Can The Bucks Advance In The NBA Playoffs?

Over the weekend, the Milwaukee Bucks completed an impressive sweep of the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Featuring several premier players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the Bucks were able to stifle Miami’s offense and blow the Heat out in the last three games to emphatically state their case as Eastern Conference contenders.

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1398732886128353290

Led by Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee appears to have a renewed confidence and sense of focus after demolishing the Heat and will be a force to be reckoned with in the next couple of months.

A Disappointing Past

Despite having arguably the premier player in the NBA in Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have not advanced as far in the NBA playoffs as most fans would expect in the last two seasons. Milwaukee finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference in each of the prior two years, but could not parlay that regular-season success into a trip to the NBA Finals.

Despite making the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2018-2019 season with home-court advantage, the Bucks could not contain a red hot Kawhi Leonard in that series. Milwaukee ended up losing in six games to the eventual NBA champions. The following season, the Bucks were a little unlucky to have missed out on home-court advantage in the NBA bubble. As a result the Heat, led by premier players Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, seized control of their second-round series. Milwaukee was surprisingly eliminated from the playoffs in five games, and an offseason full of questions began.

“We had a heck of a year, through March 11, a lot of good things, a lot of positives, and when we had our moments here in Orlando. Ultimately, we weren’t able to get it done. Everybody’s dealing with the same circumstances,” Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer expressed. Via USA Today (https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2020/09/08/heat-bucks-game-5-miami-advances-milwaukee-giannis-antetokounmpo/5754124002/)

A Promising Future

After not quite meeting expectations, Milwaukee took significant steps to improve their roster before the 2021 NBA season. They made a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans to acquire premier guard Jrue Holiday. The team also made a savvy free-agent signing, landing big man Bobby Portis. Holiday’s ability to defend on the perimeter and Portis’ ability to provide some scoring punch off the bench has made a big difference for the Bucks this season, and against Miami in the first round. Milwaukee also aggressively locked up Antetokounmpo for the near future, ensuring that one of the premier players in the league will keep them in the title mix. He signed a five-year, $228 million extension in December 2020.

“Peaking at the right moment—we really feel we’re doing that,” said Bucks center Brook Lopez. “And we still feel like we’re getting better each and every single night.” Via ESPN.com (https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/31534025/giannis-antetokounmpo-milwaukee-bucks-sweep-miami-heat-reach-eastern-conference-semifinals)

Potential 2nd Round Opponents

As the third-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks will await the completion of the series between the second-seeded Brooklyn Nets and seventh-seeded Boston Celtics. The Nets currently lead the series two games to one but are favored by many to be the favorites to come out of the East. If Milwaukee faced Brooklyn, they would have to come up with a strong game plan against premier players Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. In the regular season, the Bucks beat the Nets two out of three times they played. It would be a difficult matchup, and the Bucks would need to play strong defense to limit Brooklyn’s explosive offense.

Milwaukee would also need to have answers for Boston’s premier players if they squared off in the next round. Jayson Tatum scored 50 points in game three against Brooklyn. The Celtics beat the Bucks in two out of three games in the regular season, but Milwaukee would be favored to advance in this matchup.

Article by Andrew Pistone

Ball Brothers Keeping It All In The Family

It’s a pretty big deal to have a star athlete in the Family, it’s fantastic to have two, but now many families can boast three stars under the same roof. That’s certainly not your typical American Family, but there’s nothing ordinary about the Balls. Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo Ball are children of LaVar and Tina Ball, and they’ve been garnering national attention for almost a decade. These premier players are living the dream, and the only way is up for this baller family. Here we’ll be taking an in-depth look into what makes the boys tick, their journey to superstardom, and whether they can all play in the NBA, fulfilling their exuberant father’s prediction. So without further ado, let’s Ball!

Who are the Ball Brothers?

The ball brothers are three premier players born in Anaheim, California, part of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Lonzo Ball is the starting point guard of the New Orleans Pelicans in the National Basketball Association (NBA). In comparison, the second Ball brother is LiAngelo, a free agent waiting for a shot in the NBA. The third Ball brother is LaMelo, the superstar rookie point guard on the Charlotte Hornets team in the NBA. These brothers have a mere four years between them, and they’ve played on numerous teams together, coached mainly by their dad LaVar, and achieving remarkable success.

