Mark Bavaro Jersey

Mark Bavaro does not spend a lot of time these days watching the New England Patriots, or the NFL in general.

But the Danvers native, a former All-Pro tight end and two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants, certainly knows greatness when he sees it — particularly at the position he dominated for much of the 1980s.

And Bavaro knows what he saw in Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement from the New England Patriots Sunday night: a game changing tight end who ranks among the best who ever played.

“To me, there’s no question he’s a Hall of Famer,” said the 55-year-old Bavaro, who like Gronkowski played tight end for nine years in the NFL. “Aside from his touchdowns (79), his numbers might not put him up with the top group of (modern) tight ends; his numbers weren’t eye popping. But we know he was the best of that pack.”

Bavaro does not know Gronkowski personally, but certainly respected him as a player and said he would’ve “been a fan of his regardless of where he played.” The main reason why is something that the former Danvers High School and Notre Dame All-American took immense pride in during his own gridiron career: being a complete tight end who could protect the pocket, run block, block downfield, catch passes, break multiple tackles after the catch and take on any number of defenders, whether it’s a defensive end, outside linebacker or blitzing cornerback.

“Rob sticks out like a sore thumb in the way he plays. He’s what a tight end should be, not just a guy who catches passes,” Bavaro said. “Being a good blocker is part of the job description, and it’s good to see guys who actually know how to do that.

“The Patriots were never really a big run heavy team, and I don’t think they ever really relied on Rob’s blocking ability his first eight years or so; he could do it, but they just didn’t need him to. Look at what he did at the end of the season and in the playoffs, the way he blocked against Kansas City and in the Super Bowl against the Rams. He proved he can block really, really well and I was very impressed.”

“George Kittle (of the San Francisco 49ers) is another guy who epitomizes what a tight end should be,” added Bavaro. “That kid is a great, great blocker, an enthusiastic blocker. That’s what Rob was like down the stretch this year. You can’t say that about many guys.”

Gronkowski’s toughness was another of those admirable traits in Bavaro’s eyes. Although he didn’t watch the live games often, he’d see his highlights and knew how dominant No. 87 could be for New England.

“He’s a tough, tough guy, listed at 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, but probably closer to 6-7 and 270, 275,” Bavaro said. “And he’s going up against these pass oriented defenses that don’t have big guys anymore. They’re not run stoppers or big linebackers; he’s going up against (defensive backs) who are between 190 and 220 lbs; that’s a huge physical mismatch in his favor. People tried to cover him with strong safeties because they had to stay with him, but he was too fast, too strong. The guy is unbelievable.”

Because the NFL has become a pass-happy league — although Bavaro wouldn’t be surprised to see it start to come back to a run controlled style (“and look who’s already ahead of the curve there; the always innovative Bill Belichick,” he said) — defenses are built to stop opponents through the air. The tough grapplers are gone, replaced with more athletic types — and athleticism usually improves with a decrease in player size. That, said the DHS Hall of Famer, is why Gronkowski was able to feast.

Bavaro — who is recovering from recent shoulder and knee replacement surgery and hopes to be back on the golf course by June — is good friends with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who served as a defensive coordinator when he was with the Giants and later was his head coach when Bavaro spent a season with the Cleveland Browns late in his playing career. He’s well aware of what the man many consider to be the greatest coach in league history expects of his players, especially those who have exceptional talent such as Gronkowski.

“If you play for Bill, there’s a certain level of expectation that comes with that and if you don’t perform, you’re out,” he said. “Bill Parcells used to bring out the best in his players through motivation; Belichick does that to some extent as well, but he does it more by building his system around these players. You either fit into his system or you don’t, and if you do fit he’s going to maximize your talents.

“Rob would’ve been great on any team,” continued Bavaro, “but there’s no way he’d be as productive without playing in that Patriots’ system and with Tom Brady as his quarterback. This was the perfect place and system for him.”

It’s one he might eventually come back to as well, said Bavaro.

“I know he’s retired, but he’s still a football player,” he said of Gronkowski. “He’s going to heal up from his injuries; he’s going to feel better soon. He’s going to have other opportunities off the field, and those may or may not work out. He’s obviously not going to fade into the woodwork. But once he heals up, I think he could play until he’s 36 or 37. That’s a long time to sit out of football knowing you can still play the game, having everyone tell you that you can still play, and having your last memory being so dominant.

“Everyone wants to leave on their own terms, but (football) is what he’s been doing his whole life. If he was 36 or 37 now and retiring with a beat up body, I’d say God bless him. But I don’t think he’s done yet. I think he’s got more football left in him.”

Phil McConkey Jersey

Navy football assistant Rick Lantz was getting ready to travel to Buffalo to recruit an undersized wide receiver he had received a tip about. Before departing, Lantz decided he better get approval from his boss.

“I’ve got a line on a pretty good receiver, but the problem is that he weighs 140 pounds,” Lantz told head coach George Welsh.

It was January, 1975 and Welsh was trying to turn around a struggling program that suffered seven straight losing seasons. Navy lacked team speed and that was the biggest attribute the second-year head coach was concerned about.

“I don’t care how big he is. If he can run, bring him in,” Welsh told Lantz.

Phil McConkey had starred as a defensive back and wide receiver at Canisius High, a Jesuit school in Buffalo. He was the son of a Buffalo city police officer who had to work side jobs in order to send Phil and his sister Debbie to private schools.

Army and Navy were the only Division I programs that recruited McConkey, who knew his father could not afford to pay for a college education. He chose Annapolis over West Point and went on to enjoy a record-setting career, graduating as Navy’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions (13), punt return yards (734) and kickoff return yards (1,280).

After serving five years of active duty as a helicopter pilot, McConkey made an improbable comeback – making the New York Giants roster on the strength of his skills as a returner. He wound up playing six seasons in the National Football League and reached the pinnacle as a member of the 1986 Giants team that captured Super Bowl XXI.

“I grew up with an enormous chip on my shoulder because, at every level, I was told I was too small to play football. I had something to prove so, on every play, I went full throttle,” said McConkey, who will serve as guest speaker for the 64th annual Touchdown Club of Annapolis football awards banquet.

This will mark McConkey’s second appearance at the Touchdown Club banquet with the first coming in 1979 after he was selected as recipient of the prestigious Silver Helmet Award as Most Outstanding Player at the Naval Academy.

