NFL

Defensive tackle Malcom Brown is the highlight of Texas’ NFL draft prospects. He might hear his name called in the first round Thursday night, and four other Longhorns could be taken.
Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

While no Longhorns were drafted in the 2014 NFL draft, the one-year drought is likely to end this weekend. 

Texas has five prospects who are projected to hear their names called at the draft, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks,     cornerback Quandre Diggs, defensive end Cedric Reed and running back Malcolm Brown.

“It feels like just yesterday I was walking on this campus as a young, 220-pound freshman not knowing anything,” Hicks said. “After five years, just to be here and to be going through this process, it’s really rewarding for all of us.” 

Malcom Brown may be the first Longhorn picked after he shot up draft boards while racking up 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. His 6-foot-2, 319-pound frame is ideal for the NFL, and he’s the No. 20-ranked prospect, according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. 

“Malcom Brown to me is a first-round guy all day long,” Mayock said on NFL.com. “He’s a low-risk investment and a really good football player.” 

While Malcom Brown will find his new home early, Hicks is also a standout prospect. 

Hicks came to Texas as a five-star prospect but battled injuries, causing him to fly under the radar as a pro prospect. He impressed scouts, however, during his senior year and in pre-draft workouts, which was enough for him to earn a fourth-round grade, according to NFL.com. 

While Malcom Brown and Hicks are highly touted prospects, Diggs and Reed will likely find more modest roles in the NFL despite being perennial mainstays in Texas’ defense. 

Diggs is undersized at 5 feet 9 inches and will most likely make his living on special teams, and Reed lacks the athleticism that NFL scouts desire. Both are projected to be picked during the fifth round or later.

The Longhorns’ main offensive prospect is Malcolm Brown, who led Texas in total rushing yards last season but still feels he has a lot to prove at the next level. 

“I feel like I have a lot to show people that I haven’t been able to show these past couple of years due to injuries, and things didn’t go completely my way,” Malcolm Brown said. 

While NFL.com projects Malcolm Brown to be a late-round pick, several scouts think he has NFL-caliber skills. 

“[Malcolm Brown] possesses the size, toughness and ability to play on all three downs, and that will catch the eyes of teams looking for depth at running back,” NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said on NFL.com. 

While these Longhorns were longtime contributors for the program, their chapters at Texas will come to a close as they find a new home and a new start this weekend. 

“It’s definitely a different feeling not being a student and not being a current athlete here,” Diggs said. “At the same time, it’s time for a new journey in life.”

Former tight end David Thomas still holds records with Texas football, but now his success comes from his broadcasting job with Longhorn Network.

The 2006 Rose Bowl game typically conjures up images of Vince Young tearing apart the USC defense and sneaking across the goal line with 20 seconds left on 4th-and-5. But few fans remember the team-leading 10 receptions that tight end David Thomas hauled in to help Texas earn its first national title since 1970. 

“We couldn’t have won it without that,” former head coach Mack Brown said.

But Thomas’ earned more than just a national championship during his time at Texas. In his four years, Thomas also won the 2005 Rose Bowl by a slim margin and set the Longhorns’ record for receptions, yards and touchdowns by a tight end — records he still holds.  

His play caught the eye of the New England Patriots, who selected Thomas in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft. He went on to have a fruitful seven-year career, in which he brought a Lombardi Trophy to New Orleans.

But Thomas’ love for Texas football stayed strong until he retired after the 2012 season. When Longhorn Network came calling, Thomas, a Texas native, leapt at the opportunity despite not having a communications degree or prior experience.

“I hadn’t really given a whole lot of thought to getting into broadcasting,” Thomas said. “The first time I did it, I started to see that I could still be around the game and be able to give my opinions and cover a team that I love to cover”

The attributes that earned Thomas praise from NFL and NCAA coaches and teammates have also garnered him strong reviews from his peers in the media.

“[Thomas is] a really bright guy who earned his degree before going to the NFL,” said Brown, who is now a broadcaster himself for ESPN. “He knows the game and had so much awareness of what was happening on the field. He has great insight for both broadcasting and coaching.”

