LaDainian Tomlinson

A few days ago LaDainan Tomlinson decided it was time to retire from professional football, so I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about one of my favorite football players and his accomplishments.

To me LT is a first ballot Hall of Fame selection.  Judging by the fact that many other writers out there are ranking where LT fits on their list of the Top 10 Running Backs of All-Time, I would guess they feel the same way.  I am going to go into the numbers to see exactly why he belongs on that list and in the Hall.

Production:  The first thing you notice about LT is his amazing production.  LT finished his college career with back to back 2000+ yard 20+ touchdown seasons and never slowed down when he got to the NFL.  In each of his first 6 years he touched the ball at least 390 times per season, and had at least 340 in each of his first 8 seasons.  He amassed 8 straight 1000+ yard rushing seasons, 8 straight seasons of 1500+ yards from scrimmage, and 9 straight double digit touchdown seasons.  When it was all said and done, LT finished ranked in the top 5 in NFL history in numerous categories.

-4th all time in touches with 3798

-5th all time in rushing yards and attempts with 3174 rushes for 13684 yards

-5th all time in total yards from scrimmage with 18456 yards

-3rd all time in combined rushing/receiving touchdown 162

-2nd all time in rushing touchdowns with 145, only 19 scores behind Emmitt Smith who played 4 more years in the league

With a career 4.3 yards per carry, 43 multiple touchdown games and 47 games of 100+ rushing yards, LT simply produced more than nearly every other player in the league and he did it for a sustained period of time.  He leaves the game with 5 Pro Bowl selections, was named First-Team All-Pro 3 times, and was named the NFL MVP for his tremendous 2006 season during which he also won the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award.  For 5 straight years he was in the top 3 in the league in scoring, spent 7 straight years among the top 3 in the league in total touches, won back-to-back rushing titles in 2006 and 2007 and 3 times lead the league in rushing touchdowns (2004, 2006, 2007).

Consistency:  LT was one of the most consistent backs in the NFL for his first 8 years in the league with over 1500 yards from scrimmage, double digit touchdowns and at least 340 touches every single year.  The most impressive mark from this list is the double digit rushing touchdowns in 9 straight seasons.  The all-time leader Emmitt Smith only had 8 total seasons with double digit touchdowns and never in more than 3 consecutive years.  The great Marcus Allen only had 6 double digit touchdown seasons spread out over his 16 year career and Walter Payton had 4 straight but only managed 5 total seasons with double digit touchdowns.  LT’s final stats average out to 80 rushing and 28 receiving yards per game and nearly 1 touchdown (0.9529) per game and he held up to those averages as you could expect that type of production from LT each and every time he stepped on to the field.

Durability:  Over the first 8 seasons of LT’s career, he only missed 1 game despite touching the ball a combined 3167 times!  The game he did miss was elective, as he sat out a week 17 game that had no bearing on the teams playoff seeding.  At age 30, an age when most running backs begin to decline, LT played and started in 14 games in what would be his last season in San Diego.  In 2010 LT played in another 15 games with 13 of them listed as ‘starts’, and in 2011, his final year in the league, he played in 14 more games, although only 1 counted as a ‘start’.  11 seasons, 3798 touches, 18,456 yards and LT played in 170 of 176 possible games.  If you add in playoff games, he played in another 10 of 11 possible games, with 156 more touches.  (All of this was on top of another 849 college touches in which he accounted for over 5000 yards and 50 touchdowns over 3 years.)  To make this all the more impressive, LT fumbled the ball a mere 31 times in his career, only losing 12 of them.  5 of those came in his rookie season and after that he never had more than 2 lost fumbles in a single season.

Versatility:  LT was an extremely versatile back and a true threat in the passing game.  He had at least 360 receiving yards in 10 of his 11 seasons in the NFL and at least 50 catches in 9 of them.  His 2003 season was his best from a pass catching standpoint when, in only his 3rd year in the league, LT managed an insane 100 receptions for 725 yards and 4 touchdowns.  Something else that goes unnoticed is that LT could also throw the ball when called upon.  He attempted 12 passes in his career, completing 8 of them for 143 yards and 7 touchdowns.  3 of his passes even went for 20+ yards.

Workhorse:  For nearly his entire stay in the NFL, LT had no problem being the workhorse for his team.  As mentioned he was among the league leaders in total touches for each of his first 7 seasons, and finished 4th all time in touches.  What he did with them was amazing, especially when you look at what it meant to his team while he was THE go-to guy.  Over the first 8 seasons of his career, LT accounted for, on average, over 35% of his teams total yards from scrimmage and over 40% of his teams scoring.  He did this on 4-12 teams as well as on 12-4 teams, regardless of who he was on the field with.  In his first season with the Jets, even as he shared carries, he still accounted for nearly a quarter of their yards from scrimmage and close to 20% of their scoring.  LT’s 2003 and 2006 seasons rank 4th and 7th all time for most total yards from scrimmage.

