October 31, 2013

 

NEW ORLEANS – Tulane has some memorable surnames on its roster: Steven Broccoli, Kenny Welcome, Corey Redwine, Jordan Sullen, Fudge Van Hooser, and Nick Montana (son of Joe).

The coolest name, though, is Marley. Nico Marley, freshman linebacker, is the grandson of one of the greatest musicians who ever lived.

Nico looks a bit like Bob, who died in 1981, 15 years before Nico was born. “I think they look exactly alike,” says head coach Curtis Johnson. Nico does have a similarly calm complexion. He loves “Redemption Song” because it’s “soothing.”

On the field, however, “soothing” is not the word. Nico Marley, direct descendant of a man who sung to the world about peace and harmony, is nicknamed “The Missile.”

Tulane beat Tulsa on Saturday to win its sixth game – more than in any one season since 2002. One of the highlights was Marley coming out of nowhere to make a soaring sideline tackle that had both home and visiting fans oohing. Marley is third on the team in tackles even though he wasn’t supposed to play as a freshman.

“Flying around and getting to the ball,” is how Marley describes his style, adding that his father, Rohan, who played for Miami in the early ’90s, had a similar flair.

“His father was just a great player,” Johnson says, remembering a game during his time as wide receivers coach with San Diego State. “He beat us by himself.”

The Missile isn’t sure where the football gene came from; his grandfather loved soccer, but there wasn’t much gridiron talk in Jamaica. The music gene didn’t get passed down; Nico doesn’t play an instrument. “Wish I knew how,” he says.

He definitely knows how to play linebacker: the freshman is another recruiting trail victory for Johnson, the same evaluator who brought Marshall Faulk to San Diego State as a running back and found lightly regarded Ed Reed in St. Rose, La., was the only FBS coach to offer Marley a full ride. Marley is ­undersized at 5-foot-8 and it was hard to see the advantages of bringing him in until he showed up on campus and started laying people out.

The playing style reflects the coach, who is loud and effusive. During Saturday’s win here, which he would call “magnificent,” Johnson bolted nearly 15 yards outside the coach’s box until a referee gave him a sharp look and sent him back. Even a normal conversation with Johnson makes small talk feel like a pep talk.

“He’s changing the attitude,” says Marley. “Even though we haven’t had a winning program, we’re expected to win. He’s upbeat, positive, a real great coach.”

How upbeat? Johnson said winning the team’s sixth game of the season was better than winning the Super Bowl as an assistant for the Saints. Johnson was so charged about getting the job with the Green Wave two years ago that he drove from Saints’ offices to Tulane’s campus after work every night to focus on recruiting and staffing. He says two and a half hours of sleep was a good night for him.

“I got some speeding tickets nobody wanted to pay for,” he says. “It was close to double digits.”

Unsurprisingly, Johnson doesn’t listen to much Bob Marley. “I’m a rhythm and blues guy,” he says.

He is a fan of the grandson, though, and compares Marley to Reed in demeanor if not play. “These guys, they have that conviction,” Johnson says. “They are smarter than their years. I call it ‘Grown-man sense.’ That intangible that they know more than you think.”

This 6-2 start – only a decade after Tulane nearly gave up its Division I status – has revved up the campus enough that school president Scott Cowen has dyed his hair green and blue. But it’s something more sobering that has made perhaps the biggest difference for the team. Devon Walker, the safety who was paralyzed in a game last season and nearly lost his life on the field, is now giving all the speeches before home games. He sits in his wheelchair on the sideline and smiles and nods as players walk past. They come off after big plays and touch his hand.

“He’s an inspiration,” says Marley. “It really gets to me. Everything he says is real and from the heart. He makes me play harder.”

Whether it’s Walker, Johnson, or Marley, the collection of names is working. The Green Wave will almost certainly be playing at Christmastime for only the fourth time since 1980. Only a year removed from a two-win season, the name Tulane no longer means losing.

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Category: Sports

October 31, 2013

NFL.COM

 

When Jay Z established Roc Nation Sports and aligned himself with New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, it was natural to wonder when Sean “Diddy” Combs would throw his hat into the sports ring.

