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makur maker x

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Makur Passes On Basketball Powerhouse Colleges To Play At Howard

For decades the route to the NBA for premier players in high school basketball has been pretty clear. Attend a blue blood program for as little time as a possible – or skip college entirely if you were a Kobe or a LeBron and were in the era when immediate eligibility was an option – and declare for the draft at the first opportunity.

Recently, however, there has been something of a change in how this process works. It started with high schoolers not interested in attending college using their one-year post-high school and before NBA Draft eligibility to play professionally. This began with players leaving the country – Terrance Ferguson, RJ Hampton and LaMelo Ball all went to Australia – or choosing to simply take a year off and train while knowing that they won’t be hurting their draft stock one bit.

These moves and decisions were ones players chose for themselves and for their own good. There is obviously nothing wrong with that, but earlier this month a 5-star prospect made a college decision that was about so much more than self-interest and improving his draft stock. On Friday, July 3, Makur Maker announced that he was passing on the likes of UCLA, Kansas and Kentucky to attend school at Howard University.

It is hard to put this premier player’s choice of college into any type of recent context. Howard – one of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) – does not get commitments from a player of Makur’s talent and potential. The same can be said for any of the HBCUs. A top-50 player committing to play in the MEAC has been unheard of for over half a century and in the times we currently live the choice of Makur to go to Howard couldn’t feel any more culturally significant.

Makur – an athlete who is from South Sudan in Central Africa – said the following in a recent interview published by The Undefeated. “The reason behind my decision? I dare to be different, and I always consider myself to be a leader. I want to change the current culture and climate that has kept five-star athletes like myself from viewing HBCUs as a viable choice. I have no idea why it’s been over 40 years that not even one five-star basketball player in the United States has decided to play basketball at an HBCU. But I do know that, in this Black Lives Matter movement that’s empowered and assembled many different people across the country and the world, that it won’t be another 40 years until it happens again.”

Maker is a legit 7-footer who is the No. 17 overall prospect in the class of 2021 per the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Seeing a player of that level pledge to Howard shook the very foundations of what we know about college basketball – and perhaps even college sports in general – to its core. The next question is if this is a one-off as Maker makes a stand that no other premier players follow, or if it becomes a trend where 4-star and 5-star black athletes choose to spend a year at a HBCU to immerse in cultural diversity and raise the profiles of such schools on a national level.

It will take a few recruiting cycles to see if there is any real change in play here. Maker – as good as he is as a player – is not a significant voice on the AAU circuit that younger players look up to. For that we would turn to class of 2023 prospect Mikey Williams, a player with the world at his feet who is also said to be considering a one year stint at a HBCU before collecting NBA money. The 15-year-old tweeted about attending a HBCU even before Maker took the plunge and his presence on the floor of a HBCU in the winter of 2023 would absolutely mean that the world of college basketball for premier players has taken a sudden and socially significant turn.

 

Article by Premier Players

Fake Crowd x

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Fake Crowds Takeover Stadiums But No Match For Real Fans

When history is written about 2020 it will be known as the year of many things. One of those things – admittedly a few chapters into the books as something of a footnote – will be that 2020 was the year of the fake crowd.

It is hard to explain just how weird the concept of a fake crowd for a sporting event would have sounded at the back end of 2019. We love our premier players, be they on the diamond, the court, the rink, or the field. While fans aren’t the reason sports exist, they are the main reason that they matter to anyone other than the players involved. Sports without fans makes about as much sense as fans without sports, but that is the world we are living in today.

Sports in America are a little behind the curve when it comes to opening up. This is understandable given the size of the country, the distribution of people, and the number of ongoing cases. This means that the leagues in the US will have had time to watch the various methods of atmosphere creation around the world to see what has worked best to date.

In order to help out the NFL/NBA/Et Al, here are some random thoughts about which league has done the best job of giving its premier players and fans at home a decent experience amongst the madness of 2020.

Actually having a crowd

This first concept might be cheating a little bit but it is pretty obvious that the best thing a league can do to have an authentic experience is to actually have an authentic experience. New Zealand has to be seen as the pioneers of this strategy as 41,000 packed inside Eden Park to watch the Blues vs. the Chiefs as their Super Rugby Aotearoa competition got underway at the beginning of June. This strategy only works because the disease was eradicated – at one point at least – in the county, but it is worth watching to remember just what we have to look forward to in terms of an experience somewhere down the line.

Sponsor Banners

I mean these are ok. I get why they are there as it allows teams down on revenue to pull a little more out of their sponsors for more exposure while also covering up empty seating that just looks bad. It is effective, efficient, but a little boring. It is hard to believe that the premier players out there would even notice the existence of tarps all over the stadium, but I get it.

Fake Crowd Noise

This is where opinions start to differ. The basic options for fans at home – because premier players competing get nothing but eerie silence – is to have fake sounds piped on top of the broadcast or to have nothing and listen purely to the communication and chatter out on the field. The PGA has mic-upped their golfers and watching Australian rugby with no noise did allow fans to hear just how hard the players are getting hit in that sport. Getting the balance right here has proven to be difficult, with the noise often underwhelming compared to the action. It’s still early so watch this space.

CGI Crowds

They look terrible right now but these have promise. La Liga in Spain tried it first and it looked awful, like blotchy colors on a weak background. Maybe by the time the NFL returns the league can get some of the big CGI companies onto this and have crowds that actually look like they are real people for those watching at home.

Cardboard Cut Outs

The NRL in Australia allowed fans to pay to have their cardboard cutout placed in a random spot in the stadium for at least the first 10 weeks of the season. While their quality control wasn’t ideal early on with some notorious figures slipping through the cracks, this might be my favorite fake crowd yet. The cutouts are vivid and large, plus it is always fun to spot the random pet dog or bird in the stands with their very own cutouts.

Stuffed Animals

Never mind. This wins. Korean League Baseball nailed it with hoards of stuffed animals behind home plate. This is officially the best take from a terrible situation as it is impossible to not be happy seeing the tapestry of madness that the pitcher is looking at when winding up.

Article by Premier Players

Marcus Rashford x

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Marcus Rashford Puts In The Hard Work For His Team & Humanity

The sports scene in England is not particularly politically minded. That is in stark contrast to the American sports landscape in 2020 where players are using their platforms more than they have in decades. That is not to say, however, that every premier player in England have used this lockdown period for nothing more than workouts and video games, and one such player is Manchester United star striker Marcus Rashford.

Rashford, at the tender age of just 22-years-old, has emerged as a star of the Covid-19 lockdown period in the United Kingdom. He is a player used to making a big impression, having scored on his debut for one of the biggest clubs in world football in 2016 at the age of 18. Since then, Rashford has gone from strength to strength as a premier player on the pitch, quickly becoming the most important attacking player for the Red Devils and also shining for England when given a chance as part of a dynamic and youthful forward lineup.

As impressive as he has been on the pitch over the course of four years, the last few months Rashford has been even more impressive off of it. The son of a single mother, Rashford was a soccer prodigy who was never afraid of hard work and never allowed to cruise along on talent alone. If soccer didn’t work out, Rashford was always going to be in a position to succeed in life thanks to his work ethic and drive.

It is that drive that has seen Rashford’s profile rise in the last few months from a generic, multi-millionaire soccer player who is only in it for himself into a social activist fighting for the every man. Not only has Rashford helped raise millions in donations for the food charity FoodShare, but he has also learned sign language to add another string to his bow and he has launched a poetry competition for deaf children that he seems extremely passionate about.  When you add in his powerful stance and message on racial equality in England in the wake of the George Floyd death and his charitable efforts to counter homelessness in December, then you start to get a sense of just how much Rashford understands that his position and celebrity status can be used for good.

Rashford’s most powerful action yet came in the middle of June where he was able to singlehandedly reverse a decision taken by the UK government on what to do about free school meals during the six-week summer vacation. Initially taking no action, the government quickly created a $150 million fund to provide food shopping vouchers to the families of Britain’s poorest children this summer.

The youngest of five children and raised below the poverty line himself, Rashford wrote an open letter to the government that was so powerful this premier player had members of parliament threatening to revolt against Prime Minister Boris Johnson if no scheme was announced. “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked,” he wrote, before adding: “This is not about politics; this is about humanity.”

It is not his pace, his vision, or his goal-scoring ability that is Rashdford’s best asset. Instead, and perhaps unexpectedly to some given how athletes are sometimes viewed because of their lofty salaries and expensive cars, it is his humanity that has set him apart as a leader during this crisis. Rashford is a product of his generation and his 8.4 million Instagram followers give him a platform to be heard. With at least 10 more years of playing at the top level, Rashford is a player that fans of any team can root for thanks to his upbringing, his spirit and his heart.

Article by Premier Players

Howard University midfielder Andres Gomez x

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Howard’s Andres Gomez Makes The Exclusive MLS SuperDraft List

WASHINGTON (June 3, 2020) – Howard University rising senior Carolyn Williams had an opportunity to speak with midfielder Andres Gomez (Silver Spring, Md.) from the men’s soccer team, asking 10 questions for the 2019-20 Senior Profile series.

Q: What’s your favorite part about soccer?
A: Soccer is a sport that’s not forgiving, which is my favorite part. The amount of effort put in behind-the-scenes is the same amount you’ll see on game day. You’ll reach your full potential if you put in the time and work.

Q: How did you get started playing soccer?
A: Well, a key part of Colombian culture is soccer. So, I grew up watching the World Cup and the Champions League where I fell in love with sport. At that time, I knew soccer was what I wanted to play.

Q: What keeps you motivated to continue with soccer?
A: Scoring a goal is an incredible feeling that’s unmatched. Celebrating with your teammates after driving the ball past a goalie is indescribable. The preparation of practicing 6,000 times for that moment is fulfilling. The sport rewards hard work and dedication, that’s what keeps me motivated to continue playing.

Q: If you were not competing in soccer, what other sport would you play?
A: If I didn’t compete in soccer, I would have chosen cross country. Both sports require running and endurance and I think I’ve gotten pretty good with those characteristics. So, I think cross country would be a good fit.

Q: Who is your favorite athlete and why?
A: My favorite athlete is Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo because he’s the standard. On the field, he has speed, strength, endurance, and tremendous footwork with the ability to lead his team to victory. I admire someone who can do this on a consistent basis.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Once the dust settles after the pandemic and with God’s will, I’m looking to play professionally overseas in Europe.

Q: What or who will you miss at Howard?
A: I’ll miss the great times playing with my teammates. For me, serving as team captain was a big responsibility and I was honored to be the captain for an amazing team. Also, playing and representing a prestigious institution was one of the best experiences in my life.

