Brandon Carr (39) of the Kansas City Chiefs has become one of the top young corners in the NFL.

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — For 15 days, the National Football League has experienced an official shutdown. Professional football is out of action for the first time since 1987 as a nasty lockout lingers over the organization.

At the moment, there’s no guarantee that the 2012 season will begin in September as players and owners dispute back-and-forth with labor talks.

Coming off his third year as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, former Carman-Ainsworth standout Brandon Carr was prepared for this moment. The cornerback has been keeping a watchful eye on the situation.

“I’m on it every day,” Carr said of the lockout. “Some days are better than others but I have faith in our representatives and in our player’s union that they’re going to get the deal done and finish this up.

“All I can do right now is take care of my body and focus on the upcoming season.”

Carr is currently a restricted free agent.

Earlier this month, the Chiefs put a contract tender on the 24-year-old, which means if another team decides to sign Carr than they will have to hand over a first-round draft pick to the franchise. In 2010, Carr started all 16 games and gathered a total of 57 tackles — 46 solo, 11 assisted — including an interception in a week 16 win over the Tennessee Titans.

The Flint native also led the league in passes defended with 25. A “pass defended” takes place when any pass that a defender — through contact with the football — causes to be incomplete.

After experiencing so much success last season, Carr hopes the Chiefs, who won the AFC West Championship in 2010 after finishing 10-6, can continue to make leaps of progress.

“Of course I’m hoping to get back on the field but it’s always a business side to it. We don’t want to take a pay cut, we don’t want to work for free,” Carr said. “The NFL is not for long, you got so many years to get what you have to get and then you have to live the rest of your life with that money opposed to the person that’s a doctor or lawyer.”

With so many outside forces fighting for his attention, Carr is trying to clear his mind by making a difference in his community. On June 24, Carr hopes to get away from pro football as he hosts his first annual 7-on-7 shootout at Carman-Ainsworth High School. This event will give the area high school teams an opportunity to come out and sharpen their skills in the offseason against stiff competition with hopes of beginning the regular season on a high note.

“It’s an idea that I got from one of my teammates, Brandon Flowers, when I went to his camp last year and he held a 7-on-7,” Carr said. “I could have done a one or two-day camp but I just felt like in order for teams to get better as a whole than they should play together.”

He will also anchor his third annual golf outing. The “Brandon Carr Golf Scramble” will be held on Saturday, June 25. During this time of uncertainty in regards to his professional endeavors, those close to him try to keep him in a positive mindset.

“With everything going on, all the positive things that he is doing now — (like) giving back — that just makes me proud,” Carr’s older cousin/consultant, Terrance Robinson said. “I make sure he keeps his head on straight, I told him don’t worry about what’s going on with the lockout or what teams they’re talking about but just to prepare yourself.”

As Carr awaits for his next career move, with the lockout in full throttle, he’s continuing to spend every dollar wisely.

For more information on Carr’s upcoming events please contact Tawana Branch at (810) 210-6929 or via email (asportsmom@comcast.net).

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Western Michigan's Jamarko Simmons, left, catches a pass in front of Iowa defender Bradley Fletcher during the second half of their college football game, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007, in Iowa City, Iowa. Western Michigan won 28-19.

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — The odds of earning a spot on a pro football roster seemed to be slim and none for JaMarko Simmons.

For four months, he worked tirelessly at the Security Packaging company on South Dort Highway trying to pay his bills as well as provide for his two-year-old son, Jaylen.

Simmons’ days as a All-American wide receiver starring on Western Michigan University’s football team were a distant memory. Instead of catching passes he “provided exceptional packaging products” to the company’s valued customers.

“I was seeing how this 9-5 thing was and it wasn’t for me,” Simmons said. “It was definitely a wake up call.”

Things quickly changed with one conversation in mid-October. The Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League needed a physical wideout and offered Simmons a spot on the team. Without thinking, Simmons accepted.

“I was real excited about it,” Simmons said. “I got a second chance at it (and) a second chance at everything as injury free and really being able to show my talents.”