Wait, no one wondered that? Well, Diddy thrust himself into the national sports conversation anyway this week when he told Bloomberg TV that he plans to own an NFL team one day.

“I love sports, but I’m more of a owner type of guy, so I have aspirations to become — which it will happen — I will become the first African-American majority owner,” Diddy said. “Not having a small stake but actually owning an NFL team. I think it’s time for that. A majority of players that are in the NFL are African-American, but there are no African-American owners. So that's one of my dreams.”

Diddy told Bloomberg that people have asked him if he planned to start his own agency to rival Jay Z’s, but Diddy said he has no plans to represent athletes. His eyes solely are set on ownership.

“When I get the calls, ‘Well, we need to do Bad Boy Sports,’ I’m like, ‘No, that’s not my lane,’” Diddy said. “I stay in my lane. This is the lane that I want to do. And I’m just me; I do my own thing.”

Earlier this year, Forbes estimated Diddy’s net worth at $580 million.

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October 24, 2013

By James W. Wade III

Special to the NNPA from The Call & Post

 

Cleveland felt let down when quarterback Brian Hoyer got hurt, since Hoyer had helped turn the Browns around, and he won two straight games. “He’s been a big part of what we’ve done the last couple of weeks. I think it was a little bit of a shock for the guys at first. But (QB) Brandon (Weeden) came in and played real well. I think the guys rallied around him. In the second quarter we got rolling and were playing a lot better there. I can’t say enough about Brandon coming in, and in the situation he did, not having practiced a lot this week and being able to play the way he did and get the job done,” said Browns coach Rob Chudzinski.

Cleveland has some great fans. Any team that wins, we will always see them come out to support them. “They always remember the ’64 championship, these people want a winner,” Jim Brown said.

While being interviewed by the NFL network, Jim Brown shared his view on the Trent Richardson trade. “Because of what you have to do when you rebuild, one man is not going to be a big deal…in your rebuilding unless he is a certain kind of a back,” Brown stated.

“He is not only a cherished member of the Browns, but his contributions to the NFL and its national prevalence are immeasurable,” said Browns CEO Joe Banner. Brown’s 1,863 rushing yards in the 1963 season remain a Cleveland franchise record. It is currently the oldest franchise record for rushing yards out of all 32 NFL teams.

Fans will always appreciate the legendary, greatest running back of all time, Jim Brown, especially in Cleveland, and it’s good to see him reunited with his team that he loves, dearly.

The Cleveland Browns presented Brown with the game ball at the end of the night.

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October 31, 2013

By Edward Rice, III

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

At the age of 20, Darrell Wallace Jr. has only been licensed to drive in his home state of North Carolina for four years. However, he’s been racing cars since he was nine years old. Like most adolescents, Wallace put pedal to the metal long before he ever set foot in a DMV, since technically racing doesn’t require a driver’s license. Now, with more than ten years of racing experience under his belt, Wallace could easily be mistaken for pro and ironically this young driver has barely scratched the surface of his greatness.

This past weekend, Wallace hinted at his greatness and simultaneously launched himself into the history books with a win at NASCAR’s Kroger 200 Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. His victory made him the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series race since Wendell Scott accomplished the feat 50 years prior in 1963. And according to the 2011 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, he had some heavenly assistance from Wendell. “He (Wendell Scott) was watching over me this race. It all goes to him,” exclaimed Wallace on Saturday. “It will take me to tomorrow to think about everything that is set in place, but to be the first since him—it’s outstanding.”

Last Saturday’s win is a long way from the days Wallace raced go-carts with his dad when he was 9 years old, but it was that experience that sparked his initial interest in racing. “My dad bought a Harley-Davidson and he wanted to make it look good and get it all fixed up,” he explained through a heavy southern drawl. “A friend of ours, the guy that did it for us, he raced go-carts and we became really good friends and he invited us out to one of his races one year. We went out and watched and got hooked and the next thing you know, the next weekend, we were racing go-carts.”

