NFL in Review for Week 15: The Vikings Weekly Report

In this week’s Viking Weekly Report, we recap the Vikings vs Ravens and take a look at Eagles visiting the Vikings.
We, also, give our weekly “Pick ’em” predictions!
You can listen to it >> HERE <<

Three Decades Later: Finally Visiting Candlestick Park

As I am now home resonating on the past five days, I find it both perplexing and gratifying to realize all the history I have just experienced. This is not your typical article that you would normally see me write.

No. It’s more personal.

By now, some of you know the story on how I came about being a Forty-Niner fan. Yes, it was my love for Nebraska football and for Roger Craig. In 1983,  I made the choice to follow this unique and humble running back, to what is now known as one of the most talked about dynasties in American football.

I can recall many games in my mind through out these past 30 years. I can recall the heart ache. As my favorite sports broadcaster, Jim McKay, would say, “the agony of defeat.” However, I, also, remember our glory years.

Our star players who would never win a ring. Garrison Hearst who had one of the most remarkable comebacks in NFL history, twice.  Our quarterback acquisitions that made me scratch my head, especially after embracing the likes of Montana and Young. I mean, Drunkenmiller? Detmer? Really? (Kidding).

When we had gotten Mike Singletary as a linebackers coach, (even Tom Rathman as running back coach) I had felt like a whole new energy — filled with an unexplainable cavalier-like resurgence — had come over me. Perhaps it was long overdue hope. Maybe we could start rebuilding our team.

Maybe.

As with any other football fan, we have our roller coaster of emotions. We take the good with the bad. We take the hard licks, we take the triumphs. It happens.

This is football.

Upon arriving in San Francisco, I, unexpectedly, met and briefly chatted with Paul Walker (Fast and Furious, Varsity Blues) in the airport. His brother and he were attending the 49’ers football game on Sunday. Nice guy!

I, then, was taken to Candlestick Park. Standing on the outside of the fence, it was hard to take in all those years of sentiment. Was I a kid again or what? I was thinking about all those games that had been played since 1971 in this stadium. All those moments, all those records made, all those coaches under Bill Walsh and all the other 49’er fans that have been able to endure the game.

What I was feeling at that exact moment is indescribable. Really. Image

This season is the Farewell Season for Candlestick Park. As they are in the progress of building Levi Stadium, in Santa Clara, many Niner Faithful are coming to ‘The Stick’ to pay their last respects. Myself included.

The untold blessings about this franchise and their fans are the friendships. In fact, I am not so sure that it could be restricted to being called a friendship. This past five days was more like a family reunion! So, I stand corrected. They are family!

The gal on the left in the pic above (Michele), is who I met in Canton, Ohio, three years ago during Jerry Rice’s induction into the Hall of Fame. She lives in South Carolina. I live in South Dakota. Our paths crossed in Ohio and we have been enjoying this journey together since. In fact, she insisted on being there, this past week, when I went to Candlestick for my first time. She did not disappoint.

As Friday went on, we meandered down to the famous Fisherman’s Wharf. There is a ton of diversity walking the sidewalks of Pier 39. People from all over the world coming to take in the sight of the bay area. Including the Indianapolis Colt’s fans. 1276808_10201405375829821_1083506722_o

I knew I was not alone.

All the fresh seafood, the colorful businesses, the different smells. Walking from one shop to the next you could smell lotions, then fresh baked sourdough bread, then the sewer, then newly made chocolate…it was an intriguing atmosphere.

We had walked over to the NFL Shop and low-and-behold we had seen a banner that said “Bubba Paris.” We had thought that they were hanging the banner for the next day considering it was 6:30 pm. That wasn’t the case. There Bubba sat behind a table signing autographs.

Bonus!! 1272638_10201394024306040_27183890_o

I felt like I had won a teddy bear at the fair! Enormous in size, playful at heart. Although, do not ever approach Bubba and tell him you’re a Nebraska fan. Not suggested. He has a ton of banter material waiting – considering he’s a Wolverine. (I can’t imagine what the locker room and exchanged barbs were like between him, Roger Craig or Tom Rathman).

On Saturday, we were blessed with a complimentary ferry tour to the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge. I am telling you, these Niner fans want to make sure that your first time here is memorable! It just so happens, that a Niner fan, we know, works for the tour company. Another bonus!