At WMU, Simmons was a four-year starter and became the first receiver in the program’s history to catch more than 100 passes in a season. He also broke the record for career receptions (260), passing Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings in the process.

After graduating in 2008, Simmons signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent but was hampered by a herniated disc in his back and didn’t make the final cut. The New Orleans Saints granted him another tryout but this would fall through. He then had plans on playing in the UFL but a fracture in his foot put his career at a standstill.

For a player who had never dealt with any major injuries all throughout his college tenure, Simmons often found himself frustrated and emotionally damaged. Being injured reminded him just how much he loved the game. When things seemed to be falling apart, he decided to rededicate himself to the sport.

He reached out to his former high school track coach at Flint Central, Carlos Benton, to help get back to the basics.

Simmons trained with Benton at Grand Blanc high school for close to two months before heading off to Jacksonville for the start of training camp with the Sharks last weekend. They met up for four sessions per week, which lasted nearly three hours to work on his flexibility, quickness, speed, cardio and agility. Simmons also participated in his own weight lifting regimen on top of their encounters.

Benton was highly impressed with the drive of his young protege.

“When we first started working out he wasn’t in shape but had the work ethics of it but as we’ve been working out he’s been getting very comfortable,” said Benton, who is now the girls cross country coach at Grand Blanc. “I can see the maturity from high school to college and I would be very shocked if he didn’t make it.”

Before he can make it back to the NFL, Simmons believes he has to crawl before he walks and this opportunity may be a stepping stone for the next level.

“I’m going to give it all I got. I still got a whole lot in the tank, a whole lot to give and it’s just one day at a time,” Simmons said. “My ultimate goal is to make it back to the league in 2011-2012 (and) hopefully it’s not a lockout and I can show what I got.”

While his sights may be set on the NFL, Simmons has to emerge as a star in the AFL first.

The rookie will get his chance when the Sharks take on the Arizona Rattlers on March 12 to kick off their five-month season.

“He better be very serious because if he’s not then he’s not going to make it,” Jacksonville Sharks head coach, Les Moss said. “These guys in this league are very good football players and he’s gonna be challenged every bit as much as he’s been challenged anywhere he’s been.”

Jamarko Simmons stands at a ramp that leads into the seating at Waldo Stadium at Western Michigan.

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — One sign changed everything.

It overlooks West 12th Street, underneath the Southwestern Academy logo,  and represents a historiic mark. Mark Ingram that is.

The sign reads: “Home of Mark Ingram II 2009 Heisman Trophy winner.”

This set the bar for all aspiring football players attending Southwestern.
Senior wide receiver, Kendrick Roberts was no exception. When Roberts inked his name on the dotted line last week to attend Western Michigan University on a football scholarship this fall, of course Ingram came to mind.

What Roberts didn’t realize is that he’s also following the footsteps of another great wide receiver from Flint who had a great career sporting the Brown & Gold in Kalamazoo as well, JaMarko Simmons.

W_MICHIGAN_FLORIDA_ST_F(2).jpg

Simmons was a graduate of Central High School in 2004 and a four-year starter at WMU. Simmons left in 2008 as the university’s career leader in receptions (260) and the single season record holder in receptions (104) and receiving yards (1,267).

His no. 27 jersey still hangs in the rafters of Waldo Stadium next to all of the other All-Americans that have have battled on the field for the Broncos.

“Everytime I go up there they show me all the banners with all the All-Americans up there so they always tell me I got big shoes to fill,” Roberts said. “Pretty much going up there I just want to be able to fulfill their shoes, do better than they did, and break their records.”

Simmons, 24, is humbled that he is now mentioned with the greats from his university.
“It’s an honor and hopefully Kendrick can go down there and keep that legacy going,” Simmons added.

In October, Simmons signed a contract to play for the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League (AFL). The Sharks start training camp this weekend with their first game on Feb. 28 against the Tampa Bay Storm.

If Roberts wants to replace Simmons’ name in the record books it will be no easy task.
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Simmons was twice named to the First Team All-Mid-American Conference squad and received All-American nods from both Sports Illustrated and Phil Steele’s College Football. Nonetheless, the staff at WMU likes Roberts’ chances of surpassing the former standout.