McConkey remembers sitting at the head table on the stage of the St. Mary’s High cafeteria and that former Arkansas football coach turned athletic director Frank Broyles was the guest speaker. His sponsors, Henry and Gloria George, were in the audience.

“It was an incredible way to wrap up my college career,” McConkey said of being presented with the Silver Helmet.

McConkey joins Chet Moeller as the second Silver Helmet Award winner to return to the Touchdown Club football banquet as special guest.

“I am always thrilled when we are able to bring back one of Navy’s esteemed graduates to Annapolis to speak at the banquet,” Touchdown Club president Scott Schuetter said. “It is truly special when we get to connect our young award winners with graduates that have been in their shoes, and also make a lifelong memory for everyone at the banquet.”

McConkey was a pure playmaker for Navy and averaged 24 yards on 22 catches while setting a single-season school record with six touchowns as a senior. The skinny kid from Buffalo “bulked up” at the academy as McConkey was listed at 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds.

Welsh was wise to favor speed over size as McConkey was instrumental in leading Navy to its first postseason appearance since the 1964 Cotton Bowl. In 1978, Navy compiled a 9-3 record that was capped by an upset victory over Brigham Young University in the Holiday Bowl.

McConkey was the catalyst of an impressive comeback as Navy rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat BYU, 23-16. He scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 65-yard pass from quarterback Bob Leszczynski and set up two other scores with big gains on reverses, earning the game’s Most Valuable Player award.

“I will never forget that game. We dug down deep and were able to beat a great BYU team,” McConkey said. “It was an awesome way for the seniors to go out and kind of put a bow on what had been an outstanding season.”

Welsh had managed just one winning season (7-4 in 1975) in five years at Navy and knew time was running out. That 1978 team was the turning point for the Welsh era as the Midshipmen posted four straight winning seasons and also made appearances in the Garden State Bowl and Liberty Bowl before the head coach left for Virginia.

“It was a special team and an incredible show of leadership from a great senior class,”McConkey said. “We had a small senior class that was very close-knit. It was our last opportunity to play football and we were determined to make the most of it.”

McConkey and linebacker Nick Mygas served as co-captains while Leszczynski, kicker Bob Tata, wide receiver Sandy Jones, nose guard A.B. Miller, center Steve Kremer and defensive backs Kip McCulley and Herb Wilson were other key seniors.

“That group of seniors demonstrated true leadership in every respect. We made every member of the team, even the lowest plebe, feel important,” McConkey recalled. “George Welsh said it was the easiest coaching job he ever had.”

Navy was 7-0 and ranked No. 11 in both the Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI) national polls after beating Pittsburgh 21-11 on Oct. 28. The Panthers were two years removed from capturing the national championship and that game remains one of the biggest ever played at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Navy played Notre Dame at old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland the following week and was soundly defeated, 27-7. McConkey was injured by a cheap shot to the knee while calling for a fair catch on a punt the following week at Syracuse, missing most of a disappointing 20-17 loss.

McConkey was on crutches with stretched ligaments and did not dress for the only time in his entire college career as the Mids suffered their third straight loss in humbling fashion, 38-6 at Florida State. However, Navy finished strong by routing archrival Army 28-0 at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and received the invitation to the Holiday Bowl.

“There were not many bowl games back then so to earn a berth was a big deal,” McConkey said. “Navy had not been to a bowl for a long time so that was a huge step for the program.”

McConkey thought he would never play competitive football again after leading Navy past BYU in the Holiday Bowl.

“We were in the locker room at Jack Murphy Stadium and in such a state of euphoria. I realized this was the the last time I was ever going to take off the pads,” he said. “I remember getting undressed very slowly so I could really savor that feeling.”

Ironically, McConkey wound up truly ending his football career in that very same locker room when he removed his uniform as a member of the San Diego Chargers in 1989. That a 160-pound wide receiver would make the NFL at the age of 27 after having not played football for five years is truly remarkable.

McConkey flew the CH-46 Sea Knight – a medium-lift, tandem-rotor transport helicopter. He primarily performed underway replenishment, carrying loads from ship to ship.

When McConkey was discharged from the Navy and decided to attempt to play professional football, the first person he approached was longtime Navy assistant Steve Belichick.

Belichick, the consummate scout and noted evaluator of talent, was terse in his assessment.

“You better run under 4.6 or nobody will give you a chance,” he told McConkey.

McConkey proceeded to run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.5 seconds on the Rip Miller Turf at Navy with Belichick making him do it twice to make sure the stop watch wasn’t mistaken.

Belichick went inside and immediately called his son, who was defensive coordinator under head coach Bill Parcells with the New York Giants at the time. McConkey attended a Giants mini camp and dove for every single pass thrown his way. He earned an invitation to training camp and beat all odds by making the team in 1984.

“I didn’t want to be 60 years old and wondering if I could have played in the NFL. I had to at least give it a shot,” McConkey said. “I drove myself to the brink of exhaustion to try to reclaim my skills.”

McConkey had his best statistical season in 1985 with 25 receptions for 404 yards while adding another 676 yards on punt and kickoff returns. He will always be remembered by Giants fans for his superb performance in Super Bowl XXI.

McConkey caught a 44-yard pass from Phil Simms off a flea flicker to set up a touchdown and had a 25-yard punt return that led to a field goal. He capped the big game by grabbing a 6-yard touchdown pass after the ball had glanced off the fingertips of tight end Mark Bavaro.

“I was so very, very fortunate to be part of such a great team and was thrilled that I was able to contribute to a Super Bowl victory,” he said.

McConkey has lived in San Diego since retiring from the NFL and is president of Academy Securities, a financial services firm that hires and trains military veterans.

“I am so proud that every day I get to work with incredible heroes, people who have sacrificed so much. I’m in awe of their service and honored to be able to help them transition back into civilian life.”

TD CLUB BANQUET

WHEN: Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: DoubleTree Hotel, 210 Holiday Court, Annapolis.

WHO: Shane Davis (Rhodes Trophy), Timber Berzins (Laramore Award), Broadneck High (Mears Trophy), D.J. Palmore (Silver Helmet), DJ Moore (Gold Helmet).