2006 Season:  In 2006 LT had quite possibly the best season of any player at any position, ever.  He started the season with 131 yards on the ground in week 1 and followed that with 2 more very good games, before running into a tough Steelers defense in week 4, where he only managed 36 rush yards and 34 receiving yards.  The next week, however, he went off for 4 touchdowns against San Fransisco, his first of 3 games with 4 touchdowns that season.  In week 7 LT amassed 240 total yards and scored 3 touchdowns and wouldn’t be stopped again.  For the next 9 weeks he would not be held under 103 rushing yards, and for the first 8 of those weeks, scored at least 2 touchdowns in each game.  In 4 of those games he had over 170 yards on the ground, 6 times he accounted for over 150 total yards and twice recorded over 200 total yards, racking up 23 touchdowns in that span.  (He also threw 2 touchdowns passes that season.)  This hands down is the greatest 9 week run any running back has ever had and probably the best season as well.  LT went on to finish the season with 1815 rushing yards, a mark good for 18th best all time, 508  receiving yards, 28 rushing touchdowns, an NFL Record, and 31 total touchdowns, also an NFL Record.  His 186 points scored also mark an NFL record.  For that season he earned the AP Offensive Player of the Year award, the Bert Bell Player of the Year Award, was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year and was crowned the NFL MVP.

 

LaDainian Tomlinson certainly had quite an impact on the NFL and was one of the rare backs who was able to outrun or run over defenders.  He ran with fluidity and power like few others, was a weapon in the passing game, and had an uncanny ability to get into the endzone.  While LT did make it to 2 AFC championship games, he never got a chance to play in the Super Bowl and his playoff performances (10 games, 476 rush yards, 6 rushing TDs) were not very strong.  This, however, does not take away from the wonderful career that he had.  The NFL and the fans, myself included, will miss seeing LT on the field every Sunday and he was truly one of the all time greats.

Big 33 Football Classic

Last night I watched the Big 33 Football Classic, one of the premier high school football all-star games in the area, and arguably, in the nation.  The all-star game itself is started in 1957 and after playing against a Maryland All-Star team for most of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, the match-up changed in 1993 and for nearly the past 20 years, the game has been played as the best 33 players from Pennsylvania verses the best 33 players from Ohio.

According to their site, (where you can find all the old scores, this years rosters and ‘Hot 100’ lists for the junior and sopohomore classes), 45 Big 33 Alum were playing in the NFL in 2011.  This high school game pre-dates the NFL Super Bowl and one of the most interesting facts about the game is that a Super Bowl has never been played without at least 1 member of a Big 33 team on the field.  You can find the year by year breakdown of the alumni that played in each Super Bowl on their site as well (right here to save you a second).  A quick glance down that list revels a laundry list of great players and future Hall of Famers that all once played in the Big 33 All-Star game.  Names such as Joe Namath, Tony Dorsett, Russ Grimm, Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Jim Kelly, Frank Reich, Ricky Watters, Ty Law, Curtis Martin, Antonio Freeman, Ed McCaffery, Mike Munchak, Kerry Collins, Charles Woodson, Marvin Harrison and Ben Roethlisberger who served as this year’s honorary chairman, the first active NFL player/Big 33 alum to do so.  That is quite a list to make it to the highest level from this one all-star game, and remember that is just some of the ones who played in a Super Bowl.

With that said, I took some notes during the game and put together some of my thoughts on what I saw with, at the very least, an intention on trying to follow the college, and hopefully professional careers of some of these kids.

Quick Game recap:  Ohio came in with a 3 game winning streak, including an ugly 50-14 blowout last year.  Pennsylvania come out hot this year scoring early in the game on a deep bomb from Skyler Mornhinweg to Villanova bound speedster Kevin Gulyas.  At half PA looked strong and was up 14-0 and then 21-7 at the end of the third quarter.  Then, on what as a combination of the Ohio offense looking a little bit fresher than the PA defense, which played lights out all game, and what felt like PA turnovers on 5 consecutive plays, Ohio tied of the game, sent it to overtime, and then sealed a win 24-21, Ohio’s 4th straight.

