He Cam, He Saw, He Conquered

Cam Newton

Cam Newton’s performances this year has lead the Carolina Panthers to  an 11-0 record which has undeniably put him in the MVP conversation. Cam seems to have become a victim of the “Russell Wilson Phenomenon.” When the Panthers win, everybody is given credit but Cam. Credit is given to the defense, Greg Olsen, the Sun, or anyone whose name is not Cam Newton!

But it is time to finally give Cam Newton credit for the success of the Panther’s offense.

Carolina is the only team in the NFL that runs more than it passes. Despite having a very productive tight end in Greg Olsen, the Panthers lack a primary receiver, with Tedd Ginn and Corey “Philly” Brown as two of Cam’s biggest targets. Thus, Newton has rushed for five touchdowns this year, while also almost eclipsing 2,000 passing yards this season. He remains one game behind Steve Young for the outright lead for Quarterbacks with a passing and rushing touchdown in the same game in NFL history. The dual threat performance Newton displays every week is not only entertaining, but also MVP- worthy without a doubt.

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Newton is not given enough credit for he progression he has made as a pocket passer. This touchdown is merely one example of Newton’s progression as a pocket passing quarterback.
The Panthers run out of their two tight end package, a very popular package that Carolina has used when passing and rushing the football. Cam motions for Dickson into the backfield before the play starts, understanding that if cornerback Vontae Davis follows Dickson, he would be playing man coverage.

Davis only tightens his alignment and backs off the line which gives Cam the idea that the Colts are not running a man coverage. At the top and bottom of the play the cornerbacks are playing way off the line of scrimmage. The Colts are running  zone coverage(Cover 3), the zone responsibilities are split into thirds between the two cornerbacks and the strong safety. This is a very successful play usually for the defense when defending the run and pass. While the field is broken up into thirds between two cornerbacks and a strong safety receivers are accounted for, while the tight end(s) can sometimes be unattended. Olsen stays on the line quietly as he prepares to run a go route.  The Go route will succeed against the Cover 3 because Olsen will run in between the zone responsibilities of the cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Mike Adams. Ed Dickson buys time for Newton becoming an extra blocker, while Cam freezes the Adams with a look down the middle of the field opposite of Olsen. Mike Adams gambles towards the side of the two wide receivers and seconds later once Olsen was in man coverage deep down the field, Newton leads him perfectly for the touchdown. This was one play two years ago seen every once in awhile, Newton makes these kind of plays on a weekly basis and continues to progress in the fifth season of his career.

Newton sometimes gets caught throwing off the back of his foot, while also struggling to throw slant and medium passes I think due to his form and his way of play. Cam Newton’s third touchdown that was a throw to Greg Olsen against Green Bay was thrown off his back foot and it was a slant route across the middle. There was a lot of a zip on the ball and Olsen bobbled it for a second.

Currently there are two players on the MVP leader board, Tom Brady and Cameron Newton. Tom Brady is leading the New England Patriots to an undefeated record behind an inconsistent line and a unsatisfactory offense. While everybody and everything is changing around Brady he finds a way to stay consistent and keep being productive. Cam Newton not only has a chance to strengthen his MVP argument, but also has an opportunity to conquer the NFC while sticking to the basics in Carolina.

-Cam Carter

Josh Norman is a Top Tier Cornerback in the NFL

I’m not like any other Cornerback—they all have their things they do, and that’s cool. I respect that. But I’m in another group right now; I’m in another class.-Josh Norman(J_No24)

  Josh Norman was asked by Doug Farrar of Sports Illustrated what it feels like to be the next great player at the Cornerback position, Norman was quoted as saying ” I am unique in my own special way. I’m like nobody else, and I want that to show up.”  The reigning NFC Defensive player of the month was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2012 in the fifth round out of Costal Carolina.

Norman’s rookie season in the league resulted in him being benched after playing 12 games and played only seven games in 2013. When there was changes in the defensive lineup Norman was given another chance and never looked back. Norman’s vibrant personality on and off the field can help and hurt Norman, but has not affected his production this year. Pro Football Focus index reports that last season Josh Norman Opponent passer rating was 53.2% on 379 passing snaps and 58 targets. This was fourth in the league last year, his OPR percentage is first in the league at 23.1.

