ball in the air and then quickly dropped to one knee. A couple of his teammates followed, and after his quick prayer, he tossed the ball to a referee and dropped to one knee again. The scene was captured by many photographers.

“After every touchdown I scored, I would kneel down and just say, ‘Thank you Lord for your glory,’ ” Dozier said about his strong faith. “I started doing that my senior year at Penn State.”

Dozier was a consensus first-team All-American that senior season and a Heisman Trophy finalist. He was selected in the first round of the 1987 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings with the 14th pick. He played five seasons with the Vikings and Detroit Lions from 1987-1991. But it was during those latter years that he had an overwhelming desire to play baseball.

Many thought he was crazy, including his agent. But a call to Dave Rosenfield, general manager of the Tidewater Tides, the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, got Dozier a tryout. In 1990, the Mets signed him as an amateur free agent, and he spent 1990 and 1991 in the minor leagues and showed promise.

Dozier got the call up by the Mets in 1992 and played in 25 games that season. He batted .191 (9 for 47) with four runs, four stolen bases and two RBIs.

Dozier said he’s always had confidence in his ability and a tenacity to keep fighting. That, he said, comes from his parents — William and Janifer.

“My parents instilled in me an unwavering confidence that anything was possible,” he said, “no matter what it is.”

William Dozier also always reminded his son to be thankful.

“I always told him to remember where his gifts came from and let everybody know that the talent that you have is God-given talent,” said the elder Dozier. “We always tried to keep him humble. He’s talented and he’s been given a gift, but it’s not a gift that he woke up with one morning.”


Dozier officially retired as an athlete after the 1993 baseball season, never getting back to the major leagues.

Since then, Dozier has been involved in missionary work and has worked as a financial planner, an investment banker and a business consultant. He is currently a partner for a cybersecurity firm and wrote a self-help book entitled “Decide To Dominate.” He also still stays close to Kempsville High, including serving on recent committees to hire new football coach Daryl Cherry and new basketball coach Darren Sanderlin.

He was inducted into the Hampton Roads African American Sports Hall of Fame in 2012 and Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

But one of his greatest honors didn’t come from a hall of fame or from other people. It came from his four kids, who now have a different appreciation for their dad’s accomplishments.

Dozier — along with his wife, Mindy, and the kids — went to a Penn State football game for a reunion in recent years.
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“They announced all the players from that season,” Dozier said. “And so, everyone got an applause. But when they announced my name, the stadium just erupted. And so for the first time, my kids saw that. They’re sitting up in the stands. So when I got back there, they were like, ‘Dad, we didn’t know. Like everybody got applause, but when your name was announced, the whole stadium went crazy. We didn’t know that you were like that.’ ”

Yes, Dozier was like that.

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Mario Edwards Jersey Retro

Earlier this week Sheldon Rankins said he had the best sack celebration of any Saints player. But when Mario Edwards finally unleashed his, it would be “pure comedy.”

Edwards sacked 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo late in the third quarter and showed off the move Rankins was talking about. After wrapping up Garoppolo, Edwards made a dipping motion, before consuming an imaginary item. That item was supposed to be a chicken strip from Cane’s, Rankins said earlier this week.

The celebration came from training camp where Edwards developed a reputation for his affinity for the chicken strips.

“We used to call him Caniac,” Rankins said with a laugh. “He used to go to Cane’s and (got to town),”
Mario Edwards Jersey Retro

Edwards said earlier this week he intended to do the celebration when he got his first sack but didn’t.

“The first one didn’t go that way, so when I get the second one, I got one in store for ‘em,” He said.

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Stan Olejniczak Jersey Retro

Two and three years ago, we took a journey back to the beginnings of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ franchise. We provided a game-by-game breakdown of their 1933 and 1934 seasons based on press accounts from the time. I didn’t get around to continuing that series last year but I definitely wanted to bring it back for this offseason.

I get this isn’t a topic for everyone. Steelers’ history, the time before Chuck Noll arrived, is very niche. But I also know some of you guys enjoy it as much as I do; it’s one of my favorite topics to write about. Much of this history is forgotten but it certainly isn’t lost.