Although Thomas’ playing career is over, the record-setting tight end still prepares for studio work as if he were going to take the field Saturday.

“It’s a very similar mindset,” Thomas said. “I kind of get lost in the world of watching the scheme and watching the players and the matchups and figure out where the other team is vulnerable and what can be exploited.” 

Thomas reputation and experience led to a side job coaching with the Air It Out passing camp in December 2014. Alan Wartes, the camp director when Thomas’ attended as a high schooler, leapt at the opportunity to bring his former student and longtime friend on as a coach when Thomas retired from NFL.

“First and foremost, he’s just great for kids,” Wartes said. “David’s a great guy, and he’s a good ambassador for the University of Texas.”

As important as Air It Out may be to a camp alumnus such as Thomas, there are a few other players that take up most of his time now. He has four kids, ranging from one to seven years old, and has taken on the responsibility of coaching all of their teams to stay as involved as possible in their lives. 

Thomas is just two years removed from a championship-winning career, but he has already found what he wants to do for the rest of his life.

“I’m thrilled with where I am,” Thomas said. “The game has done a lot for me and has opened a lot of doors for me and continues to open doors for me through these avenues. I’m very blessed to be able to do what I do and work with the people that I work with.”

Photo Credit: Ethan Oblak | Daily Texan Staff

Tuesday marked head coach Charlie Strong’s first NFL Pro Day with Texas, where he saw 14 Longhorns perform for scouts and coaches from 25 different teams in the league.

The five players who participated in last month’s NFL Combine — defensive tackle Malcom Brown, running back Malcolm Brown, linebacker Jordan Hicks, defensive end Cedric Reed and cornerback Quandre Diggs — mostly focused on position drills as they tried to establish a spot in the NFL Draft. 

Diggs participated in the vertical jump and the broad jump, reaching 36 inches and 9 feet 11 inches, respectively. Malcolm Brown ran in the 40-yard dash, aiming to beat his time of 4.62 from the Combine. He clocked in around 4.5 seconds.

“I definitely believe I am one of the best cornerbacks in this class,” Diggs said. “A lot of people have made a big to do about my size. It is one thing if you’re 6 foot 1 inch but are soft. I know the kind of player I am, and I let my play speak for itself.”

Reed, after only taking part in the bench press at the combine, did not participate in the Pro Day. He is still recovering from meniscus surgery he had during the offseason.

Tuesday was crucial for wide receivers Jaxon Shipley and John Harris and safety Mykkele Thompson, who weren’t invited to the Combine. 

Shipley ran between a 4.43 and a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and jumped a 39-inch vertical. During wide receiver drills, his routes were clean, and he showed scouts the strong hands Texas fans were familiar with.

“Coming out here today, I really want to surprise some people with my speed,” Shipley said. “I also wanted people understand that, even with injuries in college, I can still play at a high level.”

Shipley said he felt good about his performance and was glad to talk with a couple of scouts following his workouts.

Thompson also looked strong in all of his drills, especially the broad jump, which was around 10 feet 9 inches. His broad jump would have been better than many guys at the combine, including Alabama safety Landon Collins and LSU cornerback Jalen Collins.

Harris, one of the Longhorns few offensive weapons last season, gave a good performance.  He completed 19 reps on the bench press and ran a 40-yard time of about 4.5. On the his last attempt for the 40, Harris pulled his hamstring, but it didn’t bother him the rest of the day.

“At this time last year, I was not really paying attention to Pro Day,” Harris said. “I remember coming to watch for a little while but quickly leaving. Now, a year later, a lot has changed.”

The Longhorn prospects still have a long process ahead of them, with individual team workouts and meetings before the NFL Draft on April 30 through May 2.

During his time on the 40 Acres, kicker Anthony Fera proved to be one of the best kickers Texas has seen with a school record-tying 15 straight field goals. Though he did not receive an NFL spot last year, Fera is hoping to get another shot.
Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

After transferring to Texas from Penn State and suffering a groin injury that delayed his Longhorn debut, Anthony Fera took to the field his senior year to become one of the most consistent kickers Texas has ever seen. During his tenure, he hit 15 straight field goals — tied for the longest streak in school history.

