Posts tagged NFL
Greg Olsen plays in the National Football League as a tight end for the Carolina Panthers. He started his career with the Chicago Bears in 2007. He has been through a lot in the league, but he had his toughest challenge off the field. During the offseason in 2012 Greg and his wife, Kara were ecstatic when they received the great news of Kara being pregnant with twins. They already had one son and now their family was about to get bigger.
Sadly they got news that one of their babies would be born with a severe congenital heart defect (CHD), called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Thankfully Greg and Kara went to Levine Children’s Hospital where both babies were born. Their son TJ has CHD and he needed a few operations on his heart. Now almost a year and a half has passed and TJ is doing well.
The Olsen’s wanted to help out other families who would deal with CHD. They set up “T.J.’s ‘HEARTest’ Yard” program under their Receptions for Research foundation. This program provides families of babies affected by CHD with many programs that include in-home, private nursing care, physical therapy and speech therapy as well as more outstanding services.
Greg was kind enough to chat with me about his family’s journey with TJ and CHD, his foundation, and a bit of football.
Art Eddy: The second week of February is CHD Awareness Week. I am very grateful for you to take the time and talk about how CHD impacted your family. Two years ago when you found out that TJ had CHD what was going through your mind at that point?
Greg Olsen: It was scary. Up to that point we really didn’t know anyone who had a congenital heart defect. We got the news that he was going to be born with a serious heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. It came to us as a great shock. We were obviously scared. There was a lot of uncertainty. It was something as a family that we had to work through.
We have had unbelievable doctors and the care that our son was able to have here. We were very fortunate that he is almost a year and a half. He really has come a long way.
AE: Reading up and watching videos on your family’s journey it looks like TJ’s battle with CHD made you guys a stronger family. You don’t sweat the minor things. It is incredible to watch the strength that these kids have as they battle with CHD. As a father how did you try and keep it together for the rest of the family while TJ was going through his procedures?
GO: It was hard. We had our weak moments. We definitely had our moments where we could have handled it better. You just try and do the best you can. We took it one day at a time. We would try not to get ahead of ourselves trying to predict the future.
That worked for us. Worrying about the moment now. What is the best thing that we can do for the long term health of our child, but what could we do today? It wasn’t what can we do in six or eight months. We got the diagnosis early before the babies were born. It gave us a lot of time to help prep ourselves. It also gave us a lot time to sit back and worry. It was a tough time there before the babies were delivered.
Once they were delivered I think it was nice to just move forward to the surgery. At that point it became real as opposed to just sitting around waiting.
GO: Receptions for Research is our family’s foundation. In the past year or so we started the “HEARTest Yard” program with Levine Children’s Hospital here in Charlotte. This is where TJ has had all his surgeries. That is where we have gotten all our medical care.
We approached them about starting a cutting edge, never been done before privatized health care program. Administered by the hospital, but completely funded by us through our foundation. It is done either by us personally or by our fundraising efforts. It brings that world class care from the hospital and bridges it into the home.
That is the biggest thing that we felt we could have used. More help to bring in specialists. Bringing in nursing care. Bringing in physical therapists. All of those things. That is really the inspiration of what the program is. There is a handful of families that have already started in the program. We continue to get unbelievable feedback about the efforts to help the family’s peace of mind and more importantly the health and future of the baby. It really has been positively received and we are very excited about it.
AE: How can people help your foundation out?
GO: They can visit our website, Receptions for Research dot org. One of our main pages there will be the “HEARTest Yard” link. It will bring up all of our future events. It will give ways that people can sponsor. It will give a little more information about the actual program. It will give more information on what Hypoplastic Left Heart is. They can pretty much get everything about the foundation, the hospital, what actually HLHS is all on the website.
AE: How has becoming a dad changed you?
GO: You learn a lot as a person. You learn a lot as a family. It is the most scary, the most nerve racking, but also the best thing that has ever happened to me. Being able to come home and see these kids every day. All three of them run to the door now. They say hi and their eyes light up. It is just something special. Until someone is a father it is really hard to explain it to them. I could go on for what it means to me. Especially what has gone on in our family over the past year has made it even that more special.
AE: What advice do you have for new dads out there?
GO: It is not going to be easy. There is no manual. It is not just come home and play catch all day. There is a lot of work. You need to put the time in to teach your kids on how they are supposed to act. Everything they learn is from you as their parent and as their dad. Especially the different relationships depending if you have a boy or a girl and the different dynamics that are in those relationships.
You kind of just learn on the fly. That’s at least what I did. You are not perfect, but you try to be the best you can for your children.
AE: Switching to the NFL. You and your team the Carolina Panthers started off rocky, but finished strong to get the number two seed in the NFC. What did you learn about your team this season?
GO: We really came along way. We were able to accomplish a few of our goals. We won the division. We were able to make it to the second round of the playoffs. We were able to accomplish some of our goals. Obviously we fell a little short of the ultimate goal of making it to the Super Bowl. It is something to at least build off of. We are eager to get started again and make another run.
GO: Probably sometime in the next couple of weeks. I will start back up my training. Start getting everything lined up to get prepared physically and put all of that inline. I have taken the past few weeks just hanging with the family. Each day we take a few trips with the kids. Just trying to be around here and taking them to school, picking them up from school, and being there for dinner. That is something this time of the year that you have to take advantage of. I will get back to my training in a few weeks.
AE: Growing up did you have a NFL team that you would root for and did you have a favorite player?
GO: No I didn’t. I grew up in Northern New Jersey right outside of New York. So the New York teams were very prevalent up there. We would follow them there. They were the local games. So I guess them, but we were more into college football games. College football was something that was more on our horizon when we were growing up and getting into high school. I don’t think any of us could have imagined playing this long in the league. It is something that is incredible, but I don’t know if it was something I thought I could do all along. So I would say college sports was more of a bigger deal growing up.