Q: What advice would you give future Bison?
A: My advice for future Bison is to never settle for mediocracy, always strive and fight for what you believe in.

Q: Who would you like to thank?
A: I would like to thank Coach Phillip Gyau (Howard men’s soccer head coach) for always believing in me from the beginning while giving me the opportunity to grow as a person on and off the field.

About Gomez
Andres Gomez was a four-year member of the men’s soccer team where he played in 49 contests, racking up 31 total points, 14 goals and three assists.

In his final season, he led the nation in shot accuracy (70-percent) while earning Sun Belt All- Conference First Team. Gomez made the exclusive 2020 Major League Soccer SuperDraft list, ranking him among the top eligible players coming out of college.

The DMV native plans to graduate in the summer with a bachelor’s degree in business. After graduation, he plans to pursue a professional career overseas in Europe.

For more information, visit the Bison Athletics website at www.HUBison.com Photo by Rodney Pierce.

Disney NBA x

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NBA Explores Ways To Get Their Premier Players Back In The Game

It is one of those sports topics that is sure to come up as a trivia question in 20 or 30 years’ time if it goes ahead.

Where were the NBA Finals held at the end of the 2019-2020 season?

According to a plan that the NBA is very seriously considering because of Coronavirus, the answer could well be Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

While on the surface this idea seems extremely far-fetched, if you get down to the details there is actually a lot that makes sense. The problem with the US – as opposed to some other countries that have returned to sports sin home stadiums – is the sheer size of the country, the number of different population centers with very different infection rates, and how lock-down measures are simply different in different places.

That is why the bubble idea that was first mooted by the league at the very start of the pandemic has plenty of merit. Initially, it was Las Vegas that was suggested as a potential site, but that just felt like a recipe for disaster even if the casinos and bars were closed. The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Disney World Resort, however, is a totally different proposition that could see the premier players of the NBA back on the court as soon as the end of July.

The format of the league is still up in the air. Options range from playing out the league in full to jumping straight into the playoffs with either a regular or expanded field. Fans will not be allowed to sit in the stands and watch the games and the players will be quarantined – and tested frequently – to prevent any outbreaks of the disease from premier players who have been spending the last few months in different regions of the country get together.

This is a part of the country and a facility that is well set up for the unique challenges presented in this climate. The Orlando Invitational Tournament that features NCAA teams has been a fixture of the college basketball tournament scene for a while and Jay Young – the head coach of Fairfield who played in the tournament last season – thinks that this is a proposal that could work.

“It’s a good idea. There is plenty of space and courts. The hotel space down there is as good as you’re going to get in the country. I thought it made a lot of sense, especially if you want to try to keep the players and staff as safe as possible,” Young said.

Basketball feels like it is uniquely set up for a single host site event like this at the professional level. One problem with playing football or soccer in a bubble this way is field space. Basketball courts are able to take plenty of wear and tear that grass specifically just couldn’t sustain. The heavy use of teams training and playing on the same courts each day until the season is concluded is something that works far better on a wooden court than on any other surface in professional sports.

If this plan goes ahead it will be very interesting to see how premier players like LeBron James and Steph Curry react to playing in an environment that is basically a field house/multi-use sports complex. The HP Field House – which would likely serve as the main venue – has around 5,000 (empty) seats. This is obviously very different to an NBA arena which would average around 18,000 seats and which is filled with the history and prestige that comes with being such a venue. These spaces will be smaller and much more intimate, which could make it easier for players but could certainly also affect the way that certain players play the game.

One of the most interesting aspects of this crisis has been to see how sports leagues have adapted and adjusted to getting their premier players back in action. The NBA plan is the most unique out there (so far) and it will be fascinating to see if it is put into action.


Article by Premier Players

Warrick Dunn

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Warrick Dunn Still Changing Lives & The World

There are plenty of athletes who make a mark during – or after – their careers with their charitable efforts and their push towards social justice. Charities and foundations are obviously always a good thing, but many of these organizations are related to the athlete by name only.

Then there is Warrick Dunn. A premier player who singlehandedly makes every other past, present, or future NFLer look inadequate with everything he has done. Not just as an athlete – though Dunn was a legitimate star back when running back wasn’t the plug and play position it is today – but as a man.

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Dunn played his college football very successfully at Florida State. He rushed for over 1,000 yards for three straight seasons – an impressive mark considering that at about 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds Dunn seemed too small to be an every down back even at the college level. The three-time All-ACC selection was also a sprinter at FSU and his 10.3 time in the 100 meter dash transferred to breakaway speed on the football field that some speedsters are not able to produce.

Dunn was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 12th overall pick of the 1997 NFL Draft. He was an immediate success, with this premier player winning rookie of the year honors after picking up over 1,400 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. Dunn spent his first five years in Tampa Bay – picking up a pair of Pro Bowl nods – before spending six years in Atlanta with the Falcons. His final year in the NFL (2008) was back where it all began as Dunn signed a one year deal with the Bucs where he rushed for a solid 786 yards.

Dunn rushed for almost 11,000 yards during his career and had picked up over 15,000 yards from scrimmage. He scored 64 touchdowns and he is a much loved figure in both Tampa and Atlanta because of the energy, excitement, and skill that he brought to the two franchises as a player. He was also a player loved by his peers and the media, something that is not always said about the great athletes who tend to be solely focused on winning.

Dunn wanted to win as much as anyone, but he also knew from an early point in his career that he could use his position for good. Something he has never stopped doing.

Dunn’s own mother was an off-duty police officer who was ambushed and killed by armed robbers in 1993. This meant that having just turned 18-years-old, Dunn was now in charge of raising his siblings. This life event could have pushed Dunn in a number of directions, but the premier player knew the value of hard work and success – as his mother had instilled in him – and he wanted to give back.

His first step into the charitable arena was starting Homes for the Holidays in 1997. Dunn then upped his own game in 2002 when he started Warrick Dunn Charities as a way to increase the services that his programs could provide. As of 2020, Dunn’s charities – along with Habitat for Humanity – are closing in on having donated 200 homes to single mothers.

“I’ve used this program as therapy,” Dunn said. “Every time I hand over those keys, there’s a little piece of my mom and the things she wanted.”

The 2004 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award winner, Dunn has received many awards from outside football for his work. He was named the Muhammad Ali Award winner in 2019 – formerly Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award – showing that long after his football career ended he is still a force driving good in the world.

Wanting to be a person that changes the world is one thing. Actually doing it – and continuing to do it – for almost 25 years is something else entirely. Warrick Dunn is a player that every sports fan should know and celebrate because men of his caliber, premier players of his caliber, don’t come around very often.

Article by Premier Players

Heavy Boxing Match x

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Boxing Brings Heaviest Event To The Ring In 2021

Live sport may still be something of a novelty right now but that hasn’t stopped yet another event being added to a crowded 2021 slate. While we are busy getting our fill of Korean League Baseball, Bundesliga soccer, and NASCAR races with no one in the stands, next year is the one where the premier players will really come out to play. In 2021 we will see – alongside the return of full seasons of the leagues we love – the Olympic Games, the UEFA European Soccer Championships, and the British Lions tour of South Africa to name but a few.

Oh. We will also see a boxing match that is being billed as the ‘Heaviest’ boxing match of all time.

It will be September of next year in Las Vegas, Nevada – the home of all things weird and wonderful – when a pair of former winners of the World’s Strongest Man competition will be throwing haymakers. The participants are 2018 World’s Strongest Man Hafthor Bjornsson taking on 2017 World’s Strongest Man winner Eddie Hall in a bout where the two pugilists will combine to weigh in – barring some weird diets leading up to the contest – at well north of 800 pounds.

Hall, the smaller of the two, stands at 6’3” and weighs 410 pounds. Bjornsson, a mountain of a man, stands at 6’9” and tips the scales in the region of 450 pounds. That mountain moniker is not one without merit either as this premier player was cast as Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane in the epic fantasy series Game of Thrones.

If this contest feels like it came out of nowhere, well that is because it did. It was all triggered in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis when Bjornsson set a new deadlift record by lifting 1,104 pounds in his home gym. Yes. That was 1,104 pounds – not a typo.

“Absolutely no legitimate sport would acknowledge World Records broken out of competition and you are undermining the very sport you are claiming to champion,” Hall wrote on Instagram. “I genuinely look forward to having my record broken and seeing what is possible. I think you are probably the man to do it, there’s no denying that and I’ll still shake your hand afterwards and say well done . . . if you do it under the appropriate conditions.”

This broke a 4-year-old record of 1,102 pounds that was set by Hall. The fact that the record breaker was set in a home gym angered “The Beast” and one quick war of words on Instagram, wheels were set in motion for a match to be announced.

 Bjornsson confirmed as such by revealing the fight poster with the following message on his own Instagram account earlier this week.

“It’s official! September 2021 in Las Vegas Nevada, the Mountain vs the Beast. The next year and a half of my career will be solely dedicated towards this fight. I can’t wait to have my family ringside as I throw down. I’m coming for you.”

The training part of this fight is going to be fascinating. There is no doubt that Bjornsson and Hall are both elite athletes that deserve the premier players tab. It is not possible to compete in strongmen competitions as they do without the right knowledge of nutrition, exercise science, and a personal determination to be the best athlete that they can possibly be.

Training for a boxing match, however, is slightly different. Strongman training is very much an individual pursuit where it is all about bettering yourself. Boxing is a much more tactical sport, one that requires learning a different skillset than anything they will have applied in previous build ups to peak condition. Both men will have the power to slug it out, but it might just be the one who learns a little more ring craft over the next 18 months that comes out on top in what will be a huge event next fall.

Article by Premier Players

Duvernay Tardif Dr Kansas City Chiefs

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NFL Player Works To Frontline of Covid-19 Pandemic

We have covered the life and career of Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on this blog before. One of the most well-educated premier players in the history of the NFL, Duvernay-Tardif has a doctorate in medicine degree. When he first achieved this, Duvernay-Tardif was looking at a career post-football that would both support him and his family, but also be something that he could do in the community to help save lives.

Then the Coronavirus came along and Duvernay-Tardif found his calling into the medical profession far sooner than he ever could have imagined.

The Chiefs’ starting right guard is just three months removed from winning Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020. To say that feels like a lifetime ago at this point is something of an understatement. Most players get to celebrate winning a championship trophy with an offseason filled with parties, appearances, and get-togethers. While none of the Chiefs have been able to do this due to the virus, Duvernay-Tardif took a very different path – as is his nature – when the Coronavirus struck in his home province of Montreal.

