Ark. St. player killed in home invasion called ‘a hero’

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Police investigating a double homicide in Jackson, Tenn., are referring to one of the victims, an Arkansas State football player, as “a hero.”

Red Wolves defensive lineman Markel Owens, along with his stepfather Johnny Shivers, were gunned down late Wednesday night by two masked intruders who were attempting to rob the family in their apartment.  Owens’ mother, 37-year-old Chermaine Owens, was shot during the home invasion but survived, thanks in part, police said, by her 21-year-old son’s heroics.

“I think Mr. Owens had just arrived home minutes before this happened,” Jackson Police Department Captain Tyreece Miller told the Jackson Sun Thursday. “After interviewing the witnesses about what happened, we believe there was an initial struggle between Shivers and one of the men. We believe Owens attempted to protect his family or defend his mother and stepfather. He could have perhaps saved his mother’s life. …

I believe Owens should be regarded as a hero.”

In an interview with KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Miller again referenced heroics on the part of Owens.

“I believe he intervened because he saw his stepfather,” said Capt. Miller. “He witnessed him get shot and he was protecting him and his mother. I think that it was heroic and it cost him his life, unfortunately.”

Police have surmised the two alleged killers, who have yet to be identified or apprehended, followed Shivers to his residence.  The Sun wrote that “[p]olice have said they believe the robbers were targeting Shivers and that marijuana was found inside Shivers’ home.”  Police also told the TV station that the armed intruders “got away with a large amount of money.”

Shivers was pronounced dead at the scene, while Owens succumbed to his gunshot wounds after being transported to a local hospital.  When police arrived at the residence, Owens’ mother was found lying in the front yard and taken for treatment.  She was treated and released from the hospital a short time later.

Shortly after the tragedy involving Owens was reported, Arkansas State released statements addressing the passing of a player who would’ve been entering his final season of college football in 2014.

“Our worst fears were realized as an athletics department after being notified early this morning about the unfortunate news about Markel,” said athletic directorTerry Mohajir. “We’re deeply sadden and our utmost sympathies go out to his family, teammates and classmates. Please join me in prayer for so many people who are being impacted by the loss of Markel.”

“Markel was a part of our Red Wolves family, and it is obvious he was a well-liked and respected member of our team who will be missed,” ASU head football coach Blake Anderson said. “We are doing everything possible to comfort his teammates, and we extend our compassion to his family during this difficult time.”

Alabama QB Jalen Hurts uses photo of Clemson celebrating title win as motivational phone background

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Nick Saban said last week that the loss to Clemson in the the national championship game earlier this year is one that he’ll never get over, although he didn’t go so far as to compare it to a death in the family. One playing member of Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide team is taking to steps to ensure that he never forgets, either.

Jalen Hurts was the Tide’s talented true freshman starting quarterback who helped lead ‘Bama into the title game and, with a 30-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left, gave his team a 31-28 lead. That lead was short-lived, however, as Deshaun Watson led his Tigers on an epic 88-yard drive that was capped by his two-yard touchdown pass with just one tick left on the clock for the 35-31 win.

The stunning last-second loss is something that Hurts makes a conscious effort to remind himself of daily as the rising sophomore, as the background on his smartphone, has a picture of Clemson players celebrating their win.

“We’re obviously all on our phones all the time,” Hurts said according to al.com after this past weekend’s spring game. “Every time I unlock it, it’s kind of a reminder. It kind of humbles me and keeps me motivated. …

“It’s not a grudge at all. It’s just something that keeps it on the back of your shoulder like, yeah, it’s still there. Remember why you’re doing it because at the end of the day, the goal for this team is to win the national championship.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.