Even before Marshall Faulk played in the NFL many knew that he was going to be a superstar in the league. In college at San Diego State University Marshall was a three-time All-American. The Indianapolis Colts drafted him as the second overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. After his time with the Colts, he played for the St. Louis Rams.
Faulk is one of only three NFL players with at least 10,000 rushing yards and 5,000 receiving yards. Marshall has been named the league MVP, helped the Rams win Super Bowl XXXIV, and was selected seven times for the Pro Bowl. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Faulk can be seen on TV shows such as “NFL Total Access,” “Thursday Night Football,” and “NFL GameDay Morning” on the NFL Network.
Before Super Bowl weekend I caught up with Marshall. He was working with Verizon to promote the “Who’s Gonna Win?” campaign in connection with the Empire State Building. Besides talking about that promotion we did chat about this year’s match up between the Seahawks and Broncos, his time in the NFL, and his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Art Eddy: You are part of Verizon’s “Who’s Gonna Win?” program, the first-ever social media-driven light show on the world’s most iconic building, the Empire State Building. Tell me a little about that promotion?
Marshall Faulk: This whole “Who’s Gonna Win?” campaign is an initiative by Verizon. They are powering up the Empire State Building. Fans can help decide if their team’s colors will go up on the Empire State Building. It is a pretty cool program. Each day is going to be a different program leading up to Saturday.
Obviously everyone wants to know who is going to win. That is the interesting thing to see. Which team’s fans will get more involved and how many hashtags will be for Seattle or Denver is going to come into play. We will find out when the Empire State Building will be lit up.
AE: It sounds like a very cool program. Who do you think will win the Super Bowl? Broncos or Seahawks?
MF: I think it can go either way. I don’t have a favorite. Usually you can look at the numbers or watch how they play common opponents. It is so tough to tell. I keep telling people that only because Peyton (Manning) is a friend of mine that I just want to see him win another Super Bowl. Outside of that I really don’t know. I am not going to lie.
AE: Speaking of the Super Bowl you had the great fortune of playing in two of them. What was the week leading up to the game like?
MF: You want to say that it is all business. You are trying to have a normal week. Last night I saw that a bunch of players from the Seahawks have a team event. They showed some support for the (Brooklyn) Nets by going to the game. Those are the kind of things you want to do. Dinners, going to a basketball game, just things like that with your teammates.
Keep it in a team atmosphere. If you have family here, have dinner with your family. You don’t want to be that guy who is drawing negative attention to your team. That is what we are waiting for. We are in the media. We are trying to see who is going to be the idiot to try and do something stupid.
MF: Let’s see here. First you come out of the tunnel. You are excited about the game. You realize the magnitude of the game. You look around and see all the press. You look at the field and say ‘God this looks small.’
You hyperventilate. You catch your breath. Probably the second series after you get a hit a couple times and had a few times touching the ball.
AE: With everything that you have accomplished in your phenomenal career from MVP awards to a Super Bowl win what is the number one thing you take away from your time in the league?
MF: Winning the Super Bowl. I am telling you that it is the hardest championship to win. It requires all hands on deck. When you are on the field 11 guys must be pulling towards the same goal. It is the greatest team sport ever. It is the greatest sport ever. I just love how fun it is to win a championship.
The one thing that you know about our game and I love this as well, the best team doesn’t always win. It is the best team on that day. In other sports you get seven games to get it right. In our game you get one game to get it right.
AE: Can you imagine playing the best of seven for a Super Bowl? It would be crazy right?
AE: After your time in the NFL you got the call that you would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What was the first thing that entered your mind when you got the news?
MF: I will take you through the whole process. When you first hear that you are on the ballot you are kind of nonchalant about it. It gets down to 35 and you are like alright. When it gets down to 15 you are pretty good. The week of the Super Bowl and pretty much that Saturday was when I started having the pregame jitters feeling.
They are calling names. I am standing up there. My hands are sweaty. My heart is beating. I am saying to myself you can’t go in the game. You are not playing, but that natural feeling of anticipation or excitement that you have when things are out of your control when you can’t do anything about it. That was what it was. I was quite relieved that my last name ends in F and it was called early out on the list. It was a good day to hear my name called. I will say that.
AE: You and your teammates on the St. Louis Rams had a sick nickname, “The Greatest Show on Turf.” What was it like to play with guys like Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and the rest of that high powered offense?
MF: It was fun. I enjoyed playing with those guys. As much fun as it was the one thing that we talk about when we see each other like we did at the Pro Bowl recently. Ricky Proehl, who is now the Carolina Panthers receivers coach, was at the Pro Bowl because the Panthers coaching staff was there for the Pro Bowl.
We just started talking once again. Ernie Conwell, he works for the NFLPA. Me, him, and Ricky were having the same conversation. We always talk about it. The one thing that continues to come up about it is how unselfish we were. When I look at the Denver Broncos that is what you get from them. They really don’t care who is catching the touchdowns, who is catching the passes, who is getting the yards, or who is getting the accolades. It is all about a team goal.
It is hard to get that especially from receivers. We had it. It was special. I definitely enjoyed playing with those guys. We talk about it. I always point to Ricky Proehl. The year before Ricky led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. The year we won the Super Bowl he catches one touchdown. It was touchdown that sent us to the Super Bowl against Tampa in the NFC Championship. He doesn’t say a word about it the whole season. That is the unselfishness you need in order to win games like that.
This week Verizon is getting you involved in Super Bowl Week with #WhosGonnaWin. Fans have enjoyed watching NFL teams light up scoreboards all season long, but during Super Bowl week, fans will be the ones lighting up the Empire State Building as part of Verizon’s WhosGonnaWin program, the first-ever social media-driven light show on the world’s most iconic building, in partnership with Empire State Realty Trust.
