Pro Player Insiders Executive Editor Melissa Mahler Behind the scenes look at lives and lifestyles of NFL players and their families plus sports news, interviews & events Mon, 15 Jul 2019 12:44:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tedy Bruschi Feels Better After Second Stroke Tue, 09 Jul 2019 00:28:04 +0000 New England- After a scary and unfortunate stroke for ESPN’s analyst and former Patriots player Tedy Bruschi on Friday. Bruschi stated that he was okay and felt better on Monday. On his social media, he explained that he lost feeling in his arms and started slurring his speech during the incident and was educating his social media followers about the signs of a person having a stroke.

“As I turned to my wife she noticed the left side of my face was drooping. We immediately knew what was happening,” said Bruschi. “These are stroke warning signs. We called 911 and an ambulance got me to the hospital. Thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers. I’m doing much better.”

This was the second time that Bruschi experienced a stroke. In 2005, he suffered a stroke a couple of days after the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl and found out that he had a congenital heart defect, which means he had a hole in his heart. The doctors repaired it and the following season, Bruschi played nine games and was named as the comeback player of the year.

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The Raptors beat Golden State to win their first NBA Championship Fri, 14 Jun 2019 05:24:09 +0000 CA- The Toronto Raptors stopped the Golden State Warriors from winning their fourth championship and ended the Warriors’ season in dramatic fashion in a 114-110 game six victory.

Throughout the entire series, Golden State was the favorite to win it all, but the Raptors shocked the world with winning the first game of the series, as well as stopping the Warriors from getting to their sweet spots on the floor, pushing the pace, and adding a defensive zone called the Box in One that confused the Warriors.


Injuries dominated what little offensive firepower that the Warriors had and the Raptors took advantage of it. Kawhi Leonard had the series of his life. He averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, which kept his team afloat during the punches that Golden State threw.

After it was all said and done, the Raptors became the first NBA team to win all three road games and win an NBA Finals. Kawhi proved all of his critics wrong and tonight he was selected as the Finals MVP. “I am thankful that my team welcomed me in, as well as Nick Nurse. Last year, I was going through a lot. So it meant a lot to me that my team welcomed me in with open arms and allowed me to play basketball. This is a great win for our team and I thank them for allowing me to be apart of the team,” said Kawhi.

Kawhi was one of the factors that helped his team win the finals, but his counter partner Kyle Lowry exploded in this series, averaging around 16.8. “This was a long time coming. I worked so hard and now this is something that I always wanted. Right now, I am ready to celebrate with our fans,” said Lowry.

A whole country has been united by different pieces coming together and everything has come to a full circle with the organization. However, with Kawhi being a free agent next season, the question remains, will he stay with the Raptors or will we see him with another team?

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FORMER U.S. MARINE KIRSTIE ENNIS Will Be Presented WITH THE PAT TILLMAN AWARD During ESPYS Wed, 12 Jun 2019 01:51:01 +0000 Los Angeles- During the 2019 ESPYS, former United States Marine Kirstie Ennis will be awarded and honored with the Pat Tillman Award.

 Ennis was excited about the award and this is what she had to say about it“After being medically retired from the Marine Corps due to my injuries sustained overseas, I have dedicated my life to serving others in a different way. To receive the Pat Tillman Award and to be associated with a true American hero is a tremendous honor,” said Ennis. “It has taken a village to get me to this point in my life, and I would not be where I am now without the amazing people surrounding me. To me, this is a symbol of community and what it means to pay it forward.”

Ennis had to overcome a lot of adversity after she was involved in a helicopter crash in Afganistan while being on duty. She suffered facial trauma, traumatic brain injury, cervical and lumbar spine trauma, bilateral shoulder damage, and her leg was amputated, but she was optimistic that she will overcome all of the obstacles that were in front of her.

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Instead of having a pity party, Ennis founded her foundation Kirstie Ennis Foundation, which provides education and opportunity in the outdoors and to support other non-profits dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals and families. She also has found her passion for sports.

Pat lived his life with passion and conviction, driving forward in the face of any obstacle that crossed his path,” says Marie Tillman, Board Chair and Co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “I see that same drive and courage in Kirstie as she continues to push the limits and achieve her best. We are proud to present the Tillman Award to Sgt. Kirstie Ennis for her service and leadership.”

The ESPYS will air live Wednesday, July 10th at 8 PM ET.

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​​NFL AND BLACK COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME TO HOST QUARTERBACK COACHING SUMMIT Fri, 24 May 2019 07:21:25 +0000 Atlanta-The NFL is partnering up with the Black College Football Hall of Fame with hosting a quarterback coaching summit. Both parties are optimistic with joining forces and like the idea of the partnership.

