Ex NFL Punter McAfee Was No Ordinary Player

There aren’t many former punters that would be described as premier players and premier athletes. Pat McAfee, however, is no ordinary retired punter.

In truth, McAfee wasn’t even just a regular punter when he was playing in the NFL between 2009 and 2016 with the Indianapolis Colts. Most punters – specifically before the influx of Australian crossover athletes with massive legs – were cited as being contact shy and, if we were to be mean, not real football players.

McAfee broke that mold. At 6-foot-1 and every bit of 225 pounds, McAfee was built more like a linebacker than a punter.  A placekicker and punter at West Virginia, McAfee was taken with the No. 222 overall pick in Round 7 of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Colts.

McAfee immediately became a fan favorite. He handled placekicking and punting duties for the Colts and he was excellent at both. A two-time Pro Bowler in 2014 and 2016, McAfee was also named First-Team All-Pro at his position in 2014. McAfee retired after eight seasons in the league and to date still holds the NFL record for highest career net punting average at 41.1 yards with a minimum of 250 punts made.

What made McAfee stand out on the field most was his willingness to hit kickoff and punt returners and usually win the battle. He was not a player willing to be juked and fall to the ground to avoid a tackle. McAfee knew he was a football player and he seemed to make it his mission to prove that not every specialist was afraid of contact.

There are a number of hard hits on his resume, but the one that stands out the most was on a Sunday Night Football game in 2013 against the Denver Broncos. Broncos’ returner Trindon Holliday – one of the fastest players on the team – was flying down the left sideline on a return. That’s when McAfee appeared. He took the angle of a safety, using the sideline to trap Holliday, before just running him over with everything he had from the side as the Bronco reached the 45 yard-line.

It was an epic hit – Holliday spun through the air as if hit by a truck – and the commentary duo of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth meant that the hit was instantly immortalized as one of the best of the season by any player, let alone a punter.

As good as McAfee was on the field, what the 35-year-old has done in retirement has made him stand out even more. His retirement was early by NFL standards, with McAfee having an open offer to work for Barstool Sports where his oversized personality was an instant fit. This change was helped because he had been unhappy with the leadership structure within the Colts organization for a while and wanted to try something new.

From there, McAfee worked with Fox Sports and ESPN on college and pro football broadcasts and panels. He has also worked extensively in radio and hosts his own show on Sirius XM radio. The show is one that’s always newsworthy because Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a frequent guest.

Even with all this going on, McAfee has more on his plate. An avid professional wrestling fan, McAfee has transitioned to call WWE Smackdown, one of the two flagship shows for the company. He also has dabbled as a wrestler, wowing the WrestleMania audience with his athleticism and ability between the ropes.

What stands out about McAfee is that this premier player is simply unwilling to be bad at anything. He might be the most driven ex-professional football player on the planet, grinding to mark off his goals and grow his brand. He runs or helps run multiple foundations and charitable endeavors. His own Pat McAfee Foundation works with the sons and daughters of military personnel, while he is involved with “Fur the Brand” which helps with the cost of animal surgeries.

McAfee is a larger-than-life character with a larger-than-life heart and he is someone everyone should root for as he continues his assault on the world of sports broadcasting.

 

Did Suns’ Booker Inspire Luka’s Next-Level Play?

It is not a good idea to make Dallas Mavericks’ superstar Luka Doncic even mildly annoyed.

Doncic is arguably one of the most exciting young premier players in the NBA with the 23-year-old Serbian looking like the next coming of Larry Bird. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, the comparisons to Larry Legend are easy to make.  Bird, though, had an attitude and swagger that we hadn’t seen from Doncic until Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals this year with the Mavericks taking on the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns won Game 5 110-80 and needed to win just one more of the two remaining games, with the last game of the series at home, it figured to be a foregone conclusion. The problem was that Suns’ shooting guard Devin Booker had made an enemy of Doncic. Booker was fouled hard while driving for the basket late in Game 5. He turned to the camera and unleashed the phrase “Luka Special”.

This was not Booker admiring Doncic’s game.  This was Booker attempting to get under the skin of the Mavs’ star. Booker – you see – had flailed around on the floor for a few seconds mimicking a flop. Doncic has been accused (rightly in some cases) of hitting the ground a little too easily on the basketball court. The intent of the statement was clear and, while not entirely wrong, it was very, very ill-advised.

