The player-coach bond lasts long afer guys leave. Most of the time.
It’s the end of the lIne for a lot of players, and I’ll admit it, some of them are guys I never want to see leave. Relationships like the ones between Big John Thompson and Allen Iverson or Coach K and Steve Wojciechowski, those are special bonds that don’t happen often. Jim Calhoun has had that with Kemba Walker—a teacher with a talented student who wants to know more. Coaches have a soft spot in our hearts for that kind of player. But we know we can’t have that connection with every guy. I keep in touch with about half of my former players. Usually, they’re the guys who visited my office often when they were on the team. Mostly, we e-mail, but sometimes one of them will stop by practice, for old times’ sake. I’d say I have liked 80% of the players I’ve coached. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes there will be a player I just don’t get along with. When he leaves school, he knows he doesn’t meet the expectations I lay down, I’ll suspend him from practices or games to show him no one player is bigger than our program. Some guys have a tough time with that concept. As stars in high school, they didn’t hear the word “no” much. But if anyone disagrees with me, he is welcome to transfer. Unfortunately, that’s an increasingly common occurrence in college hoops these days. Blame part of that on the fact that college life can really sucker punch freshmen. When they arrive on campus, they’re just unprepared for the demands put on the student-athlete. Most practiced for only 90 minutes in high school. We can go twice as long, and that’s on top of all the classes, studying, weights and film they have to juggle, too. It’s a I won’t want to see him again, and I doubt he’ll lose any sleep about not seeing me anymore either. That’s one of the risks that comes with recruiting a teamful of players. Not everyone is going to get the same satisfaction out of the experience. Like any coach, I’ve had guys who were more trouble than talent. When someone isn’t the right fit for my program or I’m not the right coach for him, I’ll tell him so. If shock, for sure. Coaches steer players away from certain majors for that reason. Personally, I don’t want a kid who has never spent a regimented day in his life on my team at the same time he is taking a science class that requires lab hours. Athletic programs have tutors and advisers to help athletes stay on track, but all the support in the world can’t ready every player for the challenge. I mean, my staff and I recently had a big fight with a guy who didn’t want to attend a mandatory study hall!
Coach X heads a top NCAA hoops program, with many March Madness appearances under his belt. This is his third column.

they can jump around to avoid accountability. It’s incredibly important to get a player who wants to be coached. Now, I don’t know if you can ever know how much a kid is willing to change. So the question is, Am I willing to find out? Look at Renardo Sidney at Mississippi State; certain coaches are definitely better at dealing with that kind of situation than others. John Calipari has a rep among coaches for being incredible at working with guys who, let’s be honest, a lot of elite schools wouldn’t recruit. He’s a great salesman, but I also hear he genuinely cares. And he’s drummed up a reputation among players both for his history of success and for gaining respect from guys other coaches wouldn’t touch. A kid who has never listened to an authority figure looks at Calipari and says, “Look what he’s done with guys like me.” I’ve had kids who come in here and get off to a rocky start. Their grades are poor and their eligibility is hanging by a thread. But usually, we’re lucky. They learn from our upperclassmen and grow. If we’ve done our work, by the time they graduate, our student-athletes have received a better education than their peers. They learn how to work with others when times are tough—and times will get tough. Most normal students couldn’t even begin to comprehend the character that requires. the last time, I’m happy to keep in touch with them. For the most part, anyway.

I Can’t know how MuCh a kId Is wIllInG to ChanGe. QuestIon Is: aM I wIllInG to fInd out?

I’ve come to appreciate the importance of a player’s attitude, especially with so many of them brought up in a world of single-parent families and AAU programs that

And that’s why, after my players step off the court for



ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011


steve wulf

When it comes to the importance of wins as a stat, we can all agree to disagree.
I have been wantIng to take the mound for some time now. I am willing to make a pitch on behalf of something I hold dear, but that others dismiss, deride and detest. I toe the slab for the losing cause of wins. My opponents are the sabermetricians, that new breed of baseball execs and readers of The Magazine, who in our most recent NEXT issue (Jan. 10) voted wins for pitchers as the most overrated stat in sports. Even my own sons roll their eyes when I come to the defense of the W, the same way they do when I sing the praises of Deep Purple. All of them seem smug and flush with success now that Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (he of the 2.27 ERA, 1.057 WHIP and 13–12 record) is the American League’s defending Cy Young Award winner. Hernandez beat out the Yankees’ 21-game-winner, CC Sabathia, and the Rays’ 19-game-winner, David Price, for the award. But at the rate he’s going, King Felix would have to pitch for 38 more years to eclipse Young’s 511 victories. Yes, those wins were racked up in a dead-ball era when pitchers routinely went nine innings and started more than 40 games a season, but it is called the Cy Young Award for a reason. It may have been a football coach who said, “You play to win the game,” but Herm Edwards was right. Wins are the meta-stat, the sine qua non of baseball. Every metric ultimately points to the likelihood of scoring or preventing runs, and the team that scores more runs wins. It’s only fair that the player who shoulders the
steve wulf IS the edItor In chIef of eSpn bookS.

most responsibility for the outcome, the starting pitcher, gets the credit or blame. Yes, you want a starter with nasty stuff—and numbers reflect that. But you also want a pitcher with intangibles like heart, brains and poise. I am not alone in that belief, but my team is aging. In my dugout sit the cranky scribes who once used typewriters and the veteran scouts in straw hats who can remember seeing a Hall of Famer while he was still in high school. “The game has gotten less personal, more numbers-oriented,” says Jim Palmer, who was enshrined in Cooperstown with 268 wins. “These are the metrics I cared about: If I won 20 games, the Cy Young and had an ERA below 2.50, I might get a $20,000 raise.” The gap between schools, new and old, seems so wide that occasionally the sides feel the need to shout at each other. (Google the recent benchclearing brawl between old-schooler Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle and Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski.) My matchup with Tom Tango, a statistical consultant to major league teams and the creator of such popular acronymic metrics as WAR (wins above replacement) and FIP (fielding independent pitching), was far more civil. We agreed that wins are the currency in all sports. We

even agreed that over a career, wins are a good indicator of a starting pitcher’s worth. But Tango says one season is too small a sample: “In a season, things don’t cancel out. For example, the offense, defense and bullpen behind Hernandez are taken from the same 2010 pool. But over a fielders behind him, and a random set of relievers.” Good point, but why the vehemence against wins? Tango replies, “Those we argue with don’t even want to consider the context. They simply say, ‘13–12!’ The supporters of wins are in an all-or-nothing mode. If they would just agree that it is heavily biased at the seasonal level, then we wouldn’t have a problem. For some people, it’s admitting defeat. For others, it’s an epiphany.” Partially epiphanized, I would now ask both sides to lower the volume. As resistant as the old school is to algorithms, so too is the new school to concepts like clutch and pressure. Both sides should listen to Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, who went 1–11 in 2010 but still got a $1.6 million raise by virtue of winning his arbitration case. “I should be the last person you ask to defend wins as a stat,” he says. “I went from 11–10 in 2009 to 1–11 even though my ERA and WHIP were only slightly higher, and I’m very grateful to those who realized that. But you know what? Every time I take the mound, I know I have one job: Get us deep enough in the game to win.”

15-year career, he’ll have a varied pool of hitters and

It was a football coach who saId, “you play to wIn the game,” but herm edwards was rIght.

for More InSIGht And opInIon froM the LIkeS of bUSter oLneY, chAd ford And MeL kIper Jr., check oUt eSpn.coM/InSIder. It’s free for mag subscrIbers.


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011

Illustration by Peter Horvath



The nerds are coming to hockey, and they have the NHL’s lame stats in their sights.
Hockey MeTRIcS aRe Today wHeRe SabeRMeTRIcS were about 20 years ago, with a far-flung group of mostly amateur researchers offering stats that shed light on true value while destroying old biases. Unfortunately, most NHL fans, not to mention coaches and media types, seem to have little use for the newfangled numbers. Puckheads, I beseech you: Get with the program. Don’t do it to keep up with your enlightened baseball and football brethren, but because your traditional stats—goals and assists and such—do a terrible job of explaining what makes a player great and a team win. It’s hard to think of NHL results as driven by anything but talent and determination. Statistically, though, there are two key facts to know about hockey. First, its numbers are noisy, which is to say, measures of on-ice performance often don’t carry over well from year to year. To pick one typical example, over the past five seasons Chris Mason has had save percentages of .925, .898, .916, .913 and .892. Team shooting percentages fluctuate a lot too, as do scoring rates on (or against) power plays. This volatility indicates a lot of randomness behind the numbers. Key Fact No. 2: Hockey is a low-scoring game. NHL teams are averaging just 2.7 goals a game this season, and that means that after scores resulting from deflections or odd bounces, it can take a long time for luck to even out. Notes Gabriel Desjardins of the Behind the Net blog: “A team’s actual goals for and goals against are merely a sample of their ability to score and prevent goals, and we need a lot of games to see their actual talent.” Let’s say we put all the stats that don’t correlate well from season to season into one pile, which we’ll call Stuff That Just Happened. Let’s place what’s left in a pile called Stuff That’s Likely to Happen Again. The first heap will be filled with numbers that win players headlines, MVP awards and raises. But it’s the second that indicates skill and predicts the future—and that’s what we should care about and reward. So what exactly is in that pile? Welcome to Corsi numbers, named after Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi, who developed them. While traditional plus/minus looks at the difference between how many goals are scored and allowed while a player is on the ice, a Corsi number is the difference between how many shots are directed at the opposing goal and how many shots are directed at a player’s own goal while he is on the ice. Corsi is a valuable metric because it evaluates players against the context of a team stat that is both significant to winning and predictive of it: shot volume. In any one game, a club can be unusually efficient or particularly well-positioned or just flat-out lucky. But to win more games than it loses over the course of a season, a team needs to direct a lot more shots toward goal than it allows. Good players are the ones who help make that happen. And because shot volume is a much broader measure of offense and defense than goals, it correlates much more strongly with future performance. Canucks center Ryan keSleR currently leads the NHL with a Corsi rating of 17.14 per 60 minutes (among players with a minimum of 50 games). Islanders center Zenon Konopka has the lowest Corsi number (-26.83 per 60 minutes). Of course, any plus/minus-type metric who soak up combat duty for losers. So some analysts prefer Relative Corsi, which is the shot differential when a player is on the ice minus the differential when he’s off it; essentially, it compares players with their teammates. Relative Corsi is favorable to Leafs center MIkHaIl GRabovSkI (22.5), less so to Canucks forward Tanner Glass (-29.7). Look at either version of Corsi, though, and you’ll have a greater appreciation for unheralded players such as Islanders wing MIcHael GRabneR and Sabres wing Jochen Hecht. Neither guy skates on a first line, but both are on the ice when good things happen for his team. Hockey fans have long been okay with the concept of plus/minus, an official NHL statistic since 1963. So how about we finally start to add and subtract numbers that actually matter?
clockwise FRoM ToP: HaRRy How/geTTy iMages; jiM Mcisaac/geTTy iMages; bRuce benneTT/geTTy iMages


rewards players on good teams while damning guys

Through March 30, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos led all NHL centers with 44 goals. But his 0.6 Relative Corsi ranked him behind Darren Helm (11 goals, 5.4 Rel. Corsi), Kevin Porter (13, 2.3), Colin Wilson (15, 1.0) and 73 other players at his position with at least 50 games played.

KEATING TAKEs you dEEpEr INsIdE ThE world of sTATs ANd ANAlyTIcs IN hIs nexT level bloG,oN It’s free for mag SubScRIbeRS.


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011


Off the field/Between the cracks







Trash-talking is useless if you can’t be understood through a mouthful of nachos. Here are some T-shirts that can do your dirty work once the NHL playoffs start on April 13 (or next October, as the case may be.)
SHARKS $28, FLYERS $24.99,

BRUINS $17.99,


COYOTES $27.99,


CAPITALS $14.95,

KINGS $18.99,



Liking the yarn you see? We’ll be tweeting away samples from each shop on Monday, April 11. Follow @ESPNmag on Twitter for a chance to land your piece of postseason chortlewear.

RED WINGS $28.50,


SABRES $19.99,


Photographs by World Picture Service

ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011


Susan Martin Maffei’s ( influences include Paracas embroidery, Incan stitching and the mowing patterns of MLB outfields. See her tapestry “Who’s Not On 2nd” (below) at the Textile Museum come April 16.


Proximity to the Verizon Center has finally affected the National Portrait Gallery. Until Aug. 14, visitors can see the late Alexander Calder’s ( wire caricatures of sports stars of the ’20s and ’30s, like the one of The Babe below.

Sports-comedy purveyor 12 Angry Mascots ( has produced sketches with the likes of Darrelle Revis and Craig Breslow. The star of their latest video, Curtis Granderson (, talks about the process.

“I was familiar with 12 Angry Mascots when they asked about doing a video, so I knew what I was getting into. They developed the concept for an at-bat music bit, then we bounced ideas around. It was perfect, because I do spend time searching for the perfect song, although never at 3:45 a.m. I mean, it’s part of our on-ffeld identity. The video is short, but we spent more than a few minutes fflming; there were a lot of takes. The ffnal product is fun, and I posted it on Twitter and Facebook, which some teammates follow. They think it’s funny. In real life I picked Busta Rhymes’ ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’ for my Opening Day at-bat, but the announcers played Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday,’ because they saw the video. I’m still trying to ffgure out who pranked me.”

Indie supergroup the Baseball Project has followed up its rookie effort Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails with a new set of hardball-themed tunes, Volume 2: High and Inside. That all they have to say about the ol’ ball game? Nah. Singer-guitarist Steve Wynn describes some as-yet unwritten cuts we might see on a future album.

3. “O HOly cOw” My favorite baseball book is O Holy Cow. It’s some of Phil Rizzuto’s more bizarre actual broadcasts in verse form. I could just lay an E chord behind that stuff and have an amazing song. 4. “in BeD BeFOre THe ligHTs wenT OuT” Modern players are too damn boring. Bring on the crusty, cranky, crazy old guys. Cool Papa Bell not only had a killer nickname, he was also described as being fast enough to switch off the light and be in bed before it got dark. 5. “MOre BenDers THan cHieF BenDer” Grover Cleveland Alexander allegedly saved Game 7 of the World Series with a hangover. That he was named after one president and ended up being portrayed in a film by a future one [Ronald Reagan, The Winning Team] is only a plus. See? These songs write themselves.

Dolce & Gabbana
Dec. 7, wizarDs aT laKers

Nike Air Foamposite One
FeB. 3, Magic Vs. HeaT

Air Jordan XIII
MarcH 7, Magic Vs. Trail Blazers

Air Jordan IX, For Love of the Game “Unpowder”
MarcH 25, Magic Vs. neTs

When Adidas stopped sponsoring Gilbert Arenas last year, he began to tap his closet of nearly 3,000 pairs of unworn kicks. He wears each just once, then shows them on Here are some you won’t see when the NBA playofis start on April 16.

“These aren’t meant for basketball, but I never wore basketball shoes in high school. I preferred running shoes and cross-trainers.”

“I rushed to wear the original Foamposites when I heard Nike was re-releasing them in February.”

“No one knew about the navyand-white Jordan XIIIs I wore. Bloggers called them bootlegs, but I know people who know people who know MJ, okay?”

“Our shoes have to be Magic colors, but I sneak in off-blue pairs. Most of my Jordans have UNC blue.”


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011



1. “One TOO Many HOT DOg MOrnings” I want to do a song about Babe Ruth that would involve some kind of twist on his general bio or public image. 2. “HeaDFirsT secOnD Base Blues” Tim Raines deserves a song just for admitting he often slid headfirst to protect the vial of cocaine in his back pocket. The icing on the cake is his nickname: Rock.

WITH clay bucHHolz
Who knows the Red Sox hurler better, his adoring wife, Lindsay, or fellow flamethrower Jon Lester? To see, we quizzed him, then grilled them. Because life is not a rain delay.

clay lINDSay
Video games. That’s easy.

