Tag Archive | "Hall of Fame"

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Ed Reed’s Hall of Fame moment for a grieving son

Posted on 04 August 2019 by Luke Jones

What’s left to say about the great Ed Reed that hasn’t already been shared in recent days by so many talented writers and those who know the Ravens legend best?

The nine-time Pro Bowl safety and 2004 Defensive Player of the Year officially took his place in Canton Saturday and goes down as at least the most exciting player in Ravens history. As John Harbaugh said recently, if you were to break the Pro Football Hall of Fame itself into tiers, Reed would be among the very best of the best to ever play the game and quite possibly the greatest free safety we’ve ever seen.

My experiences covering Reed’s final years with the Ravens are special to me, but they’re pretty ordinary as media interactions go.

I remember a sweltering afternoon practice in Westminster in 2010 in which Reed wasn’t taking part. As I watched with another reporter or two, Reed strolled to the sideline and put an arm around me asking how I was doing, chatting with us for a couple minutes. I’m sure he confused me with someone else since my interactions with him to that point in my very young media career consisted of no more than an ordinary question or two in a press conference, but a know-nothing reporter living his dream wasn’t about to correct Ed Reed! As I would witness covering one of his football camps or simply watch him interact with so many fans over the years, perhaps he was just being friendly to an unfamiliar face.

One of my favorite memories covering Super Bowl XVLII came in the bowels of the Superdome long after the game had ended and Reed had lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time. Only a few reporters remained in the locker room with the 11th-year safety being one of the last players who hadn’t yet left for the team party, but he granted a final interview as he put on a three-piece suit — now complete with a Super Bowl champions cap. The questions and answers were inconsequential, but I’ll never forget that combination of joy and exhaustion over his face as a brilliant career that needed no validation had still received its satisfying exclamation point. It was a privilege to witness such a moment.

I’ll always appreciate those experiences, but what I remember most about Reed took place long before I was fortunate enough to work in the media or had ever met him. It’s the kind of personal story to which others can likely relate and reminds us why sports are both inconsequential and so precious, even when we’re simply watching our favorite athletes and favorite teams from afar.

My father passed away suddenly on Nov. 1, 2004, just a day after we’d watched a Ravens game — a frustrating loss in Philadelphia — as we had every autumn weekend since 1996. To offer an idea of how much Baltimore sports meant to him, he was dressed in his Ravens jersey for the viewing and memorial service. To know what kind of father he was, he passed on working the 1983 World Series as an usher at Memorial Stadium to instead watch at home with his son born earlier that month, a decision he repeatedly said he never regretted despite plenty of prodding over the years. He was my hero, my best friend, and the man I strive to be like to this day.

One of Dad’s closest friends invited me to attend that Sunday’s game against Cleveland. I graciously accepted the invitation while privately considering how difficult it might be since I could count on one hand the number of Orioles and Ravens games I’d attended without my dad in our 21 years together.

It turned out to be a typical Kyle Boller era game with the Ravens holding a narrow lead and Jeff Garcia and the Browns driving for the potential game-tying touchdown in the final minute. Many Ravens fans could probably tell you what happened next as Reed picked off a deflected pass from his shoe tops in the end zone and sprinted an NFL-record 106 yards for a touchdown to put away the victory, a play still remembered as one of the very best of his career.

In the moments following the initial joy and excitement from such an unbelievable play, my dad’s friend put his arm around me and I received a few text messages from close friends with the same refrain:

That one was for your dad.

The play itself wasn’t divine intervention as such a label would probably be an insult to Reed’s special talents and to God, who would have no reason to be picking on the already-hapless Browns. But I do believe it was a message from my dad, telling me he’d always be with me and I’d continue enjoying the things we always loved together — like watching Baltimore sports. I cried plenty that week, but not like I did from the time the emotions of that message hit me until we were halfway home, which had to be quite a scene for the many nearby fans exiting the stadium in celebration.

Watching that extraordinary play at that moment in my life is why I’ll always view Reed differently than any athlete I’ve ever appreciated watching. It’s an example of why sports hold such a special place in so many of our lives as an escape from financial troubles, sickness, relationship problems, and, yes, even the death of a loved one. Reed mentioning his late brother in his induction speech Saturday and how he played through that grief in the 2010 postseason reinforces that none of us are immune to such heartache — even one of the greatest players of all time — but that sports can provide that temporary reprieve from reality.

Reflecting on Reed this weekend, I couldn’t help but think of how many people he — and so many other special athletes — have knowingly or unknowingly touched with charitable endeavors, community involvement, autograph signings, or by merely providing a special memory on the field to someone struggling in his or her life. This November will mark 15 years since my father’s passing, but I’ll always view that play in that game as a meaningful part of my grieving process.

Congratulations, Ed, and thank you for that joy you brought — and the reflection it prompted — at the end of the toughest week of my life.

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No Raven brought same excitement as newest Hall of Famer Ed Reed

Posted on 02 February 2019 by Luke Jones

The Ravens have provided no shortage of exciting players in more than two decades in Baltimore.

