Leland Stein III

Archive for the ‘sports column’ Category

NFL Hall of Fame: Jerome “The Bus” Bettis, makes history 

In sports column on September 24, 2015 at 1:23 am

Bettis is first Detroit PSL athlete inducted in NFL Hall of Fame

By Leland Stein III

bettis and leland

Jerome Bettis and Leland Stein III in Canton, Ohio for Bettis HoF enshrinement. – Hassan Kareem photo

Canton, Ohio — First and only!!! I know that is not a complete sentence, but for this narrative it is perfect grammar!!

Jerome “The Bus” Bettis’ noteworthy inclusion in the hollowed NFL Hall of Fame was not only a national story with his name now etched with the greatest to ever play the game; more importantly, he is now the only Detroit Public School League (PSL) athlete so honored.

Bettis with his NFL Hall of Fame bust and Yellow jacket. - Hassan Kareem photo

Bettis with his NFL Hall of Fame bust and Yellow jacket. – Hassan Kareem photo

“Wow, it is hard to believe that throughout its long and talent rich history the PSL has never had a player selected to the NFL Hall of Fame,’ Bettis said with an air of wonderment. “There have been so many great players that went to my high school (Mackenzie) before me, with me and after me, that who would ever expect that I would be the first?

“It is even harder to believe this is all happening, because through most of my early life I did not even play football until I got to high school.”

Bettis now joins Michigan’s other four Hall of Famers, Flint’s Paul Krause, Bay City’s Bill Hewitt and fellow Detroiters George Allen and Joe DeLamielleure. Although Allen and DeLamielleure were both born in Detroit they did not play in the city. Therefore, Bettis has the official tag of the only Hall of Famer who was born, raised and played high school football in Detroit.

Joining Bettis in the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame were the late Junior Seau, Charles Haley, Tim Brown, Will Shields, Bill Polian, Ron Wolf, and Mick Tingelhoff. All eight were officially inducted recently in Canton, Ohio.

A 46-person selection committee annually gather the day-before-the-Super Bowl to discuss and debate the merits of the finalists, before selecting this newest class of enshrinees. The selection process can take hours, and agreement on this Class took nearly nine hours.

Bettis, 42, was selected by the Los Angeles Rams as the 10th overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft and promptly won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Two of his eight 1,000-yard rushing seasons came during his three-year tenure with the Rams – fortunately for me I was writing for a medium in L.A. at the time Bettis was toting the pigskin for all three of his years with the Rams.

Bettis joined the Steelers in 1996 where he quickly became a fan favorite, earning the nickname “The Bus.” He currently ranks sixth on the NFL’s all-time career rushing yardage list (13,662). He retired in 2006 after he and the Steelers won Super Bowl XL in his native Detroit, Mich.. The six-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro was a Hall of Fame finalist since 2011.

“The wait was heart wrenching each year,” he emotionally exclaimed, “not knowing if I was in or out. But in the end the wait was well worth it.”

Bettis, who redefined big, quick running backs during his career with the Rams and Steelers, was the final speaker at the Hall of Fame proceedings in front of some 20,000 Steelers fans who briefly turned Canton, Ohio, into Steelers Country.

“We’re in Canton, Ohio . . . but this is ‘STEELERS COUNTRY’,” Bettis bellowed during his speech.

He also thanked his quarterback, “Big” Ben Roethlisberger, for making that playoff-saving tackle against the Colts following Bettis’ fourth-quarter fumble in the 2006 AFC Divisional game. The Bus joked that he still might not be in the Hall of Fame if not for Big Ben.

“I owe you big time,” Bettis said smiling.

If Bettis would have never joined the NFL Hall of Fame, he could at least revel in the fact he has a hall of fame nickname. “The Bus” can hold up to other football greats like: Night Train, Sweetness, The Juice, Hacksaw, Pepper, The Snake, Hammer, Megatron, The Refrigerator, Prime Time, and Crazy Legs.

In baseball we have had Say Hey, The Babe, A-Rod, Hammering Hank, The Big Hurt, Iron Horse and Joltin’ Joe. Basketball has had monikers like The Stilt, Pistol, King James, Magic, Iceman, Cornbread, Clyde, Air, Pearl and Dr. J.

Sure nicknames are colorful and gave each a certain aura, but the most important thing “The Bus” had in common with most of the above mentioned sports icons, is that he was more than just a nickname, he is a superior athlete as evident by his selection to the NFL Hall of Fame.

“I was sitting in my office and this polite young man came in and said he wants to play football,” Bettis’ Mackenzie High coach Bob Dozier recalled. “After he left I said, ‘Wow!!’ He looked like a young Superman and he’s an honor student. His sophomore year I put him at middle guard and he was so physical and tough off the ball. The thing I like most about him was when his skills became evident, he remained patient. We had Walter Smith and he was getting it done.”

By his senior year at Mackenzie High, Bettis had gained notoriety as a feature running back and linebacker. When it was time to select a college he chose Lou Holtz and Notre Dame.

Holt was at the ceremony and Bettis told an engaging story about their time together at Notre Dame.

Recalled former Mackenzie star linebacker Pepper Johnson, who went on to earn two Super Bowls rings with the New York Giants and three more as a coach with the New England Patriots: “I had heard Mackenzie had a running back that was special. Then I go to Reggie Mackenzie’s Camp and I’m coaching the linebackers and there was Jerome. I wanted him to stay at linebacker, because he could have been a great one. He might have had a different nickname, maybe Ali because he would have knocked people out. I guess it all worked out with all he has accomplished on the other side of the ball.”

