Note From Joe Burrow: Nice Guys Do Indeed Finish First

Joe Burrow Heisman
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow wins 2019 Heisman Trophy by record-setting margin

Joe Burrow just won the Heisman Trophy. Thereby, Burrow proved that nice guys can, and do, finish first.

In his epic, record setting season and his emotional and heartwarming acceptance speech, Joe Burrow proved and pronounced three things;

     First, you can beat the odds.

     Second, you can rise from obscurity; and

     Third, nice guys don’t have to finish last.

Burrow beat the odds. No one, and I mean NO ONE, had Joe Burrow as a Heisman Trophy finalist at the beginning of the 2019 season, much less the runaway winner. But Burrow led “LSU’s passing game that finished No. 116 in 2014, No. 106 in 2015, No. 101 in 2016, No. 84 in 2017 and No. 67 in 2018 sprang to No. 2 in 2019, largely through the mastery Burrow left strewn across storied American fields such as Texas, Alabama and Atlanta (against Georgia in the SEC championship game). Receiving yards went lavished on brilliant wideouts such as Ja’Marr Chase (1,498), Justin Jefferson (1,207) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (545).”  ESPN

Burrow rose from the obscurity of Athens, Ohio, an impoverished rural county, to the national stage of instant stardom.  Burrow was a backup quarterback at Ohio State, and then transferred to LSU, and now he’s the Heisman Trophy winner on the No. 1 Team in the nation favored to win the college national championship.  Burrow led LSU “from 2,894 passing yards in 13 games in 2018, then ascended to 4,715 in 13 games so far in 2019. He threw 48 touchdown passes against six interceptions.” Incredible.

Talk about a rags to riches, Cinderella, Rocky Balboa story.

So we say congratulations to Joe Burrow. Thanks for reminding us that nice guys can indeed finish first.

PS: Now watch Burrows Heisman Trophy acceptance speech and try to hold it together. I dare you not to shed a tear.

 

LSU Coach Ed Orgeron: “Get The Monkey Off Your Back!”

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Technically, this was not an upset. Technically, LSU was ranked ahead of Alabama. And technically, LSU should have been favored to beat Alabama, but they weren’t. LSU was ranked No. 2 and Alabama was ranked No. 3 in the polls. Alabama had history on their side. And Alabama was playing AT HOME. And yet LSU managed to throttle and thrash Coach Nick Saban and the consensus fan favorite Alabama Crimson Tide.

Coach Ed Orgeron and his LSU Tigers just won Game of the Century II. The Final: LSU 46 – Alabama 41, and it wasn’t that close. LSU lead by 20 at halftime and held on for the biggest win in Coach Ed Orgeron’s career.

And what about that journeyman head coach who just beat Alabama for the first time? What can we say about LSU’s Coach Orgeron? He’s been through the fire and the flood, and you just can’t help but be happy for this lumbering, lumberjack of a guy who is the persona of a college football coach. During the post-game press conference, as he squeezed his wife and his son close to his side, he said, “ I knew we were going to win.” That’s faith. He got the monkey off his back, and off of LSU’s back too. That’s redemption.

Coach Orgeron was saying that he was due, and by extension, he’s saying that you are too.

So the lesson is this: some of you have been through hell and high water, and you are wondering when things will turn around. Take courage, my brother. Lift up your head my sister. Live in the sunshine. Just like LSU, you are due a just reward for your patience and labor, and now your time has come.

Here’s what CBS sports had to say about the wining coach:

“Take a moment to appreciate what it took for Orgeron to get here. In his first opportunity as a head coach at Ole Miss, he went 10-25 over three seasons and didn’t win a single SEC game in 2007. He was given an opportunity as interim coach at USC when Lane Kiffin was fired in 2013 and led the Trojans to a 6-2 mark but got passed over for the full-time job in favor of Steve Sarkisian, who lasted just over one season. When LSU needed someone to fill in after it retained and then fired Les Miles, it was Orgeron who stepped up, again going 6-2 as an interim coach. The Tigers were on their way to passing over Orgeron for the job but wound up — for lack of a better term — stuck and gave him the opportunity after Jimbo Fisher and Tom Herman passed. So what has Orgeron done since? He’s led the Tigers to a 28-7 record the last three seasons, has LSU 9-0 and among the top two teams in the country in 2019 and improved his record against top 10 teams to 8-1 as coach of the Tigers. Can you say 2019 national Coach of the Year?”