Most people are excited to have the opportunity to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time. Well, we went under the bridge! I am always one that “dares to be different.” I will have to admit, I never did travel over the Golden Gate Bridge (…this time). 620579_10201405377189855_1655262010_o

If you ever get the opportunity to take this tour from Pier 39, do it! There is a ton of history to this city, it’s structures (including Alcatraz) and the founding people that you would not normally learn about by just walking the sidewalks of the Wharf.

By this time, I am truly grateful that I am a Niner fan. What other city could offer this much?
And it is only day two?

Next, we ventured over to the famous Lombard Street. The easiest entrance to it is at Hyde and Lombard. The crookedest street in the United States. Truly giving a good photo opportunity, you’re able to see the climbing hills and streets of the city and the flowers that line Lombard street are beautiful as well. (Plan on at least 30 minutes for this tour due to high traffic).

Another small treat to this trip?  America’s Cup. We seen the Oracle Team and was excited to which USA came back and beat New Zealand for the title. 1264766_10151885600553028_48689784_o                                                                        USA!

Later Saturday afternoon, we met friends in San Jose at Los Gatos Brewery. This is a divine meeting place that has excellent food! Beware of the (San Jose) Sharks! The SAP Center, home of the “Shark Tank” is only 3 blocks away! They had a preseason hockey game going on while we were dining.

For our night cap, we walked down to Sherman Cellars Wine Tasting Room. Of course, it was after hours, but owner Larry Sherman gave us the presidential treatment. A nice, quaint meeting place amongst friends. Grab a bottle of Creekview wine and some chocolates. You will thank me later!

Day three has arrived! Game time at the Stick. We arrived in the parking lot at 9:00 am and started tailgating with Club 49. Food and drink for days! I can not recall the last time I was cracking a beer at 9:00 am, but hey, if you can’t beat ’em….

Club 49 is known for the notorious cow bell. When they ring this thing, you either get in line or RUN! That sound means it is shot time! Patron, Peach vodka, Wild Turkey, whatever you desire! Shot time among Niner Faithful is like a family tradition… <queue music>

“When that doctor asked me
Son how did you get in this condition?
I said hey sawbones I’m just carryin on
An old CANDLESTICK tradition!!”

Normally, Club 49 will take their group photo an hour before the game. Considering we wanted to visit other tailgaters, I organized a quick group photo so that we could mosey on. (Truth be told, I was going onto my third shot). 1267382_10153270690385475_1812632298_oThese guys know how to tailgate!! Yes, you guessed it! Another bonus!!

As we made our way into Candlestick Park, we stopped in and seen the Hall of Fame Museum. And so, the history began. Leo Nomellini, YA Tittle, Joe “the Jet” Perry, Ronnie Lott, the five Lombardi trophies, this enriched history into the franchise was overwhelming to see up close.

I promise you that it is extremely difficult to digest all this in a matter of minutes, let alone five days. Life has become a cloud. You are floating, yet walking. You have no care in the world, yet you are trying to retain all that is going on before your eyes.

Euphoric!

Once we were in the stadium and me seeing Bill Walsh Field for the first time, elation came over me and I will not post those photos. Trust me, I was moved!

We had gone down to the field railing seats to which I was able to encounter, meet and speak with former linebacker Keena Turner. Are these bonuses ever going to stop?!? 1239259_10201405398710393_237912180_o

I am starting to think like tightrope walker Nik Wallenda and his journey across the Grand Canyon in which he thanked Jesus about twenty times?

Yeah.

Thank you, Lord! For I am truly blessed!

Jerry Rice had just passed in front of us, waving. Bryant Young was there as well. All the cheerleaders of the Niner’s past were there giving a halftime show. I even met and shook hands with Paraag Marathe, the Chief of Niner’s Operations.

After the game, in which we lost to the Colts, 27-7, we drove down to Fremont to Jack’s Brewery to meet the original member of the Niner Empire booster club.

The Husker fans also meet here! Huge Nebraska presence!

Although, it was not exactly the Victory Dinner we had planned, does it really matter at this point? Our respective teams lose at times and honestly, I was just happy to be amongst family to share stories and talk football. This was all a win for me!