After returning home from a vacation in the Caribbean into an immediate 14-day quarantine, Duvernay-Tardif wanted to help. With the Canadian border closed – meaning he was unable to return to Kansas City – Duvernay-Tardif reached out to the health authority to see how he could help. His degree is currently in a grey area – he hasn’t completed residencies and has no specialization – so his options were a limited as to how this premier player could best be used in the crisis in Canada.

Originally, this premier player was told that his best role in the fight would be to use his position as a celebrity to help spread the message about the importance of social distancing. As the crisis grew, however, he started using his contacts to find a place working on the frontlines in Quebec at a long term healthcare facility in South Shore. His first day back at the hospital was the day after the 2020 NFL Draft where Duvernay-Tardif found he would be blocking for a new running back next year in Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

This is what the premier player had to say about his first day back:

“I felt nervous the night before, but a good nervous, like before a game, and I packed everything neatly: scrubs, white coat, extra pens, even a second pair of shoes that I could leave in my locker, knowing they were clean,” he wrote.

“My shift started at 7:30 a.m. I found out that I would be working for now in more of a nursing role, helping relieve the workers who have already been in place.”

The first day back on the job was draining according to Duvernay-Tardif, but he was already looking forward to getting back into the rhythm of things knowing that he can make a difference to the care of others while using his position in the world of sports to speak about the virus knowing that people will listen.

This likely makes the McGill grad the first NFL player in history to be fighting a pandemic in such a prominent role while also fully expecting to be back on a football field as soon as it is medically safe to do so.

There are a lot of premier players out there doing great things in the world right now. Some of them are working to raise money for various charities, while others are getting even more active by helping out the health services. Duvernay-Tardif is one of them and his is a name that deserves to be recognized.

Article by Premier Players

Frank Gore

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Frank Gore Continues NFL Success With Jets

Running backs are supposed to be winding down their career when they hit the age of 30. The list of backs who peaked before hitting three decades of life and either retired or saw their production fall off to the point they were soon out of the NFL includes Hall of Famers such as O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, and Marshall Faulk. These are the premier players of premier players, but age caught up to them quickly at one of the most brutal positions in the league.

Someone should probably tell Frank Gore about this because the soon-to-be 37-year-old running back just signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets that will see him embark on his 16th season in the NFL this fall. It is a remarkable achievement.

It needs to be noted, at this point, the game is different now. Gore has been able to survive in the league for as long as he has as a situational back – albeit a very effective one – to change the pace and spell of starters on his teams. This wasn’t a role that existed when the likes of Campbell or Dickerson played. In those days, you ran your bell cow of a back until he was washed up and then brought in the next toy on the production line. Times have definitely changed.

Gore – who was a Round 3 pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 – is currently the third leading rusher in NFL history behind only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. This is likely where he will stay as he is currently around 1,400 yards shy of Payton and he hasn’t had a 1,000 rushing season since 2016 in Indianapolis. Le’Veon Bell is the primary back in New York, but Gore will give head coach Adam Gase – a coach he has worked with before – a solid second option on the ground when he is needed.

The last full-time running back to play in the league at 37 was Marcus Allen of the Kansas City Chiefs back in 1997. Gore will bring immense amounts of experience, leadership, and professionalism to the Jets this season, meaning he may be just as valuable to the team in the running backs room as on the field. Anyone that can play to his age is clearly a premier player when it comes to conditioning and doing the right things to be pro football shape. Gore can pass this knowledge on to the next generation in New York.

Speaking of the next generation, Gore’s son – Frank Gore Jr. – will be starting his career collegiately this season at Southern Mississippi. With Gore’s ability to stick around, who is to say the father and son couldn’t be in the NFL together in a few years’ time.

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Tristan Wirfs

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Premier Players Who Can Quickly Impact Their NFL Teams

The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone and it was a strange old beast. Watching the premier players of college football be picked while sitting at home in their basements instead of being in the green room at the draft was a pretty surreal experience that maybe gives an inside peek into our new normal of sports for the foreseeable future.

As the only show in town – and basically the world – this draft was always going to get more attention than normal, something that isn’t easy for what is already a show-piece event on the calendar. A total of 32 premier players were plucked from the college ranks on Thursday night for Round 1, and here are five picks we at Premier Players look forward to seeing on the field:

Pick 1:  Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU/Cincinnati Bengals
Sometimes the key to a draft is not to over think it. That is what the Bengals did here as they took the guy who was the best player in the FBS (football bowl subdivision) last season. Burrow threw for an insane 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns in 2019 and by not trading out of this pick the Bengals have their successor to Andy Dalton for the foreseeable future.

Pick 5:  Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama/Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins had a direct choice between Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert of Oregon who went one pick later. Dan Marino was the last Pro Bowl QB the Dolphins had and they swooped on Tagovailoa who was the prospective No. 1 pick in the draft before the 2019 season unfolded. If Tua can stay healthy he has all the intangible traits of a premier player to go with his football and leadership skills.

Pick 7:  Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn/Carolina Panthers
The Panthers sat at No. 7 and came out of the first round with the best run stopper in the entire draft. Brown is a monster of a player who routinely saw teams in college game plan against him by running all their plays in the opposite direction. His partnership with Pro Bowler – and pass rush DT specialist Kawann Short – is going to be exciting to watch.

Pick 13:  Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Iowa/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The least sexy pick in the first round gives the Bucs a premier player to protect their soon to be 43-year-old QB. Wirfs is a classic Big 10 offensive line prospect, a player with no flash and no question who will knuckle down to work on his first day of minicamp and occupy a spot on the Bucs line for the next decade.

Pick 17:  CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma/Dallas Cowboys
The big question about this draft in five years may revolve around how a wide receiver with the talent of Lamb slid all the way down and into the lap of the Cowboys at No. 17? Lamb had 32 touchdowns in 41 games with the Sooners and while the Cowboys seemed set at wide receiver, the value with Lamb was just too high for Jerry Jones to pass on.

Article by Premier Players

kenneth murray

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Three Premier Players To Watch In 2020 NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft will be held in a sports vacuum unlike anything we have ever seen before. The draft – which was moved from a grand Las Vegas event to a bunch of teams drafting from war rooms that we can only assume are in the owners’ basements – does at least give sports fans something to watch and look forward to at a time where there isn’t much of anything going on. This is abundantly clear by the amount of money being wagered on the draft by sports bettors with nothing else to throw their money at.

The premier players that made the 2019 college football season such a delight will find their names called over the next few days. We have already picked out some athletes who will make a difference in the NFL – the likes of Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, and Chase Young.  However, here are three more premier players to watch out for (in our eyes) over the course of the draft.

Lynn Bowden – WR – Kentucky

Lynn Bowden was a high school quarterback that was about to break out as a wide receiver for Kentucky this season before injuries at QB forced him back to his old position. Bowden is a dynamic Swiss army knife of a premier player that – in the right system – will be a machine. He is a player that will take on any role to help his team win and even at the NFL level he will be one of the more dangerous mismatches on the field wherever he lines up.

Jordan Love – QB – Utah State

Love is a premier player who has polarized draft experts through this whole process. His best fit will be with a team where he can sit for a year and learn – maybe the New Orleans Saints? – before exploding onto the scene in his second year as a pro. Love led the entire Football Bowl Subdivision in interceptions last year, but his upside is huge and there is going to be a team that falls in love with Love and his unique skill set that features elite athleticism for the position.

Kenneth Murray – LB – Oklahoma

Watching an Oklahoma game last year when their defense was on the field was basically like watching The Kenneth Murray Show. Murray is a beast of an athlete – he has those long arms that scouts love and runs a 4.52 40-yard-dash at 6’2″ and 245 pounds – and he would be a scheme fit for any number of defenses looking for a tackling machine with unlimited range. If explosive, play-making linebackers are your thing – and they should be – then watch where Murray goes on draft day as he will be in impact player from this first snap in the league.

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WWE Leads The Way Back For Sports & Entertainment

We have no idea when college and professional sports will return and/or what state the various leagues will be in when their premier players return to action after this pandemic. Most of the noise and quotes coming from governors and health officials are that sports are unlikely to return until the Fall at the earliest, with many saying they don’t expect to see any action resume until 2021. Given the uncertainty around the Coronavirus, this makes sense, but enter Florida.

Last week, Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order adding “professional sports and media production with a national audience” to the list of “essential services” allowed to resume operations during the state’s shelter-in-place order. This order – which had the WWE added to the list of exemptions after it was initially signed – resulted in the wrestling company producing a live show for the first time in weeks from its state of the art performance center in Orlando.

The point of this blog entry isn’t to look at this from a political standpoint. Obviously, we are not yet at the point where sports can open up in Florida – or anywhere else – and we likely won’t be for weeks if not months. The WWE is just a unique example as the performers have been isolated in Florida, or they are flown in with ‘additional safety measures’ in place.

This is, though, an interesting development for premier players in other sports leagues. The UFC being the most obvious sporting venture to consider since company boss Dana White has been desperate to get his shows up and running again.  White points out that a one-on-one bout between fighters that have been tested is about the lowest risk proposition in all of professional sports. He tried to find a spot to fight on an island, then in Las Vegas, but it will be Florida that allows his company to get up and running again.

The next possible beneficiary here would be the premier players of Major League Baseball. A shortened season in the twin spring training sites of Florida and Arizona has already been mooted and now it looks like half of that proposition is a step closer. Maybe the NBA could also find a way to play out a playoff series to determine its champion in the state at some point in the future before the ability to play games all over the country is possible again.

In a world without premier players and without sports, little nuggets like this give us hope for the future of our favorite pastimes.

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Jordan Bird Horse

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NBA Game of Horse Reminder of Classic Commercial

In a world that still needs sports – but that looks increasingly like the wait for the major ones to come back will be longer than we want – it is always interesting to hear a little good news.

The NFL Draft will be going ahead as planned (albeit virtually), the NRL rugby competition in Australia – a county that has not been hit as hard as many others at this point because of its geographical isolation – is looking to get back to something by the beginning of June, and – amazingly – we are about to see some of the premier players in basketball put on a televised HORSE challenge on ESPN.

It is an idea so crazy that it just might work and – if it does – it needs to become a weekly thing until we get the rest of our sports back.

The headliners for the competition are Chris Paul, Trae Young, and Tamika Catchings, a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee. Odds are that everyone reading this has played HORSE at some point in their life, but the basic concept is that if someone makes a shot you have to replicate that shot to avoid picking up a letter. When you have missed enough shots to spell out the world HORSE, you are done.

One catch for this competition is that dunking is not allowed, something that seems fair with Zach LaVine in the field and given his ability to do trick dunks that the rest of the field would find problematic. The hope for ESPN has to be that along with the standard shots, they have a daredevil or two in the field who will be trying their best to recreate the iconic Michael Jordan and Larry Bird McDonald’s commercial on their network.

