By Eric Woodyard

There were many questions for the Detroit Pistons heading into this Monday’s media day.

Could they adjust to addition of Tracy McGrady? Will they be able to stay healthy? How can they turn around a losing season? Are Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince on the trading block?

None was bigger than Rodney Stuckey’s comments he made about the franchise this off-season.

“Last year was tough. We were inconsistent. There was no chemistry. We all just have to stay healthy and the sky is the limit for us. On paper, we are the best team in the League.” Rodney Stuckey said to Dime magazine earlier this month. “We are deep and athletic. All we have to do is play to our abilities. We don’t have the biggest roster, but if we share the ball, we’ll be alright.”

To most basketball fans, this had to be a joke. Everyone wondered how did Stuckey believe that a team who had won just 32 percent of their games last season, with an overall record of 27-55, could somehow be the best team this year? When put under pressure from the various media outlets at the event, Stuckey somewhat cleared up his statements.

“That was inaccurate, he kind of wrote it down wrong. I told him that we were one of the best, not the best team and we are,” Stuckey said at the Pistons’ media day. “I believe in my team, I believe that we are very athletic, we have a lot of great players on the team and I think if we could put it together and work as one then we will be pretty good. I know the Eastern Conference is tough now but I think that if we all stay healthy the sky is the limit for this team.”

The newfound confidence comes from a lighter, faster, and quicker, Rodney Stuckey who claims to have lost 10 pounds this off-season. With four years experience and the green light from his team and coaching staff, this could be the year that Stuckey emerges as one of the best young talents in the league at the lead guard position.

He gave fans a glimpse of what he was capable of last year when he averaged a career-high, 16.6 points per game, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. This year he looks to take it up a notch further.

“I’m gonna be a lot more vocal this year, it’s just in my nature and it’s just my time to take over this team and just to be that vocal person and also just to lead on the court,” Stuckey added. “It starts in practice though and each and every day I gotta come out and work and show that I’m here to get better each and every day and once I do that in practice than it’s gonna lead into games.”

The Detroit Pistons may not be the best team in the league but they will have the best Rodney Stuckey that they could possibly have. He’s got the juice now.

*This post can also be viewed in the Western Herald!

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SLAM reporter, Eric Woodyard gives viewers a glimpse of what it’s like in Auburn Hills, Michigan as the Detroit Pistons host their annual “Media Day” on Monday, September 27, 2010. Woodyard interviews Tracy McGrady & Rip Hamilton on their shoes for this season, Ben Gordon on his off-season, and Will Bynum on his growth as a player.

*This post can also be viewed on SLAMonline.com!

By Eric Woodyard

There was a buzz heading into last week’s Detroit Lions game. Not from the Lions, but because who would be starting at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

This quarterback hadn’t started since 2006, lost all endorsements and money, and was forced to do a 18-month stint in the Big House. Despite his long absence from that starting role, both players and fans knew what he was capable of:

  • Excitement
  • Electricity
  • Explosion

“The Michael Vick” experience is what Nike dubbed it!

Remember that commercial? A young, chipper, black kid with cornrows boarded a rollercoaster. He was strapped in the typical orange roller coaster harness, but on top of that he was given a pair of crispy, black/red, Nike Air Zoom Vick 2’s and a shiny Atlanta Falcons helmet before being smacked in the head by the worker and told to “enjoy the ride.” The ride seemed cool and the kid was prepared as a virtual Michael Vick gave him all of the precautions to take before entering the field. Then it was game time and the kid was dropped off in the middle of the field. His mood immediately changed when the Falcons’ center hiked him the ball and he was forced to live in the shoes of Vick for just one play. The ride made the kid participate in a series of jukes and fakes before running into the end zone for a touchdown in the end. In this commercial, Nike was able to capture the essence of Michael Vick at his best.

For three years, football has missed this. By “this,” I mean Michael Vick. The act of watching Michael Vick on his job was nothing like watching any other quarterback perform, it truly was an experience. From his throwing hand to his speed to his on-field swagger. Vick represented the streets. He was Allen Iverson on a football field.

Against the Detroit Lions this past Sunday, Vick brought that excitement back to the sport. It was his first start in four years and it didn’t look like he had missed a beat as he picked the Lions defense apart, throwing for 284 yards and two touchdowns while completing 21 of his 34 passes. Vick also rushed for another 37 yards, showing that he still can do damage with his foot speed when put in that predicament. He led the Eagles to a 35-32 victory, giving Lions fans a first glimpse of this year’s experience. 