The five-night series, curated by the Empire State Building’s world-renowned lighting designer Marc Brickman, will showcase the colors of the two Super Bowl XLVIII teams, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, based on fans’ tweets to the question #WhosGonnaWin. Flipping the switch nightly will be current NFL stars Drew Brees and Matt Forte, along with NFL Hall of Famers Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin and Marshall Faulk, who will be flipping the switch on Tuesday to start the show.
Each day leading up to the Super Bowl, Verizon will pose a game-related question on Twitter to fans using the custom hashtag #WhosGonnaWin. The Twitter conversations surrounding the questions will be tracked throughout the day, and Verizon will turn the fans’ predictions into a spectacular nightly light show. The show will begin at 6 p.m. each evening, and open with a ceremony of lights celebrating the colors of all 32 NFL teams. The opening ceremony will end in Verizon’s iconic red.
At 6:55 p.m., the results show, an orchestrated visual concert set to music provided by NFL Films will begin. The show will be comprised of real-time data from the day’s conversation which will be translated into a stunning sequence, with the colors of the winning team ebbing and flowing depending on the votes throughout the day. The colors of the team which was the most prominent in the conversation during the day will dominate the skyline for the rest of the evening. The entire results show will be live-streamed at WhosGonnaWin.com and on NFL Mobile.
Today I spoke with Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk on which team will dominate defensively. On paper everyone is thinking that the Seahawks have the defensive edge.
When I asked Marshall who he thought would win the Super Bowl he gave told me it is anyone’s game.
“I think it can go either way. I don’t have a favorite. Usually you can look at the numbers or watch how they play common opponents. It is so tough to tell. I keep telling people that only because Peyton (Manning) is a friend of mine that I just want to see him win another Super Bowl.
Outside of that I really don’t know. I am not going to lie.” – Marshall Faulk
Follow Marshall Faulk at @marshallfaulk and go to WhosGonnaWin.com to make your voice heard!
Look out next week for my entire interview with Marshall. We discuss his playing days, Super Bowl and MVP titles and more.
There are a lot of firsts surrounding the big game this year – the first time it’s being played in NJ, the first potential game in the snow and the largest age gap between quarterbacks in history. While you’re probably used to watching the game with a beer in your hand, why don’t you ditch the beer and drink whiskey or rum in honor of the most watched football matchup of the year?
Below are some delicious food and drink recipes that incorporate three epic whiskeys – Crown Royal, Bulleit, and George Dickel. Also below are the new Captain Morgan Rum-inspired recipes developed by celebrity chef Hugh Acheson.
Whether you’re watching the actual game, halftime show or commercials, these recipes are the ticket to a good party.
⅓ cup Crown Royal Canadian Whisky
⅓ cup honey, SueBee
¼ cup soy sauce, Kikkoman
2 tablespoons Thai chili sauce
1 packet (0.75-ounce) stir-fry seasoning, Sun Bird
2 teaspoons crushed garlic, Gourmet Garden
4 pounds chicken wing drumettes
3 scallions (green onions), finely chopped (optional)
¼ cup chopped peanuts, Planters® (optional)
Preparation: In a large bowl, combine whisky, honey, soy sauce, chili sauce, stir-fry seasoning, and garlic. Add drumettes, tossing to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in refrigerator for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Set up grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Oil grate when ready to start cooking. Let drumettes stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Place on hot, oiled grill. Cook for 12 to 18 minutes or until cooked through, turning occasionally. Transfer chicken to a platter. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and peanuts (optional).
Why it’s great for the big game: Looking to kick your appetizers up a notch? These Crown Royal-wings are a guaranteed hit at the party with a mouthwatering whisky-infused sauce.
Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum Glazed Wings, Garlic Buttermilk Dressing, & Scallions
1 cup Captain Morgan® Original Spiced Rum
½ cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil
½ teaspoon chili flake
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon warm water
3 tablespoons butter, cold
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup buttermilk
½ shallot, peeled and minced
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons carrot fronds, finely chopped
3 tablespoon scallions, sliced very thin on a strong angle
1 bunch of baby carrots
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 425°F. Heat a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
Rinse and pat the wings dry with paper towels, then separate the wings from the drumsticks and discard the tips. In a large mixing bowl, dress the wings with the sea salt and peanut oil. Add them to the cast-iron pan in 1 layer to assure even cooking and roast the wings for 20 minutes. Turn each wing and continue roasting for an additional 15 – 20 minutes.
For the glaze, add the Captain Morgan® Original Spiced Rum to a small saucepot and reduce over medium heat, about 10 minutes or until the liquid is reduce by half. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with the warm water and set it aside. Add the sherry vinegar and the chili flake to the rum and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the cornstarch slurry and stir the glaze until it becomes thick. Remove the glaze from the heat and add the cold butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until it is completely incorporated. Set the glaze aside for later use.
For the dressing, in a small mixing bowl, combine the mayo, buttermilk, and the zest and juice from 1 lemon. Mix together with a whisk until smooth and incorporated. Next add the shallot, garlic, carrot fronds and 1 tablespoon of the sliced scallions. Mix until combined and reserve.
To finish the wings, turn the oven to broil and crisp each side of the wing for about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Take them out of the oven and place them onto a plate lined with a paper towel to drain off any rendered fat. Place the wings in a mixing bowl and add the reserved glaze. Toss the wings in the glaze to thoroughly coat each one.
To plate, sprinkle the wings with the remaining scallions and serve them with a bowl of the dressing and the carrots.
Why it’s great for the big game: Everyone loves variety, so add a little Captain Morgan to this wing recipe and spice up your football viewing party.
1.5 oz. Crown Royal XO
Preparation: Pour Crown Royal XO over an ice-filled rocks glass.