Playing guitar.

On March 23, West Virginia’s state senate voted to sanction pro MMA fights. That makes 45 states that have opened the door to big-time circuits like the UFC. What’s eating those five holdouts? -TIM STRUBY
alaSKa Despite the state’s 2002 decision to stop sanctioning fighting sports, Sarah Johnston, owner of the Alaska Fighting Championship, believes new regulation is in the cards. “There’s not much organization pushing for it,” she says, “but there’s no opposition either.” coNNEcTIcuT In February, state rep Matt Lesser introduced a bill to permit pro MMA bouts, and it breezed through the Public Safety and Security Committee. Lesser expects the same result with the state legislature. “By October, Connecticut should be ready to go,” he says. NEW yoRK The biggest impediment? Democratic assemblyman Bob Reilly, who has likened MMA to dogfighting and prostitution. Others disagree. “It makes no sense to have billboards in Times Square promoting MMA but not allow a bout in Madison Square Garden,” says New York assemblyman Jonathan Bing. “I will continue my efforts to legalize MMA prior to the end of the 2011 session in June.” VERMoNT “We’ve had 11 amateur shows in five years and never had a problem,” says Julio Fernandez, head of Burlington Brawl, Vermont’s top promotional entity. Then again, he’s not sure regulation is even necessary. “I make sure to use the same rules as MMA events in other states.”   WyoMING The Cowboy State hasn’t had a boxing commission in over 20 years. But Steve Alley of promoter Kick Down MMA has put on over 30 amateur MMA shows in Casper without a hitch. “Sooner or later, regulation will happen,” he says. “Until it does, I’ll keep doing exactly what I’ve done.” 

fAvOriTe hObby?

Video games.

mOsT prized pOssessiOn?

My little girl, Colbi.

Our daughter. If he says otherwise, we’re going to have problems.

His guitar.


TeAmmATe he GOes TO fOr AdviCe?

Lack [John Lackey]. He’s been around. He knows how to handle things.

John Lackey. They’re really close.

Everyone. There’s no one person he goes to.



besT feATure?

My hair.

I like his eyes, but he’s going to say his hair. I can’t get him to cut it.

Being tall.


LeAsT fAvOriTe bAsebALL ACTiviTy?


Running. He always complains about it when he gets home.



whAT GAme shOw wOuLd he GO On?

Wheel of Fortune.

Wipe Out. He always says, “I could do that.”

The Price Is Right. I know I’d like to go on it.


25 Clay is no longer the only Buchholz with a no-no. Lindsay goes untouched, 25-0, in this all-time rout.



ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011


fAvOriTe rOAd sTAdium TO piTCh in?

Yankee Stadium. I like the atmosphere. It reminds me of Fenway.

I’m torn: Anaheim or New York? I’m going to say Anaheim.

Texas, because he’s from there.


The Maryland Jockey Club’s new Preakness marketing campaign has raised eyebrows with its fete-ready mascot, Kegasus. Club prez Tom Chuckas counters the hubbub. -NEIL JANOWITZ

With Nene , Nuggets center

We asked some fans if they had any questions. They did. Kevin Zamell, littletOn, COlO.: How did the Melo trade drama affect the team? N: Melo is goofy; he likes to make you laugh. So in the locker room it was fine. But it wasn’t easy for us to be part of that conversation. When someone’s not happy, he has to go. Melo is where he wants to be, and we’re doing well. Everybody is happy now. ChRiS WagneR, milWaUKee: Are you getting along with your new teammates? N: I like them all. Gallo [Gallinari] tries to speak Portuguese because it’s similar to Italian, but he messes up words. And they all try to beat me in FIFA. It’s funny: Timo [Mozgov] curses in Russian and Gallo in Italian. JOSh hOUy, Rapid City, S.d.: Do you prefer to play center or power forward? N: I’ve played center for a few years, but my original position is power forward. I hope to return to it one day. At my size, I can do more damage there. ben hall, denveR: Are you going to re-sign? Should we expect any Nene trade or contract drama? N: I don’t think there will be drama. I don’t like to be in the spotlight. I just expect what I deserve. Today I’m happy here. Tomorrow I leave to God.

THE KEGASUS IS INSPIRED, BUT IT’S A CURIOUS CHOICE FOR THE FACE OF A TRIPlE CROwN RACE, NO? You have to realize it’s just one of two Preakness campaigns; the other focuses on its tradition and pageantry. The Kegasus is a mascot for the InfieldFest, a party that targets fans aged 21 to 40. It’s a group often overlooked in racing. DO YOU CARE IF GUESTS wATCH THE RACES, OR DO YOU JUST wANT TO lURE THE mOST REVElERS POSSIBlE? Both. The Preakness is our big event, so we need to maximize revenues. The infield is a huge part of that. But regardless of what brings them to the track, we’re hoping people have a pleasant experience watching the races and want to return. That’s why we’ll have handicapping experts on hand for novices. OKAY, BUT IS THIS A BAND-AID OR A REVOlUTION? Younger demos want a lot of things going on at once. The races are the centerpiece, but they’re not enough. So we’re offering bands, restaurant tents and volleyball, too. We’re going to program other weekends similarly—such as a Kentucky Derby simulcast party and infield wine tastings. Eventually, we’ll add other entertainment options in the main building. Purists may complain, but I see no downside to a party.

Many people wrote off Denver’s team once Melo cut town. But those naysayers, much like All-Star voters, overlooked the steadying influence that remained.
the mag: Why has the team done so well since the trade? N: We have a deeper bench and a different style. Melo is a big talent, but now we have more speed, defense, toughness and unity. It’s how I was taught to play. the mag: Melo has been criticized for not playing D. Is your improved defense a case of addition by subtraction? N: I can say this: When you try to do your best, you get results. I try to do my best on defense. Usually it works. the mag: What’s a realistic playoff goal for you guys? N: If we continue to play together, we can go far. I know it. the mag: You grew up in Brazil. Did you play soccer? N: I played a lot of sports: track and field, swimming, martial arts and soccer. One year I couldn’t find cleats in my size, so my soccer coach gave me basketball shoes. I started playing that more. It was a good decision. the mag: Any desire to change your name again? N: I like Nene. But our strength coach calls me Beast, and the guys call me Moose. Those would be fine too. the mag: When you arrived in the States, you had a translator. Now your English is great. What’s the trick? N: I take it day by day. The locker room is all slang and cursing, so you can’t learn good English there. My wife is American. She helps me with the nice words. the mag: In 2008, you fought testicular cancer. Is the battle won? N: Yes, and when it happened I realized it was God’s plan to make me an example. My wife is a survivor too. She had a tumor near her brain. Now we aim to inspire others.


Jim Beam® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 40% Alc./Vol. ©2011 James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont, KY. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


ESPN The Magazine

28, professional bull rider
ON HANGING TOUGH “Other riders keep a looser grip to give themselves more balance on the bull. I wasn’t taught to do that growing up in São Paulo, so I rely more on strength. I hardly lift any weights because I don’t want to be too tight. Strong arms have been passed through generations in my family.”


April 18, 2011

Photograph by Peter Hapak



1. i have a pregame ritual too. “Before a game, I scour a team’s media relations releases for recent trends. If I spot one, I’ll keep it handy for quick access later on. I also key on the highest number of pitches the starters have thrown that season and in their careers, and their season- and game-high strikeout totals.” 2. if i don’t know it, i know who does. “I pass information on an index card or whiteboard or via a headset. Sometimes I know a fact or get it from a media guide, but usually I go online. Mike once asked me how many righty batters had gotten a hit at AT&T Park. I’m in constant contact with the Elias Sports Bureau during a game. They got us the answer [727] in 10 minutes. Before the Internet, it was much harder to get that kind of info.” 3. aCCuraCY is everYthing. “The veracity of the facts I provide is on me. So I double-check everything, even if it takes extra time. I also carry a rule book everywhere and discuss odd plays and calls with the scorers so I can explain them again in the future.” 4. i guard against information overload. “Today, there are many more stats than even 10 years ago, stuff like how many times a batter swings at the first pitch or which batters take the most pitches. Pitch counts are a bigger deal these days too. Some broadcasters try to get it all in; Duane and Mike keep things simple.” 5. i need to keep mY eYes on the Ball. “During a high-scoring game, we may see lots of substitutions; all of a sudden so-and-so is at second. I’m more likely to miss a guy who enters in, say, the third inning. You’re not looking for subs so early. There could be two outs before I realize someone new has taken the field.” 6. timing is everYthing. “Nothing’s worse than bothering Duane and Mike with a stat while they’re making a point. One time I passed Mike an index card and he threw it out the window. I’m better at guessing where they’re going with a thought now.”

things You should know aBout making BroadCasters sound smart

BY B.i. olivito, talent stats memBer for ComCast sportsnet BaY area AS TOLD TO LAURA DOWNHOUR


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011

Photograph by Robyn Twomey

Inside the lines/Around the game


rookie challenge
By Anna Katherine Clemmons

spurs sub gary neal took the long road to the nba.

Once upOn a time, Gary neal thOuGht he’d spend his days as a basketball player toiling in Europe. Or as a teacher. Or, for a moment, a convicted felon. Sharpshooting NBA combo guard? Not likely. The league’s second-oldest rookie who’s been a consistent contributor to one of its best teams all season? Never. The question wasn’t whether the military brat could ball. He averaged a triple-double his junior year of high school and guided Aberdeen to a Maryland state title. Then, as La Salle’s leading scorer his freshman year, he won Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors. This was 2003. The year LeBron was drafted. John

Photograph by Michael Thad Carter

ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011




Wall, this season’s top NBA draft pick, was 12. Neal led the Explorers in scoring again his sophomore year and remained on campus over the summer. After a party one night, he and La Salle teammate Mike Cleaves went back to their dorm with a female who was a counselor at a basketball camp on campus. The woman would later accuse Neal and Cleaves of rape. “It really didn’t register,” Neal says. “In my mind it was like, ‘That’s a little weird, but not anything close to what happened.’” Weeks later Neal was arrested and charged with rape, sexual assault and other crimes. Neal’s family drove to Philadelphia and posted bail. After he got back to Maryland, Neal told his family that a rape had not occurred. Pending the police investigation, La Salle put Neal on probation. He enrolled in Towson and attended classes while the case plodded through the system. Sixteen months later, the nine-day trial ended in an acquittal; DNA evidence proved there had been sexual contact, but the jury believed it had been consensual. Neal played pickup ball to keep in shape while awaiting trial, until he scored 78 points one night and the regulars kicked him out of the game. In November 2005, the month after his trial ended, he played in his first game for Towson as a junior. By the end of his senior season, he’d used his head for the game and his deft shooting skills to become only the third player to score 1,000 points for two D1 schools. And yet, not a single NBA team called. His father suggested the 22-year-old Neal obtain his teaching certificate and look for a job. Instead, Neal took an offer with Turkish club Pinar Karsiyaka. After 19 games he was averaging 23.6 points and was transferred to Euro giant Regal FC Barcelona. There he began to hone his skills, improving his shot selection, learning both guard spots and becoming more patient. In 2008, Neal signed with Italian powerhouse Benetton Treviso, where he averaged 15.9 points per game over two seasons. Spurs scouts noticed, and invited Neal to work out with the team last June—a tryout that turned into a $525,000 offer. Despite bigger offers on the table from other Euro squads, Neal accepted. General manager R.C. Buford says that San Antonio’s emphasis on excellent shooters had suffered since the retirement of Robert Horry and Steve Kerr, and in Neal he saw an opportunity to recapture that. points and shot 41.6% from behind the arc in 20.8 minutes of action. But he is scoring 12.5 PPG in 24.7 MPG since the break and ranks first among all rookies in made three-pointers with 117. “The coaches and scouts get excited about a shooter from the summer league, but the past couple of ones weren’t very good, so I didn’t expect anything,” says Tony Parker. “But he’s been consistent, and he’s hit big shots for us.” After all the miles this rookie has traveled, hitting from 24 feet isn’t all that hard.

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The LIsT

WhO DOESn’T WAnT A nAT hOLMAn? 1. 1948 Bowman George Mikan (No. 69) 2. 1933 Goudey Sport Kings Nat Holman (No. 3) 3. 1957 Topps Bill Russell (No. 77) 4. 1957 Topps Bob Cousy (No. 17) 5. 1961 Fleer Wilt Chamberlain (No. 8) 6. 1969 Topps Lew Alcindor (No. 25) 7. 1961 Fleer Oscar Robertson (No. 36) 8. 1961 Fleer Jerry West (No. 43) 9. 1969 Topps John Havlicek (No. 20) 10. 1961 Fleer Elgin Baylor (No. 3)
*According to Joe Orlando of PSA, the leading card authentication firm.


“He took advantage of the opportunity to play overseas and kept building on it,” Buford says. “Not many perform like he has.” In 72 games this season, Neal, now 26, has averaged 9.6

No purchase necessary. For complete official rules, go to Open to legal residents 18 and over of the 50 United States, DC, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Void where prohibited by law.


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011



never say never
By Doug McIntyre
EvEn bEforE HE scorEd tHE tying goal for the U.S. during a high-profile friendly against Argentina on March 26, 18-year-old Juan Agudelo seemed too good to be true. Just a month after debuting with the New York Red Bulls last October, the 6'1" forward became the first graduate of a Major League Soccer team academy to start for the national squad. In the game, an exhibition against South Africa, he became the youngest player ever to score for the U.S. And in the Red Bulls’ season opener against the Seattle Sounders last month, Agudelo split two defenders and curled a shot past veteran keeper Kasey Keller for his first MLS goal, effectively stealing the spotlight from his legendary teammate, Thierry Henry. Heady stuff. “The last six months have been pretty overwhelming,” Agudelo says. “I’m really young for this.” Not that he has to remind U.S. soccer fans, who have seen unrealistic expectations beset other prodigies. Witness 21-year-old Freddy Adu, currently toiling in the obscurity of Turkey’s second level. But there’s reason to believe Agudelo will live up to the hype. Like fellow U.S. forward Jozy Altidore, he has the size to hold off the toughest center backs. And Agudelo, who learned the game in Colombia before moving with his family to New Jersey at age 8, already boasts sharper technique and a defter touch than the 21-year-old Altidore. Best of all, he is a ruthless finisher. “He puts so much pressure on himself,” says Henry, the French striker who befriended Agudelo after arriving from FC Barcelona last July. “Now everyone expects him to be great, and he’ll have to deal with it.” Of course, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe is quick to provide a reality check. “Juan

and controlling the game better.” As a result, Agudelo may well land a starting job for the U.S. at June’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, the regional championship that also serves as a qualifying tournament for the 2013 Confederations Cup. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are already fielding offers from

IS Juan agudelo aMeRICa’S FIRST gReaT STRIKeR? He’S oFF To a good STaRT.
still has a lot to learn in one-on-one situations,” Backe says. “We tell him, Try to hold onto the ball. Don’t just flick it away. He’s becoming much more involved now

European clubs. “I have to see how I compare with the players over there,” Agudelo says. “When I feel ready, I’ll go.” MLS fans, catch him while you can.


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011

The world according To us


BIO BLAST nAME Juan Agudelo AgE 18 HoMEtoWn Barnegat Township, N.J. fAME cLAiMs Red Bulls starter; youngest player ever to score for the U.S. national team

Photograph by Jamie Kripke

A Manchester, N.H., sportswriter has been sentenced to 2½ years in prison for running a prostitution ring. He was looking to cover income lost as the result of a reduced salary.