Dozier said Holtz first told Bettis that he wanted to use him on offense, but he had to lose weight. “But after he ran a 4.5, Holtz said, ‘He’s fine like he is,’ ” Dozier recalled.

Interjected former Mackenzie teammate Gilbert Brown, who won a Super Bowl ring with Green Bay (1997): “When I first saw JB at Mackenzie he was kind of shy. But when he got out on the field there was ferociousness to him. I had the pleasure of blocking for him. Everyone in the PSL knew where we were going to run the ball. If I lined up right or left JB would be coming right over my side. It was amazing to see a back with his power and speed.

Detroit Lions Hall of Fame scat back, Barry Sanders told me: “When I think of JB I think of a great competitor you would love to do battle with. He was not a guy defenses wanted to see. He was a wrecking ball, powerful, but agile. I enjoyed watching JB play and the way he carried himself.”

Almost everyone in unison exclaim that Bettis is a superior athlete, but an even better person. Bettis told me that he comes from a loving and caring family, and, his mother (Gladys) and father (Johnnie) were special people that molded him.

“It was great to have two parents there because you get the nurturing from your mother and you get the sternness from your father,” Bettis told a local paper. “With him there, he was my role model. He was a guy that I looked at and saw how you did things, how to be a man. I think there were a lot of benefits to having mom and dad in the household, and it felt normal.”

Along with his Mom and Dad, he has a sister and brother (Kimberly and John). His family’s bond has always been a big part of who Bettis has been and will continue to become.

Concurred former U-M star Thomas Seabron, who is now a Financial Advisor: “To a large extent JB’s success is a direct result of him having a strong family environment. That’s why he understands the need for the human touch.”

Added Mackenzie teammate Walter Smith, a former captain at U-M: “In high school JB’s best resource was his father. I did not have that at home. Just talking to him and sharing advice he got from his dad made me a better person. When I got injured at Michigan, I remembered what JB told me in high school, ‘don’t worry about what you don’t have, and maximize what you do have.’ Although I was not as quick, his words got me through.”

At the end of a rough and tumble NFL career, Bettis received his biggest blessing. He and the Steelers descended on his hometown to contest Seattle in Super Bowl XL, and, they won.

“I played in two Super Bowls, but he played in the one that was in our home,” exclaimed Brown. “I told him he had to be the luckiest cat in the world to play in and win a ring in his own backyard.”

Said Bettis: “It has always been my goal to win a championship, but to do it in my hometown was a dream come true. Then running out on Ford Field at the Super Bowl, it was all a kid from Detroit could imagine.”

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Soaring Seahawks led by Wilson

In sports column on February 5, 2014 at 3:53 am

Wilson becomes 2nd African American to lead team to NFL title.

Pic Cutline: Michael Strahan hands trophy to Russell Wilson.  -  Gary Montgomery photo

Michael Strahan hands trophy to Russell Wilson. – Gary Montgomery photo

 

By Leland Stein III

NEW YORK – There is no doubt that the NFL is a quarterbacks’ league. It is safe to say the signal caller is the most important man on the field. Teams that win consistently year after year typically have one thing in common: an elite quarterback.

The Super Bowl XLVIII telecast became the most-watched television event in U.S. history, drawing 111.5 million viewers.

Now all those football fans can firmly stamp second-year quarterback Russell Wilson to that elite list after he led his Seattle Seahawks to a governing and dominating 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos.

The NFL has implemented a slew of new rules that give the quarterback added protection, and, conversely the changes have led to passing records and increased scoring.

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

The best quarterbacks of this generation have won Super Bowls over the past decade, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton and Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

So when the Denver and Peyton brought their record setting passing offense to Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, most concluded that his counterpart on Seattle, Wilson, would get blown off the field against the future Hall of Famer.

I was one of those that thought Wilson was not out of his league on the biggest stage in American sports. He had already convinced me that he had that special something, as I sat in the press box in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium and watched him bring back his inferior Wisconsin and produce a last-second victory over Michigan State in the Big Ten’s first conference title contest.

Pic Cutline: Russell Wilson sits in pocket as good as any. – Gary Montgomery photo

I remember him saying at the time that he had “supreme confidence in himself,” partly because he has had to fight “stereotypes as a short smallish quarterback.”

Although Wilson finished his senior season with 33 passing touchdowns, the second-most in Big Ten history behind Brees’ 39. He also set the single season FBS record for passing efficiency (191.8), while leading his team to a Big Ten title and the 2012 Rose Bowl.

No matter, because NFL scouts only saw a 5-foot-11 quarterback, in the 2012 NFL Draft Wilson was selected by the Seahawks in the third round (75th pick overall). Said one NFL scout, “If Russell Wilson was 6–5, he’d probably be the No. 1 pick in the draft. The only issue with him is his height.”

Said Wilson evolving from 3rd round pick to NFL champion: “I believe in myself. My confidence was never going to waiver. For me I just need and opportunity. I told Coach (Pete) Carroll and Mr (Paul) Allen when they drafted me it was the best decision they ever made, and, I was going to make the other 31 teams regret it

Wilson has clearly used his shortcoming as motivation and has now etched his name into the noteworthy Super Bowl winning quarterback fraternity. Also added to his growing lore is him becoming only the second African American to lead his team to football glory.