When the season began, who would have imagined that we would be talking about Vick in this light? He was supposed to be the second-string quarter back. This was Kevin Kolb’s team right? Vick was also involved yet another incident before this season began, this time in a confrontation after his 30th birthday party concluded and everyone immediately wanted to right him off the radar. His head coach, Andy Reid, still insisted that Kolb would return to his starting role even after Vick’s magnificent performance in Ford Field. Then this happened. Michael Vick is named the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles as they travel to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars this Sunday. What are we suppose to make of this? I know…we’re supposed to embrace this, rejoice, and be thankful. This is what football needs. I hope everyone is ready for “The Michael Vick Experience.”

*This post can also be viewed on the Western Herald’s website!

*A visual collection of the work from sports reporter, Eric Woodyard during his stint at several different internships. Woodyard’s video resume includes a series of packages and stand-ups covering college basketball, pro baseball, pro football and pro basketball.

By Sue Ellen Christian

A School of Communication student fielded questions from local grade schoolers as part of the children’s Career Day assembly on Jan. 28, 2010. Journalism major Eric J. Woodyard from Flint, Mich., spoke to the school-wide assembly about what life as a WMU Bronco is like. The students had watched a 12-minute video prepared by Associate Prof. of Journalism Sue Ellen Christian that featured Woodyard talking about what made college worthwhile and fun. The purpose of Career Day was to inspire elementary students in this elementary, which is part of the Kalamazoo Public School system and just a mile from WMU, to be “college ready.” With Woodyard is Winchell Principal Michael Hughes, who emphasized the uniqueness and value of the Kalamazoo Promise, the scholarship of up to 100 percent of tuition at any of Michigan’s state colleges or universities, including WMU. Students asked Woodyard a variety of questions, such as whether his homework was hard, how manyclasses he could take during one semester, and what happened if he was late for class.
 
Here are the Photos:

*Sports Reporter, Eric Woodyard, showcases his talents in front of the camera as he participates in a mock sports anchor segment at the Channel 3 newsroom in Kalamazoo, Michigan during his internship.

Lions at Bears, Week 1 Recap

September 13, 2010

By Eric Woodyard

CHICAGO–With 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Detroit Lions quarterback Shaun Hill controlled the team’s destiny. After receiving the hike he rolled out of the pocket confidently with his team trailing by five points. Looking deep he found the team’s primary target, Calvin Johnson, with his man beat so he let the ball fly in the air. In perfect rhythm, Johnson met the ball in the end zone with a soaring leap over his defender, catching the ball for a touchdown. Immediately after the catch, Johnson ran off the field celebrating with great satisfaction. The Lions win their first road game in three years!

Perfect ending right? This was too good to be true. Fate would turn out to be the Lions’ worst enemy as Johnson’s game-winning reception was ruled as an incomplete pass by officials even after a review. The Lions lose.

Losing and Detroit Lions football games have become synonymous with one another for the past two seasons. Although the season may have changed, the results remain the same.

The Lions lost their season-opener on the road at Soldier Field on Sunday evening to the Chicago Bears, 19-14, in front of 59, 281 rowdy fans. They also lost their starting quarterback, Matthew Stafford, from a shoulder injury at the end of the first half. Despite all of these unpleasant hurdles, the team made no excuses.

“It always hurts to lose especially like that but there were other situations in the game that we should have took advantage of but it still hurts,” Johnson said. “No doubt it’s frustrating but like I said, I will say it again and again…we gotta move past it. We can’t do nothing about the call (and) I’m not saying nothing about the referees or nothing like that but it is what it is.”

Johnson ended the game with four catches for only 45 yards. Second string quarterback, Shaun Hill, was forced to step in for Stafford as he connected on only nine of his 19 passing attempts and also threw an interception with zero touchdowns. It is unclear whether or not Stafford will return for Week 2 at this point.

Stafford left the game with a right shoulder injury after being pummeled by Julius Peppers late in the first half. After the sack, he fell to the turf and stayed down for a few moments before he could recuperate. Not being able to shake off the big hit, he wouldn’t return for the remainder of the game.

“It was significant enough that there was no consideration to put him back in the game so we will just see how long he will be,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said.