Why it’s great for the big game: The newest addition to the Crown Royal family, this extraordinary whiskey is finished in cognac casks and handcrafted for smoothness. Raise a glass to an extraordinary play with XO on the rocks.
BLT (Bulleit, Lemon Tonic)
1.3 oz Bulleit® Bourbon
2 lemon wedges
3 oz. tonic
Preparation: Build in a highball glass, serve over ice
Why it’s great for the big game: Bite the Bulleit with the BLT – with just three ingredients anyone can make this cocktail with no chance of botching.
Dickel Ward No. 8
1.3 oz. George Dickel No. 8
.5 oz. orange juice
.5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
.25 oz. grenadine
Preparation: Build in glass and serve in a rocks glass.
Why it’s great for the big game: A perfect balance of flavors, the Dickel Ward can make the halftime show even more enjoyable.
1 oz. Captain Morgan® Original Spiced Rum
1 oz. Bulleit® Bourbon
1 oz. Olorosso Sherry
1 oz. Clove and Vanilla Syrup (recipe follows)
7 oz. hot ounce water
2 strips of orange zest
2 Meyer lemon rounds, 1/8 inch thick, seeds removed
Preparation: Rinse a small thermos with warm water and then dump out the water. Into the thermos pour the Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum, Bulleit Bourbon, Sherry, and Clove and Vanilla Syrup. Stir to combine. Top with hot water. Gently stir. Cap until ready to serve.
Pour the Grog into two small 6 to 8 ounce mugs and garnish each with a strip of orange zest and a round of meyer lemon that is gently squeezed over the top to release a little acid. Drink.
Clove and Vanilla Syrup
2 tablespoons whole cloves
1 ¼ cup water
½ Vanilla bean, scrapped of its seeds
1 cup sugar
Preparation: In a small saucepot, bring the water, cloves, vanilla bean and seeds to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from the heat and allow the vanilla and cloves to steep in the syrup for about five minutes before straining.
Chad Pennington played in the NFL for eleven years. He was selected by the New York Jets in the first round in the 2000 NFL Draft. He played for the Jets then played for the Miami Dolphins. Chad won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award twice. He is the NFL’s all-time leader in career completion percentage. He is currently a color analyst for NFL telecasts on FOX.
Besides having a great career in the NFL, Chad and his wife, Robin started up the 1st and 10 Foundation. That organization was created to build stronger communities by funding programs to help improve quality of life. They are also busy with their three sons, who love to play outdoors just like their dad.
Chad and I were able to talk about his time in the NFL, winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, and his foundation.
Art Eddy: Let’s first talk about your career in the NFL. You played for the Jets and the Dolphins. Both teams are in the AFC East. Do you feel that staying in that division helped your transition to the Dolphins?
Chad Pennington: I certainly had familiarity with division and with the teams that we would be playing to try and win a division crown. I also had familiarity with Bill Parcells and Dan Henning and some of the other people that were in place in Miami when I made the transition from New York to Miami.
CP: I think my third year was when the light bulb really went on. As a rookie you are just surviving on your college instincts. Your second year you are trying to figure out how to be a professional. By your third year you truly start to make progress as a professional. You start to contribute to your team in a positive way.
Even if you have some successful times in your first and second year, that third you I think that is when everybody starts to feel like okay I belong. This is where I am and what I need to do to have a long career.
AE: You won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award twice, becoming the only player since the awards inception to do so. What did winning that award twice personally mean to you?
CP: First it meant that both organizations that I played for when I did win those awards meant that I had great support. I had a great support system when I was trying to rehab from an injury. I had great teammates that supported me. When I came back from the injury we were able to do some special things on the field.
On a personal level it feels good that someone recognizes your hard work. It is very hard to come back from an injury. People don’t realize how much energy and time is spent just to get back on the field much less trying to play the way you are capable of playing. Playing after an injury is very, very difficult. It is a really exhausting process. To be able to win that award really meant a lot to me.
AE: Name one change the NFL has made since you entered the league that you like and one that you wish that they never had changed?
CP: I think that the game has gotten better from an entertainment standpoint. There are so many things that fans can get involved with the game and have real lifetime experiences with football. From a fan’s perspective it is really exciting.
I think with the safety of the game at some point in time we have to realize that this is a gladiator sport. It is a dangerous game. You can’t take away all the dangerous risks. That is like saying that there are no car wrecks in NASCAR. It is just going to happen.
I think the league is taking the appropriate steps to make it a safer game. We just have to be very careful that we are not taking away the integrity of the game as far as how this game is supposed to be played. As players we need to know that going in. We know what those risks are. To act like that we are not aware of concussions or that we are not aware of some of the things that go on is wrong as well. We got to make sure that we stay on that fine line and make it as safe as possible, but also realize that there is a risk in playing the game of football.
CP: The excitement is certainly at a different level. The pace of game. The energy. The intensity of the two teams playing is at a different level. The winner goes on and the loser goes home. There is a finality to your season with that playoff game. It is the one time in the year that everyone is playing like there is no tomorrow.
I think that is why fans gravitate towards the playoffs as well as the players. At the end of the day when you take away all the frills of the NFL, the entertainment value, and all those types of things as a player that is truly what you are playing for. It is to win the Lombardi Trophy and be called world champion.
AE: Tell me a bit about your foundation and what type of events you guys do annually?
CP: The 1st and 10 Foundation was started with my wife, Robin and me in 2003. Our ultimate goal was to improve the quality of life in the areas we contribute. Those areas would be East Tennessee, Southern West Virginia, and the Tri-State area. We were able to establish a grant program in 2006. Since that inception we have been able to grant more than 1 million dollars to those geographical areas because of our donors and supporters.
The neat thing about our foundation is that all administrative calls are taken care of. Every donated dollar goes back into what we are trying to support. Our foundation is your foundation. That is what we always say. If you gave a dollar to the foundation we take a lot of pride to make sure that your hard earned dollar is put back to where it is supposed to be.
