Former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam was honored for his courage displayed last season with one of the highest honors out there. Sam was named the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. The award will be presented to the 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year at the 2014 ESPYs later this summer (July 16).
“I’m very honored to be presented with the Arthur Ashe award,” Sam said. “You know I don’t think there is anything courageous I did. I look forward to when we can live life in a world when gays don’t have to come out in public.”
Sam has his sights set on being drafted in the NFL Draft in the next few days. Wherever he ends up, he will be the first openly gay player to suit up in an NFL uniform in league history, breaking down a perceived barrier in sports. Sam revealed his sexuality to his Missouri teammates and coaches last summer, but the news was not broken until after the season thanks to a team decision to stand by Sam and allow him to break the news on his terms instead of having it leaked. That Sam’s sexual preference was kept silent for so long in this age of new media and instant news is an incredible testament to Missouri’s entire football program.
Sam put together one of the top individual performances during the 2013 season in the SEC, as demonstrated by his Defensive Player of the Year award. Sam helped lead Missouri to an SEC East division championship and berth in the SEC Championship Game in the program’s second year in the conference. The Tigers lost to Auburn in the conference title game but rebounded to win the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State. Now Sam joins a list of names honored for a variety of displays of courage including Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, Billie Jean King and Pat Summitt.
Talk about a hard-luck story.
After never starting a game at Iowa, Aaron Mends (pictured, blocking punt) had earned a starting job at outside linebacker during practice this spring. With football being the cruel mistress that it can be at times, the Hawkeyes announced Friday night that Mends “will miss an extended period of time due to injury.” The program offered no details as to the specific nature of the injury, although it’s believed to involve the knee.
According to the school’s release, the fifth-year senior suffered the injury during the final week of Iowa’s spring drills.
Mends was a three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class. He was the highest-rated linebacker in Iowa’s class that year.
After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Mends has played in 38 games the past three seasons. A baker’s dozen of those appearances came during the 2017 season.
We’re less than a week away from former college players officially finding out their new homes with the start of the 2018 NFL Draft and the excitement is palpable no matter if you’re a Cleveland Browns fan or somebody who dons the cardinal and gold of USC.
Naturally this is a big deal for the players’ former programs as well and their recent head coaches will be taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity to future recruits by stopping by the draft itself at AT&T Stadium for the festivities. The NFL released a list of 14 college football coaches and one recent one on Friday as being confirmed to attend the event and there are a few notable names beyond the big ones we’re used to seeing every year:
In addition, Stanford head coach David Shaw will serve as a draft analyst on NFL Network for a seventh year in a row and even ESPN’s College GameDay is getting involved with a pregame show outside the stadium they are quite familiar with from big games over the years.
Georgia’s injury luck this spring isn’t getting much better as the defending SEC champions move toward their annual G-Day spring game over the weekend.
Head coach Kirby Smart confirmed with reporters after Thursday’s practice that sophomore defensive back Mark Webb suffered a knee injury earlier in the week and tore his meniscus. He already had the knee scoped and is expected back before fall camp after the rather minor procedure.
Webb originally landed in Athens as a wideout but made the move to the secondary just as the season was getting going. He appeared in 13 games in 2017, mostly on special teams, but was expected to challenge for one of the starting spots at cornerback heading into the upcoming campaign.
The absence of Webb in the lineup for the final week of spring adds to a growing list of injuries for the team during practice as they do a little bit of roster building toward the future. Receiver Michael Chigbu’s career may be over due to lingering injuries and defensive back Divaad Wilson tore his ACL not long after enrolling this semester.
Safe to say that G-Day on Saturday might not be as physical as Smart and the coaching staff would otherwise like as a result of trying to keep the team healthy as they prepare to head into a big offseason.
Old Dominion is making sure the first word in the school’s name is not the first thing you think of when you are playing against the Monarchs, joining a long list of their FBS peers with some significant upgrades for their home venue over the coming years. In plans approved this week by the university, ODU released renderings and an updated timeline on a $65 million remodel of S.B. Ballard Stadium that is set to begin as soon as this summer.
“We are excited to begin Phase 1 reconstruction,” said Greg DuBois, the school’s vice president for administration and finance. “Fan comfort and high-quality amenities are the primary focus of this phase. The project will help us create the type of game-day experience fans want and will set us up for future expansions.”
The stadium, some 81-years-old, will undergo a nearly complete teardown over the next two years in order to transform the place most know as Foreman Field. Both the east and west stands will be demolished and rebuilt, complete with new seating and a new press box. There will naturally be more restrooms and concession stands as part of the plan that includes plenty more bells and whistles for the Conference USA program. Seating is expected to grow beyond 21,000 or so capacity the current venue seats.
While construction will get started in the coming months, the bulk of activity will take place after the 2018 campaign is wrapped up at home and before kickoff of the opener in 2019. The Virginian-Pilot reports that funding will not utilize state funds but that the school is requesting that the legislature approve an added $10 million to the cost structure as a result of rising prices beyond the original $55 million forecasted.
2018 will be just the 10th season for the Monarchs (and fifth in FBS) since the football program was reinstated and it goes without saying that the new digs will be some of the nicest in CUSA when all is said and done. Few programs have been able to successfully navigate the transition as well as ODU has and it seems an updated stadium in the near future is the reward for head coach Bobby Wilder and others in Norfolk.