Can The Bucks Advance In The NBA Playoffs?

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

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

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

A Disappointing Past

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

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

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

A Promising Future

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

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

Potential 2nd Round Opponents

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

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

Article by Andrew Pistone

The Rise of Veganism In Pro Sports

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

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

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

Why Fields Went Vegan

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

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

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

Veganism is the new Wave

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

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

Veganism Will be Socially Normative in the Future

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

Article by Patrick Ryan

MAC JONES: Can He Be The Next Tom Brady?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Premier Players

Pistol Pete Maravich’s Play Amongst The Greatest

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

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

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

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

Maravich’s averages were as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

Article By Premier Players

Premier Players of Pro Football

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.

Fans voted Lamar Jackson the first recipient of The Premier Player of Pro Football Award in 2019.  Jackson had a breakout season with many video-game-like highlights.  Click on his image below for more information about his award-winning season.

The Premier Player Trophy is an award presented to the athlete the fans voted as the best player in his or her sport.  A poll is released at the beginning of the 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.

Premier Player Award
NFL & Collegiate HOF Lee Roy Selmon and Premier Players founder Carnell Moore

Utah LB Lloyd Nominated For Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award

While his leadership on the field is evident after being Utah’s total tackle leader in 2019, Devin Lloyd’s character is even stronger.  Therefore, the University of Utah has nominated the junior linebacker for The 2020 Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award.

Lloyd is an avid volunteer in the Salt Lake City community, visiting patients in the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the main hospital, creating a special bond with a patient who was recovering from a skydiving accident.

“Devin Lloyd is one of those guys that does everything right, both on and off the field,” said Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham.   “He excels academically, is an exceptionally hard worker, participates in community service and his leadership skills are second to none. It’s been incredible watching him develop right before our eyes and become the leader and person he is today.  We’re looking forward to watching Devin’s continued success and what’s to come for him this season and in his future.”

Lloyd also visits local retirement homes and has organized drives to hand out water to the homeless. He is a team captain and a part of the leadership council on the team. He represents Utah in the Football Student-Athlete Working Group, started by the Pac-12.   In addition, Lloyd is passionate about social injustice and human rights, organizing marches in downtown Salt Lake City among community members and other student-athletes, speaking at each event on current social issues, and his passion for kindness and understanding.

He is majoring in communications, earning a spot on both the Dean’s List and the AD Honor Roll in 2019 and 2020.

Freddie Solomon played his college football at the University of Tampa (Florida) and went on to play for the Miami Dolphins for three seasons before joining the San Francisco 49ers where he helped win two Super Bowl championships.  His career in the National Football League as a wide receiver came to a close after 11 years.  Then the Sumter, SC, native known as “Fabulous Freddie”, came back to Hillsborough County (Tampa) to make a more lasting impact.  Solomon devoted the next 12 years of his life to the youths of Tampa Bay, working with the Sheriff’s department to teach kids life lessons through football.  His efforts impacted more than two decades of youths and his lessons are still carried on in the community.  The Freddie Solomon Community Spirit Award continues Solomon’s efforts to help make the world a better place by annually honoring a collegiate football player who has impacted the lives of others through giving and community service.

Information provided by Jordie Lindley
University of Utah Athletics

John Thompson Used Basketball To Teach Legendary Character

The word legendary tends to be thrown around too often, but John Thompson Jr. – the legendary coach of Georgetown University who passed away on August 31st – is certainly a man fitting of that title. Thompson, who was 78 years old, was a premier coach and a pioneer who became the first black coach to win the NCAA championship when he led the Hoyas to the mountaintop of the sport in 1984.

‘Big John’ as he was known to players and fans was much more than just a coach. Hired to coach Georgetown in 1972 it was seen as something of a radical appointment at that time to place the future of a traditionally white Jesuit University in the hands of a black coach. Fighting through racism and abuse – something that he would champion the cause against all the way through his life – this premier coach was in charge of the Hoyas for 27 seasons and despite his on court success it was his work off the court that should be pointed out to show the love and resiliency of his character.

This tweet from Allen Iverson, a player that Thompson mentored and coached for two years at Georgetown between 1994 and 1996, shows the type of bond that Big John would form with the student athletes under his leadership:

“Thanks For Saving My Life Coach.  I’m going to miss you, but I’m sure that you are looking down on us with a big smile.  I would give anything just for one more phone call from you only to hear you say, “Hey MF”, then we would talk about everything except basketball . . .”

Iverson is a perfect example of Thompson’s willingness to work with players coming from difficult backgrounds. The future multiple time NBA All-Star was blackballed from a lot of the top schools in the country because he had three felony convictions hanging over his head relating to a brawl he was involved in at a bowling alley while in high school.

While many of the college bluebloods shied away from Iverson, Thompson went all in on the Hampton, Va. product. Thompson knew he was getting a gifted athlete for his program, but more than that he realized he could make a huge difference in the life of a young man who needed the vital guidance and life coaching that he could provide.  In 2016, Iverson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – a place where his bust stands alongside that of Thompson – a place that Iverson has said countless times that he would never have reached without Big John in his corner for all those intervening years.

Iverson is the most well-known story of the type of man that Thompson is, but there are countless tales of such character and drive to make everyone be the best person in life that they can possibly be that Big John formed in locker rooms, over the phone, and during his coaching sessions throughout his storied career. As a coach, he took Georgetown to three Final Fours and seven Big East titles in the 1980s, along with leading the US to a bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics – the last Olympics before NBA players made winning a medal a much easier prospect for a coach at that level.

Along with Iverson, Thompson recruited and developed three other Hall of Famers in Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo. He was a coach that wasn’t afraid to recruit minority players regardless of the upbringing, and he famously walked off the court in a 1989 game to protect Proposition 42, an NCAA measure that he saw as an aim to limit scholarships – and therefore life altering opportunities – to minority students.

Thompson’s legacy is secure. He is a coach that would stand up for what he believed in, would fight against social inequality, and who would win more than his fair share of basketball games. He will remain an inspirational figure long after this date.

Article by Premier Players

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 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 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