How about we change things up a bit and start off the day with something uplifting, inspirational and positively heartwarming? Yeah, didn’t think you’d mind.
In a classy move reminiscent of Eric LeGrand and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a couple of years ago, the New Orleans Saints announced Saturday that they have signed former Tulane football player Devon Walker to an NFL contract. During a game against Tulsa in September of 2012, Walker suffered a severe spinal cord injury attempting to make a tackle and was paralyzed from the neck down.
Walker spent three months in the hospital before being released and returning to school at Tulane. In 2013, the former defensive back was named the recipient of the Disney Spirit Award.
Shortly after receiving his degree in cell and molecular biology Saturday afternoon, Walker was surprised by Saints head coach Sean Peyton with the contract from the club.
“When Devon got hurt, his football career was just starting to take off after three years of hard work,” Peyton said in a statement. “Despite the devastating injury he suffered, Devon refuses to let that define him.
“He is an outstanding young man, who is not only an inspiration to his coaches and teammates at Tulane, but to all of us. Devon’s character, determination, intelligence and work ethic are everything that we look for in a New Orleans Saint when we sign a player. This is the least we can do to recognize Devon and these attributes that we want all of our players to have.”
Bravo, Sean Peyton and the New Orleans Saints. And God bless you, Devon Walker, for showing the sports world what it truly means to have heart and for the inspiration you have been and will continue to be.
(Photo credit: Tulane University)
After nearly a month on the job, Jeff Tedford has made his first official hires at Fresno State.
Tuesday, Fresno announced that Tedford has added four assistant coaches to his first Bulldogs staff — Jamie Christian (running backs/special teams coordinator), Kirby Moore (wide receivers), Scott Thompson (tight ends) and J.D. Williams (defensive backs). Those four represent nearly one-half of what will be a nine-man coaching staff.
Just two of the four have been position coaches at the FBS level before — Christian and Williams.
The former spent the 2016 season as the running backs coach at UNLV, his second season with the Rebels. Christian has also spent time at FBS programs like Houston (2012-14, special teams coordinator/tight ends/inside receivers), Arizona State (2007-11, special teams coordinator/inside receivers) and Idaho (2006, special teams coordinator/running backs).
The latter was also an assistant at UNLV the past two seasons, serving as the corners coach as well. That was his second stint at UNLV, the first coming 2010-13. He’s also been a defensive backs coach at Utah (2009), Washington (2006-08) and Cal (2002-05).
Moore was an offensive grad assistant at Washington last year, his second year in the profession. Thomas was an offensive assistant at USC in 2016. Prior to that, he held football staff positions at USC (2010-15) and Tennessee (2009).
Christian, Thompson and Williams are all former Bulldogs football players. Williams also served as an assistant at his alma mater (2000-01).
He probably won’t win the sport’s most important individual award, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson took home a nice consolation prize on Tuesday.
Watson was announced as the winner of the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback in college football. A three-year starter for the Tigers, Watson has completed 775-of-1,115 career passes for 9,489 yards with 86 touchdowns against 30 interceptions while also adding 1,829 yards and 23 scores on the ground.
Most importantly, he’s led Clemson to back-to-back ACC championships and consecutive trips to the College Football Playoff. His 2nd-ranked Tigers will face No. 3 Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 31.
Watson was named a Heisman Trophy finalist on Monday for a season in which he’s thrown for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Recent winners of the Unitas award are Colt McCoy, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota and, in 2015, Connor Cook. Watson will accept the honor at a ceremony in Baltimore on Friday night before jetting up for the Heisman ceremony on Saturday.
On Monday, Army displayed the World War II-themed uniforms the Black Knights will wear against Navy on Saturday.
On Tuesday, it was Navy’s turn.
With President-elect Donald Trump in attendance, the Midshipmen will put their 14-game winning streak on the line by channeling one of the best Navy teams of all-time — the 1963 bunch.
That 1963 team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach and finished the season ranked No. 2 in both polls, falling to No. 1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
The ’63 game remains one of the most memorable in the 116-year history of the game, played on the insistence of Jacqueline Kennedy amid talk of canceling the contest following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
And, oh by the way, Navy won that fabled game, 21-15.
Christian McCaffrey will declare for the NFL Draft, according to a report from Matt Miller of Bleacher Report.
He would join Texas’s D'Onta Foreman and LSU’s Leonard Fournette among early entrant running backs.
McCaffrey, of course, offers a different skill set than those two and any other running back. Just as much a threat catching the ball or as a returner, McCaffrey set the FBS single-season all-purpose yardage record — rushing for 2,019 yards and eight touchdowns, receiving for 645 yards and five scores, accumulating 1,070 kick return yards with one touchdown and returning punts for 130 yards and a touchdown. He finished runner-up to Derrick Henry in the Heisman Trophy voting while leading Stanford to the Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl victory.
This season, McCaffrey’s profile dropped as Stanford dropped from the national title conversation, but he actually improved as a running back. McCaffrey’s averages jumped in both yards per game (145.1 vs. 144.2) and yards per carry (6.3 vs. 6.0).
Assuming he does indeed declare, McCaffrey will wrap up his Cardinal career as Stanford faces North Carolina in the Sun Bowl (2 p.m. ET Dec. 30, CBS).