Some local fans would describe the pre-game dance of Ray Lewis, the greatest player in team history and face of the franchise, as something resembling a religious experience. A pair of Pro Bowl running backs, Jamal Lewis and Ray Rice, were legitimate threats to score every time they touched the ball. Two All-Pro return specialists — Jermaine Lewis and Jacoby Jones — shined on the most critical stage the NFL has to offer. Many others have brought thrills for an organization with two Super Bowl championships in its trophy case.

But none quite compare to nine-time Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed, who was officially elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. The first-ballot selection was perhaps the most anticlimactic achievement in a career that made observers anticipate the most unexpected of feats.

Fellow first-ballot Hall of Famers Lewis and Jonathan Ogden are the greatest players in team history on their respective sides of the ball, but the ball-hawking Reed is the most exciting we’ve witnessed. Unlike running backs, wide receivers, or kick returners who regularly touch the ball when in the game, Reed would seemingly come out of nowhere, even after the opposing coaching staff would preach all week about not letting him do it.

The sight of Reed with the ball brought emotions ranging from euphoria as he’d turn the game’s outcome with an unlikely touchdown to occasional horror as he’d inexplicably lateral the ball in traffic, sometimes giving it right back to the opposition. Reed unquestionably moved to the beat of his own drum, but you couldn’t ask more of an entertainer and play-maker over 11 seasons in Baltimore.

The simplest objective of the safety position is to prevent an opponent from wrecking the game with an explosive pass play, but there was nothing “safe” about the way Reed stalked in the secondary, creating nightmares for quarterbacks and often doing the very thing the opponent was trying to accomplish against the Baltimore defense — score. When arguably the greatest quarterback in NFL history felt compelled to put “Find 20 on every play” on his wristband, what else really needed to be said about his case for Canton?

Reed’s 64 regular-season interceptions rank seventh on the NFL’s career list while he’s the all-time leader in interception return yards. No player has more postseason interceptions (tied with three others with nine), and Reed became the first man in league history to score return touchdowns off an interception, a fumble, a punt, and a blocked punt. He set the NFL record with a last-second 106-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal a tight game against Cleveland in 2004 before breaking that mark four years later with a 107-yard interception return to put away a win against Philadelphia.

In all, 46 passers were intercepted by Reed in his career with half of that group going to at least one Pro Bowl and six being the starting quarterback of a Super Bowl winner.

Though Reed was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2004, the greatest of his individual achievements came late in the 2008 season when he registered an extraordinary 10 interceptions over a seven-game stretch that culminated with two — one returned for a touchdown — in a playoff victory at Miami. For context, the entire Baltimore defense from this past season had only 12 in 17 games.

The 2002 first-round pick from Miami is tied for 19th on the Ravens’ all-time touchdowns list (13) despite having the football in his hands far fewer times than anyone else — all offensive players — in that top 20. The number of actual planned times Reed touched the ball was even lower as he registered a modest 30 punt returns in his career and never caught a pass or recorded a rushing attempt as an offensive player.

Not only one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game, Reed had an extraordinary ability to block punts before coaches eventually kept him out of potential harm’s way in his later years. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reed blocked four punts over the first 27 games of his career and frequently drew holding flags as opponents tried to account for his explosive jump off the line of scrimmage.

So often praised for his football instincts, Reed’s preparation was exceptional as he followed Lewis’ initial lead when it came to watching film and studying the playbook. That enabled Reed to so often be in the right place at the right time as he knew where the ball was going before the quarterback even threw it. Later in his career, he passed on those study habits to younger teammates, quietly exhibiting strong leadership in the shadows of Lewis’ camera-friendly methods.

Even his closest confidants acknowledged Reed’s personality ran hot or cold with the position of the hood of his sweatshirt often signaling whether you could engage in spirited conversation or should probably steer clear that day. He could ruffle feathers with comments about even his own teammates, but his intentions usually came from a good place. And while dealing with injuries late in his career, the veteran safety would both ponder retirement and campaign for a new contract in the same breath.

That was Reed.

A nerve impingement suffered late in the 2007 season zapped him of the underrated physicality he displayed early in his career and left him with neck and shoulder pain, but he played through it and did so at the highest level, making five more Pro Bowls while picking his spots to deliver the occasional hit. Even while sporting a red jersey to signal no contact during practices, the veteran safety would light up an unsuspecting young wide receiver from time to time, again reflecting that eccentric personality.

Super Bowl XLVII is most remembered as the culmination of Joe Flacco’s historic 2012 playoff run and Lewis’ last ride, but it was the night Reed finally raised the Vince Lombardi Trophy after years of playing with offenses that couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain. It would be Reed’s final game in a Baltimore uniform — he’d play one more season split between Houston and the New York Jets — but Ravens fans shared in his joy a couple days later as he bellowed out the words to Eddie Money’s “Two Tickets to Paradise” at the victory parade.

It was one last thrill in a career that was long before destined for a gold jacket and the football paradise that is Canton.

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Chapter 11: When childhood heroes turn into real-life villains before your very eyes

Posted on 17 August 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

(This is Part 11 of a 19 Chapter Series on how baseball and the Orioles berthed WNST.net.)