Hopefully you have as much fun reading it as I do writing it.

Two notes of clarification/detail. We are using the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and defunct Pittsburgh Press as our tour guides for the season. And the team was called the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1933 to 1940. We’ll call them as such throughout the article.

Game #1: September 13th, 1935 – at Philadelphia Eagles (17-7) W

Before we get into the details of the game, and the season, your starting lineups for the beginning of the year.

Armand Niccolai/Duquesne – End

Sandy Sandberg/Iowa Wesleyan – Tackle

George Rado/Duquesne – Guard

Ben Ciccone/Duquesne – Center

Bob Hoel/Pittsburgh – Guard

Stan Olejniczak/Pittsburgh – Tackle

Ben Smith/Alabama – End

Cy Casper/TCU – Quarterback

Johnny Gildea/St. Bonaventure – Halfback

Heinie Weisenbaugh/Pittsburgh – Halfback

Swede Ellstrom/Oklahoma – Fullback

From the 1933 team, no starters remained and there was high turnover from the 1934 roster. Typical for the times.

After spending three weeks of training camp at South Park, the season began with promise, beating the Eagles 17-7 at home. 20,000 fans watched, the most ever for an Eagles’ game. Philadelphia did score first, a 63 yard drive that ended with a TD pass on 4th and goal from the one.

To add injury to insult Ben Smith – the Pirates’ best receiver – suffered a nasty gash over his face in the early goings.

A fun excerpt, a sign of the era. Teams routinely punted before fourth down in order to try to gain a field position advantage. The PPG notes that in at least one instance, Gildea punted on second down.

The Steelers tied things up thanks to a couple of explosive plays. Niccolai took a lateral from Casper for a final gain of 39 yards and Gildea hit Weisenbaugh to the one yard line. Casper took it in on a QB sneak on third down to tie things up at 7, following the Niccolai kick. Niccolai took over full kicking duties after Mose Kelsch, the first true kicker in league history, died in the prior offseason.

Bull Snyder, the heaviest player on the team at 230 pounds, blocked a punt, and Olejniczak recovered it to take a 14-7 lead. Niccolai rounded things off with a 47 yard attempt. So far, so good.

Game #2: September 22nd, 1935 – vs New York Giants (42-7 Loss)

The opening win created a sense of optimism. Which the powerhouse Giants promptly squashed. The Steelers had record attendance, drawing 23, 298 fans, perhaps helped by the Giants’ march into town.

Pittsburgh came into the game dealing with hardship. Head coach Joe Bach was not on the sidelines, back home after his wife died earlier in the week. Assistant Cad Reese would take over for the day. On the field, the Steelers suffered several injuries. Art Strutt and Silvio “Sid” Zaninelli were injured in the first half. Ben Smith, who needed six stitches to fix his cut from last week, attempted to play. In a Ben Roethlisberger move, he ditched his “head gear” designed to protect himself almost immediately after the game started and wound up re-opening those stitches in the third quarter.

The Giants raced out to a 28-0 lead, mostly through the air, with star running back Ken Strong not participating w due to an injured ankle. Per the press reports, the Steelers defense played miserably, missing far too many tackles. One of the worst examples came for the Giants’ first touchdown. Kink Richards eluded three tacklers for a 14 yard scamper in the first quarter.

Pittsburgh went through the air for their biggest plays, which wound up being far and few between. Casper hit Bill Sortet for 42. On their scoring drive, Gildea found Smith for gains of 30 and 12 before hitting Weisenbaugh for 17 yards down to the Giants’ two. They hooked up again for the only home team score of the day.

In total, the Pirates netted only 37 total yards. They completed 9 of 23 passes for 116 yards and picked up just six first downs.

Game #3: September 29th, 1935 – vs Chicago Bears (23-7 Loss)

A crowd of nearly 12,000 on hand watched the Bears put up all their points in the second quarter. The team was evidently unprepared by George Halas’ vaunted “man-in-motion” defense that per the Press, made the Pirates’ defense to look “quite stupid.” Very Twitter-like analysis.

