People from Ezekiel Elliott's hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, warned him that it would happen. When the four-star prospect ventured to Ohio State University, they said, he would be quickly forgotten. The school was too big, the competition too strong — he couldn't possibly succeed as a Buckeye.
For a while it seemed his critics were correct. Elliott had been a backup as a freshman and began playing the 2014 season, his second at Ohio State, with his left hand in a cast. (He suffered a broken wrist during August camp.) Heisman hopefuls and other talented teammates consistently eclipsed Elliott's efforts. Leading up to the Big Ten championship game, the running back ranked seventh in the conference in rushing (1,182 yards) and remained largely unnoticed.
Over Ohio State's final three games, however — against Wisconsin, Alabama, and Oregon — Elliott ran for 696 yards, thriving as the competition intensified. He powered the Buckeyes through the inaugural College Football Playoff. He was named offensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl, and after breaking the FBS record for most rushing yards in a championship game (246), he was named offensive MVP of that game too.
For many kids, summer means going to camp — canoeing on the lake, hiking through the woods, playing volleyball on the beach, and learning new skills. Football players got to camp, too. But their experience is very, very different. I got an up-close look at what an NFL training camp is like when I visited the Baltimore Ravens pre-season workouts at Under Armour Performance Center last week.
The players arrive early to the Ravens Headquarters Facility in Owings Mills, Maryland. Some of them grab food, others spend time meeting with coaches and trainers to get them ready for their day at camp. There are nearly 90 players all competing for 53 roster spots, so the more work they put in to prepare, the better their chances of making the team. The players spend several hours getting their equipment ready and stretching out before the main practice. Coaches and trainers are like camp counselors, assisting players, getting them ready for the day, and making sure they know the schedule.
CANTON, Ohio (AP) — The humbled men in gold jackets entering football immortality were unmistakable. So was the endless sea of twirling yellow Terrible Towels there to greet them and the outpouring of compassion for the legend who wasn't there.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis headlined the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015 on Saturday night, the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history turning the annual enshrinement ceremony into a de facto pep rally.
Bettis grabbed one of the ubiquitous towels synonymous with the franchise at the beginning of his speech and led a chant of "Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go" as the capacity crowd at Tom Benson Stadium - most of them clad in some variation of black-and-yellow - roared in support of the player that served as the physical embodiment of the team he helped lead to a fifth Super Bowl title in 2006.
"I really thought the Bus' last stop was in Detroit at Super Bowl 40," Bettis said. "But now I know the Bus will always and forever run in Canton, Ohio."
Every spring, more than 250 players are selected in the NFL draft. The league's 32 teams have dozens of scouts who spend months researching virtually every college football player in the world. Most players taken in the draft come from the NCAA's "power conferences," which include schools like Florida State, Alabama, and Ohio State.
But in 2015 alone, there were players selected from some of the tiniest programs: Central Arkansas, Monmouth, Samford, Towson, William & Mary, Delaware — and Delaware State! Mars Hill University is in fact located on Earth (North Carolina, to be exact). And that is where Denzelle Good, taken by the Indianapolis Colts with the second-to-last pick of the draft, played college ball. Buccaneers offensive lineman Ali Marpet of Hobart College became the first Division III player selected since 2012.
There was a time when a player might have gone undrafted because no one in the NFL saw him play, but that's no longer the case. For those not drafted, the 32 teams saw you and just decided you weren't worth a pick.
That's bad news for your NFL future, but it doesn't mean you're hopeless. Many stars never heard their names called in the draft. There are a number of reasons they slipped through the cracks.
Each August, college football fans await the release of the AP Poll, which ranks the top 25 college football teams in the country. That list will be out soon, maybe the next week or two. But why wait? Here’s my take on what the AP Poll could look like before the CFB season kicks off. Call it the JJ Poll!
The New York Giants reported to training camp to tune up for the 2015 campaign. But you don’t have to be a player or coach to take part in camp. There are several things fans can see and do, too. I learned that firsthand over the weekend when I stopped by Giants camp.
The first thing that I noticed when I walked in was a group of people lined up to get the autograph of Rodney Hampton. Hampton was the Giants’ star running back of the 1990s. He showed up to sign autographs, take pictures, and exchange a few words with fans. Team alumni always stop by training camp, and this season was no exception.
You probably know Jamaal Charles as a great running back. Last season, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards with the Kansas City Chiefs. But what you might not know is that, as a kid, he competed in the Special Olympics. Charles became a track and field star because of his amazing speed.
Over the years, Charles' relationship with Special Olympics has evolved. And this weekend, he stood on the stage at the opening ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles to inspire thousands of athletes to follow their dreams.
I had the chance to see down with Charles before the opening ceremony. We chatted about the Special Olympics, his NFL career, and playing as himself in Madden. Watch my interview below!