TICKETS: Cost $70. Limited number available. annapolisTDclub.com

Carl Banks Jersey


New York Giants fans will find out the news on their second and third-round draft selections from two former franchise icons when the 2019 NFL Draft enters Day 2 on April 26th.

Legendary Giants linebacker turned NFL analyst Carl Banks will announce the team’s second-round draft pick. Super Bowl hero and wide receiver/special teams ace David Tyree will announce the franchise’s third-round draft pick.

Bank will announce the No. 37 overall pick in round two for the Giants assuming they do not trade it.This will once again be a prime spot for Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to land an immediate starter on the offensive line in a draft class that might actually be stronger at offensive tackle (at the top of round two) rather than on the interior offensive line like it was when the team grabbed Will Hernandez.

Of course, the Giants will not force an offensive line pick here as Gettleman has proved to be a “best player available” general manager in the draft. The No. 37 overall pick holds an incredible amount of trade value because it is the first pick to kick off the second day (Friday) of the draft. Gettleman will also be receiving a lot of phone calls from other general managers eager to trade up for a player they figured would be selected in Round 1 but is now still available.

The Giants will enter the draft with the most draft picks they have had since the 2003 NFL Draft when they had 11 draft picks.

The Giants can use the multiple mid-round picks to land players that are graded high on their draft board or to add as assets in trade discussions to move up for a better draft pick or to trade for players.Last offseason, Gettleman traded his fourth-round 2018 compensatory draft pick to acquire linebacker Alec Ogletree from the Los Angeles Rams. Ogletree has made countless drive-saving tackles sideline to sideline, but sometimes fans seem to ignore those when criticizing him for his pass coverage against an 180-pound running back. Ogletree was the defensive quarterback for the Giants while playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in games he has played — he missed one game with a hamstring injury.The NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and the Giants have the most draft capital since 2003. Stay up to date with everything Giants by taking a second to sign up for our FREE Giants newsletter!

During that 2003 draft class where the Giants had double-digit picks, they landed legendary defensive end Osi Umenyiora in the second round. The Giants also selected offensive linemen David Diehl in the fifth round before drafting the legendary wide receiver and special teams ace David Tyree in the sixth round. Ernie Accorsi was the Giants general manager at the time with Gettleman working under him. Gettleman is taking a page out of Accorsi’ playbook and it’s easy to be excited about thatSterling Shepard reportedly agreed to a four-year contract extension with the New York Giants on Wednesday and the only person who might be happier than him is his former teammate Odell Beckham Jr.

Shortly after news broke that Shepard and the Giants have all but officially agreed to terms on a four-year, $41 million contract extension with approximately $21 million guaranteed, Beckham congratulated his former teammate and pinpointed all the hard work that got him to this point in his career.”Lil bruh since the day u walked into that building yu gave me life, picked me up when I was down, humbled me when I was in the wrong, shown me nothin but love slime,” Beckham said. “I flew across the country for u to be apart of somethin so amazing and special. U have changed my life in so many ways. I will miss being/ seeing u everyday. But let’s get to the real topic…. BAG ALERT boyyyyy u weathered the storm. Stood tall when u had too, head down n keeeppt fighting….. nowwwww looook at u boyyyyy , I’m so happy for u and ur family , and beyond proud of u! Best of luck for the future! U just get started Brother… of courseeee tho, LEMMME HOLSUMMM @sterl_shep3NO MATTER the colors, U will forever be my brother!”

Shepard responded to Beckham’s post almost immediately with a simple but poignant, “For LIFE” message.

During their time together on the Giants, Shepard and Beckham created more than just a bond between two teammates on the field. The two wide receivers became inseparable on the sidelines during games, in the locker room in between, and their friendship extended into major life-altering experiences. When Shepard married his wife and supermodel Chanel Iman last year, Beckham was not only in attendance but he was also a groomsman in the wedding party.

The NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and the Giants have the most draft capital since 2003. Stay up to date with everything Giants by taking a second to sign up for our FREE Giants newsletter!Shortly after news originally broke of the Giants trading Beckham to the Cleveland Browns, Shepard reacted to the decision on Instagram.

“It’s taken a few days for me to process what happened,” Shepard wrote via Instagram at the time. “You have been more than a friend and a mentor you are my BROTHER. Miles between us but brothers 4 life!”

w York Giants fans will find out the news on their second and third-round draft selections from two former franchise icons when the 2019 NFL Draft enters Day 2 on April 26th.

Legendary Giants linebacker turned NFL analyst Carl Banks will announce the team’s second-round draft pick. Super Bowl hero and wide receiver/special teams ace David Tyree will announce the franchise’s third-round draft pick.

Bank will announce the No. 37 overall pick in round two for the Giants assuming they do not trade it.This will once again be a prime spot for Giants general manager Dave Gettleman to land an immediate starter on the offensive line in a draft class that might actually be stronger at offensive tackle (at the top of round two) rather than on the interior offensive line like it was when the team grabbed Will Hernandez.

Of course, the Giants will not force an offensive line pick here as Gettleman has proved to be a “best player available” general manager in the draft. The No. 37 overall pick holds an incredible amount of trade value because it is the first pick to kick off the second day (Friday) of the draft. Gettleman will also be receiving a lot of phone calls from other general managers eager to trade up for a player they figured would be selected in Round 1 but is now still available.

The Giants will enter the draft with the most draft picks they have had since the 2003 NFL Draft when they had 11 draft picks.

The Giants can use the multiple mid-round picks to land players that are graded high on their draft board or to add as assets in trade discussions to move up for a better draft pick or to trade for players.Last offseason, Gettleman traded his fourth-round 2018 compensatory draft pick to acquire linebacker Alec Ogletree from the Los Angeles Rams. Ogletree has made countless drive-saving tackles sideline to sideline, but sometimes fans seem to ignore those when criticizing him for his pass coverage against an 180-pound running back. Ogletree was the defensive quarterback for the Giants while playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in games he has played — he missed one game with a hamstring injury.The NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and the Giants have the most draft capital since 2003. Stay up to date with everything Giants by taking a second to sign up for our FREE Giants newsletter!

