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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.
Rod Rutledge Jersey Retro

“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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Swede Erickson Jersey Retro

CASPER, Wyo. — There is plenty of basketball skill in the Robertson family.

Kate Robertson is a senior member of the Natrona County High School Fillies basketball team. She has decided to play for the Casper College Lady Thunderbirds next year.

Her two older sisters and parents were at the Swede Erickson Gymnasium on Wednesday, Dec. 11 as Kate signed her commitment to play in front of a Casper crowd when she goes to college.

Kelly Walsh came so close last season that the stinging quarterfinal loss to Cheyenne East has followed the Trojans from Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym all the way to their home court. That 44-42 loss ended hope of clearing the hurdle and advancing to the semifinals.
Swede Erickson Jersey Retro

Instead, that hope has been passed along to this season with even more urgency.

The Trojans return three of their top five scorers from last season, including Danilynn Schell (12.0 per game) and Corin Carruth (8.8). They also have seniors Sarah Strube and Isabel Lyons, who played significant roles on the three-time state championship volleyball team in the fall. Add the big-minute potential of Rachel Schmucker, Jayla Johnson and Barrett Lloyd, and the stars may be aligning for the Trojans this season.

On paper, Kelly Walsh checks a lot of boxes. There’s strength in the paint between Carruth, Johnson and Schmucker, as well as athleticism on the outside with Schell, Strube, Lyons and Lloyd. Their offense struggled for consistency at times — shooting just 34.2 percent and averaging a middle-of-the-road 43.7 points — but their defense always came through.

Kelly Walsh led 4A last season by allowing just 36.0 points per game and holding opponents to under 30 percent (29.5) from the floor.

One of the Trojans’ glaring weaknesses last year came on the boards, finishing the year in the negative rebounding margins. Another bulletin board item this year is likely possession after the Trojans averaged 17.5 turnovers last season.

More than statistics, however, there’s that souring feeling from the quarterfinal loss. That final-moment loss kept Kelly Walsh from its first semifinal berth since 2009. A full decade later and the Trojans take the court with a full, talented senior class and the ambition of a first-round win.

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Cowboy Hill Jersey Retro

The Cowboys rebounded from a crushing loss in week 10 with a nice road win in week 11. Dak Prescott, again, balled out and carried the offense to another stellar offensive day, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns en route to putting up 35 points on the scoreboard. Prescott has performed like an MVP candidate this season, ranking at or near the top of nearly every single quarterback statistic available.

There is no denying that the passing game has been the biggest factor for the Cowboys this season — and the reason why the Cowboys rank first in the NFL in total offense. That said, Ezekiel Elliott reached the end zone twice: once on the ground and another on a screen pass. Zeke was held to just 2.8 yards per carry on 16 rushes though, as well as losing a fumble on the second offensive play of the game.

The Cowboys have given more opportunities to the only rookie that is making any kind of real impact this season: fourth-round rookie running back Tony Pollard. The Memphis Tigers product has shown flashes of being a factor as both a receiver and as a runner. Sunday was no different.

With Kellen Moore and Co. putting more on his plate, the rookie responded in a major way. Pollard only carried the rock twice for a total of 12 yards, but the Cowboys utilized the back through the passing game: four catches for 44 yards and one touchdown.

Blogging The Boys

@BloggingTheBoys
RT if you’ve been screaming for the Cowboys to use Tony Pollard like this all season

(via @dallascowboys)

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The Cowboys lined Pollard out wide as a receiver on a third-and-5 play early in the second quarter. Dak Prescott was able to find Pollard wide open on a crossing route over the middle, and the rookie did the rest as he hit paydirt and put the Cowboys in the lead.

Pollard’s usage in the game plan has been inconsistent from week-to-week, but it is clear that he has been a factor in Cowboys wins. As Jeff Cavanaugh tweeted out on Monday, the Cowboys are a perfect 6-0 when Pollard sees the field for at least 13 snaps. On the flip side, Dallas is 0-4 when Pollard plays less than that:

Jeff Cavanaugh

@JC1053
When Tony Pollard had snap counts of 22, 16, 23, 19, 13, 13 Cowboys win.

When Tony Pollard had snap counts of 2, 5, 7, 3 Cowboys lose.#math

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Pollard has seen his role change from being a runner (13 carries, 103 yards, one touchdowns versus the Miami Dolphins) to being a receiver out of the backfield (like his performance versus the Lions this past week). It is easy to see that Pollard offers versatility and adds another dimension to this offense.

Furthermore, the Cowboys go on the road to play the New England Patriots this week. It is no secret just how good the Patriots’ defense is, but there are some areas of weakness to attack — such as using two running back sets against their linebackers. Zeke should see the field a lot on Sunday, but there also needs to be a role for Pollard.

Sigmund Bloom
@SigmundBloom
ATTN Garrett and Moore: https://twitter.com/Marcus_Mosher/status/1196287340370694145 …

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Marcus Mosher

@Marcus_Mosher
Please give me more Tony Pollard touches.