Lockdown defender Josh Norman is not somebody the quarterback should ever anger or try to poke fun at, because it’ll cost you. Norman was thrown at only 58 times last year, he only allowed 27 catches about 47%. This ranked better than Richard Sherman, Vontae Davis, and Darelle Revis. He ranked percentage wise 10+ points against Stephen Gilmore and even LSU stud Patrick Peterson. One debate between most is rationing out who is the best coverage corner throughout the field not only on the right or left side. Here is a stat for you;On Lake Norman 175 snaps have been played at left corner, 115 at right corner, and occasional plays in the slot. Norman has been mobile on the field and this year has still managed to have the best OPR.

Norman being known as the number one Cornerback has been Lockdown   so far in the first four games against opposing teams best wide receivers. Week Two against DeAndre Hopkins Norman allowed two catches for 24 yards on seven targets. When defending Vincent Jackson he only allowed two catches for 31 yards and actually matched Jackson catches with his two interceptions, one returned for a Touchdown. He celebrates with his pony dance, which he was told was legal but was penalized after his Touchdown return against Winston.

A special ability Josh Norman possesses is his constant ability to bait Quarterbacks into throwing his way in coverage and him cheating or reading the route for the interception or deflection. In the third quarter of the Season opener Blake Bortles was intercepted by Norman on a short pass to T.J. Yeldon.  Bortles seemed to toss towards Lake Norman multiple times in the second quarter. He took notice saying after the game “It was like bro really don’t read the scouting report.” Norman is in a Cover 3 package when he picks off this pass, by using eye discipline and his famous baiting skills he was able to easily pick off Bortles reading the play from the snap. He noticed that Yeldon motioned out of the backfield and Norman followed Bortles waiting for him to look to Yeldon on the fly route and then he broke on it. Norman changed his stance once the play developed before his interception to bait Bortles into the interception.

Josh Norman has shown late game heroics early in this season, most notably against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3 at home. Once again in this Cover 4 package Norman is hit with a double move by Quin Cooks but he stayed discipline and Luke McCown thought that Cooks had a jump but Norman made the best interception grab of the season to seal the win for undefeated Carolina. This is not a catch just any player makes, this was a BigTime catch for a player that will be getting paid some Big Time money.

Josh Norman will have to step up big when the Carolina Panthers go to Seattle in a NFC divisional rematch from a year ago. Bene Benwikere helps this reinvented Panthers secondary defense become complete with the best linebacker in the league Luke Kuechly and a front seven that is as good as any teams in the league. Panthers fans are loving Norman’s play and the Panthers should lock him up and follow the Seattle Seahawks blueprint of success. Locking down your Quarterback and two BIG TIME players on the defensive side(Kuechly already signed).

josh norman

-Cameron Carter

True Freshmen that are Flying under the College Football radar

When you look at the multiple recruits on Hudl, ESPN, or even MaxPreps they always try to project the “upside” of a high school player once they graduate. There are recruits ranging from one to five stars, when everybody goes to play collegiate football every player cannot always be a true freshman. The Josh Rosen’s or the Trenton Thompson’s all come in different forms every year( i.e. Jameis Winston; Mario Edwards). It’s up to the “scouts” to determine who the next True Freshman will be.

This article will elaborate on players that have potential to become the next true freshman that have slipped under the radar who have a lot of talent and potential to become great players maybe one day in the National Football League.

Four star recruit Jake Browning from Folsom, California is a pocket passing quarterback who has the intangibles of a pro-style quarterback with incredible upside. He was known as one of the top signal Quarterback in the 2015 Class and he has good, not great mobility. With offers from Alabama, Boise State, and California he decided to go to Washington. He threw for a national record total of 91 touchdowns his senior year, he is still ranked in ESPN’s Football Recruiting database as the fifth best quarterback in the state in his class. Head coach of Washington Chris Petersen had never started a freshman quarterback before Browning. Folsom’s co-coach Troy Taylor when talking about Browning’s senior year stated ” As soon as our season was over here, Jake was prepping to win the job at Washington”. Determination is not something that cannot be taught, so when Browning ran onto the field against Boise State nobody in Folsom was surprised.