Reggie Jackson was left-handed, which I always thought was cool because I wasn’t! ALL of my Pop’s favorite guys were left-handed, so I assume mine became that way too. I just loved to watch Fred Lynn and George Brett swing the bat, kinda like he liked Ted Williams and Stan Musial.

C’mon, pick a switch hitter, any switch hitter? Eddie Murray, Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose — any of the great ones! And I bet you enjoy watching them bat left-handed more.
I dunno, one of life’s mysteries when you’re a kid.

Reggie wore those white shoes and had those big 70’s fab shades and that ‘fro, and cool poses on his baseball cards (go ahead and look at those early 70’s Topps Reggie cards and just tell me that he doesn’t look like a ballplayer). He took that long, majestic swing and he did it with ferociousness. And, when the game was on the line, when the light was shining the brightest, Reggie Jackson came up big every time. Again, and again, and again.

It wasn’t October if “Mr. October” wasn’t involved, even if it came at the expense of the Orioles. And it almost always did!

Reggie played in the postseason every year from 1971 to 1982, except for two seasons and both of them were the Orioles’ fault. He missed the playoffs in 1976 because he WAS an Oriole and he missed in 1979 because he WASN’T. And that was WAY before the wildcard crap.

From the time I was 5 until I was 10 (and I assure you that baseball was the ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN MY LIFE during those years), he was in the World Series four out of six years. He WAS the World Series in many ways.

When I played in the Berkshire Little League, I wanted No. 9 or No. 44, just like Ahmed wanted to pay tribute to Hank Aaron in the “Bad News Bears,” I wanted to pay tribute to Reggie — worship at his temple.

I thought his number would rub off on me and I could be the Venezuelan right-handed, slow and white Reggie Jackson of my neighborhood. Maybe I’d start winning the big one instead of striking out like I did against Rich Pfaff at Eastwood!

And, once I found out that he had a Baltimore connection through Johnny’s and local baseball, I was convinced Reggie was the real-life baseball Superman.

You wanted to hate, but you just couldn’t! He was, well, in a word: GREAT, at least with the bat!

So, I liked him and wanted to be him, even if I never really became a “fan” of his in the way of collecting his baseball cards or his posters or whatever.

And my Pop just thought I was a communist for even considering buying a “Reggie” candy bar. But I did.

Lemme bust up my little fantasy meets reality story with one tale of childhood vs. adulthood reality.

I met Reggie Jackson one time. I’ve been in his presence many, especially at Yankee Stadium because they’ve been good over the last decade and he hangs around.

I was in the 33rd Street press box in 1986 and the Angels were in town (no doubt, a younger-and-more slender and handsome Peter Schmuck was within 20 feet of me) and Reggie was a late-inning entry into a tight ballgame and was facing former Angel Don Aase, who was brought in a year earlier as one of three saviors (along with Lee Lacy and Fred Lynn) who were signed to revitalize that 1983 magic.

On the whole, those seasons were the setup for 1988’s 0-21 meltdown for the Birds, but on this day Aase had his good stuff.

He had runners on, a tight situation and a classic Reggie at-bat and potential game-altering home run could be on tap. So the old girl on 33rd was buzzing on a Saturday afternoon because the game was also nationally televised on NBC. Tony Kubek and those cats were around the ballpark.

Aase threw his heat and got Reggie Jackson to pop out to shallow center on a high fastball.

In the press box that day Ted Patterson, another guy I idolized in the Baltimore media while growing up, was seated next to me and I was soaking up his knowledge

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Ravens guard Yanda aiming for another chapter of greatness

Posted on 07 August 2018 by Luke Jones

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Last season was supposed to be the continuation of Ravens veteran Marshal Yanda’s reign as the best guard in the NFL.

His six straight Pro Bowl selections had tied Ray Lewis for the third-longest streak in franchise history behind only Jonathan Ogden (11 straight from 1997-2007) and Ed Reed (seven in a row from 2006-12). That exclusive company began prompting some discussion about Yanda’s chances of joining that trio — and perhaps current teammate Terrell Suggs — in Canton one day, especially if he were to add a few more years of elite play to his impressive resume. The Hall of Fame is certainly rare territory for a guard, but momentum had been building as analytic sites like Pro Football Focus touted his excellence and Yanda was even profiled by a national website last summer.

Then, his 2017 season was over soon after it started when he fractured his left ankle in Week 2, an injury that required surgery to repair the damage. After battling through countless ailments to play all but five games in the previous eight seasons, Yanda would sit out the final 14 contests and the Ravens would miss the playoffs for the third straight year, in part because of an offensive line that struggled to gel without its best player in the first half of the season. The 2007 third-round pick has shown little interest in individual accolades over the years, but the thought of not being there for his team was difficult to take.

“It was a heart-breaking deal. I thought I was going to maybe miss some time but be able to find some way to fight through it and get back on the field,” Yanda said. “But to have the news that it was season-ending was really tough. It was really hard for me being away, but that’s part of football. You have to deal with it.”

The frustration didn’t end there as Yanda hurt his shoulder lifting weights just as he was winding down his ankle rehabilitation last December. Instead of risking further damage to his rotator cuff by trying to push through the injury, the 2007 third-round pick chose to have surgery early this offseason, a move that further delayed his return to the practice field.