One stat tells the story of how outclassed Pittsburgh was. The Bears completed 13 of 28 passes for three touchdowns while the Steelers completed only 5/26 and five interceptions. Even Kent Graham thinks that is bad.

The Bears’ special teams were also strong with halfbacks George Grosvenor and Keith Molesworth having long punt returns. The latter caught a touchdown pass, too.

Even when things went right for Pittsburgh, they found a way to go wrong. Rookie John Turley picked off QB Bob Dunlap deep in Pirates’ territory. But inexplicably, he tried to lateral the ball to no one and Chicago recovered. They’d go on to kick a 23 yard field goal. On another play, Cy Casper returned a punt from his 33 to the Bears 40. He would’ve gotten farther had he not collided with a ref.

Some minor positive for the Pirates that day. Ciccone blocked a field goal, and for the team’s lone score, Gildea hit Sortet for a 21 yard gain, who lateraled to Casper for the score. The Press said linemen George Rado played “brilliantly.” Beyond that, there isn’t much to say, except for same old Pittsburgh.

If you’re curious, the starting lineups for the game.

Game #4: October 6, 1935 – at Green Bay Packers (27-0 Loss)

The road didn’t get easier for Pittsburgh. And for the papers, their game reports got shorter with the game being far away on the road. It only made a tiny excerpt on the 4th page of the PPG’s sports section.

Apparently the team added a “half-dozen new players” and made one key lineup change, benching their QB – Cy Casper – for Turley.

Similar story to Chicago. The Packers scored three touchdowns in the second quarter. Don Hutson caught a pair of them, including one from 50 yards out.

Casper would look to redeem himself, busting off a long run in one of the only highlights included. Through four games, the Pirates had allowed a league-high 99 points.

Game #5: October 9th, 1935 – vs Philadelphia Eagles (17-6 Loss)

And you thought Thursday Night games were bad. It was the shortest of weeks for Pittsburgh, playing Green Bay on Sunday and Philadelphia on Wednesday. Only 6271 fans showed up on a foggy workweek night. The Steelers wore their 1934 “throwbacks,” now known as the Bumblees.

Making his Steelers’ debut was Jim Leavey, a major leaguer and Pittsburgh’er who played four seasons with the St. Louis Browns. He would turn out to be on of their best weapons.

The Eagles scored within the first five minutes and held the lead for the rest of the night, rarely being threatened. They raced out to a 17-0 advantage thanks to a two yard run, a 40 yard field goal, and 56 yard pass. Warren Heller, a carry over from the previous year, threw an interception that set up Philly’s field goal.

Pittsburgh’s lone score came via a John Doehring 10 yard TD pass to Weisenbaugh. That drive included Doehring hitting Vic Vidoni for 18 yards and Ben Smith making a spectacular catch, wrestling the ball away from a pair of Eagles.

Other odds and ends. Gildea was hurt very early in this one. Leavey is described a making a couple of “nice runs,” praised by both publications. And Stan Olejniczak was ejected after clocking Eggs Manske in the face. Per the rules of the time, the penalty was half the distance to the goal, 41 yards in total.

Team stats from the game.

Game #6: October 20th, 1935 – vs Chicago Cardinals (17-13 Win)

11 days off did the Steelers plenty of good. It was arguably the best game the team played in their short three year history.

“There hasn’t been anything like it in Pittsburgh in years and certainly not in the last three years since Pittsburgh put a team in the National Professional League,” wrote the PPGs’ Volney Walsh to headline his game recap. It was their best game. Also a violent one. By the end, three players were ejected, one knocked out cold, and a lot of controversy. We’ll get to that.

Pittsburgh got on the board first with Doehring, nicknamed “Lefty,” finding Casper on a 14 yard touchdown pass. The Cards’ Phil Sarboe tied things up with an 80 yard pick six in the second quarter. Pittsburgh caught a break late in the half. Armand Niccolai missed a field goal but Chicago was ruled offsides. He made the re-try, going up 10-7 into the third quarter.