Speaking of Bird and Jordan, how cool would it be to see this concept expanded to some sort of legends version with those two and a number of other premier players of the game’s history competing. Sports may have stopped, but ingenuity like this is what makes America great and long may this type of innovation continue in the sporting world.

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Premier Player Ionescu Voted AP Player of The Year

You don’t see many players dominate a sport like Oregon senior guard Sabrina Ionescu was able to in the Covid-19 shortened 2019-20 women’s college basketball season. Ionescu was named as the unanimous Associated Press Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, only the second player since the award was first given in 1995 to sweep all 30 votes after Breanna Stewart of UConn in 2016.

Ionescu also became just the eighth player to be named three times as an AP All-American after a career with the Ducks where she shattered records. This premier player became the first player in NCAA history – male or female – to post a career triple-double mark of over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.

It is this ability to do anything on the court to help her team win that characterized Ionescu’s tenure with the Ducks. There are many that believe Oregon would have been the favorites for the NCAA Championship this season if the games had been played, with Ionescu averaging 17.5 points, 9.1 assists, and 8.6 rebounds per game after returning to school to chase the NCAA title that had eluded her.

Oregon, with a 31-2 record, was the Pac-12 regular season and tournament champions when the season was cancelled. Head coach Kelly Graves called Sabrina “A transcendent basketball player” and “The ultimate leader.” These are the traits that Ionescu showed this year.

This premier player wasn’t happy with just being good enough at certain aspects of the game, she wanted to be the best in the country. That will to win – to know when to shoot and when to pass in a purely unselfish way – is what set her apart. Add in a drive and a work ethic that the late Kobe Bryant would have been proud of and you can see why Ionescu is the favorite to be taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft this spring.

Ionescu is the prototypical basketball player. After completing her college chapter, she will be one WNBA player that young players can look up to and learn from with her ability to do literally anything she wants on the court.

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Chase young

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Next Wave of Premier Players Ready For NFL Draft

With the sporting world having pretty much shut down due to COVID -19 – marble racing and premier league soccer in Belarus not withstanding – it is important to look forward to some event that can bring some sense of normalcy back to the sporting calendar. The NFL have confirmed that the 2020 NFL Draft will be going ahead as scheduled, though the event will be held remotely instead of in Las Vegas as was originally planned. This means we can look forward to seeing where the next wave of premier players in the NFL will (eventually) be taking their talents and there is no player in this draft better than Ohio State Buckeyes superstar Chase Young.

Young – an EDGE rusher in NFL terms – may not be the first player selected in this draft because of the value that NFL teams put on elite quarterbacks. That is why the likes of LSU QB Joe Burrow and Alabama passer Tua Tagovailoa may well be chosen before Young. If we were to draft purely on talent, production, and fit at the NFL level, however, there is no doubt that this premier player would be the first one snatched off of the 2020 board.

Young has the prototypical build of an EDGE rusher in the modern game. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 264 pounds. He has explosive speed off of the edge that shows in every game tape that you will watch of this premier player, though with individual workouts curtailed by the pandemic we will not see a recent 40-yard-dash time from Young after he decided his tape did enough talking for him and he skipped the drills/workouts portion of the combine.

Young is an immediate impact kind of player. He will not take a year of seasoning and study to become the kind of game-changing player that he was in college. This is a guy that spent most of the last two seasons facing double and triple teams on a down-by-down basis and was still productive enough to take over games. In 12 starts in 2019 he led the FBS with 16.5 sacks and six forced fumbles as a player who knows not only how to get to the quarterback, but also how to create a momentum shifting turnover with his sacking technique.

Young finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting last season – exceptionally high for a defensive player – and he can work as either a stand up rusher or with his hand in the dirt. The best pass rushing prospect of the last decade (at least), Young is a game wrecker who knows how talented he is and who backs it up every time out on the field.

The country is going to need a new breed of premier players to get behind after this crisis and inject life and energy into sports as they resume. Young is one of those stars poised to breakout at the next level whenever sports begin again.

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Opening Day Dodger Stadium Opening Day

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Baseball Will Unite America On Opening-Day

The premier players on the diamond were supposed to begin their season on March 26, 2020. All opening days in sports are important, but there is something special about the beginning of a baseball season that isn’t replicated in other sports.

On the purely athletic level it is important because baseball – despite its challenges in a world of instant gratification – is a sport with a rich history that has endured wars and depressions and come out strong. There is a pomp and circumstance to Major League Basketball’s opening day that just doesn’t happen with other sports, from ceremonial first pitches through to the peanuts and Cracker Jack in the stands.

But it’s so much more than all that.

Baseballs opening day has always meant the end of winter and the knowledge that summer is just around the corner. It means we are a step closer to long nights of grilling in the backyard, of vacations to far flung places, and to doing nothing by the pool for hours. These are not thoughts and dreams that are part of the core of what baseball is, but they are much needed releases that opening day always brought as a sort of hopeful look to the future and the next six months of life.

It’s almost certain that in 2020 the boys of summer will be playing a limited schedule do to COVID-19. Exactly what – and when – that will be we have no clue at this point, but when those premier players take to the diamond it is going to be a joyous day all across America. Sports fans are suffering right now, but the surge in interest and pride that will come out on the back end of this will be like nothing we have seen in a couple of decades.

The premier players of baseball will eventually have their opening day and it will be an opening day for the world to prove we have all come together. Also, we are putting it out there right now that the Dodgers will win the 2020 World Series in six games thanks to a shortened season bringing down the workload of veteran starters like David Price and Clayton Kershaw.

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Big3 Basketball Ready To Entertain Fans With Premier Talent

Sports are an essential escape to the sometimes mundane march of everyday life. That is why the shutting down of sports as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak has been so hard for people to take. At a time where sports are needed to lift us emotionally, they are gone.

While the premier leagues in many sports will not return for an undisclosed period of time – albeit a period which doesn’t seem likely to be any time soon – there is one premier competition that is looking to get set up and bring sports to the American public as soon as this April.

The Big3 is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that gained some traction last year as the premier competition of its type in the country. Big3 executives Josh Kwatinetz and Ice Cube have been in the entertainment business for over 30 years and they see both the opportunity to create something for themselves and – more importantly – a chance to entertain people in a way they think will help with everything the world is currently going through.

Their concept is certainly intriguing. Essentially the tournament would take place in a quarantined house somewhere in the LA area with 16 to 22 players involved. These players – who would only be allowed in after testing negative for Coronavirus – would then take place in something that would be part reality TV show and part premier competition for 3-on-3 basketball.

The Big Brother meets Big3 concept would have to pass some hurdles given the shelter-in-place order that has been announced in California, but the prospect of live sports is one that any American that enjoys competition would be happy to hear. The league lowered its age limit for its regular season from 27 to 22 in January and it would be very interesting to see which players would sign up and take part in a format that would – if this goes as reported – feature seven rounds of games with a player being eliminated after losing three times.

It is a watch-this-space situation – as is the entire sports world – but the sooner we can get sports back on TV (health permitting of course) the better.

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Cardinals’ Deal For Hopkins A No-Brainer, Sorry Houston

DeAndre Hopkins is now an Arizona Cardinal. That is going to take some time to get used to seeing on the field on a Sunday afternoon. In this sport-free world we currently live in it is nice to have something to talk (write) about again, but you have to feel a little for fans of the Houston Texans who saw arguably the biggest icon in the history of the franchise – and a premier player who is one of the very elite at his position in the league – be traded away for what seems like pittance in return.

The Texans walk away from this trade with a combination of running back David Johnson and a second round draft pick in their pocket. That does not feel like something that Texans fans should be good with given that they gave up a premier player in the prime of his career. Johnson is a solid player – he had a monster season in 2016 and was solid in 2018 – but he is injured too often and regressed to a player with 715 total yards and six total touchdowns last season.

Hopkins – by comparison – finished third in the league last season with 104 receptions. He also had 1,165 yards – good for 11th in the league – and he caught seven touchdowns. These numbers were down from his 1,5 72 yards and 11 touchdowns from 2018 and his 1,378 yards and 13 scores in 2017, but there were mitigating factors such as the health of wide receiver partner Will Fuller and how his lack of play would often lead to Hopkins playing an entire game in double coverage. Even then, he still was third in the NFL in catches.

This is not the first time that Texans’ GM Bill O’Brien has leaned towards the unconventional with his moves. Even by his standards though, this one is shocking. It is the most lopsided trade of the 2020 offseason already and it is arguably the most lopsided deal we have seen made in more than a decade.

That the Cardinals got better immediately when Johnson was replaced by Kenyan Drake – who Arizona plucked from the Dolphins for a sixth-round pick midseason last year – should tell you everything you need to know about why this premier player and elite WR should have had more value than this.

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Brady Must Make Biggest Decision Of Team’s Dynasty Era

It is pretty obvious that Tom Brady is a premier player. He might even be the greatest player in his position – or any position for that matter – in the history of the NFL, but that is a debate for another day.  What we know right now is that this premier player is coming off of a season where – after a monster start – he started to show signs of decline.   With that in mind, and with Brady testing the free agent market for the first time in his career, we have to look at the possibility that the Brady/Belichick combination that created a dynasty in New England as a premier player and a premier coach, could have already reached its end.

The future comes fast at the back of a career.  That Brady was still playing lights-out football in his forties is a compliment to everything the 42-year-old has done to extend his playing career.  If there is one thing we know about Brady, it’s his ultimate competitor streak that the greatest athletes all have and, as such, he will not want his 2019 season to be the one that defines his legacy.  This is a premier player doing what premier players do; they don’t go out like that.

When looking at the future for Brady it is important to look at the mitigating factors that made last season such a mess.  His wide receiver corps was never consistent as it was blitzed by injuries and drama all season long.  Those players that were catching balls from Brady were players who, by and large, he had no history with and they were unable to connect consistently.  Add in an offensive line that was among the worst the Pats have had in a decade and the reasons quickly mount as to why Brady wasn’t Brady last season.

Odds are Brady will be in New England next year. The Pats have the cap space to keep their legend in town and build something a little more competitive around him.  There are options that Brady could chase and there are players out there that the team could bring in, but can you really see Brady wearing the powder blue of the Chargers or the red and gold of San Francisco?

Peyton Manning – Brady’s longtime rival – left the Colts and found a Super Bowl in Denver. Could this premier player do the same for a different franchise and get yet another leg up in their head-to-head battle to be classed as the best of their generation?