Browning has decent mobility in and out of the pocket, his game is reliant on accuracy and timing; every player has a weakness, Browning can sometimes struggle with pressure and try to do a little “to much”. The more experience a player gets you learn to sometimes put your pride on the back burner and take what you can get. Browning also makes some throws off his back foot, which does not allow the ball to zip through the air as free flowing. Browning yesterday against Cal had his first game in which he struggled, he was sacked yesterday five times and threw two interceptions. Browning’s QB rating dropped from 160.0 to 143.7. He’s four yards away from a 1000 passing yards this season after week three. When comparing Browning and UCLA  freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, who has racked up 964 yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions. With a sub-par line Huskies nation should be excited to see Browning develop into a great quarterback in the competitive PAC 12 conference.

Malik Jefferson from Mesquite,Texas is an outlier in this article; he was tenth overall recruit in the country and was known as second year coach Charlie Strong’s “biggest win”during the off-season. Malik Jefferson is a five star recruit, playing the linebacker position. He was third in the country at his position with offers from almost every school in the Power 5 conferences. He was choosing between Texas A&M and Texas, he decided stay in state because of the great recruiting relationships and family. “He’s a better person than a football player,” Charlie Strong said in an interview with the Big 12 network. He enrolled into Texas in the spring and put on a show in the spring game, swarming around the field and even forcing a fumble.

How can Malik Jefferson be under the radar after all the facts of upside explained in the last paragraph? The first reason is because of his size, his scouting reports all have said a variation of the same thing when referring to Jefferson’s size, at 6’3 215 pounds Jefferson does not have “ideal” wide shoulders for his position. Jefferson is also known as a “downhill” player which mean he’s running at the ball carrier north or south, he struggles with coverage. But don’t forget, at the linebacker position if you have a nose for the ball, you will make a coach very happy and that is exactly what Jefferson can do.

Jefferson since the start of the season has put on ten pounds, also in short plays Jefferson’s quickness is elite, as well as his change of direction. His change of direction and maybe his best attribute lateral quickness helps him elude blockers and also get to the ball carrier very quickly. He is averaging seven tackles currently, while racking up thirty tackles so far this year. With linebacker Jordan Hicks going to the NFL it was really important for Strong to get a player that could fill that big void that was missing in his defense after losing six starters on the defensive side to the draft. Jefferson has incredible upside because of not only his physical intangibles but also because of his ability to make great plays at any moment.

Malik Jefferon and Jake Browning are only two freshman that this article touched on about their upside, but they stay under the radar. Remember these names you will hear from them again this season and the next couple of seasons as well.

-Cameron Carter

HBCU Football Class rankings 2015(SWAC/MEAC)

February 4th was the day many talented football players decided where they would spend the next four years of their young football careers. College signing day has become a tradition for decades now. While some players are highly touted out of high school, some players fly under the radar with one star and sometimes not any stars and still impress. All 22 starters in Super Bowl XLVIIII were not five star recruits.

While the “highly touted” players are shown on ESPNU choosing a hat for the BIG schools, there are some players at their local high school signing letters of intent to go to historically black colleges to play football. Here are the top ten classes of 2015 recruiting Southwestern Athletic Conference(SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). Only schools from these conferences were selected since these are the only two HBCU divisions that are considered in D1-AA.

10) Howard University: 5-7(3-5)

After their disappointing season the Bison were hoping that their strong twelve they’ve signed would be able to contribute immediately and make a huge impact.

Key recruits

Dexter Brown (DL 6’2’ 325 lbs.) Chesterfield, Virginia:

Brown is a strong lineman (squat max 525 lbs. bench max 325 lbs.) who has a lot of potential to actually become a great lineman if he works hard under Gary Harrell.

Jason Collins (QB 6’0 169 lbs.) Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Collins is a dual threat quarterback with raw potential as well, though Collins is small for the quarterback position his legs keep him competing at a high level.

The recruiting class for the Bison’s might be their new stepping stone if the players are willing to work hard and if you are playing Gary Harrell you will play hard.