Chicago went up 13-10 but this time, it was the Pirates turn for a long defensive touchdown. Art Strutt raced 74 yards the other way, retaking the lead, 17-13. Late in the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh clung to their four point advantage. Last play of the game, Chicago with the ball 19 yards away from the end zone.

Sarboe dropped back and looked to pass but there wasn’t anything available to him. He tucked the ball and ran, dodging defenders but in Super Bowl Mike Jones style, was dragged down at the one yard line as time expired. Chicago argued there was a second left, trying to get off a timeout, but the refs weren’t having it. A scrum ensued, and somehow in the mess, Cy Casper was sucker punched and knocked unconscious. It’s not known who socked him.

But it was worth it, Pittsburgh getting a much-needed victory. Sortet was said to have one of the “best games he has ever played” while the offensive line was credited for doing the dirty work.

Game #7: October 27th, 1935 – vs Boston Redskins (6-0 W)

Welcome to the first winning streak in franchise history. It was a special teams dominated game, one that would make Danny Smith swoon. The games only points came from Niccolai’s toe, going 2/3 on the day, connecting from 41 and 43 yards out. The headline reflected that accurately.

And it was the leg of punter Sid Zaninelli that flipped field position.

Jack Sell of the PPG wrote the following of his play.

“[He] kept the sailing leather far over the head of the safety man or out of reach to his right or left…”

That “safety man” was Hall of Famer Cliff Battles, shut down that day by Pittsburgh. Vidoni and Sortet got the bulk of the credit.

According to dual reports by the local papers, there’s also some history to fill in the blanks of. Zaninelli recorded an 80 yard punt. Booting from his own 19, the ball sailed over Battles’ head, touched down at the 13, and then rolled two feet shy of the goal line. Assuming that’s accurate, and there’s no reason to doubt it, it’s the second longest punt in franchise history, beating out Jordan Berry and Drew Butler, tied for “second’ place with 79 yarders. It’s only two yards behind the record holder Joe Geri.

Officially, such a punt isn’t listed because most data from then in scarce. But it should be in the record books. The Press also commended Zaninelli for a “bang-up defensive game.”

Victory came on a day where the offense recorded just one first down, a 37 yard completion to Casper. That drive ended in an interception. Good field position came from special teams and defense; Levey had a long punt return and Rado recovered a Battles’ fumble on Boston’s 40. That set up each field goal.

There was one penalty the entire game, offsides on Boston.

Boston had one final chance, throwing a Hail Mary on the Pirates’ 48 on the final play. It fell incomplete and with the victory, Pittsburgh moved into second place in the Eastern Division, trailing only the Giants.

Game #8: November 3rd, 1935 – Brooklyn Dodgers (13-7 Loss)

Over 13,000 fans showed up, per the Post Gazette. Two potential firsts in this one. The first “what is a catch” and the first “Johnny Cueto” moment. Here’s what happened.
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Dodgers’ receiver Wayland Becker (love these names) caught a pass in the right corner of the end zone. But press reports say his right foot was clearly out of bounds, on the white chalk line, meaning it should’ve been incomplete. The ref ruled it a touchdown, leading to an argument from Pittsburgh. The call, of course, stood (Mike Carey said it was incomplete).

But the fans heckling and the yelling from the players apparently got in the refs head and he spotted the ball incorrectly on the following drives, off by a good five yards. The “stands roared,” according to the paper.

Awesome picture, one photographer capturing the controversial play.

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Gar Leaf Jersey Retro

Since joining the team in 2011, Jake Gardiner has been the most polarizing player on the Toronto Maple Leafs. His skill and swashbuckling style of play left fans amazed at some times and frustrated at others. It was not uncommon to see the smooth-skating defenceman make a costly giveaway in his own end, only to follow it up with an elusive move to create a scoring chance on the very next shift.