Fera, who kicked and punted for the Longhorns in 2012 and 2013 after transferring from Penn State following the Sandusky scandal, was a consensus All–American in 2013 and a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given to the nation’s best kicker.

“We saw the real Anthony Fera in his last year at Texas,” former head coach Mack Brown said. “He was focused and excited, and you could see that in his kicking. To go from such a difficult situation to becoming a Groza Award finalist really speaks to his determination.”

Kicking may be the most high-pressure job in football, but for Fera, the task became second nature.

“For me, kicking … it’s easy to me,” Fera said. “Once you learn it and you master it, then it’s not a problem.”

Now a year removed from college, Fera needs the confidence and determination that allowed him to thrive amid a collegiate career sullied by scandal and injury. The kicker, whom ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. referred to as the best in the 2014 draft class, is still trying to join the tiny fraternity of NFL kickers and punters.

“It’s a waiting thing,” Fera said. “It hasn’t really worked out for me yet.”

Though he was not drafted, the former Longhorn standout did get a taste of the NFL dream at the Miami Dolphins’ rookie minicamp. But by the time the regular season rolled around, Fera found himself without an NFL roster spot.

“Right after the draft, I went down to the rookie minicamp down in Miami and had a little setback with a school injury, just a strained muscle, and a couple weeks later I went to Jacksonville, but they were looking more for a punter,” Fera said. “That didn’t really work out as planned.”

Despite the yearlong setback, Fera is still dead set on landing in the NFL. He now spends his time hopping around the country, punting and kicking at veteran combines and working out in Austin.

“[I’m] working out … probably five, six times a week, still kicking … probably two times a week just trying to stay fresh.” Fera said.

Still, no player can maintain peak physical performance for long — as anyone who has labeled the NFL as “Not For Long” can attest. For a player such as Fera — an undrafted specialist hanging in limbo after a full season on the market — it is especially important to have a backup plan in place.

When Fera is not trying to maintain NFL levels of fitness, he is busy learning the ins and outs of the oil industry from his father at MidStar Energy, a directional drilling company in Houston. He hopes to eventually have enough industry knowledge to land a career in sales.

“I’m just trying to learn the whole process at the moment,” Fera said. “Every now and then, I’ll go out to an oil rig and check out a few things.”

Fera said his fledgling career will not pry him away from his dream of landing on an NFL roster.

“My main focus is making the NFL,” Fera said. “I’ll probably give it a try the next year or two.”

Popularity of NFL set to diminish

In this day and age, the NFL is regarded as the most popular sports league in America as 35 percent of sports fans call the NFL their favorite sport, followed by Major League Baseball (14 percent) and college football (11 percent).

Most fans consider Pete Rozelle, the late former commissioner, to be responsible for the NFL’s immense popularity; however, over the last decade, the NFL’s success can be attributed to elite quarterback play.

When mentioning the NFL’s elite quarterbacks Denver Bronco’s Peyton Manning (age 38), Green Bay Packer’s Aaron Rodgers (age 30), New England’s Tom Brady (age 37), New Orleans’ Drew Brees (age 35), and Pittsburgh Steeler’s Ben Roethlisberger (age 32) are always at the top of every NFL analyst’s list.

Their résumés are impressive and illustrate why they are considered elite and so entertaining to watch.

Collectively, these five quarterbacks have eight Super Bowl victories, 13 Super Bowl appearances and 32 division title in the past twelve years. There have only been two years since 2002 when none of these quarterbacks were playing in the Super Bowl (Super Bowls XXXVII and XLVII).  Not to mention, all five quarterbacks this season are in the top ten for most passing yards and touchdowns.

So what will happen to the NFL when they all retire?

Football fans everywhere should feel blessed to have had the privilege to watch these great quarterbacks in action on Sundays over the past decade. When they retire, the league will not be the same. Their successors have shown potential but they aren’t as consistent as the current elite quarterbacks.