“To be the second African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl,” an elated Wilson said, “that’s history right there. There are so many guys before me that tried to change the game and have done a great job of it. God is so good, man. It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Latino or Asian. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5-11. It’s the heart that you have.”

Pic Cutline: Doug Williams was first Black QB to win Super Bowl. – archive photo

Doug Williams was first Black QB to win Super Bowl. – archive photo

Doug Williams, who also won the game’s M.V.P. award, was the first African-American quarterback to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after leading the Washington Redskins to Super Bowl nirvana in 1988.

During the long span between Williams and Wilson, the late Steve McNair of the Titans, the Eagles’ Donovan McNabb, and Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers, each made Super Bowl starts in 2000, 2005, and 2013, respectively.

As I conversed with other media in and around New York, the black quarterback thing was noticeably silent. I suspect the difference this year is that Wilson will represent the largest cohort of African-American quarterbacks to have played in one season.

Williams, McNair, and McNabb were scarcities in their time. During some weeks of the 2013 regular season, as many as nine black quarterbacks started for the N.F.L.’s thirty-two teams, setting a league record. Three of the four quarterbacks who started in the N.F.C. divisional playoffs were black—Wilson, Kaepernick, and Carolina’s Cam Newton.

The only thing that puzzles me about the game is that Wilson was not named MVP. He seized the Seattle starting as a rookie and has wrecked shop ever since. Against the Broncos he was 18-of-25 for 206 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His numbers were better than the great Peyton.

Williams agrees with me telling NewsOne: “It’s truly amazing for a young guy like that to come in and lead his team to a victory. This kid played with so much pause and confidence. It’s unbelievable. I was hoping that he’d win it because he really made some plays. He made about three or four throws – five throws at least – that were big time. If they had named him MVP, they wouldn’t have been wrong.”

Wilson became the fourth second-year quarterback to win a Super Bowl, joining Brady, Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger.

Wilson beat the classic pocket passer of all time. What does that mean? Maybe the tide has truly changed, where the new quarterback, like Wilson and Kaepernick, will be expected to relied on their feet as well as their arms to win games.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Stanford’s Shaw runs into MSU’s Green Wall

In sports column on January 4, 2014 at 8:49 am
Still, Stanford coach quietly making history.
Leland Stein III
By Leland Stein III
PASADENA, Ca. – “There’s no such thing as carry-over,” Stanford University head coach, David Shaw, told reporters before leading his team to its second consecutive Rose Bowl. “We’re not going to win this game because we won last year.”
Oh how right Shaw’s interjection proved to be; however, even this gut-wrenching 24-20 loss to Michigan State University in the 100th Rose Bowl cannot take away from the noteworthy run he has implemented as head coach at Stanford.
Shaw assumed the head coaching mantle from Jim Harbaugh in 2011, after serving as the team’s offensive coordinator for Harbaugh’s entire tenure from 2007 to 2010.
By all accounts coming into the 2014 Rose Bowl game, he found himself high on the coaching list as almost every vacant position in the NFL and college had his name high on the most wanted list.
David Shaw’s rise as a sought after head coach on the rise in spite of loss to MSU. - Robert Attical photo

David Shaw’s rise as a sought after head coach on the rise in spite of loss to MSU. – Robert Attical photo

And with good reason, he led Stanford to its first Rose Bowl victory since 1972 when he piloted the Cardinal to a 20-14 win over Wisconsin in 2013. In 2000, then Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham became the first African American to lead a team to the Rose Bowl, but Shaw took it a step further making history, silently becoming the first African-American coach to win the Rose Bowl or a BCS Game.

Stanford is 54-13 over the last five seasons, including four straight appearances in BCS bowl games. Shaw has helmed three of the BCS appearances, leading the Cardinal to 11-3, 13-2 and 11-3 seasons.
Shaw guided Stanford in 2012 to its first Pac-12 Championship in 13 years, and repeated the feat again in 2013.
“This is the most accomplished group of football players to ever go through Stanford University,” Shaw said of the seniors in the post-game interviews. “Regardless of today’s outcome, that’s just the truth. That’s a fact. When you talk about the best teams of the BCS era, you have to mention Stanford University. Four straight BCS games, 11 wins four straight years. It’s rare, rare company.”
I heard many of my colleagues talking after the game in the press box, that Shaw blew any chance to win by insisting on running the football right at Michigan State in two crucial fourth down situations.
In the third quarter, the score tied, 17-17, Stanford found itself in a fourth-and-three at Michigan State’s 36. The ball was handed to Tyler Gaffney, who lost three yards.
Next, in the fourth quarter with 1:46 left and the game still in doubt, trailing by four points, Stanford was on its own 34 in a fourth and one situation. Shaw blasted 246-pound Ryan Hewitt into the Spartan Green & White Wall. He gained zero yards. State took over the ball and it was game, set, match.
The prevailing thought is that Shaw should have run outside or passed the football.
I’m in the minority on this, but I’m from the Vince Lombardi School here. Stanford with one of the best offensive lines and running games in college, should have been able to gain one yard with a 250 pound back.
“I told the guys, we had one heck of a year, and got beat today,” Shaw acknowledged. “They played better. They made more plays. That’s the bottom line. You know that every time you suit up, it’s about who makes the most plays and who scores the most points. They played a great game. They slowed us down on offense. They made enough plays on their offensive side and beat us by four points. We got beat today by a really good football team”
MSU's Aaron Burbridge (#16) battle for the ball with DB Wayne Lyons. Robert Attical - photo

MSU’s Aaron Burbridge (#16) battle for the ball with DB Wayne Lyons. Robert Attical – photo

A two-time Pac-12 Conference Coach of the Year (2011 & 2012), plus Shaw’s nine years as an assistant in the NFL, has thrust his name into conversations about open NFL and college jobs.