During that 2003 draft class where the Giants had double-digit picks, they landed legendary defensive end Osi Umenyiora in the second round. The Giants also selected offensive linemen David Diehl in the fifth round before drafting the legendary wide receiver and special teams ace David Tyree in the sixth round. Ernie Accorsi was the Giants general manager at the time with Gettleman working under him. Gettleman is taking a page out of Accorsi’ playbook and it’s easy to be excited about thatSterling Shepard reportedly agreed to a four-year contract extension with the New York Giants on Wednesday and the only person who might be happier than him is his former teammate Odell Beckham Jr.

Shortly after news broke that Shepard and the Giants have all but officially agreed to terms on a four-year, $41 million contract extension with approximately $21 million guaranteed, Beckham congratulated his former teammate and pinpointed all the hard work that got him to this point in his career.”Lil bruh since the day u walked into that building yu gave me life, picked me up when I was down, humbled me when I was in the wrong, shown me nothin but love slime,” Beckham said. “I flew across the country for u to be apart of somethin so amazing and special. U have changed my life in so many ways. I will miss being/ seeing u everyday. But let’s get to the real topic…. BAG ALERT boyyyyy u weathered the storm. Stood tall when u had too, head down n keeeppt fighting….. nowwwww looook at u boyyyyy , I’m so happy for u and ur family , and beyond proud of u! Best of luck for the future! U just get started Brother… of courseeee tho, LEMMME HOLSUMMM @sterl_shep3NO MATTER the colors, U will forever be my brother!”

Shepard responded to Beckham’s post almost immediately with a simple but poignant, “For LIFE” message.

During their time together on the Giants, Shepard and Beckham created more than just a bond between two teammates on the field. The two wide receivers became inseparable on the sidelines during games, in the locker room in between, and their friendship extended into major life-altering experiences. When Shepard married his wife and supermodel Chanel Iman last year, Beckham was not only in attendance but he was also a groomsman in the wedding party.

The NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and the Giants have the most draft capital since 2003. Stay up to date with everything Giants by taking a second to sign up for our FREE Giants newsletter!Shortly after news originally broke of the Giants trading Beckham to the Cleveland Browns, Shepard reacted to the decision on Instagram.

“It’s taken a few days for me to process what happened,” Shepard wrote via Instagram at the time. “You have been more than a friend and a mentor you are my BROTHER. Miles between us but brothers 4 life!”

Lawrence Taylor Jersey

As the saying goes, ‘Patience is a virtue’, and it’s one that British musician, songwriter and emergent pop star Lawrence Taylor holds true. Three years after first achieving critical and popular acclaim – and having spent much of the intervening period redefining not just his music but his entire approach to making it – he returns today with the redemptive new track and flawless live video ‘Poor Boy’, via his new home of Glassnote Records.
LISTEN HERE & WATCH THE LIVE VIDEO HERE
Showcasing his smooth performance skills and sultry vocals it nods towards the likes of Rag’n’Bone Man and Sam Smith but captures his own irresistible flair, its uplifting musical hooks belying the foreboding lyrical questions of loyalty as he doubts “Would you still love me if I was a poor boy?” It’s something that’s deeply personal to the singer’s journey so far.
It was in 2016 that Lawrence Taylor released his breakout debut EP Bang Bang. At its height the EP clocked up around a quarter of a million streams a day and led to an explosion in fans and tastemaker approval.
The title-track was made Q Magazine’s Track of the Day, earned spots on numerous Spotify playlists and engaged listeners from the UK, Europe and North America. The following track ‘Chains’ secured his first Radio 1 play with Annie Mac and was tailed by the EP’s closing number ‘Robyn’ which was premiered globally by Zane Lowe on Beats1 Radio and saw him featured as BBC Radio 1’s Introducing Act of the Week.
Further support came from the likes of Clash, Wonderland, Pandora and Radio X, and with his keen sense of style and undeniable good looks, high-end fashion brands came knocking including a partnership with Tom Ford. However, despite the acclaim and commercial success a series of unexpected music industry setbacks proved a complication on the path to a mainstream breakthrough.
Having moved to London and developed his own sound via a gruelling round-the-clock grind of playing open mics at night and working supermarket shifts all day, he had finally tasted success and ended up playing shows across the UK and USA, but by the end of 2017 he had been forced to fire his management when he ended up broke and alone in a rundown LA hotel.
“I thought I finally had my break, then everything came to a halt and seemed like it was starting to fall apart,” he explains. “I lost trust in the music business and the people who helped me open the doors that are so crucial at the start of an artist’s career. This eventually bled into my personal life as I felt like I was rolling down the side of a mountain, after once standing so high on top of it.
“I started to question if they would really have my back when I needed them most. It’s true that nobody wants you when you’re down and out, but I did find hope in the few people who do, and always will have my back, and for that I’m forever grateful.”
Sparked by this revelation Lawrence wanted to avoid the temptation of just repeating his previous musical output in a quest for renewed success. As the tangents, twists and hardship of life and a fickle music industry threw up obstacles, he became ever-more determined to ensure his music remained honest and from the heart. This led to exploring ideas and sounds, both alone and in collaboration with producers. ‘Poor Boy’ is the result and is the first track from a brand new EP, out later this spring.
Grappling with fresh ideas and ways of working, the new music is bold and beautiful and showcases Lawrence Taylor at his rawest. “I write pop songs, but I want to break the current formula. I want to get behind the system and find my space”, he says.
Stepping away from the traditional singer songwriter traits, Lawrence’s charismatic live shows come with a full live band experience, something which has derived from his rock roots, where he learnt to command crowds while playing in various hard rock bands throughout his early teens back home in Birmingham.
And with both a brand new record label and management team to help navigate the treacherous waters of the music industry, that three year gap between his debut EP and its astounding follow-up proved to be an enriching and formative experience.
As that other saying goes, ‘The best things come to those who wait’ and now Lawrence,
with his desirable, rebellious charisma and stylish charm, is set to once more be stealing hearts across the UK and beyond, positioning himself at the forefront of the next class of contemporary, forward-thinking pop stars to grace your senses.

Harry Carson Jersey

Harry Carson, a two-time National Football League (NFL) Linebacker of the Year, is no stranger to pain. He spent 13 seasons playing in the National Football League, was selected by his NFL peers nine times to play in the Pro Bowl, and is a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s physically fit. Carson, however, is not immune to the same health issue that strikes nearly one million people in the United States each year: Potentially life-threatening blood clots.