Most NFL analysts believe that the quarterback position will continue to evolve from a pocket passer style of play to a dual threat style of play, meaning a quarterback who is a threat to throw the ball downfield and rush for big plays.

This dual threat style of quarterback play has been problematic for many defenses around the league as quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and Robert Griffin III have all thrived in this new era of NFL football.

However, the NFL is a league of adjustments. As defenses have been able to figure out how to contain these dual threat quarterbacks, their style of play has been less impactful. This season, these dual threat quarterbacks are a combined 20-23-1 and none of their respective teams are a lock to make the playoffs, as all of the quarterbacks have struggled.

Of all the younger quarterbacks in the NFL, Indianapolis Colt’s quarterback Andrew Luck has shown the most potential in becoming one of the elite as he currently leads the league in passing yards and is second in touchdown passes. However, Luck is considered to be more of a pocket passer than a dual threat quarterback.

This dual threat style of play at first seemed like the future of the NFL but has proven to be less effective and not as enjoyable to watch for NFL plans.

The NFL will most likely still be the most popular sport in America but the switch from pocket passing quarterbacks to dual threat quarterbacks will diminish its overall popularity.

NFL Draft to move from New York to Chicago in 2015

Every year, NFL fans from all over the country travel to watch the NFL Draft in hopes of their team selecting the next NFL star. But, next year, instead of booking a flight to New York, NFL fans will be rerouting their travel plans.

According to multiple reports, the 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago rather than New York City. The NFL Draft has been held in New York since 1965, including at Radio City Music Hall for the past nine years.

Once the NFL learned Radio City Music Hall could not be reserved for the 2015 NFL Draft, 12 cities showed interest in hosting the Draft.  The list was then narrowed to Los Angeles and Chicago before NFL officials decided the Draft will move to the Windy City.

The Chicago Bear’s twitter page posted that the Draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, which is located on Chicago’s busiest and most popular street, Michigan Avenue. The Draft will take place on April 30-May 2.

The NFL Draft has always been popular to football fans and the three day event in 2014 was viewed by 45.7 million people surpassing the record of 45.4 million in 2010. Popularity increased last year, in part, over speculation of which team would take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Curiosity over Manziel increased dramatically on draft day when he slipped all the way to No. 22 of the first round when he was finally selected by the Cleveland Browns.

Every year one major goal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is to further increase fan interest in the NFL’s already incredibly popular offseason. This year Goodell believes the change in scenery might help. He is specifically hoping to strengthen interest in the rounds of the draft and keep the Draft’s TV ratings up.

"We're talking about different concepts, primarily how to strengthen the last day and whether we should maybe push that back to the clubs a little bit more and allow the clubs to have a little bit more freedom as more of a club day," Goodell said.

The last NFL Draft not to be held in New York City was coincidentally held in Chicago at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel from 1961-63.  We will find out in April if the move to Chicago is another score for the NFL.

NFL Draft to move from New York to Chicago in 2015

Every year, NFL fans from all over the country travel to watch the NFL Draft in hopes of their team selecting the next NFL star. But, next year, instead of booking a flight to New York, NFL fans will be rerouting their travel plans.

According to multiple reports, the 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago rather than New York City. The NFL Draft has been held in New York since 1965, including at Radio City Music Hall for the past nine years.

Once the NFL learned Radio City Music Hall could not be reserved for the 2015 NFL Draft, 12 cities showed interest in hosting the Draft.  The list was then narrowed to Los Angeles and Chicago before NFL officials decided the Draft will move to the Windy City.

The Chicago Bear’s twitter page posted that the Draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, which is located on Chicago’s busiest and most popular street, Michigan Avenue. The Draft will take place on April 30-May 2.

The NFL Draft has always been popular to football fans and the three day event in 2014 was viewed by 45.7 million people surpassing the record of 45.4 million in 2010. Popularity increased last year, in part, over speculation of which team would take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Curiosity over Manziel increased dramatically on draft day when he slipped all the way to No. 22 of the first round when he was finally selected by the Cleveland Browns.