On Monday, we put on our fitness clothes, tied up our running sneakers and was going to Edgewood Park to go endure the “Hill.” You know the one. The infamous “Hill” that Roger Craig, Jerry Rice and other Niner football players have trained on.

If you get the map for this online, do not get discouraged, just follow the directions. You will be more concerned as to whether you can make it to the top than you will about getting lost. There is actually no way to get lost, you just have to stay on the right trail. Stay hydrated!

By staying on the right trail, you will know. Your thighs start burning, the incline is not your friend and if you are in the ages of being “not in shape”, it is okay. You’re just going to sweat a lot and just think you have died. HA! This is not the case for me. I was anxious, motivated and proceeding in a good pace. Um…walking.

I won’t try to make it sound like I was training for the Olympics or anything, I would indeed wind up in the hospital if I tried to run this hill, but even walking it is exhilarating. I promise.

No wonder these guys won so many Super Bowls! I can not imagine running this hill. Nonetheless, it was a spiritual awakening for me. The smell of the sage is abundant. The views are outstanding and to finally reach the top, knowing that this is where Roger, Jerry and the others stood…very rewarding! 579092_10151884470448028_244238596_nBy this time, you would have to ask yourself, does this trip to San Francisco ever end? Well, we had one more stop to make.

The grand finale.

A private tour of Candlestick Park. This was a surprise for me. My “family” had known about this and everyone played it off beautifully! I am not even thinking about paybacks at this time, but this surprise was definitely overwhelming!

Here we go with more history. Only this time, I will stand where they stood. I will be a part of their everyday life as football players, as 49er’s and as world champions. That moment. That very moment when you get a sense of one.

As a fan, I am not worthy. As a sports writer and broadcaster, this is why we do what we love. To be connected to the greatest athletes, the most honorable coaches and the Hall of Famers that have come before us.

Once again…euphoric.1235954_10151884473918028_1015314918_n

The Farewell to Candlestick tour could not be complete with out the Ladies of the Empire and Amanda at Tour the Stick . Fabulous job!!
Their passion that they share with fans to give you the ability for a hands on experience is priceless!

As I sit here at the airport waiting for my flight to board, there is a humble reflection taking place! On my flight over and now my flight home, I will continue reading my “travel” book. I read Chris Kyle’s American Sniper while I am traveling on flights.

This book not only makes me realize what our brave men and women have sacrificed for my family and I, Chris’s service along with millions of others before him (and currently) are a grateful reminder that I am able to enjoy these moments.

I am always about perspective.

To my family (and to the city) that gave me the warmest welcome to San Francisco, I sincerely thank you. For we may have been brought together by a football team, these moments you shared with me are more than I could ever envisioned.

Three decades of waiting was worth EVERY minute.

To be able to travel, be one with others in a fellowship like this, to witness the Farewell to Candlestick and to be a part of a team fan-base that embraces first-timers…I would not have wanted it any other way.

For those I met along the way, when I told you this was my first game as to which you all replied, “What took you so long??”

I could only tell you now, “It’s timing. It is all about the timing.”

I am proud to be a San Francisco 49’er…but most importantly…

I am proud to be an American!flag
Until next time San Francisco….

NFC South: Two Week Review

In these first two weeks of the 2013 season, 32 games have been played. Surprisingly, 22 of these games have been won by seven points or less. The New Orleans Saints are no exception with kicker Garrett Hartley’s final second 27-yard field goal to defeat the Buccaneers in last Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay.

At the post-game press conference, Saint’s head coach Sean Payton stated, “we saw a better offense two weeks ago than  we did [sic] Sunday, so each week is a different challenge.”  SOURCE>>>

Even so, quarterback Drew Brees was sacked four times, threw two INT’s — one being a pick-six– and was receiving pressure all game by the Tampa Bay defense. Saint’s offense is struggling in the rushing game as they have been held to 78 rushing yards versus the Falcons in week one and the Buccaneers holding them to 75 yards last Sunday, respectively.

Can the Saints get their rushing game going?

“The balance and mix in the players we have, is going to be important for us especially at the running back position, ” Payton answered.

