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March 1, 2013
The NFL Combine in Indianapolis is eminently more interesting and entertaining that the NFL draft, which is a bunch of guys speculating about what a football player does or does not add to the team that selected him. At least at the combine, there's actually physical activity by which a player can be judged.
The NFL Network's coverage is as good as it gets for something that is football but not actual football with helmets, pads, etc. There is much knowledge to be gained and an insight into the players attempting to make it to the next level, especially with Mike Mayock inserting tidbits of information throughout. The Combine also is overplayed; it's an addendum to the most important factor - game competition.
Mayock has been entertaining Notre Dame fans for three years as the analyst for Irish home football broadcasts on NBC. My favorite story from Mayock during the combine coverage was a conversation he had with on-field analyst Willie McGinest, the former USC and New England Patriots great, who did a fine job himself providing insight into the athlete going through the paces at the combine.
Mayock was talking about Bill Parcells, and a line the great coach delivered to him during his playing days for the Giants in the early 1980s as a safety. The comment brought back memories of my childhood when the sheer joy of catching and throwing a ball often led to despair when said ball would get lost on our country landscape.
"Mayock, you look like a ball in tall grass, son," said Parcells to Mayock. "You know what that is? You're lost, son."
Shocking that Manti Te'o's performance at the combine would receive an inordinate amount of coverage. After drawing the largest contingent for a press conference in Indy Combine history, Te'o's 4.80 and 4.82 times in the 40 were scrutinized and overanalyzed.
First of all, his times were not that surprising. Most would have guessed anything between 4.7 and 4.8. Te'o is not a blazer and never was, but he did show a greater burst to the football during the 2012 season after dropping about 15 pounds last summer. We knew he was undersized, and he measured 6-foot-1 ?, which is not ideal by NFL inside linebacker standards.
But the time was anything but shocking. Anything under 4.8 would have been considered acceptable, but you would have thought he ran a five-flat like Vontaze Burfict from Arizona State did a year ago.
So if Te'o runs a 4.77 - five one-hundredths of a second faster - it's not a big deal, but at 4.82, it is? What if he runs a 4.75 at Notre Dame's Pro Day on March 26? Te'o was sixth in the three-cone drill and sixth in the 20-yard shuttle, which are great indicators of quickness coming out of cuts. That's just as important if not more important than his 40 time. He also tied for eighth in the vertical jump.
I thought Te'o played like a first-round draft choice in 2012, but maybe Te'o isn't worthy of a first-round selection. He's undersized and not that fast. He had problems overrunning plays early in his Notre Dame career. Maybe he's a second-round selection. Would that be such a big deal? Keep in mind that all it takes is for one team to believe he's worthy of a first-round choice.
The interesting thing is that the people whose opinions really matter continue to support Te'o.
"The fluctuations in his draft stock I've been hearing about don't make much sense to me," said long-time NFL executive Bill Polian. "The notion that a player's draft stock can change in a day, or after a single drill, is as much of a hoax as the one Te'o's been caught up in."
There is no greater waste of a good argument in sports debate than opinions on a new style of uniform. It's all a matter of personal taste, and when it comes to uniforms, most guys have the fashion sense of a woodchuck. Besides, these kinds of opinions are dictated by age and culture, not a true style insight.
Wednesday, adidas unveiled its brightly-colored, camouflaged-patterned uniforms for six men's teams in the upcoming post-season. Baylor, UCLA and Louisville will wear a short-sleeved version of the uniform while Notre Dame, Kansas and Cincinnati will stick with the traditional sleeveless version.
"We showed them to our players (Wednesday) and they just loved them," said Irish head coach Mike Brey. "And here's the important thing. I got four texts from four recruits about how much they love them. Done deal. It's over. It was a good decision."
Never has a player objected to a gaudy uniform, which makes every other opinion out there irrelevant.
When it comes to uniforms, my standard operating line is that I have an opinion, but none worth sharing because opinions are so varied across the board. I like cool stuff like the next guy. I single-handedly kept the sweatband companies in business in the '70s. But I'm not playing anymore and I don't presume to know what a bunch of 18-23-year olds want to or should wear. If the players like them, and the school approves them, the fans' opinion is meaningless.
(Editor's note: There is an exception to every rule, and if I were to say there is a uniform out there that I don't like, it would be the black uniforms the Irish have worn this year, which they had to alter after the first game because the numbers were unreadable. They put new numbers on there but didn't change the names on the back - in blue! - which require army-issue field glasses to read. Besides, they look like CYO-league uniforms, but I digress.)
What constitutes hideous? What constitutes sick (in a good way)? There is no right or wrong. My main reason for not caring about Notre Dame's football or basketball uniforms is that is has no bearing on what's important - the outcome of the game.