  9) Jackson State: 5-7(3-6)

Jackson State’s local recruiting angle was taken seriously ever since last January. “We’re not going to go outside Mississippi until we saturate Jackson and the outer areas.” After watching their quarterbacks take 39 sacks (not including tackles for loss), the Tigers found multiple offensive lineman that satisfied their needs.

Key Recruits

Brandon McCoy (NG 6’6’ 340 lbs.) Memphis, Tennessee

McCoy is a great guard that loves to get after the ball. Has great footwork for a big man and has unimaginable speed for his size, when looking at his high school tape. If he can keep improving at Jackson State, he will make a team very happy.

With a lot of players already on campus, the Tigers are really excited to see how spring practice will play out and see which one of these commits will impact immediately! The Jaguars squeezed into the top ten due to their glaring needs seemed to be filled, while getting some players that have a lot of raw potential.

8) Morgan State 7-6 (6-2)

The Morgan State Bears are coming off a playoff year and had a great recruiting class this year, due to their balanced and productive signees. They recruited bigger players this year, with the recruiting class with an average height of 6’2

Key recruits

Kirby Linscomb IV (WR 6’5 215 lbs.) Houston, Texas

A transfer from San Jose City College is the highlight of the early enrollees, he is Projected to contribute immediately, Linscomb is a great athlete who has great hands and will go up and get the ball with ease. He has a swagger to him when he plays, like a young Dez Bryant.

Jai Franklin (DL 6’3 285 lbs.) Upper Marlboro, Maryland

A transfer from ODU, Franklin was a two star recruit out of high school whose experience should be able to help the young defensive line. He has great size, great athleticism, and has three years of eligibility left.

Size and Speed are the highlights of Morgan State’s recruiting class, it will be interesting to see the Bears balance out their transfers into their system, but the size and potential of the class has place Morgan State in the top ten.

7) North Carolina Central 7-5 (6-2)

Last year head coach Jerry Mack had less than two months to find his perfect recruiting class on national signing day. “This year we had a full spring and fall for recruiting, so we were able to address our needs,” Mack said. Mack has rebuilt his offensive line. The average size of all five offensive lineman average size is 6’4 281 lbs.

Key recruits

Cyrus Stanback (DT 6’2 295 lbs) Rockingham, North Carolina

Cyrus Stanback might be the most underrated player going to North Carolina central next year. He is the dark horse in this big and strong recruiting class. Stanback has incredible speed and agility off the line. He also knows how to easily track down smaller players and uses his agility to keep track of his target so he can strike.

Glen Calvin (TE 6’6 205 lbs) Indianapolis, Indiana

The dark horse on the offensive side of recruiting for the Eagles this year may very well be Glen Calvin. Calvin has incredible size and strength. To be a more bulky tight end he has incredible hands and he loves to go up and bring the ball down over the defender.

8 of 15 players recruited to come to Durham this fall are from North Carolina. “We believe that there is great talent in the state and we continue to build strong relationships in the state,” Mack said. We will see this revamped offensive line for the first time against Saint Augustine’s September 5th, 2015.

6) Southern University 9-3 (8-1)

Southern had an impressive defensive recruiting class, 16 and counting. Southern will not have spring practice, so it will be interesting to see how the team is able to adapt. Southern was able to actually get the second best steal between these ten teams in Brad Porter.

Key Recruits

Brad Porter (DE 6’5 235 lbs.) New Orleans, Louisiana

Brad Porter is an animal and is an incredible pick up for Southern! His senior year he recorded 72 tackles, 25 sacks, and 28 tackles for a loss He has a great mix of agility, speed, and strength.

Elijah Allen (DB 6’1 175 lbs.) Denton, Texas

Allen is a raw talent at defensive back, he loves to hit and track down receivers and quarterbacks. He keeps an eye on the ball just as well as the receiver! With growth and strength at the collegiate level Allen could become a great player.   

5) Norfolk State University 4-8 (4-4)

The Spartans recruiting class showed incredible balance, while they recruited six players on offense and six on defense. “Our main goal and objective was to address the needs of the program,” said Norfolk State coach Cartell Scott.

Key Recruits

Marcus Taylor (ATH 5’8 160 lbs.) Highland Springs, Virginia

A two star recruit from ESPN and also an all-conference Kick returner. He had a total of 20 touchdowns his senior year (10 rushing, four receiving, and six kick/ punt returns.) Cartell Scott said “(Taylor) the fastest player in the state. Will contribute right away.”