We got a lot of different initiatives. We have holiday parties, ticket programs, and some different things. Now that we have moved to Lexington, Kentucky we are looking at some other initiatives and programs that we really want to dive into. It has been something that we really have enjoyed these past ten years.
CP: The first thing was when Robin’s father battled leukemia for ten months. We saw a need for patient family services with leukemia and cancer patients. It was not only for patient, him or herself going through a terrible experience, but the family is in shock. The family is trying to deal with the disease and support their loved one without having much knowledge or information. So that patient family service part is very important.
We felt like in the rural areas of East Tennessee and Southern West Virginia there are not big cities to access malls, movies, and other things to do. The community center is a source of life in these smaller areas and towns. We try to support community based programs and organizations to help many people as we can. The great thing about the community center is that affects all ages. That is what we were trying to do for the past decade.
Pepsi is getting ready for the Super Bowl with these two new ads that showcase the halftime show with Bruno Mars as well as pre-gaming a bit earlier smack dab in middle of America with Lee Brice.
When you’re trying to get the whole of America Hyped For Halftime, where do you start? For Pepsi, the answer was easy: smack-dab in the middle. That’s why we traveled to the tiny town of Milligan, Nebraska with a fleet of trucks, a grip of machines spouting free Pepsi, and a very special performance from country star Lee Brice.
Football isn’t football without halftime and halftime isn’t halftime without Pepsi. Check out Pepsi’s latest commercial and share in the joy of the first-ever halftime, caused by—what else?—a classic Pepsi moment. Then, tune in to the Pepsi Super Bowl 48 Halftime Show with Bruno Mars, happening on February 2nd, 2014. Get Hyped for Halftime!
Anthony Becht played 12 years in the NFL at the tight end position. In his career he has played for the New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, and Kansas City Chiefs. Since retiring Becht is still involved with football. He works for ESPN and is the Buccaneers Pre and Post Game Host for 620 WDAE.
Recently he has teamed up with Mohan’s Custom Tailors and the Doe Fund to help those in need this holiday season. Mohan’s is looking for people to donate suits or overcoats that they don’t use anymore. This charity event kicks-off a holiday season of giving at Mohan’s. When people come in and donate their suits they will receive a $100 credit toward a new custom tailored overcoat. Then those donations will be cleaned and donated to charity.
I was able to chat with Anthony about his playing days in the NFL, fatherhood, the work he is doing with Mohan’s and the Doe Fund, and this current season in the NFL.
Art Eddy: Let’s talk about the great work that you are doing with Mohan’s Custom Tailors and the Doe Fund to help those in need this holiday season.
Anthony Becht: I really think it is outstanding. I have teamed up with Mohan’s Custom Tailors after my career. Just for the fact that they have some great suits. They wanted to team up and work together to work with a charity each and every month of 2014. To kick off the year they are going to work with the Doe Fund.
Basically Mohan’s are going to donate suit jackets and suits that customers bring in. They will clean them up and give them to the Doe Fund. We see a lot of charities that supply the homeless with shelter and food. I think the Doe Fund really does a great job. What they do is actually get those in need in the workforce. They find them jobs, get them educated, and get them back on their feet so their long term success is greater than the short term.
Those people can’t afford suits or jackets. For Mohan’s to provide jackets and reach out to this charity and work with them is bar none an outstanding idea in the long term for these people in need.
AE: How can people help you guys out?
AB: They can go to Mohan Tailors dot com. They can reach out to Mohan’s if they have a suit or anything they have that they are no longer using. They can go to Mohan’s and receive a $100 discount towards the purchase of a new suit, custom suit, or overcoat. Basically the goal is to get these coats and overcoats to those people in need.
Hopefully we will be able to get over a thousand of these jackets back to the people in need. I just think it is a great idea. Just reach out to Mohan’s. Go to their website. You can call them at 212-697-0050 to get more information.
AE: Moving to sports, you played for 12 years in the NFL as a tight end for the Jets, Bucs, Rams, Cardinals, and Chiefs. Looking back at your career what do you take away the most from your days in the league?
AB: One thing Art is that it goes fast. You don’t realize how the years pile up. All of a sudden bam it kind of hits you and your career is over. I have been very fortunate. The average in the NFL is three and a half years. I definitely surpassed that playing 12 seasons.
I got to play in New York, one of the greatest cities in the world. I came down to Tampa, where I live now, and I got to go to a few places at the end of my career. I really got to see the country and see the fans, and play with different coaches and teammates.
The fact that I got to play such a long time and the longevity to stay somewhat healthy throughout my career and not miss many games was great. Being that blue collar type of tight end playing in the NFL opened up many opportunities when I was playing and now with my post football career in the media world.
AE: You played for a few different quarterbacks in your career. How long did it take you to build a chemistry with a quarterback when you started playing for a new team?
AB: As a tight end that was the first thing I did. When I came to New York I had Chad Pennington and Vinnie Testaverde sitting right next to me at my locker. Immediately you try to build those bonds. That is important. I think any wide receiver, tight end, running back in this league the first person you are trying to make friends with is the quarterback.
Anything you can do to build that extra work or continuity and getting on the same page is huge. As I grew into my career and went to different teams I was kind of a guy that got gravitated to as a leader. I would be with those quarterbacks from just an experience standpoint.
For any young guy coming into the league build a relationship with the quarterback, the coordinators, and just everybody to get on the same page and put that extra work in. It can really help you develop yourself as a better player and extend your career.
AE: Did you have a few guys on opposing teams that you enjoyed matching up against?
AB: Yeah, there had been some opponents obviously playing against different teams especially in the AFC East. You look at the Miami Dolphins. They were always a big rival. You are playing against Jason Taylor twice a year. He was one of the more phenomenal defensive players to play during my time.