There was no doubt that Yanda would return to action in 2018, but it’s fair to wonder if he’ll regain his elite playing status as he turns 34 next month and comes off his third shoulder surgery — each arm has been worked on — in the last five years. Of course, he need look no further for inspiration than Suggs, who has recorded a total of 19 sacks in two seasons since suffering the second torn Achilles tendon of his career in 2015. At the time of that injury, many thought a 33-year-old Suggs might be all but finished, but he’s only strengthened his case for an eventual place in the Hall of Fame.

It isn’t difficult envisioning the 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman following a similar script to put himself in the conversation at the very least.

Yanda swats away any mention of him eventually being worthy of such a historic honor, but he has every intention of again being the leader and linchpin of the Baltimore offensive line after returning to the practice field this week for the first time in 11 months.

“You understand that guys can definitely come back from [injuries], and even though they’re older players, they can still be productive,” Yanda said. “They can still do everything they want to do, so I’ve just attacked [rehab] every single day. I feel like, as you get older as a player, this game means more to you every single year that you play.

“I obviously understand that it’s a young man’s game, but I’m going to be fighting every single day to be ready to roll and to be productive.”

Whether it was returning from emergency leg surgery in days to help the Ravens clinch a division title in 2011 or switching from right guard to left guard because of a serious shoulder injury and still making the Pro Bowl in 2016, Yanda has proven time and time again not to doubt him. His place among the top 10 players in franchise history is cemented, but his toughness is second to none in the 22-year history of the franchise.

How much longer Yanda will play remains to be seen as his current contract runs through the end of next season. With more than a decade in the NFL under his belt, the Iowa native is taking a year-by-year approach to his career.

“Me not playing pretty much at all last year, there was no question I definitely wanted to play this fall and get after it and be a part of it,” Yanda said. “You reassess and reevaluate. I’ll take my time after the season, but right now I’m focused on this year and doing my part.”

The Ravens are hoping it’s that same gigantic part as before.

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Chapter 6: The other Hall of Famer from The U…

Posted on 17 January 2018 by Nestor Aparicio

 

In my opinion, Ed Reed is the best safety to play the game. I tell him that to his face all the time. I truly believe it. I’ve studied him, and I’ve tried to incorporate things from his game into my game — a lot of it I’m not able to do. I learned the importance of film study from him. He is the prototype and what anyone would want at safety. People can say that you want big hits, but this game is about the ball. You can’t score without it. When you get someone back there who can get the ball, that’s what it’s all about.”

  – Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (Nov. 2011)

 

 

 

ON ANY OTHER TEAM, HE’D be the leader. In any other franchise, he’d be the one they talk about building a statue for and retiring his number when his time is through. But, in a franchise that Ray Lewis made famous, Ed Reed will always be the second-best and second-most important player from the Miami Hurricanes to wear the Ravens’ purple.

There’s a certain swagger that the ‘U’ represents for anyone that’s spent any time in Coral Gables and worked their way into the NFL through the family of ‘Canes. The dominance of that program over three decades brings attention to anyone who wears the green and orange. And for anyone who knows the legend of Luke Campbell and the infamous “30 For 30 Series” regarding “The U” there’s an inherent culture of football, winning, and boasting that goes along with a renegade image that’s not only emphasized, but embraced.

Ed Reed is complicated. And most think he likes it that way.

As much as the two will be linked, there will always be something that makes Ray Lewis feel more significant to the Ravens and Ravens fans than Ed Reed. For starters, Reed will wear another uniform in 2013 and Lewis never opted for or really had the opportunity to take that path. But Reed, working in the shadows of the vivid, public leadership of Lewis, will probably never get the credit or respect he fully deserves simply because he played alongside of a once-in-a-generation icon.

Ed is Scottie Pippen. Ray is Michael Jordan.

But for pound-for-pound excitement and impact on a game, you’d be hard pressed to find a more compelling figure other than Lewis in the entire NFL over the first decade of his career. His accomplishments at the position of safety might never be matched. And like Ray Lewis, when his time comes for the ballot to Canton and a Hall of Fame bust, Ed Reed will almost certainly be a first-year inductee, which is the highest individual honor that can be bestowed upon an NFL player.

He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer yet he’ll always be “the other guy from Miami” who played for the Ravens and won a Super Bowl. It was easy to see the joy, relief, and energy that winning the Lombardi Trophy in his hometown of New Orleans brought to Reed in February 2013. It was an 11-year quest that was vindication for the native of St. Rose, just west of the big city along the Mississippi River.

Like many others on the Super Bowl XLVII champs, Reed fought adversity on his path from Destrahan High School in St. Charles Parish to Miami and onto Baltimore on his journey toward greatness while amassing wealth beyond his imagination.

Edward Earl Reed, Jr. was born September 11, 1978 in Jefferson, Louisiana and was always a great athlete. His dad, Ed Sr. was a welder and his mom, who worked at the local Walmart, had four other boys, and they all lived in a one-bedroom home.

By most accounts, Reed was a bit rambunctious and lacked focus in his teenage years yet teachers and coaches always saw a light

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Part 2: Life On The Road, 30 Days of #GiveASpit and baseball (The journey)

Posted on 10 September 2015 by Nestor Aparicio

 

 

 

 

 

“It ain’t never been done ‘cause we ain’t ever done it.