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“As part of our ongoing efforts to develop a diverse pipeline of offensive coaches and personnel, the Quarterback Coaching Summit is an opportunity for participants to further develop and perfect their proficiencies in-game administration, offensive philosophy implementation and quarterback development,” said TROY VINCENT, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations.

“We are excited to work with the NFL on the Quarterback Coaching Summit, as well as open the lines of communication and exchange ideas on fundamentals and techniques required to coach the QB position,” said JAMES “SHACK” HARRIS, Black College Football Hall of Fame Co-Founder and 2012 Inductee.  “The results should help participating coaches in college football and the NFL prepare for the opportunity to become head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback coach, or offensive assistant.” 

This event will give insight into how coaches could improve their coaching abilities, as well as expand their experience. Some of the NFL coaches will be on panels during the event. The coaching summit will be in Atlanta, GA on June 24th and 25th.

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Jets part ways with general manager Mike Maccagnan Thu, 16 May 2019 08:47:16 +0000 New York- The New York Jets decided to part ways with former general Mike Maccagnan on Wednesday. The parting was a surprise to other individuals in the organization, as well as fans, but the Jets wanted to continue in a different direction.


“I think there was pretty good synergy, but it was not everything I was hoping for,” CEO Christopher Johnson said. “I made the decision that I want to find a better fit for this building. … It’s more than a talent-evaluation guy. I want a great strategic thinker, a great manager, a communicator, someone who can collaborate well with the building. I’m convinced we’re going to find that person.”

The Jets have put in Adam Gase, who is the Jets’ first-year head coach as the acting GM. The Jets are rebuilding and rebranding their identity to try to make their 2019 season a successful one. The Jets spent a lot of money to get Le’veon Bell, as well as getting key pieces that they needed in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Jets have had a tough road with the Patriots dominating their division since 2001 and they are desperately trying to find the sun out of a darkness that has surrounded the organization.

Letting go of the old formula with Maccagnan could open many doors for creativity, as well as a good structure that can help speed up the process of getting the right players, coaches, and getting the Jets to playing the type of system that they want to. The Jets are now creating space to find the right personnel that will give them that winning perspective.


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Rest Easy, Pancho Billa Wed, 15 May 2019 00:32:56 +0000 What makes us become a fan? Not just a casual that catches a game on the tube from time to time, but a die-hard, face-painting, costume-wearing, super-fan? For some of us, it’s the never fading childhood dream of playing on Sundays. Maybe it’s an escape from our mundane Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five, work week. Or maybe, it’s the feeling we get – like we’re part of a much bigger family. For Ezra Castro, it was just that.

Ezra Castro

A native to El Paso, Texas, Ezra grew up nearly 2,000 miles away from New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills, but one look at him and you’d think he was born on the 50-yard line. So how did a man who grew up 100-yards from the Mexican border decide that his extended family would be a football team from Western New York? Simple, really. Colors. Ezra wanted to represent a team that donned the red, white, and green – for the flag of Mexico. When he found out that team didn’t exist he decided to go with USA’s red, white, and blue (two of three Mexico colors ain’t bad either!).

In 2008 Ezra decided to up his level of fanhood. He’d strap on a custom made Lucha Libre mask, and Pancho Billa was born. Since then, Ezra posed for hundreds, if not thousands of pictures. Not once would he turn down a request for a picture, an autograph, or even just a hug. Described by many as the most genuine and caring man they’ve ever met, Ezra would later be named President of the Dallas Fort-Worth “Bills Backers”.

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In late 2017, tragedy struck. Ezra’s arm went completely numb while visiting New York City after a Bills home game. When he returned home to Texas he’d visit his doctor and eventually find out the numbness in his arm stemmed from a mass on his spine. The bad news wouldn’t end there. The mass was malignant and cancer had already spread to his liver, lungs, and lymph nodes. Stage four.

In true Bills Mafia fashion, Pancho Billa wouldn’t let this slow him down. In fact, he was on a plane a short time later headed to Los Angeles to once again support his Buffalo Bills. You see, the trip was about more than just football. It’s about what it’s always been about – family. This game would be a father-son trip and with his future in question there was zero chance Ezra was going to cancel. Deciding to delay his surgery to attend the football game would end up costing Ezra the feeling in three of his fingers. To him, “it was all worth it.”

Still going through chemotherapy, Ezra would attend the NFL Draft in April of 2018 when it came to his hometown in Dallas, Texas. Backed by his longtime girlfriend Veronica, Ezra supported his Buffalo Bills within the first ever “rivalry zone” located just a few feet from the stage. When it came time for the Bills to make the 96th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Bills legends Andre Reed and Fred Jackson invited Ezra on stage to announce their pick. An amazing moment, for an amazing person.


This morning, May 14th, 2019, surrounded by family and loved ones, Ezra Castro passed away, but his message will live on. We can’t always control the hands we are dealt, but we can control how we respond to it. Ezra chose to respond like he did with everything else – with nothing but love and passion. Today the world lost a great man, but he left this world a better place than when he found it.