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The others:
The fact of the matter is that the Cowboys 2019 draft class has been very underwhelming, especially when looking at the members outside of Pollard. For that reason, we are grouping the rest of the rookie class together.
Cowboy Hill Jersey Retro

Trysten Hill: The second-round selection has been a healthy scratch for the majority of his rookie campaign. That did not change versus Detroit.
Connor McGovern: The third-round offensive lineman was shut down for injury prior to the regular season.
Joe Jackson: The fifth-rounder out of Miami has made the active roster this season, but he was inactive on Sunday.
Donovan Wilson: The rookie safety out of Texas A&M saw some action versus the Lions with Jeff Heath sidelined with an injury. Wilson impressed during the preseason, but only saw the field for one defensive play versus the Lions. Detroit scored on that 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.

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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’.
Tomur Barnes Jersey Retro

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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Nate Dingle Jersey Retro

In spite of the damage he’s caused, Nate Robinson (Jurrell Carter) is determined to get to know his family in Emmerdale — a fact which has caused plenty of conflict among the Dingle clan — but, as he receives a last minute invite to celebrate the festive season with the family he never knew he had, will Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley) lose control? Nate has caused plenty of chaos since showing up in the village earlier this year.

Of course, his biggest sin remains the steamy affair he had with Moira (Natalie J Robb), and it later came to light that his motives in sleeping with the farmer was to antagonise Cain — who was revealed to be none other than Nate’s biological dad. After realising all of the anger he had for Cain was built on lies, Nate tried to make amends but the damage had been done — and Cain has made his stance incredibly clear: he wants nothing to do with him. ADVERTISEMENT In spite of this, Belle (Eden-Taylor Draper) and Sam (James Hooton) have shown Nate their support — as has Charity (Emma Atkins) — which has resulted in Cain voicing his feelings, berating his family for siding with the enemy. In the coming episodes, the festive season arrives, and Nate’s upset at the thought of being excluded from the celebrations as the Dingle clan discuss their plans for the big day.
Nate Dingle Jersey Retro

However, Nate later receives a last-minute invite to join them for the festivities. The big question is, of course, how will Cain react? Nate single-handedly destroyed his life, which is why he can’t stand to be in the same room as him, so he’ll no doubt be angry to discover that his own family have invited him to Christmas dinner.

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Wendell Davis Jersey Retro

BATON ROUGE – LSU passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach Joe Brady has been named the winner of the Broyles Award, which is presented to the top assistant coach in college football, the Frank and Barbara Broyles Foundation announced Tuesday in Little Rock, Ark.

Brady becomes LSU’s second winner of the Broyles Award, joining John Chavis who won the award as the Tiger defensive coordinator in 2011. Brady is also the first Broyles Award winner with a title other than offensive or defensive coordinator.

Brady, in his first year with the Tigers after spending two seasons on the New Orleans Saints staff, and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger have transformed the LSU offense into the most explosive unit in college football. The Tigers are averaging a school-record 47.8 points per game. The Tigers led the nation in total offense (554.3 yards per game) and rank No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 nationally in passing offense (386.8).

“This award should say Joe Brady/Steve Ensminger,” Brady said on Tuesday in Little Rock. “I’m only at LSU because of Steve Ensminger. I’ll never forget that … There is not a greater person to work for than Steve Ensminger and there is not a greater person that cares more about LSU and the success of this program. He doesn’t want to take credit for anything. I’m so grateful for Steve, and I hope to be him one day.”

Overall, LSU’s offense racked up a school-record 621 points, scoring 50 or more points six times and going over the 40-point mark a record 10 times. Only one time all year was LSU held below 30 points.

In 13 games, the LSU offense cracked the 500-yard mark 10 times, which included 714 yards in a win over Ole Miss, the most yards ever recorded by a team in a game against another SEC opponent.

The Tigers also set school marks for passing yards in a season (5,029), passing touchdowns (49), and total offense (7,206).

Individually, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow – one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy – has re-written the school record books as he’s the first quarterback in SEC history to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 TDs in a season. Burrow broke the SEC record for passing yards in a season with 4,715 and touchdowns with 48. He currently leads the nation in passing TDs and ranks No. 2 in the country in passing yards.

Burrow was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Year on Monday by the Associated Press becoming the first Tiger to claim the honor since wide receiver Wendell Davis won the honor in 1987.
Wendell Davis Jersey Retro

Burrow, along with running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, represent the first group of players from the same team to have a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season in SEC history.

Chase is one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award (Nation’s Best Receiver). Chase tied the SEC record for touchdown receptions this year with 18. He currently leads the nation in TD receptions, receiving yards (1,498) and yards per game (124.8).

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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.”

Questions
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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Warren Livingston Jersey Retro

It’s an easy thing to say you’re moving on past a tough football loss, but it’s another thing to actually succeed in doing it.