“He’s probably a little faster than JaMarko (but) if he has the career JaMarko had we would all be happy,” WMU head coach Bill Cubit said. “I thought JaMarko was a great player here and we’re really excited about Kendrick here. I think he has all the attributes to be a great one.”

KENDRICK ROBERTS_04.JPG

In high school, Roberts usually dominated his peers effortlessly. As a junior, he amassed over 1,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Despite hitting the injury bug in his senior year after breaking his hand, Roberts still hauled in 736 yards while scoring eight touchdowns. As Roberts makes the transition to the next level, he will have to raise his play to meet the standards of stiffer competition. Nobody can break down the journey better than Simmons.

“It’s going to be a good experience for him. I talked to coach and he was like he’s a real good player,” Simmons confirmed. “He said he reminded him of me coming out of Flint and we was joking along and he was like, ‘You can only handle only a couple of them from Flint.’ But he was saying he’s a real good kid and he looks forward to putting him on the field real soon.”

Roberts will have to take care of business in the classroom as well as adapt to plays rather quickly if he plans to carry on the tradition of Flint athletes succeeding at WMU. The Broncos have no doubt that Roberts will prevail.

“He’s big, he’s fierce, he can catch and he’s a great kid. He’s got all the intangibles and we love him here,” Cubit said. “He’s an outstanding kid with unlimited potential.”

Andre Rison Unplugged

February 8, 2011

I’m not good at predicting, I ‘m like good at almost knowing though.

You’ve got two great teams about to play. A great defense on both sides of the ball. Then you got Green Bay’s quarterback but the only thing is one quarterback has already won two Super Bowls and a MVP so Pittsburgh gets the nod on offense but I think Green Bay has the most talent on offense. Then when you look at the defensive side of the ball you got great players who have been great players for quite some time now on Pittsburgh’s defense with (Troy) Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley and those guys and (James) Harrison. They’ve been there, they’ve done it before, they’ve won it all before, so the experience really lies on Pittsburgh’s defense again so they get the check on offense and defense but if you check the Vegas lines, I think they might have Green Bay maybe with the slight edge.

They say that because how hot Aaron Rodgers has been so just because how hot he’s been all throughout the playoffs and that they played all them tough games on the road. It’s gon be nothing for those guys to go out in Dallas and play like they’ve been playing and he’s got a great cast and one of my best friends personally, which is Charles Woodson.

Also, I have great ties with the head coach (Mike McCarthy). Coach was an assistant at the Kansas City Chiefs and I actually made the Pro Bowl and he ran the scout team when I was with the Chiefs  so I used to always rag on him and tell him I was on the scout team just to stay in shape once the season started so him and I got real close. In that particular year we happened to have a good record in football you know I went to the Pro Bowl that year so I flew him and his fiance out to Hawaii to the Pro Bowl and we became best of friends while I was in Kansas City so I’m very happy and proud of him as a coach and a friend to see him get his opportunity in the Super Bowl especially this year with all the great coaches that have coached Green Bay. Just for his name to be affiliated with them is a great accomplishment and achievement.

Both teams have a lot of great tradition. The Rooney’s, they set the bar and the standards for owners and ownership. When it comes to class, they’ve always been a classy organization. I can recall one time on draft day, they were on the line calling me and half of the staff wanted me and half of the staff wanted Tim Worley but I was almost there.

I also played for the defensive coordinator of the Steel Curtains. I’ve always been a Pittsburgh fan then on top of it I go to Green Bay and win the Super Bowl in Green Bay for Green Bay so I my heart is leaning towards Green Bay.

It will be great to see a great game, nobody hurt and the best team win. On that day, Super Bowl Sunday,  I’m gonna be real with you who ever commits the least turnovers is gonna win the game. You got two guys that like to take the chances but I know a lot of people that dont really know the game inside and out really dont understand how important a center is especially going into a game of this magnitude. I know how critical a center is because he has to make all the calls and he has to take his snaps pretty much all year with the quarterback so that could come into play.