Bonehead play of the game:  Rutgers bound Running back Desmon Peoples.  The small back (listed at 5’8″ 180 lbs) spent most of the game as a return man.  Early in the 4th quarter after a touchdown that made the score 21-14, Peoples did one of the dumbest I may have ever seen in the game of football on the ensuing kickoff (Desean Jackson goal line fumbles included).  On the Kickoff the ball touched him but he didn’t catch it, I assume he planed to let it go into the endzone but I have no clue.  Then he decided to pick it up and take a knee, but he was standing on the 3 yard line, which he realized wasn’t a smart place to kneel so he backed up into the endzone to take the touchback.  At this point he then remembers that this would result in a saftey not the desired touchback, so now he tries to advance the ball.  Sadly the entire coverage team within 10 yards of him in every direction and just by fighting to get himself back out of the endzone, he loses the ball, Ohio recovers and scores the game-tying touchdown.

 

Honorable Mention #1:  Skylar Mornhinweg.  The quarterback out of St. Joseph Prep whose name might sound familiar because his dad Marty, is the Offensive Coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, is committed to Florida and was one of the two quarterbacks on the Pennsylvania team.  I thought Skylar threw a pretty ball, and displayed his ability on the opening drive touchdown pass to Gulyas.  However as the game progressed it was clear Skyler was used to seeing less talented competition as he tried to force a few throws and got picked off 3 or 4 times.  ( the one thing I haven’t been able to find is an official box score and didn’t record the stats as I watched.)  I would have expected better out of a coaches son as he didn’t see/read a linebacker in the 4th quarter, throwing him an easy ball to jump in front of that kept Ohio in the game and then threw one way behind his receiver on their first play of overtime that was tipped and picked off to seal the victory for Ohio.  (Side-note:  Mornhinweg and Peoples started together for a while in high school before People’s transferred to a different school.)  In Skylar’s defense though, he was playing kids he had just met and only spent the better part of a week with, so I’m sure his timing with his receivers wasn’t exactly great and like I said, he did throw a very nice ball.  I think he will be a very good player as he grows and learns to read more complicated defenses, it was just hard to get a better read on him in this game while he split time at quarterback.  ESPN lists him as the #6 prospect in PA this year.

Honorable Mention #2:  3 of the Starters in the Defensive Backfield on the Pennsylvania team are all headed to Temple together.  These guys played a terrific team defense as I believe the Ohio team passed for less than 200 yards, even with 85 yards coming on a great catch and run by Ohio State bound WR/DB Najee Murry, who looks like a legit athlete.  These three guys, Damiere Shaw, Mike Felton and Nate Smith are also going to be joined at Temple by PA DE Kiser Terry, and OL Kyle Friend and look to give Temple a strong local recruiting class.  I specifically want to mention strong saftey Mike Felton as someone I personally know and as for me, the most local of all the players, good luck next year Mike.  Nate Smith looked the best of these guys and is listed at 6’1″ 160 lbs.  He could very potentially develop into a shutdown corner for the Owls.

#10  Adam Wallace, a 6’3″ 205 pound Linebacker who also played a sort of option or ‘wildcat’ quarterback for Ohio.  He took snaps out of the shotgun, ran off tackle, bounced it outside, handed it off, ate up yards, then went back out on defense and mixed it up.  He made me notice both because he was a linebacker playing quarterback but also because he productive at both spots.  He is headed to Ashland next year, a memeber of the GLIAC, a conference that features Grand Valley State, Saginaw Valley, Hillside, Wayne State and Tiffin.  I feel like he will be a strong contributor to that program.

#9  Nyeem Wartman, a 6’3″ 230 pound Linebacker who made some huge hits for the Pennsylvania team.  He carried the swagger of the defense in some of the hits he laid on the Ohio receivers and backs and should continue to do more of the same at Linebacker U, Penn State.  Although it remains to be seen exactly what Penn State style will be now under Bill O’Brien but he certainly looks to be in that same mold of former greats Sean Lee and NaVarro Bowman.

#8  Treyvon Hester, a6’3″ 290 pound Defensive Tackle who was part of a excellent defensive line for Pennsylvania.  For the majority of the game Ohio was unable to move the ball on the PA defense, scoring once on the long catch and run by Najee Murray and then later on a drive set up by an interception and once on a fumble recovery.  Hester was a big part of this and looked like a strong solid player at the defensive tackle position.  He heads to Toledo along with 1 other PA teammate and 4 members of the Ohio squad.

#7  Alonzo Shakim, a 6’5″ 205 pound Wide Receiver from the Pennsylvania team, Shakim appeared willing and able to use his size and length to shield away the defenders and go up for jump balls.  While the game wasn’t exactly a passing clinic and opportunities were few for the receivers, I liked what I saw out of Shakim and think he will be a tremendous redzone threat in college.  He is headed to Cincinnati next year on what should be a young and growing offense.  If he plays well he could earn his playing time sooner rather than later.

