Associated Press

Stanford’s Solomon Thomas will forego remaining eligibility for NFL

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Just a few days after a dominating bowl performance, Solomon Thomas has made that performance the final clip of his collegiate highlight reel.

In a heartfelt — and lengthy — missive, Thomas announced that he was foregoing his remaining eligibility at Stanford and making himself available for the 2017 NFL draft this April.  As he had redshirted as a true freshman in 2014, the defensive end had two years of eligibility remaining.

This season, Thomas led the Cardinal in tackles (62), tackles for loss (15) and sacks (eight).  He was named first-team All-Pac-12 and was a second-team All-American according to, among others, the Football Writers Association of America.

Thomas has been widely projected as a first-round selection in the upcoming draft, and should only see his stock rise in the coming months.

Below is Thomas’ very classy farewell letter to the Stanford community, in its entirety.

To my Stanford family,

Since pulling out a symbolic Stanford tree and donning nerd glasses on National Signing Day in 2014, I have had the most amazing time of my life. I have grown and matured more than I ever could have imagined. I arrived at Stanford somewhat shy and uncertain; now I stand a curious, intelligent, dedicated, and motivated man who is ready to take on any challenge, including the NFL. With the support of my family, I have decided to forgo my last years of eligibility at Stanford and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.

To my Stanford brothers, you all mean the world to me and I love you all. You each helped mold me into a better man. From laughing in the locker room, to sweating in the weight room, to grinding on the field — you are the reason I have loved every second of my time here. Our collective goal to not only be the best team, but also the best individuals, connects us on another level. You are all men I look up to as role models and aspire to be like. We have a special bond at Stanford, one that I am so proud to be a part of. I’m so lucky to have you as brothers: this is the most amazing blessing in my life.

Coach Shaw, you are the ultimate role model. Your influence and your values, have been permanently ingrained in me. Your loyalty to this program and your players is something that I will never forget.

I am so thankful to you for recruiting, coaching, and mentoring me.

I love you, Coach Shaw.

Coach Reynolds, you have taught me things that go far beyond football. Because of you and the lessons you have instilled in us, I have not only grown as a football player, but have grown tremendously as a man.

I love you, Coach Reynolds.

Coach Turley, you are one of the most respected men in this program. You push me past my limits and comfort –mentally and physically — to a new level as a man, athlete, and player.

I love you, Coach Turley.

I want to thank God, as without Him, nothing is possible. I want to thank my family for their unconditional love. I want to thank my brothers and coaches for all that we have shared in making these years the best of my life. I want to thank the entire Stanford family. Your kindness, generosity, and love have transformed me into the man I am today. You have changed my life in ways you will never know.

I am so honored, thankful, and grateful for my time at Stanford. I love this game so much and playing in the NFL has been my dream since I was six years old. The lessons I have learned at Stanford have more than prepared me for this next step. I am so blessed by all of the people who have touched my life here. These qualities will stay with me my entire life.

I am ready.

Forever a tree.

Forever a nerd.

Forever Cardinal.

With much love,
Solomon Thomas

Virginia Tech defends decision to put Michael Vick in Hokies Hall of Fame

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Athletically, there is no question Michael Vick belongs in Virginia Tech’s athletics hall of fame. Heck, the Hokies might as well name the thing after him.

In his two seasons on campus, Vick (pictured, left) threw for 3,299 yards and 21 touchdowns — averaging 9.6 yards per attempt on 56 percent completions, in an era where anything over 50 was considered above-average — while adding an electrifying 1,299 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Vick led the Hokies to a 22-2 record, a Big East championship and appearance in the BCS national title game as a redshirt freshman in 1999, a campaign that saw him finish third in Heisman Trophy voting.

He was essentially a combination of Vince YoungJohnny Manziel and Allen Iverson, in a time when the I-formation and pocket passers still ruled college football.

But there is, of course, the non-football side of Vick’s life.

In the prime of his career — he came 26 passing yards short of a 2,500/1,000 season in 2007 — Vick’s NFL career essentially ended when he was convicted of running a dogfighting ring and served 21 months in federal prison. And all throughout that time, Virginia Tech was tangentially related to the biggest villain in sports.

Still, Virginia Tech announced earlier this month that Vick was a member of its 5-person 2017 Sports Hall of Fame class, to be inducted on Friday, Sept. 22. Vick’s inclusion generation a petition that has drawn more than 2,500 signatures protesting the decision.

“You know one of my friends volunteered to go down to his residence where all of this took place at the aftermath to help with the cleanup, if you want to put it that way,” Virginia Tech graduate and petition creator Jennifer Breeden told Collegiate Times. “It’s just kind of an embarrassment that (Virginia Tech) would want to honor someone like that.”