Doncic was a star already in the series but he took his play to the next level in Game 6.  Whether he was fuelled by Booker’s jibe – or the premier player just decided to bring everything he had facing elimination two straight nights – Doncic completely took over.  In Game 6, he secured 11 boards and scored a game-high 33 as the Mavs routed the Suns 113-86. The last game of the series, the vital Game 7, was expected to be far, far closer.  It was not.

The half-time score was 57-27 in favor of the Mavs. Doncic – who had previously been 0-2 in elimination playoff games – had scored 27 of those 57. He matched the total of the entire Suns’ team on his own in the first half. It was a career-defining 30 minutes for the 23-year-old.

Booker, on the other hand, struggled in the two games. In Game 6, he scored 19 points but committed a season-high eight turnovers. In Game 7, Booker had just 11 points.

A side note to this story is that while the legacy of Doncic is just beginning, the legacy of Chris Paul in the playoffs continues to be a mess. Paul became the first player ever to blow 2-0 playoff leads in five best-of-seven series and Paul has now lost four straight Game 7s.  It is a weird caveat to an outstanding career.

The story here, however, is Doncic. The Slovenian already has more NBA records than players with an entire career’s worth of work. He is a triple-double machine and – by all accounts – a model citizen off of the court who works to be a better basketball player every day.  He’s also the Mavs’ career leader in triple-doubles as well, and it took him only 122 games to pass Jason Kidd.

Can’t wait to see how Doncic continues to contribute to the Mavs, the league, and to the fans because he definitely doesn’t display a “me-first” attitude.

By Premier Players Steve Wright

Unranked Start Ends w/ Premier Coach Award

Climbing to the top of the mountain in any college football conference is tough. Doing so in the Big Ten with sharks like The Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, and the Wisconsin Badgers in the water is even tougher. That is what makes Jim Harbaugh’s season with the Michigan Wolverines so special that the fans voted him the 2021 Premier Coach of College Football.

Harbaugh has been at Michigan since the start of the 2015 season. Given how often college coaches are hired and fired this represents serious tenure. After a 2019 season that had a disappointing ending and a pandemic affected the 2020 season, that was about as bad as it could get and Harbaugh knew big things were required in 2021.

Big things like a 12-1 record to win the Big Ten East before taking care of the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten championship game and claiming the Wolverines first-ever College Football Playoff spot.

Michigan was not expected to be successful this season. The ESPN Football Power Index gave Harbaugh and his team a 2% chance of winning the Big Ten and they started the season unranked. Harbaugh, however, had done some soul searching in the offseason. He brought in an influx of young, hungry coaches to bounce ideas off of and made it a priority to get the Wolverines to work towards the Ohio State game all season long.

It worked!

The Ohio State game has been an issue for Michigan for years. This year was different. Harbaugh and his Wolverines ended an eight-game skid in the rivalry in resounding fashion as they rolled to a 42-27 win behind a devastating rushing attack. Almost as impressive was the way that Harbaugh was able to keep his team focused the very next week – so hard to do after an emotional win – as Michigan took down a very dangerous Iowa team with complete ease (42-3) in the Big Ten title game.

Michigan proved everyone wrong in 2021 and the journey that Harbaugh took them on through the pain and lows of 2020 to the highs of this season makes him a great choice for the 2021 Premier Coach of College Football Trophy.

Article by Premier Players

Fans Vote Anderson The 2021 Premier Player

The 2021 Premier Player of College Football Trophy winner is Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. Anderson was simply the most outstanding player in all of college football for the duration of the season.  While teammate Bryce Young was awarded the Heisman Trophy, it was Young’s defensive enforcer who was consistently a matchup that no offensive coordinator could figure out how to slow down, let alone stop.

Anderson’s stats from his 2021 sophomore season are ridiculous.  He basically lived in opposing backfields, tearing up running games or destroying quarterbacks. The Premier Player finished the regular season with an absurd 31.5 tackles for a loss. This was 9.5 TFLs better than anyone else in the football bowl subdivision (FBS) managed. Anderson also piled up 15.5 sacks of the quarterback. To put that into perspective, those 15.5 sacks were more than NINE ENTIRE TEAMS managed, including Power 5 schools like Stanford and Colorado.

It was no secret that Anderson would be pass rushing and run blitzing, yet nothing offenses did seem to work. In an October game against Mississippi State, Anderson had four of the Crimson Tide’s seven sacks. While that is impressive enough on its own, it is the plays that he didn’t get sacks that were just as dominant. Anderson spent that game – and most of the season – wrecking the entire right side of the Bulldogs’ offensive line.