You’ve got to stop thinking so negative, son!”

Bo “Bandit” Darville

(as performed by Burt Reynolds)

Smokey & The Bandit

 

 

ONCE THE TRIP WAS FINALIZED and it was decided that I’d be flying more than originally planned, the only real concerns we had about the voyage were the not-so-remote chances of some catastrophic weather or travel issues that could derail the goal: getting to 30 MLB games in 30 days without interruption or too much drama.

We also couldn’t afford to get sick or injured. Carrying bags around the continent would suck with a bad back or a bum foot. As we learned in 2014, your health is everything!

Would all the planes arrive on time? Would weather cooperate? Clearly, a few poorly timed storms and the trip would be a mess. You can only truly plan so much and then fate determines the outcome.

And if you’ve listened to my radio show at any point over the past quarter of a century, you know that I despise rain delays. Nothing good happens when it rains in baseball.

I’ve dedicated some time on the radio over the past few months discussing the trip and some of the comedy, drama and sights I saw on my unique journey. Most of my guests along the route joined me afterward to talk about it on the radio.

I’ve also joked that no one prepared me for 30 straight days of airplanes, airports, hotels, stadiums, restaurants and their various brands of cheap toilet paper.

There were many statistics and “over and under” side bets I was making with my wife on the 30-30 trip regarding beer consumed, hot dogs inhaled, hangovers, bad hotel pillows, crappy showers, lost/forgotten items, etc. And as much as we prepared to travel light and packed as little as we’d need, we never thought we’d really succeed in our goal of never having to check a bag for 30 days. But, miraculously, I literally lived out of one suitcase, one backpack and carted a giant cotton swab “prop” in a long tube through every TSA checkpoint in the United States. (By the way, TSA Pre is a wonderful thing!)

Toward the end of the 30-day journey, most mornings I was torn by an extreme coffee situation. I’m a coffee nerd but it became a daily decision about whether to caffeinate before a flight at 5 a.m. (and not sleep) or afterward, in the next airport or city after a plane nap.

And there were several days at the end where I was extremely loopy and working on three or four hours of sleep and moving from hotel bed to shower to car to highway to parking garage to shuttle to TSA to gate to plane to seats to sleep…

Some days – like in Dallas, San Diego and Denver – I was running on fumes and took a few hours to sleep. In others, like Los Angeles and Milwaukee, we were full of energy and put almost 20,000 steps on my wife’s Fit Bit.

You can see my 30 ballpark rankings here at WNST.net but to be honest there are no truly awful experiences in Major League Baseball in regard to stadiums. And the beauty is all in the eye of the beholder. As I wrote in my preview blog for the rankings, many of these stadiums – or is it stadia? – provide a pretty similar experience. Whether it’s hot dog races, presidents or sausages, it’s all kinda the same thing. They all do “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” in the 7th inning. They all bluster “God Bless America” every night. They all have “walk up” music for individual players.

Most have the most annoying item in modern sports – the P.A. or music or scoreboard imploring the crowd to “make some noise” with various cues and sounds. Nothing more cheeseball than that.

Every team has a team of people trying to make the “game day experience” something memorable. Every team wants to do something special when you come to the ballpark to lure you back and attract you as a lifer baseball fan.

Or at least they should.

But that part is a mixed bag – market to market, team to team, brand to brand.

Some teams always win. Some teams almost never win.

Some have vibrant fan bases. Many are a distant second citizen to the NFL.

Some teams treated me well. Some treated me like garbage.

Certain ballparks have a “wow” factor and some don’t. Some have good teams right now and some are in the midst of having awful seasons this summer so the experience wasn’t as rich. Seeing Toronto or the New York Mets in September would be far different than having seeing them in June. And seeing Houston and Kansas City this June was far different than anything they’ve seen in those ballparks in many Junes.

I had some “wow” moments and memories of my own on this tour and that’s what the rest of this essay is about: the stuff that’s worth telling you about.

Let’s start with the MVP of the 30-30 MLB #GiveASpit tour: artist Mike Ricigliano. The skinny dude with the funny hats has been drawing cartoons of me (and virtually everyone else in the sports world) in Baltimore for 30 years. I met him at The News American in 1984 on the weekend my son was born. He’s one of the enduring friends in my life and we’ve had a lot of laughs over the years. His son was originally responsible for dubbing me “Nasty Nestor.”

Here’e the story of the giant cotton swab – the enduring item from the 30-30 #GiveASpit tour.

On April 8th, I attended a Washington Capitals game with an NHL fan from Edmonton, Alberta named Rob Suggitt – a kindred spirit in hockey fandom.

While Caps Senior Manager of Community Relations Peter Robinson was giving Suggitt an incredible tour of the Verizon Center on the 27th night of his 30 rinks in 30 days mission for Make A Wish, I was telling them about my similarly arranged baseball tour.  Robinson said: “You should get a giant cotton swab and take it everywhere you go! That would help you get people on the registry.”

You know what?

He was right.

By request, Ricig made the fabulous cotton swab that started in the hands of Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush along with Randy Johnson the night before the tour started.