Mr. Castro is survived by his girlfriend Veronica Borjon; their children Ginobili (son) and Lourdes (daughter); his mother Aurora Martinez; his father Jaime Castro; and his three brothers Jaime, Zenoc, and Eli.

Rest in peace Pancho Billa. You will surely be missed. Viva Los Bills!!!


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Doug Baldwin: Underrated greatness Mon, 13 May 2019 17:22:01 +0000 Seattle, WA- Doug Baldwin and the Seattle Seahawks had parted ways last week, but the legacy of Baldwin is still alive as a Seahawk. The battle of injuries, toughness, and skill that seem to go unnoticed among the elites.

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Baldwin was reliable, consistent, and played with a chip on his shoulder, as well as spoke about the injustice of African Americans during a pivotal time in the NFL.” I can’t say one specific thing. There’s so much information, so many things that have opened my eyes. And it’s on both sides. And what it comes down to is empathy for one another. You know, for the police officer to have empathy for the civilian, but also for the civilian to recognize that the police officer has a very difficult job, “said Baldwin.

“I think a lot of these issues are pushed by the narrative of race. And that sometimes can be the case, as we see systemic poverty intersect with race. But at the same time, there are other issues and other situations that occur when it has nothing to do with race, or we would perceive it to not have anything to do with race. And those situations are not okay, either. So, it’s not just one microcosm of the community or our society. It’s a much greater picture than that.”

Baldwin has done so much for the community of Seattle on and off the field that at times it goes unnoticed. During his career, Baldwin is ranked third in franchise history with having 493 catches for 6,593 yards and 49 touchdowns. Also, he had some crucial catches that won Seattle their first Super Bowl championship against the Denver Broncos. 

Baldwin was an underrated star that propelled the Seahawks when they needed a big-time play down the field or a touchdown to secure a victory. It is sad that his legacy ended so short, because of injury, but to the Twelves, he was a star that shined bright when the spotlight was on him.


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Rodney Harrison is inducted in the Patriots Hall of Fame Tue, 07 May 2019 17:44:34 +0000 New England- Former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison has been inducted in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Harrison was known as a hard-hitting safety that made big-time plays when it counted.

After his nine years in San Diego as a Charger, he took his talent to another level with going to New England. In his first two seasons with the Patriots, he was the leading tackler and made All-Pro, but that was just one dimension that he brought to the table. His skill set with being in the right place at the right time was unbearable for offenses.

New England Patriots v Minnesota Vikings

“When I came over here to the Patriots, the thing that I loved about Coach Bill Belichick was, we had purpose,” Harrison said. “Everything that we were doing, it had a purpose. It was just really good to get around a bunch of other people that really loved football.

During New England’s playoff run in 2004-2005, Harrison had seven picks in nine games and broke the hearts of Eagles’ fans in the Super Bowl, as he intercepted a pass that could have been a game-winning drive.

Harrison holds the NFL record for sacks by a defensive back (30.5) and is only second to Ray Lewis for having 30 sacks and 30 interceptions.

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DeMarcus Ware wants to play a role with the Cowboys Mon, 06 May 2019 18:16:48 +0000 Dallas- Former Dallas Cowboys player DeMarcus Ware wants to help out the Cowboys’ organization with being a pass rusher consultant for the team. Ware has stated that the Cowboys have the right pieces in play to make a Super Bowl appearance but feels like they need a little guidance. “I always say I want to teach the championship mentality,” Ware said Sunday at a Cowboys alumni fundraising event, via Rob Phillips of the Cowboys’ official website. “If I could come here at least two or three days a week, teaching them Wednesdays and Thursdays, teach the pass rushers how to pass rush, stopping the run — but then I always help the offensive line, like (left tackle) Tyron Smith, with their technique (too).”

Last season the Cowboys made it to the divisional round in the playoffs and had a top 10 defense that allowed around 20.3 points a game. The Cowboys’ defense was what kept them in close games throughout the season. Bringing in Ware could be beneficial for the Cowboys, because he brings talent, leadership, as well as can explain to the younger players, what it means to win a championship based on defense.

The Cowboys seem interested with having Ware being a consultant on the team.”We love DeMarcus Ware,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a special person. He was a special player for this organization for a number of years and everybody loves him. The coaches love him, his former teammates love him, obviously, the Jones family loves him.

“We did talk about it (a consultant-type role) last year. It just has to work for both sides, what he’s looking for, what we’re looking for from a role like that. But suffice it to say he’s always welcome, and if we get to a point where it makes sense for both sides, we’ll definitely bring him back and get him involved. He’s a special guy.