There’s a lot that could come into play. Both have great special teams but I’m also close to Greg Jennings, who’s a close friend of mine. He’s like a little brother of mine. He’s had a outstanding career. I’m very proud of him but if I had to put a thumb on it and tell you the reasons why Green Bay will win the game I would have to say it’s because of the secondary.

I think their secondary matches up better with Pittsburgh’s receivers as opposed of Pittsburgh’s defensive secondary matching up with Jennings and (Donald) Driver. Then you got the running backs coming through there like the young boy James Starks. The young boy Starks can present problems.

Green Bay has been able to run the ball on pretty much everybody. I haven’t seen nobody stop the run game because they’re good at the screen game so it’s gonna be like one of those New England/Green Bay type of games in Super Bowl XXXI.

It’s totally different than the regular season. Playoffs are different than the regular season and then NFC championship games are different from the playoff games that you played in and then the Super Bowl is different than all of them. I mean, you’re talking about a once in a lifetime chance to actually play in front of not only millions of fans but also all of your peers.

We don’t get a chance to watch each other play too much, not unless we see each other on film or we see some highlights. But you know you got everybody that’s involved in the National Football League as a player, as a past player, as alumni, everybody’s glued to that game and that’s your chance where you get to lay it all on the line, and one chance where you can change your whole football career just in that one game.

I seen Desmond Howard change the game from a special teams standpoint and become Super Bowl MVP (over) myself over Brett Favre over Reggie White. A special teams guy won it and he changed the game.

(I enjoy) the longevity of people remembering that you played in it. I can’t go no where in the country right now and when people see me or talk to me they bring up the Super Bowl. The fact that I played with Brett Favre and I caught the first touchdown in the Super Bowl. I caught the first touchdown in the Super Bowl, first pass of the game from Brett Favre. That right there, knowing that one day I will have to answer to God’s call in battle’s field and be in the databank of the game of football I believe that probably was the wildest thing that I’ve grasped so far from the Super Bowl.

You never forget the memories and the teammates that you played with, those are always your friends. I gotta have it 28-14, Green Bay. Outside of this, this the last prediction I got until we play Flint Beecher again.

As told to Eric Woodyard of the Flint Journal


By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

FLINT, Michigan — Flint Northwestern graduate Andre “Bad Moon” Rison has never been one to mince his words. The former-NFL wide receiver doesn’t plan on starting now.

As we approach the brink of Super Bowl XLV, Rison didn’t foreshadow the game’s conclusion; his insight leads him to believe he knows the answer.

“I’m not good at predicting, I ‘m like good at almost knowing though,” Rison declared. “I gotta have it 28-14, Green Bay.”

As the Green Bay Packers prepare to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Cowboys Stadium this evening, Rison can’t help but to relive the memories he has of suiting up for Super Bowl XXXI. On Jan. 26, 1997, Rison helped the Packers advance past the New England Patriots, 35-21, in the franchise’s most recent championship victory. He caught a 54-yard touchdown bomb from Brett Favre on the second play of the game. Rison’s catch set the tone and put the Packers up 7-0.

“You never forget the memories and the teammates that you played with, those are always your friends,” Rison reflected. “I caught the first touchdown in the Super Bowl, first pass of the game from Brett Favre. That right there, knowing that one day I will have to answer to God’s call in battle’s field and be in the databank of the game of football I believe that probably was the wildest thing that I’ve grasped so far from the Super Bowl.”

In 12 professional seasons, Rison gathered 743 receptions for 10,205 yards. He also scored 84 touchdowns and averaged 13.7 yards per catch but his catch in the Super Bowl put the stamp on his career.

“(I enjoy) the longevity of people remembering that you played in it,” Rison said. “I can’t go no where in the country right now and when people see me or talk to me they bring up the Super Bowl.”