Today, Carson, who received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Education before kicking off his professional football career in the NFL, is retired from professional sports, but remains active with numerous business and sports broadcasting initiatives, and also dedicates his time and talent to a number of charitable activities, including important health awareness programs that allow him to exercise his skills as an educator and health advocate.

For Blood Clot Awareness Month 2019, Carson is teaming up with the National Blood Clot Alliance to help raise awareness about blood clots by sharing his personal story with others and demonstrating that dangerous blood clots can happen to anyone.

“Having been a professional athlete, I’m used to enduring pain and just brushing stuff like that off,” says Carson, who has suffered two bouts with blood clots, including a pulmonary embolism, in recent years. “At the same time, as an athlete I also know to listen to my body, and my body was telling me something was definitely wrong.”
Road Risk

Carson, whose illustrious football career culminated in a Super Bowl XXI Championship in 1986, describes himself as a man who is used to being in control ­– just getting up and going whenever he’s ready to get up and go. So, it was routine for him to hit the road when he traveled with the same level of record-setting determination that marked his impressive football career.

“I was heading south a few years ago on business, and just like I had done many, many times before, I followed my routine and took only limited breaks as I flew to North Carolina, and then drove countless miles from North Carolina to Georgia, then Mobile, Alabama. I took part in an hour-long meeting and then proceeded to drive all the way back up to North Carolina again to board my return flight to New Jersey where I live.”

For Carson, who grew up in South Carolina, and who makes frequent trips like this to connect with family, friends, and business associates throughout the country, this type of itinerary was not unusual: Hour upon hour of traveling hundreds and hundreds of miles all while confined with limited mobility in a car or an airplane.

“I never connected the travel I was doing with any pain or potential harm,” Carson says. “I didn’t realize the importance of stopping more frequently and getting out of the car, or standing up in an airplane, to walk around and stretch my legs.”

That all changed the day after Carson returned from this recent road trip and when he felt a sharp pain in his calf.

“I was at home and getting ready to go to the gym that morning, and I felt a tightness in my calf, similar to a muscle cramp, and I didn’t think much of it,” Carson explains. “Then, suddenly, it felt like something had exploded in my calf, and so I decided to skip the gym and just rest for a few hours.

“Later that afternoon, I started to think that whatever this was, it could be serious, and it might be a good idea to get it checked out. I went to the hospital and the doctors there did some testing. As they talked to me about the results, it was pretty easy to accept the theory that the travel had resulted in a clot in my leg, but when the doctors told me I also had a clot in my lung, that was really scary and a much bigger deal for me,” Carson stresses.Following his diagnosis in the ER that day, Carson received an injectable anticoagulation therapy or blood thinner, and spent one night in the hospital. The next day, he was discharged, and prescribed a blood thinning pill that he was to take for the next several months.

“It’s a good thing that I took myself to the hospital and didn’t just brush this off,” Carson says. “That’s what a lot of people might do, particularly men or people who are very fit or athletic. Instead, I listened to my body, got the medical attention I needed, and avoided a real crisis or something really much more awful.”

After this experience, Carson, whose doctors told him he has no genetic clotting disorders or significant risk factors other than the extended periods of immobility associated with his rigorous travel schedule, made a point of being extra careful on long road trips. He made sure to stop more frequently to stretch his legs when travelling by car, and, when travelling by air, wearing compression hose and also getting up to walk around a lot during his flight.
Recurrence

Despite his best efforts, a few years later in 2017, when driving back from a trip to South Carolina, Carson was trying to beat the clock and get home at a certain time to ensure that his wife Maribel, who was travelling with him, would be able to keep an important scheduled commitment. With heavy traffic working against them, Carson took fewer stops to stretch his legs and walk around. Shortly after arriving home, he felt the familiar pain in his calf again. This time, he knew exactly what it could mean, and he quickly headed to the hospital, where he learned he had a recurrent clot in the same leg. Fortunately, this time he did not experience a blood clot in his lung.

After experiencing two blood clots, Carson has worked closely with his physician to make sure that he is taking steps to prevent another blood clot now and into the future. About one-third of people who experience a blood clot in their limb or lung will have a recurrence within 10 years. Like many people who experience a recurrent clot, Carson’s physician says that it’s advisable for him to be on a blood thinner medication indefinitely, or for the rest of his life.

“My wife was with me when the doctor said he wanted me to stay on my blood thinner medication for an extended period of time and maybe even for life,” Carson explains. “As far as we were concerned, there was really no question. You do what you have to do to protect yourself from blood clots and stay well.”
Signs and Symptoms

In recognition of Blood Clot Awareness Month, and through his collaboration with NBCA, Carson is hoping to help educate people about the signs and symptoms of blood clots. Despite the dramatic impact of this pressing public health concern – on average, one person dies every six minutes due to a blood clot – research shows that fewer than one in four people have any recognition of blood clots or their signs and symptoms.

The signs or symptoms of a blood clot in the leg or an arm may include: Swelling, pain or tenderness not caused by injury, skin that is warm to the touch, red, or discolored. The signs or symptoms of a blood clot in the lung may include: Difficulty breathing, chest pain that worsens with a deep breath, coughing or coughing up blood, a faster than normal or irregular heartbeat. As Carson did, people who experience any of these symptoms should contact their physician or seek immediate medical help. A blood clot in a person’s leg can grow or break off and travel to their lung, which can be life-threatening.

“I can play an important role as a former professional athlete to help people understand that this can happen to anyone, and I also can help get the attention of men who might hear about my experience, relate to me as a regular guy, and learn something about what to do if it happens to them.

“Too often, men want to be tough and brush things off. I get that and all men can be like that, but when it comes to your health, you really need to step up and take care of yourself. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for your family,” Carson adds.
Blood Clot Recovery: A New Normal

When asked how blood clots have affected his life, Carson refers to his “new normal.”

“Every day before my blood clots, I was used to doing whatever I wanted to do. Now, I get up knowing that there’s medication that I need to take every day,” he says. “I know that I have to be the Chief Executive Officer of me. I have to be responsible for myself and my health. I have to take my medication daily, eat healthy, remain fit, and stay hydrated, for example.”