#6  Jack Snowball, a 5’11 210 pound Running back/Receiver do-it-all type for the Ohio team.  Snowball won the award for best name in the game but makes my list based on his versatility and hard work.  Snowball lined up as a running back, h-back, flexed, flanked, split and in the slot.  He took handoffs, end-arounds, blocked down field and caught passes.  He wasn’t the best athlete or the biggest but he did what he was asked to do and was productive at it.  With that much versatility you have to assume he has a lot of football knowledge at his young age and with his use he must also have the coach trust.  He heads to Miami of Ohio next year where I am sure we will be productive over his years.

#5  Tyrique Jarrett, a 6’4″ 310 pound Defensive Tackle from Pennsylvania that the announcers referred to as a vending machine with legs.  He paired with Hester for the strong interior line for the PA team and made a lot of plays in the run stuffing department.  I can’t really judge him much better without re-watching the game and specifically watching him the whole time but I know what I saw from him was that he was in the backfield and around the ball a lot and heard his name repeatedly.  He will be headed to Pitt this fall.

#4  Blake Rankin, a 6’4″ 210 pound Quarterback who rotated in with Mornhinweg on the Pennsylvania offense.  While I was hard on Skylar for his poor game and interceptions, I admitted that he had only a week to learn the names of the other guys and to practice with them to get his timing down.  Blake was no different and his passing numbers were not great by any means but he did earn player of the game for Pennsylvania (although that probably should have went to someone on defense).  Where Blake most impressed me was his mobility.  At first he looked very frantic to me and its possible he was nervous, but the kid was tremendous in the pocket, always avoiding the sack and buying extra time with his feet.  To make it even more impressive, as a clearly talented and athletic high school player, he never looked to run as his first option, always keeping his eyes down field looking for his receivers.  Like I said his biggest flaw was that frantic look, and a lot of his plays were designed rollouts and bootlegs, but it felt like he was running somewhere on every play so I’m sure he could work on staying in the pocket and just adjusting within it rather than running out of it.  He heads to Rutgers this fall and I think with some good practice time he could definitely compete for a role there in the future.

#3  Tyler O’Connor, a 6’3″ 215 pound Quarterback who was the starter for the Ohio team.  Tyler was the player of the game for the Ohio team and for good reason.  While the overall passing numbers were not good, as I’ve already mentioned, he did complete the long pass for Ohio’s first score and also scored their second touchdown on a quarterback keeper.  To me he showed the leadership and poise needed for a quarterback and looks to have a bright future ahead of him.  Tyler didn’t show his athleticism the way Rankin did by scrambling around to buy time but he was much better at navigating within the pocket.  He does have running ability that he showed off on the teams second score as he set up the touchdown was a big first down run and then put it in himself the next play.  I think Tyler could become a very good college quarterback and Mark Dantonio will love having him at Michigan State this fall.

#2  Eugene Lewis, a 6’2″ 195 pound Wide Receiver with a ton of upside from Pennsylvania.  While he had very few chances to show his abilities in the game, Lewis’ talent was easy to spot.  ESPN ranks him as the #6 recruit in Pennsylvania and the top wide receiver as well as the #1 ranked player in the entire Penn State recruiting class.  I’m trying not to use those rankings as I write this but the talent was easy to see even though the production was not all there in this game.  I think Bill O’Brien is getting a good one here and Lewis could be a strong contributor early on and should develop into a star wide receiver before long.  This is a guy who will make me want to watch Penn State football this year.

#1  Rushel Shell, a 5’11” 215 pound Running Back with eye popping high school numbers who played for the Pennsylvania side.  Rushel rushed for over 9000 yards in high school.  9078 career rushing yards…that is insane.  Shell had 39 straight games with 100 plus yards, a national record and rushed for over 200 yards 25 times.  3 2000 yard seasons that included a 2700 yard season as a sophomore made Shell the all-time leading rusher in Pennsylvania history and one of the top all time in the nation.  MaxPreps has him listed as the 11th overall prospect in the Nation, and as the 3rd best running back while ESPN has him as the #2 player in PA (behind Bishop McDevitt’s Noah Spence who I wish I would have gotten to see play in this game, not sure why he didn’t).  Shell did not play all the much in the game, whether his college coaches wanted him limited to prevent injury to their prize recruit or if the coaches in the game just wanted to the other running back more involved but while he was in he completely looked the part of a stud running back.  He has tremendous patience and a good burst once he gets the hole he is looking for and is strong enough that arm tackles don’t alter his plans.  He heads to Pitt this fall to follow in the shoes of some great running backs like Lesean McCoy, Dion Lewis (both now Philadelphia Eagles) and current star Ray Graham.  He certainly appears to be the next great Pitt running back but with Graham still there we may have to wait through a redshirt year until be see Shell on the field running past defenders.