Perhaps, the more important question is if they can get their offensive line to protect Brees and give pressure to defenses to get the running game going. The Saints do not have a lot of depth on this offensive line and can not afford injured players.

New Orleans could use more development in the red zone, offensively, as well. In the past two weeks played, they have had to rely on kicker Garrett Hartley to get them on the board with a combined 6 field goals. Whatever it takes to advance the game, yet their red zone execution could use some work.

The 2-0 Saints will host the 1-1 Arizona Cardinals in week three.

Having lost two games by three points combined, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now even thirstier to get a win. Running back Doug Martin has rushed for 209 yards, has given eight first-downs and held to one scoring touchdown.

In fact, in two games the Buccaneers have been held to only three touchdowns.

Quarterback Josh Freeman has been receiving criticism for his mediocre performance thus far. Having a total of 335 passing yards, Freeman is finding wide receiver Vincent Jackson (12/231 yards) when needed, nonetheless he has completed only 24 throws on 53 attempts with a dismal 63.0 percent passer rating.

The defensive side of the ball it seems as though these first games have come down to the final drive. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said, “It’s our job to stop [Drew Brees], it doesn’t matter how many times we have to be on the field. It’s our job to stop the opposing offense. No matter how much time is on the clock.”  SOURCE >>>

Two year starting safety Mark Barron has had an impressive showing on the field. Last year he accumulated 105 tackles and this year he is already on target to lead tackles in the NFL. Barron had 13 combined tackles in Sunday’s game versus the Saints.

To add to the defensive side, this team has made a record with three different defensive players having a sack and an interception (David, Foster and Watson) at only two weeks into the season.

If the Buccaneers can quit shooting themselves in the foot with penalties — they have had a total of 220 yards– and be able to put more points on the board, consider this team to be tying a knot and hanging on. The test will be their next three games (Patriots, Cardinals, Eagles).

Another team that has endured a loss by a single point? The Carolina Panthers against the Buffalo Bills, in week two. Although this is what football is all about, it has to be frustrating to be so close only to have the clock run out.

The Panthers have allowed 806 yards total on opponent offense, including 587 yards in passing. The deep defensive field has been a non-factor for the Panthers. Teams will continue to get yardage on this secondary, if they can not improve on their pass coverage.

Offensively, for Carolina, the trouble seems to be at the front line. They have given up seven sacks already this season, so protecting quarterback Cam Newton is of valuable necessity. Newton has been forced into a hurry-up offense and has only produced 302 passing yards (30th in NFL).

Once running backs Jonathan Stewart and Kenjon Barner return, it will relieve pressure from Newton. In the meantime, adjustments will have to be made in their game plan to get a first win.

Next Sunday, the 0-2 Panthers meet the 0-2 New York Giants before heading into their bye week.

When everyone is expected to cover Falcon’s receivers Gonzalez, White and Snelling, they are forgetting about Julio Jones. What a stellar year Jones is having so far. With 258 yards ( 81 yards being the longest) and two touchdowns, Atlanta has brought an explosive offense.

Head coach Mike Smith is impressed with special teams and has stated that Antone Smith is “an absolute special teams star.” Smith had two key tackles against the St. Louis Rams. Notably, kicker Matt Bosher has averaged a net 52 yards in punting and special teams have allowed only 6 yards in returning.

Injuries have plagued the Falcons having lost running back Stephen Jackson to a thigh injury. Today, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (knee) has been placed on IR (injured reserve) and can return in the 2013 season.

The Falcon’s lost six key starters in the win against the Rams. Most notably, linebacker Kroy Biermann (achilles) and fullback Bradie Ewing (shoulder)  are out for the season.

During Monday’s press conference, coach Mike Smith added, “We have a backup at every position.  When we put our packages in, the backup is going to have to step up and make the plays that we anticipate they’re capable of making…we will make the adjustments and move forward.” SOURCE >>

Atlanta was held to 36 yards in the running game. A far cry from respectable, however quarterback Matt Ryan has been nominated for Air Player of the Week. Ryan finished the Rams with an impressive 374 yards passing and two scores.

Atlanta does not lack in the receiving corps and has an unlimited option of go-to players on this side of the ball. With running back Stephen Jackson questionable for Sunday’s game at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Falcons may need to depend on the air game and defense.