Blood clots do not discriminate. They can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, gender, or fitness level. Each year in this country, about one million people are affected by blood clots, and about 100,000 of these people will lose their lives, which is greater than the number of deaths due to AIDS, breast cancer, and motor vehicle crashes combined.

“I consider myself lucky, because I listened to my body and I survived,” Carson adds. There are others, including some of my contemporaries in the professional sports world, who have not been so lucky. I want everyone to understand these important health issues and the risks that exist.”
Know Your Risk

Being immobile for an extended period of time can be a specific risk factor for people, like professional athletes, who are required to travel frequently. Other major risk factors for blood clots include: Surgery, physical trauma or injury, hospitalization, cancer, being overweight, being age 55 or older. If you’re a woman, additional risk factors include pregnancy, childbirth, and the use of estrogen, including hormonal birth control.For anyone recovering from a blood clot and facing any type of struggle, whether it’s physical or emotional, Carson stresses the importance of staying fit and maintaining a positive attitude.

“It’s important to keep moving and stay positive, no matter what shape you’re in or what your abilities might be,” he says. “Maybe all you can do is take a short walk, or a few spins on a stationary bike, but if you are able to commit to working on your fitness you will get stronger and your mental strength will improve too. It’s very important to stay healthy, maintain good nutrition, and always listen to your body.

“Most of all, no matter whether your recovery seems easy or difficult to manage, always live life as well as you can. Always live your best life,” he stresses.

Doug Kotar Jersey

If you go to page 152 of the 2013 UK Media Guide you will find Doug Kotar (pronounced Coat-er) ranks # 27 in the list of career rushing leaders. While his numbers are not particularly noteworthy, Kotar played for the New York Giants in the NFL and he was an instrumental behind the scenes player in the NFL’s fight with the NFL Players Association over concussions.

Doug Kotar (June 11, 1951 – December 16, 1983) came to Kentucky in 1970 as a freshman from Canon McMillan High School in Canonsburg, PA. This small community is 18 miles southwest of Pittburgh in coal country. Singers Perry Como and Bobby Vinton are from Canonsburg. There is an interesting history of the town that you can read at Wikipedia.

I read somewhere that when Doug came to Kentucky, the only clothes he had to his name was a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt. I believe I read that in a story in the old Cat’s Pause when Oscar Combs owned the monthly newspaper. I was living in Atlanta at the time and The Cats Pause was something to look forward to reading as the only source of information for many who did not live in Lexington.

In 1971, Kentucky’s first game of the season was a road trip to Clemson’s Death Valley. My next door neighbor, Fred, was a Clemson grad who worked at Texas Western, a subsidiary of AT&T, in Sandy Springs, right outside of Atlanta. He was from Clemson and my wife and I rode up with Fred and his wife to the game. Fred was adamant that Clemson would win. I didn’t argue with him because John Ray was our head coach and Kentucky had a 2-8 and 2-9 record the previous two years under the “luckless” John Ray. As a Kentucky fan, even back then, you just knew better than to argue about who would win an upcoming game.

Driving into to Clemson was unique. At the city limits, all roads had orange or purple tiger paws leading to Death Valley. I’ve always thought it would be cool for UK to do that and it would also help out-of-towners get to the stadium.

Since the game was an afternoon game, we tailgated with Fred’s parents and it was very enjoyable. As we got to our seats, it dawned on me that we were sitting in the middle of people who gave heavily as boosters to Clemson. My wife and I took the ribbing from those who surrounded with as much aplomb as we could gather. Back then, the discourse was not as mean-spirited as it is today.

As the teams lined up for the opening kickoff, I told my wife to watch Doug Kotar who was the lone receiver for the kick. Kotar caught the ball at the two yard line and weaved his way up the field. As he broke a couple of tackles he suddenly had an open field ahead and ran for a touchdown. Clemson would go on to win the game 13-10. Kotar’s kickoff return ranks 9th in UK history and is my fondest memory of him. Kotar led the team that year in kickoff returns and average 24.5 yards per return. Kotar was UK’s top rusher in 1971 and 1972 going for 1004 in 1971 and 604 in 1972. The reason I loved Doug Kotar was due to his toughness and determination.

Kotar wasn’t drafted in the 1974 NFL Draft, but was eventually signed by the Steelers. After 17 rounds, 70 running backs had been drafted, and the 5-11 205 pound Kotar was simply considered too small. Plus he had a rather obscure college career at Kentucky. The Steelers traded Kotar to the Giants. By 1976, Doug was the Giants featured back. You can read about Doug Kotar’s NFL career with the Giants at the team’s Scout website. He retired in 1982. Here’s a quote from the article:

Doug Kotar died of a malignant brain tumor. The article, written by Tom Mackie, describes how the Giants family responded with the news of his disease and the legacy of his children and grandchildren.

So how was Kotar instrumental in the recent NFL -Players Association settlement? One of my least favorite ESPN personalities tells the rest of the story. Listen to Keith Olbermann tell the story here. It is a sad tale and a tribute to one of the University of Kentucky’s own unsung heroes.

Phil Simms Jersey

PHILADELPHIA—I still remember walking into Giants Stadium back in the late stages of the 1993 season to watch what turned out to be Phil Simms’ final regular season game with the Giants.

I was born in 1980, so for me, Phil Simms was the quarterback of the Giants, as he had been, with only occasional interlopers like Scott Brunner and, famously, Jeff Hostetler, for the duration of my life. Hope ran high that day, the regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys, the two teams even at 11-4, an NFC East division title on the line.

I remember Simms playing well—not remarkably so, but effective—and the box score reinforces that, 16-for-25, 207 yards, no TDs, but no interceptions, either. Emmitt Smith was transcendent, 168 yards. And late in the game, Simms led the Giants down the field for what could have been a game-winning touchdown. He fell short, the Giants settled for a field goal, and ultimately they lost, 16-13.

All of which meant a wild card game for the Giants, then a trip out to San Francisco—a 44-3 defeat. A few months later, the Giants released Simms, and that was the end of his career.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the arc of Simms’ career over the past few seasons, especially this one, as we’ve been watching Eli Manning play what are, if not the final games of his Giants career, certainly among the last. One of these years, the Giants will move on from Manning, who will turn 38 on January 3, the same age Simms was when he took his final snaps under center.