The Ball Brothers are amongst the most famous basketball players on Instagram, as they have over ten million followers when you merge their accounts. At the same time, they regularly rack up millions of likes for pictures and views for videos. The brothers are fierce competitors and are known to out winning above any other thing, as they have the laurels to back it up. The Ball Brothers prefer to let their talking be done on the court, and they’ve brought significant success to most teams they’ve played for before the NBA dream. So what’s the grand dream?

The Dream

The Ball Brothers grew up idolizing stars like Lebron James (Lonzo’s former teammate), Michael Jordan (LaMelo’s current team owner), and Jason Kidd (for point guard reasons). As such, the boys have always had the NBA in their sights, and it’s pretty awesome to see that two of them are currently living the dream. Lonzo is presently playing point guard on a team with Brandon Ingram, the most improved player in the NBA, and has a confident Zion Williamson who needs no introduction. LaMelo, on the other hand, is a runaway favorite to win the rookie of the year honor, thanks to his sparkling debut season as a member of the Charlotte Hornets (who you probably know is owned by the GOAT).

However, LiAngelo, the middle child, hasn’t found it so lucky yet. First off was the China incident, which looking back, seemed to set the talented shooting guard on the wrong foot. Then the coronavirus pandemic ruined his rookie G league season, where he ought to have shown his worth. Also, recently he had a spell at the Detroit Pistons that did not pan out so well. However, this premier player isn’t giving up, as he’s super eager to join his brothers on the flashy courts of the best basketball league in the world.

Parting Thoughts

LaVar Ball repeatedly said that his boys will end up as three of the greatest NBA players ever to do it. That might have sounded as just him being LaVar, but it’s looking like these premier players are well on their way. Lonzo Ball has improved his jump shot, he’s playing more confidently than ever, and he’s on an improving team. LiAngelo is getting his act back together, and a couple of groups are showing interest. LaMelo Ball is simply a walking highlight reel and one of the league’s top draws. These premier players are keeping it in the Family, and they’re sure doing their city proud. The sky’s merely the beginning for the ball brothers, as they look to make the NBA Dream an astonishing reality.

Premier Players Article by Olaoluwa Ajayi

The Rise of Veganism In Pro Sports

Did you know the #11 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft is a vegan?  Justin Fields, the former Ohio St. Buckeye standout, will now take snaps under center for the Chicago Bears as one of the league’s first vegan quarterbacks.

Cam Newton, the signal-caller for the New England Patriots has also dabbled in veganism.  Newton is now an ovo-vegan, meaning he abstains from eating meat and dairy products but for eggs.

Tom Brady, of the Super Bowl-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers, also turned to veganism in prior years.  However, Fields will be the NFL’s first 100% vegan quarterback.  It might not be long until the majority of premier players in pro sports become either vegan or vegetarian.

Why Fields Went Vegan

Fields’ transition to veganism stems from his father’s renewed focus on health and fitness.  Fields’ father went vegan a couple of years ago to lose weight.  The transition began with a 28-day challenge in which Fields strictly consumed fruits, veggies, meat alternatives, and other non-dairy items. The star in the making reported the clean eating improved his speed, strength, and overarching health.

Fields’ conversion to veganism spread like wildfire throughout his family, leading to his sister and his stepmother adopting the on-trend diet.  Though Fields’ Ohio State strength and conditioning coach questioned the prudence of shifting away from protein-rich meats to vegan fare, Fields stuck with the new diet, insisting it improved his quality of play.  In fact, Fields has even stated his personal nutritionist questioned whether shifting to veganism was a wise decision.

The proof turned out to be in the pudding, pun intended.  Fields, the definition of a premier player, led his Buckeyes to the National Championship game this past year.  If three other top-notch quarterbacks were not available in the recent NFL draft, Fields likely would have been drafted first overall.  In fact, plenty of draft scouts insist Fields was worthy of a top-three selection.

Veganism is the new Wave

Fields is not the only athlete to shift to veganism.  Though few know it, dozens of other premier players who compete at the highest level have also made the transition.  Examples of other pro athletes who have shifted to veganism include MMA fighter James Wilks, Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton, pro cyclist Dotsie Bausch, figure skater Meagan Duhamel, ironman Rich Roll, and NBA superstar Kyrie Irving.