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
And now that the Leafs’ season has come to an end, so has Gardiner’s tenure with the team. The 28-year old defenceman will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) on July 1, and given the Leafs’ tight salary cap, there is virtually no chance of re-signing him. As a mobile, puck-moving defenceman, Gardiner will have no shortage of suitors. Coming off a five-year deal that paid him just $4.05 million per season, he will be looking for a hefty raise, and rightfully so.

Whether in the form of Twitter comments, boos from the home crowd, or animated arguments at the bar, Gardiner was the whipping boy for the media and fanbase over the past few seasons.

But what most hockey fans in Toronto don’t realize is just how good Gardiner has been for the Leafs, and how much his absence will be felt next season.

A Top-Pairing Defenceman
Whether you’re a Gardiner supporter or not, it’s impossible to deny how crucial the Minnesota native has been for the Leafs since becoming a full-time NHLer in the 2011-12 season.

Gardiner is currently the second-longest serving Leaf behind only Nazem Kadri. Over the past eight seasons, Gardiner has played in 551 regular season games, plus 26 playoff games. He is the 11th-most tenured Leafs defenceman of all-time.

Jake Gardiner (Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Over the last three seasons, Gardiner has averaged 21:48 of ice time per game, 53rd amongst NHL defencemen over that span. Even more impressively, he ranks 23rd in points amongst defencemen with 125, and 25th in points-per-60 minutes (1.52) over that same time frame. This rate of production tops stars around the league such as Alex Pietrangelo, Zach Werenski, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, and many others.

Comparing Gardiner to his teammates only further highlights his importance. Since 2016-17, his production from the blue line is bested only by Morgan Rielly’s 152 points. Third-ranked Nikita Zaitsev is all the way down at 63, illustrating just how much of the load Rielly and Gardiner have carried.

The usually durable defender missed over a month of action when he was taken out of the lineup with a back injury on Feb. 27. The Leafs felt his absence immediately, sputtering along at 8-7-3 until his return on April 4.

Despite all of the complaints about Gardiner’s play – that he’s too soft, too nonchalant, or too inconsistent – the numbers speak for themselves. On top of that, general manager Kyle Dubas has spoken publicly about his importance and clearly understands Gardiner’s value in the modern game.

Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
“The one thing I would reiterate is how important he’s been to turning the organization around,” Dubas said of Gardiner in a January press conference. “Jake is a player that has the puck a lot. When you play hockey and you have the puck a lot, and you try to be creative and you make skilled plays, from time to time, they’re not going to go your way.

“With Jake, the positive far, far outweighs the times when it doesn’t go right. That’s why we like him and that’s why he’s been so important for us over the last number of years or since we’ve been here,” said Dubas.

An Analytics Darling
Gardiner is a bona fide top-pairing defenceman by almost any measure, and that’s especially clear once you dive into stats beyond the box scores. He’s been known as a bit of an analytics darling during his entire career by those who are statistically inclined, and his 2018-19 season was no exception.

Goals Above Replacement (GAR) of NHL defencemen, 2018-19. Chart from
According to goals above replacement (GAR), an all-encompassing stat to evaluate skaters, Gardiner ranked 17th among defencemen in 2018-19. If we look at only even-strength impact, Gardiner ranked fifth.

Yes, with all the turnovers, blunders, bobbles, and miscues, Gardiner was still the fifth-best defenceman at even-strength last season. He does so many subtle yet effective things that tilt the ice in his team’s favour, which is why he’s a legitimate top-30 defender in the league. Like the Leafs’ general manager said: with high-skill players like Gardiner, you take the bad with the good, because the good heavily outweighs the bad.

Jake Gardiner vs. Morgan Rielly, 2016-2019. RAPM Chart from
This RAPM chart compares Gardiner and Rielly at even-strength over the past three seasons (2016-2019). There is a clear difference between the two players: Rielly is elite offensively but weak defensively, while Gardiner has positive impacts on both sides of the ice – especially on offence. For how good Rielly is in the offensive zone, he gives quite a bit back in his own end in both shots (Def_CF) and expected goals against (Def_xG). Meanwhile, Gardiner is a fantastic two-way defender who does everything well.