And on Sunday, remarkably enough, the Giants found themselves offering a similar bit of hope to their fans as they kicked off in Philadelphia, though these two NFC East foes were pale imitators of the 1993 Giants and Cowboys.There were parallels everywhere—Manning, the starter after getting briefly dethroned by a now-discarded head coach (McAdoo for Manning, Ray Handley for Simms). The defending Super Bowl Champs, vulnerable to a Giants’ win that would turn the NFC East into a winnable goal. The chance for a veteran quarterback to briefly hold back the immutable progress of time.

It even looked like it was happening right through most of the first half, the Giants leading 19-3 late in the second quarter. Even after the Eagles scored, Manning and the Giants drove down the field and were poised to put themselves ahead by two scores going into the break.

A pair of Manning moments, one before and one after the half, proved fatal on a team that offers little in the way of margin for error. There was that errant throw that fell into Malcolm Jenkins’ hands late in the first half, a rare decision by Manning to throw downfield in this game.

“Just a bad decision,” Manning said after the game. His head coach, Pat Shurmur, tried to take responsibility, but Manning was having none of it. “One hundred percent bad decision on me. They were playing soft and I just have to throw that away and try for a long field goal.”

But perhaps even more indicative of the current, fragile state of the Giants offense under Manning came in the third quarter. The Eagles, undeniably, had momentum. The Giants, ahead 19-14, faced a third and 18. First, Manning burned a timeout. Then, with benefit of extra time for a play call, the throw went to Wayne Gallman in the flat—amid all the playmakers on the roster, from Saquan Barkley to Odell Beckham Jr., somehow the Giants called on their backup running back to save their drive. The play lost two yards, New York punted, and a few minutes later, the Eagles took the lead.

Was it a lack of confidence from Shurmur in Eli’s ability to throw downfield? Is Eli choosing to go safe too often, and does that speak to where he is in his career arc, or merely the limitations of the offensive line? These are the bigger questions currently haunting the franchise, those that will need answers in the offseason that is now, almost certainly, just a few weeks away.Even so, Eli Manning had one last chance to lead the Giants to a touchdown and the lead in Philly, another comeback in a career filled with them. The drive, like that of Simms’ almost 25 years before, fell just a few yards short, leading to a field goal that wasn’t enough to hold off the opposition, the era of Carson Wentz overtaking Manning just as a young Troy Aikman overtook Simms.

In both cases, there are larger questions at play than just who will win one football game. The Giants, back in Simms’ era, moved on from a Pro Bowl quarterback, electing to cast their lot with Dave Brown, the supplemental first rounder out of Duke, and Kent Graham. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t go well.)

But this is less a criticism of George Young than a reminder that quarterbacks like these come along once a generation. Just as Simms was once the only quarterback I’d ever known with the Giants, Manning has been the Giants’ face since before I met my wife in 2004. He’s spanned the duration of our marriage-to-date, two children, the passage of some many of life’s moments, large and small.

So as I watched Eli Manning trudge off the field for what was likely one of the final times of his career, I couldn’t help but think of how optimistic so many Giants fans are about what comes next. I also couldn’t forget about the years of Dave Brown, and Kent Graham, and Tommy Maddox, Danny Kanell—it could be a while.

It’s no one’s fault that Eli Manning won’t get a storybook ending, really. That’s not how it typically happens in the NFL, or in life. He’s had a Hall of Fame-level career. He’ll be a Giants icon for life, lustily cheered every time he comes to Met Life, besieged for autographs for decades to come.

Even so, it was disappointing to see one last on-field bit of glory within reach, but for Eli Manning not to experience it.

“No, I think disappointment is always about the same,” Manning said of this loss. “When you don’t win – and I felt like we had a good plan and had an opportunity to. We got off to a good start, just weren’t able to finish it. Again, I thought we were close on a number of things, and just didn’t finish it.”

Someone who has given the Giants so much, who has been in every way one could ask the leader of this franchise, deserved a better team around him these last few years, a renaissance campaign like Simms had in 1993. But going out in one final trip atop your teammates’ shoulders, bound for Disney World: that’s just now how it usually happens.

Odell Beckham Jersey

Taking one of the five best receivers in the game out of an offense isn’t the ideal recipe for success. In an NFL era where explosive passing games rule, players like Odell Beckham seem necessary. The more talent and weapons a team has, the more points they’re likely to score.

So why do the Giants seem to think there’s a chance their offense will be better now that Beckham is gone?

It’s because of the faith Pat Shurmur has in the offensive teammates Beckham left behind.

“I think when you play offense, you try and get the most out of the players you have,” Shurmur said last week at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix. “You have to use their skillsets. I do believe that it takes a village to spread the ball around. The quarterback gets the ball out. We have a lot of fine players on offense. We will spread the ball. We will find a way.”

That’s what they did at the end of last year, as Shurmur noted. With Beckham sidelined with his quad hematoma over the last four weeks, the Giants averaged 25.5 points and 373.8 yards per game – an increase of more than three points and almost 25 yards from their 12 games with Beckham. And that included a shutout loss to the Titans in a rain storm. Take that game out and they averaged 34 points and 411 yards.

Of course, the offense had already shown some signs of improvement before Beckham got hurt, so the final surge wasn’t just about him. But it was a sign that maybe Shurmur is right, that his “village” has what it takes to be a potent offensive team even without a star receiver.

For that to happen, he’s going to need some big seasons from several of his villagers. And here are the five players who figure to benefit the most from Beckham being on another team:

TE Evan Engram – He had quite a resurgence when Beckham was out, catching 22 passes for 320 yards in the final four games of the season. Shurmur said that had more to do with Engram shaking off ankle and hamstring injuries than Beckham being absent. “By the end he was feeling good, running well and playing well,” he said. “That’s a function of Evan doing his thing.” OK, maybe, but the numbers suggest there’s more to it. In 11 games Engram has played with Beckham, he’s caught 38 passes for 413 yards (10.8 yards per catch). In 15 games without Beckham, he has 71 catches for 886 yards (12.1 yards per catch). And Shurmur clearly wants to use him more – and more creatively. “Typically, tight ends are guys that can do everything,” Shurmur said. “I can flex Evan out, put him outside the wide receiver and move him around. … As we get a better feel for him, we will keep him in the mix.”