Every year one major goal of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is to further increase fan interest in the NFL’s already incredibly popular offseason. This year Goodell believes the change in scenery might help. He is specifically hoping to strengthen interest in the rounds of the draft and keep the Draft’s TV ratings up.

"We're talking about different concepts, primarily how to strengthen the last day and whether we should maybe push that back to the clubs a little bit more and allow the clubs to have a little bit more freedom as more of a club day," Goodell said.

The last NFL Draft not to be held in New York City was coincidentally held in Chicago at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel from 1961-63.  We will find out in April if the move to Chicago is another score for the NFL.

As Texas head coach Charlie Strong sat in his Moncrief office last Sunday morning, still savoring his team’s shutout victory over Kansas the day before, he received an unexpected phone call.

Troy Vincent, NFL’s executive vice-president of operations, whom Strong has known for quite a while, was calling. He and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell were in Austin visiting the headquarters of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and were hoping to meet up with Strong to discuss his commitment to his core values - treating women with respect, honesty, no stealing, no guns and no drugs - before they left town.

Sure enough, a couple hours later, Goodell and Vincent were overlooking Joe Jamail Field in Strong’s office while they picked the coach’s brain. 

“Just talked about just dealing with young people,” Strong said of the meeting. “Trying to make sure that we help them and learn all about character. Then just how do we deal with some of the issues that we’re dealing with right now on this level.”

Amid a flurry of NFL player misconduct issues ranging from domestic violence to sexual assault, Goodell and Vincent clearly felt they could learn from Strong, who has demonstrated a penchant for discipline since arriving in Austin.

With high-profile athletes like Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy bringing the topic of domestic violence into the national eye, Strong has been lauded for what he’s done to combat misbehavior among athletes at the college level.

“I said to [Goodell] that what is happening in the NFL is we’re sending you some players of questionable character,” Strong said. “We have to do a better job in college of preparing these young men.”

Strong has preached a culture of discipline from the moment he stepped off the plane in Austin, but his recent actions have proven he’s about more than just saying the right thing.

The former Louisville boss has dismissed nine Longhorns and suspended three more in his nine months on campus, all for violations of team rules, which stem from his core values. Aside from the two players who were dismissed after being charged with sexual assault, it’s unknown which core value the other 10 athletes violated. But one thing is clear — regardless of who you are, if you do wrong, you will be punished accordingly under Strong’s rule.

“It doesn’t matter what level they are at — they’re all still looking for discipline, and you have to discipline players,” Strong said. “If we’re going to continue to let this happen, why are you going to say what you’re going to do and you don’t even do it?”

With so many athletes making headlines for all the wrong reasons, many have cited Strong as the kind of leader American sports desperately need.

NFL executives are taking notice, Texas administrators are taking notice — the Board of Regents is scheduled to endorse Strong’s values Friday — students on campus are taking notice, and, most importantly, Longhorn players are taking notice.

“Everybody respects Coach Strong, and I think that’s evident,” senior linebacker Jordan Hicks said. “The values that he’s brought in aren’t really anything new, but he shows the ability to stand by them and not bend or fold just because a player is a good athlete.”

In an era where the world of sports is dominated by the idea that winning takes care of everything, Strong is determined to take care of everything, then worry about winning.

Since arriving at Texas, head coach Charlie Strong has dismissed nine players from the football program. The Longhorns hold a 2-2 record after shutting out Kansas on Saturday. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Although the Longhorns didn’t return from Lawrence, Kansas, until late Saturday night, head coach Charlie Strong was back at work Sunday morning. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, met with Strong to seek his advice on the moral dilemmas plaguing the league.

“[Strong’s] emphasis on character [and] respect over talent is molding the next generation of football talent,” Vincent tweeted. “Commissioner and I are focused on strengthening relationships with colleges. Thank you for your time today [Charlie Strong].”