Hopefully, the Falcons can force turnovers and keep their offense on the field and take advantage in scoring.

The 1-1 Falcons face the 2-0 Dolphins, for week three, then will prepare for the New England Patriots in week four.

2013 NFL Draft picks (Top Three)

This is my 6th annual review of NFL draft picks. Each year, I review tape, the draft combine and research players who I believe will start their rookie season in the NFL.

Successes of previous draft picks have been DeSean Jackson, Nate Solder, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Who will dominate in their rookie year?

Draft pick #3: In picking an impact player, this kid has the all-around ability to succeed at any level. He is entering the NFL draft as a junior and with his academic challenges, I could only hope that he is disciplined enough to work out in the NFL.

Missouri's and the SEC's top tackler

DT Sheldon Richardson. The Tiger’s and the SEC’s top tackler.

A native of Missouri, DT Sheldon Richardson has everything an NFL head coach is looking for. He exhibits quickness, versatility ( a strong emphasis on versatility), great play reader and big, physical size.

The top defensive tackle in the SEC, Richardson (6’2″ , 295 lbs) is noted for tackles for a loss and also catching wide receivers after a catch. All over the playing plane, there’s no limit for him from the line of scrimmage.

Richardson hails from the University of Missouri and if drafted, he’ll be the 6th first round draft pick in the last 5 years for the Tigers. Pretty dominant defensive line coaching from Craig Kuligowski definitely helps. Kuligowski has a great reputation being looked at by NFL teams (former 1st round picks being Aldon Smith and Ziggy Hood). With that said, my money is on Richardson.

 Draft pick #2: Speaking of versatile and all-purpose players, let’s take a look at this first team All-American in West Virginia’s WR Tavon Austin. What can not be said for this player?
He can return kickoffs for touchdowns, he rushes for touchdowns, he leads the record in the Orange Bowl with touchdowns (4) and I haven’t even gotten to the receiving side of him!

WR Tavon Austin. A projected Top 10 pick in the NFL Draft.

WR Tavon Austin. A projected Top 10 pick in the NFL Draft.

Tavon Austin is a talent to watch! Don’t let his 5’8″ height fool you, the 2012 All-Purpose Player of the Year, averaged 11.3 yards on 114 receptions and 1,289 yards. With his 12 touchdown receptions, his performance, with the Mountaineers, in the 2012 Orange Bowl ended in a 70-33 victory.
With big-play ability, Austin will definitely start as a rookie and entertain any fan of the NFL. He’s just that good. Explosive and good!
It won’t be a matter if Austin gets in with the right team, Austin will just make any team that much better. With an education in multidisciplinary studies, look for a career leader kind of role with this player.

Draft pick #1: Eddie Lacy. Without a doubt, this player had my attention before the whistle even blew for the 2012 college season. Lacy reminds me of a young Edgerrin James, a good solid power running back, who can take hits.
With much criticism from his pro day performance, Lacy may not take criticism well. Does that mean he is always looking to improve? Of course! Any player is, however, I see Lacy as a starter and a viable part to any offense.

RB Eddie Lacy. An all-purpose back with great hands.

RB Eddie Lacy. An all-purpose back with great hands.

The Crimson Tide National Champion is an all-purpose back having recorded yardage in receiving (22 catches, 189 yards, 2 TD’s) and with rushing (204 carries, 1,3ss yds, 17 TD’s) made him a first team All-SEC selection.

Coming in at 5’11” and 230 lbs, Lacy will be a game changer in seasons to come. With the right coaching, discipline and conditioning, I see a good solid rookie season for him as well as a being a dominant player in the future.

( Because of my past draft picks, if any of the above players draft to the Eagles or Raiders, I’m filling out a scout application)!

My Top 5 College Recruits for 2013

College recruiting day for NCAA football was yesterday, February 6. Here is a look at my top 5 picks:

#5– Aaron Bailey, (Bolingbrook, IL). (4 star)
The highest rated quarterback in Illinois, will remain in Illinois. Aaron Bailey will represent the Fighting Illini with his 6-2, 225 lb. size and 4.5 speed. Bailey is dangerous and versatile. Great arm, depth and mobility.
Bailey will be a dynamic factor leading his team in the Big Ten conference. Each year Bailey improves and is adaptable to field pressure, as well as being a big time threat with split decision discipline. If Bailey is slated to improve every year as much as is reported, look for a start from him in the near future.