He began his career in 1989 with the Indianapolis Colts and played for the Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, before finishing with the Oakland Raiders in 2000. His tenure as a professional football player allowed him to form close bonds with several of the participants in this year’s title game. Rison says he still maintains a close relationship with Packers head coach, Mike McCarty, who was an assistant coach with the Kansas City Chiefs when Rison was on the squad. He also considers Green Bay players Greg Jennings and Charles Woodson his “little brothers.” He hopes the unit will seize their opportunity in front of the bright lights.

“It’s totally different than the regular season. I mean, you’re talking about a once in a lifetime chance to actually play in front of not only millions of fans but also all of your peers,” Rison said. “We don’t get a chance to watch each other play too much, not unless we see each other on film or we see some highlights.”

“But you know you got everybody that’s involved in the National Football League as a player, as a past player, as alumni, everybody’s glued to that game and that’s your chance where you get to lay it all on the line, and one chance where you can change your whole football career just in that one game,” Rison added.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide reciever Courtney Hawkins makes reception picking up 13 yards in the 3rd quarter as Tennessee Oiliers linebacker Eddie Robinson hangs on. (PG Photo by Peter Diana)

By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal

Courtney Hawkins knows a thing or two about playing in the NFL.

From 1997-2000, the Beecher high school graduate played wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers where he hauled in 160 receptions for 1, 829 yards and averaged 11.4 yards per catch. He also scored five touchdowns.

In fact, Hawkins still holds the franchise record for most receptions in a single game. In week nine of the 1998 season, he amassed 14 receptions for 147 yards against the Tennessee Oilers breaking the previous record set by Steelers legend, J.R. Wilburn by two catches.

This Sunday, the Steelers will take on the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV in pursuit of their franchise’s seventh championship. The former Steeler won’t be making the trip to Cowboys Stadium but he did offer his thoughts on what he think will happen as well as what it means to be a Steeler.

Eric Woodyard: Can you offer your thoughts on the Super Bowl itself?

Courtney HawkinsIt’s one of the biggest stages of any sport. It’s a great honor for those guys, they’ve earned their right to play in it. I’ve never played in it but it’s one heck of a stage.

EW: You’ve played for the Pittsburgh Steelers which is a winning franchise, how was the culture there when you played with them?

CHIt’s Steeler nation man. There’s other sports there, they got a hockey team and they play basketball teams there in colleges and what not, but it’s about the Steelers in Pittsburgh man. It’s a absolutely crazy football town, they love the Steelers and they’re behind them 110 percent. It was one of the funnest places to play and the funnest places to live because if you’re a Steeler you’ve got the heart of the town. There’s never a restaurant that’s booked, there’s always a table available for a Steeler.

EW: Do you have any special memories from playing there or one that just sticks out to you?

CH: I don’t know, I had a lot of great memories there. Probably the city itself. I mean I keep going back to it but probably just the fans of Pittsburgh. You know? Unbelievable. But it was like that everywhere we went. There’s Steelers fans in California. We would go to stadiums in California and it would seem like we were at home it would be so much black and gold and it was like that everywhere we went.

EW: Can you talk about the game that you had 14 receptions against the Tennessee Oilers and broke J.R. Wilburn‘s Steelers record for the most receptions in a single game?

CHIndividually it was a heck of a game. You know, myself and Kordell (Stewart) were on the same page and we hooked up left and right. It’s one of those games that as a wide out you dream of. Being a wide out you want the ball, I wanted the ball and he fed it to me that game and unfortunately we ended up losing in the last stages of a game but to break any record on a NFL team is something special. The games have been going on for a long time and it’s been a lot of great players. I was happy from that standpoint of breaking a record but still ticked off about the fact of losing the game.

EW: How do you like the current receivers? You got the opportunity to play with Hines Ward who was drafted in 1998 but how do you feel about them as a whole?

CHThey got some guys making some plays man. They got the young guy from Central Michigan (Antonio Brown) who caught the past last week. Hines is still playing at a high level. They got the guy Mike Wallace who they say is one of the fastest guys in the league and number one they got a heck of a trigger man back there. They got a great quarterback. When you got a good quarterback at that level you got a chance to win and they’re proving it.

EW: What’s your predictions for the game? Who are you rolling with?

