By and large, the handful of spring games contested Saturday were rather pedestrian and mundane affairs, as should be expected.
Then there was Nebraska’s spring closer.
In the fourth quarter of the Cornhuskers’ annual spring game, No. 22 Jack Hoffman trotted off the sidelines and onto the field as the Red team was facing a critical fourth-and-one. Now, you won’t find Hoffman in your game-day program or on any online roster; you see, Jack is a seven-year-old little boy who is battling pediatric brain cancer and has been adopted by the NU football family.
With quarterback Taylor Martinez lined up in the shotgun, and Jake lined up directly to his left, well, the following happened:
“That was awesome for the team and for Jack,” Martinez said after the game in quotes distributed by the school. “He’s going to remember that for the rest of his life and so will I. It was awesome for him to score that touchdown.”
“Yeah, we drew up the play probably 30 seconds before so I’m sure it was all a blur for him,” fullback C.J. Zimmerer, who has been involved with Team Jack for several months, said. “I was telling some of the other reporters that he did a great job. We wanted to get him around the edge, giving him a nice lane to the end zone. He did a great job running his little legs there. He’s fast for a little guy. He did a great job for the pressure of 60,000 fans. I’m sure it was not very easy for a 7-year-old.”
To put an official stamp on the heartwarming, lump-in-the-throat gesture, here’s a portion of the box score Nebraska sent out following the spring game. Pay particular attention to the Red team’s leading rusher:
God bless little Jack as he continues his brave fight against this insidious disease. And God bless the Nebraska football program for what they have done, did and will continue to do for that little boy and his family.
In the run-up to the Notre Dame-Ohio State Fiesta Bowl following the 2015 regular season, many a pundit pounded the pulpit on the plethora of potential next-level players* who would litter the field that night. At least in this instance, said pundits absolutely nailed it.
As the dust has settled in Chicago and the 2016 NFL draft has been put to bed, the tally is official: a whopping 19 Buckeyes and Fighting Irish players who took part in or were on the roster for OSU’s 16-point win in the desert were selected in the seven rounds of the annual selection meeting.
The Buckeyes, who entered Day 3 with a record 10 players drafted the first two days, finished with 12 players plucked by various NFL clubs. While that total is impressive, it falls just short of the record of 14 set by… the 2004 Buckeyes.
They did, though, set one record on the day, and at their own expense.
The Irish, meanwhile — and if you can calculate at a third-grade level — saw seven players selected in the draft. While it was a good haul, it was tied fourth, along with Alabama and Florida, behind OSU’s 12, Clemson’s nine and UCLA’s eight.
There were nine schools that had five players each drafted: Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Penn State, Stanford, TCU and West Virginia.
(*Alarmed at a little alliteration?)
While Miami had not yet confirmed it, one of the most talented Hurricanes on the defensive side of the ball, Al-Quadin Muhammad (pictured, right), underwent a successful but unspecified surgical procedure recently. And just how did we know that initially? Because the player posted a picture of himself laying in a hospital bed and clothed in hospital garb, that’s how.
Subsequent to Muhammad’s social media revelation, the university confirmed that the lineman had undergone “a small surgical procedure… on his knee.” Muhammad is expected to resume football activities in a couple of weeks.
The redshirt junior played in 12 games in 2015, leading the team in both tackles for loss (8.5) and sacks (five). He’ll enter summer camp, provided he doesn’t suffer a setback, as arguably the Hurricanes’ top pass rusher.
Sadly, tragedy has hit the college football community yet again.
Troy confirmed in a press release that Trojans football player Nathan Harris has passed away due to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident earlier Saturday. Harris was just 19 years old.
Other than the accident occurred in Gulf Shores, Ala., no details were made available.
“This is an unthinkable tragedy and the thoughts and prayers of the Troy Athletics Department and the Troy University community are with Nathan’s family and friends,” Troy athletic director Jeremy McClain said in a statement. “It is devastating to see a young life end in such a heartbreaking way, and we will provide support and comfort for his teammates, friends and coaches as they go through the grieving process.”
“Nate was a tremendous person and a very caring young man,” a statement from Troy head coach Neal Brown said began. “While his time here at Troy University was brief, his impact was felt by many. He was loved by his teammates and had a positive effect on our team’s culture in a short time.”
Harris, who starred as a quarterback at Gulf Shores High School, joined the Troy football team as a walk-on this past semester. During the course of spring practice, Harris had worked his way up to being the Trojans’ starting holder. He was listed as a safety on the school’s online roster.
The sudden passing is hitting the Gulf Shores community particularly hard.
“We are struggling here,” Harris’ high school coach, Ben Blackmon, told WALA-TV, adding, “He has gone to live with God.”
Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to all of those impacted by Harris’ passing.
In each of the last two years, the Big Ten was barely within 20 of the SEC in total draft selections. In the 2016 version of the annual selection meeting, the former conference gained significant ground on the latter — but couldn’t quite get over that Southern hump.
With three days and seven rounds officially in the books, the SEC led all conferences with 51 players selected in the 2016 NFL draft. That total is down from the 54 a year ago, but up from 49 in the 2014 draft.
The past two drafts, the Big Ten had gone from 30 picks in 2014 to 34 in 2015; thanks in large part to 12 from Ohio State, that conference made a B1G leap to 47, second-most of any other conference in college football this cycle and the closest any league has come to unseating the SEC in a handful of years. The last two years, the ACC, No. 2 in 2014 and 2015, got to within seven of the SEC — 47 picks in 2015 for that conference, 42 the year before.
This year, the ACC’s 26 selections were tied with the Big 12 for No. 4 among conferences. No. 3? The Pac-12, with a whopping nine picks in the seventh and final round, with 32.
No Group of Five conference could come close to the Power Five leagues, with the AAC and Conference USA pacing those “mid-majors” with 10 draft picks each. The Mountain West was next with nine, followed by the MAC with six and the Sun Belt with three.
Independents saw eight players drafted, with Notre Dame accounting for all but one of those (more on the Irish later).
From the lower divisions of college football, 21 FCSers were drafted while two from Div. II were scooped up. And, internationally, there was one player each from Canada and Germany who heard their name called.