Venus Williams, arguably the best female tennis player of all time, ditched the meat and animal byproducts for veganism to reduce her joint pain and fatigue tied to an autoimmune disease known as Sjogren’s syndrome.  Other premier players have taken the vegan plunge in an effort to reduce blood pressure, bounce back from injuries much quicker, feel more energized, and help our ever-fragile environment.

Veganism Will be Socially Normative in the Future

Though only 2% of those living in the United States are vegetarian and only one-half of one percent of the country’s population is vegan, those numbers are likely to change.  The majority of those going vegetarian and vegan are millennials and members of the Generation Z age cohort.  If the current trend continues, a considerable percentage of future premier players will be vegan.

Article by Patrick Ryan

MAC JONES: Can He Be The Next Tom Brady?

Many have debated a lot about the New England Patriots dynasty, and it essentially comes down to two premier players: Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. That’s because, for almost two decades, this duo led the Patriots to six super bowls, amassing numerous records in the process.

However, all good things must come to an end, and at the beginning of the 2020-21 season, Tom Brady departed New England for Tampa Bay, winning another super bowl in the process. To say that the Patriots struggled would be an understatement, as they missed the playoffs for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime. The team never missed out on the playoffs when “The GOAT” was healthy.

Missing the playoffs made the franchise hit the refresh button, and for the first time since the mid-90s, they drafted a quarterback as a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

THE NEW QB ON THE BLOCK
Enter Mac Jones, a premier player that doesn’t need any introductions among college football fans, thanks to his heroics as the starting quarterback at the University of Alabama. Initially, a mere backup to the equally illustrious young QB Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones made a name for himself in his first and only season as Alabama’s undisputed starter.

Jones led the team to a national championship and bagged a slew of awards such as the Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, and Manning Awards, all for his sterling contributions to a top-notch offense. The premier player also shattered numerous school, state, and national records in the process, beating marks set by his former competition in Tua.

LOFTY COMPARISONS
It’s almost a disservice to any young quarterback in the world to compare him to the greatest of all time, Tom Brady. That’s because no one could have predicted that a sixth-round pick would have turned out to be a seven-time NFL champion, bagging multiple league MVPs in the process. However, there are a few similarities between Tom and Mac that seemingly show a trend and a reason why Coach Belichick seemed so eager to break with tradition.

First off, both of them have similar builds, they both shine as conductors of star-laden teams, and they both have a startling desire to win. Furthermore, both aren’t exceptional athletes at any stretch of the imagination, but they make up with consistency what they don’t have in athletic ability. Last but not least is the circumstances of their rookie years, as it seems that Mac Jones has his work cut out to dislodge and premier player in Cam Newton, the same way Tom had to bide his time dislodging starter Drew Bledsoe and backups John Friesz and Michael Bishop.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Tom Brady’s success as a world-class quarterback didn’t come easy, and many have attributed it to his work ethic, competitive spirit, pocket awareness, and intelligence. Mac Jones has exhibited some of the above traits, and he’s proved himself as a leader of top-notch prospects. However, the premier player is facing a herculean task replacing the greatest ever to do it, and in the process, he has to dislodge a former MVP.

It’s not the first time that the lad from Jacksonville, FL, has faced stiff competition, and it’s been said he relishes a challenge. Let’s see how it goes, but one thing is for sure, Patriots fans, football critics, and casuals are sure going to have a lot to talk about during the NFL season!

Article by Premier Players

Howard W Tennis Makes Strides Even In Setback

DOVER, Del.  – Howard University women’s tennis team dropped another tough Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) contest on the road at Delaware State (DSU), 2-5.

Despite the setback, HU (0-3, 0-2 MEAC) continues to make strides as a team.

In singles competition, junior Kendall Addison (Charlotte, N.C.) and sophomore Emnet Simunyola (Lorton, Va. and pictured above) each won their respective matches.

After falling in a tough three-set contest the day before (April 2), Addison rebounded to defeat DSU’s Cassandra Boltman in a hard fought three-set match (6-3, 2-6, 6-2). For Simunyola, the Virginia native secured her first collegiate singles victory over Delaware State’s Anastasia Belkina in straight sets (6-1, 7-5).