Anderson’s ability to get into the backfield entirely nullified what an opposition offense could do as tight ends and running backs had to stay in and help their offensive linemen deal with his pass rush.  However, Anderson’s consistency was his greatest asset in 2021.

People talk of “moments” defining a great year. That can seem backward in cases like Anderson’s. He didn’t have a signature moment because he was simply a wrecking ball the entire season. It is hard to have that highlight play that stands out when you have already picked up double-digit sacks and make more tackles for a loss than some defensive players make total tackles.

An aggressive, efficient, and sure tackling edge rusher, Anderson has also evolved into a leader on a defensive front-seven that is as dangerous as there is in the game.  A unanimous First-Team All-American, the scary aspect for Alabama’s rivals is that Anderson will be back in the Crimson Tide uniform for at least one more year.

Congratulations again to Will Anderson Jr., the 2021 Premier Player of College Football.

Article by Steve Wright

Utah Nick Ford Earns Freddie Solomon Award

TAMPA, Fla. – University of Utah offensive lineman Nick Ford has been named the 2021 Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award, announced today by The Solomon Family and The Premier Players Sports Foundation.

The Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award annually honors a collegiate football player who has impacted the lives of others through giving and community service.

Ford has found a way to make two of his passions in life, cooking and helping others, into a way to better serve the Salt Lake City community. This past year, Ford has partnered with Utah Foster Care to put on “Sunday Dinner” where Ford along with the Athletes Strong Foundation cook for over 100 foster families at each event.

The San Pedro, Calif., native came up with the idea because of his family’s tradition of doing a big family dinner on Sundays. After his brother, Michael, passed away in 2019 from a heart condition, Ford vowed that he would spend his life helping and serving other people.

In addition to his work with Utah Foster Care, Ford volunteers at local elementary schools to mentor young children, reading and visiting with classes virtually over Zoom this past year.

He is also passionate about social justice for the underserved, helping lead a march on the Salt Lake City capital in 2020 as part of a team-led initiative to bring social injustice and ways to fix it to light.

Ford and the Utes will return to action on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, to play in the Rose Bowl against Ohio State. The game is set for a 2 p.m. PT/3 p.m. MT kick on ESPN.

Article written by Utah Sports Information

MI Captains Relive The Game & Look Ahead To Iowa

For a second straight week, Jon Jansen catches up with captains Andrew Vastardis and Josh Ross on the “In the Trenches” podcast. Vastardis discusses Saturday’s victory over the Buckeyes and thinks back on what he remembers from the postgame celebration on the field. Ross talks about why he feels like the happiest man alive and the quick transition from the win over Ohio State to this weekend’s matchup against Iowa.

By Brian Boesch

The scene on the field at Michigan Stadium around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday was euphoric. Michigan snapped a losing streak against its biggest rival, clinched a Big Ten East Division title, and stayed alive in the College Football Playoff picture, all with one monumental 42-27 victory over Ohio State. It was the culmination of a year’s worth of preparation, as the Wolverines constantly asked, and were asked, the question — “What are you doing to beat Ohio State today?”

Michigan embraced that question as a team, and they answered that question as a team. The Wolverines’ offense did not face a third down the entire second half, during which the team’s only non-scoring drive featured the victory formation. The Wolverines’ defense limited the Buckeyes’ dynamic offense to 27 points, 20 fewer than their season average coming into “The Game.” Last, but not least, the Michigan special teams unit executed in some challenging weather elements to consistently put pressure on Ohio State.

“I am the happiest man alive right now,” linebacker Josh Ross told Jon Jansen on this week’s edition of the “In the Trenches” podcast. “(Saturday) was a movie, to be honest with you. We executed so well in all phases, and we had our best game, and that’s what you ask for in games like these.”

“I’m so proud of this team, so proud of this staff, and just so overjoyed,” fellow captain Andrew Vastardis said. “We went out there and executed the game plan to a ‘T.”

Now, the Wolverines must do it again. Michigan cannot bask in the glory of Saturday’s convincing win. The 10-win Iowa Hawkeyes await in this weekend’s Big Ten Championship Game. Kirk Ferentz’s team does not try to fool you, as Iowa provides a physical and fundamentally sound brand of football each week.

As head coach Jim Harbaugh said, “They play at a level of consistency that is at the highest level of any team that you ever play.” Fortunately, the Wolverines have also been consistent, both on gameday and in the lead-up to each game.