Microstats comparing Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, 2016-2019. Data from Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine), chart by CJ Turtoro (@CJDevil)
This chart uses “microstats” which involve manual tracking. It’s particularly valuable for player evaluation because it quantifies the subtle plays that viewers often miss. It breaks down contributions into four distinct categories: shot contributions, zone entries (at the offensive blue line), zone exits (at the defensive blue line), and entry defence (defending own blue line).

Once again, Rielly excels at offensive contributions and transitional play, but he’s poor when it comes to stifling the opposition at his own blue line. Gardiner is well above average at everything including defending his own blue line, which he normally often doesn’t get enough credit for.

All of this is not to take anything away from Rielly, who is an absolute stud. The point is to make you rethink how you evaluate players and in turn, reconsider who has really been the Leafs’ best defenceman over the past several seasons. It’s easy to focus on a costly turnover, but what a lot of viewers overlook are the dozens of subtle plays Gardiner makes – with and without the puck – to help his team win on any given night.

The Leafs’ Defence and Potential Replacements
With Gardiner’s imminent exit, the Leafs’ already questionable defence looks even worse. Igor Ozhiganov is going back to the KHL and unrestricted free agent Ron Hainsey won’t be re-signed if Dubas has his way. That leaves head coach Mike Babcock with Rielly, Zaitsev, Jake Muzzin, and Travis Dermott as his likely top-four.

Travis Dermott
Dermott seems like Toronto’s best bet to fill the void left by Gardiner’s absence. The 22-year old finished his first full NHL season with 17 points in 64 games played, mostly utilized in a sheltered third-pairing role. The Newmarket, Ontario native was generally impressive, with some occasional youthful mistakes. The important thing is that he’s demonstrated the tools – skating, passing, physicality, and hockey IQ – to be at least a top-four NHL defenceman. Whether he can take that next step sooner rather than later has yet to be seen, but he will probably be given more responsibility as soon as next season, once he returns from shoulder surgery.

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Andre Hal Jersey Retro

Inside the Texans’ practice bubble Monday, Andre Hal soaked up the old feeling of camaraderie.

Retired from the NFL since the spring when he said he had lost his passion to keep playing football, Hal visited the Texans with a Legends Community group for a life-after-football seminar.

Being back for the first time since he decided to walk away from the game, Hal doesn’t have any regrets. The lymphoma survivor’s health remains fine. If anything, watching his old teammates practice reinforced his decision to walk away with two years remaining on a $16.5 million contract with up to $7.5 million left to be earned.

After beating lymphoma and intercepting three passes last season for an AFC South division champion, Hal is excited about so many things.

“It’s great seeing the guys, all the guys, reminiscing,” Hal said. “It’s been great, it’s cool. I’m glad I came back. It kind of made sure I made the right decision. I came, seen it, ‘OK, I’m good, I don’t want to come back. and play.

“I think I miss the guys, the camaraderie. That’s the only thing I miss is hanging out with the guys.”

When Hal’s father, Andre Hal Sr., died from a heart attack in late October before his son’s first game back against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it took a major toll on the former Vanderbilt standout. It triggered emotions in him that led him to this major life decision.

Hal was ready to move on.

And he has. Hal enjoyed the Legends Community seminar and lunch with former teammates.

Next week, he begins pursuing his masters of business administration degree at the University of Houston.

“I’m excited about that MBA,” Hal said. “It’s a great goal. I got to keep on doing stuff. I was always that guy pushing to do stuff. That’s the next step in my life.”

Hal also is involved in real estate.

“I want to master that,” he said.

When Hal isn’t working on business, he’s working his body to remain fit. He loves to do yoga and he meditates every day. He also enjoys boxing.

“I do a lot of yoga, it taught me a lot about myself,” Hal said. “It opens your mind up. I love it. Meditating is part of my every-day routine.
Andre Hal Jersey Retro

“I’ll never fall off. It’s in me to have a good, healthy body. If you don’t, you’ll get sick. I work on my mental side, too.”