In doubles play, Simunyola and fellow classmate Alexandra Blackwell (Austin, Texas) took down the Lady Hornets’ Iris Leder and Daria Julia, 6-4.

On April 16-17, both teams travel up the Beltway to meet Loyola (Md.) and conference foe Coppin State. Friday’s contest (April 16) versus the Greyhounds start at 3 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. match time for Saturday’s (April 17) clash with the Eagles.

About Howard Athletics

The Howard University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics sponsors 21 NCAA Division I men and women varsity sports. The programs represent five conferences: the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Northeast Conference (NEC), Sun Belt Conference (SBC), Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) and Atlantic Sun (ASUN) Conference.

For more information, visit the Bison Athletics website at www.HUBison.com.

Pistol Pete Maravich’s Play Amongst The Greatest

When thinking of sporting records that will never be broken, there are a few that come to mind instantly. Usain Bolt running a 9.58-second 100-meter dash would be one of those. Wilt Chamberlain dropping 100 points in an NBA game would be another. Cal Ripken Jr. playing in 2,632 consecutive games – a streak that began in 1982 and lasted until 1998 – would be a third. The general population should have some idea about these well-known records.

However, one premier player feels like he may not get his due when it comes to his legendary achievement. That player is ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich, and his record is his insane scoring average as a college basketball player in the late 1960s.

The second-highest scorer in the history of D1 Men’s Basketball is Freeman Williams. Williams played for Portland State from the 1974-75 season through til the 1977-78 season. In this time, Williams accounted for 3,249 points, and he maintained a scoring average of over 30 points per game in his final three seasons at the school. It is a stunningly impressive number – until you look at what Maravich did at LSU.

‘Pistol’ Pete went for 3,667 points with the Tigers. This is a total of over 400 points more than Williams, or the equivalent of 13 or 14 more games, with Williams scoring at his over 30 point average. If that isn’t crazy enough, Maravich put up his 3,667 points as a premier player from the 1967-68 season through the 1969-70 season. That means that Maravich scored more points than anyone in the history of the sport, even though he was only able to play for three years because, at the time, first-year players had to play on the freshman team at their school and weren’t eligible for varsity play.

Maravich’s averages were as follows:

  • 1967-68 – 43.8 ppg
  • 1968-69 – 44.2 ppg
  • 1969-70 – 44.5 ppg

Maravich never had a single collegiate season where he averaged under 43.8 POINTS PER GAME. Adding to the insanity of this accomplishment is that Maravich played when there was no three-point line. He also played when there was no shot clock so opposing teams could kill the ball in games as and when they wanted. In other words, his scores were kept lower by the rules in place at the time. Given his shooting stroke and with more possessions per contest – plus an extra year of varsity eligibility – it isn’t unreasonable to think that Maravich could have scored over 5,000 points with a different set of rules in place. Former LSU coach Dale Brown once charted every shot ‘Pistol’ Pete made at LSU and said his career average would have been a video game level 57 points per game if the three-point line was drawn in.

Some of Maravich’s game totals were absurd too. He scored at least 60 points in a game four times – against Vanderbilt (61), Kentucky (64), Tulane (66), and Alabama (69) – with no other player ever having more than two such games against other D1 opponents. His score of 69 points as a senior against Alabama is the second-most in history behind Kevin Bradshaw, who scored 72 points for U.S. International against Loyola Marymount in 1991.

Maravich was one of the youngest ever inductees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Part of this is due to a knee injury that saw him play just 658 games in 10 NBA seasons, but even in that time – and constantly battling with the knee problem – he became a five-time NBA All-Star and was the NBA scoring champion in 1977 when he averaged 31.1 points per game. A fascinating snapshot of what this premier player could have been comes from the NBA installing the three-point line in Maravich’s final injury-ravaged season. He was able to take just 15 shots from behind the arc, but he hit 10 of them, meaning he had a career three-point percentage of 66.7%.

Perhaps the best creative player in the game’s history, Maravich passed away at just 40-years-old in 1988. This means that the legend didn’t make it to the age of the internet and social media – where it is easy to be remembered – but this premier player and his sheer ability to score the basketball was on par with anyone to ever play the game.