“(It) goes back to the preparation I’ve talked about so much this year. Guys enjoy the process. They enjoy the grind. They enjoy preparing for these games,” Vastardis said. “We’re just getting right back to it. You get your 24 hours to celebrate, and then it’s just back to work. This team loves to work.”

“We got bigger and better things in front of us, and it’s just exciting to be in the position that we’re in,” Ross said. “Everything’s in front of us, and we know that, and it’s just time to go get it.”

If the Wolverines are successful on Saturday against Iowa, then they will get a chance to celebrate on Sunday before restarting the grind again — this time, for a College Football Playoff game, and as Big Ten Champions.

• MGoBlue Podcasts

Georgia Bulldogs Continue Championship Preparation

ATHENS, Ga. – Defensive players Travon Walker and Quay Walker previewed Saturday’s SEC Championship match up against Alabama.

The Bulldogs are set to kick off against the Crimson Tide at 4:00p.m. ET in Atlanta, Ga., at Mercedes Benz Stadium.

#44 Travon Walker | DL | Jr.
On the responsibilities of his position…
“Basically, at the position that I play, sometimes, we can be asked to do a lot, but sometimes, it doesn’t get the recognition that it deserves. At my position, there is a lot that goes into it. Setting the edge, dropping in coverage, asked to get sacks, or asked to eat blocks, so it could be a variety of things.”

On the locker room vibe going into the SEC Championship…
“The connection with the team and the guys in the locker room, it’s an unbreakable feeling about the guys. Everybody has that bond and knows each other’s ‘why’. Why we are doing it. Therefore, with us knowing why each other is doing it, we can hold each other accountable to that ‘why.'”

On getting to Bryce Young…
“I think it’s going to be a great matchup for both sides. I just think that we have to continue doing what we have been doing all season, and everything will go as planned. That being said, we just got to keep rushing the passer, and it will all fall in place.”

#7 Quay Walker | ILB | Sr.
On what has contributed to his standout senior year…
“I think it started in the offseason. Changing my body, changing the way I eat, pretty much just feeling better, getting to know things better, and learning the defense. I think it pretty much started with that. Once you know the defense really well, you can play really fast and you’re not going to get into too much danger. It pretty much started with that, but mainly we changed the way I eat and changed my body and feeling better. That’s pretty much it.”

On the focus for playing Alabama for an SEC championship versus a normal in-season game…
“When you focus, you adapt a little bit, but I think that’s always been our motive this whole year. No matter what game it is, we treat all of them the same. We don’t need anyone to try to do anything different than what they have already done this whole year. But other than that, we’ve got to go out and execute and everything else is going to be taken care of.”

On Coach Kirby Smart’s message to the team the week before the SEC Championship…
“Keeping the main thing the main thing, focus on what we have to do and don’t pay attention to anything else besides what we have to do. That’s pretty much it. We have to focus on what’s ahead of us and everything else is going to play out how it’s supposed to play.”

NC A&T Golfer Makes History At Tournament

ROLAND, Ark. – North Carolina A&T women’s golfer Christyn Carr (SR, Atlanta, Ga.) made history at the Jackson T. Stephens Cup played on the par-72, 6,311-yard Alotian Club golf course on October 20th. The American Junior Golf Association invited Carr and A&T men’s golfer Xavier Williams to the prestigious tournament.

Carr and Williams were two of six premier players from historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) invited to the tournament that included players from Notre Dame, Alabama, Arizona, and Florida State, among other Power Fives.

Carr set a course record by becoming the first collegiate player to shoot a score below 70 on the course by shooting a 3-under 69. She also set a school record for the lowest round ever with her 69.

Two bogeys over her first seven holes had Carr at 2-over heading to the par-5, 525-yard eighth. Carr birdied the hole as she made the turn at 1-over. She then became strong midway through the back nine. She moved to even par on the par-5, 433-yard 14th with a birdie.

The premier player closed the tournament by birdieing her last three holes, starting with the par-3, 183-yard 16th. She then moved to par-5, 488-yard No. 17, where she birdied her third par-5 of the round. Then, finally, Carr took down the par-4, 396-yard 18th to finish her historic round.

“Christyn is a dedicated student-athlete who works as hard on her golf game as hard as she works on her books,” said A&T coach Richard Watkins about Carr, who has the nursing school’s highest grade point average. “Her round was amazing but not surprising. You don’t become a quality player like she is without putting in the work.”

Watkins added that when he saw Carr play at the Wyndham Pro-Am this past summer, he knew this could be a special year for his top women’s golfer.