CHAw man come on man! (laughs) That’s a easy one for me man. I pick the Steelers hands down! I think it’s gonna be a good game. I don’t think it will be a blowout or anything like that but I think defense in this case will win the championship. There’s is a little bit better than Green Bay, just a little bit.

EW: Do you keep in touch with any of the  current players?

CHYou know I haven’t talked to those guys in a while. I haven’t talked to Hines. It’s been a minute and actually there’s only like two players on the team that were there when I played. This will be the start of my eleventh year from when I retired so there’s been a lot of turnover since then.

EW: How much do you think the NFL has changed since then?

CHThe game has changed a lot. All the little tic tac rules they got now, illegal contact downfield on the receivers. The game was a lot more physical and I think now you can see all the fines that are happening in the NFL. Those were just regular hits when I played. It’s kind of what the game was about but I think they’re taking some of the aggressiveness out of the game and trying to protect the players more with all of the concussions that have went on so from that standpoint it’s a good thing but football is football. We turn the TV. on on Sundays and Saturdays to basically watch somebody get knocked out. They’ve kind of taken that out of the game. It’s still a great game no question about it, but it seems like the NFL is more geared towards offense right now and it seems like it’s changed to make it easier to score points which makes it tough on the defense. It’s still the greatest game in the world no matter what they do to it.

EW: Are there still Sundays that you wish you were out there playing?

CHI miss it on Sundays sometimes. There’s nothing I can do or anybody can do to substitute the feeling that you get on Sunday. You know, running out of the tunnel to when you’re at home to everybody cheering and you cant even hear yourself think to being on the road and guys in the stands talking about your momma and everybody booing you. It’s nothing like it but I don’t miss how I felt on Monday mornings though.

EW: Is it anything else you wanna add about the Super Bowl or about your time in Pittsburgh?

CHPro ball was a great ride, it really was. It was a great nine years. I got some great memories, got some great friends, played in a great city probably one of the best football cities in the United States. Playing in Pittsburgh, I was very fortunate to get that opportunity. I will always be a Steelers’ fan and that’s about it.


 
 
By Eric Woodyard | The Flint Journal
Way before rapper Wiz Khalifa made it a national trend to represent the “Black and Yellow,” Flint’s Courtney Hawkins was doing damage on the football field for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

From 1997-2000, the Beecher high school graduate played wide receiver for the Steelers, hauling in 160 receptions for 1,829 yards and averaged 11.4 yards per catch. He also scored five touchdowns. In fact, Hawkins still holds the Steelers’ record for most receptions in a single game. In week nine of 1998 season, he amassed 14 receptions for 147 yards against the Tennessee Oilers breaking the previous record set by Steelers legend, J.R. Wilburn by two catches.

That game is still bittersweet to Hawkins.

“Individually it was a heck of a game and it was one of those games that as a wideout you dream of,” Hawkins said. “Unfortunately we ended up losing but to break any record on a NFL team is tough, so I was happy from that standpoint of breaking the record but it still ticked me off about the fact of losing the game.”

That feat is even more impressive when you take into account the rich history and elite players of the franchise’s past. Athletes like John Stallworth, Jerome Bettis and Rod Woodson all earned their stripes on the football field in Pittsburgh leading the Steelers to six Super Bowl wins. Pittsburgh will try to hoist their seventh Vince Lombardi Trophy when they battle Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium this Sunday.

Although Hawkins never played on the big stage, he’s fully aware of the magnitude of the contest and enjoyed the passion of Steeler fans.

“It’s Steeler nation and there’s other sports there but it’s about the Steelers in Pittsburgh,” Hawkins said. “It’s a absolutely crazy football town, they love the Steelers and they’re behind them 110 percent. It was one of the funnest places to play and one of the funnest places to live because if you’re a Steeler, you’ve got the heart of the town.”
Hawkins is now Beecher high school’s athletic director as well as the varsity football head coach. He accepted these roles in 2006. But Hawkins still misses stepping out on that field each Sunday to play under the bright lights.