Yet after the loss to a 13-1 MSU team ranked No. 4, the naysayers were singing in vocal harmony that Shaw may not be what they thought he was: “He is stubborn and unimaginative and didn’t make good adjustments to the MSU’s defensive scheme.”
When a coach believes in his team, what they have trained for all year, and, their ability to execute, then for me, it is not hard to see why he made the calls he has made.
A four-year letter winner at Stanford from 1991-94 as a receiver, learning and playing under two great coaches (Bill Walsh and Denny Green), having a Dad, Willie Shaw, that coached in college and NFL for 33 years . . . I exclaim that Shaw has not lost his luster over two calls.
And let’s not forget Shaw coached up 2009 Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart, and 2010 Heisman Trophy runner-up Andrew Luck.
Instead of unloading on Shaw, maybe it was just MSU and its No. 1 ranked defense that should get all the credit. No team has really been able to crack the Green Wall or consistently throw over it.
When Shaw replaced Harbaugh, I, like many, said, “Nice little run for Stanford, now they will just disappear into the PAC-12 middle pack.” But hold on wait a minute let me put a little Shaw in it. The “in it” refers to Shaw finding a way to get into the heads, hearts and spirits of the players that have come under his tutelage over the past three years.
He’s been able to sell on his team the “David vs. Goliath mentality,” despite recent success. “We haven’t cemented ourselves in the football world’s psyche as much as we should have,” he exclaimed. “There’s always the idea that we’re going to slide.”
The Stanford grad is losing a great senior class, but my guess is he has put the Cardinal on the football map where brainy football players can come together in a great environment, but win football game while studying too.
Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Michigan close but no cigar versus Ohio State

In sports column on December 2, 2013 at 12:12 am
Pic cutline: - Detroiter Devin Gardner and UM fell just short of an upset of Ohio State. - Dan Graschuck photo

Pic cutline: – Detroiter Devin Gardner and UM fell just short of an upset of Ohio State. – Dan Graschuck photo

By Leland Stein III

ANN ARBOR – As has been the case all season with the Michigan Wolverines, they put up a gallant fight but came up short.

Again, before 113,511 in the storied Michigan “Big House” Stadium, the Wolverines put up a fight until the last few seconds of the game, before succumbing to the No. 3 ranked and still undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes, 42-41.

“We talked about how all week we would have to play our best game to compete against this team,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in the post-game press conference. “We did some good things, but we did some things not so good. However, there is no doubting that our kids stepped up and played with passion. This is a special game and we practiced and studied film starting on Monday with focus. It is disappointing we could not close this game out for these young men.”

Talking to many of my friends in the press box just before the game commenced, most were speculating that Ohio State, a 16-point favorite, would blow Michigan out.

And who could protest, squabble or argue with that assumption, based on the way the Wolverines have played the past seven weeks.

Leland Stein IIIThe 2013 season started with so much hope with quarterback Devin Gardner starting his first full season at the helm of this Michigan team. Living up to those expectations, the Wolverines started out 5-0.

However, after a four overtime loss in a game they should have won, UM has descended downward. After the Penn State heart breaker, over the next seven games Michigan forgot how to block for the run, protect for their quarterback (Gardner), and, defend against the run defensively.

That Penn State loss has been followed with a beat-down by Michigan State, two close very winnable games against Nebraska and Iowa, and now this.

Coach Hoke, Gardner and the entire Michigan team all said that this was enough, and, collectively they went after a win on Saturday. After trailing 35-21 in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines showed some fighting spirit and grit. Coming back time after time, eventually tying the game at 35-35 with a little more than five minutes left in the contest, only to see OSU fly down the field to take a 42-35 lead with 2:20 left in the game.

For Gardner and his teammates this was an opportunity to arrest all the football demons that have been causing them grief. With purpose and determination the Wolverines sat sail on an 11-play, 84-yard drive that gave them an opportunity to tie the game.

So, with 30 seconds left in the game Michigan went for the 2-point conversion and win. I agree completely with going for the two points,

“We had not been able to stop their running game,” Hoke noted. “We were doing a poor job of slowing them down, so going for the win looked like the best thing for us to do.”

Indeed in was the best thing, the only problem was the play UM called in their most crucial possession of the season.

“We have worked on that play in practice and it was supposed to be a rub for (Drew) Dileo” a distraught Gardner whispered in his most solemn tone of voice. “I believe it was the right call to go for two. I do not question it at all, we just did not execute.”

So Michigan went for the 2-point conversion and Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) remains undefeated. With the win the Buckeyes achieved their 24th consecutive victory and keep their national championship hopes alive.

Gardner put in as good an effort as any UM quarterback versus OSU. He completed 32 of 45 passes for 451 yards and four TDs, connecting nine times for 175 yards and a score to Jeremy Gallon, and he ran for a 1-yard touchdown that gave Michigan the first lead in the shootout that went to halftime tied at 21.

The near Michigan upset almost gave the Wolverines (7-5, 3-5) their biggest upset in one of America’s greatest rivalries since legendary coach Bo Schembechler‘s first team at Michigan beat what Woody Hayes noted was his best Buckeyes squad ever.