For now there are so many more questions than answers, but with Tom Brady – even at 42 – whichever team he suits up for will feel like they have a chance of winning the Super Bowl when the season kicks off.  That is just what premiers players do.

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Maria Sharapova

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Premier Player of Tennis Sharapova Announces Retirement

One of the premier players in women’s tennis over the past couple of decades recently announced her retirement. News filtered through that Russian player Maria Sharapova is set to walk away from the game. The 32-year-old leaves the game with a career record of 645-171 after turning pro in 2001 at the tender age of just 14.

It is not a sport that you think of often in terms of attrition and burnout, but tennis is a craft that swallows up athletes at a young age and sees plenty of players – especially in the female game – retire from the sport while still in their twenties. To that extent, Sharapova beat the system of the game and this is especially true when you consider that despite some very significant injuries at the peak of her career, she was able to capture five Grand Slam titles.

Her lasting legacy in the sport will be those Grand Slam wins. She is one of just 10 women in the history of the game to win all four of the majors at least once, with the only repeated Grand Slam event win coming in the French Open. This is a little ironic as this premier player would often talk of how the clay courts of Roland Garros sought to expose here weaknesses, yet it was on the crushed rock that she was at her most successful.

Sharapova was at her best (weirdly) in even numbered years. The Grand Slam titles came in 2004 (Wimbledon), 2006 (US Open), 2008 (Australian Open,) and 2012/2014 (French Open). She also won an Olympic silver medal for Russia at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. She reached another five Grand Slam finals that she failed to win, giving her a career record of 5-5 in such contests.

In a sport where the commercial deals have long gravitated towards the Williams sisters, Sharapova was – for a while – as big a star as there was in tennis – male or female. Her on-court career earnings have been dwarfed by here sponsorship opportunities, with the Russian perfectly summing up the ‘Strong is beautiful’ motto of the WTA. This premier player was one who quickly became known for her skill and her winning as opposed to her looks, with Sharapova being a feared and dominant competitor in every match she played when healthy.

Sharapova has the mindset of a premier player still wanting to compete, but the arduous and repetitive nature of practice and play has caused her body – in the shoulders and arms especially – to cause her to not play at the level she wishes. Retirement is a smart option at this point for her legacy, but the world of sport will be a little dimmer without Sharapova on the tennis scene.

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All Star Game

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NBA All-Star Game Shows The Power of Sports, Athletes

The 2020 NBA All-Star Game was always going to be about Kobe Bryant. This is exactly how it should be after one of the premier players of any sport, anywhere, tragically passes away weeks before the biggest talents of the game gather for a showdown.

However, the 2020 NBA All-Star Game was also a show of the power of basketball and the power of sports in general.  This was a real game down the stretch – more on that in a moment – and not the free scoring shotfest that the All-Star game has sometimes been in recent years.

There was no more fitting a tribute to Bryant – a man who thought winning the exhibition All-Star Game was as important as a playoff win – than the fact this game was played (in the fourth quarter at least) like it really mattered. It was a game that raised $500,000 and counting for local charities based on which team won each quarter, and it was the first game where the NBA has used a novel scoring system down the stretch that its premier players seemed to all embrace instantaneously as the fourth quarter went on.

This scoring system – known as the Elam system – set the final quarter to be a race to 157. The score was calculated by adding 24 (Kobe’s number) to the score that the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. It is a scoring system that literally anyone who has ever played a team sport, where points are counted, can endorse. How many games of flag football between friends have been drifting along until the magic call of “first to five wins” is made.  At that point, everyone playing becomes ultra-competitive and the game matters.

That is what happened in this NBA All-Star Game as the teams ramped up down the stretch to the point that coaches were challenging replays and players were caring about every foul. Kobe would have LOVED this environment and he would have thrived in the pressure of such a game. It helped that the Chicago crowd were into the contest from the minute the tributes to the great Laker ended, finishing by barely sitting down from the middle of the third quarter onwards.

Sometimes we forget how sports – and certain athletes – can bring people together on a local, national, and global scale. Sunday night in Chicago was all the proof we needed to remind us of that.

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Wembley stadium

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Jaguars Continue To Build Home Crowd In London

As the premier league in the world, the NFL is always trying to find new ways to push boundaries and become more marketable.

Super Bowl LIV, which saw the Kansas City Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 after a frantic second half comeback, pulled in almost 100 million viewers in the United States.  However, the league and commissioner Roger Goodell know that the key to expansive growth – and thus more money for the franchises – is to be found overseas.

The NFL has been aggressively pursuing this angle and as the premier league of its kind in exploring international markets, the experiments have been a success. Ever since the league started staging a game in London every year – which quickly became multiple games in London featuring different teams each time – the theory has been that Goodell and the other owners want to see a full time franchise based in the city of around nine million people.

As of the 2020 season, we may just be a little closer to seeing this happen.

The Jacksonville Jaguars – a team long considered likely to be the first franchise moved if such an opportunity became available – will be playing two “home” games at Wembley Stadium in the English capital next season. It is common knowledge that the Jags don’t always draw well and that their games at Wembley actually pull in more than double the money of a game at TIAA Bank Field.

The Jags are feeling extra pressure to increase their share of the league revenue after some of the lower-earning teams in the league have recently relocated. With the Rams, Charges, and Raiders moving to Los Angeles, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas respectively from small-market cities, the league is clearly encouraging teams to look for additional revenue opportunities.

Much of the Jags future in Jacksonville is tied to a $700 million entertainment complex planned to be built around the stadium, but that has yet to receive a green light. That makes this a huge opportunity for London – and the fans in the UK – to prove they can get behind a specific team for a couple of weekends in a row and really show the NFL that relocating an actual franchise would be a great move.

Without knowing it we may be looking at the first step in a new era of international expansion for the premier league in world sport.

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Coach Andy Reid

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Coach Reid’s Play Innovation Keeps Chiefs Competitive

The premier coach in the NFL to never win a Super Bowl no longer carries that damning caveat on his resume. As of Super Bowl LIV, Kansas City Chiefs’ Head Coach Andy Reid will always be known as a Super Bowl winner to go along with all the other accolades he has picked up throughout his Hall of Fame caliber career.

Big Red – as he is affectionately known – is one of the most well liked and most respected men in the history of the National Football League. He is such a down to earth character that Reid celebrated the AFC title game that put him within 60 minutes of the crowning achievement for a coach by eating a cheeseburger and going to bed.

It was hardly the act of someone going back to the Super Bowl 15 years since his last shot at the Lombardi Trophy.

Reid, though, never seemed to let that chase change him. Over 14 years in Philadelphia with the Eagles and then his first six years in Kansas City he has always been the same guy. He and the Eagles parted ways at the right time – both the franchise and the man now have Super Bowl wins to prove it – and this premier coach landed in an organization in Kansas City with fans who couldn’t believe their luck.

That luck only increased on draft day three years ago when Patrick Mahomes became the Chiefs’ first round pick, giving Reid a quarterback with unique and perhaps even generational levels of talent to develop. One of the greatest aspect of Reid’s coaching is that he has never been afraid to try things, he has never got stuck in his ways and refused to see how the game has changed. That a 61-year-old can run an offense as innovative as any in the NFL is a testament to his ability to lead and his ability to self-critique what he is doing as a coach.

In the year that the NFL celebrated a full century of play, there is no more fitting a first-time coaching Super Bowl champ than Andrew Walter Reid.

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Kobe Bryant

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Kobe’s Skills On The Court Drove All Parts of His Life

There is way too much to be said about Kobe Bryant and his legacy that we could ever hope to capture in one article. That is why this piece is going to look at Kobe as a player and athlete only, not touching his amazing transition into life as a coach, father, and family man that occurred before his life was cut tragically short at the age of just 41 in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning.

There are many players in the sports we cover that are said to be premier players. Kobe was not just a premier player in his own time; he was one of the premier players in the history of his sport. He was a premier player in the city of Los Angeles, a city where he would be on the Mount Rushmore of sports icons. He was a premier player who transcended his sport and became a household name around the world thanks to 20 seasons of highlights, determination, and excellence.

His legacy is a complicated one, but his playing style is one that we will likely never see again. In this era of load management, no player will eat the minutes that Kobe did throughout his career. This is a player that once played to the point of tearing his Achilles tendon, but still went to the free-throw line to finish his play with two successful shots, such was his will to win and his dedication to making that happen.

Kobe took shots that kids today would be benched for trying. He retired leading the league (historically) in just one single stat. That stat was the number of missed shots over a career. While that should be a negative, it’s not. That’s because the toughness of Kobe made him want to take those shots, knowing that every shot not taken was two (or three) points that would never be made.

You can’t be a shot-selection player and score 60 points in your final game. You can’t be that and put up the second most points ever in a single contest with his 81-point explosion against the Raptors in 2006. You can’t be that and win five NBA titles, be an 18-time All-Star and a 15 time All-NBA selection. You can’t be that and be feared each and every night by every opponent you face.

Kobe had the footwork, the stroke, and the competitive fire to take himself to the very top. That so many of the premier players in the NBA today cite Kobe as their inspiration says more about his legacy than anything that could be put to paper. The world is a worse place without Kobe Bryant in it, but we must push forward and strive for success every day to the best of our ability. After all, that is what Kobe would do.

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Raheem Mostert

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Mostert’s Runs Fueled By The Agony of 7 Cuts & No Starts

Not everyone rises to be a premier player in the same way. That is especially true in the NFL, a league where the bust rate of top draft picks and the rise to the top of lower round guys happens more often than the ‘draft gurus’ would ever want you to believe.

These stories, though, remain compelling. That is why the story of San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert will get so much play as we approach Super Bowl LIV where Mostert’s 49ers will face off against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mostert was the premier player on the field as the 49ers ran all over the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game on January 19th.  Mostert, however, was not a highly touted college athlete who was expected to dominate an NFL defense as easily as he did in Santa Clara. This is a player who was cut by no less than six teams in the space of an 18 month span at one point in his career.

Being cut once is enough of an ego check for many to consider their future in the sport. To be cut six times in such a short space of time – Mostert was basically packing his bags every three months – has to be beyond demoralizing. To be able to suck up those cuts, to learn from them, and to come back a better and more determined player, shows everything about the undrafted free agent out of Purdue in 2015.

Players that bounce around the league in such a manner aren’t supposed to do this. Mostert has yet to actually start a game in his NFL career, but in the NFC championship match he rushed for the second most yards in a single game in NFL playoff history. He went for an insane 220 yards and four touchdowns, beating defenders in every way imaginable. It was an astonishing display of talent from a man who could have easily fallen out of the league four or five times in his career already.