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — November 9, 2019. LSU defeats Alabama, 46 – 41. Saturday’s win over Alabama belongs to Ed Orgeron, a man many doubted when he was tabbed as the LSU Tigers’ head coach in 2016.

If that doesn’t motivate you, consider getting your head examined. Seriously.

Here’s the skinny on the game itself:

“No. 2 LSU ended an eight-game losing streak to its SEC West rival with a stunning 46-41 victory over No. 3 Alabama under the lights at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscalusa. For the first time since 2011, the Tigers have beaten the Crimson Tide, and it was a game that felt entirely different than the one these teams played the last time LSU beat Alabama, 9-6.

The win not only got the proverbial Alabama monkey off LSU’s back, but it put the Tigers firmly in the driver’s seat in the SEC West. It likely cements Joe Burrow in front of the Heisman Trophy race as well. The LSU quarterback threw for 393 yards and three touchdowns, completing 31 of his 39 passes. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire combined for 180 total yards and four touchdowns (three rushing) in a star-making performance of his own.

The 46 points Burrow and the Tigers put on the board against Alabama were the most any team has scored against Alabama since Oct. 25, 2003, when Tennessee scored 51 points against the Tide. Of course, that game went to five overtimes and was only 20-20 at the end of regulation.

The game seemed over when Edwards-Helaire scored to make it 46-34 LSU with only 90 seconds remaining, but Alabama responded right away with an 85-yard touchdown to Devonta Smith to cut the lead to 46-41. LSU held on to win in a rare Game of the Century that managed to live up to the hype.

Let’s break down the game with some takeaways from LSU’s stunning, season-defining win over Alabama:

  1. LSU is the best team in the nation: There, I said it — and I won’t apologize to Ohio State either (despite the thorough dismantling of Maryland on Saturday). What LSU did to Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium was historic. No, history shouldn’t matter when discussing which team deserves the No. 1 ranking. But LSU just walked into the belly of college football’s beast, ripped its heart out, stomped on it on the ground and threw it out like a used paper towel. The 33 first-half points by LSU were the most in the opening 30 minutes against a Nick Saban-coached since 1999, when Purdue — led by quarterback Drew Brees — dropped Saban’s Michigan State squad 52-28. Burrow and passing game coordinator Joe Brady have transformed LSU’s offense from the punchline of a very bad college football joke into the most prolific offense in the country. That’s not what sets this team apart, though. The Tigers defense — which hasn’t been great all year — rattled quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, confused coordinator Steve Sarkisian and created havoc in the backfield thanks to creative pressure dialed up by defensive coordinator Dave Aranda. K’Lavon Chaisson was the star of the show, including a thunderous third-and-short stop of Najee Harris on the Crimson Tide’s first drive of the second half.
  1. Burrow made a clear statement … The senior signal-caller for the Tigers entered as the front-runner for the most prestigious individual award in sports and left the field with a grip on the stiff-arm trophy as tight as a bite from Mike the Tiger. Burrow stood tall in the face of enormous pressure and delivered strike after strike in tight windows all game long. He opened the game 9 of 9 and hit Ja’Marr Chase for the first score of the game in the blink of an eye. LSU never looked back. Burrow brought the fight to Bama and forced it to counterpunch. The only person who has done that in the last two years is Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence … and we all remember how that worked out. That’s the company Burrow keeps now. He’s no longer the scrappy graduate transfer who changed a program; he’s a transcendent college football legend with more in the tank.” https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/alabama-vs-lsu-score-takeaways-no-2-tigers-conquer-no-3-tide-in-thriller-first-series-win-since-2011/

In closing, I don’t know abut you, but I’m rooting for LSU.

Last Chance U

last-chance-uIf you love sports like I do, and you live for second chances as most do, and if you’re sick of fake and false and phony living, like those hungering and thirsting for what’s right do, then the Netflix original documentary series “Last Chance U” is for you. But get ready, because it’s real, it’s raw, and it’s redemptive.

Coach Buddy Stephens and the East Mississippi Community College Lions Football Team are featured in this award-winning documentary in which they are followed for two consecutive seasons. They are dominant on the field but also tend to be self-destructive off it. It’s must see TV that you will use as fuel for the fire of life when you or someone you know needs a boost or a bolster or just a run of the mill shot in the arm.