The loss was yet another in Gardner’s first tenure at the helm of the Wolverines. He has showed that he is a skilled athlete and field leader, but the problems on the offensive line and in the running game knocked him off the pedestal as a premiere quarterback in the country.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Gholston earns playing time in Tampa Bay

In sports column on November 25, 2013 at 4:10 am
WILLIAM GHOLSTON (# 2) making mark in NFL – Dan Graschuck photo

WILLIAM GHOLSTON (# 2) making mark in NFL – Dan Graschuck photo

Detroiter representing PSL.

By Leland Stein III

DETROIT – When Detroiters – tight end Dion Sims and defensive end William Gholston – and running back Le’Veon Bell left Michigan State University to enter the NFL Draft, all knew the Spartans would miss this trio.

The Spartans have, but they have continued to push on, winning the Big Ten Legends Division, and have earned the right to play the Ohio State Buckeyes for the Big Ten title.

When the three Spartans announced they were forgoing their senior seasons, it marked the first time Michigan State has had multiple underclassmen enter the NFL Draft since 1999, when defensive end Dimitrius Underwood and running back Sedrick Irvin left East Lansing.

Leland Stein IIIBell with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sims with the Miami Dolphins and Gholston with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all are making the transition to professional football.

In particular, recently at Ford Field I caught up with former Detroit Southeastern High star, Gholston, in the joyous Buccaneers’ locker room.

With a giant smile on his face Gholston and his teammates rejoiced following its third consecutive victory. This one was an improbable 24-21 upset over a Lions team that has playoff aspirations.

Tampa Bay, just playing every game with nothing to lose, now sits at 3-8, while the Lions fell to 6-5.

“We are happy to be playing good enough to get this thing back on track,” exclaimed Gholston. “We went through some adversity early in the season, but this group has hung together and shone some grit.”

Also showing some grit is Gholston. He came to a Tampa bay team whose strength is a solid young cast of defensive linemen. Gholston had to wait his turn, especially since the team was mired in a prolonged early season losing streak.

“This is a great group of defensive linemen,” Gholston noted. “With a Pro Bowl type player like Gerald McCoy setting the example we are getting better. He has taken me and the other rookies under his wing and never misses an opportunity to help us or give words of encouragement.”

Gholston told me he started slowly in part because he was used to “playing in a five technique,” so he had to learn the nuances of the “four technique.”

He added: “It took me some time to change the way I had learned the game, but now I feel like I’ve got it. Also, the hardest part about moving to the NFL is the mental part of the game. I felt physically I was ready, but I had to understand the ways of being a professional football player, and, everything that comes with that.

“I’ve dedicated myself to just concentrating on football and not hanging out and all that other stuff. Also, I came in with a 17% body fat ratio, and I’ve got it down to 10%.”

Indeed, he has an NFL body. Standing 6-foot-6 and weighing a solid 281 pounds, the Southeastern and MSU star is not out of place in an NFL locker room.

“It feels great to be healthy,” Gholston shared. “As you know, all most all my time at MSU I was playing hurt. I really believe that MSU helped prepare me for the NFL though. In college we looked at it as a business and had fun too. I’m keeping that same prospective here in Tampa.”

Gholston said that he has followed every MSU game this season. “The Spartans are rolling,” he unleased. “They are playing that smash-mouth defense that we started. I still text the defensive linemen. It is going to be a heck of a game in the championship against Ohio State; I wish I could be there supporting my guys!”

Gholston twice earned second-team All-Big Ten honors and in his junior year led the Spartans in tackles for loss (13 for 49 yards), sacks (4.5 for 24 yards) and pass break-ups (10). His 10 pass break-ups ranked first among NCAA FBS defensive linemen.

McCoy said about the rookie: “Gholston is a hard worker. He comes to me for advice and is eager to learn and make himself a better player. Once he learns all the little things about defensive line play in the NFL, he’s going to be a beast. He’s a bull and is quick and strong.”

Former Ohio State and now New York Giants rookie defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins, who played at Southeastern with Gholston, forming one of the Detroit Public School League’s greatest defensive line pairs, are inspiration for each other.

“Big Hank is my guy!” exclaimed Gholston. “We talk to each constantly. We motivate and uplift each other. We both are trying to learn to be pros’ pros.”

I’ve known these men since high school and have watched their maturation. It is no doubt they both will traverse the mind field that is professional sports, and, find their place as productive and character driven athletes.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or at Twitter @lelandsteinIII

Back home, Jones impresses

In sports column on August 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Detroiter anchors Lion’s defense in win over Patriots

By Leland Stein III

The Detroit Lions’ defense was a question mark as the team began its preparations for the 2013 campaign. However, following its second preseason victory, a surprising 40-9 thumping of the lordly New England Patriots at Ford Field, hope again runs eternal for all the Lions faithful.

Detroit's Jason Jones at Lions press conference. – Dan Graschuck photo

Detroit’s Jason Jones at Lions press conference. – Dan Graschuck photo

With the Lions’ offense still sputtering, the defense took center stage against the Patriots, creating four crucial turnovers. Surprisingly, but happily, the linchpin of that effort was Detroiter Jason Jones.

Departed from the Lions defensive line were both starting defensive ends from the 2012 squad – Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. So, the concern about what would happen there was all too real.