This quote from Mostert shows how he uses the past to fuel his future:

“I actually still have the cut dates. And I look at that before every game. I look at the cut dates when I got cut. I’ve been on, like I said, seven different teams. The journey’s been crazy. Not even — not everybody can deal with that type of stress and pain and agony that I went through.”

Everyone can learn from this journey as they are hit with a disappointment – or a string of disappointments – in their life. Be like this premier player and rise above the noise and the negativity of other people’s perception of you to succeed.

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derek jeter

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Derek Jeter Finishes His Baseball Career In Cooperstown

Reaching the Hall of Fame in your chosen sport means that you were clearly a premier player during your career. To do so while finishing with 99.7% of the voting in your first year of eligibility – falling just one vote shy of being a unanimous player – means that you are officially a legend of your sport.

That makes Derek Jeter a baseball legend.

Jeter is a player who has been Cooperstown bound from the very beginning. His career would have seen him reach the Hall no matter the team he played for, but to do it all as a New York Yankee just makes his achievements mean a little more. That is the power of playing in the history laden stadium in the Bronx.

His career WAR – a metric that baseball writers and voters are in love with today – is an impressive 72.4. He is not the greatest shortstop of all time – that nod goes to either Honus Wagner or Cal Ripen – but he is a player who has raw numbers that compete with the best. His legacy and his stance as a premier player, however, go far beyond the raw numbers of his career. He is a player that people will argue all day about being overrated or underrated to the point that Jeter is rated just about where he should be, and that is as an icon of the game.

Jeter was a 14-time MLB All-Star. He was the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year and he won the World Series with the Yankees five times. He finished his career sixth all-time in hits with 3,465, which makes sense as he was a contact hitter known for his ability to find gaps in the infield with his smooth stroke of the bat.

He played with the Yankees for 20 seasons and seemed to love every single minute of being a professional athlete. His postseason numbers were even better as he put together a .306/.374/.465 slash line.

Jeter was also a player who seemed to make big plays when needed. They are the plays that you remember and that will continue to be a part of telling the story of the Yankees for generations to come. When you add in the principles of the man, his leadership, character, and consistency, you have everything you would want in a premier player and newly minted Hall of Famer.

 

Article by Premier Players

Alyssa Nakken first MLB Coach For Giants

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Nakken Becomes First Woman On An MLB Coaching Staff

We call a lot of plays we see on the field, diamond, or court historic or iconic. That is why it’s important we recognize when something happens outside of the playing arena that ticks both those boxes in a way that a single play rarely does.   Such was the case in the first couple of weeks of this decade when the San Francisco Giants and their manager Gabe Kapler hired Alyssa Nakken as the first woman on a major-league coaching staff in MLB history.

Nakken is no stranger to the rigors of big league baseball. Over the last few years she has worked on health and wellness initiatives with the Giants and she has clearly been successful in the role. So successful, in fact, that she will now be forever remembered alongside some of the other trailblazers in the history of the league thanks to her promotion to a coaching role.

Nakken played first base at Sacremento State and was a premier player for the team. What really set Nakken apart though was her mind for the game – and for sports in general – with it being of no surprise to former teammates that she has elevated herself through the Giants organization since first joining as an intern in 2014.

While some people might question the hire, Nakken has been moved into this position on merit alone. There is no “Rooney Rule” style process for a hire like this, it was just Kapler seeing that Nakken had talents that were above her former role, and him moving to hire the right person – male or female – to help make the Giants a better team from 2020 onwards.

“Simply, I think she’s going to be a great coach,” Kapler said. “Merit and the ability to be a great coach trumps all.”

Switching from a premier player to a premier coach isn’t easy for anyone, let alone someone who is a female in a male dominated organizational role when you look league wide. Thankfully for Nakken she won’t have to travel far to find a woman in a similar situation. Katie Sowers is the San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant and has proven to be a stunningly successful hire for the team.  Therefore, Nakken may have a ready-made soundboard for advice should she need it.

It will be fascinating to see if this hire leads to other teams looking in different areas for coaches that can bring something different to the table. If any sport needed a breath of fresh air in the ranks it was baseball, so best of luck to Nakken as she starts her journey to the top of the sport.

Article by Premier Players

Kirk Cousins

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The Cousins No One Talks About

It is about time we start to properly appreciate Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. This should be the thought in the head of every NFL fan who sat through one of the closest and craziest Wildcard Weekends in league history.

Cousins – he of seemingly no suitors and no fame at various points in his career – led the upstart Vikings to a stunning win over the heavily favored New Orleans Saints and QB Drew Brees, a player who spent most of 2019 breaking every passing record in the book.  Yet, despite the presence of Brees on the field – and despite a certain Tom Brady also appearing during Wildcard Weekend – it was Cousins who made the single best throw of the Saturday/Sunday quadruple header.

It is in the fourth quarter and overtime where the greats make their names. That was the case on Sunday when Cousins dropped back into the pocket and launched a rainbow of a pass downfield to WR Adam Thielen streaking inside the Saints 10-yard line. Cousins knew he couldn’t let Brees touch the ball again. He knew that one mistake would end the Vikings season despite the sterling work of RB Dalvin Cook to get them to this point. He knew his throw had to be perfect.

And it was.

The ball seemed to drop almost vertically out of the sky as Thielen made an over the shoulder catch and tumbled to the turf completing a 43-yard pass and instantly silencing the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  One play later – a Cousins touch pass to a leaping Kyle Rudolph in the back corner of the Saints end zone – the game was complete and Cousins had led his team to a win few thought possible with a play that fewer knew he had the ability and passing range to make.

Cousins won this game despite a litany of statistics that suggested he couldn’t. He was 0-15 against teams with a .700 winning percentage. He was 0-10 with the Vikings against 10-win teams. He was 2-10 against playoff teams and just 3-11-1 against teams with winning records. The theory was that Cousins simply didn’t have what it took to win the big one – or even a minor one – against a good team.

That narrative has now changed. No matter what the Vikings do from this point forward this postseason, Cousins has that monkey off of his back. He is turning into the premier player that the Vikings hoped for when they signed him to a fully guaranteed $84 million contract in 2018.  He is now one step closer to leading the team to where they want to be and he will be playing with a renewed level of confidence and attitude thanks to his massive throw – and gutsy performance – in New Orleans.

Article by Premier Players

Joe Thomas Cleveland

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Premier Players of The NFL That Dominated The Decade

As we settle in to 2020 it is important to remember what came before. The 2010-19 stretch in the NFL saw some amazing players – and amazing performances – as the league became more and more about an offensive arms race.  Here are the five premier players of the NFL that excelled the most in the last decade:

5.  Aaron Donald – DT – L.A. Rams

Donald has taken on the mantle as the best defensive player in the league from a man further down this list. He is an unstoppable force on the inside, a player who requires double and triple teams on every snap just to keep him contained. He was named first-team All-Pro five times this decade and given that he was still a college player for the first three years of the 2010s that is quite the record.

4.  Rob Gronkowski – TE – New England Patriots

Gronkowski was a player good enough that announcers called him by his nickname as opposed to his given name. Gronk was the biggest matchup nightmare of the decade, a giant human with enough speed to score long touchdowns while being almost unstoppable in the red zone. He scored 79 touchdowns in 115 games and the only thing that stopped him shattering record for a tight end was his inability to keep that massive frame healthy. The Patriots simply don’t look the same without him.

3.  J.J. Watt – DE –  Houston Texans

Watt is a premier player who was voted as a first-team All-Pro at his position in half of the decade’s ten seasons. He was an absolute monster at the turn of the decade when he was named as the Defensive Player of the Year in the NFL in 2012, 2014, and 2015. He picked up 96 sacks over the course of the decade and that is a number that would have been greatly increased had the second half of the 10 year period not seen Watt battling a series of injures.

2.  Joe Thomas – OT – Cleveland Browns

Thomas is a player underappreciated even on lists like this because he played his entire career for a franchise stuck in reverse. He was voted to the Pro Bowl every year he played during the decade – 2010 to 2016 – before he retired prior to the 2017 season. He was a five-time first-team All-Pro this decade and he played a total of 10,363 consecutive snaps, a monumental achievement for an offensive lineman. One of the greatest to ever play his position, Thomas is a worthy inclusion on this list.

1.  Tom Brady – QB – New England Patriots

Love him or hate him it is hard to deny that Tom Brady was the best NFL premier player of the decade. He made nine Pro Bowls during this stretch of his career, being named First-team All-Pro twice, winning a pair of MVP awards and winning the Lombardi trophy with the Patriots on three occasions. The crazy part about this is that Brady achieved all this at an ever increasing age that was supposed to be past his prime. Brady rejuvenated himself in his 30s and he continues to play at a high level now in his 40s and entering a new decade in the league.

lamar jackson

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Fans Vote Jackson The Premier Player of Pro Football

Sports fans voted Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson the recipient of the 2019 Premier Player of Professional Football award.

Lamar Jackson took the NFL by storm in his second year as a professional football player. The 6-foot-2, 212 pound player out of Pompano Beach, Florida, was selected with the final pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Ravens.  He was seen as a low-risk pick by a team with Joe Flacco working as the starting quarterback, but an intriguing prospect out of Louisville who had passed for over 9,000 yards and rushed for over 4,100 yards in three years with the Cardinals.

Jackson found time in 16 games in his rookie NFL season, starting seven of them as he took over from the injured Flacco.  Jackson rolled the Ravens into the playoffs and became the youngest quarterback to ever start a playoff game when they took on the Chargers in the Wild Card Round. While the Ravens would ultimately lose that game, the team had found a quarterback perfect for the changing dynamics of a modern NFL offense.

The Ravens made the decision to move on from Flacco and a new offensive system was built that would allow the athletic and improvisational Jackson to flourish.  Playing just 15 games this season – Jackson and other key starters sat for the Week 17 contest because a playoff spot was secure – the second-year pro passed for 3,127 yards and 36 touchdowns. Jackson added 1,206 yards on the ground and another seven scores. This made Jackson the first player to throw 30+ touchdowns and rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season.

Jackson’s most impressive stat on the season though might be his six interceptions thrown. While the NFL is more about passing the ball than ever, it is still almost impossible to win when the ball is turned over. Jackson was a 66.1% passer in 2019, but his misses rarely result in the ball being picked off. When he missed a pass he always seems to miss it well, with his ability to tuck the ball and run giving him an option against the pass rush that few quarterbacks can match.

That Jackson is achieving such a high level of play at his age and experience level is remarkable. He is actually younger than the 2019 Premier Player of College Football award winner Joe Burrow, yet Jackson is making these plays against the best of the best in the world.  The sky is the limit for Jackson as he marches into the new decade as the best professional football player on the planet per fans.