Arguing that Vick has paid his debt to society and shown remorse for his actions, Virginia Tech on Friday released the following statement saying that Vick will remain in the 2017 class.

Mr. Vick’s induction into the university’s sports hall of fame acknowledges his tremendous achievements as a student athlete—who some will say was the greatest in the history of the university.

We understand that there are those who do not and will never agree with this decision.

In considering Mr. Vick’s nomination to our sports hall of fame, the criminal activities in which he engaged, his subsequent conviction, and time he served for his crime were also considered.

And it was informed by the remorse he has shown since that conviction, the work he is currently engaged in to advance animal welfare issues, as well as his efforts to help our current student athletes, based on lessons he’s learned in his own life, make positive choices as they begin their adult lives.

This in no way condones the actions for which he was convicted.

The university remains dedicated to the protection of animal health and welfare and embodies great care and compassion for all living animals.

It’ll be interesting to see the reaction Vick gets at the Hokies’ Sept. 23 home game against Old Dominion.

Michigan pulls recruiting director away from former Michigan coach’s staff

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Michigan is set to add Arizona recruiting czar Matt Dudek as its new director of recruiting, according to a report from FootballScoop on Saturday.

CBS Sports’s Dennis Dodd confirmed the report, adding that Michigan is expected to formally announce the move at Big Ten media days on Monday.

The irony, of course, is that Dudek will leave the staff of former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

Dudek had been with Rodriguez shortly after his late 2011 hiring, first as on-campus recruiting coordinator and player personnel director before being named college football’s first general manager after the 2015 season. He helped the Wildcats win the 2014 Pac-12 South championship and was named a finalist for FootballScoop‘s Player Personnel Director of the Year award multiple times. (Disclaimer: I also write for FootballScoop.)

Prior to Arizona, Dudek worked as director of football branding and events at Rutgers and as assistant director of football operations and recruiting coordinator at Pittsburgh.

At Michigan, Dudek will join a staff that already recruits quite capably under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have finished eighth and fifth nationally in 247Sports‘s composite team rankings in Harbaugh’s two full cycles as Michigan’s head coach.

Dudek’s departure will be viewed by some as an anti-show of faith in Rodriguez’s tenure at Arizona. Since that 10-4, top-20 season in 2014, the Wildcats have slipped to 7-6 in 2015 and 3-9 last fall.

WATCH: Mark Richt takes annual backflip off the high dive

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It’s been quite the summer for Mark Richt. His 2018 recruiting class is one of the best in the nation, he taught the nation the most efficient way to eat a sandwich, and on Friday he executed his annual high-dive backflip at a Hurricanes pool party.

(In case you haven’t seen the sandwich bit, watch it below. It’ll change your life.)

As SB Nation catalogues, Richt has made these backflips an annual thing since he was at Georgia in 2015. It was a skill he learned, he says, to impress the ladies after watching Greg Louganis (yes, that Greg Louganis) do it while they were students at Miami.

Richt and Louganis both enrolled at the University of Miami in 1978, and the future Hurricanes’ coach and his teammates would hang out at the university’s pool, where Louganis and the diving team would practice.

“We would watch him,” Richt said. “You’d go to the pool, because that’s where the girls were, right? So we’d watch the divers work out and say, that guy’s pretty good. Turns out he was the best in the world, like, ever. I had a lot of respect for him.”

Here’s this year’s effort.

Not bad for a guy pushing 60.

Nick Saban thinks skipping bowl games could lead to recruits doing same thing in high school

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Grand Poobah of college football and Alabama head coach Nick Saban has had some interesting ideas about the sport over the years that conflict with the general consensus of his peers. The latest subject to fit that mold? How players like Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey skipping their bowl games could filter down to the high school level with recruits.

“Same thing will happen in high school if they make the signing day before the season,” Saban told CBS Sports. “It will take a few years, then some kid will say, ‘Hey, I’m going to Notre Dame. I’m not playing my senior year.'”

The Crimson Tide coach is referencing not only the two tailbacks skipping bowl games but also the possibility that upcoming December signing date could be moved up on the calendar. Big 12 commissioner (and chairman of the Football Oversight Committee) Bob Bowlsby said at his conference media days that the date for signing could be changed or even extended to a longer signing period as part of ongoing discussions about the recruiting process.

Talk of players signing with a college prior to their senior season in high school has not been broadly talked about by coaches or administrators but it does seem like everything is on the table when it comes to NCAA reforms in this area. It remains to be seen if any recruit will actually go as far as sitting out a full year in order to protect himself from injury in order to play in college… just as it remains questionable as to whether Fournette and McCaffrey’s decisions will develop into a broader trend at the college level.

Coaches are no fans of dramatically altering the status quo and it seems Saban is among the group who want to stem the postseason defection of players before things turn into a regular occurrence at any level of football.