We'll never know just how good Scott Martin could have been had he not encountered repeated and persistent knee problems during his five years at Notre Dame, which has finally shelved him for the balance of his sixth year of eligibility.
In fact, few will stop and give consideration to what his physical ailments did to his basketball career.
But when it comes to projecting talent and what a player is capable of achieving on the basketball court, Mike Brey is about as good as it gets, and I'll never forget how shocked I was when he told me that Martin had a chance to be the most dynamic offensive player he had coached at Notre Dame.
What did he say? This was a guy who had coached Troy Murphy and then Luke Harangody, but believed the multiplicity of Martin's skills could exceed them. Of course, before he played a second for the Irish, he had to sit out a year following his transfer from Purdue, and then another when he suffered his first major knee injury at Notre Dame.
We never saw Martin close to 100 percent efficiency during his Notre Dame career, and I suspect that when we would see him fade into the woodwork, it was because of chronic knee problems, not the lack of desire to maintain a consistent level of performance.
Martin was shooting the ball really well through the first two games of the 2012-13 Big East season, connecting on an incredible 10-of-14 three-point attempts. Over the next four games, he was a shell of himself, attempting just 11 shots and scoring seven points, and that was the end of Martin's career.
He was a good soldier and one heckuva leader for the Irish. He never complained publicly about his knee issues, which clearly altered his basketball path. If you truly are a Notre Dame fan - not one who cares only about the productivity or lack there of from a player - you would respect Martin for the quality human being that he is and what a great representative of the program he's been.
Mike Broghammer's performance in semifinal action of the 83rd annual Bengal Bouts has sent him to the championship round tonight against two-time champ Daniel Yi. The former Irish basketball player who finally succumbed to knee injuries will have his hands full tonight. But I thought the same thing Tuesday night when he faced a relatively experienced boxer in Sean Lischke.
Quite honestly, I feared for Broghammer, who just started boxing a few weeks ago and admitted to getting his faced bashed in the first time he sparred with a fellow Bengal Bouts participant.
But Broghammer was very good against Lischke, attacking while doing a decent job of protecting himself. He knocked Lischke down with an overhand right, and then, moments later, rapped Lischke upside the head three times within a five-second burst and won the fight.
The Bengal Bouts are great entertainment. I didn't see the historic Ross Browner vs. Ken MacAfee fight back in the late '70s, but have periodically attended through the years. I've always been struck at how - all things considered - the fighters are pretty technically-sound by the time they advance to the semifinal stage.
Sure, you're going to get those guys who abandon technique for aggressiveness, choosing to err on the side of reckless abandon. But they've done a great job through the years of teaching and protecting these brave/adventurous souls.
I won't be able to catch Broghammer live tonight because I'll be on my way to Milwaukee for the Notre Dame men's basketball game Saturday against Marquette. But check it out on ESPN3. Broghammer has a massive reach advantage on Yi, but as Broghammer admitted last week, his inexperience hurts him when someone gets inside his reach.
I've come full circle on Jim Harbaugh, who is an easy guy to dislike when your rooting interest is for the team on the opposite sideline. But if you have the type of personality that Harbaugh does and if you've ever been in a competitive situation on a sideline, a bench or in a dugout, you know that it's not easy for everyone to conceal the competitive juices boiling inside.
Notre Dame fans should be glad Harbaugh has gone to the NFL where he'll likely stay for the balance of his career.
I've heard several stories on Harbaugh, including one from Charlie Weis who wanted to make sure I knew about Harbaugh's reaction to Jimmy Clausen extending a handshake following Notre Dame's 28-21 victory over the Cardinal in Notre Dame Stadium in 2008. (The story I was told was that Harbaugh told Clausen to go do something to himself that is not humanly possible.)
But Harbaugh is a coaching genius who motivates players to believe they can win in any situation. Since he got things rolling at Stanford, right on through his Super Bowl appearance last month, he's been very difficult to beat. While we may not like his intensity or his approach as it pertains to respecting the opponent, he's a great coach. His players seem to love him.
I just heard one of my favorite Harbaugh stories on an HBO feature conducted by Andrea Kremer prior to the 49ers' clash with brother John's Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.
Long story short, as told by John. Jim wakes up in his car in his driveway, calls his brother and says, 'You've got to help me out.' It turns out Jim didn't know if he had been at work and had just returned home, or if he had been home and was in his car getting ready to go to work when he fell asleep.
He was so wrapped up in his work that he literally did not know whether he was coming or going. That's commitment. That's the bizarre life of a football coach.
You know you're watching too much high school football film when you attend a dog show and as you're watching a bulldog on the runway, you think, 'He's strong and packs a punch, but he looks a little stiff in the hips,' or when you look at the Golden Retriever, you think about how he fits the big-skill profile.
Then again, if you're attending a dog show, your need for competition is a bit out of whack anyway.
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