Article By Premier Players

Fans Add Another Title
To Mahomes’ 2020 Season

Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes got the nod from fans that he is The 2020 Premier Player of Pro Football.

There aren’t too many superlatives that we can give to Mahomes that haven’t already been said. He was the NFL MVP in 2018. He was the MVP of Super Bowl LIV as he led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title in 50 years. He is a one-time first-team All-Pro, a one- time- second-team All-Pro, and a three-time Pro Bowler. Oh – and least we forget – Mahomes will still be just 25-years-old at the beginning of the 2021 NFL Season. To say there is more to come is almost moot at this point.

Mahomes’ numbers in 2020 were once again outstanding. They were below his 2018 numbers – but that was an all-timer of a season that saw over 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdowns passed which is the sort of stat line that a player can even dream to reach once in a career. This fall, Mahomes passed for 4,740 yards, 38 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Those numbers are outstanding despite Mahomes sitting in the final contest with the Chiefs already having wrapped up the top seed in the AFC. He also rushed for a career high 308 yards and another two touchdowns. Interestingly, his completion percentage of 66.3% – completing 390 of 588 passes – was the best of his career so far.

Mahomes has the advantage of having Travis Kelce at tight end – the best pass catching player at that position that the NFL has ever seen – and Tyreek Hill at wide receiver who is almost impossible to cover when he puts on the afterburners. These two outlets are ones any quarterback would want, but it is the genius of Mahomes – and his relationship with the ultra-inventive pair of head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy – that makes the Chiefs the most feared offensive team in the NFL.

Mahomes plays without the benefit of a consistent running game the likes of which most other high volume passers – see Aaron Rodgers this year with Aaron jones in his backfield – rely on. Yes, he Chiefs use more motion, options, and plays that are schemed into easy completions than anyone else in the league, but it is the skill of the premier player that they have under center that allows this type of offense to be successful. Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 14-1 season – we aren’t counting the last game where he didn’t play – and the Texas Tech product continues to outperform the incredibly lofty ceiling that he has created for himself in his three years leading the Chiefs’ offensive machine.

What sets Mahomes apart are the head-scratching, miracle plays that no other quarterback in the league can pull off. The most famous of these was his no-look pass to Demarcus Robinson against the Baltimore Ravens in 2018, but Chiefs fans will know that there is at least one such play – be it a no-looker, a mad scramble followed by an impossible completion, or (as is often the case) something brand new and indescribable – each and every week. This is the stuff that energizes a fan base and – in better times – sells out stadiums. Mahomes has an aura about him, but he also has a humility that belies his skill and status to the point that he just fits as a quarterback in a hardworking, football and barbeque loving place like Kansas City.

It is not just that Mahomes wins games – which he does with a seemingly easy regularity – it is how he goes about doing it. He is a gunslinger, yet he is one who seems to have little regard for traditional mechanics as he completes almost as many passes with funky motions as expected ones. Mahomes is a transformative player, a generational talent, and now he was the Premier Player of NFL Football in 2020.

Article by Premier Players

Schottenheimer Leaves Lasting Impact On The NFL

If there is one NFL premier coach who has a legacy defined by winning in great numbers and then losing in the bigger games, then that would be Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer enjoyed an astonishing 200 career wins as a head coach as he led four teams to become the eighth-winningest coach in the history of the NFL. Those four teams – the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Redskins, and the San Diego Chargers – combined to go 200-126-1 under the premier coach who died at the age of 77 on February 9, 2021.

You know that a coach has had an impact on the game when an entire style of play is named after him. Schottenheimer believed wholeheartedly in “Martyball”. This method of winning football games relied on a hard-nosed approach from hard-nosed players. As the league was evolving around him in the late 90s and through the 2000s, Schottenheimer continued to preach “Martyball”, building the success of his teams – and their entire roster – around an overpowering running game and a defense that would lay their bodies on the line whether it was 3rd-and-30 in the first quarter or 4th-and-one with the game on the line.