Young (left) is coming off a 21-HR, 91-RBI season, but Texas still signed Beltre (right) to replace him at third.

emotion is spot-on, but it’s so much easier said than done.” Not wanting to upset the chemistry explains why the Reds stood pat. “One guy’s attitude can change the equation,” says manager Dusty Baker. “That can be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s always delicate.” Reds GM Walt Jocketty focused instead on re-signing Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce and NL MVP Joey Votto, his three young cornerstones, to long-term extensions. Had there been an affordable leadoff hitter on the free-agent market, Jocketty says the Reds might have made a move, but that player wasn’t out there, and the organization’s focus remained on what it’s got rather than what it needs. “With The popgun sound of 20 games of catch echoes as usual around the Rangers’ complex. It’s one week before Opening Day, and if you’re looking for symbolism in the most routine of exercises, you can’t help but notice one partnership that represents the team’s off-season: Michael Young, wearing a first baseman’s glove, throwing to Adrian Beltre, his replacement at third base. The addition of Beltre and the move of Young from third to a utility role is all you need to know about the Rangers’mindset this winter after losing Cliff Lee to the Phillies. “Not getting complacent was a theme we hit on quite a bit,” says GM Jon Daniels. “We think everyone else is going to get better, so we need to improve.” To move the needle on a team that won its division for the first time in 11 years and played in its first-ever World Series, Daniels signed a third baseman to replace Young, the club’s all-time hits leader and a guy many consider the face of the franchise. The Rangers also let DH Vladimir Guerrero (29 homers in 2010) walk and replaced veteran catcher Bengie Molina with free agent Yorvit Torrealba and trade acquisition Mike Napoli. While it’s hard to argue with these acquisitions—Beltre is an upgrade over Young defensively, Torrealba is a good defender and Napoli will help replace Vlad’s power—such turnover is uncommon for a team that has just experienced success for the first time in a while. A perfect example is the Reds, who last year won their division for the first time since 1996, and whose big move this winter was signing backup infielder Edgar Renteria. “To come back with the same exact team, you’re kind of standing still and allowing guys to run by you,” says Daniels. “We weren’t looking to turn over the whole club, but we did feel like we had to keep things fresh.” Daniels has spent much of the off-season and spring training dealing with the fallout surrounding Young’s switch. Among the loudest voices was Young’s, who said he was “misled and manipulated” before asking for a trade so he could play every day. “We’re coming off a season like we’ve never had before, so this is new ground for us to cover,” says Daniels. “We had a great group of guys last season. Talented guys who had success together. And we were forced to make tough decisions. Saying you should make those moves without an average age around 28 years old, there wasn’t a good reason for us not to remain intact,” says Baker. “These guys Of course, the division-rival Brewers added righthanders Zack Greinke (the 2009 AL Cy Young winner) and Shaun Marcum via trades, and many experts have tabbed them as division favorites, so the Reds’ laissez-faire approach could backfire. Similarly, the A’s and Angels were aggressive in their attempts to outgun the Rangers, with Oakland adding Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui, and the Halos trading for Vernon Wells, a three-time All-Star. And while either of those teams could topple Texas, at least the Rangers know complacency won’t be the reason.

can’t sit still
By Jeff Bradley

it would have been easy for the rangers to rest on their laurels after winning their first pennant. so how come they didn’t?

have earned some patience from us.”


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011


He pours. He mixes. He scores.

some clubs can’t figure out certain positions. based on wins above replacement, an all-encompassing metric from that measures value relative to available minor league talent, these are the biggest nonpitching voids since 2006. for context, cardinals first basemen were worth 41.7 war in that time. that pujols guy is good. -Jason catania
CaTCher 1.7 WAR Team Astros 2011 sTarTer 1 humberto Quintero firsT base 2.3 WAR Team Orioles 2011 sTarTer 2 derrek Lee seCond base 0.2 WAR Team Indians 2011 sTarTer 3 orlando Cabrera shorTsTop 0.5 WAR Team Royals 2011 sTarTer 4 alcides escobar Third base 3.3 WAR Team White Sox 2011 sTarTer 5 brent morel


Jason Castro, a 2008 first-rounder, was supposed to fill this void, but his torn ACL means Houston will get more Quintero, a .232 career hitter.

Baltimore hopes the 35-year-old Lee (19 HRs, 80 RBIs in 2010) makes up for last year’s disaster known as Garrett Atkins (-1.1 WAR).

With a career OBP of .320, Cabrera could be a slight upgrade over the likes of Josh Barfield (.295) and Luis Valbuena (.289)—if he weren’t 36 years old.

Acquired in the Zack Greinke trade, Escobar and his 2010 0.6 WAR could mean an extra half of a win this year for the Royals!

Joe Crede hit 30 HRs in ’06, but his bad back has left the Sox in a lurch ever since. Morel hit .320 in Triple-A, so there’s hope on the South Side.

2 4 6




3 5


LefTfieLd 2.9 WAR Team Orioles 2011 sTarTer 6 Luke scott

CenTerfieLd 7.0 WAR Team White Sox 2011 sTarTer 7 alex rios

righTfieLd 6.5 WAR Team White Sox 2011 sTarTer 8 Carlos Quentin

dh -1.6 WAR Team Rays 2011 sTarTer 9 manny ramirez

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The O’s paid Jay Payton $9.5M for his .654 OPS in 2007-08. Hopefully Scott’s career .857 OPS will make his $6.4 million worth it.

Other than Dewayne Wise’s catch to save Mark Buerhle’s 2009 perfect game, Pale Hose centerfielders haven’t given their fans much to cheer about.

How could this WAR be so low with Jermaine Dye in right? His D was putrid and the Cell severely inflates hitting stats. Quentin fits the same mold.

Amazing they’ve won the AL East twice in three years with this void. With no worries about D, Manny can focus on improving this mark.

text “maKers marK” to 76477 to see the biggest black holes since baseball expanded to 30 teams.*
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feeling lucky?
By Elena Bergeron

More than a few coach-hUnGrY SchooLS hoPe not to have their bUbbLe bUrSt.

This year’s postseason coaching search isn’t nearly so pretty as a carousel. It’s more like that balloon dart throw on the carny midway. And while some prime jobs— Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Arkansas—have already been filled, lots of athletic directors are waiting in line to test their aim. Here’s some advice for them: Don’t let those giant stuffed pandas—VCU’s Shaka Smart and Butler’s Brad Stevens—mess with your head. Some smaller prizes will make you happy too, and they’re way easier to lug around.

What It WantS An established system coach who will stay a while. After going on a big money lark chasing Purdue’s Matt Painter, Tigers AD Mike Alden figures to float Plan B offers to Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall, who’s looking pretty sharp with that NIT championship, and Richmond’s Chris Mooney. What It WILL get Bang with their bucks. The Painter chase showed Missouri will spend to contend. Ben Jacobson’s name keeps popping up (hey, Tigers legend Norm Stewart came to Mizzou from Northern Iowa), but if Smart and Stevens aren’t interested, Alden might instead pursue Illinois’ Bruce Weber or Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. And don’t forget New Mexico’s Steve Alford, who did time at Southwest Missouri State in the 1990s.

as an NBA assistant and was at Michigan State before heading west in 2007. What It WILL get A chance to dream. Nets assistant Larry Krystkowiak (a Montana native) is the top mention for this seat, ahead of former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried. But they’ll both have to wait until Stevens has some time to mull. The Utes’ share of the Pac-12’s TV deal gives them wiggle room to overextend for their next hire, and Butler’s reigning genius would be worth every penny. recent history suggests,” says one agent. The lure has three hooks: a roster that loses only two rotation players (as long as top-notch frosh forward C.J. Leslie returns), games that continually draw more than 13,000 fans and those deep pockets. Miller is locked in at Arizona, but Barnes might take a look. Smart and Texas A&M’s Mark Turgeon are also possibilities. What It WILL get The old Shaka Smart? Teague’s background is in marketing—he bulked up licensing and network deals at both North Carolina and Arizona State—so maybe he’ll hire a coach who reminds everyone that VCU has been the Commonwealth’s best team for a while now. Jeff Capel is free. to keep him from bolting. But how far they can close the gap between Smart’s current base salary ($325K; he’ll make season) and his market value ($1-2M per year, depending on the gig) remains to be seen.
FROM TOP: RIch Sugg/KanSaS cITy STaR/McT/geTTy IMageS; KevIn c. cOx/geTTy IMageS

nc sTaTe
What It WantS A do-over. This gig has been tagged the “worst best-paying job in America” because a lusty fan base won’t stand down until the Triangle is equilateral, and because AD Debbie Yow famously squared off against Gary Williams while at Maryland. The Wolfpack’s wish list starts with Arizona’s Sean Miller and Texas’ Rick Barnes (who grew up a State fan). At least they’re aiming high. What It WILL get More than you’d think. “It’s still a destination job, contrary to what

$500K with incentives for this dream

What It WantS A fresh start. The Utes enter the spotlighted Pac-12 next year and are looking for a name that upstages the one they tossed. That will be tough. Outgoing coach Jim Boylen had 13 years

What It WantS Shaka Smart, duh. AD Norwood Teague has said he and the university’s president have already discussed ways to compensate Smart enough


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011

In a bid to reduce the team’s environmental impact, free compost made from stadium trash will be handed out to fans at some Mariners games. “Think of it as taking a bit of the ballpark home,” says a spokesman.

The world according To us

impressed. I told our team a win is not going to be easy.” Paying for the two-week safari isn’t easy either. This trip will cost an estimated $358,000 for 65 Bulldogs players and 10 coaches, with two doctors, an athletic trainer and a strength coach also traveling with the team. Global Football is even paying for Bill LeMonnier, who officiated at this year’s BCS title game, to fly in and ref. To cover some of the costs, Drake fans donated during the Bulldogs 7–4 2010 season for every point (289) and sack (33). As of late March, with the help of player fund-raisers, the school had hit $333,000. “This is exactly the kind of trip, using the power of sports to serve, that is at the core of our mission,” says AD Sandy Hatfield Clubb. “My eyes well up thinking about an African child who will grow up to play American football because of Drake.” Drake had a normal spring practice session, with its spring game slated for April 23. But the contest the players look forward to most will happen in a revamped soccer stadium the name of which few can pronounce (Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial), in front of 20,000 The whole Thing sTarTed abouT 16 months ago, in the middle of the night, in Chris Creighton’s sleeping head. And on May 21, Creighton’s dream will be realized: The coach’s FCS program, Drake, will play at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in the first organized American football game ever in Africa. But let’s start at the beginning. In 2003, Creighton was at Division III Wabash College and got involved with Global Football, a Texas-based organization that wants to export American football around the world. Global Football offered to coordinate off-season trips for Creighton and his Wabash team to Austria and Panama, and the latter was a life-changer. “We spent time in the jungle and in Panama City,” says Creighton. “But what all the guys remembered most was farming in a remote village with the local people. It was something you never forget.” Whether you know it or not. In January, after a particularly vivid dream, Creighton cornered Global Football president Patrick Steenberge at a coaching convention. “I have something big—are you in?” Creighton asked Steenberge. Creighton’s dream scene—him and his Drake players at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro—required a lot of planning. Steenberge, who now has held games in 18 different nations, booked the six-day, 19,298-foot ascent up Kilimanjaro for the end of a two-week mission. Before that, Drake players will team up with members of a Mexican all-star football team (players are selected from the CONADEIP, a Mexican college-sports league) to hold clinics with 1,000 local youths. Then the two football teams (about 110 players total) will construct an addition to the Kitaa Hope Orphanage, a Tanzanian charity that cares for children who’ve lost parents to HIV/AIDS. Then, finally, Drake will take on the Mexican all-star team on a makeshift field at the foot of Kilimanjaro. “This will be a legitimate game,” says Creighton. “I went to watch the Mexican league’s national championship game and came away new fans. “I have a hard time believing this is going to happen,” says DT John Sawhill. “But we’ve all bought our hiking boots, so we’re ready.” Is Africa?

By LaRue Cook



Buckeye-fans aren’t the only ones wondering which of the five other OSU QBs (17 total completions) will replace suspended Terrelle Pryor, who accounted for 60.5% of the team’s offense in 2010. On his way to practice on March 24, Pryor tweeted, “Gotta get my Offense ready and find the starting QB!!”


ESPN The Magazine

April 18, 2011

Photograph by Kevin J. Miyazaki

The world according To us


Kelly Gneiting recently set a new Guinness record as the heaviest man to run a marathon. Gneiting, a three-time U.S. sumo champ, weighs 400 pounds. He finished the LA race in 9:48:52.


During the first rOunD of last year’s NFL draft, a giddy 49ers fan wearing
a vintage Roger Craig jersey ignored the fact that his team hadn’t been to the playoffs in seven seasons and shouted into a TV camera, “The NFL draft—it’s Christmas, baby!” This year? It’s more like April Fools’ Day. Sure, there will still be about 250 players drafted over three days, from April 28 to 30. As always, there will be shockers and climbers and free-fallers. We can expect a trade or two and, of course, lots and lots of Jets fans. But the escalating labor hostilities have shined a light on one ugly truth: Behind all the hype and ratings, the draft is fundamentally flawed. Owners abhor giving guaranteed millions to unproven talent; Colts president Bill Polian has called the system “broken” and “insane.” Some veteran players, meanwhile, seem to hate everything else about the event. “The draft

has always struck me as bizarre, bordering on ridiculous,” says Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFLPA executive committee. “It’s probably the most un-American thing about the NFL: Telling a person where he has to go work.” Since March 11, when the NFLPA decertified and a group of players sued the owners to stop an impending lockout, there have been no official negotiations about how to divide the NFL’s $9 billion annual revenue. Barring a miracle, the 2011 draft will be the first real casualty of the crisis, with fans and rookies treated like the children in an ugly divorce. Without free agency, execs in war rooms will have to use their picks to address immediate roster needs instead of taking chances on guys with exciting upside. Draftees can’t sign contracts or talk with their coaches or use team facilities to practice. And with all the acrimony casting a pall over the event, we are likely to be deprived of those magical, unscripted moments that take place under the lights, like when 295-pound defensive tackle Gerald McCoy wept before embracing Roger Goodell in the tenderest of bear hugs last year. NFL fans will tolerate just about anything—PSLs, player arrests, years of losing. But take away their regularly scheduled escapism programming, and things will get ugly fast, for both sides. “For whatever reason, there’s something sacred about the draft,” Fujita says, “and fans don’t want it disturbed.” The good news? Maybe, just maybe, the backlash after the event will bring the two warring parties to the table again, to finally find a peaceful resolution. And in time, we may look back at this year’s draft as one of the best yet.