“Fans are such a big part of the games, so we wanted to come up with an award that they can be a big part of too,” says Carnell Moore, founder of Premier Players.  All the athletes on the ballot are Premier Players, but we let the fans decide who gets the trophy.”

Article by Premier Players

Washington Nationals re sign Stephen Strasburg to seven year M deal

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It All Worked Out For World Series MVP Strasburg, Nationals

Long term planning in sports isn’t always something that pays off. There have been plenty of stories – plenty of ideas – that looked good at the time for a long-term solution but that never quite went the way fans and analysts expected.

It is much rarer, therefore, to see a long-term plan fall into place. Yet that is exactly what we saw as Steven Strasburg put in a World Series MVP performance as the Washington Nationals won their first ever World Series title in 2019.

Strasburg was a baseball phenom before he even got close to the Major Leagues. This premier player was the first pick overall in the 2009 amateur draft, a position that shows what was expected out of his career. The expectation was basically blown through the roof a year later after Strasburg struck out 14 batters in his big league debut, the most of any player starting his first game since back in 1971.

Twelve starts into his career came the unfortunate news that Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery. It is a surgery that has been perfected over the years, but it is still one that kills more careers than it saves. Strasburg seemed to be stopped on his path to stardom, and that is when things got really interesting.

The Nationals were a good team in 2012 – a team with the potential to win the World Series that the nation’s capital craved. They also had an ace on a strict pitch count that they had to adhere to in order to save his career. That is why the team that won 98 games that season pulled Strasburg out of the firing line on September 8th in a move to protect his future. Without him, the Nats fell to St. Louis in the divisional round.

It all paid off in the end.

Strasburg was immense as the premier player in baseball this October. He went 5-0 in the 2019 postseason, the first player ever to hit that number. He made six total postseason appearances, all of them Nationals wins. He threw 14 1/3 innings in the World Series giving up just four runs while striking out 14 in his starts. At times he looked unhittable, pitching with a 1.98 ERA over a total of 36 1/3 postseason innings. He became an all-time great single postseason player.

The question now becomes “Where now”? The Nats could have won the World Series in 2012, destroying Strasburg along the way. They didn’t do so, they were playing for the long run, but for the long run to really work out there needs to be more World Series Titles in the near future.  Time will tell.

Article by Premier Players

watson with championship trophy

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Five Premier Players of The Decade For College Football

Year 2020 is upon us. Given that we aren’t all in flying cars and living in space this is something of a letdown. What is not a letdown, however, is the level of college football played over the last decade. Many premier players have run through the sport in that time, but here are five of our picks for the top players of the 2010-2019 decade in college football:

5. Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina Gamecocks (2011-2013)

Clowney played for three seasons at South Carolina where he was the main playmaker on the Gamecocks defensive line. He totaled 129 tackles with 47.0 tackles for a loss, 24.0 sacks and nine forced fumbles in three seasons where he terrorized the SEC. While his overall play is more than worthy of a spot on this list, the future No. 1 overall draft pick of the Houston Texans has an argument for inclusion based on one single play. In the 2013 Outback Bowl against Michigan, Clowney provided one of the highlights of the decade with a hit, forced fumble, recovered fumble on Wolverines running back Vincent Smith that will be played for years to come.

4. Jonathan Taylor – RB – Wisconsin Badgers (2017-2019)

In the 2010s Wisconsin really was running back U. Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball were great, but it was their last running back of the decade in Jonathan Taylor who was legendary. Taylor became the first player to hit 6,000 rushing in just three seasons when he passed the mark in 2019. He also finished in the top nine in Heisman Trophy voting – sixth, ninth, fifth – in each of his three years in Madison. Taylor won the Doak Walker award that goes to the best running back in the nation in both 2018 and 2019, with this premier player never rushing for less than 1,900 yards in a season.

3. Corey Davis – WR – Western Michigan Broncos (2013-2016)

Davis began his career as a high school player only deemed good enough to garner one Division 1 scholarship offer. Davis took that offer from the Western Michigan Broncos and finished the 2017 season as the all-time leader in receiving yardage, a record he holds to this day. Davis was quick out of the blocks as a freshman where he caught 67 balls for 941 yards and six scores. Over the next three seasons he caught an additional 46 touchdown passes while never having less than 1,408 yards or 78 catches in a season. His record of 5,278 yards receiving is going to be tough for anyone to top.

2. Baker Mayfield – QB – Oklahoma Sooners (2015-2017)

Baker Mayfield had a strange start to college life which saw him play in eight games for Texas Tech in 2013 where he passed for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns. It was a solid, if totally unspectacular debut season, but one transfer to another Big 12 school later and Mayfield became a decade level star. The Lincoln Riley offense was everything it needed to be for Mayfield who led Oklahoma to three Big 12 titles and a pair of CFP appearances. Including the season in Lubbock, Mayfield threw for 131 touchdowns and 14,607 yards as a college quarterback.

1. Deshaun Watson – QB – Clemson Tigers (2014-2016)

Watson had a nice enough freshman season – 14 touchdowns, two picks, 1,466 yards in limited action – but few could have seen from that snapshot what a monster player he would become over his sophomore and junior campaigns with the Clemson Tigers. This premier player exploded onto the scene in 2015 where he passed for over 4,100 yards and 35 touchdowns, before bettering those numbers as a junior with almost 4,600 yards and 41 touchdowns to 14 picks. He was a true dual-threat too, with another 629 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground. The upshot of this was Clemson winning its first national championship in 35 years with Watson at the helm.

Article By Premier Players

Free Event Promotion Ideas

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How To Promote Your Premier Sporting Events

It is easy to assume that in the digital age, the only way to promote your next sports event is by going big online. While the internet is undoubtedly a vital tool, not paying just as much attention to promotion and revenue streams offline would be a big mistake.

Here are seven free offline ways to promote your events:

1 – Flyers
Flyers might be the most straightforward tool of any on this list. As a result, they are easy to overlook when thinking about methods for promoting your sports event. Design a flyer that stands out, but make sure it isn’t a sheet of paper so crammed with information that people will find themselves overwhelmed. Then get out there and paper gyms, coffee shops, and any other business that makes sense depending on the nature of your event.

2 – Voicemail mentions
While there is nothing wrong with sticking with the same voicemail message you have had since 2002, it might be worthwhile updating your message to include mention of your sports event. If your work voicemail could also be shoehorned into promotion then go for it, just don’t get yourself in a situation where you could be fired over your event!

Just keep the message simple and to the point. Mention your signup website and give a brief – a very brief – overview of what the event is all about.

3 – Business partnerships
It is never a bad idea to get businesses on board with your sports event. Asking local businesses for sponsorships – where they give money or items for giveaways in return for publicity – really does help out both parties. It can be daunting going into these situations, sometimes it feels like you think you are demanding money, but having a sales plan in your head while walking through the door will make the conversation go much more smoothly.

Sponsorship searches can be as simple as walking into a business or as involved as attending networking events. Be creative here and see what type of partnerships make sense for your sports event.

3 – Media coverage
Media coverage is important for a local event to be successful. Luckily, we are at a point in time where it is actually easier to pick up this type of coverage than ever before. Local newspapers and news stations are in desperate need of feel-good stories to cover, so get in touch with papers and TV companies to see if you can work together to promote your sports event.

4 – Trade services
If you are running on a budget, it is always a great idea to trade services. Maybe your event needs trashcans and port-a-potties. Instead of directly paying the company, ask to trade entries in the event for their services. This also works at other levels – may be a gym would be willing to trade advertising space in the lobby for free entries – and is all about getting creative in how you want to market your sports event.

5 – Event partnerships
Other sports events in the same sphere don’t have to be your enemy. Instead, use them as a platform to build relationships and increase your visibility. This can be as simple as buying booth space at other events to promote what you have going on. This can obviously get expensive quickly, so how about offering a trade of booth-for-booth with a number of different events, helping everyone out in the process.

You could also work on partnering with other events. Maybe offer a prize for the person/team who finishes with the best-combined record in a series of three different events (including yours). That way, you will instantly pick up more people to take part as everyone loves competition.

6 – Celebrity involvement
You are probably closer to being in touch with a local celebrity than you know. Work your contacts and see who knows who and use that to promote your event. Going outside your sphere to pay for someone to come in can be expensive, but the perfect event host might be as simple as finding out a star football player is the cousin of your neighbor.

7 – Charity partnership
Partnering with a charity such as the Premier Players Sports Foundation is always a great way to make an event more meaningful. You get the benefit of knowing you are helping out a great cause with the work you are doing promoting and working on your event. There are many websites out there that can help link you to a charity, and the other benefit here is that when you have teamed up, you have the power of the charity behind you when it comes to promoting your sports event.

Article by Premier Players

Curry Golf Charity

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Curry Makes Biggest Impact Off The Basketball Court

We all know that Stephen Curry is one of the premier players on a basketball court in the world. The six-time All-Star and two-time NBA MVP winner has proven he is a player who will not rest on his laurels in his quest to keep getting better.

Curry is a player known for getting back into the gym early in the offseason. He has that drive and desire that all the greats find in their genetic make-up; that will to win and the need to improve on their skill set year after year to present new problems and new issues for defenders.

The three-time NBA champion knows that at 31-years-old he must keep pushing to get better. That is how Curry went from a player who was expected, in some circles, to be nothing more than a spot-up shooter in the NBA, to a player who can win games on his own with his passing and quickness off of the dribble.

Curry, though, also picks up his inspiration and his skills around the sport in other ways. One of those ways is that this premier player of basketball also loves to challenge himself with a round of golf.

When news broke that Curry had made a seven-figure donation to Howard University to bring back golf – and Division 1 golf at that – to its sports offerings, it raised a few eyebrows. Curry attended school at Davidson before making his NBA name on the West Coast, so news of him giving money to a small college in D.C. didn’t make much sense.

Curry got the idea to restart the golf program after meeting a Howard student named Otis Ferguson who passed up on furthering his golfing career to attend Howard, a school that did not have a golf program at the time. Curry, intrigued by Ferguson and his life story, decided to bring the program back to life.

Curry played golf in high school, and fans often see him on the pro/am and celebrity golf scenes. Golf is a sport he cares about and one that has impacted his ability to be a premier player in basketball.

“Golf is a sport that has changed my life in ways that are less tangible, but just as impactful,” Curry said about the imminent donation in a press release. “It’s a discipline that challenges your mental wherewithal from patience to focus, and is impossible to truly master, so when you hear about these passionate student-athletes who have the talent but don’t have a fair shot at the game, it’s tough. I feel really honored to play a small role in the rich history of Howard University.”