Schottenheimer – a man who lived by his mantra of “one play at a time” – could never find the success he deserved in the postseason. The coach with a career winning percentage in the regular season of 61% was never able to make his style of football work in the playoffs. Schottenheimer went 5-13 when coaching in the postseason, a career winning percentage in those games of just 28%. This included first-round playoff exits with teams such as the 13-3 Chiefs in both 1995 and 1997, along with the 14-2 Chargers in 2006.

That Chargers team – perhaps the best overall squad that Schottenheimer ever coached led by NFL MVP LaDanian Tomlinson – imploded in what was to be Schottenheimer’s final NFL game. They lost a home divisional round game 24-21 to Tom Brady (that guy again) and the New England Patriots. It was a loss – combined with the tension between Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith –that saw Schottenheimer fired in a move that shocked the NFL world given the team they had put together and Schottenheimer’s obvious ability to win football games and have his team believe in his methods and his tactics.

While some of the losses may have been down to poor clock management or a stubborn belief in the power of his system, it is hard to look at this premier coach as not being a tad unlucky to have never reached a Super Bowl. He lost twice to John Elway-led Broncos teams in the AFC Championship Game while coaching the Browns in games that became known as “The Drive” and “The Fumble”. To have one game lost in a way that gives it a name that lasts down the decades is rough, to have it happen twice is downright cruel.

It is with the Chiefs that Schottenheimer is synonymous with most fans. You can lay a direct path from the work that Schottenheimer produced in Kansas City through the Dick Vermeil era and to the Andy Reid-led team that is one of the most feared in the league today.

“When Marty arrived in 1989, he reinvigorated what was then a struggling franchise and quickly turned the Chiefs into a consistent winner,” Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said in a statement. “Marty’s teams made Chiefs football a proud part of Kansas City’s identity once again, and the team’s resurgence forged a powerful bond with a new generation of fans who created the legendary home-field advantage at Arrowhead Stadium.”

After that, it was to San Diego and another brutal playoff loss that came from a player mistake and not a coaching one. With the Chargers up by eight and with six minutes to play, Marlon McCree picked off Brady and the game should have been sealed. Instead of dropping to the turf, however, McCree was hit and fumbled with the Patriots recovering. On such small margins are playoff football games won and lost and Schottenheimer, for all his outstanding coaching, often seemed to be on the wrong side of them.

To dwell on that, though, is to diminish a career. The NFL is a better place for Schottenheimer having been involved and when premier players like Tomlinson and Drew Brees speak of Schottenheimer’s work ethic, wisdom, and attention to detail it tells you everything about what kind of coach he was.

Article by Premier Players

Rivers Takes His Stellar NFL Career To St. Michael Catholic HS

Philip Rivers might have just been a quarterback playing at the wrong time. The 17-year NFL veteran decided to retire this offseason after a glittering career that was denied multiple Super Bowl berths thanks to a combination of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (and now Patrick Mahomes) dominating that spot in the AFC.

Rivers has retired at a point where he seemingly has plenty left in the tank. He didn’t choose to bow out after a down year or two, with this premier player calling it quits after guiding an Indianapolis Colts team that was 7-9 in 2019 back to the playoffs with an 11-5 record in 2020. Rivers took to Indianapolis like a duck to water after 16 seasons on the West Coast with the Chargers. He passed for 4,169 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions and there were many who expected him to be back in a Colts uniform in 2021. Instead, Rivers has chosen to meander off into the sunset with his Indy stint a footnote in a career that will see him go down as one of the greatest Chargers to ever play the game.

The 39-year-old passer will be one that is strongly discussed when it comes time to vote on Hall of Fame matters after his five years of non-playing are up. This could – and probably will – be five years from now, but you have to imagine that if a legitimate contender in the next two seasons needs a quarterback late in the season after an injury that Rivers will be one of the first calls they make. This is especially true because while Rivers is retiring from the professional game, this premier player is going to give back to the sport and he has already been hired as a high school coach at St. Michael Catholic just outside of Mobile, Alabama.

Rivers’ legacy is secure because of his numbers. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler. He ranks fifth all-time in the NFL (upon his retirement) in both passing yards (63,440) and in touchdown passes (421). Rivers would be considered one of the NFL’s all-time greats at his position in terms of toughness. The quarterback made 240 consecutive regular-season starts, a stat that puts him tied for third on the all-time list with center Mick Tinglehoff. The only more durable players in the history of the league – by this measure at least – are legendary tough guy quarterback Brett Favre and legendary all-around tough guy Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall.