Coach Stephens is hard-nosed and sometimes hardheaded. He’s harsh, headstrong, willful, and obstinate, just like many of his players. But the truth is, it takes one to know one.  Many of his star athletes fell from grace at larger, D-1 schools, and playing at East Mississippi State Community College is their last chance and their only ticket out and on and up towards the dream of playing in the NFL. But they won’t make it if they don’t listen and learn some hard life lessons. 

That’s why I believe sharing the Christian faith should be easy. We have all fallen short, we all need a second chance at living and at life and at a lifestyle that’s pleasing to God.We all need to learn how to overcome and comeback after being held back. And sometimes, albeit most times, we are the ones who have used our own arms to hold our own selves back from success.

I love Coach Stephens. I do. I love how he knows that these mostly minority young men that he coaches need a heavy dose of truth-or-consequences, because the school of hard knocks can be unforgiving and unmerciful. But Coach Stephens has also looked himself in the mirror and knows that after a failure he and his players must pick themselves up and dust themselves off if they are to have a chance at succeeding at “Last Chance U”.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=last+chance+U+trailer#id=1&vid=4c6ccd6888e8a157e2fc48e9f7d727e4&action=click

And I love the heart and the spirit of the Athletic Academic Advisor, Brittany Wagner.  Some might say that she’s just a pretty face but she’s doing a gritty job of guiding these student athletes off of the field when all they want to do is to play on it. But they also need to graduate, and her love and concern for her students shines through. 

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Last Chance U-Coach Stephens & Brittany Wagner

I’d love to put my new book, Upsets, Comebacks Turnarounds in the hands of Coach Stephens and in the hands of his staff and his student athletes.  Last Chance U is a mirror of the book because his story and the stories of many of those he’s coached over the years are just like the stories from the Bible; they’re worth being told, over and over again.

You Can Still Win, Even After All of Your Mistakes: Ohio State 39 – Penn State 38

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Penn State led by 18 points TWICE and still lost. They took advantage of early Ohio State mistakes and miscues and built leads that were seemingly insurmountable. But Penn State forgot one thing; Ohio State was playing at the Horseshoe, defending their home turf in front of  109,302 raucous, rabid fans. And Ohio State remembered one thing; they remembered that you can still win after dropped passes and missed tackles and stupid penalties and untimely turnovers.  You can still win. You can come back from way back despite the darkness of your dilemma or the depth of your despair.

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer surely couldn’t believe his eyes as his special teams play was less than special, giving up a touchdown on the opening kickoff.   But Urban was equally incredulous after the game, becasue even after all of his team’s mistakes, they still won. So he is pointing right at you because you can still win, too. Coach Meyer knows this becasue he himself overcame heartache and almost heartbreak as he somehow, someway, coached his boys to a marvelous and miraculous come from behind win.

And you can still lose even with a big lead and a comfortable cushion. Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley  just learned that the hard way. In spite of how wonderful you think you are and how marvelous things seem to be at present, everything can unravel, quickly. Everything can come crashing down and it can all smash to pieces and all can fall apart in the blink of an eye. You can lose it all because you thought you won with time still left on the clock. So don’t get complacent or conceited even when everything is seemingly going your way. You can still surrender the lead and give away the game.  Just ask Penn State.

So hats off to J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The fifth-year senior, some six weeks removed from his fan base questioning whether he belonged in the starting lineup, threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns, leading his team in an epic comeback that will long be remembered at the Horseshoe. Barrett seized momentum and snatched a win right out of Penn States arms as they outscored Penn State 19-3 when it mattered most.  J.T. Barrett completed his last 16 passes and was a perfect 13 for 13 in the fourth quarter as he led his team to victory down the stretch over the No. 2 team in the Country with the No. 1 offense in the nation.

J.T. Barret looked like new money as he pulled a rabbit out of the hat and escaped out of a straitjacket and handcuffs better than Harry Houdini as he won a gritty, gutsy, game that no one gave him credit for being able to win. Vegas began to bet against Barrett because they said he couldn’t win the big one. But win the big one he did, and in dramatic fashion.

