Written by: Tony Covington

My Captain, My Captain...UVA Coach Mike London is a WINNER

July 18, 2014


Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Coach Mike London is embarking upon his fifth season as the University of Virginia's head football coach.  He has compiled an 18-31 record in four years and has had only one winning season during his tenure.  But then that really depends on your definition of winning. 18-31 is definitely not indicative of a winner on the field and ultimately he will be judged, by the powers that be, on his wins and losses. However, if you could take a look behind the curtain at the coach himself, you would find a man of honor, integrity and character.  You would find a father, a man of God and a passionate leader of men. That's six wins right there. On top of that, he is a man that is dedicated to service, to the uplifting of his community, and he lifts others as he climbs with a loyalty that is unmatched.  He is a giver of second chances because he understands that no man is perfect and that all make mistakes.  He is honest and he is trustworthy.  That's twelve wins and I could keep going.  

Coach has a great football mind and kids love playing for him.  They love playing for him because they know that he genuinely cares about them. Not just as football players but as family.  Coach London goes into a recruits home and tells that young man and his family that he will treat that young man like his own son...and he actually means it.  How else do you think that his recruiting classes have consistently ranked in the top 30 nationally despite a UVA winning percentage of only fifty-eight percent? He inherited a program that was not headed in the right direction athletically or academically.  He had to clean house of those that did not value the blessing of being a student-athlete at the University of Virginia, hence having only six seniors on a 2013 team who's schedule was ranked as one of the toughest in the nation. The 2014 schedule does not get any better with three out of the first four opponents having a combined record of 30-9 in 2013. Now be clear, I am all for playing top notch competition but I sure would like that level of competition to be on the back end of the schedule giving the team a chance to build confidence and momentum on the front end.  All schools not named UVA play that kind of schedule.  People like to talk about the turnaround at Duke, and with all due respect to the job that David Cutcliffe has done there, but their scheduling has helped them tremendously. Dukes first two games in 2013 were against North Carolina Central and Memphis and UVA opened with Oregon and BYU.  In 2014 the Blue Devils first four games are against Elon, Troy, Kansas and Tulane.  They should be 4-0 after that "cupcake run" and full of confidence as they move on into their schedule.  Virginia opens the 2014 campaign with UCLA, Richmond, Louisville and BYU. Not a whole lot of time to build confidence to start the season especially after ending last season with nine straight losses.  

The crazy thing is that UVA is not bereft of talent, as I discussed earlier, but they have had inconsistent play at positions that are critical to be successful.  The quarterback play has been shaky for about 10 years now and it is difficult to win at the major collegiate level without a solid "trigger man" under center.  So as the Cavaliers roll into a 2014 season that is uber important for Coach London, they will again have a new starting quarterback in Greyson Lambert.  He looks the part and has proven himself a leader in the off-season by being named a team captain.  Now he needs to produce during the regular season and understand that he does not have to do it alone.  There is talent all around him and he just has to make his plays and lead the troops. As a fellow coach once said, its all about one/eleventh.  One of eleven guys on the field doing HIS part and staying in HIS lane will make for a successful TEAM effort.

Another factor is the turnover in the coaching staff the past few years. That will hamper the development of players when they are having to learn a new system every couple of seasons not to mention the disruption in the coaches cohesiveness. It takes time for players to gel just as it takes time for coaches to gel together. New philosophies, new ego's, just everything new and different.  From the radio booth, where I've sat each week for the last two seasons, the coaching staff didn't appear to be on the same page and they need to be on the same page as the head coach. That takes time too.  This season is a make or break year for Coach London and I trust that he will have his staff on one accord.


So the long and short of this blog is that I am a fan of Coach Mike London. He is a good coach, a good father and an even better man. He is concerned about his players overall development as students, as athletes and as men.  I would run through a wall for the man just as his players would.  If I had a son and he played football, I would trust Coach London with my child. I wish the best for him and the Cavaliers this season.  I am very optimistic about the season and I don't care if I'm one of a few because at the end of the day you only need a few good men in the foxhole willing to fight for you.

Thanks for reading this blog and I hope that you will share it.  I would enjoy some dialogue about the content of the blog so please feel free to comment!  GO HOOS!!!!!!



Geoff Burke/Getty Images

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Written by: Jerod Cherry

The Company you keep

July 02, 2014

A very wise man once said the following: " if you hang out with a contemptuous and easily angered person, his ways will become your ways."