The question that needs to be answered this season is with a young defense, how can Dallas make it back to the postseason and get past the second round? The pressure and expectations will be at an all-time high this season.

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The Titans are banking on D’Andre Walker Mon, 06 May 2019 15:52:45 +0000 The Tennessee Titans failed to make the playoffs last season with all the buzz they entered the season with. They were uneven at best and suffered many highs and lows. When the offseason hit, there were questions coming from all angles regarding the Titans future. From the status of Marcus Mariota to the offensive line, there were questions offensively. Defensively, there was always the question of who they would bring in this offseason to rush the passer off the edge. Well, that question seemed like one that would get answered in the draft as the Titans signed veteran Cameron Wake to rush the passer opposite the guy many expect to step into the starting lineup this year as an outside linebacker, Harold Landry III. While everyone was expecting the edge pass rusher to get drafted in the first round for Tennessee, the Titans did not go that direction. Instead, the Titans ended up drafting interior defensive lineman Jeffrey Simmons with their first-round pick.

The former Mississippi State defensive lineman is talented and has the potential to be a very good interior defensive lineman. While the talent is nice to add, Simmons still did not solve the issue the Titans had last season rushing the passer from the edge and no one is sure when he will be ready since he tore his ACL preparing for the NFL Draft. Those doubts were there all the way until the Titans selected former Georgia Bulldogs outside linebacker, D’Andre Walker. The talented outside linebacker had two solid seasons in his junior and senior years, accumulating 13 sacks over those two seasons. His production was solid and he can be a solid player, but the Titans are hoping they hit a homerun with the pick of Walker. Wake is hopefully going to be a solid piece for the Titans, but the reality is he is a 37 year old still playing football who has declined in production, especially from the 2017 season to the 2018 season, where he went from 10.5 sacks to 6 sacks.

With Walker present, the Titans hope is that he can develop into a solid pass rusher opposite Harold Landry III. His comparisons currently line up with some ranging from Dee Ford to former Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston. He can definitely make some things happen, and he showed that in college, but he does have some things to work on. One thing in particular would be his ability to play against bigger people. While he’s not necessarily a short guy himself (Walker stands at 6’2″ and 251 pounds), he can get overpowered by offensive tackles because of his positioning. Hopefully Wake will be able to provide guidance there along with Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. If they are able to coach up the technique things and put Walker in position to succeed, then the Titans get a steal in Walker this draft.

Simmons is the most talked about player right now because of where he was drafted, but Walker could be one player that means more to Tennessee than any of the other draft picks. Only time will tell, but his impact could be huge depending on how fast he progresses with the team.





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Cody Ford: New Experiences and New Aggression Wed, 01 May 2019 16:11:25 +0000 Going into the NFL Draft, Cody Ford was coveted by many. The former Oklahoma offensive lineman was expected to go in the first round without question. The unfortunate happened and Cody dropped out of the first round but it wasn’t long into the second day when he heard his name called as the Bills traded up to the 38th pick to select the lineman. Ford was initially not in the green room for the second day, but after escaping playing X Box with his agent, he was able to make it and walk across that stage as he planned to do the first night of the draft.

“I came back tonight because last night (Thursday night) was a disappointment, but I worked so hard to walk across that stage and I did not want to leave without being able to do that,” said a relieved Ford after finally getting drafted.

As far as Ford and what he brings, he gives the Bills a physical lineman that will set the tone for them up front. Adding him along with first-round pick Ed Oliver will give them two physical guys up front that will hopefully anchor both sides of their lines for years to come. While both are strong and well-equipped for the NFL, Ford has one other thing on him that Oliver has and that is a chip on his shoulder.

“There’s a chip there for sure. I always have a chip on my shoulder. I would say it isn’t a different kind of chip, but just adding to it.”

Ford, for where he was selected, is a huge coup for the Bills at the place where he was selected. It’s almost as if the Bills have two first-round picks with the value he adds. Now the next step is to see how quickly he adjusts to the mental part of the game and with that, how quickly he can begin to produce for the Bills.

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Ed Oliver: Ready for the test Wed, 01 May 2019 16:01:00 +0000 Ed Oliver was one of the most talked about college football players going into the 2018 college football season. The junior Houston defensive lineman had big things expected from him going into the year and unfortunately, he was not able to meet all those expectations due to only playing eight games. In those eight games he was able to show what everyone thought was a star in the making. When the draft got here last week, he was just sitting and waiting, knowing that he was going to make some fan base very happy. When his name was called as the first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills, surely Bills Mafia was ecstatic. Just as much as they may have been ecstatic over him, he was ready to play for them.

“It will be great to play in front of Bills Mafia,” said Oliver as he donned a Bills cap in his post-draft press conference. Oliver talked about how he knew he wasn’t going to slide past the Bills, as coaches were going to “stand on the table” for him to be their draft pick. While that was great to hear when it came to the franchise’s thoughts on him, the biggest thing Oliver stressed is to be the best he can and to get to work.