Well, good, because this preview is only the beginning of what ESPN has to offer.
> presents mock drafts from Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, inside scoops from John Clayton, profiles of all the top prospects and, of course, Kiper’s Big Board. Once the draft kicks off, DraftTracker will provide pick-by-pick data in real time, plus you’ll get team reviews from our eight division bloggers, video breakdowns of every first-rounder, and blow-by-blow analysis by Scouts Inc. > ESPN TV’s live coverage of the draft begins on Thursday, April 28, at 8 p.m., continues the next day at 6 p.m. and hits the homestretch Saturday at noon. The broadcast will be hosted by Chris Berman and Trey Wingo, and will feature analysis from Kiper and Jon Gruden. > ESPN Radio’s live draft show will be hosted by Freddie Coleman, John Clayton and Tim Hasselbeck, with analysis of each first-rounder from Kiper (April 28, 7 p.m. ET; April 29, 6 p.m. ET).



per spec tive
a matter oF

aLan CLarKe




Jake Locker

is accustomed to being first. Among the halfdozen NFL prospects he’s training with on a mid-February morning in Irvine, Calif., the former University of Washington quarterback is first to stretch, first to run a 40-yard dash, first to spin around the three-cone drill. A few hours later, the 22-year-old, with his Marine buzz cut and slugger’s arms, is first to arrive at Oakley headquarters, a fortress atop a Southern California hill, for a tour of the sunglasses company arranged by the prospects’ agents. As the players wait in the building’s lobby, someone notices the cathedral-like ceiling and asks, “How high is that?” Locker answers first: “I’d say it’s about 30 yards—60 feet.” Scotty McKnight, a former Colorado receiver who might not be drafted, turns his head, drops his eyebrows and grins. McKnight loves giving people a hard time, and his fellow prospect has provided a rare opening. “Thirty yards is 90 feet,” he says. “Uh, I didn’t take math,” says Locker, who earned his degree in history. This time last year, the thought of the quarterback’s practicing with and taking crap from a grab bag of players who may not be drafted would have been absurd. Scouts saw his thrilling game (powerful arm, 4.5 40) and perfect pedigree (son of a youth football coach, so athletically gifted that he was a two-time MLB draft pick)

Locker’s stock fell hard in September after he completed just 20% of his passes against Nebraska, the third-worst performance by an FBS QB since 2004.

the 56-21 loss. The perception that he could become a franchise quarterback was effectively destroyed. His decision-making, footwork and instincts—once seen as wonderfully raw— suddenly became hopeless liabilities. Teams now grade Locker anywhere from a late firstto mid-third-rounder, far behind this year’s hottest passers, Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and Auburn’s Cam Newton. But Locker isn’t really to blame for this downward spiral. He’s a victim of a very subjective science: quarterback evaluation, which often reveals as much about the evaluators as it does about their subject. Because while scouts analyze

and declared him the top pick in the 2010 draft—a spot that would have earned him a guaranteed $50 million. But Locker shocked scouts by returning to Seattle for his senior year, then failed to meet the high expectations that everyone had set for him. It didn’t take long for things to go bad. In a huge September showdown against Nebraska, Locker completed just four passes in

every trait imaginable, from leadership to arm strength, final grades are based on an individual’s beliefs about what matters most. That’s why three football men can watch the same player during the same game, sometimes the same throw, and derive three different assessments. To prove it, The Magazine visited an offensive coordinator for an NFC team and two directors

THE AFC scout’s beliefs are stashed in a spiral notebook, scribbled in blue and red ink. He reads aloud a particularly damning note: Locker identifies defenses quicker outside the pocket than in it. Armed with the universal NFL film watcher’s tool kit—coffee, clicker and Copenhagen—the expert turns to a TV. “I’ll show you what I mean,” he says. It’s the first quarter. On first down from the Oregon State 16-yard line, Locker bootlegs right. “Not a lot of guys can do this,” the scout says as he clicks to the end zone angle to get a better



character into two categories: leadership and football. as a leader, locker earns an easy a, but his football character merits only a c.

teams tend to divide

of college scouting (one each from the AFC and the NFC) and watched as each broke down Locker’s best game from last season: a 35-34 double-overtime win over Oregon State in which he completed 21 of 35 passes for 286 yards and five touchdowns. These experts identified a variety of flaws, and their evaluations are critical: Overvaluing a QB could cost their team millions of dollars and set the organization back years in terms of development. So scouts tend to view perceived weaknesses in absolute terms, assuming a QB’s flaws in college always carry over to the NFL—and they cover their butts by telling their bosses as much. Which brings us back to Locker. Hell-bent on proving he can overcome any perceived shortcomings, he has armed himself with a brain specialist and a QB coach in preparation for his NFL career. We visited with them, too.


Potential picks say they will have been lent an average of $23,110. But we’ve BY DRAFT DAY, look. Nearly out of bounds, Locker scans his heard about varying levels of financial support. Nine players say they won’t HOW MUCH three options and drills a perfect pass over a MONEY WILL YOUR receive a single dollar from their agent. Twelve others say they’ll have pocketed $30,000 or more. “For training, housing and food,” says one defender who AGENT HAVE leaping linebacker to receiver Jermaine Kearse, predicts he’ll end up borrowing $100,000. “I’ll pay it all back. But the coolest FRONTED YOU? who catches the ball in the end zone. But in the thing is, it’s a no-interest loan.” Download scanner at third quarter, when Locker fires a six-yarder to (see page 10 for details) Kearse, the scout stares at the screen and shakes his head. “Look at the coach on the sideline,” he says, pointing to Huskies headman Steve Sarkisian, who has dropped his arms in apparent On first down from the Beavers’ 12-yard line, and beta waves so he can process defenses with, frustration. “Jake must have screwed up.” Locker drops back, climbs the pocket, and fires high Hale says, “a calm, intense focus.” Indeed he has. The scout rewinds the film, of wideout D’Andre Goodwin, who’s blanketed near Five minutes in, Hale narrows the tunnel which shows Oregon State breaking the huddle the pylon. It seems like a smart throwaway, but the walls and increases the number of obstacles. As into man coverage. But just before the snap, the coach isn’t buying. “Locker isn’t in sync with his Locker collides with rocks, bumping around like Beavers shift to Cover 2. Sarkisian had called the receivers,” he says, as he rewinds the film. When he’s learning to parallel park, his beta waves rise, perfect routes for this defense: Kearse hooking Locker ends his drop, Goodwin is briefly open. That reflecting frustration. After eight minutes, Hale up and wideout Jordan Polk running deep. window closes when Locker pushes in the pocket tightens the course to its toughest level, filling Locker’s read should be Beavers corner James twice, taking two little hops, and delays the throw. A the screen with more rocks, dips and sharp Dockery. If he covers short, throw deep; if he few plays later, he again pushes twice and nearly turns. Locker locks in: He occasionally hits the covers deep, throw short. Dockery covers short, collides with an offensive lineman. Unable to step obstacles but corrects quickly. His red and blue and Polk is open deep, but Locker into the throw, he lets the ball sail. Now the throws short. “He didn’t recognize coordinator zeroes in on the QB’s habitual the coverage,” the scout says. “In the pushes like a politico watching polls. The pocket, he doesn’t process quickly.” movements not only contribute to Locker’s It’s a curable condition—if a inaccuracy, scouts’ biggest criticism, but quarterback has a patient coach, a also suggest that, as the coach says, “he’s a A slide down the draft board more patient owner and years of mechanical quarterback.” would cost Jake Locker quite reps in the same system. Says the That’s code for a learned signala pretty penny. Last year, scout: Too many ifs to choose caller, not an instinctual one. Learned No. 1 pick Sam Bradford Locker before the second round. quarterbacks run plays to perfection if and his fellow firsteverything goes as planned. Instinctual rounders averaged DONNIE HALE believes his machine ones flip broken plays into big ones. $16.5 million in guaranteed can help Locker read defenses more “A quarterback’s instincts are like a money. Their third-round quickly. Hale is a technician for receiver’s speed,” the coach says. “You brethren, meanwhile, took Neurotopia, a company dedicated can develop it, but you can’t coach it.” home $765,000, a difference to improving athletes’ mental perof $15.7M. So while he considers Locker to be an formance by use of brain-training “excellent prospect,” he pegs him as exercises. Pro baseball and football a third-rounder because “his habits players hire Hale to help with a might be too hard to break.” variety of processes, from thinking quicker to lines start to rise and fall together. As he crosses KEN O’BrIEN believes bad habits can be fixed. sleeping sounder. On a February morning at the finish line at the end of today’s 20-minute The former Jets QB works with Locker for 90 Velocity, a Southern California gym, he squeezes a session—the second of 20 he’ll have before the minutes each day starting at 9 a.m. A member of blob of clear goop onto his finger and rubs it onto draft—he raises his hands, signaling touchdown. the famed Class of 1983, in which six quarterbacks Locker’s head before planting a small electric Most people feel drained after completing the were drafted in the first round, O’Brien, unlike a lot suction cup on the spot. Locker sits in a recliner, game. Not Locker. “I’m relaxed,” he says. of scouts and coaches, believes many signal-callers classical piano music softly playing in his Beats AT A rEsTAurANT near his team’s facility, the naturally improve in the pros. Quarterbacking by Dr. Dre high-performance headphones, with offensive coordinator launches the Washingtonis a skill that can be learned. Brady upped his wires running from his head to a small processor Oregon State game on a laptop. He watches accuracy. Peyton learned to throw on the run. connected to Hale’s computer. Locker faces a TV Locker miss the Cover 2 and shrugs. Only a few Aaron Rodgers became a quicker thinker. So screen that displays video-game-like images of a quarterbacks—Peyton, Brady, Brees—make that O’Brien has Locker practicing three-step drops, spaceship navigating tunnels; he’ll guide the vessel read. “Plus,” he says, “I love Locker’s release.” then five-step drops. He works on play-action by thinking about it. The coordinator always analyzes a quarterdrops, drops with a push, drops with two pushes, Hale controls the level of difficulty of the exerback’s release first. He likes a short, compact quick drops, deep drops. In his 10th year tutoring cise, and he starts with wide, easy-to-navigate lash; Locker’s motion is suitably smooth and QBs, O’Brien pushes his student, but not too hard. tunnels. Charting on the technician’s laptop are clean. Next, he considers height. The best QBs, After all, Locker has had two days off since Locker’s brain waves, blue and red lines rising he says, range from 6'2" to 6'5"; Locker slides in Washington’s season ended in December. “Overkill and falling like stocks. Alpha waves, the blue at 6'2¾". Then, he evaluates instinct: that inscrucan set in,” O’Brien says. line, are produced by the brain when, say, you’re table ability to focus downfield yet remain Back in ’83, O’Brien prepped for the draft by relaxing in your backyard. Beta waves, the red acutely aware of the pass rush. “That’s the most spending mornings in class and afternoons line, are produced when you’re engaged in an important trait,” he says. throwing with his UC Davis teammates. The activity like driving. Locker’s goal: sync his alpha

> nFL DraFt ConFIDentIaL




combine was in its infancy then, hardly the showcase it is now. NFL coaches might drop by and talk to the players well into the night, learning what made them tick. Today, there’s less access and even less optimism. QBs speeddate teams in 15-minute interviews at the combine, where flaws tend to be regarded in finite terms. Anyone whose stock has dropped, Locker says, “would be lying if they told you they didn’t occasionally question themselves.” O’Brien wants his charge to remember that great players find ways to be great at the next level. So a few nights a week, he sends Locker a supportive text. After one workout, O’Brien tapped: “I like where you’re at. Keep spinning it.” In his prefurnished, temporary two-bedroom apartment in Irvine, Locker smiled at his buzzing BlackBerry and thought, Hell, yeah. I like where I’m at too.
THE NFC personnel director pulls Locker’s

Oregon State game. Unlike the other evaluators, he sees positives. On quick thinking: After Locker completes a deep comeback, the scout says, “See how the ball comes out before the receiver cuts? That’s quick thinking.” On pushing into pressure: Yes, Locker does it, but his arm often saves him. In the second quarter, for instance, he pushes into a defensive tackle, but flicks the ball 50 yards for six. On football leadership: The Huskies’ offense often looks out of sorts because Locker is dodging disasters caused by a questionable O-line. “After weeks of getting your ass kicked,” says the scout, “you don’t want to sit back there.”

his arm and decided to “not get freaked out over where I’m drafted.” Now Locker is in the strange position of defending himself against the perception that he cost himself the No. 1 slot. He’s weathered criticism of his play by accepting responsibility, even when other factors, such as a so-so receiving corps, were often at fault. Not only did he play most of the season with a broken rib and bruised quad, he also rebounded from the loss to Nebraska by beating the Huskers in the Holiday Bowl. He’s convinced he’s better prepared for having put up good numbers in a

locker knew he wasn’t ready last year. so he took out a lloyd’s of london policy on his arm and decided to “not get freaked out

over where i’m drafted.”
pro-style offense rather than great numbers in the spread, the system used by Newton and Gabbert. And just because he didn’t turn pro when his stock was highest doesn’t mean he won’t be a better quarterback. “Success will come quicker because I played my senior year,” he says. “The smart evaluators can see that.” Most do. On the heels of Locker’s strong combine and further examination of all of his game performances, The Magazine’s three experts admit they’d consider taking him in the first round despite having graded him lower. Because he’s talented, and franchise QBs are so rare, they might be willing to roll the dice on the flash of brilliance that seduced them in the first place. Truth is, scouts usually follow a pendulum swing of emotions: They fall hard for a player at first, then pick him apart before circling back to their first instinct. Locker’s case is no exception. Says the offensive coordinator, “He’s too talented to slip far.”
ON A mOrNINg just days before the combine,

scouting reports off his team’s secret intranet

Building off his success in the Holiday Bowl, Locker finished fourth or better in every drill at the combine.

site. A few notes stand out. He likes the size of the quarterback’s hands: 97/8". Plenty meaty. “Good for playing in cold weather,” he says. But he worries about the discrepancy in the prospect’s character grades. Teams tend to divide character into two categories: leadership and football. As a leader, Locker earns an easy A. After the Huskies won only four games his freshman year, he organized sprints each offseason morning at 6 o’clock. Throughout college, he visited hospitals, befriended three terminally ill kids and spoke at their funerals. Then as a senior, he led the Huskies to their first bowl win since 2001. Says Sarkisian, “He set the standard.” Maybe, but Locker’s football character merits only a C. Too often, this team’s scouts report, he struggled to manage his offense and the game. The question is why. So, clicker in hand, the scout kicks his feet onto his desk and turns on the

LOCKEr KNEW he wasn’t ready last year.

He had played running back in youth ball before moving to quarterback at Ferndale High to run the wing-T. His first two years at Washington, he was an option quarterback. By the end of his junior year, he had run Sarkisian’s pro-style offense for just one season. But before making the decision to stay in school, he studied 2009’s top signal-callers. Most had played their senior year, and only Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers were top-10 picks. So he took out a Lloyd’s of London policy on




Still, the personnel director calls Locker an “improving quarterback” who “carried his team” but “needs some work.” In other words, he’s a second-rounder. Thing is, Locker showed the same traits as a junior, when experts projected him No. 1. “Perceptions changed,” says the scout. “He had buzz, but nobody had studied him.”

Locker—head down, elbows at knees, T-shirt soaked—gasps for air. He’s holding both ends of a thick, heavy rope that’s wrapped around a pole 20 feet away. A clock reads 17 seconds, which means that he is almost due for another rep of Velocity’s toughest exercise: slapping the rope to the floor in 20-second increments. He lifts the rope and slams it to the turf, right and left, like he’s wrestling a boa. His cheeks redden, his eyebrows arc and drop like a guitarist’s during a solo, and his tongue flops out of a slight grin. A few players drop their dumbbells to watch. After all, this is a power drill, designed for offensive linemen. Today, nobody dared touch it. Locker went first. Ω



s. .. m Is th ey
Clubs usually host rookies for a three-day session within two weeks of the draft. They meet coaches and get their playbooks, while also dealing with matters like housing and media training. “There are so many little things that get settled then,” says an AFC quarterbacks coach. “Pushing everything into one condensed period later may overwhelm a lot of guys.”
rooKIe Camp get to Know the new DIgs





Talk about bad timing. Just when prospects like Jake Locker are about to win their dream jobs, an extended lockout could limit their access to the tools they need to succeed. No playbooks. No contact with coaches. No game film provided by the team. Not even a facility to call home. But while players are being shut out, these resourceful rookies won’t be shut down. Here’s how some plan to cope.

B To make sure he’s comfortable with the team that drafts him, QB Ryan Mallett (Arkansas) says he’ll “watch whatever game footage I can find.” Fellow QB hopeful Christian Ponder (Florida State) will take his prep a step further. “I’m moving to the city where I’m drafted as soon as possible,” he says. “Then I’ll find some receivers and start throwing.”



pL a


During the off-season, rookies participate in more than a dozen OTA sessions and at least one full minicamp. Quarterbacks and receivers work on timing, linemen and linebackers hone their technique, and coaches start dissecting the playbook. In short, it’s a chance for rookies to learn about the intensity of the NFL.

During a lockout, it helps to stick together. “All of our rookies are going to a training facility after the draft,” says Tom Condon, who reps top prospects such as QB Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), wideout A.J. Green (Georgia) and defensive end J.J. Watt (Wisconsin). “They’ll do movement drills and basically the same things they did before the draft.”

Veterans can crash prep for a season in two weeks, but a lockout that lasts until Aug. 15 or later kills the chance for most rookies to contribute immediately. “They’ll have to be very patient and avoid getting frustrated,” says Cleveland cornerback and nine-year vet Sheldon Brown. “They’ll be behind the eight ball from the start.”

traInIng Camp

While players acknowledge that the current situation is tough to prepare for, projected first-rounders like defensive ends Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) and Da’Quan Bowers (Clemson) are taking a pragmatic approach. “I know I have to keep myself busy, break down my game tapes and keep up my conditioning,” Heyward says. Adds Bowers, “Whenever the teams call, we’ll be there, ready to work.”