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It was an instant hit at the United Center in Chicago that night.

Every stadium we swabbed in – except Minnesota – we had Ricig’s giant cotton swab leading the way to get folks to our booth to learn about the bone marrow registry and get on the list for There Goes My Hero and Delete Blood Cancer.

Some of the looks we got from fans were priceless. Dude in pink shirt waving giant cotton swab in stadium bowl! But it was a lightning rod to get folks to our table for education, swabbing and success.

It also caused some attention we didn’t want. We were pulled up by Comerica Park security in Detroit and forced to take it to the car. They thought it was a weapon. I told them it was a weapon to save lives.

The gate agent at the St. Louis airport forced us to check it on a one-hour flight to Milwaukee but “The Swab” made it successfully onto 21 other flights in 30 days on the road. I guess if you get on airplanes every morning with a third carry on that’s a giant Q Tip, eventually you’ll encounter the wicked witch of Southwest.

People have repeatedly asked me what the highlights of the tour were over the 32 days on the road. It’s impossible to recount everything we saw and every person who was kind to us but I hope this essay captures the essence of

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Gary Williams takes place in Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Posted on 09 August 2014 by WNST Staff

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Former University of Maryland men’s basketball head coach Gary Williams was officially enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday night in Springfield, Mass.

“This is the biggest honor you can get as a coach,” Williams said during his induction speech. “I am truly honored to be a member of the [Naismith Memorial Basketball] Hall of Fame.”

Presented by Billy Cunningham, Williams acknowledged many of his former players and his longtime assistant coaches at Maryland: Dave Dickerson, Billy Hahn and Jimmy Patsos.

“Our fans at Maryland always stayed behind us,” Williams said. “I can’t thank our fans, alumni and students enough for all their support over the years. I thought I had a lifetime job at Ohio State, but Maryland called and gave me an education, a chance to play and an opportunity to coach.”

Also selected for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame , Williams is the first coach in history to be selected to both institutions in the same year.

Joining Williams in the Class of 2014 is Immaculata University’s AIAW National Championship teams of the early 1970s, Alonzo Mourning, Nolan Richardson, Mitch Richmond, Bob Leonard, Nat Clifton, Sarunas Marciulionis, Guy Rodgers and David Stern.

To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  The addition of the direct elect committees were incorporated into the election process to maintain a strong focus on keeping history on the forefront of the voting procedures and to preserve a balance between two eras of basketball.

Upon returning to the College Park campus in 1989, Gary Williams (Maryland ‘68) led his alma mater’s basketball program from a period of troubled times to an era of national prominence during his 22 seasons at the helm from 1993-2011.

With 14 NCAA Tournament berths in his final 18 seasons, Williams and his staff garnered seven Sweet Sixteen appearances, a pair of consecutive Final Four showings, and the 2002 National Championship – the first of its kind in Maryland basketball history.

After leading the Terrapins to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title in 2010, Williams was voted the league’s Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. It was his second such award, as he was also honored in 2002.

With an all-time record of 461-252 (.646) as Maryland’s head coach, Williams stands as the Terrapins all-time winningest head basketball coach. He passed Charles “Lefty” Driesell, who amassed 348 victories in 18 seasons from 1969 to 1986.

The rise of the Maryland program ran parallel with Williams’ ascent among the most notable in the collegiate coaching fraternity. Williams was one of only five coaches to boast a string of 11 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament from 1994-2004. He produced at least 20 wins in a school-record eight straight seasons from 1996-97 to 2003-04.

Williams was heralded as the national and Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year during the Terps’ 2002 championship run.

In 2001, Williams became just the sixth coach since 1980 to direct his alma mater to the Final Four. A year later, he became the first coach since 1974 to guide his alma mater to a national title.

A former Terrapin point guard and 1968 graduate, Williams was a starter under coach Bud Millikan during the 1965, 1966 and 1967 seasons. He was the team captain as a senior and still lists one of his most memorable basketball moments as his experience as a spectator at the 1966 national championship game conducted at Maryland’s legendary Cole Field House, between Texas Western and Kentucky.

Williams was hired by Maryland on June 13, 1989, inheriting a team that had won only nine games the year before and finished in last place in the ACC. Displaying his coaching abilities immediately, he helped the Terps to 19 wins while advancing to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament – and making him the first coach in school history to lead a team into the postseason in his first year.

Williams began his coaching career as a graduate student at Maryland under freshman coach Tom Davis. The 1969 freshman team finished with a 12-4 record as Williams bonded with Davis in a relationship that would serve him well as his coaching career progressed.

After earning a degree in business, he continued his coaching career as an assistant at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J. After one year, he took over as the head coach and guided his first team to a perfect 27-0 record and the state title. Williams has called that season “the ultimate — there wasn’t another game to win.” Upon winning the NCAA West Region championship in 2001, he fondly recalled his championship at Camden as the “only other time I’ve ever got to cut down a net.”

Williams spent one more year at Woodrow Wilson before accepting an invitation from Davis in 1972 to become an assistant at Lafayette College. While an assistant at Lafayette, Williams also served as the head soccer coach. In 1978, Williams accompanied Davis to Boston College. After one year there, Williams became the head coach at American University.