I wonder if that principal applies to Johnny Manziel in regards to who he hangs out with? For example, if Johnny continues to hang out with Justin Bieber, will he eventually drag race down a residential street? Or if Johnny routinely parties with Floyd Mayweather, will he become a high stakes gambler?

We learned from Kevin Garnet that "anything is possible!" Thus, is it possible that Manziel may learn from hanging out with Bieber and Mayweather what they know and do to stay at the top of their very competitive professions?

I do not know about you, but, I tend to consider the negative before the positive; so I will give Johnny the benefit of doubt, right now.

However in a few weeks with the start of NFL training camps we will be able to form a more accurate opinion on if the maxim is true, that the company you keep influences your behavior. Currently, the only thing we can claim definitively is that similar to a football player that plays offense and defense this situation with Johnny Manziel and the company he keeps and their influence on him can go both ways.

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Written by: Tony Covington

My World Cup Runneth Over

July 02, 2014

 

So when did I become a soccer junkie?  I don't even know all of the rules.  I think it happened some time around the beginning of June.  You know around the time of this thing called the World Cup.  I mean I hung out with the men and women's soccer teams at my beloved alma mater, THE University of Virginia, and we had one of the best soccer programs in the country at that time.  I watched some of those guys go on to star internationally and then gain fame with the birth of Major League Soccer.  But I still didn't buy in.  There were too many competing sports and besides I had never played the game.  I was even crazy excited when the Women's National Team defeated China in 1999 to win the Women's World Cup as Brandy Chastain slid into America's living rooms ripping off her Team USA jersey in celebration.  I admit that I was caught up in the moment of euphoria but the excitement was short lived.  I've flirted with watching later World Cup matches but my interest has been like a candle in the wind.

Then suddenly the 2014 World Cup was approaching and I felt like I had loved soccer all of my life. Now don't get me wrong, I have always appreciate the skill level and conditioning of soccer athletes, but I find that my level of appreciation has grown immensely during this years Cup. I find myself watching the games on my phone, my IPad, my work computer or whatever local watering hole that I can quickly run in to watch. I'm paying closer attention to the strategy of the game and witnessing the greatness of Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar and a host of other international stars.  As a former professional athlete, I am not easily "wowed" but these players possess a talent and skill that I have never before witnessed. Oh and on top of that, they carry the hopes and dreams of the entire country for ninety minutes or better each and every game.  It is a sight to behold.

But as much as I respect the talent of the players from other countries, I am all in with Team USA.  We are the underdogs every time we step onto the field and I hope that our team knows that they have a nation behind them that is chanting, "I believe that we will win." We as a nation believe and I hope that when this World Cup is over, that I will remain a soccer fan.  Only time will tell but I'll remain optimistic.

I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!
I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN!

Thanks for  reading and if "you believe that we will win," then let's talk about it and please feel free to share this blog with your friends.


 

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Written by: Marcus Cooper

Advice Worth Taking

June 27, 2014

I was here to give back to the young guys. I wanted to tell these guys that it's really important to listen to the information that's presented because it is going to help them. A lot of rookies think, well, that's not going to happen to me, but there's always something that will happen in your first season that the Symposium has taught you how to deal with.

I don't think I necessarily handled anything poorly my rookie year, but there are things I could have handled better to create a better outcome...like finances, my ticket situation, housing, things like that, all things you go through as an NFL player. And you can apply a lot of what you learn here to those experiences.

Coming from my experience, I was a seventh-round Draft pick, and I got cut and moved on to Kansas City pretty quickly. Don't hang your head or anything like that. Make sure you have a tight, close support system, people that you can listen to and will be honest with you. Hang your hat on those coaches, those players and those family members who are going to have your best interest at heart and instill their belief in you. That's what I did. My parents and my sisters were really supportive, and my teammates and coaches allowed me to stay uplifted and I was able to prosper.

My biggest advice to the rookies is to listen to what these speakers have to say. They are definitely here to help you, teach you how to handle adversity and truly want to see you succeed. If you take the information they give you, trust me, you will be better off. 

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Written by: Jahleel Addae

Defying The Odds

June 27, 2014

It was important for me to be here because even though I'm entering my second season, I wasn't at the Rookie Symposium last year because I wasn't drafted. I wanted to come back and tell these guys that it doesn't matter if you're drafted in the first round or the seventh round, it can be done. The NFL is a big league, and as long as you stay focused, study, stay serious about your craft, and realize that this is now your job, then you'll be fine.