“She was just hitting the ball so well with so much confidence,” Watkins said. “The things that Christyn can do on a golf course are exciting and exceptional but not surprising to me.”

Carr finished the tournament in 30th place after shooting an 18-over 234 in three rounds. She shot an 84 and 81 in rounds one and two, respectively.

Williams shot a three-round 9-over 243 on the par-72, 7,450-yard course for the men. His best round was a 5-over 77 in the second round.

“Xavier told me it was the longest, toughest course he has ever played on,” said Watkins.

Article from North Carolina A&T Communications

Two Premier Players’ Take On The Bulldogs Season

ATHENS, Ga. – Seniors Justin Shaffer, a First-team Pre-season All-American by Pro Football Focus, and Ameer Speed met with the media via Zoom this week and offered the following comments regarding fall camp and the upcoming 2021 season for The Georgia Bulldogs:

#54 | Justin Shaffer | OL | 6’4” | 330 lbs

On the offensive expectations for this season:  “One of our main expectations is just to not turn the ball over. Work together as an offensive and play together as an offense. At the end of the end of the day it is all about working together as a team and as an offense. I feel that we are going to be way more explosive because we have so much more talent surrounding the team. Everyone has been working together and working on the same page.”

On how the offensive line is preparing for Clemson:  “I feel like we are not just preparing for Clemson but for everyone. We still have work we have to do as a team offensively and defensively. Clemson is not our main focus but us working on each other is our main focus.”

On the closeness of the offensive line:  “I feel like since I have been here, we have just gotten closer and closer. I feel like we have just been growing and growing. Me just being the older guy in the room I feel like I have to be the guy that is everyone’s big brother and make sure that everyone is connecting. At the end of the day, we are all one unit.”

#9 | Ameer Speed | DB | 6’3” | 211 lbs

On his progress during camp:  “I have just been taking things day by day and using every day to really get better as a team and as a player, as a brother and as a person. We are just taking it step by step and not letting everything get too ahead of us, like coach says, ‘moving day by day, live in the moment to be able to perfect that day so I can move on to the next day.'”

On how the team is meshing:  “We have just been trying to be a brotherhood; Coach Addae, Coach Smart, Coach Monken have been working with us all, allowing us all to perfect our crafts and just being the best we can be. Also, us older guys, we are able to help out. We are all open, when one person does something wrong ‘we are all like hey, you know you could have done this or done that’, we are all working together and trying to make each other the best we can be. We are only as strong as our weakest link so once we are all where we need to be we can do anything we want to do.”

On the maturity of this team:  “It is crazy as you get older, your thought process and the way you see things just evolves on and on. I forget that I am an old head sometimes. Just seeing that influence that you have on people on the team, it does mean a lot. You can feel it at practice with the old guys helping the young guys and just us all being there for each other.”

Former Clemson Great Joining The Top 2 Percent

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson and the National Football Foundation (NFF) announced that former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller will be honored for his College Football Hall of Fame selection in an in-stadium presentation at halftime of Clemson’s home opener against South Carolina State on Sept. 11. During the ceremony, the National Football Foundation will present Spiller with a plaque celebrating his selection in advance of his formal induction at the 63rd NFF Annual Awards Dinner in Las Vegas on Dec. 7.

In January, Spiller was selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2021, earning the distinction in only his second year of eligibility.  He will become Clemson’s eighth overall inductee and its fourth former player to earn the honor.

Spiller was one of 11 premier players and two coaches selected from the national ballot to the 2021 College Football Hall of Fame Class. His historic Clemson career spanned from 2006-09, culminating with a senior season in which the premier player finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting after winning ACC Player of the Year, and being selected as a unanimous first-team All-American. That season, Spiller scored 21 touchdowns and became the first player in ACC history to gain 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.

Of the 5.47 million individuals who have played college football since Princeton first battled Rutgers on Nov. 6, 1869, only 1,038 players and 223 coaches have been immortalized in the Hall, including those slated for induction in the Class of 2021. His selection to the Hall of Fame puts this premier player in the top 0.02 percent of those who have played or coached college football.

Tickets remain available for fans wanting to witness and participate in the salute to Spiller’s historic career. Fans can purchase discounted tickets using the promo code SPILLER28 — as well as learn more about single-game tickets and three-game flex packs — at ClemsonTigers.com/footballtickets or by directly visiting bit.ly/SPILLER28. The game, which will be carried on ACC Network, is scheduled for a 5 p.m. kickoff.