The running attack didn’t step up for Detroit either as rookie running back, Jahvid Best, led the way with 20 yards on 14 carries. Best did do something unique though. He managed to score two touchdowns and become the first rookie running back to score two touchdowns in his debut since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2001.

“They definitely did a good job today but it was an alright first game but I’m not happy with anything,” Best said. “We put this loss on ourselves so we just gotta refocus and learn from these mistakes today and not make them again.”

In spite of the meager offensive effort, the Lions defense played relatively solid. They forced the Bears to turn the ball over four times. Prior to the game, there was a concern about the groin of the Lions’ safety, Louis Delmas, but it didn’t bother him one bit once the bright lights tanned his skin. Delmas had 8 tackles.

“Turnovers create wins obviously and we got four turnovers but we needed to get two more and if we would’ve got six then we probably would’ve won,” Delmas said. “On defense that’s our mentality, the more turnovers you get, the more chances we got to win and obviously we didn’t get enough.”

Regardless of the Lions defensive triumphs, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was still able to pick the team apart. Cutler threw for 372 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He connected on 23 of his 25 attempts.

None of his completions was any bigger than his pass that hit Matt Forte in the deep left corner for a late 28-yard touchdown at the 1:32 mark of the final quarter. After trailing for almost the entire game, this possession put the Bears up 19-14 and turned out to be the game-winning play.

Matt Forte ended as the game’s as the top rusher and receiver. On 17 carries, he gained 50 yards and on 7 receptions, he gained 151 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also had two fumbles.

The Detroit Lions will pick back up action next Sunday as they host the Philadelphia Eagles for their home opener at Ford Field. The game will begin at 1 p.m.

*This post can also be viewed on the Western Herald’s website!

There’s a reason Cincinnati Bengals’ wide receiver, Chad Ochocinco, thinks so highly of a certain Detroit Lions player entering his second season in the NFL.

There’s a reason he described him as a “safety who will be one of the best hands down with hella swagg.” There’s also a reason he posted this on his Twitter page in mid-August:

“#Onmymoma I guarantee Louis Delmas will be one of the best to play the game at safety, he brings a different style to the position.”

The reason is Louis Delmas. When the Lions took on the Bengals in week 13 last season, although Ochocinco hauled in nine catches for a season-high 137 yards and a touchdown, Delmas impressed him.

“All week (Ochocinco) was ripping and raving, telling me I gotta sit down because I’m a rookie and telling me that I need to be in my place and putting out these little jokes about Detroit Lions football,” Delmas said.

“So I was just ready to get out there and play against him and I told myself ‘the minute he put his hands out there and try to catch that ball and I’m in his area? I’m gonna try my hardest to lay him out!’ So when he caught the ball and started running, I just seen my opportunity and I was like ‘I’m taking this one.’ So that was the most fulfilling hit,” Delmas added.

In his rookie season, the former Western Michigan University Bronco gave Lions fans big plays all year.

Delmas became the first rookie in league history and second player ever to score on an interception return, fumble return and a safety in one season.

He also registered 79 tackles (54 solo) and scored more defensive points than any rookie in 2009.

Still, his only individual accolade would come early in the season when he won September’s Rookie Defensive Player of the Month Award.

Despite all Delmas’ amazing efforts, the Houston Texans’ linebacker, Brian Cushing, almost unanimously ran away the Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy with 39 votes.

Delmas received zero.

The runner-up was Buffalo’s safety Jairus Byrd who was second with six votes. Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews received three votes and Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo got two votes according to a nation-wide panel of 50 sports writers.

Delmas didn’t make the Pro-Bowl, even as an alternate. This lack of respect for his talents serves as motivation for him this season.

“I think it’s not my opinion that counts so I’m not the one throwing in votes and I’m not the one picking myself to go to the Pro-Bowl. It’s up to everybody else so obviously I didn’t prove to a lot of people that I could be a Pro-Bowl type Safety so of course that bugged me a little bit,” Delmas said.

“I thought I did OK, not great so this off-season I had one thing in mind. Actually a couple days after my last game, I had one thing in mind and that’s to be the best Safety in the NFL. That’s been my goal since day one and I’m gonna keep trying to achieve my goal.”

With his fearless hitting tactics and complete skill set, all signs point to stardom for the Florida native.

*This post can also be viewed on westernherald.com!