Gerard Johnson (RB 5’9 195 lbs.) ODU Transfer

Second string sophomore a transfer from ODU with two years of eligibility left; Johnson’s two years at ODU resulted in him rushing for 865 yards and six touchdowns and amassed 1,135 all-purpose yards.

The Spartans had a great recruiting class due to their balanced recruiting. Scott has found a great mix of strength and speed and that has put them at number five this year/

4) Florida A&M University 3-9(3-5)

After a disappointing season head coach Alex Wood said “We addressed our glaring needs,” during the first recruiting class for the seventeenth coach in Wood.

Key Recruits

Tyler Woodley (CB 5’10 168 lbs.) Powder Springs, Georgia

A two star recruit by ESPN who plays with a huge chip on his shoulder as he plays with less size than most wide receivers and cornerbacks. Darrelle Revis might be the best comparison if you had to visualize how Woodley plays the game. He has a great mix of physicality and finesse, A&M got a great talent in Woodley. As he should contribute immediately for Alex Wood and the Rattlers.

Ryan Stanley (QB 6’3 190lbs.)Permbroke Pines, Florida

Stanley is an incredible talent from Florida! Stanley has a strong arm but makes plays with his legs as Stanley has shown he has incredible footwork and speed with a 4.62 40 yard dash time. He has a strong arm with incredible accuracy. His senior season he threw for 3,341 yards and 40 touchdowns. He only threw six interceptions and rushed for 412 yards and scored ten touchdowns!

FAMU season was very disappointing last year but as a Rattler’s fan you can only be excited as the recruiting class is fast and talented. The glaring needs have been addressed through this recruiting class and now the team has spring practice and should make a lot of progression in the 2015-2016 season.

3) Grambling State 7-5 (7-2)

SWAC coach of the year Broderick Fobbs recruited size and strength. He recruited five linebackers this year. There are three seniors and one junior on the team this upcoming season, as Fobbs understood one year of guidance for these talented linebackers would be more than enough. They also recruited two quarterbacks who have great potential and could fight for the starting spot!

Key Recruits

Jamie King (QB 6’3 210 lbs.) Azle, Texas

Two sport standout with great mobility in and outside the pocket. At 6’3 King is a dominant force with great speed (4.6 40 yard dash). He has the talent to become a true freshman starter if given the opportunity.

Tre’von Cherry (QB 5’11 180 lbs.) Tulsa, Oklahoma

Not as highly touted as King, Cherry is a Ruseel Wilson like quarterback. He creates passes as he buys time in the pocket for his receivers and has good but not great accuracy. When given time to develop Cherry could be a better player than King but it will take a lot of hard work!

Percy Cargo (LB 6’1 200 lbs.) Donaldsonville, Louisiana  

Talented linebacker from Louisiana that has great stamina but loves to hit, with determination like Cam Chancelor and the hunger that Cargo plays with he will do fine at Grambling. “Coming from Donaldsville it’s an incredible achievement… I know a lot of guys who come from here and don’t get a chance to play ball at the next level,” Cargo said.

Grambling can have an even better season next year and fans of the Tigers should be interested in seeing what has to happen with Linebackers and Quarterbacks as well. There is a lot of talent between those two positions there will be great competition during spring practice.

2) Bethune-Cookman 9-3(6-2)

Bethune- Cookman had an incredible season and seem to have no intentions of changing that, after their recruiting class has a great mix of talent on both sides of the ball. Over the last couple of years Bethune-Cookman has made sure they recruited in-state. Where some of the best football talent has come from over the last decade or so.

Key Recruits

Cedric Miller (RB 5’10 185 lbs.) Miami, Florida

The four star recruit rated by ESPN and the best player recruited and signed by an HBCU has incredible speed. Miller reads his blocks very well, he reminds of the perfect mix of Ricky Williams and Ladanian Thomilson. Miller will have an immediate impact on Bethune-Cookman and could get multiple reps by the time season is here.