This act of charity is not the first time Curry has supported others, and it will not be the last. He is making an impact in ways that people will not only remember him for his greatness on the court but his greatness as a person.

UAB Emma Mitchell

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UAB Blazers Ready For Ball State Invite, Season Opener

BIRMINGHAM – With its first match of the season only days away, the UAB volleyball team is set to begin year two of the Amy Pauly era.

“I feel really confident about this group heading into the season,” said Pauly. “They have worked really hard all summer to make sure they were prepared for the first day of practice. I feel like our starting point this year is ahead of last year’s, and that’s always the goal. We focus on the process and how every little detail can help move this program forward.”

The Blazers will first be traveling to Muncie, Ind., on Aug. 30 to compete in the Ball State invite, taking on Ball State at 10 a.m. and USF at 2:30 p.m. in Worthen Arena. The squad’s home opener will be the following Tuesday, Sep. 3, at 7 p.m. in Bartow Arena as in-state rival Alabama State comes to town. UAB’s full schedule consists of a 27-game slate, highlighted by 12 home matches featuring seven conference matches and five nonconference matchups including SEC foe Alabama.

“I’m excited for our non-conference slate. We have a good mix of physical teams and scrappy ball control teams that I think are really going to challenge us to play as a unit and play together consistently,” Pauly said. “I’m most excited about how many home opportunities we have. We had a great turn out for matches last year, and I expect Bartow to be rocking this year!”

UAB returns the entirety of its coaching staff after improving in every statistical category and picking up 13 wins in its debut season, the most wins the program has seen since 2013. Along with six newcomers, the Blazers return 10 players in 2019, including four of six starters. Most notably, UAB returns major firepower on the offensive side from last year’s squad as three of its top five attackers will be in green and gold once again this season.

The eldest of the group is redshirt junior Emma Mitchell (pictured), who was second on the team in kills with 231 on the year and tied for the team lead in service aces with 24 last season. Another key cog returning this season is true junior Abby Carlile, who led last year’s squad in kills with 286 and finished third in total blocks with 67 on the season. Rounding out the vital crop of outside hitters returning is redshirt sophomore Alex Kells. The Ontario, Canada, native was top five on the team in kills and service aces, finishing just shy of the 200 kill threshold with 198 and adding the third most service aces with 18 last year.

“We’re returning a solid core,” she said. “I know they have learned from last year and are prepared to take on an even larger offensive role this year.”

For more information on the UAB volleyball team, follow the Blazers on Twitter or Instagram (@UAB_VB).

Simone biles simone x

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Simone Biles: The Best May Still Be Yet To Come

If Simone Biles retired today would she do so as the best athlete of all time?

It is a question that most wouldn’t even consider, but Biles’ name should be up there with the likes of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, and anyone else who is deemed to be at the top of the list not only their sport, but in all of sports.

Biles problem in this argument is her lack of visibility. As a female gymnast, she dominates in a sport that is only visible to the larger American population, let alone the broader world population, every four years. When the Olympic Games are in full swing, then women’s gymnastics is popular. As soon as the Olympics finish, however, Biles is back to performing her craft well out of the media bubble.

Looking objectively at her career though, you can certainly make a case that Biles is the most dominant athlete of her time.

Being one of the premier athletes in gymnastics for any length of time is undoubtedly tough. It is a sport that chews up and spits out its athletes quicker than almost any other, with the need for a combination of strength and flexibility being practically impossible to maintain as age takes over.

Biles is the exception to this rule. She claimed her sixth all-around title at the 2019 US Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, wrecking the rest of the field by five points in a sport that is almost always decided by decimal figures. Biles doesn’t just have one or two events she excels in and then holds on through the rest, she is legitimately dominant in all aspects of a sport where each routine – from floor to uneven bars – requires a distinct and unique set of skills.

Biles dominated the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, never giving her competition a chance to even put her under pressure. She is a cool, confident, and highly skilled athlete, one that never seems to get stressed or let the pressure to perform cause her problems in a sport when a slight misstep can mean the difference between a winning routine or low score by the judges.

Biles was asked a simple question on the Today Show by host Natalie Morales in 2018 after she had just won the US Gymnastics Championships that year. The question was, “Are you human?” to which she replied, “I am human, but I get that question all the time.”

That is a question reserved for premier athletes and players that have attained a different level than being a favorite sports star. A tier that is the elite of the elite. Simone Biles has reached that tier and, as she proves consistently, she has no plans to slow down any time soon.

Article by Premier Players

larry bird

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Best Ever In NBA Discussions Must Include Larry Bird

The debate around the best player ever in a sport will never be truly answered. Even comparing players of the same generation – Messi vs. Ronaldo, Brady vs. Manning – is difficult enough. So how do we look at two players from different eras and decide which of the two is the premier player?

When it comes to basketball, most of the debate around the best player ever focuses on Michael Jordan and LeBron James. They are seen as the 1a and the 1b of the game – in some order – with most people putting Jordan at the top due to his number of championships and the iconic ways he won games in an era where individual stars weren’t as prevalent as they are today.

There are some, a small minority based either in the 617 area code or in French Lick, Indiana, who will tell you that neither Mike nor ‘Bron is the premier player in basketball history. For those people, it is all about Larry Bird.

Larry Legend was a premier player. He’s talked about in mythical ways in some circles, even though his career in the NBA didn’t come to an end until the 90s. He, before LeBron, was widely regarded as the best small forward the game had ever seen. A player who could do it all on the court, and who always did so with a systematic style of play that belied his skillset.

Bird was a 12-time NBA All-Star, a nine-time All-NBA First Team selection, a three-time NBA Champion, and a three-time NBA Finals MVP. In addition to that stacked resume, Bird was voted the NBA MVP for three years in a row from 1984-1986. That means that for 36 consecutive months, – almost 1,100 days – there was (by popular opinion) no better in the game of basketball. Larry Bird was the premier player in the entire sport.

To see the value of Bird, you have to look past what Isaiah Thomas has coined the “winning plus” mindset. This school of thought – one that dominates the game today – is that merely winning is not good enough. Instead, you have to win with style and flash, you have to be an above the rim player who can be a SportsCenter highlight every night, and it is a mindset where only winning championships in the style of a Tim Duncan isn’t enough.

That is not to say that Bird wouldn’t have adapted. One look at his highlights on YouTube shows a player with a passing range that is unlike any small forward in the NBA today. That he was able to pass, dribble, and shoot his Celtics to three NBA Titles in an era where defenders could basically mug the attacking player is a testament to his otherworldly skill level. There is a school of thought that the greats could find their way to adapt and play in any era, with another school saying that if Bird’s Celtics had played in the Eastern Conference over the past decade, they would have made 10 NBA Finals trips due to Larry’s ability and work ethic.

Maybe the best way to put Bird’s career into perspective as one of the premier players of all time is too look at his scoring. Bird scored 21,791 NBA points, good for 24.3 points per game (while rebounding at a rate of 10.0 per game). This puts Bird 30th on the all-time scoring list. Bird also won the first-ever 3-point contest at an All-Star game. Even with those numbers, and that ability, Bird rarely practiced the outside shot as he played in an era where it was all about getting the ball inside.

If he played today, Larry Legend would be over 30,000 points without breaking a sweat. That is how the premier players in a sport cross generations and come into the conversation as the best to play their game and, based on that, no discussion about the best basketball player ever would be complete without the mention of Larry Bird.

Article by Premier Players, Inc.

Mike Trout

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Mike Trout Continues To Build Legendary Career

To reach the mountain top of being a legendary sports figure isn’t easy. It usually happens late in a players career (Tom Brady) or when a player dominates his game with a big play and a loud personality (LeBron).

Even then, these players are legends in leagues and sports that are still relatively young. What, then, would you say to the claim that we have a legendary player who at 28-years-old still has much of his career in front of him? Oh, and he is a premier player statistically destroying a sport that has been played professionally in this country since the year of the first east-west transatlantic radio broadcast.

Welcome to the career of Mike Trout.

Walking through Trout’s career before he hit his 28th birthday is a little ridiculous. He ranks in the top 10 in home runs, walks, and on-base percentage, just three of the many significant categories he is among the best all-time in at that age.

He is already an eight-time all-star and a two-time league MVP, with the odds being good that he will win a third MVP award at the end of the 2019 season. Trout, like most of the premier players we see, is only getting better as he gets older. This season he is going to break his personal career-high marks in RBI, home runs, and on-base plus slugging (OPS) categories. Given how stellar his stats already were, that is some achievement.

If this were four or five decades ago, Trout would be the most talked-about sportsman on the planet. Even in the days of Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, baseball was a factor in the national conversation. In 2019, however, the sport just hasn’t found a way to grip fans in the way football and basketball seem able to do. That is why Trout could walk through most towns in America as the premier player of the national pastime and most wouldn’t even recognize his face.

While Trout increases his home run numbers and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ranking seemingly every time he plays, it is the MVP numbers which might be his most impressive legacy when all is said and done. Trout has finished in the top-two of voting for the award every full season he has played the game. The only exception to this was in 2017 where he played just 114 games due to injury. Even then he finished fourth. Seven seasons in the top five is the longest such streak for any player since 1931. When the voters for the biggest individual prize in your sport are that enamored with your game, then you are the premier player on the planet.

Trout is a Hall of Famer in waiting. That he could potentially have another five to seven seasons in his sport is truly impressive. Watch the numbers grow and watch the legend increase as Trout does what he does day after day in the major league. One day, just maybe, Mike Trout will be more recognizable to the average American sports fan.

By Steve Wright
Independent Writer

 

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Awards

The Premier Player Award

Football, or any sport, would not bring excitement to millions of people each year if it wasn’t for the fans. Yet, when it came to determining the best players in the country, the fans were mostly left out of the selection process – until now.

The Premier Player Trophy is an award presented to the athlete the fans voted as the best player in NCAA college football, basketball, baseball, softball, and hockey.  A poll is released at the beginning of the college sports season with 20 of the best players for fans to follow.  In mid-October to early November, up to five more great performing players may be added to the poll while nonperformers are deleted from the poll.  Fans then have until the last conference championship game to vote the Premier Player of the season.

Here’s what one of the best in pro and college football, the late Lee Roy Selmon, had to say  https://youtu.be/7jLk-p0SGAI?t=58s about our award.

Below is the Making of The Premier Player Trophy video:

Short interviews with College & NFL HOF Lee Roy Selmon, first award recipient Ryan Mallett, and Carnell Moore, founder of The Premier Players Sports Foundation:

Marcus Mariota’s interview about the Premier Player Trophy:

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Awards

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