After four years of racing go-carts, Wallace was ready to move on to bigger things and by the age of 13, he had transitioned into racing full model vehicles. Currently, he is in his rookie season driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports on the truck circuit. He is the fourth full-time black driver in one of NASCAR’s top three national series. “I don’t call myself a professional, I’m just a kid that likes to go out there and race,” Wallace says humbly.  But with over 100 wins and with Saturday’s win, people are taking notice. “You know we’ve seen great things out of Darrell this year and he’s really come a long ways throughout the season,” claims Kyle Busch, owner Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Saturday’s win was not only a huge win for Wallace but it’s also a win for NASCAR. “NASCAR’s initiative these days is to change the sport, for the better and try to bring in a new face—no matter if it’s the younger generation, people of color: African-Americans, Hispanics, women, anything—it doesn’t matter,” explains Wallace. “They’re trying to change it all and make it more diverse. You can watch a football game and see all walks of life there; racing is a southern sport and you know it’s a predominately white sport and we’re trying to change that. So by me going out there and winning races and running up front, that attracts new faces to the sport and that’s a key goal of mine.”

By his own estimates Wallace is about three to four years away from the Sprint Cup series races such as Indianapolis, Daytona and Talladega. On the other hand, if he keeps his current pace, he is far closer to winning many new fans and broadening racing’s audience in the not so distant future.

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October 24, 2013

Associated Press

 

GRAMBLING, La. (AP) — Naquan Smith and his Grambling football teammates have no regrets about a nearly weeklong boycott that forced the university to forfeit its game against Jackson State on Saturday.

Grambling players stood behind Smith Monday during a press conference outside of the Eddie Robinson Museum on campus. Smith said the entire team was present and that the vote to return to the field was “100 percent.”

“The football team took a stance on what we thought was right,” Smith said. “We did not quit on our university. There are many problems that exist and if no one says anything, nothing will become of our institution. We hope coach Eddie Robinson and his legendary players appreciate we took a stand and thought we were right.”

Smith said players decided to end the boycott after reaching out to several Grambling greats, including former coach Doug Williams, who advised them to, “Go out there and play football.”

Williams also put them in contact with Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard.

Smith said Bernhard told players he has their “best intentions at heart and that he would ensure we had updated facilities, but we had to agree to being back practicing Monday ... and finish the remainder of our season.”

Smith said although the team will play, “We have not forgotten the situation and how we’ve gotten here.”

Players refused to travel to Saturday’s game at Jackson State, a forfeit, because of issues with university leaders.

The Southwest Athletic Conference said Sunday that Grambling had not been fined yet. SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp told The Associated Press on Friday that Grambling would be subject to a fine for forfeiting according to the league’s bylaws.

Grambling will resume practice on Monday evening at the university practice facility. The Tigers host Texas Southern on Saturday.

“Everyone on the team wanted to play, but to get what we feel is right, we had to take a stand and make sure our voice was heard,” Smith said.

Smith said he had no comment when asked if there had been any pushback from university officials because of the boycott. No athletic administration officials were present at the players’ press conference.

It’s been a tough season for Grambling (0-8), which is on its third coach this season and has lost 18 straight football games to NCAA opponents. Williams was fired after just two games this season and replaced by George Ragsdale, who was reassigned within the athletic department on Thursday and replaced by Dennis “Dirt” Winston.

The players have not participated in practices or games since Tuesday, when they walked out of contentious meeting with school administration.

Emmett Gill, the national director for the Student Athlete Human Rights Project, said he was on campus to help ensure that players do not face retaliation from school administration for their protest.

Grambling’s administration has confirmed one of the players’ concerns was about travel. The team recently took buses to games in Kansas City and Indianapolis.

University spokesman Will Sutton said Grambling has endured a 57 percent cut in state funding over several years that has affected the entire campus.

The athletic department was asked to cut $335,000 this year from its overall department budget of $6.8 million. Sutton said football was cut by $75,000 to about $2 million.

ESPN reported Saturday that it had obtained a letter detailing player complaints, which included mold in the locker room and improperly cleaned uniforms contributing to an increased likelihood of staph infections.

Sutton said that local health department inspectors, acting on an anonymous tip, recently visited Grambling athletic facilities and recommended changes to improve conditions, but did not deem those facilities a health hazard.

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