Jamal Thomas (DT 6’3 285 lbs.) Sharpsburg, Georgia

Jamal Thomas could be a new breed of defensive tackle that the NFL is starting to love, a JJ Watt. He is a little bigger than Thomas at 6’5 but Jamal uses his speed to get around offensive tackles and has great footwork as a lineman. The reason we say Thomas has similarities, is because he has some great hands to be a defensive tackle. His highlight tape shows him intercepting multiple passes at the line of scrimmage and actually picking up a couple of yards!

Bethune-Cookman might have struck gold with their recruiting class, as they have found two freshman leaders that can build on their talent and keep them at the top as well.

1) Alcorn State 9-3(7-2)

The defending champions of the SWAC didn’t only recruit this year, but they struck gold! 27 recruits! Coach Jay Hopson is expecting all of the signees to contribute right away. As surreal as it sounds to hear that 27 recruits are supposed to all contribute does seem far fetched it could happen! The recruits that are coming in are very talented and there are a lot of them! They recruited an incredible athlete from Miami in Deundre Pickett-White.

Darrell Henderson jr. (DT 6’1 315 lbs.) Jacksonville, Florida

Henderson was a BEAST in High School, he has great hands and loves to intercept the ball at the line of scrimmage. He knows how to explode through offensive tackles and he gets in the backfield often as he has an incredible arsenal of moves to maneuver around offensive tackles throughout the game.

Mahlon Robinson (DB 5’11 185 lbs.) Macon, Mississippi  

Robinson is another great defensive talent that Alcorn State has coming in this year. Robinson is not afraid to hit and has incredible speed. He loves playing kick returner and is a touchdown waiting to happen when back there!

Alcorn State deserves the number one spot due to the size of their recruiting class and the talent that it’s bringing in. They have recruited not only to make sure their needs were met but also to make sure the team had enough versatility this year.

-Cameron Carter

Kemba Walker’s Incredible Quiet Year

kemba over kyle

26 seconds tick away as Kyle Lowry leads a comeback against Kemba Walker and the short-handed Charlotte Hornets team with 10 active players for the night. Kemba Walker stands one on one with James Johnson alone up five, what do you do? Well if you’re Kemba Walker you crossover and step back to create separation and you show that you have ice in your veins and pull up to push the lead to six!

This game winning thing for Kemba Walker has become a usual thing, just the night before on January seventh he cashed the game winner with 1.4 seconds left in the game. Cardiac Kemba is becoming a name that the New York native is very comfortable with. “I just tried to make a play”, this seems to be the generic quote on a nightly basis from Walker as he continues to hit game winners.

Not only has Kemba Walker become “Mr BIG SHOT” but he also has shown he can be a complete guard by his rate of efficiency. Walker’s Player Efficiency Rating(PER) is 19.49, which is ninth in the NBA among guards and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Scoring 19 points per game, while dishing six assists out a game, and also leads the turnover ratio among guards at 6.3 turnovers a game. Kemba has shown he has grown not only as a player in the NBA, but also as an adult.

Kemba’s points per game has rose to 20 points this season on zero days of rest. That’s a three point improvement from last season. Following Kemba throughout his career you can tell he is in better shape and sounds as efficient as ever. Walker has also become known as the crossover artist of the NBA. Victims of Walker’s crossover have been Chris Paul, Elfrid Payton, and the sickest crossover of the year on Nikola Mirotic 

He has become more than just a typical scorer, he has shown that he is not afraid of being the hero. During the 2014-2015 season there are four players tied with three 30 point games consecutively. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and Kemba Walker. As the season progresses without Kemba the Hornets will not make the playoffs, but if Kemba keeps up this level of play for the rest of the year the Hornets might find themselves as far as the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

-Cameron Carter

Damian Lillard being the 13th man left off Team USA is only the beginning of endless opportunities

Before we go any further, as a Blazers fan it would have been great to see Dame play for Team USA, we could compare the statistical differences between Lillard and Irving, we also could make an argument about the dependability of Rose health and his consistency. We can’t help as fans to draw comparisons between players from different positions and Lillard, due to his break out year during the 2013-2014 season. We could argue all day from both viewpoints, but that would not change decision made to leave Portland’s point guard of the future off the Team USA roster.