Williams immediately began making his mark at American. His 1981 squad set the still-standing school record for victories with a 24-6 mark, won the East Coast Conference championship, and played in the NIT. Williams was named the district coach of the year.

American returned to postseason play the next season as the Williams-led Eagles went 21-9 and played in the NIT for the second consecutive year. Only once prior to Williams’ arrival had AU attended a postseason tournament, and the Eagles have not returned since. Williams’ four-year record at AU was 72-42.

In 1983, Williams succeeded Davis at Boston College. He was once again an instant success, posting a 25-7 record and leading the Eagles to the regular-season championship of the Big East in his first season. Making his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Williams directed the Eagles to the Sweet 16. He finished third in the balloting for national coach of the year, and was honored again as the Eastern Coach of the Year by his peers. He went on to duplicate that NCAA Tournament success again in 1985, leading B.C. back to the Sweet Sixteen.

In 1987, Williams accepted the head coaching job at Ohio State, becoming the 10th basketball coach in that school’s illustrious history. He succeeded Eldon Miller and once again enjoyed success. In three years, the Buckeyes made three postseason appearances. His first squad defeated then-No. 1 and unbeaten Iowa (coached by Tom Davis) in the regular season, in what would be the first of many giant-killings.

During Williams’ three-year term at Ohio State, the Buckeyes defeated a second-ranked Purdue team, perennial power Kansas and highly regarded Big Ten powers Michigan and Illinois. Each of Williams’ three Ohio State teams advanced to postseason play, and he laid the groundwork for the highly successful teams that followed when he left Columbus for College Park.

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Turgeon grateful to see Williams get Hall of Fame recognition

Posted on 08 August 2014 by WNST Staff

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Maryland Athletics hosted a luncheon Friday afternoon at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to celebrate Gary Williams’ enshrinement.

Family and friends joined Williams hours prior to the ceremony for a luncheon, which was hosted by Maryland broadcast icon Johnny Holliday.

Director of athletics Kevin Anderson, current men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon, former Terps standout Walt Williams, assistant coaches Billy Hahn and Dave Dickerson, and Williams’ daughter, Kristen Scott, were also in attendance and shared fond memories of the newest member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“He’s a Hall of Fame Terp,” said director of athletics Kevin Anderson. “The Maryland family appreciates his commitment, dedication, and love for Maryland basketball and the University.”

Williams, who was also selected for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, will be the first coach in history to be selected to both storied institutions in the same year.

“The true test of being a great coach is the relationships you develop with your student-athletes,” said head coachMark Turgeon. “It’s great to see him getting the recognition he deserves. This is an outstanding day for the University of Maryland.”

The enshrinement ceremony is scheduled to begin in the Springfield Symphony Hall at 6:30 p.m. and the event will be broadcasted live on NBA TV.

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Williams set to be enshrined in Basketball Hall of Fame Friday

Posted on 07 August 2014 by WNST Staff

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Former University of Maryland men’s basketball head coach Gary Williams will officially be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Friday, Aug. 8, in Springfield, Mass. The enshrinement ceremony is scheduled to begin in the Springfield Symphony Hall at 6:30 p.m. and the event will be broadcasted live on NBA TV.

Also selected for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame , Williams will be the first coach in history to be selected to both institutions in the same year.

Joining Williams in the Class of 2014 is Immaculata University’s AIAW National Championship teams of the early 1970s, Alonzo Mourning, Nolan Richardson, Mitch Richmond, Bob Leonard, Nat Clifton, Sarunas Marciulionis, Guy Rodgers and David Stern.

To be elected, finalists required 18 of 24 votes from the Honors Committee for election into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  The addition of the direct elect committees were incorporated into the election process to maintain a strong focus on keeping history on the forefront of the voting procedures and to preserve a balance between two eras of basketball.

Upon returning to the College Park campus in 1989, Gary Williams (Maryland ‘68) led his alma mater’s basketball program from a period of troubled times to an era of national prominence during his 22 seasons at the helm from 1993-2011.

With 14 NCAA Tournament berths in his final 18 seasons, Williams and his staff garnered seven Sweet Sixteen appearances, a pair of consecutive Final Four showings, and the 2002 National Championship – the first of its kind in Maryland basketball history.

After leading the Terrapins to the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title in 2010, Williams was voted the league’s Coach of the Year by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. It was his second such award, as he was also honored in 2002.

With an all-time record of 461-252 (.646) as Maryland’s head coach, Williams stands as the Terrapins all-time winningest head basketball coach. He passed Charles “Lefty” Driesell, who amassed 348 victories in 18 seasons from 1969 to 1986.

The rise of the Maryland program ran parallel with Williams’ ascent among the most notable in the collegiate coaching fraternity. Williams was one of only five coaches to boast a string of 11 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament from 1994-2004. He produced at least 20 wins in a school-record eight straight seasons from 1996-97 to 2003-04.

Williams was heralded as the national and Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year during the Terps’ 2002 championship run.

In 2001, Williams became just the sixth coach since 1980 to direct his alma mater to the Final Four. A year later, he became the first coach since 1974 to guide his alma mater to a national title.