 

These were just some of the guys that happened to stand out to me while I watched the game and there was certainly plenty of other talent in the game that I didn’t mention.  The PA kicker isn’t even a football guy as he is going to Messiah to play soccer and local lineback and tackling machine Bryton Barr heads to Towson as their prized recruit.  Ohio guys like Warren Ball, Devin Bogard and Najee Murray who are all headed to Ohio State and Andre Jones and E.J. Junior who are both going to Cincinnati all displayed the obvious athleticism and football ability needed for the next level and all just missed making my list but get recognition here.

Quick Thoughts

Just a few quick things before I head off to work all day.

I watched the Big 33 football classic last night and do a separate post on my thoughts from that game later today or tomorrow morning hopefully.

If you read this and don’t yet follow me on twitter its @trackcoachryan

 

Apparently Dre Kirkpatrick admitted the other day to never backpedaling while he was in college.  He is a cornerback, thats kind of an important part of your game.  Hopefully the Bengals don’t have to relay on him too much early this season as they are actually rather deep at the position.   Possibly more disturbing to hear, however, is that Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones has taken Dre under his wing and is serving as his mentor.

 

I flipped back and forth and watched a good bit of the O’s – Braves game last night.  O’s pitcher Jason Hammel pitched a complete game 1 hitter shutout.  Only the second complete game of his career and his first shutout.  What a tremendous year Jason is having with the O’s this year as they look to breakout of their sub-500 record streak and reach the playoffs again.  Jason’s best year to date was his first in Colorado back in 2009 where he finished with a 10-8 record over 30 starts, a 1.39 WHIP and 4.33 ERA.  So far this season through 13 starts he is 7-2 with a 1.16 WHIP and 2.87 ERA plus last nights shutout.  Whatever they are doing down in Baltimore, it is paying off big time for everyone.

 

Brian Banks had a good tryout with the Seahawks but did not make their training camp roster.  He heads down to San Fransisco for a tryout there before going home to work with a personal trainer to get himself back into legit football shape.  I can only wish this kid all the best luck and I hope he gets a shot on the field.

 

Thats it for now, I will be back with my Big 33 notes soon.

Baseball Draft and other random notes

I feel like I haven’t been home in 2 weeks and haven’t been able to post anything but I’m back now.  The MLB draft was last night so I wanted to start by commenting on that.

I’ll be honest, I really don’t understand the setup of the the MLB draft.  In a sport where even first round picks aren’t guaranteed to sign with your team are unlikely to see the big leagues for at least a year or two (or ever), why are their 50 rounds?  Just flipping back through last year’s draft, only half of the players selected in round 30 ever signed with their respective teams and a lot of the top picks in this years draft have been selected in the past but never signed.  I want to say I’m excited that the Phillies added 2 pitchers in the first round but I will probably never see them play or hear their names again.  Its nothing like other sports where the first round means something and being drafted at all gives you a strong chance to at least see the field/court early on.  Football and Basketball players leave school early to declare for the draft and many of them only go to college because they have to, but in Baseball, kids turn down being drafted to go to or stay in college.

It is just strange to me that in the NFL, undrafted rookie free agents make an impact every year and are priority signings following the 7 round draft.  The NBA has much smaller teams than most other professional sports and therefore only 2 rounds in their draft but late picks and undrafted rookies can make an impact as well.  (A quick search of undrafted players in those sports produces names such as Kurt Warner, Warren Moon, Night Train Lane, John Randle, Rod Smith, Ben Wallace, John Starks and Avery Johnson).  Compare that to baseball where in the first round alone, barely half of the players selected will ever even play in the majors and only a handful will play a significant number of games.  Its amazing that 50 rounds is a reduction from what the MLB draft used to be and I honestly wonder why they even bother with that many.

 

Other random thoughts:

-Justin Blackmon is stupid

-Really freaking stupid

-Kurt Busch is suspended from this weeks NASCAR race for also being really freaking stupid

-If we end up with a Celtics-Spurs NBA final, would it be the oldest final ever?

-If it goes the other way and we have Heat-Thunder, can we mandate alley-oops only?

-Aaron Maybin bulked up over the summer by hanging out with Michael Phelps….

-The Saints NEED to sign Drew Brees soon, give him whatever he wants guys, because without Brees you aren’t winning more than 3 games

This is just an awesome story and a must read