Rip City fans don’t forget even though Dame was the 13th man left off the 12 man roster which hurts even more, Rudy Gay and Kyle Kover will not sky rocket into stardom since they’re headed to Spain.Let’s be honest the 24 year old point guard will have many more chances to represent this country(2016 Olympics, 2018 FIBA, etc.). Let’s be honest Dame playing in this event and leading the team in scoring hypothetically what would he receive? Patriotic honor? A medal and a boost in his bank account? What Lillard does for his team when the NBA season starts means a lot more than this event in Spain.

Will Damian playing for Team USA help his team get deeper into the Western Conference playoffs, and eventually help them achieve the big goal, an NBA championship? Ask any Oklahoma City fan if they would rather let a fatigue Kevin Durant play overseas or would you rather him rest up and be ready to go for the NBA season?” Real fans will not be able to say “yes” without a smirk or a snicker.

The future is bright for the Webber State alum, don’t rush him into NBA stardom. If anything as a Trail Blazer fan being the 13th man on the 12 man roster will only make Damian more hungry to show Coach K and staff what they missed out on during the NBA season!

-Cameron Carter

Walt Aikens Perseverance speaks volumes as he reaches the NFL


I asked the talented defensive back and one of the newest member of the Miami Dolphins how he would explain the position he was in currently. He said “God has put me in a great position”. The Liberty Alumni explained to me that he is not only put in this position to become an NFL legend, but he understands with his great communication skills mixed with his talent on the field can help him reach out to children in a way very few can and will.

Walt Aikens graduated from Harding University High School where he was “The Man” on campus. He was never suspended and was a tri-athlete. He won state championships in track, became one of the best dunkers in the state, and of course one of the best football talents out of Charlotte in the last 20 years. Aikens was awarded the Old Spice Player of The Year in North Carolina and also All-Queen City Offensive player of the year. He received offers in all three sports but he explained that he was more passionate about football. As he committed to take his talents to the fighting Illini in Champagne, Illinois over Clemson and Louisville he was ready to live up to the hype. As a true freshman Walt started in five games at safety and also won Freshman All-Big Ten honors. Walt was able to excel as a freshman because of the confidence he acquired throughout his high school career. Walt began to hear the NFL talk throughout his freshman year. The deeper he got into his career the talk became more prevalent.

During the off-season of his freshman year, for the first time in his life Walt was in the middle of trouble over a laptop that he did not own, whom he borrowed from a friend. The situation had become so messy and taken out of context that Walt Aikens was kicked off the football team at Illinois. He knew that his parents had instilled Core Values in him and even though he disappointed them, they were ready to accept him for the mistake he made and help him get back on the right path. Aikens decided to go to Liberty over Tennessee due to him not wanting to sit out a year. He eventually had to sit out a year due to NCAA sanctions, but Walt throughout 2010 practiced with the practice team so he could keep getting better. In 2011 Aikens played for the Liberty Flames and led the Big South in forced fumbles. He felt like “he had something to prove”. Even though Walt had to deal with all the critics, he felt Liberty gave him a clean slate and a fresh start.

Walt Aikens finished at Liberty with an impressive year and had the confidence to finally reach for his dream and become an NFL player. Aikens was not invited to the NFL combine, he said this did not discourage him it only made him hungrier for his success. There were 26 pro teams at Liberty’s pro day, he explained to me during the interview “If I could not go to the combine, I would just bring the combine to me”. He proved to be a great talent for the NFL as the Miami Dolphins selected him 125th overall in the 4th round.

I asked Walt his opinion on critics when he reads scouting reports on himself and they explain that he has trouble with his foot speed or lacks to diagnose run-pass reads, he explains that negativity from critics is motivation. Adaption has been key for Walt, as he has had to adapt multiple times from Illinois to Virginia and now to Miami. Practicing and living in Miami is a plus while living out your all time dream is sweet taste after all the up’s and downs he has been through.

With two Harding alumni in the NFL currently ( W.Aikens and James McCray) this shows the community that if you work hard enough for your dream and you have the drive, you can be successful! Walt would also like to remind high school football players who are deciding on a school to play collegiate football, find a system that fits you. It is not always about going to the biggest and best school. Which brings me to Walt’s next point, go somewhere where you will thrive and succeed!

-Cameron Carter