You look at the Patriots. Guys like Willie McGinest and Tedy Bruschi, these guys were just hard-nosed defensive players that accentuated what the NFL was really all about. There were challenges for me. When I was a young guy with the Jets going against these high caliber players was tough early, but made me a better player as I went on in my career. It helped me extend my career and play a long time in the NFL.
AE: Switching to this year, who is your pick to win the Super Bowl?
AB: When I look at the NFC I really see teams that are in the bottom tier of the playoff situation are really trying to fight for their position. Originally I thought the Saints were going to be a team that could really make some noise moving forward. They had an outstanding season. We see them have their struggles with the Rams recently.
I think the big thing for me is the consistency. The Seattle Seahawks have been the most consistent team. When you look at the quarterback play in Russell Wilson everyone is picking them, but that is really the main factor. Every single week they have had the ability to go out and play hard, play good, and win each and every game. They could easily be undefeated.
On the AFC side you think that it will be the Denver Broncos, but you are starting to see some flaws with this team. They struggle on defense. I feel that no matter how many stats Peyton Manning puts up they need every single yard and every touchdown. That could be a problem moving forward.
Look at the Patriots and the Ravens. I think it is going to be one of those cold weather teams that if they can just get into the playoffs, they can make some noise. Look at the Ravens. They are a team that understands the situation. They can play hard-nosed defense. They have an experienced quarterback that can make some noise. Overall though if the Broncos get hot and they can do anything with their defense then they would be the favorite going in to the playoffs.
AE: Any team surprise you this year either in a positive or negative way?
AB: I think in a positive way the Carolina Panthers have done an outstanding job this year. You talk about the head coach, Ron Rivera. Everyone wanted to fire him last season, but all of a sudden they stuck with him. Cam Newton became a better player. They get a few defensive players like Luke Kuechly and other defensive linemen that come in and really help build that team.
Now they are really a complete football team. They can run the football. They can play defense. To me they have been the surprise. I thought that they would be better, but I didn’t think that they would be in the mix to potentially with the division.
Kurt Warner had a brilliant career in the NFL. Whether it was him leading the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 1999 or taking the Arizona Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl berth in 2008, Warner left his mark in the NFL. Kurt has been named MVP in the league as well as in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Besides excelling on the field Kurt does even more off the field with the work he does with his foundation, First Things First. The foundation is devoted to impacting the lives of others using Christian values, providing aid and supporting those in need. The foundation supports children’s hospitals, people with developmental disabilities, and single parents to name a few.
Kurt Warner is now an analyst for the NFL Network. Check him out every Sunday on NFL GameDay Morning at 9:00 AM ET.
Kurt was able to chat with me about who he thinks has the best shot at winning this year’s Super Bowl, his playing days, and his foundation.
Art Eddy: You do an excellent job breaking down games for the NFL Network. You are a few years retired from the league. What are some of the major changes to the game since you retired?
Kurt Warner: I think the biggest thing is passing aspect of the game due to the new rule changes. Also the nature of the talent that has come into the league like the tight end positions. The athletes that are coming into those positions now has really driven it to become a pass first league more so than any other time in the history of the game. I think that has been the biggest change. It has become difficult to play really good defense.
AE: Which teams are fun to watch for you and the crew at the NFL Network?
KW: I appreciate the game having played it. I enjoy watching a lot of different things. Of course I enjoy watching passing teams, their passing concepts, and a good quarterback on how they read and decipher defenses.
I also like watching good defenses. To see how teams like Seattle are able to week in and week out just come up with schemes and have the talent and the ability to stop teams. Like when they played the Saints. It is rare because of the changes and the athleticisms of offenses. It is rare for defenses to come out and shut down really good offenses like that. You have to appreciate what they are doing and how they are able to do that week in and week out.
AE: Who is your pick to win the Super Bowl?
KW: Right now I think that it is still between Denver and Seattle. I think that those are the two best teams from an all-around team standpoint. What a great battle it would be to see a Seattle defense up against Peyton Manning and the crew that he has.
I think it would be a great matchup. I think it would be fun. There would be a lot of great storylines. I think that those are the two best teams right now. I think what you are going to see is what will happen on the other side of the ball. Denver’s defense, can they step up and be able to make the plays needed to win a championship.
It is the same with Seattle’s offense. Russell Wilson is playing great right now. You want to see that offense continue to do that. If so I would give them a slight edge because they are better on both sides of the ball. I think it would be a great matchup.
AE: What is your take on having the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium this year where it could snow or rain?
KW: I am not a big fan of it. I don’t want the history of our game to be determined by weather. I understand why you have home field advantage and why you play the games during the regular season, but if you are a team that plays in a dome it is not your fault.
The problem is that it is hard to really prepare to go out into the elements. I think we get to see that a lot. Teams get a week to prepare and spend some time in the city, but it is very difficult to acclimate yourself with the weather. These teams that are dome teams or warm weather teams I think it is an unfair advantage if you are putting them into a poor weather situation with a team that is used to it.
I understand all about football and how it has been built. It is a game that is played outdoors and in the elements. I want there to be a situation where both teams have an equal opportunity to play their best football. So with that, may the best team win. I am not a big fan of that. I know other people really like that and think that it is part of the game.
I think that certain teams would have a disadvantage by going out in the elements, especially in that kind of game.
AE: Speaking of Super Bowls, you and the St. Louis Rams beat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. To me that was one of the best Super Bowls in the history of the NFL. You won the MVP award and that game is known to many as the “One Yard Short” game. What did you take away from that game?
KW: Anytime you win the Super Bowl and get to the pinnacle of your job, your career in the business that you are in is phenomenal. To win such a great football game, I have been fortunate. I played in three unbelievable Super Bowls. Two Super Bowls that could have gone either way came down to final plays.