#4– Ahmad Fulwood, (Jacksonville, FL). (4 star).
Ahmad Fulwood has planned out his future in good hands. Fulwood is a 6-4, 200 lb wide receiver with 4.47 speed. Size, quickness and talent will give Florida the weapon they need on offense.
Fulwood will be coached by Joker Phillips, who is a successful WR coach and also the one who recruited Fulwood to join Muschamp’s Gators. I am excited to see this athlete excel on the gridiron after minor improvements at blocking and getting better at quickness off the snap will only complete this power package.

#3– Terrell Newby, (West Hills, CA). (4 star).
Terrell Newby has made headlines with his no fear approach in rushing. At 5-10, 180 lb. and running a 4.45, Newby will need to improve in weight, but not bad for the only improvement. Newby is not a power back, however, he is known for agile shift change (cutback) running and impressive open field speed.
Newby will be a great addition to Nebraska’s running game plan. Coupled with sophomore Ameer Abdullah, look for Newby to be an early starting threat for Husker opponents.

#2– Tony (Antonio) Conner, (Batesville, MS). (5 star).
Top prospect in the state of Mississippi at 6-1, 205 lb. and a 4.53 Safety or running back. Conner excels in the safety position and has ability to start as a true freshman for Ole Miss. Great speed, good open field tackling and an all-around awareness at this position.
Conner is reclusive off the field. Disciplined, humble and tries to remain out of the spotlight as much as possible. Watch for this athlete to be making a name for the Runnin’ Rebels, even if he may not want the notoriety. His talent will speak volumes.

#1– Jayron Kearse (Fort Myers, FL). (4 star)
Versatile athlete at WR, OLB and S. 6-4, 205 lb. and runs a 4.45. Kearse committed to Clemson, as an OLB, and will wear Brian Dawkin’s #20. He is the nephew of Jevon Kearse.
Anytime you have an athlete come out of Fort Myer, Florida, it will get your attention. Also, with Kearse wearing the #20, there is a stereotype that goes with this number in college ball….you best be good! I hope that Kearse stays disciplined, that is my only concern. Remain focused and stay disciplined.

Recap of Super Bowl XLVII — Always Faithful!

Man, I love this game! The excitement of a good 42 yard reception on 2nd and long. The three seconds left on the clock for the game-winning field goal. The competition that drives me, as a fan, to adorn this sport more and more everyday. A great day to be a football fan, especially after this years Super Bowl! As most of you know, I happen to be a Niners fan. Today, my head is held high. No regrets.

Here is my own recap of Super Bowl XLVII:

Ozzie Newsome –
I can not say enough about this human being. I love him. Watching him as a kid, I always looked forward to the high-air grabbing plays, following Clay Matthews on defense, the list goes on. I enjoyed watching the Cleveland Browns in the 80’s because of “the Wizard of Oz.” Having had a stellar career in football, Newsome certainly epitomizes the character of an American football player. He knows the game, understands talent, positions and what it takes to succeed. Newsome climbed up through the ranks of football, not just through Hall of Fame inductions for both college and pro, but as a leader who wanted to advance the sport, get a great professional team formed and win world championships. That is what it is all about…winning. Newsome, the general manager for the Baltimore Ravens, continues to exceed my expectations of him as a person, a player and a manager. Well done, Oz.

Michael Oher and Patrick Willis-
None of us may know what our destiny is, but having relentless support and being embraced by unconditional love could only make the journey that much more abundant. Oher and Willis have similar paths, even if they play from opposite sides of the ball. This game (Super Bowl) should have been a Blind Side movie sequel. Both of these players hail from Tennessee, both attended Ole Miss, both have backgrounds that seem to come more from the 1940’s era rather than the 1990’s.
Oher was faced with adversity very young. Having to be held back in grade school not once, but twice, enduring an abusive environment with no positive structure and no discipline. Willis was determined to care for his younger siblings, worked full-time at the age of ten to support them and did so, selflessly. Oher and Willis, and too many other youth, come from  alcoholic and drug-ridden homes. Criminals frequenting their frontrooms, violence filling their lives and they both chose to keep moving forward. Taken in by adoptive families of good fortune, these two would not only learn about diversity, they would remain humble in their endeavors through high school, college, the NFL and life. You probably could not find two more sobering football players on the field today, whose aggressive play reflects their hearts, while their humble nature reflects their souls.