The NFL has recently come under fire for its lax discipline policies. The league received broad criticism for waiting to discipline Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back, following allegations of domestic violence. After the accusations spread and video footage went viral, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contract Sept. 8. The
Minnesota Vikings placed running back Adrian Peterson, who was indicted for child abuse, on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list
on Sept. 17.

Throughout the month, the NFL has worked to restore its image and credibility amid criticism from a wide range of outlets. Goodell visited the National Domestic Violence Hotline in Austin for three hours on Saturday night. The following morning, he and Vincent met with 11 former NFL players, followed
by Strong.

“This morning, [Goodell] [and] I met [with] [Coach Strong] to discuss core values, game integrity, [and] college relations. Great meeting, great input,” Vincent tweeted.

Strong’s “core values” have attracted national attention during his time at Texas and at Louisville. Strong requires players to be honest, treat women with respect and refrain from drugs, stealing and guns — all policies he actively enforces. Since arriving in Austin, Strong has dismissed nine players who violated team rules and three other players are currently suspended from playing in games.

Most recently, Strong dismissed junior offensive tackle Kennedy Estelle on Tuesday. 

“The blueprint of this program has been and always will be the change in helping direct the lives of young people,” Strong said. “I’m sorry that another player had to be dismissed, but when you’re told something over and over again, then you want to make sure that you’re provided with the right resources so that you can change lives.”

John Clayton, ESPN senior NFL writer, said in an interview that Goodell met with Strong in hopes of expanding his response resources and developing a long-term
disciplinary plan.

“Strong has been dealing with issues at his school, and what the league and what the players association want to do is try to find different types of ideas that they can use to come up with some kind of a plan because I think it’s pretty evident they don’t have a plan that’s working right now,” Clayton said.

Why to follow the NHL

As you may have noticed, both the NBA and NFL have had their share of controversies. The NBA has dealt with two racist owners, former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling and Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson, and the NFL is continuing to deal with a storm of incompetence and player misdeeds. However, the NHL has kept its nose clean. Basically, what I'm saying is that, if you want a guilt-free sports entertainment experience, watch and follow the NHL.  But, of course there are more reasons why you should divert your attention from the controversial NBA and NFL and instead pay attention to the NHL.

First of all, the sport is absolutely insane. Thanks to 45 second shifts for players, an average speed of 23 mph for skaters (compared to 16 mph for an average NFL running back), and a hard, rubber puck flying around, there is plenty of pandemonium to be in awe of. All game long, mobs of players crash the nets attempting to get the puck out of trouble or into the net. All game long, skaters are looking to grab the puck on a breakaway after a failed line change. And, all game long, fans are kept at the edge of their seats. For the fan who is bored by constant commercials in the NFL and never-ending timeouts and fouls at the end of NBA games, the NHL is definitely the sport for you. There is beauty in the chaos.


Another reason to like hockey? Canadians are nice. That sounds weird, but hockey is Canada’s gift to the world and its players are incredibly likable. Take for example, superstar player Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. After being named the EA Sports NHL 15 cover athlete, he still went home to Quebec in the summer to raise $100,000 for children in his native city. So, while he could have basked in the glow of his achievements, he instead chose to give back to the community. This example of Patrice Bergeron is not an isolated case, but one that exemplifies the effort hockey players give off the ice.

The biggest reason to like hockey has to be the playoffs and the chase for the best trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup. As soon as the regular season ends, players on playoff teams start growing their beards and getting ready for the most intense playoff experience in sports. Players play differently in the playoffs, as they are more aggressive offensively, defend more tightly, and hit more often. The NHL playoffs are most definitely an intense experience. And this doesn’t even take into account the anxiety and emotion fans feel as their team bears down in the final minutes of an elimination game that has gone into overtime. Oh, and don’t forget about that Stanley Cup. It’s huge, weighs about 35 pounds, and players cannot wait to put it above their head in triumph after a hard-fought playoff run. Ordinary players are made heroes when their names are engraved into the trophy after winning it all. The Cup is everything.

If any of this sounds good (and it should), you’re in luck. You can start the NHL season fresh as it returns in a few weeks on Oct. 8.