Keep CaLm anD Carry on


organIzeD team aCtIvItIes

stay CompetItIve


Top NFL quarterbacks don’t need smarts. They need instincts— the kind that comes with lots of practice. But why are some guys better at getting better?



The ball is snapped. The quarterback drops back, immediately surrounded by a chorus of grunts and groans, the sounds of linemen colliding. The play has just begun, but the pocket is already collapsing around him. He must focus his eyes downfield on his receivers and know where they’re going while also reading the defense. Is that cornerback blitzing or dropping back? When will the safety leave the middle? The QB has fewer than three seconds to make sense of this mess. If he hesitates, even for a split second, he’ll get sacked. No other team sport is so dependent on the judgment of a single player, which is why NFL scouts and coaches take the decision-making skills of quarterbacks very seriously. Since the early 1970s, when Cowboys coach Tom Landry began using the Wonderlic intelligence test to evaluate potential Dallas players, the league has included it at the annual scouting combine, to assess every player entering the draft. Basically a short version of an IQ test, the Wonderlic is 12 minutes long and consists of 50 questions, which get progressively harder (see page 68). The underlying assumption is that players with high scores (read: smarter) will make better decisions in the pocket. If a quarterback can solve pre-algebra problems quickly, then he’ll be more likely to find his man while getting blitzed. At first, this seems like a logical assumption. Just think of all the cognitive skills required to become a successful QB. He needs to memorize hundreds of offensive plays and dozens of defensive formations. He has to study game tape. And, in many instances, quarterbacks are responsible for changing the play at the line of




scrimmage. This helps explain why NFL teams start to get nervous whenever the Wonderlic scores of a QB in the draft fall below 24, the unofficial average for the position. (In comparison, the average score for computer programmers is 29 while janitors score 15, a point below running backs.) Scouts believe a quarterback who isn’t smart, at least by this measure, won’t be able to handle the mental rigors of the game. There’s only one problem with this way of thinking: It’s completely wrong. Many of the most successful quarterbacks in NFL history reportedly had subpar Wonderlic results. Donovan McNabb scored a 14 and Brett Favre a 22, while Randall Cunningham, Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw each scored 15. What’s more, several QBs who had unusually high marks— guys like Alex Smith and Matt Leinart, who scored 40 and 35, and were top-10 picks in their respective drafts—have struggled in the NFL, largely because they make poor decisions on the field. “People obsess over the stuff they can measure,” says former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck (Wonderlic score: 23). “We spend all this time talking about Wonderlic scores and results from the combine, but those numbers miss most of what’s going on.” Consider a recent study by economists David Berri and Rob Simmons. While they found that Wonderlic scores play a large role in determining when QBs are selected in the draft—the only equally important variables are height and the 40-yard dash—the metric proved all but useless in predicting performance. The only correlation the researchers could find suggested that higher Wonderlic scores actually led to slightly worse QB performance, at least during rookie years. In other words, intelligence (or, rather, measured intelligence), which has long been viewed as a prerequisite for playing QB, would seem to be a disadvantage for some guys. Although it’s true that signal-callers must grapple with staggering amounts of complexity, they don’t make sense of questions on an intelligence test the same way they make sense of the football field. The Wonderlic measures a specific kind of thought process, but the best QBs can’t think like that in the pocket. There isn’t time. So how, then, do they make their decisions? Turns out, every pass play is a pure demonstration of human feeling. Scientists have in recent years discovered that emotions, which are often dismissed as primitive and unreliable, can in fact reflect a vast amount of information processing. In many instances, our feelings are capable of responding to things we’re not even aware of, noticing details we don’t register on a conscious level. Let’s say you’re given information about how 20 different stocks have performed over a period of time. (Their share prices are displayed on a ticker at the bottom of a TV screen.) If somebody asks you which stocks performed best, you’ll probably be unable to give a good answer; there’s just way too much financial data to keep track of. But if you’re asked which stocks trigger the best feelings—now it’s your emotional brain that’s being quizzed—you’ll suddenly be able to identify the top stocks. According to Tilmann Betsch, the psychologist who performed this experiment, your emotions will “reveal a remarkable degree of sensitivity” to the actual performance of the shares. The investments that rose in value will be associated with the most positive emotions, while those that fell will trigger a vague sense of unease. This exercise captures why it’s so important for quarterbacks to rely on their feelings and not their analytical intelligence. Open targets are associated with the most positive emotions, just like those upward-trending stocks. “QBs are tested on every single pass play,” Hasselbeck says. “To be good at the position, you’ve got to know the answer before you even understand the question. You’ve got to be able to glance at a defense and recognize what’s going on. And you’ve got to be able to do that when the left tackle gets beat and you’re running away from a big lineman. That ability might not depend on real IQ, but it sure takes a lot of football IQ.” How QBs develop a more effective emotional brain is the question teams should be asking. The simple answer: work. Expertise requires lots of effort and repetition. K. Anders Ericsson, a psychologist at Florida State, studies expertise. Ericsson acknowledges the role of genetic gifts (physical and mental skills are not distributed equally at birth), but he believes that the overwhelming majority of expertise is earned. “There is virtually no evidence that expertise is due to genetic or innate factors,” Ericsson says. “Rather, it strongly suggests that expertise requires huge amounts of effort and practice.” This is because it takes time to train our feelings, to embed those useful patterns into the brain. Before a quarterback can find the open man, parsing the defense in a glance, he must spend years studying cornerbacks and crossing routes. It looks easy only because he’s worked so hard. “I think the willingness to put in the hours is the most important thing for succeeding in the NFL,” says Gil Brandt, former Cowboys vice president of player personnel and current draft analyst for “When you look at the best QBs—guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees—what you see is

Wonderlic’s Wide spectrum

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that they work harder than anyone else. Their work ethic is what makes them great.” In recent years, Ericsson has become known for his calculation that true expertise in various fields, from QBs to cello players, requires about 10,000 hours of what he calls “deliberate practice.” And deliberate practice is not fun. It’s not casual scrimmages or a game of catch in the backyard. Instead, it’s a disciplined attempt to improve specific skills. For a quarterback, this might involve spending the weekend throwing hundreds of footballs through an old car tire while moving to the left or working for months on a few steps of footwork. Consider Peyton and Eli Manning. It would be easy to conclude that the brothers have some highly selective, about 5% of cadets drop out after the first summer of training, known as Beast Barracks. The Army has long searched for the variables that predict which cadets will graduate, but it wasn’t until Duckworth tested them using a short questionnaire—consisting of statements such as “Setbacks don’t discourage me” or “I am diligent”—that the Army found a measurement that actually worked. Duckworth has since repeated the survey with subsequent West Point classes, and the results are always the same: The cadets who graduate are the ones with grit. In a new paper, Duckworth and Ericsson demonstrate that grit doesn’t only keep people from dropping out, but it’s also what allows them to become experts, to put in the hours of deliberate practice. The researchers tracked 190 participants at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The first thing they discovered is that deliberate practice works. Student spellers who spent

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yet-to-be-discovered quarterback gene, a snippet of DNA that makes them suited for the pocket. (For what it’s worth, Eli reportedly scored 39 on the Wonderlic, Peyton a 28.) In reality, according to Ericsson’s model of expertise, the Mannings have excelled in the pros because they began throwing the football as toddlers, racking up hours of deliberate practice at an age when most kids haven’t even touched a pigskin. It also didn’t hurt that their father, Archie Manning, was a former NFL passer who provided them with invaluable instruction. Peyton and Eli weren’t born with the ability to read defenses and throw a perfect spiral. Those “instincts” come only from a lifetime of training. So, if talent comes from intuition, and reliable intuition comes from practice, then the trait that teams should really be measuring is how recruits practice. And the question they should be asking is, Why are some quarterbacks so much better at getting better? This notion of practice led Ericsson to collaborate with Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Duckworth is best known for her work on grit, a character trait that allows people to persist in the face of difficulty. A few years ago, she was commissioned by the Army to measure the grittiness of cadets at West Point. Although the academy is

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more time studying alone and memorizing words with the help of note cards performed much better than kids who were quizzed by friends or engaged in leisure reading. Duckworth and Ericsson also found that levels of grit determined how much the spellers were willing to practice. Grittier kids were able to engage in the most useful kinds of self-improvement, which is why they performed at a higher level. Woody Allen famously declared, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” And grit is what allows you to show up, again and again and again. “I’d bet that there isn’t a single highly successful person who hasn’t depended on grit,” says Duckworth. “Nobody is talented enough to not have to work hard, and that’s what grit allows you to do. It lets you take advantage of your potential.” For successful quarterbacks, grit is what allows them to watch hours of game tape on Monday mornings. It lets them remain in the weight room after everyone else has gone home. It’s why they can practice the right way, not just the easy way. “In order to become a professional athlete, you need a certain kind of obsessiveness,” Duckworth says. “You’ve got to





Almost one in three (30%) pick the 40-yard dash, but most do so grudgingly. Turns out, many of them think it shouldn’t be. Says one first-round lock: “The game is 11-on-11, not who sprints the fastest.” When we ask a follow-up—WHAT’S THE MOST USELESS COMBINE TEST?—30.8% choose the Wonderlic. “It’s a brainteaser,” says one top pass-rusher. “And I don’t remember a time that a brainteaser helped me sack the quarterback.”

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devote your life to the development of this very narrow expertise. It shouldn’t be surprising that this takes lots of grit.” The problem for the NFL is that instead of measuring grit, teams still subscribe to an antiquated model of talent and expertise in which innate gifts are presumed to matter the most. The scouting combine requires players entering the draft to perform a number of short physical

the Grit scale measures perseverance for long-term goals.

teams have been looking at all the wrong things,” Brandt says. “Just because you can measure it doesn’t mean it matters.” Measuring grit does matter, but it’s not easy. Grit can’t be evaluated in a single afternoon; by definition, it’s a metric of personality that involves performance over long periods of time. People don’t reveal grit at the combine; they show it when no one else is around. “What coaches need is a way to test how players will perform over the entire season,” Duckworth says. “Do they have what it takes to make themselves better? Will they benefit from criticism and feedback? If I were a coach, those are the questions I would care about.”


MY INTERESTS CHANGE fROM YEAR TO YEAR. Very much like me Mostly like me Somewhat like me Not much like me Not like me at all

I HAvE ACHIEvEd A GOAl THAT TOOK YEARS Of WORK. Very much like me Mostly like me Somewhat like me Not much like me Not like me at all

and mental tasks (40-yard dash, Wonderlic, three-cone drill, bench-press reps, vertical jump) referred to by psychologists as “maximal measurements,” since they measure people who are highly motivated to perform for short bursts of time. But to understand why those maximal tests at the combine don’t predict performance in the pros, we must return to the nature of expertise. As Ericsson and Duckworth demonstrate, the most important kind of talent, emotional IQ, depends on measurements of sustained performance, on being able to engage in endless amounts of deliberate practice. “Maybe they say he’s too short or too slow or has a weak arm,” Brandt says, “but the reality is that if a quarterback has the right work ethic, then he can probably make up for those problems.” He points again to Brees, who wasn’t drafted until the second round, and Brady, who was ignored until the sixth. “That’s because

So where is all this heading? How will grit become a bigger part of the scouting equation? The first step is to finally acknowledge that maximal tests aren’t effective. “I really see the Wonderlic as a reading test,” says former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, now with the NFL Network. “Until we get a better test, teams are just going to have to evaluate players the oldfashioned way, by watching them play in actual games. It takes good instincts to be a QB. Maybe it takes good instincts to find one, too.” Hasselbeck suggests that teams pay more attention to the fundamentals of college quarterbacks, since their passing mechanics are often a window into how much grit they possess. “You know these guys have been coached for years,” he says. “So if you see a QB with flawed fundamentals, you gotta wonder what’s wrong. Is he coachable? Will he work to improve? Because that’s important. You can teach a kid to throw the ball, but only if he wants to learn.” After all, deliberate practice makes perfect. Ω

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IT ?






Last season, Scarlett (left) ranked third in the MEAC in scoring; Adams, his Morgan State teammate, was second in the conference in punting average.

“Hitting satellites,” they call it. The placekicker, Kemar Scarlett, a departing senior who’s prepping for the team’s pro day later that week, spins kickoffs deep into the end zone 75 yards away. The punter, Nick Adams, a junior with two years of eligibility remaining, booms tight spirals with hang times approaching five seconds. Both players have NFL dreams and, based on raw ability, NFL potential. During one game in 2009, the long-legged, 6'1" Scarlett hit a schoolrecord 55-yard field goal, and the burly, six-foot Adams launched a school-record 79-yard punt. It was an outstanding day all around, one that helped earn them the nicknames DJ Kick and Big Punter around campus. But among pro hopefuls, Scarlett and Adams stand out for another reason entirely—the color of their skin. In the NFL’s 91 seasons, very few AfricanAmericans, or black men of any nationality, have earned a living launching the ball with their foot. In the 1960s and ’70s, Gene “Golden Toe” Mingo made a career of placekicking (while playing a few other positions) for five AFL and NFL teams. In the past decade, Cedric Oglesby and Justin Medlock had brief placekicking stints. And two Nigerian-born soccer-style kickers, Obed Ariri and Donald Igwebuike, also made the NFL after starring at Clemson. Equally few African-American punters have secured regular-season NFL jobs—most notably Greg Coleman and the late Reggie Roby, who between them kicked for seven different NFL teams over 12- and 16-year careers, respectively. Currently, though, the NFL’s only black kicking specialist is Browns punter Reggie Hodges (his father is black, his mother white). Given their pro scarcity, it’s no surprise that black kickers are nearly as rare in college. Kicking guru Gary Zauner, an NFL special-teams coordinator for 13 seasons, holds off-season showcases with pro scouts for hopeful kickers. When asked to identify the best African-American placekicking prospect today, Zauner says, “I’m not able to name one.” That’s because only one of 120 college teams in FBS had a black kicker or punter appear in a game last season—Arizona punter Keenyn Crier.

Even in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, with its 13 historically black colleges and universities (11 have football programs, including Morgan State), most kickers are white or Hispanic. Which is why, when one of Morgan State’s two specialists trots onto the field, opponents stare. “I’ve heard, ‘Man, you’re black, you can’t kick, what are you doin’ kicking?’” says the 20-year-old Adams. “Other teams are surprised to see a black kicker. Then to learn I’m actually good at it … ”
A FEW Hours bEForE practice, Scarlett and Adams walk through the Morgan State athletic complex, giving a tour of the school’s Hall of Fame. They each point to photos of star alumni, like NFL greats Leroy Kelly, Willie Lanier and Roosevelt Brown. Adams, who is steeped in MSU history, knows that almost 70 Bears have gone on to the NFL. Seeing all those players who overcame the odds to make the big time out of their tiny college, Scarlett and Adams can envision their photos up on that wall too. But the path to the NFL will be steeper for Scarlett, and eventually Adams. For starters, both are self-taught in what have evolved into techniqueintensive arts. Most top kicking prospects have been specialty-coached for years by the time they


finish college. The old 50% gold standard for field goal accuracy is now closer to 85%, as kick doctors refine concepts of balance, rhythm and transfer of force. Likewise, a punter’s footwork, drop and ball alignment can be more important than his brute power. Last season, with little outside tutelage, Scarlett hit 18 of 24 field goals and Adams averaged close to 40 yards per punt. “You can be raw and kick the ball a long way,” says Crier, who just finished his college career and hopes to break into the NFL. “But if you have no technique, the chance you’ll hit the ball you want to hit is slim.” Scarlett has never attended a camp, clinic or combine. If he makes it to the NFL, he might be the league’s first YouTube baby. That’s where the 21-year-old acquires most of his technical training, supplementing that with a few tips from former Morgan State placekickers. It’s sort of like trying to build a scratch golf swing from random advice at the driving range. “Confusing? Yeah,” says the ever-upbeat Scarlett, “because people have different ways. I try to apply their knowledge to my style. It works, it works.” Or does it? At the 2010 HBCU All-Star Bowl, concerned observers told Scarlett that he needs to tweak his form. A coach from Tuskegee University suggested Scarlett line up with his shoulders square to the uprights. Back in high school, he had to learn to kick with the side of his foot and not his instep. In junior college he was taught to explode through the ball. All seemingly sound advice but still lacking the same thing that eluded Albert Einstein: a unified theory. According to Zauner, a hodgepodge of instruction can lead to a player’s developing shoddy technique. “Sometimes no coaching is better than wrong coaching,” he says. But proper instruction comes with a price tag. Placekicking and punting have become countryclub disciplines, as training and gaining exposure



He’s a big guy, with a big personality and bigger headlines, but incoming pros make head Jet Rex Ryan the big winner here. After two straight AFC championship game appearances, Ryan finishes with 42.3% of the vote, well in front of runner-up Steelers coach Mike Tomlin (17.3%). “I want a player’s coach,” says a Big 12 standout. “There’s really nobody else right now who’s even close to Rex Ryan when it comes to connecting with his guys.”