It was great to be able to get that win in my first Super Bowl. It was great to see how the team had to step up. The offense had to make a big play to get us ahead and then the defense had to make a big stop. That is what football for me is really all about. You win championships as a team. All sides have to come together. I definitely saw that in my first Super Bowl and that was one that I will never forget.
AE: You have played with some great guys like Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin. As a quarterback it must have been a dream to have those players as teammates.
KW: No great quarterback is ever great without having great players around him. You can go down the list. To have those kind of guys to count on, guys who were big time players in big time moments was so much fun. It made my job so much easier to know that those guys were on the other side and know what they could do and trust them in any situation.
I was really, really fortunate to play with some really great players. It was a huge reason of why I had the success that I did.
AE: How tough was it to step away from the game?
KW: It really wasn’t that hard to step away. The reason was that the last few years were extremely rewarding. No one really gave us a chance. We didn’t necessarily have a great team, but we were able to overcome a lot. We were able to come together at the right time to do some really special things. It was rewarding, but at the same time it took a lot out of me.
I was asked to do a lot. The mental stress and the pressure to live up to certain expectations was really hard. It had an effect on me both mentally and physically. Understanding that and knowing how much I had to give, you understand the reward, but also the cost of it. When I weighed all of those things it was actually an easy decision to walk away.
The game had been tremendous to me. I accomplished more than many people expected me to. I was very proud of what I was able to do in my career. It became much easier for me to say that I am not willing and able to give what my team and teammates deserve that I have to step away. As hard of a decision that it was just because it is never easy to say goodbye, at the same time it was the right decision. I knew I didn’t have what it takes to give what I always had.
KW: It something that we started about 12 years ago. We started it because we didn’t want to limit God in his reach with our lives. We didn’t design to say hey we are going to focus on this group or that group. We have been varied in the programs that we have run.
From working with Make-A-Wish and taking families down to Disney with us every year to doing homeownership programs like Habitat for Humanity and working with children’s homes and orphanages. We just have a variety of things.
We just are now working to help with supportive living for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our son was injured when he was young and deals with these challenges on day to day basis. We have come to understand that when he gets passed high school all the challenges that are out there to really allow them to thrive and have a purpose and derive in live.
That is our next endeavor is to build what we call Treasure House for these individuals and these families to have a next step and have dreams in life. Our foundation encompasses a lot of different things, but wherever God directs us or takes us in life He usually seems to open up a door to allow us to help in that area. That is how we designed our foundation from day one. We will be where God takes us and if a door opens up we will go through it and see how we can help.
Deacon Jones, former NFL defensive lineman, Hall of Famer, and Orlando Florida football legend, was honored in his hometown community as part of a special program called “Hometown Hall of Famers” presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate. The event took place at Edgewater High School where Deacon grew up. Representatives of the Hall of Fame, Allstate, the Orlando community, and Deacon’s friends and family will be in attendance.
Elizabeth Jones, his wife was kind enough to speak with me about her late husband’s career, the hometown ceremony and what it means to their family and his legacy.
Elizabeth Jones: It is really a great, great promotion. There are so many things that young people can learn about life from my husband. He was always preaching about where he came from and fighting very hard to become what he became and do be the best at what he could be.
So I think that Allstate sponsoring this event and going back to the hometown of these guys is a great educational tool. Hopefully it will not only promote the Hall of Fame, but it will be inspirational for some of the kids, if not all of them. Maybe it will push them to go into life and do good things.
AE: This is a great honor and I know Deacon would appreciate this event. What does this ceremony mean to you to honor Deacon’s legacy?
EJ: So many thing have happened since he passed away. He was honored for things when he was alive, but since he has passed away there has been so many accolades and honors. Seeing now how much he was loved and really respected and how he helped out many people’s lives in ways you don’t even think about when he was alive is amazing to see.
I think he would be very, very pleased. I think for his legacy to continue in the place where he grew up would be especially poignant to him. As you know in the times in which he grew up are quite a bit different than they are now. Often times I think young people don’t know it or they forget about it. I think that it would be a lot to him for them to maintain that knowledge and understand how far they come and what it means now.
EJ: What motivated him more than anything else was where he came from and the times in which he grew up. Nobody thought that he could make it. Nobody gave him credit for being as good as other white people. You are well aware of the circumstances and it really annoyed him so much. It motivated him so much to prove to the world that he was not only as good as, but better than.
People in hometown believed he was a dreamer and he would never accomplish his goals. They thought his goals were something that wasn’t accomplishable. He just refused to accept that. He would not accept the fact that he was lesser than anyone else. What also motivated him was anger. A lot of anger. It served a purpose for him.
AE: What do you think was your husband’s greatest moment in his phenomenal career?
EJ: I think for him the greatest moment was when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first year of his eligibility. That was validation for him. You know that my husband was a very in your face kind of person. So that was a big deal to him. Getting into the Hall of Fame meant the world to him. People thought that he couldn’t do it, but he felt like well here I am.
That was a huge accomplishment for him. When he started playing football in the NFL he never played to be a Hall of Famer. It wasn’t a consideration. The fact that he was not only a Hall of Famer, but he achieved that in his first year eligibility was a great moment for him.
AE: Tell me about the Deacon Jones Foundation and the many great things your organization provides.
EJ: Deacon often said that he wouldn’t know what his life would have become if he didn’t get the opportunity to go to a good school and to further his education in ways some others don’t get to. He wanted to give young people the opportunity and really level the playing field.
In terms of the Deacon Jones Foundation it was much more than a scholarship situation. We look to mentor them. We get them involved with corporate America. We introduce them to people in business that can mentor them as well. We teach them about giving back to their community. One of the things that Deacon wanted was to make sure these kids wanted the education we provided for them and give back to their community.