So remember, you can still win, despite your faults and your failures and your disappointments and even your disasters.  You CAN still win. You can come all the way back, even from the dead. The power of His resurrection is alive and well, in sports and in life. It’s called grace.  And it comes from God. And you can still find it, even after you lose it.

Can Clemson Beat Alabama? (Round II)

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I like Clemson’s Head Coach, Dabo Swinney. I do. And in Alabama v. Clemson II, I DO think the Tigers can hang with the Alabama Crimson Tide tomorrow night. If Clemson pulls it out and pulls it off, the game will go down to the wire, which means I’ll need to stay up way past my bedtime to watch. Phooey.

Tomorrow night is college football’s big stage: the College Football Playoff National Championship. And on that big stage lies the 60 minutes that separates No. 2 Clemson from winning its first national championship in 35 seasons. To do so, the Tigers must beat No. 1 Alabama, the most successful program of our time. A victory by the Crimson Tide would be the school’s fifth in eight seasons, all under head coach Nick Saban.

Alabama is the college football team everyone loves to hate. People hate and love Alabama basically because of their colorful, crimson character of a coach, Nick Saban. Because of Saban, “‘Bama has been (and will be?) the standard in college football for a long time,” Swinney said before last year’s game. So, the question is this: can Dabo do it? Will Dabo do it? Or more pointedly, how might Dabo do it?

I ask myself these questions each and every day. Can I do it? Will I do it? Or more pointedly, how might I do it – whatever “it” is? And the answer is simply this: if you want to achieve you must first believe. And Dabo is driven and determined and set and settled on beating his alma mater tonight. Good for him. And his win tonight, if he can notch it, will speak volumes and teach another life lesson and set another sports precedent for the rest of us to follow.

On the flip side, Dabo’s desire and drive and desperation just might spell and equal an UPSET for Alabama. Make no mistake about it; even though the Tigers are No. 1, if they win, it WILL be an upset, because Nick Saban will be UPSET!

So here’s to the Clemson Tigers and cheers and hats off to Dabo Swinney. Because if he pulls this one off, he will have kept me up and kept us all awake and keep the college football world roused up and hunkered down to do it. Because it’s going to take some doing to do this. But isn’t that what we all face every day?

Wow! The Peachy, Orange-Like, Sugary, Citrus of a Rose Bowl Was A Fiesta

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You Missed The Rose Bowl?

Seriously?  How could you? It was one of the best bowl games EVER! Penn State started slowly, and it looked like USC was going to run away with it. But then, in the third quarter, Penn State scored what seemed like a gazillion touchdowns in a row, and just like that, USC was on the ropes and in danger of losing a virtual home game to that team from back east. But THEN, USC came roaring back and scored 17 points in the blink of an eye; and, voila, the Trojans won an instant classic 52-49.

The Rose Bowl is considered to be the “Granddaddy of ‘Em All,” at least when it comes to college bowl games. And if you didn’t see last night’s 103rd Rose Bowl, then you might as well consider yourself dismissed from the ranks of real, bona-fide, sports fans. Take it from me, and I don’t even like or support all of these dang gum bowl games to start with.

Seriously, I know why you missed the Rose Bowl: there’re too many of ‘em.  It’s ridiculous. You were suffering from “over-conjunctive-bowl-itis.” It’s an actual disease. I mean, how can even the most ardent of sports fans keep up and watch most of them, because there is no way, any one person could watch ALL of them? Right? Do you know how many bowl games there are? Way more than we need. Way more.  And I’m not the only juror to reach this conclusion; the verdict is unanimous.

Here’s how one sports writer summed up the current college bowl crisis back in 2014:

“For all of the good reasons one might propose for trimming the annual bowl game slate, the most common complaint seems to center around the exhaustion of being forced to endure all 38 (39, if you count the title game) bowl games we’ve had over the past month.”

Editor’s Note: in 2016 there were 46 Bowl games, including the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl and the Dollar General Bowl. But you knew that, as I’m sure you caught those games.

“The second-most common complaint — and one that actually has legs — is that bowl games have been expanded to the point that they have been stripped of all meaning.

Thirty years ago, there were 16 bowl games. Thirty-two of Division-I’s 112 teams made a bowl game, and the rest stayed home. There were a lot of teams with winning records that didn’t get to sniff the postseason. This year, 15 bowl-bound teams have managed just six wins. Thanks to its conference championship loss, Fresno State could end the season 6-8 by losing to Rice in the Hawaii Bowl.