That’s especially so when the loss is 54-0 to an intense neighborhood rival, as Warren Hills’ opening setback to Phillipsburg was.

It was the kind of defeat that could have ruined a whole season, or at least a few weeks — but the Blue Streaks didn’t let it happen.

Senior captain Jake Smith and his teammates wouldn’t let it.

“What we did was like what we did after the Summit game last season (when the Streaks fell to 0-3 after a thumping by Summit),” Smith said. “We had to focus on what was next. We knew (the Phillipsburg loss) happened, and we had to take that game off our shoulders and move on to Governor Livingston. We did, and we won.”

A 24-6 defeat of the Highlanders proved an excellent reversal of form for Warren Hills, which now has some momentum heading into Friday’s Mid-State 38 crossover game against another local rival, North Hunterdon, in the renewal of the “Route 31 rivalry” at North’s Singley Field.

Blue Streaks coach George DiGrande knew he could count on Smith, one of the very few returning starters on his green-as-a-forest-in-June team, to deliver the kind of mental turnaround the squad needed.

“Jake is a passionate leader and vocal supporter (of his teammates),” DiGrande said. “An an old-school, throwback player, tough and physical.”

That last trait came in very handy against Governor Livingston.

“The difference between the Phillipsburg and Governor Livingston games was our physicality,” Smith said. “It was a lot better than it was against Phillipsburg. Not just on defense, but up front on offense, too. We felt much better, much more physical, for the entire game.”

The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Smith was a large part of the extra-physical play in the win.

“Jake sets the edge well on defense and can get upfield to rush the quarterback,” DiGrande said. “He is a stalwart at defensive end. Against Governor Livingston he had a crunching sack and fumble that (we) recovered.”

Jake Smith
Courtesy photo

Warren Hills’ Jake Smith sacks Governor Livingston quarterback Victor Chait, forcing a fumble, in Saturday’s 24-6 Blue Streak win.

Smith plays defensive end and tight end, after a short stay at offensive tackle earlier this season. He’s the sole returning Blue Streaks starter on offense and just one of two on defense.

While DiGrande liked Smith at tackle, he likes what Smith does at tight end even more.

“His skills allow us to use him in different ways at tight end, inside, in motion, and out wide,” DiGrande said. “Jake has good hands and blocking ability.”

The Blue Streaks had 254 total yards on offense against the Highlanders, 213 on the ground (177 by sophomore running back Jon Lainez), a considerable improvement from the sub-50 yardage against Phillipsburg. But Smith thinks there is even more in the tank.

“We did a good job on offense Saturday,” Smith said. “But I think we can play even better. I think I can play even better.”

Where the Blue Streaks may have improved the most is on defense, where they held Governor Livingston to one touchdown and had five takeaways.

“We were able to get a lot of pressure against the quarterback,” said Smith, who had 10 tackles against the Highlanders. “We were definitely stronger than their offensive line. We stopped their running game. (Defensive coordinator) Tony Frey put in a really good play against their single wing.”

Single wing? That old classic of an offense is rarely seen these days, but it can drive defenses crazy with misdirection and confusion. To be able to contain a single wing speaks wonders about the mental discipline and physical adaptability of the Warren Hills defense.

Now, Smith and the Blue Streaks must try and contain a North Hunterdon team that, like them, suffered a tough opening loss and bounced back strongly with a 20-0 defeat of Immaculata. The Lions piled up 309 yards rushing in the win.

“Defensively, we need to contain the run game within the tackles and stop the short pass game,” DiGrande said. “Reducing self-inflicted errors and turnovers will give us an opportunity to win in a hostile, loud environment.”
Warren Livingston Jersey Retro

That’s fine with Smith, who well remembers a thrilling last-minute 36-33 win over the Lions in 2018 in front of a rocking house at Warren Hills.

“That was a good time, and it will be another full atmosphere at North Hunterdon,” Smith said. “We just have to keep working hard and getting better.”

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Trevon Wesco Jersey Retro

BALTIMORE — New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold won’t have his top red zone threat for the remainder of the season, as tight end Ryan Griffin was placed on injured reserve Thursday before their game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Griffin already had been ruled out after suffering an ankle injury last Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. His roster spot was filled by backup offensive lineman Brent Qvale, who was activated from IR.

The Jets (5-8), who have 15 players on IR, needed another body to dress for the game because they had only 45 healthy players.

Griffin was one of the pleasant surprises this season and was rewarded recently with a three-year, $9.6 million contract extension.

Signed on the eve of training camp, Griffin leads the team with five touchdown catches, including four in the red zone. He finishes the season with 34 catches for 320 yards.
Trevon Wesco Jersey Retro

The Jets are down to two tight ends, Daniel Brown and rookie Trevon Wesco. They also will be without wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (knee) and running back Bilal Powell (ankle) on offense, with safety Jamal Adams (ankle) and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (neck) likely to sit out on defense.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.