Jones, a Southfield-Lathrup High and Eastern Michigan University alum, has stepped into the void and produced. Signed as a free agent, the 6-foot-5, 275 pounder, could become the pass rusher the Lions so desperately need.

After a stellar career at EMU, Jones was drafted in the second round (54th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. Injuries kept him from being the best he could be, and, eventually he left the Titans and signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks for the 2012 season.

At Jones’ Lions signing press conference, he told reporters that lining up next to Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh should make both of them better.

Leland Stein

The Southfield product, now a six-year veteran said he was delighted to be back home playing in from of friends and family, with a chance to help make the Lions a competitive NFL entity.

“It’s going to benefit me a lot,” Jones said, about playing next to Suh. “All eyes are going to be on him with what he’s done and his track record in the league. It’s just my job to make some plays and play off him.”

Concurred Lions coach Jim Schwartz: “Jones has got great length, he weighs over 280 pounds, which is a big difference from a lot of defensive ends that we’ve had here. However, he’s not sacrificing speed or agility because of it. There is speed and agility that you have to have to be a defensive end and he has that.

“He also gives us a frame with super long arms. He should be able to help us in the pass rush game and should affect throws even if he doesn’t win in pass rush because of his length and be able to knock passes down.”

Everything Schwartz said manifested itself in the New England game. Jones was a beast, playing the position like a Pro-Bowler.

Jones led the way in the Lions impressive four-turnover outing against a potential Super Bowl team like the Patriots. After the game he noted: “That’s what we know we can do. We try to get the ball out in practice every day. Coming into this game we knew we had a pretty good challenge ahead of us. New England has a pretty good offense and they use a lot of things out there. We wanted to come out, set the tone and play aggressive out there, especially playing at home. We always want to be aggressive and we got four turnovers which is great for our defense.”

Yeah it was great to see the Lions beat New England, but the preseason really means nothing in the race to the NFL Playoffs. Still, any coach or fan or player will tell you they want to see their team win every time they line up.

On the momentum from the win carrying over, Jones said: “We don’t want to look back to two years ago and we don’t want to look too far in the future but two years ago we played here and had a very similar outcome and we went to the playoffs. Every year we put on pads we think we know mentally and physically that we are able to get to the playoffs but it’s about going out there and doing it. I definitely think this year with the chemistry of the team we will be able to go out there and perform.”

With a three-year contract in hand, Jones said he wants to be more than a football player and do all that he can to uplift the Detroit area. He has a good track record while in Tennessee, being a big part of the Coaches Association of the Brotherhood (C.A.O.T.B.) organization.

He noted that the group’s purpose was through charitable and educational events, they could help address the youth by mentoring, instructional and sports programs, while working with the juvenile detention systems as well.

Jones is a much need asset to the Lions and the Detroit Metro area, too.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Anderson: University of Detroit Mercy star lights up Final Four

In sports column on April 5, 2013 at 6:50 pm
anderson By Leland Stein III
 
ATLANTA, Ga.University of Detroit Mercy coach Ray McCallum could not have gotten a better recruiting tool or positive PR even if his team had won a few games in the NCAA March Madness Tournament.
 
UDM senior Doug Anderson won the NCAA Slam Dunk Contest in Atlanta with an array of slams that likely would’ve made him the NBA dunk champion.
 
The 6-foot-6, 212-point forward from the University of Detroit showed why his nickname is “Dunking Doug” on Thursday night with several high-flying dunks, capping the contest with an amazing between-the-legs 360 slam.
 
I sat there in complete amazement. I have covered 18 NBA All-Star Weekends, and I’ve seen some great shows from Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Jason Richardson, Brent Berry, Blake Griffin and JR Rider, just to mention a few.
 
However sitting there witnessing Detroit’s own rock the ATL and Final Four was pleasurable.
 
The Final Four contest will be hard pressed to match the excitement that Anderson brought to Atlanta. He received perfect scores for all four of his dunks to win the title, and, he never missed an attempt.
 
Anderson had people glowing with accolades. Said Seth Davis: “That’s the best college dunker since Jason Richardson!”  
 
Twitter went crazy.
 
Jason McIntyre tweeted: “Doug Anderson (Detroit) just threw one down that would have won the NBA dunk contest. Seriously, that was incredible.”
 
Sports Center exclaimed: “Best dunk performance ever. WATCH: Doug Anderson. A BEAST!”
 
SportsNation tweeted: “SOMEBODY ENTER DOUG ANDERSON IN THE 2014 NBA DUNK CONTEST.”
 
At an undisscriped McCamish Pavilion on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Anderson took the 25th annual event to an all-star level. The day and night of ESPN Sports Center was filled with Anderson’s highlight reel dunks.
 
Anderson has always been know as an impressive dunker who has received national attention for his ability to slam the ball, but his showing here in Atlanta has elevated his NBA Draft prospects.
 
Fan involvement was a serious part of the process as voting via Twitter served as the “Fifth Judge.” Fans voted on every dunk by simply tweeting #CollegeSlam. There was also four celebrity judges: Harry Douglas, wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons; Julio Jones, Pro Bowler and wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons; Demaryius Thomas, former Georgia Tech standout and 2013 Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Denver Broncos; and Roddy White, four-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons.
 
Doug Anderson said it perfectly: “I just went out there and did the dunks I usually do in a game, when given the chance.”
 
However, he did acknowledge “that last dunk I have never done it, but I had to give the fans something special at the end.”
 
Indeed he did as the ATL crowd was left rocked in amazement!!!!!!!
 