One person he immediately mentioned in his post-draft press conference is the need to speak to a long-time Bills veteran who recently retired. “I want to come in and hopefully Kyle Williams can mentor me and I can learn from him,” said Oliver.

Oliver not only wants to be the best player he can be, but he also marvels at the longevity of Williams’ career and seeks to mirror whatever he has done to last so long in the NFL.

Along with mirroring and wanting to be mentored by Williams, Oliver is wanting to get to work as soon as possible to make the Bills better.

“The most important thing for me is to come in focused and ready to learn. Everything else will take care of itself,” said Oliver.

With the physical skills that Oliver had, he can easily wreck the interior offensive line of opponents. The great thing about him is he realizes that it is going to take more than his strength to have him make an immediate impact in the NFL. And above all, Oliver is seemingly willing to put in the work it will take to be the best he can be.


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NFL Legend Gino Marchetti passes away at 93 Tue, 30 Apr 2019 16:52:05 +0000 Seattle, WA- NFL Hall of Famer Gino Marchetti passed away at the age of 93. Marchetti was known for his defensive ability on the field as he spent the majority of his career with the Baltimore Colts.  Marchetti’s hard work, dedication, and devotion led him to an impressive and dominating career.  He was selected for All-NFL nine times, selected for 11 Pro Bowls and was named the top defensive end of the NFL’s first 50 years.

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Here is a statement that the Hall of Fame President David Baker made honoring Marchetti. “Gino Marchetti dominated the football field during his career in the 1950s and ’60s as a leader of the great Baltimore Colts teams of that era,” Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker said in a statement. “His ferocious style of play defined the character of a man who possessed a strong desire to succeed, passion, and determination that made him a great teammate. Those same traits made him a highly successful business leader after his playing days. The legacy of Gino Marchetti’s well-lived life will forever be preserved in Canton, Ohio to serve as an inspiration to future generations of fans.”

Not only was Marchetti a Hall of Famer playing pro football, but he was an American hero. Before his feet touched the field, as a football player, he was protecting the United States. He served in the Army during World War II and said that his experience in the Army was life-altering. 

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Joejuan Williams: From the 615 to the NFL Sun, 28 Apr 2019 04:45:04 +0000 Joejuan Williams finally heard his name called in the NFL Draft. The New England Patriots selected the almost 6’4″ cornerback with the 45th overall selection, plucking the former Vanderbilt defensive back with a second-round pick. The look on Williams’ face was joy as he was able to walk on that stage, but there was even more meaning behind the moment for Williams, being that he was born and raised here in Nashville, Tennessee.

“It’s definitely been special for me. Growing up here, elementary school, middle school, high school and college. It has definitely been a blessing. Seeing Broadway so packed and not having to go far, it was a blessing. ”

It was a big moment for Williams and he took this moment to shine a light on the 615, which is Middle Tennessee and Nashville specifically.

“One thing about Nashville and the one thing about Tennessee, the 615 is on the comeup and the players that are going to come out of Vanderbilt soon. The players that are going to come out of Nashville soon are definitely some people you have to watch out for.  A lot of people overlook the state and Nashville players but we’re definitely on the comeup.”

Williams is just one of many guys that are recently into the NFL that have come through Nashville, joining the likes of Jalen Ramsey and Derek Barnett, who both were Nashville area products. And as far as who he is and where he came from, Joejuan definitely credits where he went to college and how he grew up for shaping him into who he is today.

“Growing up it was just me and my mom and my brother. My granny and my uncle were great crutches for us, but we grew up project home to project home and that’s something that I look back on and I wouldn’t be the person I am without them. My mom made a lot of sacrifices for me..”

Williams is a super-talented player and will undoubtedly make an impact for the Patriots, but the biggest thing is that you can tell that how he grew up and what he has observed in his life shaped him into the man he is today and the hard-nosed, determined player he is going to be in the NFL.

(Photo fcoutesy of Michael Johnson)                                                                                                (photo courtesy of Michael Johnson)


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Kyler Murray Selected with the 1st Overall Pick Fri, 26 Apr 2019 21:43:21 +0000 There were so many different scenarios put out there leading up to the NFL Draft. Kyler Murray was deemed the number one pick and then there were many questions that came after. Then came the report that he may not go 1st overall and there were names floated out there like Ohio State’s Nick Bosa. Well, all that drama can now be over and thankfully for Kyler Murray, he did end up being the first overall pick.

“Arizona is where I wanted to be,” said Murray when speaking to the media for the first time after being drafted by the Cardinals. The usually cool, calm and collected quarterback admitted that he was a little nervous heading into the pick and that when he was picked, he was glad it was done.