It is a very hands on program with a lot of different aspects to it. Primarily it was created to create leaders in the community and be able to help those in need.
AE: I know Deacon did a lot work with the military. What are some of the things beyond football you want people to know about Deacon?
EJ: Oh my gosh! He was so impressed with the soldiers. He went to Iraq and that scared the devil out of him. When he went to Iraq and saw the risks that these young people were taking. He loved the military beforehand and the fact that people would go into battle for thing that they believed in. It affected him very deeply. The last trip he took in Iraq made him want to be more involved in helping the military.
Deacon was really unique. He was big, bad, fierce, and tough. He was also the sweetest, warmest, and most caring person in the world.
So entering Week 3 of the NFL season, 22 of 32 games have been decided by 7 points or less. That’s nutty. Like, historically nutty. That shit just doesn’t happen. It makes it difficult to be on point with the picks, man. But 8-8 is a big improvement from 4-11-1, so let’s keep that trend rolling…
At Philadelphia -3 Kansas City
Andy Reid returns to Philly with the undefeated Chiefs. Philly’s defense is not good. They’ve given up an average of 460.5 yards per game over the first two weeks. The Chargers and Redskins are the only two defenses that have allowed more yards. The Chiefs on the other hand have a pretty solid D, but I think the up-tempo attack of the Eagles will prevail here.
Pick: Eagles -3
At Tennessee -3 San Diego
Philip Rivers is looking sharp and the Titans are not. A league-worst 123 passing yards a game isn’t gonna cut it. Chris Johnson’s been dancing too much behind the line of scrimmage, Kenny Britt seems to realize his time in Tennessee is done, and Jake Locker’s only completing 56 percent of his passes. The Chargers have put up 61 points in two games. San Diego spoils Tennessee’s home opener.
Pick: Chargers +3
At Minnesota -6.5 Cleveland
Good news for the Browns – Josh Gordon is back. Bad news – they traded away their best offensive player. Trent Richardson will miss the start of the Hoyer era. Dude found out he was a Colt while listening to the radio. Stay classy, Cleveland! The Vikings don’t look all that threatening, but the Browns seem to be playing for next year just two weeks into the season.
Pick: Vikings -6.5
At New England -7 Tampa Bay
The Pats offense has looked a bit weak so far, but they’ll get it together.
Pick: Pats -7
Houston -2.5 At Baltimore
The Ravens may be without Ray Rice which is bad news for a team that’s only averaging 2.8 yards a carry. The Texans can outscore this bunch.
Pick: Texans -2.5
At Dallas -4 St. Louis
These two teams are pretty evenly matched, but I like the Rams here. They’ve looked pretty solid so far, and I think they can take one in Texas.
Pick: Rams +4
At New Orleans -7.5 Arizona
The Saints play different in the comfort of their own dome. They should take this one without too much trouble.
Pick: Saints -7.5
At Washington -2 Detroit
Shootout city. The Redskins have the worst defense in the NFL. They’ve allowed 511.5 yards per game so far. Yikes. The Lions can score in bunches. With or without Reggie. Take the over and watch the fireworks.
Pick: Lions +2
Green Bay -2 At Cincinnati
The Packers have one of the most explosive offenses in football. The Bengals beat up on the Steelers at home, but their defense is going to have a difficult time bottling up Green Bay’s multiple offensive weapons.
Pick: Packers -2
At Carolina -1 NY Giants
Two 0-2 teams try to turn things around, someone’s gotta win, right? I think the Giants are the better winless squad.
Pick: Giants +1
At Miami -2.5 Atlanta
Toughest game of the week to call. Are the Fins for real? Can they contain Atlanta’s passing attack? Can the Falcons get production out of their backup RBs with Jackson sidelined? I thought the Fins would be much improved this season, and I’m going to keep supporting their turnaround here.
Pick: Fins -2.5
At San Francisco -10 Indianapolis
Luck gets a new weapon and the Seahawks proved that the mighty Niners aren’t invincible. Trent Richardson was already an angry runner. Now he’s going to be even more motivated to destroy people. I think SF wins this one, but it’ll be closer than a two score margin.
Pick: Colts +10
At Seattle -19.5 Jacksonville
What the what? Three score deficit in Week 3? Harsh bro! But the worst team in football competing up against the most legit home field advantage in the NFL? The Jags are gonna get trounced.
Pick: Seahawks -19.5
At NY Jets -2.5 Buffalo
I interviewed EJ Manuel earlier this week and when we talked about that near win against the Pats in Week 1, EJ said, “we don’t want to become a shoulda, woulda, coulda type team.” I love this guy. He’s calm, collected, unnerved. EJ over Geno, Bills over Jets.
Pick: Bills +2.5
Chicago -2.5 At Pittsburgh
When the free agent lineman that you picked up off the street looks better than all four of your regular starters, your o-line is a mess. The Steelers need their high draft picks to show up and help. Miller and Bell won’t be factors this week, but DeCastro and Adams need to start living up to their pedigree. Jarvis Jones too. Pittsburgh’s offense is a mess: nowhere to run, Haley’s getting yelled at by the team’s best wide out, Ben needs more freedom to run the no huddle and call his own plays, etc. It’s tough times all around in Pittsburgh, and the offense shoulders the bulk of the blame. I want to believe they can turn it around, but I really do have my doubts. Steelers as home dogs shouldn’t happen though.
Pick: Steelers +2.5
At Denver -15 Oakland
The Broncos look scary good and the Raiders look borderline competent. This spread seems to fit just right. Denver can take away Oakland’s biggest strength. The Raiders lead the league in rushing and the Broncos are first in the league against the run (that’s what happens when you build large leads early). It all adds up to more time for Peyton to wreak havoc.
Pick: Broncos -15
Last Week: 8-8
Last Season: 136-121-5