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to scouts can be expensive. Many colleges recruit by holding instructional training combines for high school kickers, charging fees as high as $400 for what are often glorified tryouts. “I went to four college camps,” says Medlock, who wound up at UCLA. “You get seen. A couple of schools offered me a scholarship on the spot.” Oglesby, who runs a kicking school in Atlanta that has in the past offered financial aid to

Last year, tHe NFL aND FBs FootBaLL HaD

tHe same NUmBer oF BLaCK PUNters aND KICKers—oNe .
campers, points out that college recruiters typically rely on Internet scouting services. And because those rankings are based largely on what scouts see at camps, he explains, “If you can’t afford to go to camps, you can’t get ranked.” Zauner also operates camps and combines in Phoenix. College seniors and hopeful free agents pay $300 for a one-hour evaluation; free agents who wow Zauner can pay another $275 to kick in front of scouts from the NFL, Canadian Football League and United Football League. Zauner hasn’t seen Scarlett kick, partly because money is an issue for the player. Instead of attending kicking camps over the past several off-seasons, Scarlett worked on a dinner-cruise boat in Washington, D.C. His rise from deckhand to bosun’s mate on the Odyssey III is admirable, but it’s not likely to impress scouts. Another hurdle for Scarlett and Adams: NFL scouts tend to overlook small-school kickers and punters. Says Oglesby, who placekicked and punted at South Carolina State in the MEAC: “At an HBCU you have to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone to get anyone to notice.” The thinning of the pool of black kickers starts long before college, though. “Black kids want to be the guy with the football in their arms,” says

Browns punter Reggie Hodges

Morgan State head coach Donald Hill-Eley. Adds Oglesby: “When you turn on a TV you don’t see an African-American kicker. There’s nobody there to relate to.” Having tried out for more than a dozen NFL teams, Oglesby knows about being the odd man out in the locker room. When he pulled out his soccer cleats at the Cowboys’ training camp, another player burst out laughing, saying, “Man, I’ve never seen a black kicker in my life!” In Arizona, where he kicked in place of an injured Bill Gramatica, teammates called him Gra-black-tica. During Oglesby’s time on the Chargers’ roster, teammates called him Igwe, a nod to Igwebuike. But Igwebuike, who honed his skills playing soccer, is not the model for modern black kickers. At inner-city high schools, where soccer tends to be less popular, it’s not uncommon for football teams to de-emphasize kicking almost to the point of extinction. Alonzo Carter spent eight years turning out championship teams as head coach of tradition-rich McClymonds High School in Oakland, but kickers weren’t part of the glory. “We had black kids as kickers,” says Carter, who is AfricanAmerican. “You didn’t even think about field goals. If our kicker missed a PAT, the rest of the game we were going for two. It was a cultural thing that we just accepted.” Carter remembers one receiver who was named All-City—as a punter. “I brought him his medal,” Carter says, “and it was like shining armor to him. But his peers ridiculed him. ‘You made All-City as a punter?’ They laughed at him. It’s ignorance, and we coaches are part of the ignorance.” Some potentially great African-American kickers also get pushed—for good reason—to other positions. Chargers Pro Bowl punter Mike Scifres (who is white) was the second-string punter at Destrehan High School in Louisiana, behind future Ravens star Ed Reed. But Reed, an all-state defensive back and kick returner, ditched punting at the college level to focus on free safety. In 1997, when Zauner was special-teams coordinator for the Vikings, he had Randall Cunningham, an All-America punter at UNLV, and Randy Moss slotted as emergency kickers. “They would stand at the 40-yard line in practice and kick 50-yard field goals, toe-punching the ball,” says Zauner. “Two great athletes, playing for Cokes. They probably could have been great NFL punters and



kickers.” In fact, Cunningham averaged nearly 45 yards on 20 career punts, including a 91-yard bomb that is still the fourth longest in NFL history.
rEGGIE HoDGEs Is the exception. A punter for



Some players say they’ll buy themselves a car. Others lean toward feeding their basic savings account. But the most common answer, given by 17.5% of the prospects, is spending on something nice—a house, a car, a vacation—for Mom. “It would be a real thrill to pay off the mortgage on my mom’s house,” says one SEC star. “She raised me there and turned me into the man I’ve become.” Dads got some love too: Buying something for both parents was the second choice (12.5%).

eight NFL teams over six seasons, Hodges, who has two years to go with the Browns, didn’t dream of becoming a fourth-down hero. No, the quarterback at Centennial High School in Champaign, Ill., wanted to play hoops in college. But his Centennial coach gave him punting duties after learning that

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was misfiled and he lost his scholarship. He spent the following two years at a community college in Central California. But he sent tapes to Morgan State and, in 2009, he was offered a partial scholarship that has since turned into a full ride. Scarlett’s arrival two summers ago surprised a lot of players, none more than the Bears punter. “I did a double take when I saw a black kicker,” says Adams. “ ‘He matches me!’ He was booting just like I was. I’m like, Cool. Ever since then we’ve been like brothers.” Adams came to Morgan State in 2009 as a 245-pound linebacker and defensive lineman. The coaches knew he had punted in high school, so they told him, “We don’t have a punter, you’re it.”

Hodges had finished second in a national punt-pass-and-kick contest. As a senior, the punter was all-state, averaging 39.4 yards per kick. He went on to become a first-team All-MAC selection as a senior at Ball State, and was drafted in the sixth round by the Rams in 2005. If punting lacks prestige, don’t tell Hodges. “I love it,” he says. “It’s an absolute blast. This is what I’m called to do.” Both Scarlett and Adams feel a similar pull to kicking. Scarlett grew up playing soccer in his home country of Jamaica. When he moved to America at age 13, his new school, Potomac High in Oxon Hill, Md., didn’t have a soccer team, so he ran cross-country. When the football coach learned that there was a freshman runner with a skilled foot, he called Scarlett out of class on a Thursday and asked him to try kicking a football. By Saturday, Scarlett was kicking in a game—the first he ever saw. Coach pushed him onto the field for a PAT attempt and Scarlett drilled it. He had to ask how many points his kick was worth. In 2007, Scarlett accepted a scholarship at Bowie State in Maryland. When the coach’s contract was not renewed, Scarlett says his paperwork Adams was relieved of his defensive duties immediately. At first disappointed, he’s since embraced his role. “I’m the fourth-down quarterback,” says Adams. “If I kick the other team down on their 1-yard line, it’s like scoring a touchdown.” Now Adams and Scarlett are on the field every

day, pushing and inspiring each other. Adams introduced Scarlett to weight training; in two years Scarlett has jumped from 170 to as high as 192 pounds. They are both serious students: Adams wants a career in medicine, Scarlett is eyeing TV production. Once in uniform, they jokingly see themselves as superheroes with a mission to alter the face of kicking and punting. “What we have is something that could change the game,” says Adams. “We just do things different. We take that HBCU African-American swagger, and we apply it to positions that have been kind of clean-cut and white-collar.” Adams, who calls himself Turbo, has issued challenges to rival punt returners via Facebook and wears brightly colored tape and bands on his arm and legs. Scarlett wears flashy black-and-yellow soccer cleats that he calls bumblebees. They talk trash and back it up by making crunching tackles on special teams. After clutch field goals, Scarlett is met with a flying chest bump from Adams before he gets close to the sideline. A deep punt is cause for the duo to dance the Dougie. “I bet if punters and kickers looked better, there would be a lot of young people who would want to get into it,” says Scarlett. “They’ll come off as cool, not, ‘He’s just a kicker.’ It’s that stigma I want to get over. We’re athletes, and we’re important athletes.”
IMPorTANCE Is rElATIvE. On Morgan State’s pro day, the Baltimore weather is still bitterly cold and wet. Over the previous weeks, scouts from the Eagles and Ravens have indicated strong interest in Scarlett. He hopes other teams will be on hand. The Eagles don’t show. Two Ravens scouts record numbers for Scarlett and three teammates on standard sprints and lifts, but with rain and winds gusting more than 30 mph, they do not ask Scarlett to kick a football. “I was disappointed that I wasn’t kicking,” Scarlett says later, “but I won’t let it knock me off track.” This summer that track will lead him to one of Zauner’s camps. After all, Scarlett has to make sure scouts remember his name before he can change the face of the game.

Scarlett, a miniceleb on the Morgan State campus, has multiple nicknames, including the Jamaican Sensation.




From left: Rashad Carmichael, Casey Matthews, Stevan Ridley, Tyler Sash, Colin Kaepernick and Jeremy Kerley.


for a day

(FROM LEFT) On Carmichael: leather jacket by dolce & gabbana; shirt by robert geller; hat by still life nyc; belt by diesel; jeans by buffalo; shoes by allen edMonds. On Matthews: leather jacket by diesel; T-shirt by barney’s co-op; jeans by levi’s; boots by red wing. On Ridley: suit jacket by Hugo boss; shirt by izod; tie by billy reid; jeans by diesel, Larkee Relaxed Fit; boots by red wing; sunglasses by toMMy Hilfiger. On Sash: trench by billy reid (from Bloomingdale’s); shirt by izod; tie by billy reid; jeans by levi’s; boots by red wing. On Kaepernick: trench by burberry (from Bloomingdale’s); shirt by izod; jeans by diesel, Larkee Relaxed Fit; shoes by dior HoMMe. On Kerley: suit jacket by Hugo boss red label; T-shirt by robert geller; belt by diesel; jeans by dkny; boots by red wing.





More than half (55%) of our poll takers say the higher, the better. “The goal is to be picked as soon as possible,” says one defender. But 23.8% go with Mr. Irrelevant, who gets a vacation in Newport Beach, a trip to Disneyland and the Lowsman Trophy, which depicts a player fumbling the ball. “You get your name in the history books,” says one running back. “Who remembers the first pick of the seventh round?”

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(FROM LEFT) On Kerley: shirt by billy reid (from Bloomingdale’s); jeans by dkny jeans; vest by rag & bone; boots by red wing; tie is stylist’s own. On Kaepernick: suit jacket by toMMy Hilfiger; shirt by calvin klein; cardigan by tHe Men’s store at blooMingdale’s; jeans by diesel; shoes by dior HoMMe; watch by breitling.


Jeremy Kerley

Leather jacket by diesel; shirt by yigal azrouËl; jeans by dkny jeans; watch by breitling.


Attention NFL owners: Don’t ask what Kerley can do for you, but, rather, what can’t he? In 2010, the 5'10" 189-pounder caught a team-leading 10 TDs, ran for two scores, threw for another and was TCU’s top punt and kick returner. “I bring a lot to the table,” says the Mountain West’s two-time special teams POY. Plus, he’s already played for a proven winner: The Horned Frogs were the first non-BCS school to become Rose Bowl champs. “We always knew we were going to be the ones to put the program back on the map.” When he’ll be picked: Fifth or sixth round. Draft plans: At home, watching every round on TV.

Casey Matthews
LB, orEGoN

Suit jacket by toMMy Hilfiger; shirt by billy reid (from Bloomingdale’s); T-shirt by calvin klein underwear; jeans by levi’s; watch by breitling.


“My parents gave us the freedom to do anything, but I wanted to play football,” says Matthews, whose father, Clay Jr., and uncle Bruce, both played 19 seasons, while his brother Clay III won Super Bowl XLV with the Packers. Casey lived up to the pedigree in 2010: He led the Ducks with a team-high 79 stops, and racked up three picks and nine tackles for loss en route to the BCS title game. At 6'1", 231 pounds, he may not be the biggest or strongest of this year’s ’backers. “But watch the film,” Matthews says. “It’s obvious I can make plays.” When he’ll be picked: Third or fourth round. Draft plans: Hanging out with family.



Rashad Carmichael

Trench by BURBERRY (from Saks Fifth Avenue); shirt by IZOD; tie and vest by RAG & BONE (from Saks Fifth Avenue); jeans by BUFFALO; shoes by ALLEN EDMONDS; hat by STILL LIFE NYC.


Tyler Sash

On Sash: Sweater by BURBERRY (from Saks Fifth Avenue); shirt by ROBERT GELLER SECONDS; jeans by LEvI’S; boots by RED wING. (IN BACKGROUND, FROM LEFT) On Kerley: leather jacket by SpURR (from Bloomingdale’s); henley by THE MEN’S STORE AT BLOOMINGDALE’S; V-neck by ROBERT GELLER; jeans by BUFFALO. On Carmichael: leather jacket and shirt by DIESEL; jeans by BUFFALO; shoes by ALLEN EDMONDS.


(FROM LEFT) On Ridley: Hat by STILL LIFE NYC; suit jacket by HUGO BOSS; shirt by YIGAL AZROUëL (from Saks Fifth Avenue); jeans by DIESEL; boots by RED wING; watch by BREITLING. On Kaepernick: Trench by BURBERRY; shirt by BILLY REID (from Bloomingdale’s); cardigan by THE MEN’S STORE AT BLOOMINGDALE’S; jeans by DIESEL; shoes by DIOR HOMME. On Kerley: Leather jacket by DIESEL; shirt by YIGAL AZROUëL (from Saks Fifth Avenue); jeans by DkNY; belt by DIESEL; boots by RED wING. On Carmichael: Trench by BURBERRY (from Saks Fifth Avenue); shirt by IZOD; tie and vest by RAG & BONE (from Saks Fifth Avenue); jeans by BUFFALO; shoes by ALLEN EDMONDS; belt by DIESEL; watch by BREITLING. On Sash: Leather jacket by BURBERRY (from Bloomingdale’s); denim shirt by DIESEL; T-shirt by CALvIN kLEIN UNDERwEAR; jeans by LEvI’S; boots by RED wING. On Matthews: Coat by wOOLRICH; T-shirts by CALvIN kLEIN UNDERwEAR; jeans by LEvI’S; boots by RED wING.



GroominG by KEiKo HAmAGUCHi/DEFACTo; STyLinG by mArK HoLmES/SEE mAnAGEmEnT

He may have had trouble deciding on a pair of shoes, but choosing a college was a no-brainer for the six-foot, 211-pound strong safety. “I grew up knowing nothing but the black and gold,” says the Oskaloosa, Iowa-native, who hauled in 13 career picks and holds the Hawkeyes’ all-time record for interception return yards (392). Those are just the kind of stats he’ll need to stand out among this year’s crop of safeties. Not that Sash is sweating. “All 32 teams don’t have to like you,” he says. “It just takes one.” When he’ll be picked: Fifth or sixth round. Draft plans: A small get-together with friends.

Nicknamed Roc by his late father, Bernard, the 5'10", 192-pound speedster (4.36 40-time) certainly played solid defense for the Hokies. After recording a career-high six interceptions and 55 tackles in 2009, he led a secondary that ranked No. 2 nationally in picks last season. All that from a guy considered slightly undersized by most scouts. “To me, size doesn’t matter,” he says. “This game’s all about heart.” When he’ll be picked: Fourth or fifth round. Draft plans: Home with family and friends.