WR Sterling Shepard – When Beckham went down late in the season the Giants actually had high hopes for Shepard, but were disappointed that he wasn’t able to be more productive. He did have one big game in Indianapolis in Week 16 (six catches, 113 yards). But in the other three games he only totaled eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. Given Beckham’s role (and less coverage) he didn’t step up. He’ll get the opportunity now, though. And though he might get a little more attention from the defense, it’ll help if Engram is healthy and with the addition of Golden Tate. Shepard has the skills to sneak up on defenses around the league.

RB Saquon Barkley – It took a little while for Shurmur to come around to what he wanted to do from the beginning – run his offense through Barkley. He has always raved about what a versatile running back can do in his offense, but it was difficult to fully commit to that in the first half when the blocking wasn’t there. In the second half, it was. Now, Barkley did tail off in the four games Beckham missed at the end of the season, averaging only 88 rushing yards and 29 receiving yards per game. Teams clearly focused their attention on the star running back after that. If Shurmur can develop a more diverse offense in Beckham’s absence, though, Barkley should have a lot more room to run free.

QB Eli Manning – The difference for Manning without Beckham may be hard to tell, because presumably he’ll be much better if the offensive line actually blocks. But there is an addition-by-subtraction element here. It’s not nearly as pronounced as it was in the 2000s with Jeremy Shockey, but Manning operates better when there’s calm around him. Having a star waving his arms after a miss, complaining about the offense, acting up on the sidelines (whether in anger or to fire everyone up) is not Manning’s style. He’s always been more cerebral and analytical. And he’s at his worse when he’s forced to mostly look in the direction of one player – one well-covered player – in at least a partial effort to keep the peace. He’d rather spread the ball around, to make the smart play – and the right play – regardless of who ends up with the ball.

WR Corey Coleman – The Giants gave the restricted free agent a second-round tender worth $2.025 million, which was interesting considering he had just five catches for 71 yards after the Giants signed him for the final eight games last season. That’s an indication that the 5-11 burner, who was the 15th overall pick in the 2016 draft, has some untapped potential. He’s never done better than the 33-413-3 he had in 10 games as a rookie with the Browns. But a broken hand short-circuited that season and the next, before he bounced around from the Bills to the Patriots to the Giants last season. What do the Giants see? That he’s only 24, can run and can catch when he’s healthy. They figure to slot him in as their No. 3 receiver and a possible deep threat. He’ll be given every opportunity to show the world why he was the first receiver taken in that draft – 25 spots before the Giants took Sterling Shepard in Round 2.

Eli Manning Jersey

On the Monday Morning NFL Podcast, Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling looked at the Giants’ strange sort-of rebuild and what Eli Manning is and was…

GARY: We’re going to talk about Eli for just a couple minutes here because he’s such a fascinating case. First I’m going to rewind to this time last year. We were both bullish on the Giants. We liked what they had built as far as skill positions go, but they were bad in the trenches. Bad offensive line, no pass rush. Eli did not hold up well behind that line. He had a decent second half of the year and—if you squint—you could be optimistic. But to me he seemed a little shell-shocked last year.

ANDY: You always have to factor his bizarre facial comportment. He seems shell-shocked because if something goes wrong, he looks like a shell-shocked man. We need to establish for listeners at least what we think he is. I think he is a very serviceable, high-level game managing type of quarterback. I mean that in a positive way, I think he can control the game at the line of scrimmage. What he’s not good at anymore—and he’s never been great at it, but has been explicitly bad at lately—is when there are bodies around him in the pocket. That’s a problem in the NFL. You have to be able to function when that happens. It’s not a toughness issue. He not only will stand tall in the pocket, he knows how to protect himself and take hits safely, I just think it’s a decision-making issue; he can be a bit reckless. When the offense around him isn’t functioning well, he has to lift them up mentally and get them in the right plays because he can’t be expected to lift them up after the snap.GARY: My biggest criticism of his play last year was the ball was getting out too early. He wasn’t giving a chance for anything to develop downfield and I think that’s what was most discouraging about the offense last year. If the offensive line is bad, that’s the way it goes sometimes. He didn’t give them a chance to deliver these big plays.

ANDY: That’s what happens when you don’t trust your offensive line. The value of a good offensive line is two-fold. One, you get the protection and your plays function well and two, you get the insurance policy where the people executing the plays believe they will function well and believe they will have time to unfold and Manning will move in the pocket. If you’re not believing in your offensive line, you’re not getting that second part. That impacts quarterbacks, playcallers, it might even impact wide receivers in some cases. It’s why the Kevin Zeitler trade was a valuable move for the Giants. You don’t have to be great in the NFL along the offensive line, especially when you have Eli Manning at QB, but you have to be good enough because you’ve got to give him a clean pocket and let everybody believe the offense can function. That doesn’t happen if people think you have to hide your O-line.GARY: We look back at Eli’s career, there’s a revisionist history aspect. That because he won two Super Bowls, at some point he was a superstar quarterback, he was on par with a Rivers or a Roethlisberger. That wasn’t what he was. If you take away the Super Bowl factor that inflates his legacy, this is probably where you thought 38-year old Eli would be.ANDY: When I first got to NFL Films, I was young and said, “Oh, Manning’s a superstar!” Someone in that room—who may not appreciate me saying who it was—said the Giants basically played around Eli in that Super Bowl. They’d just won it a year-and-a-half ago. The Giants won with their defense, they played around him, it was a slugfest. He made two or three big plays down the stretch that made it look like he was great, but the game lasts 70 plays. That was the view of Manning within the NFL. I had a head coach say to me last year, “It’s not even a discussion” of where Manning ranks among the Roethlisberger/Rivers/Manning trio. He’s not a distant third, but he’s a firm third. The league doesn’t see Super Bowl rings in the same way that outsiders do. They’re not watching this through the Disney movie prism where at the end of the day, the guy dug in and carried them to the Super Bowl. They realize there’s a lot more than just a quarterback that goes into the Super Bowl. Most people in the NFL would say it’s important Eli has the rings, but that doesn’t define him or make him better than Philip Rivers, who is clearly the more effective all-around quarterback when you look at the scope of their careers. Roethlisberger is in the Rivers class.