Speaking of the team he’s going to, Murray also is excited that he has the backing of his coach, Kliff Kingsbury.

“He knows what I am capable of and he is behind me. He is going to let me play and be me,” said 2019′s first overall pick.

No one knows what the future holds, but one thing is for sure: Kyler Murray is going to be at the helm of this offense.

The Cardinals have not moved Josh Rosen so far during this draft to the surprise of many, but we know he will be moving at some point down the line. Now instead of wondering who they would select if you believed the rumors of Murray not being drafted first overall, now the Cardinals have to wonder how they can unload Rosen before the season starts.

That answer could come at any time, but what we do know if Kingsbury has his quarterback and it will be fun to see what Murray can do with an offense that likes to put the ball in the air.

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Questionable pick that Seattle selected during Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Draft Fri, 26 Apr 2019 07:58:07 +0000 Seattle, WA- After trading away their best pass rusher Frank Clark to the Chiefs earlier this week, the Seahawks had to go after someone who could be a game-changer on the defensive end. With their first pick, the Seahawks decided to go after L.J. Collier who was the defensive end for TCU. A lot of fans were not happy about the pick and felt like the Seahawks should have gone for an offensive lineman.


The Seahawks like Colliers’ frame and how well he can get past defenders. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Collier reminds him of Michael Bennett. “He has the versatility and the style and the penetration ability,” Carroll said. “He’s really slippery. Terrific pass-rush makeup.”

L.J. fits us,” General manager John Schneider said. “He’s a heavy-handed, tough, chip-on-his-shoulder guy. He lost his mother when he was a freshman in college and he didn’t play well in the last game that she saw, and he’s always used that to his advantage.” Said Carroll: “We think we’ve really got something really special in him. I fell in love with the fact that he’s got a big chip on his shoulder and he wants to prove it and all that.”

Despite having the #29 pick and drafting a player that a lot of teams did not want, the Seahawks have seven more picks and could land some players that can help them out with their offensive line, as well as picking up another wide receiver. Do not count the Seahawks out just yet. “Schneider feels very optimistic on the deck of picks that they have and said this;” We really feel like we’re back in the mix in this draft.”

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Ed Oliver Falls in Buffalo’s Lap Fri, 26 Apr 2019 07:13:40 +0000 In 2018 the Buffalo Bills defense gave opposing offenses fits. After round one of the 2019 NFL Draft those fits will morph in to full blown temper tantrums. Heading in to the draft there were many options for the Bills sitting at the ninth overall pick, but when University of Houston defensive tackle, Ed Oliver, fell in Buffalo’s lap, there was really only one option. ESPN ranked Oliver the third best overall prospect in this years class so selecting him ninth was a no-brainer.

Buffalo finished last season with the second overall defense in terms of yards given up per game. If there was anywhere they could improve on the defensive side of the ball it was in run defense. The Bills gave up 1,839 yards rushing, ranked right in the middle of the pack. They also gave up 17 rushing touchdowns, which is a big reason they gave up over 23 points a game (ranked 18th). Oliver will try and change all of that.

Many compare Oliver’s disruptive behavior to that of Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle, Aaron Donald. While it may be unfair to compare a rookie to a generational talent such as Donald, the Bills Mafia has to be pleased with the pick – especially after having to say goodbye to Bills legendary defensive tackle, Kyle Williams. After the 2018 came to an end, Williams decided to hang it up after 13 seasons in Buffalo.

“What Kyle Williams was able to accomplish over his career is extraordinary. If I can just do half of what he did I would be satisfied but I just want to come in and watch his film and learn from him and hopefully he can kind of mentor me,” said Oliver. I don’t know how much he’s around now but hopefully he can kind of mentor me, show me the ropes, and show me what kept him around so long because I want to have the same success he did.”

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The NFL Draft brings the Special Olympics Unified Flag Football game Fri, 26 Apr 2019 05:57:57 +0000 We saw them bring the Unified Flag football game to the Super Bowl and now the Special Olympics Unified Flag Football game has been brought to Nashville. NFL Community Relations Manager, Amy Mendoza, was once again present as she brought this event to the NFL Draft. With this event though, there was four teams from Tennessee and the NFL was pairing up with Special Olympics Tennessee for the event.

For those that are not aware, the Special Olympics Flag Football game pairs athletes with intellectual disabilities with athletes without and they’re out there on the same team playing football. For this event, Amy was able to get former Tennessee Titans, Gerald McRath and Chris Sanders.

In speaking with Sanders, the event definitely is something he takes great pride in participating in.

“I love participating in the Special Olympics because you get to invest in kids’ lives.”

The event saw smiles brought to kids’ faces and also saw plenty of joy in the face of McRath as he was very involved in playing with the participants.

If you have not, please take a look at the NFL’s partnership with the Special Olympics and all that Ms. Mendoza is doing with the partnership. While some may have some bad feelings about the NFL, this one sure will bring a smile to your face.