During his first two seasons in Baton Rouge, patience became a virtue for the 5'11", 225-pound Ridley: With only 57 carries he didn’t exactly have much of a résumé. “When your time finally comes, you have to be ready,” Ridley says. His time came last season, and Ridley was prepared, rushing for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns, fourth most in school history. It was only one season, but the bruising back believes he showed enough to prove he’s NFL-ready and that last season wasn’t a fluke. “If a team wants three or four yards a carry,” he says, “then I’m their pick.” When he’ll be picked: Sixth or seventh round. Draft plans: Cook out with LSU teammates.

Stevan Ridley

Suit jacket by DkNY; shirt by IZOD; tie by BILLY REID; jeans by DIESEL; hat by STILL LIFE NYC; sunglasses by TOMMY HILFIGER.

Now you can find out with the MMOJO Analyzer. It checks out your social stats on Facebook then shows how your MMOJO stacks up against your friends. Get your MMOJO score at


Colin Kaepernick
QB, nEVada

Trench by BURBERRY (from Saks Fifth Avenue); cardigan by THE MEN’S STORE AT BLOOMINGDALE’S; jeans by DIESEL.


The only QB in FBS history with the head-turning stats of 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing, the 6' 5", 233-pound Kaepernick ran Nevada’s pistol-spread attack with aplomb. The question is whether he can run a pro-style offense. “I had to adapt to a completely new offense in college, and I started as a freshman,” says Kaepernick, whose 4.53 40-time was the second best for QBs at the combine. “That proves I can make a transition quickly.” When he’ll be picked: Second or third round. Draft plans: Lounging poolside or playing basketball.




They range in height from 5'6" to 6'9" and in weight from 150 to 376 pounds. They are as young as 21, as old as 42. They come from every state and 23 countries and have gone to 253 NCAA schools in 43 conferences. The Pats have been most adept at drafing them, the Bucs considerably less so. On the pages that follow, you’ll find a graphic breakdown of the 2,046 players who were either on a team roster in 2010’s Week 17 or on the league’s IR list. Thanks to the design whizzes at Chartball for bringing our colossal spreadsheet of data to multidimensional life.



A measure of a player’s overall worth. For the full explanation, see page 85.

A measure of a player’s overall worth. For the full explanation, see page 85.


Calif. (251)

Top schools: LSU Georgia Florida Tennessee Auburn Alabama Mississippi South Carolina 44 38 36 35 27 26 23 21





1st round (292)

SEC (308)

Drafted in 1st round

e i Peyton Manning

players were on NFL rosters or on the IR at the end of the 2010 season. Here’s where they come from:

Texas (211) 2nd round (239) Fla. (184) 3rd round (219) Ohio (100) La. (91) 4th round (212) Ga. (88) N.J. (65) 5th round (172) Pa. (65) N.Y. (64) Mich. (60) 6th round (160) Other U.S. states (796) 7th round (172)
Including: Ill. Va. S.C. N.C. Ala. Tenn. Miss. Okla. Md. Ind. 55 54 54 53 52 44 38 33 29 26

ACC (278)

Miami Florida State Maryland Georgia Tech Virginia Boston College Virginia Tech North Carolina

45 31 29 25 25 23 23 20

2nd round

Big Ten (256)

Ohio State Michigan Iowa Penn State Purdue Michigan State Illinois Wisconsin

42 33 30 29 26 24 21 21

3rd round

Drafted in 1st round
Brett Favre a Terrell Owens

Big 12 (221)

Texas 42 Oklahoma 30 Nebraska 29 Kansas State 18 Texas A&M 17 Colorado 16 Oklahoma State 16 USC California Oregon Oregon State Arizona State UCLA 39 33 25 22 21 19

4th round

Derrick Mason so

e i Peyton Manning

5th round
Mark Brunell ru

Pac-10 (215)

6th round
Tom Brady

Big East (115)

Pittsburgh Louisville Rutgers

21 20 19

7th round
Donald Driver

Not drafted (574)

Others (641)

Notre Dame Fresno State Utah San Diego State Brigham Young Central Florida TCU Colorado State Hawaii Boise State

27 21 21 16 14 13 13 12 12 10

Not drafted

Brett Favr

Outside U.S. (71)
Jeff Saturday S


The only player whose career was launched from the No. 247 overall spot is defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick (2010 draft).

More NFL players were born in Germany (7) than in Idaho (5) or West Virginia (4). We’re guessing Dad’s military service has something to do with that.

Of the 292 first-rounders, only 30 attended a non-BCS school.

Of the vets with zero career value, Ravens QB Brian Brohm (No. 56 overall, 2008) is the only one who was drafted in the first two rounds.




It’s long been one of the most frustrating limitations of football analysis: How do you compare an offensive lineman to a QB to a linebacker? Doug Drinen of Pro Football Reference has created a stat—approximate career value—to solve that conundrum. Through an intricate yet elegant series of equations built on individual contributions and accomplishments, a single number is placed on a player’s value each season. Those single-season numbers are then added together to yield a player’s career value. We’ve aggregated every 2010 player’s career value, by position and draft slot, in the pages that follow. (For more on Drinen’s methodology, see




5'6" 6' 6'9"

200 lbs. 300 375

Quarterbacks (103 players)
4 players: 6'6" Byron Leftwich: 250

Running backs (169)
Brandon Jacobs: 6'4" Madison Hedgecock: 266

Tight ends (127)

players were on NFL rosters or on the IR at the end of the 2010 season. Here’s how they size up:

3 players: 6'8"

Brandon M Manumaleuna: 295 5

Wide receivers (219)
Evan Moore, Ramses Barden: 6'6" Evan Moore: 2 247

Offensive linemen (340)

4 players: 6'9"

Herman Johnson, Langston Walker: 360 o

Defensive linemen (344)

a Calais Campbell, Ropati Pitoitua: 6'8"

Anthony Bryant: 376 t 6

Linebackers (272)

5 players: 6'5"

a Brandon Lang: 266

Defensive backs (397)

Pat Watkins: 6'5"

a Caleb Campbell: 237

Kickers / punters (75)
5 players: 6'5" Saverio Rocca: 265

SURVEY SAYS ... Of the 377 players who stand less than six feet
tall, 50% of them are defensive backs.

The shortest pro, 5'6" running back Darren Sproles, still weighs more, at 181 pounds, than 67 other players.


20 25 30 35 40 Not drafted
r 1 Brett Favre: 41

No. 257
Round 4 3

No. 1
2 1

A measure of a player’s overall worth. For the full explanation, see page 85.



8 players: No. 1

Brett Favre a

a Tony Richardson: 39

Ronnie Brown, Reggie Bush: No. 2 w

n s LaDainian Tomlinson

ke 5 Mike Sellers: 35

w Kellen Winslow, Vernon Davis: N 6 No.

a Tony Gonzalez

Terrell Owens: 37 T n

Calvin Johnson: No. 2

Terrell Owens

David B Binn: 38

Jake Long: No. 1

Alan Faneca n

a Pat Williams: 38

Mario Williams: No. 1 :

Jason Taylor a

Jason Kyle: 38 K

Aaron Curry: No. 4

Ray Lewis R

r s l Brian Dawkins, Lawyer Milloy: 37

Charles Woodson: No. 4 h N

Ronde Barber b Note: Career value is not calculated for kickers and punters.

Matt Turk: 42

Sebastian Janikowski: No. 17

When Brett Favre made his debut, on Oct. 27, 1991, the NFL’s current youngest player, Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, was 23 months old.

Only 17 of the 103 QBs were undrafted, the lowest rate of any position. But six of them started at least two games in 2010.

Texans WR Andre Johnson and Steelers DB Troy Polamalu, both of whom are 29, have the highest career value (85) of any player below the age of 30.





Calif. (251)

1st round (292)

players were on NFL rosters or on the IR at the end of the 2010 season. Here’s where they come from:

Texas (211) 2nd round (239) Fla. (184) 3rd round (219) Ohio (100) La. (91) 4th round (212) Ga. (88) N.J. (65) 5th round (172) Pa. (65) N.Y. (64) Mich. (60) 6th round (160) Other U.S. states (796) 7th round (172)
Including: Ill. Va. S.C. N.C. Ala. Tenn. Miss. Okla. Md. Ind. 55 54 54 53 52 44 38 33 29 26

Not drafted (574)

Outside U.S. (71)


The only player whose career was launched from the No. 247 overall spot is defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick (2010 draft).

More NFL players were born in Germany (7) than in Idaho (5) or West Virginia (4). We’re guessing Dad’s military service has something to do with that.



A measure of a player’s overall worth. For the full explanation, see page 85.

Top schools: LSU Georgia Florida Tennessee Auburn Alabama Mississippi South Carolina 44 38 36 35 27 26 23 21



SEC (308)

Drafted in 1st round

e i Peyton Manning Miami Florida State Maryland Georgia Tech Virginia Boston College Virginia Tech North Carolina 45 31 29 25 25 23 23 20

ACC (278)

2nd round

Brett Favre a

Big Ten (256)

Ohio State Michigan Iowa Penn State Purdue Michigan State Illinois Wisconsin

42 33 30 29 26 24 21 21

3rd round

Terrell Owens

Big 12 (221)

Texas 42 Oklahoma 30 Nebraska 29 Kansas State 18 Texas A&M 17 Colorado 16 Oklahoma State 16 USC California Oregon Oregon State Arizona State UCLA 39 33 25 22 21 19

4th round

so Derrick Mason

5th round
ru Mark Brunell

Pac-10 (215)

6th round
Tom Brady

Big East (115)

Pittsburgh Louisville Rutgers

21 20 19

7th round
Donald Driver

Others (641)

Notre Dame Fresno State Utah San Diego State Brigham Young Central Florida TCU Colorado State Hawaii Boise State

27 21 21 16 14 13 13 12 12 10

Not drafted

S Jeff Saturday

Of the 292 first-rounders, only 30 attended a non-BCS school.

Of the vets with zero career value, Ravens QB Brian Brohm (No. 56 overall, 2008) is the only one who was drafted in the first two rounds.



J. Losman W. McGahee

Wondering why the Browns can never hang in the AFC North, while the Packers consistently contend in the NFC North? It’s the draft, silly. This chart assigns every player from our survey to the organization that picked him, then arranges each team’s selections in order of position and career value. From the spoils goes the victor.
Each box represents one player drafted by that team Larger boxes indicate players with greater career value Players who were no longer playing for the team that drafted them


L. Evans

A. Levitre

C. Kelsay




A. Winfield


Career value is a measure of a player’s overall worth. For the full explanation, see page 85.
P. Posluszny

Bills Eagles
R. Brown R. McMichael C. Chambers V. Carey C. Henne J. Taylor C. Crowder Y. Bell


T. Brady

K. Faulk

D. Graham

D. Branch

M. Light

R. Seymour

J. Mayo

L. Milloy

C. Pennington L. Washington C. Baker S. Moss K. McKenzie J. Abraham J. Farrior D. Revis

J. Flacco C. Taylor T. Heap B. Stokley C. Rabach H. Ngata R. Lewis E. Reed

C. Palmer C. Ochocinco E. Steinbach J. Smith T. Spikes M. Williams

C. Frye K. Winslow B. Edwards J. Thomas G. Warren A. Davis C. Crocker


J. Harrison


R. Mendenhall H. Miller B. Roethlisberger

H. Ward

A. Faneca

A. Smith

J. Porter

T. Polamalu


O. Daniels D. Carr

A. Johnson

C. Pitts

M. Williams

D. Ryans

D. Robinson

P. Manning J. Addai D. Clark

R. Wayne

R. Diem

D. Freeney

M. Peterson

A. Bethea

D. Garrard F. Taylor M. Lewis M. Thomas B. Meester M. Stroud A. Ayodele R. Mathis

C. Johnson B. Scaife D. Mason M. Roos R. Smith K. Bulluck C. Finnegan


R. Smith

J. Cutler

C. Portis

D. Clark

B. Marshall

B. Hamilton

T. Pryce

D. Williams

D. Foxworth

J. Charles T. Gonzalez D. Bowe J. Allen S. Fujita B. Pollard


B. Croyle

D. McFadden Z. Miller L. Murphy R. Gallery

T. Brayton

E. Barton

C. Woodson

D. Brees L. Tomlinson J. Peelle V. Jackson M. McNeill J. Williams B. Leber Q. Jammer




J. Jones S. McGee P. Rivers B. Jacobs J. Shockey

Each box represents one player drafted by that team









Larger boxes indicate players with greater career value

Players who were no longer playing for the team that drafted them

Career value is a measure of a player’s overall worth. For the full explanation, see page 85.

J. Witten P. Crayton F. Adams

J. Ratliff

D. Ware

R. Williams

K. Walter

C. Snee

O. Umenyiora

D. Jones

W. Allen

D. McNabb B. Westbrook B. Celek D. Jackson B. Williams T. Cole O. Gaither B. Dawkins

J. Campbell L. Betts C. Cooley D. Dockery K. Golston R. McIntosh C. Bailey

K. Orton M. Forte B. Berrian G. Olsen O. Kreutz A. Brown B. Urlacher W. Harris


C. Batch K. Smith

R. Williams J. Backus

S. Rogers

E. Sims

A. Goodman

M. Brunell B. Jackson D. Martin D. Driver C. Clifton V. Holliday N. Diggs D. Sharper

T. Thigpen A. Peterson J. Kleinsasser R. Moss M. Birk K. Williams E. Henderson B. Williams


B. Favre

J. Griffith A. Crumpler

R. White

T. McClure

J. Babineaux

K. Brooking

D. Hall

K. Collins D. Williams J. King S. Smith J. Gross J. Peppers W. Witherspoon D. Grant

M. Bulger R. Williams M. Colston J. Gilmore J. Evans W. Smith R. Harper


C. Williams

M. Clayton J. Trueblood R. Miller

B. Ruud

R. Barber


J. Freeman

T. Jones

L. Pope A. Boldin

L. Davis

D. Dockett

K. Dansby

A. Wilson


M. Leinart

M. Morris J. Carlson

S. Hutchinson

P. Daniels

L. Tatupu

M. Trufant


S. Wallace

A. Smith F. Gore V. Davis

T. Owens

K. Kosier

A. Carter

J. Peterson

P. Prioleau

R. Fitzpatrick S. Jackson T. Holt B. Manumaleuna J. St. Clair R. Pickett S. Shanle O. Atogwe




When We Watch a just-drafted athlete hug his mom, put on a goofy cap and smile for the camera in anticipation of a multimillion-dollar contract, it’s natural to wonder how he could possibly be worth all that money before ever playing a minute in a pro game. But that’s the wrong way to think about drafts. The most important thing to realize is this: The players aren’t free agents, which means they don’t get paid anything close to their value on the open market. Remember how Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman, an international free agent, got twice as much guaranteed money as Stephen Strasburg, the top pick in the 2009 MLB draft? However you convert on-field stats to dollars, the average performance of young players ranks higher than their average compensation. Usually, it’s not even close. Of course, different rules and talent pools combine to create different surplusvalue ratios across the four big team sports. Here is the key lesson to take from each.




$5.3M and won’t top $10M in the next three seasons. The lesson: Once you get a superstar, build around him before he bolts for a better situation and/or more money. Think Dwight Howard and the Magic, not LeBron and the Cavs.

NHL | Play It Safe
Hockey’s rookie pay scale is even more stringent than basketball’s: Entry-level salaries top out at $925K, with a max signing bonus of $92,500. Top players, like Sidney Crosby, can earn up to $2.85 million a year in performance bonuses on their rookie contract, but that’s still below the overall value they produce, and they get the bonus money only if they play well. Moreover, NHL players don’t hit unrestricted free agency until they’re 27, so young players are almost purely surplus value. Too bad teams aren’t taking advantage: According to research by Tom Awad of Hockey Prospectus, 23% of players taken from No. 11 to No. 30 in the first round since 1990 have failed to reach the NHL. Surplus value isn’t real unless players produce at least a little on big league ice.