Leland Stein III be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and twitter at LelandSteinIII

Super Bowl XLVII Storylines Fascinate

In sports column on February 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm
COLIN KAEPERNICK came just short of joing Doug Williams in Super Bowl lore. – Gary Montgomery photo

COLIN KAEPERNICK came just short of joining Doug Williams in Super Bowl lore. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

NEW ORLEANS – Not only did Super Bowl XLVII produce an all-time great contest, it had more storylines that a Steven King novella or Quentin Jerome Tarantino motion picture.

Questions, questions!!!

Which quarterback will come through with the key play? Can the Ray Lewis and the Ravens’ defense keep the electric 49ers’ pistol offense misfiring? Could Joe Flacco‘s big arm bring some excitement to Super Bowl XLVII? Which Harbaugh brother would hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy? Would the New Orleans Saints loyal fandome accost NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell after the failed bounty-gate scandal? Could second year Niner quarterback Colin Kaepernick keep the magic going? Would the Super Bowl commercials be the most memorable aspect of the broadcast?

All these and more were answered at the conclusion of the NFL’s 2013 Super Bowl XLVII.

As I perused New Orleans beyond the City Center, it is still evident that after enduring Hurricane Katrina, one of America’s worst tragedies.

First, Super Bowl XLVII was a storybook ending for future NFL Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis. After suffering a possible season ending arm injury, he came back just in time for the Raven’s playoff push.

How important is Lewis to Baltimore? The Ravens were 5-1 to start the season and after he went out they went 5-5. After his return the team went 4-0. What more needs to be said?

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

Lewis has the ability to galvanize a collective like no athlete ever. The Ravens would not have won this title without Lewis . . . plain and simple.

Lewis joins Jerome Bettis and John Elway, just to mention a few that announced their impending retirements and won a NFL title after it.

Baltimore’s Joe Flacco showed all that he is the real deal. The first half was all about Flacco. He went 13 for 20 for 192 yards and the three scores over the opening two quarters, becoming only the sixth quarterback in 47 Super Bowls to throw for that many TDs by halftime.

Flacco finished 22 of 33 for 287 yards in winning Super Bowl XLVII MVP. Keeping up with his noteworthy playoff run he crushed the Niners’ defense. To get to the Super Bowl, he led the Ravens past Denver’s Peyton Manning and New England’s Tom Brady for two of his league-record six career postseason road victories by a quarterback.

Then there was Jacoby Jones seemingly breaking the game wide-open with a Super Bowl record 108-yard sprint with the second-half opening kickoff. That came after Jones latched onto a thrilling 56-yard catch and run touchdown from Flacco.

A New Orleans native, Jones, one of the heroes in a double-overtime playoff win at Denver, could have been or should have been the MVP.

Next, John Harbaugh beat his younger brother Jim to claim the title a Super Bowl winning coach. In the 47-year history of America’s Game, there have never been two brother oppose each other in a Super Bowl. Hey, there have never been two brothers even coach in the NFL, let along challenge each other in the Big Game.

Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is 15 months older than San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh.

San Francisco second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick fell inches short of joining Doug Williams as the only African-American quarterback to lead a team to Super Bowl glory.

Instead he joined Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair as African-American signal callers that led their teams to the Super Bowl but fell just short of the big prize.

Kaepernick couldn’t get the Ravens into the end zone on the final three plays—there was contact on Crabtree on the final pass that appeared incidental, and Jim Harbaugh insisted it was pass interference. But that is what it is.

Before the game began, with 100 million or so Americans expected to tune in on TV, a chorus of 26 children from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — where 20 students and six adults were killed in a shooting rampage in December — sang “America the Beautiful,” accompanied by “American Idol” alum Jennifer Hudson.

My personal highlight was Grammy winner Alicia Keys performing the national anthem. She joined Marvin Gaye and José Feliciano with iconic renditions of America’s anthem.

Beyonce rocked the Super Bowl 2013 halftime show. She brought out her girlmates from Destiny’s Child to help her bring the noise

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

Ravens withstand 49ers rally and power outage, surge to championship

In sports column on February 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Baltimore blackouts San Francisco

ED REED and Ray Lewis celebrate. – Gary Montgomery photo

ED REED and Ray Lewis celebrate. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

COMMENTARY

NEW ORLEANS – I knew this already, but this weekend simply reaffirmed the fact the gladiator game of American football, and, it signature event, the Super Bowl is an unquestionable American iconic yearly event.

Major League Baseball, NBA, and National Hockey League all have to take a back seat to the Super Bowl that has become America’s once a year national corporate playground.

With this fact securely a reality, Super Bowl XLVII actually lived up to the enormous hype machine, as the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens engaged in a thrilling contest full of twist and turns. However, when the smoke cleared the Ravens were hoisting the valued Vince Lombardi Trophy after a hard fought 34-31 victory.

Sure The Big Easy is legendary for partying and food, but now we can add blackouts. For over 35 minutes XLVII was shutdown when the lights went out in the stadium. The power outage put the nation’s biggest sporting event on hold, interrupting an otherwise electric, back-and-forth game.

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

When the lights finally came back on the hot Ravens had cooled off and momentum appeared to have swung over to the 49ers. When the lights dissipated the Raven was holding a commanding 28-6 lead with a little over 13 minutes left in the third quarter.