Photo by Michael Johnson
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Broncos Chris Harris wants to be paid or traded Wed, 24 Apr 2019 07:27:08 +0000 Denver- This week was supposed to be about who the Denver Broncos may select during the 2019 NFL Draft, but they are having some in-house conflict with Chris Harris. Harris has demanded that the Broncos renew his contract or he wants to be traded.

Harris has been a light for the Broncos when they needed him and he wants longevity, as well as a pay increase for the amount of money that he deserves. As of right now, he is asking for $15 million. The amount of money he is asking would put him up there, as one of the highest players played at cornerback.

During a press conference on Tuesday, reporters asked if the Broncos were going to negotiate a deal before or after the draft and general manager John Elway said that the team would talk about it after the draft. “We’ll talk about it,” Elway told reporters. “Doesn’t mean we’ll do it.”

Harris is in his final year in his contract and will be only making $8.5 million and he is done playing the waiting game. With the draft around the corner, it could be possible that this intensified conflict could result in a trade to get a pick that the Broncos desperately needs. Harris is 29 and still is playing at a top level at his position, so age could play a huge factor at the amount that the Broncos or other teams may give him.

Anything could happen in the next few days, so hold on tight to this rocky roller coaster ride.


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Faith, family, and football: Inside the journey of NFL Draft prospect Lester Cotton, Sr. Wed, 30 Nov -0001 00:00:00 +0000 University of Alabama offensive lineman Lester Cotton, Sr. is getting ready for one of the biggest days of his life as the 2019 NFL Draft approaches. Surrounded by the people closest to him, Lester will watch the Draft from home in hopes of a NFL team calling his name. While those three days can be unsettling, Cotton will have a rare sense of calm because instead of focusing on anxiousness, he is relying on the three pillars that have gotten him this far: faith, family, and football.

The Journey

A graduate of Tuscaloosa High School, Cotton was one of the top players in the state of Alabama and an elite offensive line prospect nationally. The local product’s accolades got the attention of Coach Nick Saban and Alabama’s elite football program. Lester ultimately chose Alabama over Auburn, USC, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss. Alabama was the ideal fit and provided the perfect preparation as Cotton began his journey to the NFL.

“Alabama has prepared me a lot. I feel like I got a stepping stone over a lot of other players,” Cotton explained. “There were a lot of elite players on one team and a lot of star players and first-rounders on one team. You’re going against them everyday, as hard as you can, and competing. Your preparation can’t get no better than that. At Alabama, there were no days off. We got nights to go to sleep but in the morning you had to come work. It’s like a real job. A lot of people say Alabama is the NFL, just on a college level. I shall see how that is once I get into the NFL.”

A 6’-5 offensive guard, Cotton played in four games his freshman year as a reserve offensive tackle for the Crimson Tide. Cotton really began to shine his junior year, establishing a starting role at right guard and starting 13 games. He became a powerful presence on an offensive line that was named a finalist for the Joe Moore Award and helped lead an offensive line that ranked second in the SEC and 13th nationally in rushing with 250.6 yards per game while ranking second in the SEC and 15th nationally in scoring offense (37.1 ppg). It was also around his junior year that Lester contemplated declaring for the NFL Draft.

“I had a lot of thinking to do my junior year” Cotton said. “It’s a little nerve-wrecking because you got a lot of people telling you where you’ll go. You should come out or you should stay. But a lot of times, if you want a real good answer, just listen to your parents. My mom and my dad told me they would rather me graduate and have a degree because I know football won’t be there forever. That was my solution on should I stay or leave.”

So Lester returned to Alabama for his senior year where he moved to left guard after starting 18 games at right guard in his first three seasons. The transition wasn’t easy but it made him a versatile player which is a selling point for many NFL teams.

“A lot of people think switching to left guard was easy but it really comes with challenges,” Cotton said. “You’ve got to flip the entire playbook over in your head. It’s not like it’s going to take you months to get the position down but it will throw you off a little bit because you’re used to being on one side then you go to another side. It’s like a new environment. You have to get comfortable with the people next to you. You’ve got to earn that trust and stuff like that. But Coach Saban doing that for me while I was in college is going to be a stepping stone for whatever team I go to. I can be flexible and know how to play in each position.”

Switching positions wasn’t the only big change for Cotton. His senior year was mentally tough all-around with the birth of his son, striving to overcome a knee injury, and dealing with the reality that his college career was coming to an end. But through it all, Lester remained steadfast.

His success on the field recently earned him an opportunity to be among 19 athletes participating in the University of Alabama’s Pro Day. This was his chance to showcase his versatility to NFL coaches and scouts. However, Cotton thought it was necessary to make some lifestyle changes leading up to his Pro Day debut. He shed 25 pounds and built it back up to straight muscle, changed his diet, and worked with a trainer to improve how he worked out. This turnaround gave him the boost he needed to perform well.