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Dwaine Board Jersey Retro

Franklin County High School graduate and former San Francisco 49ers standout Dwaine Board has been named one of 25 finalists for the 2019 class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame.

This is the second straight year that Board, who was an All-American defensive lineman at North Carolina A&T, has been chosen as a finalist.

He was selected by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 1979 NFL Draft. In 1993, he was inducted into the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference hall of fame. In 2010, he was named to the MEAC’s 40th anniversary team.

Board played in the NFL from 1979-88. He was a defensive end for three Super Bowl-winning teams with San Francisco.

Other finalists of note are former Virginia Union, Norfolk State, St. Paul’s and Virginia University of Lynchburg coach Williard Bailey; former Virginia Union and Hampton coach Joe Taylor; Nate Newton; Robert Mathis; Hugh Douglas; Emerson Boozer and Timmy Newsome.

The new class of five players and one coach will be announced on Oct. 25 and will be enshrined in February in Atlanta.

NCAA looking at more transfer rule changes

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA Division I Council has introduced legislation that would allow some athletes to transfer during the summer and be immediately eligible to play for a new school if there is a head coaching change before the first day of fall classes.

The NCAA announced Friday four new rules proposed by the council , which come less than two weeks before some previously passed transform reforms go into effect. The others would require schools to commit two years of financial aid for all graduate transfers, allow walk-ons to play immediately after transferring and prohibit athletes from competing for two different schools in the same academic year.

Ex-Rice player charged in death of lineman

HOUSTON — Prosecutors have charged a former Rice University football player with selling the drugs that a current player fatally overdosed on earlier this year.

Stuart Michael Mouchantaf, 25, was being held Friday in the Harris County jail in Houston on a charge of delivery of a controlled substance causing death.

Maryland isn’t sharing McNair practice video
Dwaine Board Jersey Retro

BALTIMORE — The University of Maryland

isn’t sharing surveillance footage of football player Jordan McNair’s final practice on May 29.

McNair died of heatstroke at the age of 19 . Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, the firm representing McNair’s family, received a letter from the university’s Office of General Counsel this week denying the firm’s request under the Maryland Public Information Act for “any and all video recordings” from surveillance cameras .

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Dick Leftridge Jersey Retro

The date is November 21, 1964. The location is Mountaineer Field, traditional home of the West Virginia Mountaineers football team since it was erected in the late 1920s. The ninth-ranked Syracuse Orangemen will brave the hostile environs of “the Jewel of the Mountains” with representatives from the Sugar Bowl in the stands ready to bestow an invitation to the prestigious postseason tilt to the visitors after the game.

Ben Schwartzwalder, a Mountaineer lineman in the 1930s, patrols the sidelines for Syracuse, commanding a powerful running attack led by the two-headed monster of Jim Nance and Floyd Little, a pair of backs who would each break 1000 scrimmage yards that season. For Gene Corum’s West Virginia offense, fullback Dick Leftridge, the first African-American football player for the Mountaineers, brings a bruising ground element to go with the aerial attack of quarterback Allen McCune.

The presence of the Sugar Bowl representatives, Dr. Fred Wolfe Jr. specifically, put some added malice behind what was quickly becoming a rivalry. The bowl committee had already selected Syracuse to travel to New Orleans and battle LSU with plans to formally invite Schwartzwalder’s team in the locker room after this game. The true problems stemmed from a press release distributed by Wolfe before the game which already listed the West Virginia match-up as a win for Syracuse.

With the Mountaineers determined to prove the Sugar Bowl committee wrong, offensive coordinator Galen Hall came out throwing. McCune, converted to quarterback from safety earlier in the season, thrived in the intermediate passing game meaning split end Bob Dunlevy, fullback Ron Colaw, and tight end Milt Clegg were set to see considerable action. His connection with Dunlevy served as a 17-yard fire starter on the opening drive before back-to-back completions to Colaw and Clegg drove the ball to the Syracuse one. A sneak for McCune scored on the next play and West Virginia led 7-0.