A former Terrapin point guard and 1968 graduate, Williams was a starter under coach Bud Millikan during the 1965, 1966 and 1967 seasons. He was the team captain as a senior and still lists one of his most memorable basketball moments as his experience as a spectator at the 1966 national championship game conducted at Maryland’s legendary Cole Field House, between Texas Western and Kentucky.

Williams was hired by Maryland on June 13, 1989, inheriting a team that had won only nine games the year before and finished in last place in the ACC. Displaying his coaching abilities immediately, he helped the Terps to 19 wins while advancing to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament – and making him the first coach in school history to lead a team into the postseason in his first year.

Williams began his coaching career as a graduate student at Maryland under freshman coach Tom Davis. The 1969 freshman team finished with a 12-4 record as Williams bonded with Davis in a relationship that would serve him well as his coaching career progressed.

After earning a degree in business, he continued his coaching career as an assistant at Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, N.J. After one year, he took over as the head coach and guided his first team to a perfect 27-0 record and the state title. Williams has called that season “the ultimate — there wasn’t another game to win.” Upon winning the NCAA West Region championship in 2001, he fondly recalled his championship at Camden as the “only other time I’ve ever got to cut down a net.”

Williams spent one more year at Woodrow Wilson before accepting an invitation from Davis in 1972 to become an assistant at Lafayette College. While an assistant at Lafayette, Williams also served as the head soccer coach. In 1978, Williams accompanied Davis to Boston College. After one year there, Williams became the head coach at American University.

Williams immediately began making his mark at American. His 1981 squad set the still-standing school record for victories with a 24-6 mark, won the East Coast Conference championship, and played in the NIT. Williams was named the district coach of the year.

American returned to postseason play the next season as the Williams-led Eagles went 21-9 and played in the NIT for the second consecutive year. Only once prior to Williams’ arrival had AU attended a postseason tournament, and the Eagles have not returned since. Williams’ four-year record at AU was 72-42.

In 1983, Williams succeeded Davis at Boston College. He was once again an instant success, posting a 25-7 record and leading the Eagles to the regular-season championship of the Big East in his first season. Making his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Williams directed the Eagles to the Sweet 16. He finished third in the balloting for national coach of the year, and was honored again as the Eastern Coach of the Year by his peers. He went on to duplicate that NCAA Tournament success again in 1985, leading B.C. back to the Sweet Sixteen.

In 1987, Williams accepted the head coaching job at Ohio State, becoming the 10th basketball coach in that school’s illustrious history. He succeeded Eldon Miller and once again enjoyed success. In three years, the Buckeyes made three postseason appearances. His first squad defeated then-No. 1 and unbeaten Iowa (coached by Tom Davis) in the regular season, in what would be the first of many giant-killings.

During Williams’ three-year term at Ohio State, the Buckeyes defeated a second-ranked Purdue team, perennial power Kansas and highly regarded Big Ten powers Michigan and Illinois. Each of Williams’ three Ohio State teams advanced to postseason play, and he laid the groundwork for the highly successful teams that followed when he left Columbus for College Park.

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Hall of Famer Cunningham to present Gary Williams for induction

Posted on 04 August 2014 by WNST Staff

SPRINGFIELD, MA – The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced today the list of Hall of Famers who will present for the 2014 Enshrinement Ceremony, presented by Nike, on Friday, August 8th at Springfield Symphony Hall.

Members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2014 were asked to select a previous inductee to accompany and present them to their peers. The choice is solely the decision of the incoming Hall of Famer. More than 50 Hall of Famers are expected to be in attendance for this year’s ceremony, including all presenters.
The Class of 2014 inductees includes seven-time NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, 1994 NCAA National Champion coach Nolan Richardson, six-time NBA All-Star Mitch Richmond, 2002 NCAA National Champion coach Gary Williams, the three-time AIAW National Championship winning Immaculata University team, the winningest coach in ABA history, Bob Leonard, early African American pioneer of the game Nat Clifton, international superstar Sarunas Marciulionis, four-time NBA All-Star Guy Rodgers and former NBA Commissioner of 30 years David Stern.
2014 Inductees and Presenters
Nolan Richardson, presented by Hall of Fame coach John Thompson (’99) & player Nate Archibald (‘91)
Mitch Richmond, presented by Hall of Fame players Chris Mullin (‘11) & Ralph Sampson (‘12)
Bob Leonard, presented by Hall of Fame players Mel Daniels (‘12) & Larry Bird (‘98)
Immaculata University, presented by Hall of Fame coach Cathy Rush (‘08)
Guy Rodgers, presented by Hall of Fame player Earl Monroe (‘90)
Nat Clifton, presented by Hall of Fame player Meadowlark Lemon (‘03)
Sarunas Marciulionis, presented by Hall of Fame player Chris Mullin (‘11)
Alonzo Mourning, presented by Hall of Fame coaches Pat Riley (‘08) & John Thompson (‘99)
David Stern, presented by Hall of Fame players Larry Bird (‘98), Earvin “Magic” Johnson (‘02), Bob Lanier (‘92) and NBA contributor Russ Granik (‘13)
Gary Williams, presented by Hall of Fame player Billy Cunningham (‘86)

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