The only taint to his legacy – a legacy that includes an NFL record for touchdown passes between a quarterback and a tight end for the 89 times he and Antonio Gates hooked up for scores in San Diego – is Rivers’ post-season woes. Rivers had an astonishing 12 seasons where he passed for over 12,000 yards, yet he was never able to lead the Chargers (or Colts) to a Super Bowl and his career 5-7 record in the playoffs contains just one AFC Championship Game appearance.

Even that, however, comes with a caveat when Rivers is considered. It was the 2007 AFC Championship Game that Rivers reached with the Chargers and nothing was going to stop this premier player from taking the field against the New England Patriots. The Chargers lost 21-12. Rivers was not at his best as he passed for just 211 yards with no touchdowns and two picks. It was a hard-fought win for Brady and the Patriots, one that they achieved with Rivers limping through the game with a torn ACL. Rivers’ knee had to be unlocked after the injury suffered just one week before in the Divisional Round but it is that level of toughness and mental fortitude that will remain the defining features when Rivers’ name comes up in debates about quarterbacks.

Article by Premier Players

Smith Only Needed Half The Game To Shine Brightest Among Stars

It feels crazy to think that coming into the 2020 college football season all eyes on the wide receiver position at Alabama were on Jaylen Waddle. Waddle – still a mighty receiver in his own right – fractured his ankle early in the season and seemed to leave a void at the position for the Crimson Tide. Circumstance can lead to greatness, however, and that is exactly what happened this fall as DeVonta Smith exploded onto the scene as one of the premier players in the country and as potentially the greatest college wide receiver (in a single season) of all time.

Smith was domineering in the first half of the National Title game. He outgained Ohio State on his own, catching an insane 12 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He made the whole thing look incredibly easy – gliding around the field like he owned it (which he did) while the Buckeyes’ defenders were running in mud and chasing his shadow. The game was all but over thanks to Smith as the Crimson Tide were up 35=17 at the half on the back of their premier player, and it would have been very interesting to see what type of numbers Smith would have put up if he hadn’t picked up a pretty disgusting looking finger injury right at the start of the second half.

They say that the stars shine brightest in the biggest moments, the biggest games, and with all the star power on the field – Mac Jones/Najee Harris/Justin Fields – it was Smith who simply took over the contest.

Smith did everything he wanted in this game. He was able to score touchdowns beating double-coverage with his peerless route running. He was able to beat tough one-on-one coverage from the Buckeyes’ best cover guy in Shaun Wade because his feet and balance are so good that Smith is able to catch passes that most playing on Sundays would struggle with. He was able to use matchups and schemes to his advantage – anyone that can give me a reasonable explanation why linebacker Tuf Borland was covering Smith on his final touchdown I’m here for it – to out think and out run the entire Buckeyes’ team. It was incredible to watch.

The wild part of all of this is that Smith being very, very good cannot have come as any surprise to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and his coaching staff. Smith being the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard of Michigan in 1991 – and even his win was skewed by Howard’s special teams work – was a clue. Other clues would be that Smith led the entire FBS in receptions (105), receiving yards (1,641), and receiving touchdowns (20). Those are huge numbers in any season, let alone one with Alabama having played two fewer games than normal because of the pandemic. Covering Smith had to be priority No. 1 for the Ohio State defense, yet this premier player just took over the game with his skill.

One of the wildest aspects of Smith’s success is that he is far from a big guy. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 175-pounds – though there is a feeling that the NFL Combine will show these stats to be overselling both properties – he isn’t the typical Alabama receiver that overwhelms defenses with a killer trait. The likes of Calvin Ridley, Amari Cooper, and Julio Jones all had elite size, elite speed, or both. Smith really has neither. He just has a feel for the game that can’t be taught and rather than those elite prospects his best comparison might just be to Jerry Rice – the greatest receiver of all time who also didn’t have killer measurable or traits.

Where Smith and his 43 career touchdowns – almost triple that of Jones – goes from here is yet to be seen. What we can say is that for one season – and then one half – this premier player was untouchable.

Article By Premier Players