This is your job now. In college, you had school, you had tutors, you had projects. This is strictly football 24/7 and it's a business where everyone is trying to get in. It's slim pickings, so you have to do everything to the best of your ability to stay.

Look at my story. If I can do it, any of these guys can do it. I'm no different than they are. They obviously have the talent because they are here, they've been drafted. If they continue to strive for the best, learn, and learn from their mistakes, they will succeed.

Jumping into my rookie year, I knew I needed help. I went to my player development guy, and I watched how a lot of the veterans took care of their bodies and went about their business. We had a lot of good leaders who helped me learn how to be a professional, on and off the field.

Eric Weddle no doubt took me under his wing. He would stay late watching film with me. The way he takes care of his body...he's in probably two to three hours earlier than anybody on the team. He might turn on the lights at the facility! I followed Weddle – he taught me the defense, he taught me the things to do on and off the field, he's pointed me in the direction of other people who could help me.

I'm still a young guy, but I'll be looking out for the rookies this year. 

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Written by: Derek Carr

Going All In

June 27, 2014

The Rookie Symposium is one of those things where you are going to get out of it what you put into it. I'm putting in my full effort, whatever I can take from here to be a better football player, a better husband, a better Dad, a better Christian...whatever I can do to be better. If it's one quote or even one word that sticks with me, and it makes me better, then that's what I'm looking for.

Having an older brother (David Carr) who played in the NFL has helped prepare me. He's talked to me about what he's been through and how he handled things. He told me to make sure I don't get pulled in a whole bunch of different directions and to remember why you are there because as soon as you start going off in other directions and not studying as much as you should, those interviews and all of those other things stop when you stop completing passes.

Now that I'm going through it, it's nice to know a little bit going in, but I'm still eager to gain knowledge in whatever area I can. There are things that I'd like to learn more about.

So far the transition is going great. A great quarterback room, great coaches. They are all supportive, and they are hard on us and expect a lot out of us...and it's been great because that's what I'm used to coming from my college coaches. It's really been surreal; you're on the field with Hall of Famers. Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, it's unbelievable. But at the same time, you go out there and compete against them...and you want to beat them, every single day. I dreamed of playing like Charles Woodson when I was seven years old, and now I'm playing on the same team as him. It's been really cool.

My mindset is doing whatever I can do to help the Raiders win. No matter what my role is, my goal and my focus is for the Raiders to win a Championship. And that will be my mindset this year, the next year, hopefully 16 more years. 

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Written by: Luke Willson

What I Learned During My Rookie Year

June 27, 2014

A lot of the stuff that happened to me personally last year was spoken about at the Symposium. And I remember thinking to myself, hey, this stuff doesn't apply to me. But, it really did. I wanted to come back this time and help anyone in that room that I could.

There are so many things that come up – the checks being stopped, the friends, the people that look at you as an asset, how to save, how to financially plan, ticket fees. All of that happens to you in one way or another.

You don't need to be here taking notes and acting like it's game film, but just sit here and listen...everybody here is trying to help you. Listen so that if something negative (or even something positive) does happen, you can revert back to what other people have taught you if you need help handling it.

I think money is a big issue. You go from college where you live off of $800 a month and are taking meals home from the cafeteria. Then all of a sudden, you're getting thousands and thousands of dollars a month, and if you start getting careless, you'd be surprised how fast that money can go. Set a healthy budget. I'm not saying to pinch every penny, but come up with a plan about how much you are going to spend and save each month...and try to live within that budget that you set for yourself.

I don't consider myself a vet by any means, but it's one of those things where, when you've already lived something that other players are about to go through, that in a sense can be a mentor. And I think I'm ready for that role. 

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Written by: Matt Elam

All About Positivity

June 26, 2014

It's important for current players to be here giving knowledge to the young guys that are transitioning into the NFL. When I was going into my first year, and I heard a lot of this, I realized how reasonable and important it was. So now it's my turn to pass on the information.

The message I want to give is in response to rookies feeling like it's hard to survive in the NFL. Your first year can be a rough, long year, but I just wanted to tell the guys that it's possible to get through it positively. A lot of guys say they hit the rookie wall, but I'm saying you can get through it with a positive mindset, without hitting the wall. I wanted to give them the positive influence.