The Harbaugh’s –
What could possibly make this game any more special than to take that backyard game to the big lights? Two brothers who share their passion for the sport, two parents that have to embrace them both no matter the outcome. Heart wrenching, yet ecstatic. A rollercoaster of emotions, to say the least. All those games behind the stands during the high school games, all those trips to the park to get together with the other neighbor kids, to play the game we all love. American football. The Harbaugh’s are just a tip of the iceberg of how this sport truly cements a family in aspects that will keep memories aflow for a lifetime. Having the opportunity to be coaching against one another in the Super Bowl is obviously, no exception. At the end of the day, the “behind the grandstand” game is still remembered and the meaning of family will  never be forgotten.

Colin Kaepernick-

Where did THIS kid come from? In only ten starts, Kaepernick led his team to a Super Bowl appearance. Who does that? Kaepernick now holds the NFL record for most rushing yards (181) in a single game and the Super Bowl record for longest run (15 yards) for a touchdown. I have a very strong feeling that this ride is just getting started. I don’t even think this kid has put the kick stand up and revved the engine yet. Without a doubt, Kaepernick not only will be the future of the Forty Niner franchise, but a dominant and exciting player to watch for the entire NFL. I was impressed with how calm he was during the sideline shots on the television. He always seem to maintain his resolve. Well coached, well disciplined and motivated, this contender is going to bring some serious football to be played in the future.

Dannell Ellerbe-
This force is a game changer. Never heard of him? Name is not familiar? It should be. Ellerbe was undrafted in 2009 out of Georgia. As an inside linebacker, he dominates the field with tackles, interceptions and bringing pressure that would rattle the most calmest of competitors. Ellerbe is the real deal. Having been overshadowed by his  other two teammates, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis, Ellerbe is by far the most versatile, dominant and underrated of his position. Most quiet warriors are never recognized for being game changers in a sport dominated by media notoriety. I will, respectfully, give Dannell Ellerbe my praises for a well fought game.

Niners Offensive line-

This is some talent forming, here, that has gone through years of adjustments, offensive coordinators and frustration. The Niner’s offensive line has improved greatly over the 2011-2012 seasons and deserves attention, respectively. Having dealt with injuries, like any other team, this line has gelled into a formable connection on the front. Quick off the ball, protecting the QB, aware of reading defensive plays, low penalties and responsive to their coaching, I am going to venture to say that this offensive line is going to remain top ranked and feared in the next coming seasons. They have already received the 2012 Madden MVP award (Most Valuable Protectors) and some may argue that they are already the best in the league. I applaud this line for  their true grit and remarkable job.

Jacoby Jones-
Some may say he is deserving of the Super Bowl MVP, I just say he is lightening fast. Dang. I think my cell phone blew up with over 15 texts messages and the outstanding “did you just see that” response to the 108 yard kickoff return. Yes, I seen it, barely. This kid is so fast, that before you can jump up and down three times, he has already gone sixty yards. Impressive football player and fun to watch. That is hard for me to say when he scored against us (Niners), nonetheless, I can give credit where it is due. Flacco may have received the MVP, but in my observation, Jacoby Jones was just as admirable.

The Future-

These two franchises, Ravens and Niners, are definitely moving to the top of annual predictions for the Super Bowl in the future. While I am assertive in my fandom for my team, I, too, am confident that the San Francisco Forty Niners will be in another Super Bowl within three years. I feel a resurgence of the dynasty era. The 1980’s are instilled in every Niner fan’s heart and what Jed York, Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh are doing for this organization makes one think that the quest for six is going to be won in the near future. This is not just my hope, but a forethought as an honest football fan.