However, when the mechanical problems were finally arrested, a previously sleepwalking 49es’ team suddenly came alive and as quick as one came say Super Bowl, the Niners had trimmed the Ravens lead to 28-23 with three minutes left in the third quarter.

But Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco put his team on his shoulders and made every play he had to make to hold off a fast charging 49ers team. Flacco, voted the MVP, threw three first-half touchdown passes to cap an 11-TD, zero-interception postseason.

“I just made my reads and took what the 49ers gave me,” said a calm Flacco. “This has not sunk in yet, but I’m sure when I get time to reflect it will take on even greater meaning. Right now this is what we all work and train for, and, we made it happen.”

Next, Jacoby Jones returned the second-half kickoff 108 yards, a Super Bowl record, to give Baltimore a 28-6 lead. Jones became just the second player in NFL history to score via a kick return and reception in playoff history.

“I just saw a seam and got up in there and it opened up,” explained Jones. “This is what every kid dreams about doing while playing Madden or playing in the streets.”

Being down 28-6 at one point I had written San Francisco off, but team by the Bay had other plans. The Niners made a noteworthy run at overcoming the biggest deficit a team has ever had to surmount. The record for a comeback win in a Super Bowl is 10 points, and there were moments were it appeared San Francisco had a chance to better that mark. Instead, the 49ers lost for the first time in six trips to the Super Bowl.

The AFC champion Ravens (14-6), a franchise that moved from Cleveland to Baltimore 17 years ago, improved to 2-0 in the big game. They also won the championship in 2001, when linebacker Ray Lewis was voted the game’s MVP. Lewis was not a major factor this time, but he was a center of attention, playing in the final game of his 17-year career before retiring.

The 49ers struggled early in the first Super Bowl coaching matchup between brothers: Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is 15 months older than San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh.

San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick did all he could to get his team a victory. Kaepernick and the 49ers scored 17 consecutive points, getting as close as 31-29 in the third quarter.

“We started slow and the hurt us as a team,” Kaepernick said. “But, this is a never say died group. We came back and made a run at it. WE had four shots at the end zone, so we came not blame anyone or look for any excuses.”

This was the 10th time New Orleans hosted the big game — tying Miami for most in a city — and first since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Big Easy in August 2005

Leland Stein III can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Banks holding down Kronk boxing lore

In sports column on February 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

By Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

Leland Stein IIIBy Leland Stein II

The Motor City boxing scene has been on the international map for many, many years. Starting with the Brewster Center and legends Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Emanuel Steward.

Later Steward lorded over the most famous boxing club in the world, Kronk. Out of that mix came Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty and the McCory brothers, just to mention a very few.

Now on February 17th on live HBO Boxing, Detroit’s own Johnathon Banks, will be seeking to keep the magical Motown fisticuffs front and center in the international boxing discourse.

“We may not have a Kronk boxing facility since Emanuel’s passing,” Banks said, “but this February people will see the spirit of Kronk is still alive and making history.”

Banks works the speed bag. – Dan Graschuck photo

Banks works the speed bag. – Dan Graschuck photo

Banks, pepped at Detroit Western International Academy, graduating in 2000. With his size and obvious athletic ability, he could have played any sport in high school, but boxing was always in his blood.

“When I went down to the Brewster Center at a very young age,” Banks said, “and learned the history that had been made there, I was a fan of boxing forever. I started boxing as a kid and never wanted to do anything else. I did run cross country at Western, but that helped me with my boxing conditioning.”

Banks again proves that when a person has a true vision for themselves, he or she generally put everything into that dream and in most cases are better directed and focused at a young age.

“As I kept training, I finally met Emanuel, and he turned my life around in this business,” Banks exclaimed. “After Emanuel became my trainer, he started taking me to fighter camps like (Lennox) Lewis’, and, he hooked me up with Wladimir (Klitschko) whom I took over as his trainer following Emanuel’s death.”

The fact of the matter is in less than a month after Emanuel’s death, on Nov. 12th in Hamburg, Germany, Banks was in world champion Klitschko’s corner as head trainer.

Next Banks (31-1-1) claimed into the ring to contest undefeated Seth Mitchell, a former linebacker at Michigan State University, on November 17, 2012 in Atlantic City. He shocked the boxing world producing a second-round knockout over highly regarded Mitchell.

With that title Banks is now currently W.B.C International and N.A.B.O Heavyweight Champion. He has the unique distinction of being the only boxer in history to train the reigning World Heavyweight Champion to a successful title defense, and a week later compete for his own heavyweight title and win in stunning knockout fashion.

Concerning the double duty as a heavyweight champion and world-class trainer, Banks feels he is a natural for it

“I was taught by Emanuel and some other great coaches,” Banks relayed. “I have the ability to teach and being a good trainer is a job of teaching. A person could be a great or average fighter, but none of that will automatically transfer to a person being a great trainer.

“I think what Wladimir saw in me was that I was always looking at him to explore his best and natural assets. While some trainers try to make a fighter fit into their style, I try to fit into the fighter’s style. I’ve always been eager to help guys out and help them reach their full potential. Inside and outside the ring I try to live like that.”

Banks has always had the magic touch when it came to boxing, and, he said that is what Emanuel saw and helped bring out in him. Prior to turning pro, Banks enjoyed a great amateur career that saw him become a three-time National Amateur Champion at 178 lbs.

He went on to become IBO Cruiserweight Champion and now the heavyweight crown. Now in mid-February Banks says he ready to show the world that win was the real deal and to keep the memory of Kronk alive.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII