Leland Stein III

Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

Sports Zone honors achievers

In sports column on October 14, 2018 at 1:41 am

 

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Gilbert “Gravedigger” Brown was the anchor in the middle of the Green Bay Packers Super Bowl winning D Line.

By Leland Stein III

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Leland Stein III

DETROIT, Mi. – The Detroit Sports Zone recently hosted its Seventh Annual High School Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony at Bert’s Market Place Theater.

In a one-on-one interview I implemented with NFL Hall of Fame legend, Jim Brown, he told me that “we have to tell our own stories.” That is exactly what the Detroit Sports Zone organizers are striving to accomplish.

“Our music and sports histories are very important,” said Detroit Sports Zone board member, Michael Price. “Never before has All-City, All-Metro, All-State, or All-American sports legends from Detroit Public Schools been honored for their athletic and academic accomplishments, and, their productivity as citizens in Detroit, or across the globe. We are also honoring men and women so the youth can see them and maybe even emulate their efforts.”

Continuing with Price’s assertion, it is important for the young people to see others that have lived in their neighborhoods, went to their schools and fought through some of the same constraints/problems many of our youth endure still today.

Urban cities throughout America continues to yield young men and women that negotiated the negatives of their environments and uplift themselves via athletics. The 2018 Class continues this aim as it is a diverse conglomeration of achievers and educators.

The 2018 honored awardees were: 

Gilbert Brown graduated from Detroit Mackenzie High and University of Kansas. He was All-State at Mackenzie and All-Academic while at Kansas. He has been placed in the Kansas’ Ring of Honor and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. Brown played nine years with the Packers and in 1996, he started all 16 games next to Santana Dotson, Sean Jones and Reggie White, a defensive unit that allowed a league record low 19 touchdowns and went on to win Super Bowl XXXI. 

“I used football to go to college,” Brown told me after the induction ceremony. “Never thought it would go this far, playing in Green Bay alongside Reggie White, winning the Super Bowl, and now getting honored at home is very special indeed. My family, coaches and friends are all here.”

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NBA star and coach Johnny Davis.

Johnny Davis prepped at Detroit Murray-Wright High and University of Dayton. He was a high school All-State and All-American. He continued his stellar play at Dayton making the U.S.A. Men’s Basketball team and helping it earn a Pan American Games gold medal. Playing 10-years in the NBA, his stellar moment came in 1977 with Portland winning the valued NBA championship. Later be became the first and only Detroit Public School League alumni to become a head coach in the NBA – he led three NBA teams. 

“I grew up in the Brewster Projects and played in the PSL,” Davis recalled after leaving the stage. “Words cannot describe how I feel about being home and getting recognized by the Detroit Sports Zone. Ever since I left for college, played in a number of cities in the NBA, and, coached on even more NBA teams, no matter my travels, Detroit was and is still my home.” 

Markita Aldridge, a 1991 Detroit Martin Luther King High All-State, All-American basketball star led her school to a Michigan Class A State title. She was also named Miss Basketball in the State of Michigan. She also starred at UNC-Charlotte. Played in the WNBA and overseas. She has her own foundation and is the mother of two boys 

Jim Bibbs, an Ecorse High and Wayne State MA graduate, and high school track star, who tied a Jesses Owens world record in the 60-yard dash (1951) while at Eastern Michigan University. Transferring his history and knowledge to Michigan State University he became the first black head track coach in the Big Ten (1975-1995).  He has coached 26 All-Americans, 52 Big Ten Champions, been named to three track Hall of Fames and was A. Phillip Randolph Institute Unsung Hero Awardee. 

“I remember the days of the Black Bottom and Black Experience in Detroit,” Bibbs told me, “so, these Detroiters getting together to honor and recognize their own, makes this even more special for me, and, reminds me of how we had to do for ourselves.” 

David “Smokey” Gaines came out of Detroit Public Schools (Miller and Northeastern High) and continued his education at LeMoyne-Owens College (BS) and Eastern Michigan (MA). The All-City basketball star left college amid the segregation era and found solace with the Harlem Globetrotters (1963-67). From there, among many endeavors, Gaines started his career passion coaching. In particular he became assistant coach at University of Detroit (1973-77) and head coach (1977-79). From there Gaines piloted San Diego State University as head coach (1979-87) and as Assistant Athletic Director (1987-89). He eventually went back to become Athletic Director and head coach at LeMoyne-Owens (2005). 

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Thomas Hearns.

Thomas “Hitman” Hearns prepped in Detroit schools and rose in the Sweet Science under the tutelage of legendary Detroit Kronk trainer, Emanuel Steward. Hearns became the only boxer to win five world titles in five divisions; he also, was the first to hoist eight world titles in six weight classes. He was selected into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2012. 

Sammy Gee is a graduate of the legendary Detroit Miller High School where he earned All-City honors in football, basketball and baseball. He was not doubt one of the greatest all-around athletes to come out of the city. Gee played with the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters for eight years, played Negro League Baseball with the New York Cubans, as well as, with the Brooklyn Dodgers Canadian American League Farm Team. 

George Perles went to Detroit Western High and to Michigan State University. The United States Army veteran came back tot the city to coach St Ambrose tot the Detroit City Leagues title. He then became defensive line coach at Michigan State for 12-years. He parlayed that endeavor into a defensive coordinator position with the Pittsburg Steelers from 1972-82, and, with it came four Super Bowl championships. He left the Steelers to become head coach at Michigan State (1982-94) winning two Big Ten titles and one Rose Bowl. 

Ronnie Phillips prepped at Detroit Denby High and continued on to the University of Illinois. Phillips was an All-City and All-State runner at 880-yards, one mile run and cross-country. At Illinois he became an All-American and All-Big Ten, setting the conference record at the 800-meters that lasted from 1972-82. He went on to become noteworthy educator in Detroit, rising up as a counselor, department head and principal. 

Dr. Robert Sims graduated from Detroit Western High as an exceptional basketball player, he went on to get a BS from Eastern Michigan, an MS from New York University and later earned his D.O. for Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery. He was very successful in private practice medicine and surgery for almost 30-years. Yet, he still gave his valuable time to give Detroit Schools athletic teams physical examinations. He was selected to the Eastern Michigan Hall of Fame basketball/track. 

Not only were the “Terrific Ten” acknowledged and feted, the Detroit Sports Zone awarded four scholarships to present and former city students. 

The Detroit Sports Zone’s history is featured prominently on www.detroitsportszone.org, and, it showcases the history makers and features video history with present and past inductees.

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

Blue Lives Matter founder says NFL Players’ protest are fake

In sports column on August 24, 2018 at 1:25 am
Miami Dolphins v New York Jets

New York Jets team and owner lock arms during National Anthem.

 By Leland Stein III

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Leland Stein

A friend sent me an article on Yahoo.com where a group has bastardized Black Lives Matter movement into Blue Lives Matter.

First, I want to say I have too many friends and family that have been in or are now in the military or on the police force. My grandfather fought in World War II, uncles and cousins in Vietnam and Korea. Many more are policemen so I truly respect and appreciate their sacrifice for this country.

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Of course, Blue Lives Matter, Yellow Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter . . . All Lives Matter. What sane person can question that intent; however, when a group uses divisiveness and untruths as a basis for its meaning – it only drives a giant wedge between groups instead of building bridges.

The complete inability of Americans to listen to, respect, receive, regard or take note of any opinion other than their own is disconcerting and troubling. That’s what I take from the Blue Lives Matter founder’s words.

Hey, I have twin grandsons that are four-years-old and I at one point thought we were really leaving the world a better place for their dreams, goals and aspirations. But when I see the complete discord and inharmoniousness people are displaying I have to wonder where we are headed.

Our First Amendment gives all the right of free speech; however, with that we all have to understand freedom is not free. It comes with a responsibility of respectful discourse and being able to listen to others that may have different opinions.

Also, what has happened to facts. Two plus two equals four, the sun raises in the East, airplanes use fuel and grits and butter are made for each other – facts. Yet, in this getting stranger everyday universe “alternative facts” have creeped into today’s lexicon.

Look no further than this article in Yahoo.com where the founder of a proposed pro-police organization blasted NFL player protests and turned down a partnership offer from the New York Jets.

Blue Lives Matter NYC recently was approached by the Jets about a partnership. Instead of using the opportunity to uplift the men in blue and enter dialogue with the predominately African-American players the founder, Joe Imperatrice, jumped on the Trump train and made it all about the NFL players. He uses his Blue Lives Matter platform to regurgitates every stereotype and typecast he can to denigrate those Black men trying to make the world a better place for all.

He issued a vile email that marginalize minority Americans’ very real concerns and apprehensions relating to sometimes excessive and one-sided interactions with a “very small percentage” of police.

In spite of the fact many veterans and some police have rallied around the players right to First Amendment non-violent protest, the divisive rhetoric seeded by Trump has grown into its own tree. 

Via emails shared with The New York Post, Blue Lives Matter founder wrote:

“Although I’d love to work with an NFL team right now I feel it is not the right time. All over the United States players feel entitled to disrespect our first responders, our military members both past and present and our flag. These players make more money in a season than some people make in a lifetime and their ‘Issues’ are made up, exaggerated, and more times than not false.”

He continued: “Once again I do appreciate the offer but revenue we have could better be spent on the families of officers killed in the line of duty protecting the ignorance of these individuals rather than contributing to their paycheck.”

Blue Lives Matter founder in July, appeared on a Fox News segment blaming the media for a war on cops saying: “Just like Donald Trump gets beat up every day, so does law enforcement.”

Wow! Just another so sorry example of someone not listening to his fellow man, instead he went for the same-old tired and fatigued racial juggernaut, claiming the NFL players’ protests are fake and over exaggerated . . . what? In other words, African-American issues are not worth his time of day. Just like our president, he simply ignored and refused to address the players’ real intent, instead pandering to a segment of Americans who gleefully bury the real and only reason for player protest under an avalanche of falsehoods and created disrespects.

Instead of even acknowledging some real issues, the Blue Lives Matter leader jumped on the men’s salary (what the heck does that have to do with anything?); replayed this anti-military, anti-first responders, anti-flag, anti-country “fake” disrespect thing. The final nail in the coffin was him suggesting the protesting players were ignorant (most of these men spent at least three years in college).

Why am I even surprised? This man is the same person who defended in a 2017 Fox News segment the NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk” policy that gave officers authority to detain and search pedestrians using their judgment of “reasonable suspicion.” Here are the facts: a report uncovered that 84 percent of the people stopped and frisked in New York were black or Hispanic while 10 percent were white.

It appears that some of our white brethren just will not listen or acknowledge that there are a small number of officers that do not always do the right thing. How has this fact turned into a condemnation of all officers?

In this free-flowing society teachers, doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, garbage men, sports owners etc. al have made mistakes or taken a wrong turn. This is a fact. So why will Americans not admit that a few of our men in blue make mistakes too?

To all our brothers and sisters in this life, once again: the NFL players never, ever attacked the military, men or women in blue, the flag or first responders (wow, that was a new addition in this discourse – the first time I’ve heard someone accuse the players of hating on first-responders).

Blue Lives Matter founder went so far as to claim the players’ “issues are made up, exaggerated, and more times than not false.” To answer that lie about “made up,” during the 2018 Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony, Randy Moss, wore a tie with the names 10 black people who somewhat recently were unjustly killed by police or died after being taken into custody. He noted that he received hate mail after he used his platform to raise awareness of some very real issues in the Black community.

In America non-violent protest has been its bedrock, yet when a few black men do it, it has morphed into a national crisis and upheaval.

The crisis is not people engaging in non-violent demonstration, it is seeing injustice to our fellow Americans and ignoring it, and, co-opting the significance of a protest and turning a positive message and intent into something negative.

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

Terrell Owens always the Diva . . .

In sports column on August 10, 2018 at 10:10 pm

 

terrele owens yellow jacket By Leland Stein III

Leland Stein III

I am not surprised that Terrell Owens became the first NFL Hall of Famer to skip the Canton, Ohio induction ceremonies. Instead he staged his own celebration with a speech on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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The 2018 NFL Hall of Fame Class enjoy each other’s company.

What this solidifies in my mind is that Owens is simply an attention seeking confused man. Much like Kanye West and others, Owens takes-action with the thought that people will have to address him, he simply cannot comprehend the long-term reality or negative repercussions or aftermaths of his choices.

Some of my peers wondered aloud whether Owens’ stance would distract from an awesome 2018 Hall of Fame Class. Well, after watching the event and listening to the noteworthy orations by the 2018 inductees, I am glad to report Owens’ absence did nothing to distract from the positive aura surrounding this group. 

With Ray Lewis, Randy Moss and Brian Urlacher joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, and, Owens and Brian Dawkins joining them, it became one of the youngest enshrined groups in history. Those five players were joined by longtime personnel executive Bobby Beathard (contributor) and seniors committee nominees Jerry Kramer and Robert Brazile for enshrinement.

Looking and listening to this amazing assemblage of gridiron legends, there was absolutely no way Owens stole their collective shine.

With Lewis a 13-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a Super Bowl MVP in his career as a Baltimore Ravens linebacker. There is Moss, who is second all-time in touchdown receptions with 156 and had eight 1,200-yard seasons in his career. Urlacher was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.

Then there is Owens, who ranks eighth all time in receptions (1,078), second in receiving yards (15,935) and third in receiving touchdowns (153).

Owens was in just his third year of eligibility. Dawkins was in his second year of eligibility.

Because Diva Owens did not go into the Hall in his first year, he regressed into I’m a big baby mode and called the Hall of Fame, “Hall of Shame.”

Predictably the voters shunned Owens in his second year and he took the discourse up another level, threatening to skip the enshrinement, which he eventually did.

Sure, Owens had a point for maybe being a first ballot Hall of Famer; however, what he is missing is that in this life being right sometimes comes with patience and placidity. He simply does not have the skills of compromise or conciliation, which are some of our most important gifts in making our interaction with humanity smoother.

Like in a marriage or on a job or coaching or teaching or raising children, the ability to make a defined statement or point without an acrimonious or rancorous retort toward anyone that may have a differing opinion or thought than oneself . . . is a quintessential life skill – Owens seems to not have.

How many of us have had to cajole our wife to please marry me or push their kids to put a better effort into their school work or push one’s boss to honestly give he or she a fair shot at a promotion or push your coaches to let them know you are ready to be a starter? These things do not always happen on one’s first try, yet we keep at it.

I have covered three NFL Hall of Fame events in Canton, and I can clearly say that the four or five-day event is beyond special. Owens in his myopic vision of right and wrong missed a chance to fellowship with other legends that already have the Yellow Jacket (Jim Brown, Franco Harris, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, etc. al.), break bread at the Hall dinner, the presentation of the Yellow Jackets event, his teams he played for hosting and celebrating his enshrinement, and finally the day of one’s speech where coaches, teammates, family and fans come to Canton stadium to honor and rejoice a career.

In Owens’ self-serving speech in Tennessee, he tried to frame his stance as helping others that may follow him in the Hall. “I am against sportswriters who are not in alignment with the mission of the Hall of Fame core values,” he told reporters. “I am helping the next guy.”

Sorry Owens, in a time when your fellow athletes are putting their careers on the line to bring attention to injustices in the courts and with law enforcement, his trying to help other does not measure up.

Who is Owens helping? I project the .0001% of America’s population will be in a position to become first ballot Hall of Fame inductees. So, his helping people claim is basically counterfeit. 

What Owens did against the Hall only serve himself. He seems to not have the ability to correct himself when, like all of us who make mistakes do, he just insulates himself, does not take personal ownership and creates a they are against me aura.

That is hard to project when Owens himself alienated so many with his over the top end zone celebrations; being the father of two daughters and two sons, by four different mothers; his off and on the field antics; having to pay $45,000 per baby mama for child support; having allegedly tried to kill himself by intentionally ingesting an overdose of hydrocodone, a pain medication; and spitting in the face of a fellow athlete.

Owens was a superior athlete, but his on and off the field antics caused pause by the voters. He just does not understand that life is not a horizontal line ray, but a circular geometry line that is interconnected. What one does over here does not disappear into no-man’s land, it remains. Our actions throughout life connect us like a DNA life-link chain.

Owens is an exceptional athlete who played basketball, football, and ran track in college. Surely, he is worthy of his Hall of Fame induction, but this man is stuck in the you wronged me zone and that has costed him an amazing weekend that only happens once.

If you asked your wife to marry you three times and she finally says yes, do you boycott her? When you push your children to try harder in class and it takes five to twenty times to get that message through do you kick them out the house?

Owens once again fell prey to his self-serving demons and boycotted an event that was meant for him to give honor to his coaches, family, teammates and life. This brother is his own worst enemy and simply cannot humble himself for others.

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

NFL & Trump: What has happened to the First Amendment Rights?

In sports column on May 27, 2018 at 12:47 am

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By Leland Stein III

DETROIT – It all seems so simple to me! One of the non-negotiable tents of our United States Constitution is the First Amendment right of free speech.

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Why don’t the Second Amendment rights advocates cajole for the First as passionately? Just wondering. After all, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are the bedrock of America’s uniqueness.

The First Amendment is a part of the Bill of Rights and the amendment which disables an entity or individual from practicing or enforcing a religious viewpoint which infringes on the freedom of speech, the right of peaceable assemble, the freedom of the press, or which prohibits the petitioning for a governmental evaluation of grievances.

With the urgings and admonishing’s of President Donald Trump, the National Football League recently proclaimed that players on teams that kneel for the national anthem, their teams would be discipline by instituting fines.

Protesting football players were extended the option of remaining in their locker rooms until the anthem is over.

The owners instituted the new rules after players joined former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick in kneeling on the sidelines throughout last season to protest police brutality.

President Trump promptly chimed in and unleashed this anti First Amendment tirade: “Any players who kneel during the national anthem should not live in this country.”

Wow!!

What has happened to the “right of peaceable assemble” as outlined in our First Amendment? It is beyond amazing that our president is advocating for muzzling Americans, who happen to have compelling opinions that differ from Trump’s myopic views of American life.

He simply refuses to recognize or appreciate the expansive diversity that live in the United States and the varying challenges that differing cultures face and endure.

It is shameful, dishonorable and reprehensible that the President and many of his minions continue to bastardize the players’ narrative concerning their peaceful attempt to draw attention to police brutality and a historically racist justice system.

There is a reason from the time one is old enough to read in the Black community, the phrase, “Just Us” is the acknowledged acronym for “Justice.”

Even NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, wondered aloud how the on-field protests created the false perception among fans that NFL players who participated in the protests were unpatriotic, hated military or law enforcement.

However, there are many that think the NFL’s action was simply aimed at their bottom line. Many projections claim the NFL rakes in $10 billion or more a year and doesn’t pay any taxes, and, is only worried about profits and image.

Trump played to his right-wing base during a rally in Alabama last September when he called NFL players who kneeled “sons of bitches.” He also encouraged fans to boycott the games when the protests occurred.

The NFL is 77 percent black. Is that just happenstance that many have taken arms against the players exercising their First Amendment rights?

One fact I know for sure is that the players protesting never had any intention of hating on the military, law enforcement or being unpatriotic. How easily Trump changed the discourse and how and why too many Americans have latched onto his negative invention, is simply disheartening.

I have interviewed many NFL players and have covered the league for over 30-years and many, many of the players have family members in the military and in law enforcement. Their plea for help and fairness was simply just that, nothing else.

Ironically, as the NFL unveiled its new rules, the same day Milwaukee Police released a video of police officers tasing and wrestling to ground Sterling Brown, Milwaukee Bucks rookie guard, in January following a very minor parking violation in a Walgreens parking lot.

The Milwaukee Bucks organization called what happened to Brown at the hands of police “shameful and inexcusable.” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and the city’s police chief Alfonso Morales have apologized to Brown.

Fact is this is a sad actuality for minority communities throughout America.

As far back as The Boston Tea Party in 1773, when protesters gathered in Boston Harbor to reject the latest shipment of tea from the East India Company, protest has been at the root of America’s development. The Colonist were speaking out against the Tea Act, that gave a British government-controlled company an effective monopoly. The colonists stormed the ships as they pulled into the harbor and chucked some 46 tons of tea overboard.

The real issue at hand, of course, was the colonists’ lack of representation in the British Parliament. That night, their cries reverberated near and far, and helped spur a movement that would see the states gain their independence from Mother England in just a few years’’ time.

Since that call to action in 1773 the United States has a very long history of peaceful and violent protest against perceived wrongdoings.

Henry David Thoreau, the Harvard-educated 19th-century philosopher and poet, remains a major symbol of peaceful resistance because of his 1849 work, “Civil Disobedience.” On account of his opposition to slavery, Thoreau refused to pay taxes, an act that briefly landed him in jail.

The Flint, Mich. sit-ins happened in 1936 at the Fisher Body Plant as United Auto Workers tried to organize their massive work force. Within two weeks, about 135,000 men were striking in 35 cities across the nation. The movement solidified one of North America’s largest unions.

How can I forget Rosa Parks declaring enough is enough? Even though African Americans constituted some 70% of total bus ridership in Montgomery, Ala., people of color were forced to sit in the back of the bus. She refused to give her seat to a white man and was arrested inciting the Montgomery Bus Boycott. It took an entire year of protest, arrest, and violence acted on the boycotters before the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision that made segregated seating unconstitutional. Parks was known thereafter as the “mother of the civil-rights movement.”

How can Trump and others forget the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led First Amendment March on Washington to demand equal rights for African Americans and poor, where over 200,000 people gathered in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. There King delivered one of the greatest speeches ever, “I Have a Dream” and it awakened and galvanized a nation to action. The protest led to the successful passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

And my Mom and wife surely rejoice the 19th Amendment, which formally granted women the right to vote. The women’s-suffrage movement/protest dates as far back as the Revolutionary War, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B Wells and Alice Paul, spearheaded the strong push for equal voting rights. In 1920 — 41 years after it had originally been drafted — Congress ratified an amendment that said: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

How about track athletes Tommie Smith (first place) and John Carlos (third place) using their wins in Mexico City’s 1968 Olympic Games to show their opposition to the continued oppression of blacks in the U.S. They stood in black socks to represent black poverty; Carlos wore beads to symbolize black lynchings; together they raised their black-gloved fists in a cry for black unity.

What about the Vietnam War, where thousands of Americans sporting flowers over guns protested a perceived unjust war and gave their lives (re. Kent State massacre) and efforts to end that costly conflict.

My question to Trump is, “Should suffrage leaders Stanton, Anthony, Wells and Paul; Martin Luther King Jr.; the flower children (now CEO’s); Ms. Parks; Smith or Carlos; all the UAW workers; Thoreau and/or the colonists been kicked out the country? Were they all “sons of bitches” as Trump proclaimed about the predominately African-American NFL players who protested.

I know Trump is pandering to his base; however, it saddens me that more Americans than I could believe leaped on the negative bandwagon. Considering the history of the USA and its protest that have enacted positive change in this country, why did the NFL players deliberation cause so much divisiveness?

From the American Revolution through the civil rights era history, Irish, Italians, African Americans, Protestants, Catholics, Hispanics etc. al. have rallied around the First Amendment rights to do as King said “cash a check” against the U.S. Constitution that guarantees all the right of free speech, life and liberty for all.

Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, called the president’s remarks “disgusting” and said that while he doesn’t like the league’s new policy, he understands it.

“We’ve got freedom of speech, right? Freedom to protest? Just because somebody disagrees or has an issue with something that’s going on in this country, that doesn’t mean that they should pack up and leave,” Marshall told reporters in response to Trump’s comments.

That is not all, Trump also said the about the protesters, “Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.”

Our President really does not understand America’s true “heritage” of protest and has completely forgotten freedom of expression is right there in the First Amendment. And our brave soldiers didn’t fight and die so that everyone would stand during the national anthem. They fought so people could have the right to decide whether or not they want to stand. That’s the genuine and fundamental point of the First Amendment.

The thing is: We don’t live in a color-blind society. Slavery sits at the beginning ancestries of America. The goal of racial egalitarianism remains a goal, not an accomplishment. To fantasize otherwise is to willfully blind one’s self to hundreds of years of history.

Somehow, we all have to get back to listening to each other and accepting our differences – somehow.

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

 

“Fantastic Four” continues Watkins Awards legacy of noteworthy scholar athletes

In sports column on March 18, 2018 at 12:10 am

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Eagles demand first Super Bowl title

In sports column on February 14, 2018 at 12:21 am

 

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Tom Brady tries to avoid a Bradon Graham sack. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

stein watkins profile

Leland Stein

MINNEAPOLIS, Mn. – No matter that the weather outside was hovering around zero, the over 67,612 fans in US Bank Stadium, and, the millions of television watchers world-wide were on fire as the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots got set to engage in American gridiron football action.

The Eagles and Patriots both felt the heat of the moment too, as the two teams combined for a shocking 673 yards in the first half, the second highest total in Super Bowl history.

Oh the crazy/awesome offensive heat did not stop in the second half either, as both teams combined for 1,151 yards – the most in any modern NFL game.

The exhilarating and breathtaking contest was hot throughout – if one loves offense – as Philly indeed did just enough to outlast 40-year-old G.O.A.T Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to become NFL champions for the first time since 1960. The 41-33 victory was one for the ages.

Overzealous Philadelphia fans lost their minds back home as their owner lifted the Lombardi Trophy signifying that the Philadelphia Eagles really had did the darn thing in its third Super Bowl appearance.

“I am so excited for our locker room,” Eagles second-year coach Doug Pederson exclaimed, “and Mr. (Jeffrey) Luri he gave me the opportunity to coach this team. A lot of people counted us out, but the locker room believed, believed in each other, believed in me and together we found a way to get it done.”

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Ron Gronkowski corrals touchdown over Ronald Darby – Gary Montgomery photo

Pederson did not approach this game with his tail between his legs and he went for the win at all times. In particular Mr. Guts and Glory with 38 seconds remaining in the first half (Patriots had just scored and brought the score to a respectable 15-12), and the Philadelphia Eagles facing fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line, he went for a trick play – the “Philly Special.”

With a little bit more the one minute left running back Corey Clement pitched to tight end Trey Burton who flipped the ball to quarterback Nick Foles that engineered an important 22-12 halftime lead.

“Our coach has got some guts, huh?” Burton unleashed. “He’s got some big ones.”

When the Eagles needed a yard for a touchdown – when most coaches might have trusted their offensive line to just push their way forward – Pederson called a play on which his quarterback would ideally be the last of four people to touch the ball. It was a play the Eagles had practiced a total of six times.

“You never know what he’s thinking,” Burton said. “Here we are. Philly’s never won a Super Bowl. We’re fourth-and-1 on the goal line and he calls a trick-play pass to the quarterback? Come on, man.”

The play worked and Pederson did it again on fourth-and-one from Philly’s own 45 yard line with 5:39 left in the game. Again it worked as the Eagles keep the ball and eventually scored on the game winning touchdown on a 11-yard pass to tight end Zach Ertz that was sent to the replay official for review, but eventually was acknowledges as a score and it was a game changer as Philadelphia took a 38-33 margin they never relinquished.

It worked, of course. Pretty much everything Pederson and his Eagles did Sunday night work which is the reason why it’s no longer true that Philadelphia has never won a Super Bowl.

“You don’t just roll in with any old game plan and expect Foles to win a 41-33 shootout with Brady,” Pederson noted. “You don’t play it safe and expect to out-coach Belichick.”

Pederson continued: “I trust my players, I trust my coaches and I trust my instincts. I trust everything I’m doing, and I wanted to maintain that aggressiveness. In games like this, against a great opponent, you have to make those tough decisions that will keep yourself or the team aggressive.”

Coach may indeed have trusted his players; however, the Eagles made the clutch plays as they did just enough to coral the Patriots in a very tight game.

Fact is Foles guided the drive of a lifetime as Ertz made a bobbling touchdown catch that had to survive replay review, and then an exhausted defense came up with two defensive stands in the final moments.

That game-clinching defensive stance was initiated with a Brandon Graham strip-sack against Brady with Derek Barnett recovering, setting up rookie Jake Elliot’s 46-yard field goal for an 8-point lead.

Graham, “We knew we were playing Brady and those coaches in the biggest game. I knew I had a one-on-one with the guard. We had been doing something that had been working, but I acted like I was pulling, then I snatched the ball right off Brady’s arm and it changed the game.”

The breathtaking effort of the game was that quarterback Foles had been something of a journeyman in his six pro seasons, but he was spectacular in four career playoff games. He finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards and three TDs in the title game

The 40-year-old Brady finished 28 of 48 and picked apart the Eagles until the final two series.

Graham and his squad held Brady in check to win in the final minutes.

Said Malcom Jenkins: “We knew that in the two minute situation that most likely they were going pass the ball so in the two minute situation our d-line could finally cut it loose. The whole game they had us on our heels, but we did what we needed to coral that awesome team.”

Journeyman Foles taking the place of Carson Wentz, did the impossible, guiding the Eagles to the title, earning Super Bowl MVP.

“I am speechless,” exclaimed Foles, “All glory to God first and foremost. To be here with confetti flying and the greatest group of men, such a great city to play for and I am proud to be a Philadelphia Eagle.”

Brady got his team to midfield, but his desperation pass fell to the ground in the end zone.

“For us,” Graham exclaimed, “it was all about one stop we had to make. We went out here and made that one stop.”

The underdog Eagles (16-3), earned its first Super Bowl title after going 7-9 last season.

“If there’s a word (it’s) called everything,” Eagles owner Lurie said. “That’s what it means to Eagles fans everywhere. And for Eagles fans everywhere, this is for them.”

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

 

 

Patriots shock the world with amazing comeback

In sports column on February 6, 2017 at 1:51 pm

Super Bowl LI saw the first overtime game in its 51 year history.

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Tom Brady orchestrates classic victory. – Gary Montgomery photo

By Leland Stein III

HOUSTON – Not only I, but the 70,807 in NRG Stadium, as well as, millions world-wide watching the televised broadcast, were left in shock as the New England Patriots fought back from a 25-point deficit after a surprisingly inferior and feeble performance over the first three quarters of Super Bowl LI.

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Leland Stein III

Then, out of nowhere the Patriots regrouped, just as I had placed them in the football graveyard, amazingly and shockingly they came to life and produced an astonishing 34-28 overtime victory over the shell-shocked Atlanta Falcons.

In the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, one of the most important breaks happen when the red-hot Patriots won the coin toss and promptly drove 75 yards in eight plays giving the Patriots their fifth Lombardi Trophy. Running back James White scored the winning touchdown and the celebration was on.

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Dont’a Hightower’s (54) strip of Matt Ryan fueled Pats fourth quarter rally. – Gary Montgomery photo

The win officially makes Tom Brady the most decorated quarterback in modern football history, having surpassed his own idol Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw who each had four Super Bowl wins.

Said Brady in the post-game press conference when asked if this title was sweeter than the previous ones because of how they won it: “Every title is special. Two years ago it came down to Malcom (Butler) making the play to beat Seattle and this year down 25 points, I could see why it was hard for anyone to imagine us winning.

“The one positive was we went into halftime down, but we had the ball for 20 minutes. As the game goes on, that gets tough on a defense. In the Super Bowl, everyone is expending a lot of energy and once we got it rolling there in the second half it was tough to slow us down.”

Brady continued: “There was a lot at stake tonight. We played our tails off all season to get to this point and it’s hard to win games in the NFL. To beat this team after getting down 28-3, it was just a lot of mental toughness by our team and we’re going to remember this for the rest of our lives.”

Coming into NRG Stadium for the big game, I predicted an offensive scoring fest between Atlanta and New England.

So much for my prognostications, in the first quarter both teams produced goose eggs giving all the appearance that defense was going to rule the day.

After the 0-0 first quarter, from the start of the second quarter to halftime the Falcons produced a scoring barrage.

Collectively the teams finished one and two with the least turnovers in the NFL this season. However, it took a LaGarrette Blount fumble that halted a New England drive, and, ignited the stagnate Falcons’ offense as it came alive and drove 67 yards for the game’s first score at the start of the second quarter.

The Falcons ended the first half up 21-3 after three touchdowns, including one from cornerback Robert Alford that came from quarterback Brady’s only pick-six interception of his postseason career.

Having covered all seven of the Super Bowls coach Bill Belichick and Brady have participated in this one just left me completely fibergastic.

Why?

Well, I have never seen this team play so poorly in a big game. No, I amend that statement. Maybe it was the Falcons that made Brady and the Patriots look like they did not even belong on the same field with them.

Atlanta did everything right for three quarters using the same formula that looked similar to the teams that have knocked New England out and issued them some painful playoff defeats: No running game to help settle things down, an offensive line that was having trouble holding up against the Falcons’ very quick pass rushers, and, too many mistakes.

The defense had its struggles, too, laboring to strike the balance of being stout enough against the run in their nickel package (six players in the box), but not vulnerable in the secondary against the high powered pass Falcon’s passing game.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, just named the NFL 2016 MVP, played like it for three quarters. In fact, a precision strike to star receiver, Julio Jones for 27-yards down to the Patriots 22 with a little over 4 minutes left in the game could have sealed the game.

“I felt like we were in good position after that great catch by Jones,” lamented Ryan. “I felt like we put ourselves in a good position to come away with points on that drive after his catch. It didn’t end up working out, which was disappointing. There’s nothing you can really say. This was a tough loss. Obviously very disappointed, very close to getting done what we wanted to get done, but it’s hard to find words tonight.”

Ryan continues a crazy trend that for the last 16 years, since 2000, no NFL MVP has won the Super Bowl.

After a magnificent season, Ryan might be remembered most for the game he lost. The loss for the Falcons marked the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history and is sure to leave an empty feeling in the stomach of Ryan and his teammates the entire off-season.

The gritty Falcons should use this disappointment to fuel their fire going into the 2017 regular season.

The lost surely put a damper on what was a spirited effort for Atlanta sparked by a young defense that made plays early and often. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones set the tone early with a strip and forced fumble that was recovered by cornerback Robert Alford. Then Alford read Brady as he was pressured by Dwight Freeney, picked off the pass and returned it 82 yards for a touchdown at 21-0 lead.

Dan Quinn, in his second season as the Falcons head coach after winning a Super Bowl as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, lamented the team’s inability to get a stop when they needed one during the Patriot’s late rally.

“I think for sure we ran out of gas some,” Quinn said. “The Patriots executed terrifically. When they got hot, it was hard for us to deal with.”

That said, Quinn was proud of the way his team battled together in their quest for their first NFL title in the 51st season for the Falcons.

“I am proud of the fight that these guys have.”  he said. “The brotherhood that this group has built, it’s as strong as I’ve seen.”

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

Has priecemealed Lions overachieved in 2016?

In sports column on January 2, 2017 at 11:01 pm

 

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Matthew Stafford hopes to point Lions to playoff win Sunday. Dan Graschuck photo.

By Leland Stein III

DETROIT – To my observation, this has been a noteworthy job Lions coach Jim Caldwell has implemented or jerry-rigged to turn this hodgepodge collage of athletes into a NFL playoff team.

After starting the season 1-3, many gloated and exclaimed, “See, I told you this team was garbage!!!”

Then out of nowhere, Caldwell cajoled, prodded, provoked and stirred this team to overcome injuries to its best players (Darius Slay, Travis Swanson, DeAndre Levy, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Ezekiel Ansah). His task was made even tougher because of an acknowledged thin roster, which new General Manager, Bob Quinn, by the way has done an excellent job of building some depth; however, the task is nowhere near completed.

me at USA basketball

Leland Stein III.

Before taking my seat in the Lions press area at Ford Field, and contemplating the two game losing streak Detroit was carrying as a burden, my gut told me this would be a very hard game for the home team to capture.

Unfortunately, my internal pre-game prognostication came true as the undermanned Lions could not muster up enough defense or offense to outlast their seemingly never-ending antagonist the Green Bay Packers and super evasive quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.

He is one of the best I have ever seen at eluding a pass rush. The way Rodgers slides and glides up in the pocket, to the right of the pocket, to the left of the pocket, while always looking downfield before scooting, many times untouched, for a valuable first down . . . is simply uncanny.

Lion’s defensive back, Nevin Lawson told me in the post-game locker room: “Man we were man-upping, but Rodgers ability to keep plays alive and scramble made it difficult to keep contact with their receivers. That is not an excuse, because we are paid to do that no matter the situation.”

The win was especially gut-wrenching for long suffering Lions’ faithful who would have witness its team corral its first division title in 23 years. Instead, the 31-24 loss gave Green Bay (10-7) a home playoff game versus the New York Giants.

Meanwhile the 9-7 Lions, thanks to a New York Giants win over Washington, get a wildcard and will have to travel to the Great Northwest and contest the Seattle Seahawks.

Caldwell said in his press conference: “It’s a new season. We are not going to talk about Green Bay anymore, it’s over, it’s a new season. We’re talking about Seattle, very tough team to play out there. We’ve got to get ready to go. You can’t linger on this stuff.”

He continued: “All I can tell you is, number one, it’s very difficult to get into the playoffs. Number two, there’s only 12 teams working tomorrow morning and we’re one of those 12. If you’re in, you’ve got a chance.”

What bothered me somewhat was I heard some guys saying the Lions inability to win any of its last three games was an epic collapse. What?

Anyone who feels that way about this 2016 version really does not know anything about football. Any retort like that smacks at this reality TV generation of demean, humiliate, degrade, or lower the efforts of others.

At the beginning of this narrative I asked the question: “Has the Lions overachieved?”

Well, any real analysis of the 2016 Lions’ personnel, coupled with the injuries, one would have to say, unquestionably, this team has overachieved!!!

Every talking head around gladly proclaimed before the start of the 2016 season that this Lions team did not have the personnel to compete at a high level with most putting the team’s chances between 7-9 to 5-11.

Caldwell did a masterful job, as he did in 2015, of righting the ship and molding a bunch of no name role players into a cohesive unit that was more gritty than talented. How else can I explain the Lions winning 8 of 9 games after that horrible 1-3 start?

My analysis concerning why Detroit has made the NFL Playoffs starts with the Lions coaches, then Stafford and finally the players buying into Caldwell’s urgings and overachieving. The last three Lions’ games clearly show that the Giants, Cowboys and Packers have some pieces that the Lions cannot match! Especially at running back, with Abdullah, then Riddick and rookie Dewayne Washington all going down.

Zack Zenner has done an admirable job the last two games, but his inability to get to the edge or cut up then slide outside is not good enough for a run at Super Bowl glory. There is no doubt the offense would be more versatile with a healthy Abdullah or Riddick giving Stafford a speed receiver out the backfield that can pressure the edges.

The fact of the matter is Quinn needs to add linebackers, a stretch receiver and a speedy running back for this team to take the next step.

In spite of the disappointing three losses to end the season, this team has played over it head and present talent level. It has a game Sunday versus the Seahawks, but it will take a perfect game from Stafford to pull off the upset. The defense has been surprisingly stellar all season, but over the last three games against prime time opponents the patchwork linebacking core has been exposed by Ezekiel Elliott and Rodgers.

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