Losing a Bet to your Kid-

As everyone may be back to work on this Monday, nursing hangovers, collecting debts or trying to embody the outcome of another intense Super Bowl game, you must know that my betting stakes were much greater. No, I did not go as extreme as Floyd Mayweather, however, losing a bet to my teenage son could probably be a good return for us all. Yes, the Niners lost and now, the nicotine fits will come and go. “If the Niners lose, you have to quit smoking.”  No problem. I took the bet. And as any promise should be kept to your children, I ask that you hand me the footlong Philly Steak Sandwich, the bag of Bugle’s, the turtle cheesecake (from Atlanta Cheesecake Factory), some chewing gum and some Banana Colada Fuze drinks. I got this!

Enjoy your offseason, everyone! We will see you back here on Draft Day! (Go Niners……Always Faithful).

NFL History Footnote: Clay Matthews Sr, played as an offensive lineman for the San Francisco 49er’s (1950-1955) until being drafted into the Korean War. Clay Matthews, Jr, was a first round draft pick by the Cleveland Browns, most notably known for his 19 seasons as a linebacker. Clay Matthews III is currently a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Matthews, Jr and Matthews III are the only father-son tandem to be named defensive player of the week in the NFL.

The Only Race That Should be Discussed in Sports

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” – Mario Andretti

You remember the day when Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder  got fired, among others ,  for their racial remarks, on national TV? Many suspensions have been handed down for derogatory remarks made about minorities. Even so, how do paid professionals put themselves in a position to exclaim such ignorance?

It has been 25 years since Jimmy “The Greek” was punished by CBS for his remarks, yet, still today we seem faced with the notion that race in sports is a significant issue. This discussion seems to be outdated, when we have come so far in American sports that anyone having the God-given talent to play, is just able to play, without racial persecution.

Will re-hashing the beaten path discover new scenery?

Mike Silver, a sports commentator for Yahoo! Sports, went on Pro Football Talk ,today, to discuss this topic. Why?

Maybe it is not so much the substance Silver could have stated in his on-air interview, it is the audacity that we are even discussing this at all.

The  sports analysts jumped on this topic when nine NFL head football coaches were not rehired for their respective positions. However, the opportunity granted to them, for the position in the first place, would not be seen without a fortunate thought. We all know what our backgrounds are, we all know what road we have traveled to get to a head coaching position in the NFL. I assure you, it was not because of race that these gentlemen made success at these stages. No. It was experience, skill, hard work and an understanding of the game.

When Dennis Erickson, Jerry Glanville, Rob Ryan or Chan Gailey are getting fired, where is all the attention? Fact is, these coaches do not fit with the scheme of the team. Period. It is not about race, it has everything to do with producing a winning team. Did Avery Johnson get fired for poor performance?  If race is a factor, then we have honestly limited our own selves to not see the broader picture.

Desire does not hold prejudicial standards.

Sports, in general, should not either.

There was a football player named Wally Triplett (Dallas News), who sacrificed playing every game toward the ending of segregation. Through staying true to his own convictions, he was the first Negro drafted in 1949, into the NFL. This was in 1949! He was the first. The first NFL player to be drafted into the Korean War. He served his country, honorably. What do we really get out of this example?
The fact that Triplett overcame obstacles of “no-mixing” and forged forward with a love for football or is it his race that got him into the NFL and drafted into war?

Moreover, as the obvious is stated for sports, the focus should remain on statistics, performance, injuries, winning, losing, championships and leadership. None of which has anything to do with race.

A game is not lost because of race, a game is lost because the other team was better.

No single athlete or head coach should have to endure their heritage or origin being questioned if they “don’t make the team.”  The biasness was addressed in the 1940’s, Doug Williams made great strides in the 1980’s and in 2013 race should not be about the head coaching positions. Here is a report,  Success of NFL coaches by Race:  ” A Different Perspective” , written by University of Pennsylvania students, Madden and Ruther, stating the  argument that  “head coaches are more likely to be fired, given their current season records.” Do sports need a Rooney rule?

If the media continues to make it about race, then the media has missed the detrimental point to all journalistic principles. Race should never be the lead in the story, a person’s attributes should.

Many doors have been opened in sports because of one pioneer or another. The first in baseball, gymnastics or basketball, even coaching, gold medals and repeat titles. We should embrace the feat and move forward, respectively.

Therefore, I say light-heartedly, the only race that should be discussed in sports, is NASCAR .  Don’t you think?