“I miss it on Sundays sometimes and there’s nothing I can do or anybody can do to help you get the feelings that you get on Sundays,” Hawkins recalled. “Running out of the tunnel to when you’re at home to everybody’s cheering and you can’t even hear yourself think to being on the road to guys talking about your momma and booing you, there’s nothing like it but I don’t miss how I felt on Monday mornings.”

Hawkins played his first four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1992, the Bucs drafted him with the 44th pick in the second round of the 1992 NFL Draft. Hawkins had four stellar seasons at Michigan State  prior to turning professional. As a sophomore in 1989 he garnered a spot on the All-Big Ten first team ater setting a school-record, catching 60 passes for 1,080 yards. This record would later be broken by Plaxico Burress and Charles Rogers, but Hawkins set the bar for future Spartans wide receivers.
It’s been 11 years since Hawkins hung up his No. 88 Steelers jersey. Only two Pittsburgh players from the current roster, Hines Ward (wide receiver) and Aaron Smith (defensive end), played with Hawkins. Still there’s no question about who he’s picking to win Super Bowl XLV.

“That’s a easy one for me man, I’m picking the Steelers hands down,” Hawkins said. “I believe it’s gonna be a good game. I dont think it will be a blowout or anything like that but I think defense in this case will win championships.”

The NFL Is Going Soft!

October 21, 2010

By Eric Woodyard
Western Herald

The pressure from the Atlanta Falcons’ defense came faster than usual. As quickly as Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback, Kevin Kolb, received the hike they were on him. At the last minute, Kolb spotted an open receiver, DeSean Jackson, running across the middle of the field. With no hesitation, Kolb connected with Jackson…bang! The bang wasn’t actually from the pass but from the big hit that Falcons’ cornerback, Dunta Robinson placed on the defenseless Jackson that knocked both players out of Sunday’s game.

It wasn’t helmet-to-helmet, more shoulder-to-shoulder.

A few minutes after the hit, they could both get up and walk and although it looked scary, everyone knows that this is part of the game. The problem is that there were also a few more big hits last weekend. Patriots’ safety, Brandon Meriweather put a questionable hit on the Ravens’ Todd Heap and Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, James Harrison, lit up two Cleveland Browns players up.

Due to the ferocity of these attacks, the NFL will be implementing a new rule. Starting in Week 7, NFL referees will be enforcing rules already on the books for “devastating hits” and “head shots.” Offenders will be candidates for suspension. Although none of the players involved in last week’s great strikes were suspended, they were fined.

Robinson and Meriweather were charged $50,000. Harrison was punished with $75,000.

My only question is, ‘What are devastating hits?’ Isn’t this is the essence of football! Big hits like these are what everyone loves to see. They keep viewers interested and ratings sky high. Devastating tackles is what makes the game so unique. Football would not be football without them. You can’t take this out of the game.

Great tackles is how stars are made. Players like Ray Lewis, Ronnie Lott, Lawrence Taylor, and Dick Butkus and many others have all become legends because of their great tackling abilities. Never did they have to think about were their hits too devastating, they just went and laid who ever was in from of them out with no regard. Now the NFL is forcing these professionals to really think before they act if they don’t want to hurt their bank accounts. This will make the game weaker.

However, I do agree that helmet-to-helmet hits are dirty. No one should be allowed to use a method of protection to in order to help them hurt someone. This is understandable but the devastating hits rule has to be abolished. It’s a joke. This is professional football not for amateurs.

When these athletes decided to sign their professional contracts and later lace up their sneakers before stepping on the field, they knew they were susceptible for plays like these.

Falcons’ cornerback has a legitimate reason to be mad.

“I am disappointed by the NFL’s ruling,” Robinson said in a statement. “I recognize the goal is to protect all players, from the Pee Wee level on up. However, this was a bang-bang hit situation where I did not lead with my helmet, and therefore I will appeal. Although it was a violent hit, my hit did not violate the NFL’s rules, and I was playing the game the way I always have. I am not a dirty player and have never been characterized as one.”

If players don’t want to get hit than they have an easier option, quit!

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!

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!