For the rest of the first half, it was all Nance and Little. The speedy Little got the Orangemen on the board on the very next drive, scampering into the end zone from six yards out but an unsuccessful point after momentarily left West Virginia in the lead. A few minutes later, it was the burly Nance who got in on the action with his first score of the day. A two-point conversion made up for the missed extra point, giving Syracuse a 14-7 lead.

The Mountaineer defense struggled to slow the rushing attack down and the next score for the visitors would hit a bit closer to home. Syracuse quarterback Walley Mahle made it a two score game with a one-yard touchdown run for a 21-7 lead. Mahle, from Flemington, WV just 40 miles away from Morgantown, was a three-year starter for the Orangemen and quarterbacked a pair of ranked finishes under the legendary Schwartzwalder.

Mahle’s score was the final points of the first half, leaving the lead at 21-7. However, a midgame weather shift would mix up the dynamics of the second half. With the temperature dropping down to 24 degrees and the winds whipping up to 15 miles per hour, both squads had to make adjustments for the final thirty minutes.

A key conversion from McCune to Clegg got the offense rolling as the signal caller made that the first of three consecutive completions with the latter two going to Dunlevy and fullback John Piscorik. Leftridge got in on the big play act, rushing for 11 yards on a draw before McCune took a bootleg for 20 yards inside the Syracuse ten. A snap later, Clegg came open in the back corner of the end zone and McCune found him, cutting the deficit to one score.

The game slowed to a halt offensively with multiple punts coming from both teams. Finally, the stalemate was broken by West Virginia’s Jim Mazzella who stepped in front of Mahle’s pass, swinging momentum in the Mountaineers’ favor. With the third quarter winding down, Clegg made three catches on the final three plays of the frame to spot the ball on the six-yard line. Leftridge bullied his way into the end zone on the second play of the fourth with West Virginia taking its first lead since the first quarter 22-21.

Trailing by just a point, Jim Nance put his team on his back. Toting the ball six times, Nance ran for 49 yards and capped off the ensuing drive with the go-ahead touchdown. Syracuse had just over seven minutes to hold on to a 27-22 lead and save face in front of the Sugar Bowl representatives.

On third-and-ten, the Mountaineer offense caught a break. At the West Virginia 33, McCune dropped to throw and let the ball go in the direction of Dunlevy. The ball was batted up into the air and was hauled in by Clegg who picked up 12 yards and a first down. After a run for no gain and a penalty against Syracuse, McCune went under center at the 50-yard line. Looking downfield, he saw Dunlevy streaking down the left sideline. Syracuse defender Terrell Roe had fallen down on the play, leaving the receiver wide open. Dunlevy caught McCune’s pass in stride at the 28 and sprinted into the end zone without being touched. The two-point conversion could not be completed, leaving West Virginia ahead 28-27 with 6:06 to play.

Nance and Little each took short runs but failed to make a big impact. However, it was Mahle again making a play, keeping the ball for 24 yards to extend the drive. The drive went all the way to West Virginia’s 23 where Mahle was replaced by passing specialist Rich King. On fourth-and-six, King completed a short pass but the receiver was cut down after just two yards, giving the Mountaineers the ball back.

West Virginia had a chance to ice the game after Piscorik and Leftridge picked up nine on two plays. However, a sneak for McCune came up short and a 33-yard punt gave Syracuse a chance at its own 39.

A loss of three on first down made Schwartzwalder go back to the air. A deep ball missed the mark on second down but Brad Clarke snagged King’s pass for a gain of six on third. On fourth-and-seven, Mazzulla made another huge play to break up a pass and West Virginia took over.
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With just 14 seconds left, McCune took a knee but was hit late by three Syracuse players. Both teams started throwing punches before both benches cleared. Hundreds of fans poured onto the field as well to add to the chaos. It took over five minutes for Syracuse to reach its locker room, but in the end, the Mountaineers were the victors.