NFL | Trade Down
Football has lots of impact rookies and no rookie salary limits (not yet, anyway). As a result, more money flows to first-year players than in any other sports, so much so that surplus value actually rises through the first round of the draft (see graph), peaking early in the second round. Whiffing on a top pick like JaMarcus Russell hurts more than in other sports, and trading down is typically the wise play, which is why smart teams like the Patriots and Eagles do it so often.

MLB | Forget the Money, Draft the Best Player
Despite the efforts of Scott Boras, the bonuses that baseball teams shell out are a fraction of what players are worth on the field. Further, MLBers don’t reach free agency until they’ve played six years in the bigs, which means huge surplus value until then. In 2006, Joe Mauer’s performance was worth an estimated $22 million for the Twins, but as a second-year player he made just $400K. No matter the signing bonus, a successful draft pick is a boon to the bottom line.

vAlue ADDeD

To SHoW SURPLUS VALUE, these charts present average performance of draft

picks, in dollars, relative to those picks’ compensation. For NFL players, we compare a leading study’s estimate of annual player values to salary cap charges over the first five years of rookie contracts. For MLB players, we compare analysts’ calculations of the total value generated by hitters in their first six years to their signing bonuses and salaries. The lesson: NFL teams often get more bang for their buck in the second round than the first, but surplus value is massive everywhere.
doLLARS (iN miLLioNS) 6.0 5.0 4.0 3.0

Performance Value Cap Charge Surplus

doLLARS (iN miLLioNS) 70.0 60.0 50.0 40.0 30.0 20.0 10.0

Value Compensation Surplus

NBA | Build Around High Picks as Quickly as Possible
The league instituted a rookie salary scale in 1995, so while Rashard Lewis is making more than $20 million this year, Blake Griffin is earning just

2.0 1.0 0




dRAFT Pick








75 dRAFT Pick


NFL chart data from Cade Massey and Richard H. Thaler, “The Loser’s Curse: Overconfidence vs. Market Efficiency in the NFL Draft.” MLB chart adapted from Victor Wang, “Valuing the Draft,”, and Colin Johnston, “Prospect Surplus Value,”


from top: fernando medina/nbae/getty images; james guillory/us presswire; mitch stringer/icon smi; kirby lee/image of sport/us presswire


The Legend Of

Instead he sways foot to foot, growls, scowls, keeps his eyes on the wall. Finally, it’s time: The grip guys are summoned onstage and introduced to a crowd of thousands. Then the first event begins. Using one hand, the men must hoist a 163-pound anvil by the horn and walk. The first few contestants can’t even loosen the weight from the ground, their palms slipping uselessly as if they were tugging at a tree root. Haugen frees the anvil, carries it a little less than three feet and drops it to the floor like a Buick. Now it is Williams’ turn. He approaches the anvil, bends, wraps his right hand around the tip and lifts. He waddles the length of the stage, turns and waddles back. He does not rush. He other teams, invited him for a visit. An NFL career was his for the asking; many experts projected Williams to be a top-100 pick. Then he went to meet the folks in Miami. “The city was too hot, too big, too everything,” he remembers thinking. His agent said fine, on to the next team. But that’s when Williams did the unthinkable. He took a pass on the entire league, withdrawing from the draft a week beforehand. “People thought I was stupid, crazy, that I didn’t think it through,” he says. “But I did.” Truth was, football had been dead to Williams for years. Training was his true love, even as a kid. His father, Richard Williams Sr., a retired GE employee who had played high school football,

Size doesn’t matter.

That’s one of the first things the strongmen tell you, even though most of them are large enough to have their size infiltrate their names. Like “Big Rich” Williams, 6'3", 410 pounds, the man with the marvelous hands. The hands themselves are average looking. Not the sort of things you’d note from afar, as you would, say, J-Lo’s backside or Drew Gooden’s beard. And, yet, despite their ordinary appearance, Williams’ hands are the strongest in the world. Perhaps the strongest that have ever existed. And on this March afternoon, at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio, Williams intends to use those hands to show the world the power he holds, like a superhero, at the ready, in his palm. It’s just after lunchtime at the four-day expo of bodybuilding, arm wrestling and strongman contests, and the 32-year-old Williams is backstage, staring into a cinder block wall, head inches away. Other strongmen grunt and groan through warmup exercises, slapping Tiger Balm onto their sweaty bellies. Williams and six of his rivals are up next on the expo main stage, to take part in the second annual Mighty Mitts competition, a subset of the strongman event that centers exclusively on hand strength. Also known as grip, Mighty Mitts tests the skills of an intimate community of men who lift, hoist, pull, grab and clutch extraordinarily heavy items. It is equal parts freak show and athletic feat, having evolved from the carny tents where grip legends wrapped horseshoes into heart shapes and passed them out to swooning ladies. As the minutes tick down to showtime, Mighty Mitts’ most senior contestant, 61-year-old Odd Haugen, makes the rounds, catching up with friends. Williams doesn’t join the conversation.

At the recent Arnold Sports Festival, Big Rich set the record in every grip event, including the pinch pull.

carries the anvil like a lunch pail. He lets it slip at 60 feet, eight inches. That nearly doubles the world record—the one he set last year. The crowd erupts. As they should. Because in all probability, they will never see anything like that again. WILLIAMS WASN T ALWAYS a modern-day John Henry. He started, as most large boys do, playing football. And he was good: a three-year starting left tackle for Gardner-Webb, a Division I-AA college in Boiling Springs, N.C. He allowed only one sack as a senior in 2001. At a predraft workout in March 2002, he ran a 5.36 40-yard dash, benched 225 pounds 37 times, broad jumped eight feet and squatted more than 700 pounds. The Dolphins, Bears and Packers, among

remembers his son at age 8, dressed as a strongman for Halloween: “He wore my weight belt and stuffed his arms and legs to look muscular.” Rich Jr. says he joined his junior high football team in Charlottesville, Va., so he could have access to the workout equipment. “I was always curious,” he says. “How strong could I be?” Even as the younger Williams excelled on both sides of the line in high school, football was a means to another end, a way to earn a free ride to college. At Gardner-Webb, his ambivalence over the sport gave way to hatred. He felt like he had little control of his situation, and he questioned the motives of agents and scouts. But he couldn’t afford to quit. And he didn’t want to let his teammates down. “In a way,” says Williams, “I was doing what my family and friends kept telling me was in my best interest. That was why I got an agent, set up meetings with teams. But in my


heart, I knew I wanted out. My playing football made everybody else happy. Not me.” And so it was that a likely third-round pick, with earning potential in the millions, walked away from an NFL career and into the arms of an uncertain future. He was 23 years old. “I had no plans, really,” he says. “I knew I’d be ridiculed for my decision. But anything was better than suiting up another day. It is the worst form of deception to pretend you love something you don’t.” A short list of people who thought Williams should have faked it and collected the dollars: his agent, his father, his then-girlfriend, his best friend, his teammates, his teammates’ parents, his neighbors, his classmates, his college coach, his college coach’s wife. Notably absent from the list: his mother, who reminded him that he need answer only to God, not the will of other men; also, many current and former NFL players. “A lot of the people arguing for me to take the money were people who had never played a day of football in their entire lives,” Williams says. “But when I spoke to guys in



About one in seven players admit they’d consider this proposition, but the vast majority (85%) end up sounding more like concerned moms than concerned prospects. “If God meant for you to have it, you’d have it,” says a top LB. “Drugs are never the answer.” Others say they wouldn’t do such a thing, although they weren’t at all sure about their colleagues. Says a probable first-rounder, “I like being the one guy who’s au naturel.”

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the league, they understood the brutality of the game, the sacrifices you make to play.” Donovan Craft, a friend and former teammate at Gardner-Webb, remembers trying to reason with Williams. “I wanted to make sure he realized what he was giving up,” Craft says. “I would have done anything to play. And he wasn’t even tempted. He didn’t care about the prize at the end of the rainbow.” Says Williams: “I believed I had other things to offer, even if I didn’t know then what they were. I had faith.” He ended up graduating in 2003 and getting a teaching job in a public high school in Kings Mountain, N.C. He met a smart woman there

named Sue, married her six months later, and stopped thinking about football entirely. Or tried to. “People always bring it up, ask me about it,” Williams says. “They can’t believe I walked away from the paycheck, the glory.” But he is uninterested in cash or worldly enticements. He has no real debt. He doesn’t even have a credit card. “That’s another reason why I didn’t need the NFL. Material things don’t mean anything to me. Money can’t give you longer days. The so-called American Dream … it’s temporal.” His single indulgence is his cherry red V-8 Dodge Ram, tricked out with a Flowmaster. The vanity plate reads “Lone Wolf,” which he says is a joke. He keeps the truck in mint condition, spraying on tire gloss in a Wal-Mart parking lot. AT HOME IN Columbia, S.C., Williams works out in loose nylon shorts, cobalt-blue Converse sneakers and a massive, black T-shirt with “John 14:6 one road” silk-screened on the back. He rotates among three gyms. For grip training, he uses Sorinex, a strength equipment manufacturing company founded and run by 60-year-old Richard Sorin, an amiable, earnest guy who happens to be a former grip master. The grip community is a tiny one; fewer than a dozen men compete professionally. In the gym, photos of Sorin hoisting things with his hands— his mustache in full vaudevillian bloom—adorn a back wall. Under the photos are implements of grip training: anvils, cast-iron buckets, waisthigh metal cones, chains strung with steel spring “grippers,” coiled pinchers that resemble Satan’s salad tongs. To the untrained eye, it looks like a scrap yard. To Sorin, it is a beloved, if underappreciated, museum. “Twelve men in the world have ever lifted that,” Sorin says, gesturing to a 50-pound blob of metal, obstinate not due to its weight but due to its shape. He adds that grip equipment— confounding geometric configurations of thick stone or metal—dates back to ancient Greece in design and sells for hundreds of dollars on eBay. A blob goes for $700, mostly to grip fans like Sorin, men who believe, as he puts it, that “the sign of a man’s bond is his handshake.” Unless your day job is at the anvil plant, grip skills can lie dormant, unobserved and unheralded. And that makes grip the rarest of abilities—something you are born with that you stumble across via happenstance. A genuine

Since grip contests don’t pay like the NFL does, Williams works as a crossing guard and an inschool supervisor.


surprise. A gift. Williams discovered his gift in October 2008, after walking into Sorin’s gym. “Rich is a wonder,” Sorin says. “He came in and lifted the anvil and looked at me like, ‘What’s so hard about that?’” Sorin’s eyes widen. Then he points to another patron. “That guy over there? He can deadlift 800 pounds. But he can’t lift the anvil once. It staggers me what Rich can do. He’s like a tall tale you’d hear, the man who can lift medicine balls with his fingertips.” After bypassing the NFL, in 2002, Williams kept training. He toyed with the idea of entering strongman events, but he didn’t want to dope, and he knew this might diminish his chances of success. Still, he worked hard. “I just wanted to be as strong as I could possibly be,” he says. In 2005, he took a position touring with Team



This question elicited a resounding yes (75%). “We’ll play anywhere as long as we’re in the league,” says an SEC star. Among the 25% who say no, some just didn’t want to swap jobs. Others, though, may have overthought it just a little. “Honestly, I’d rather do the thing that helps me drop out of the first round,” says a projected top pick who’d like to avoid the mandatory four-year contract first-rounders must agree to. “I’d still sign a decent contract, but then I could ball out and sign a huge second deal three years from now.”

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end of the day, you have to live with the consequences of your decisions,” Williams says. “With grip, maybe I can be a pioneer. Maybe it takes someone like me to make it more respected, not just a bunch of guys picking up weird stuff.” AFTER SHATTERING every world record in grip at the Arnold, Williams walks around the packed expo collecting free supplement samples. He’s happy, but a little put out. Mighty Mitts

Impact, a traveling youth ministry. He served as a strongman evangelist, tearing phone books in half and flattening frying pans, as evidence of God’s power. “Bait,” he says, “to keep them on the right path.” When he lost the job in 2009 due to budget cuts, Williams continued to train. “When I did two-a-days, I worked out like it was game day. I still do. Training keeps my head on straight.” It was while working out that grip competitor Tex Henderson spied Williams moving dumbbells around by the ends, palming them like basketballs. As Henderson recalls, “He had no clue that was unusual.” Williams assumed all strongmen had strong hands. “He didn’t realize that he was a super freak,” Henderson says. Together, Henderson and Sorin convinced Williams how unique his hands are—once-in-a-century stuff. Every weekday at 6 a.m., Williams goes to work as an elementary school crossing guard. Then he’s off to his main job as an in-school supervisor, helping kids who may be struggling. After school, he hits the gym, where he often waits hours for a spotter big enough to cover his weight. And then it’s home to his wife and two children: Chelsea, his 14-year-old stepdaughter, and 5-year-old son Xavier. Sometimes Rich will go see a movie or tinker around the house. It is a quiet, controlled life. He doesn’t watch football on television. He has no favorite team. He doesn’t regret abandoning the NFL. And he kind of wishes people would stop trying to make him feel bad about it. “At the

Nearly half the top 100 picks from the 2002 draft are still cashing NFL checks—but how many can rip open a soda can?

competitors had been promised a purse of $10,000, but after the event, a representative informed them that a sponsor had bailed, leaving the total haul at $5,000. So Williams earned $2,000 for winning, or half of what he was due. “The Arnold folks should have stepped up and made that right,” says Sorin. “Some of these guys couldn’t even cover their travel expenses.” On the expo floor, amid the bodybuilding tanners, extended razors and protein powders,

Williams stumbles across a booth for Liquid Grip. The vendor is holding a contest: $250 to anyone who can hoist a weighted cone six inches in diameter. Williams approaches and asks what the world record is. “Uh, 182 pounds,” answers the Liquid Grip rep, disinterested. The cone is a gambit, a way to lure customers. No one is supposed to actually lift the thing. Williams does—once, twice, then again with more and more weight. “They were staring at me in shock,” he says later, back at the DoubleTree Inn. “I ended up doing 190 pounds. I could have done more if I hadn’t just gotten done competing.” Williams, showered and sitting on a lobby couch, says he gave some of his unexpected $250 windfall to Henderson, his roommate for the event. People don’t realize, he explains, how hard these guys train (15 to 20 hours a week) or how little they earn (less than $6,000 annually). Grip didn’t even start paying athletes until the past few years. Not that it’s about the money. “I’m starting to realize there aren’t a lot of guys out there like me,” Williams says, laughing. And he’s right. Rare is the man who moves everything he touches. “My strength is part of my testimony, my goal to inspire.” He says he is fiercer now than when he played football; he benches 620 pounds, squats 1,100, and his resting heart rate is 54. It’s clear he owes a debt to his genes. His father, now 60, is still roughly his size and nearly as strong. His mother benched 250 pounds in high school. When Williams was 6, his dad introduced him to a Mr. T weightlifting set. The two started exercising together. They’d run six miles a day. If Williams couldn’t continue, his father would hoist him atop his shoulders and keep running. As he recounts the story, Williams’ eyes begin to mist. Embarrassed, he sniffs and says, “My dream for myself? I want my son to tell his children that his father was a man who never gave up. A man who was strong.” He wipes his eyes, and then it dawns on him. How simple it would have been to miss. How, if he had made a different choice, if he had done the expected thing, he could easily have lived his whole life in the dark, never knowing his own strength.


ESPN (ISSN # 1097-1998) (USPS # 016-356). Volume 14, No. 6, April 18, 2011. ESPN is published biweekly, except monthly in January and July, by ESPN, 19 East 34th St, New York, N.Y. 10016-4310. The subscription price is $26 for one year. Periodicals postage paid at New York, N.Y. and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to ESPN, P.O. Box 37328, Boone, IA 50037-0328. For subscription queries, call customer service at 1-888-267-3684. To change your address, log onto

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