And don’t sleep on the Camellia Bowl, which pits Bowling Green vs. South Alabama.  That very sentence alone is enough to make a traditionalist go blind. At the same time, the effects of bowl-mania are relatively benign — at least as far as game itself is concerned. Yes, reaching a bowl game may carry less significance than it once did.”

Editor’s Note: Wrong! Reaching a bowl game absolutely carries less significance than it once did. But surely I digress.

“But who ever said all bowls carry the same merit? Reaching the Rose Bowl still means the same thing it did 30 years ago. If its value has been diluted, it’s only because the new four-team playoff bracket is the primary attention-getter over the traditional big-name bowls.

Football programs don’t exactly line the stadium hallways with elaborate displays of TaxSlayer.com Bowl trophies. Nobody’s jealous of making the Camelia Bowl — other than the 50 teams who aren’t making a bowl appearance, and even some of them would probably turn an offer down.

Thirty-nine bowl games exist because all of them generate revenue.

That’s not the most inspiring genesis for holding a good ol’ football game, granted. But it would be inconsistent to decide now, after years of allowing money-minded college athletic departments to fatten their revenues on the backs of athletes who haven’t received one dime of extra compensation, that suddenly we are taking a stand and telling prospective bowl hosts to go shove it.

Bowl games make money, period, even if they’re terrible at passing on the benefits to participating schools — a criticism best saved for a different day.

The important point is that schools continue to accept bowl invites because of the benefits they do see: the national TV exposure (a huge boon for smaller programs), the slight recruiting edge, and the excitement a bowl berth can stir in a fan base.”  By: Jonathan Crowl 12/9/2014

Especially the Granddaddy of ‘em all.

Don’t Give The Game Away

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Did You See The Game? I did.

I watched the Michigan / Ohio State game yesterday. If you missed it, you missed a treat. It was a great win and a horrible loss both at the same time. Yes, it was a great win for Ohio State to come from behind and beat their archrivals 30 -27 in DOUBLE OT, at home, again. And it was a horrible, almost unspeakable loss.

One sportswriter put it this way:

“There is simply too much pain to process. Losing to Ohio State? Losing in double overtime? Losing with some controversy? Losing the Big Ten East Division? Losing a shot at the Playoff? It’s almost overwhelming. Michigan will bounce back under Jim Harbaugh — and very likely be right there for the 2017 national title — but this loss will sting all offseason. Then again, maybe there’s room for Michigan to make a national semifinal in 2016?”

Michigan had the game in the bag. I mean the game was won and the Michigan Quarterback Wilton Speight and the referees game it away. Yes it was a great game because it had everything: it had defense and turnovers and missed field goals and a pick-six and fourth and inches and a first down controversy in double overtime.

If you didn’t catch yesterday’s game, you missed one of the best regular season college games in college football history Michigan, the better team, had Ohio State on the ropes for most of the game, then choose to gift the game back to the Buckeyes down the stretch. Ohio State wouldn’t have even been in the game had it not been for the interceptions that the Michigan QB gave them. Wow.

Coach Jim Harbaugh has every right to be mad, but the first person he needs to be mad with is himself. He lost his cool and it cost his team five critical yards late in the game when the defense needed to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone. They did not.

We lead by example. A long time ago someone said, monkey see, monkey do. And the team saw their coach lose his composure, and then they went on to lose the game in typical Michigan, meltdown fashion (the Wolverines have lost five straight to Ohio State at the Horseshoe).

“Outrageous,” Harbaugh said at one point, describing the officiating that he thought cost his Wolverines the game at Ohio State Saturday afternoon. Maybe it did. Maybe it didn’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is how you handle a brutal loss when you speak to the public. What matters is what you show them. Harbaugh didn’t show much grace.

His senior defensive lineman, however, Chris Wormley, did. “There’s a few calls that I thought could go either way,” he said. “You’ve got to play through those types of calls, handle adversity.” Yes, you do.

And so the lesson is almost lyrical: you may lose and you may fail and you may suffer loss, but don’t give it away. Don’t lose your cool or lose your head or lose your composure. Your opponent may try to grab it or seize it or snatch it or even steal it, but DO NOT give it away.  And that’s just what the Michigan coach and the Michigan team did yesterday.