Reach out to the older guys who have the knowledge and the experience. Stick to a routine just like the vets do. And do the small things like taking care of your body, eating right, paying attention to how you work out, how you push yourself, how you study the game. If you stick to a routine, you can last just like those veterans. I was able to work with guys in my locker room like Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, Michael Huff, Lardarius Webb, guys like that who have been in the league for four, five years and more. Take what they do and then make your own routine so that you don't get into a situation where you hit the wall and are tired mentally.

I'm going into my second year, and I want to be that guy to help our rookies take that next step...to give them the knowledge of what to expect so they can be ready and can handle it mentally. I need those rookies to come play, be productive and help us win. I don't want them to hit the rookie wall. I will do all I can to help them, just like the older guys did for me. 

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Written by: Ryan Mundy

Playing The Veteran Role

June 26, 2014

I have an appreciation for my "upbringing" in the NFL. I was surrounded by a lot of great veteran leaders like Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, James Farrior, the list goes on and on. To come into that locker room and learn how to be a professional, and for them to take me under their wing, it was really important. And as I look back, it was very special. Now that I'm going into my seventh year, I kind of feel that obligation to give back to the younger players because people did that for me.

There are so many things that come at you as a rookie in the NFL, and even though it's a very broad statement, learning how to be a professional athlete is an important lesson to learn. There are so many things that come with that, and I think that while we cover a lot of that here at the Symposium, no teacher is better than real-life experiences. All we can do right now is equip the rookies with information, problem-solving techniques and prepare them. But eventually they will have to go out there on their own and make decisions. This is a great experience and a great platform to put them in the best position to make the best decisions for their careers and families.

Looking back, I remember feeling like I had to keep up with some of the things that were going on in the locker room. For example, I didn't need the rims on my truck or the watch, which speaks to my point about knowing who you are. Once you come into an NFL locker room, guys think there's a standard of driving a certain type of car or having this kind of chain or wearing this kind of suit and shoes. Or I need to be a sneaker collector now that I have some money. But that's not what it's about. Thankfully I've played long enough to learn that lesson, but that's one thing that looking back I'd have done a little differently.

The one takeaway that I really think is important in this day and age is really identifying who you are as a person. Identify what drives you, what motivates you, what are the constant characteristics and agreements that you have in place in your life that create a standard of living for you, regardless of the situation, that allow you to be the best person you can be...which ultimately will allow you to be the best player you can be.

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Written by: Warren Sapp

The Best Day!

June 26, 2014

I've heard for so many years about all the players coming back and speaking at the Rookie Symposium. It just so happens that Cris Carter and I were flying from Florida to Cleveland (Dan Marino was on our flight too!) to go to the Hall of Fame Fan Fest, and Cris was telling me that he was going to the Symposium. I told him that I wish I had the chance to go, and before I could even finish my sentence, he said, "I got you! You're coming on stage with me!"

For so many years I was known as this bold, brash, unapologetic, in-your-face guy...and I figured people were afraid of it. I never ever reached out. So I figured here's my opportunity to be exactly where I want to be because I want to share the knowledge that I have. It's my chance to give back to this game that I love and know so well. I'm so glad I was able to get in front of these kids to say something that I feel was meaningful. I raised hell on the football field and I raised hell in an interview if you weren't factual, but here, I just wanted to give back because this game has been so good to me.

I have goose bumps just thinking about the NFL asking me to come back and talk to the rookies again. I would do it every time and twice on Sunday without question, without even a thought. I've always believed that "from those to whom much is given, much is expected." And the one thing I've always done is give back. I think I have something that they can take because I lived it. All that silly sh** from before, you can't do that now. Trust me, you can't make all the mistakes if you want to be successful, so you want to listen to some people who've done some of the dumb sh** already. Everybody likes to watch the train wreck, but nobody wants to be the wreck. That's the key; if you get an opportunity, you have to have something to tell them, and I always felt like I had something to tell them.

Be a pro, and more than that, understand the world you are living in today because it's so visual. I mean, DeSean Jackson helped take himself off a team because of an Instagram post. It's out there. Like I tell my little girl, with all the junk that's around you, you have to find yourself. Don't follow the crowd.

I look for the minuscule things I can talk to these kids about because the little things will turn into a pebble in your shoe...and make a walk uncomfortable. 


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