“When it got to Pro Day, I was really confident,” Cotton shared. “I didn’t have no type of nervousness. I just thought of it as a day to prove myself in front of a lot of teams and that’s what I did. I felt like I did really good. I had a lot of workouts afterwards with a lot of teams. I had a lot of calls. I was really happy to get that opportunity because not a lot of people get that opportunity in a league like this.”

Now he awaits the final piece of the puzzle as the NFL Draft nears. Cotton left Alabama with two National Championships, four playoff appearances, and a degree in Exercise Science. He plans on returning for his Masters in Kinesiology. Additionally, obtaining a degree was one of his biggest accomplishments, making him the first person in his family to graduate from college.

Faith, Family, and Community

Born in Tuscaloosa, AL, and raised in East St. Louis, Illinois before returning to Alabama, Cotton spent most of his time with his mother. His father was present but lived in another state which meant there were times when his mother played both roles. Now a dad himself, his mother’s influence is still a big part of the man he has become.

“My mom played the fatherhood role a lot,” Cotton said. “Raising three boys is no walk in the park. She sacrificed a lot to make sure we were alright. She always taught us if we just put God first and let him lead the way then everything else don’t matter. That’s just what we went by. Plus we’re a church family so we just always put God first in everything. My mom just said if I ever came into a situation where I didn’t have answers, always talk to God. He’ll find a way for me to find the answer to see what I need to do.”

It is the faith his mom instilled in him that has served as a strong foundation throughout his life. Especially when he faced challenges and adversity. At a young age, Cotton experienced bullying and while it admittingly bothered him, he turned it into inspiration to give back to both the East St. Louis and Tuscaloosa communities. He is often a motivational speaker to students at local schools to help them through similar issues or to just provide them with encouragement and direction.

“Once I get to another level and have more funds, I can do other stuff,” Cotton said. “I want to build a program for people who have been through bullying, fighting depression and stuff like that. When I was younger, I was being bullied so I know how that feels. Can’t walk into the school and have a normal day without someone picking on you. I just feel like people like that need to be heard of or spoken about. Those guys might be really talented but somebody that don’t like the fact that they’re talented, and they not, will try to keep them down.”

In addition to giving back to the community, his family keeps him going on many different levels. His son and fiancé are two of his biggest motivators.

“My fiancé and son have made me so much stronger than I ever was,” Cotton said. “My son is like my own little alarm. I wake up before he wakes up ready to go. I love my family. God, family then football. Football is not always going to be there but my family is always going to be there. I just want them to know that when I come home, I’m not just this athlete. I’m a fiancé and a dad.”

More than an athlete

Just like the rest of us, Cotton has a variety of talents and interests. Although football is his passion it doesn’t define him. His father encouraged him to learn how to do other things besides football. Some of his hidden talents and skills include detailing cars, laying bricks, building homes, and pouring concrete. Most surprisingly, Lester revealed that he likes to draw and sketch.

“I just picked up a penWill Smith by Lester Cotton, Sr. cil and started sketching,” Cotton said. “It would turn into a whole picture of something. I drew Will Smith once. I drew myself once. It’s not an art museum picture but you know exactly who it is when you see it. It’s just something I like to do on the side when I’m in a good mood.”

Cotton is also a Marvel movie fan with Thor and the Avengers being his favorites out of the collection but not for the reasons you may think. Cotton appreciates the way the Marvel characters come together as a team to accomplish a task as a unit. It reminds him of his days at Alabama.

“It wasn’t like this big star on the field that was trying to do it all for himself. We were all working together to dominate the next team, to dominate the next play, to score a touchdown, to stop them from scoring, and all this stuff. That’s why I like Marvel. You see the team working as one like we did at Alabama.”

His musical interests include rap but when it really comes down to it he can always count on old school classics to get him through.

The Final Destination

Similar to many other NFL Draft prospects, Cotton will find out his final destination between Thursday-Saturday. His good friend, former Alabama teammate, and Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Cam Robinson has given him one helpful piece of advice as he prepares for the next level: “be ready to work.”

The process hasn’t been easy but his family will be right there with him like they have been his entire journey. In fact, the support of his mom, dad, brothers, fiancé, and son have pushed him when he didn’t have the energy to push himself. Although he isn’t looking forward to being away from them to pursue his NFL dreams, he’s ready to prove himself. It doesn’t matter what team dials his number.

“When Draft comes, whoever calls is going to be surprising to me,” Cotton said. “I’m just hoping my name gets called.”

No matter the outcome, Lester Cotton, Sr. knows he has done everything he can to come out on top.


Follow us on Twitter: @CaritaCParks @PlayerInsiders.


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