Michael Irvin on Son Picking UM: ‘I’ve Brainwashed Him For Quite a While’

Canes fans had to be reeling upon learning that Michael Irvin Jr. plans to follow in his dad’s footsteps after committing to the University of Miami this summer.

But “The Playmaker” joked this was in the works for quite a while.

“Well I’ve brainwashed him for quite a while on this,” Michael Irvin said on the Joe Rose Show. “I remember telling him at six, if you don’t want to go to Miami, that’s good. That’s your choice. Let me know now so I can stop feeding you. He was six years old at the time so he was all cool with it in his young age. Like all kids, man, when they start getting 14, 15, they think they know everything. He’s like ‘well, dad I get to make the decision’ and I’m like ‘oh my god, who is this fella right here?’

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Today's Kids Will Never Know How Real Sean Taylor Was

Sometimes Twitter throws out a hashtag and sees what happens.

Yesterday, #TodaysKidsWillNeverKnow became a worldwide trending topic, which gave people an excuse to get nostalgic about the past and cynical about the future.

There was also some sad remembrance, like when this was tweeted out, to memorialize Sean Taylor and demonstrate a player nobody will ever be able to witness first hand again.

SeanTaylor copy
“I want the people of D.C. to know that he was really a good kid, a hard worker and he never shied away from performing at his best,” Taylor’s father Pedro said at this year’s Redskins Draft Day Party. “We always talk about treating people right and doing what’s right and this is the honor to show that he was truly treating people right.”

On the football field, Taylor treated players to his physical, hard-hitting tackles. It’s what made him such a special, highlight-reel performer.

It’s why you can just get lost in this six second loop from the 2007 Pro Bowl, watching him pound punter Brian Moorman to the ground over and over and over...and over.

Moorman, who was apparently OK after this hit, jogged over to shake Taylor’s hand. Even he had to respect landing on his back.

Today’s kids will only have this – and his many other grainy videotapes -- to really know. 

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Andre Johnson celebrates birthday Colts-style

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson celebrated his 34th birthday over the weekend and he did it showcasing his Colts pride.

Johnson, who signed with Indianapolis in March, marked the occasion with a cake in the shape of a Colts helmet, complete with his No. 81 and initials on it.
The inscription on the cake read, "Another year of life filled with new beginnings!"

Surprise B Day dinner

A photo posted by Andre Johnson (@ajohnson1500) on

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Ranking the Bears' roster: No. 9, Antrel Rolle

Name: Antrel Rolle
Position: Safety
Experience: 11 years
2015 base salary: $1 million ($3.9 million roster bonus)

2014 recap: Rolle never missed a game in New York after signing a five-year, $37.1 million contract with the Giants before the 2010 season. A two-time team captain, Rolle recorded 87 tackles, three interceptions and one forced fumble for the Giants last season. Rolle, 32, finished his career in New York with 464 tackles and 14 interceptions over five seasons with the Giants. The veteran also played a key role in New York’s Super Bowl XLVI title. Before he joined the Giants, Rolle spent the first five years of his NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals. Despite his age, the three-time Pro Bowl selection (2009, 2010 and 2013) showed few signs of slowing down in 2014. The Giants wanted Rolle to return in free agency, but were not prepared to match Chicago’s offer of three years, $11.25 million with around $5 million in guarantees.

2015 outlook: The Bears envision Rolle as one of their top team leaders on defense. Coaches said privately in June that they were extremely pleased with Rolle’s performance in the offseason program, even though the safety had to miss a little time because of the birth of his child. Rolle and Ryan Mundy are expected to bring stability to safety, a problem area on defense for years. Rolle and Mundy’s chemistry should not be an issue -- the two teammates previously played together for a year in New York. Because of Rolle’s experience, he’ll be counted on to help some of the younger players. So far, there is no hint of buyer’s remorse on the Bears' part. If Rolle continues to stay healthy, he should be an immediate upgrade in Chicago’s secondary.

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Watch proCane Pat Burrell wipe out on a wakeboard

As he rehabs an ankle injury and unwinds at the All-Star break, Chase Utley received just the levity he needed amid a rough season while vacationing with former Philadelphia Phillies teammate Pat Burrell.

Utley and Burrell headed out on a boat on Idaho's Lake Coeur d'Alene for some relaxation and fun over the break – and some amusement as well.

Burrell, who was one of the Phillies' most consistent offensive components during his nine-year tenure in Philadelphia, apparently doesn't have the same ability on the water as he did at the plate.

Thanks @patburrell5 for the good times this week. #tradition @kskatz @boovbaker @chasinggray

A video posted by @therealchaseutley on

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Peter O'Brien Named PCL's Top Star in All-Star Game

OMAHA, Nebraska -- At the end of the Triple-A All-Star Gameicon1, things got really exciting.

The International League rallied for three runs Wednesday night for a come-from-behind 4-3 winicon1 over the Pacific Coast League at Werner Park.

The top of the ninth inning began with Syracuse's Jason Martinson (Nationals) drawing a leadoff walk. Then Round Rock right-hander Jon Edwards (Rangers) hit Columbus' Tyler Holt (Indians) with a pitch. Lehigh Valley's Tyler Henson (Phillies) singled to load the bases. Two batters later, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's Kyle Roller (Yankees) singled back up the middle to tie the gameicon1, 3-3, on a 2-1offering by Edwards.

"These guys in front of me did a great job," Roller said, who was named the MiLB Top Star for the IL. "They did whatever they could to get on base and kind of set the stage for me. I was happy to be in that situation to try to help my teamicon1 to victory."

The first baseman, who went 2-for-2 with a walk and two RBIs, said he hit a slider on the clutch single.

"He was throwing a lot of sliders," Roller said. "I knew once he threw me a 2-0 slider that it was his pitch, and I looked for a pitch in the zone to do some damage."

That knocked Edwards from the game. With Omaha's Louis Coleman (Royals) on the mound, Henson lofted a soft single to center on a 1-0 pitch for the go-ahead run.

"He's a sinker ball guy -- a ground ball guy, obviously, by his arm angle," Henson said. "With men on first and third, I was just trying to get a ball in the air and I got enough for it to fall in."

PCL/Storm Chasers manager Brian Poldberg didn't have any second thoughts about waiting to bring in Coleman.

"He was going to be our closer from the get-go," Poldberg said. "The plan was to get him in with two outs, but we had to cover the 10th inning in case there was a tie. Everything went right as planned, but some days you're going to get it done, and some days you're not."

The crowd of 9,023 barely had a chance to get settled into their seats in the first inning when Rochester's James Beresford (Twins) tripled for the IL and Buffalo's Matt Hague (Blue Jays) droveicon1 him in with a single up the middle for the first run of the game.

The PCL struck back in the sixth when Albuquerque's Cristhian Adames (Rockies) belted an opposite-field home runicon1 down the left-field line with the wind blowing in on the first pitch of the inning to tie the game.

Then Reno's Peter O'Brien (D-backs) gave the PCL its first lead of the night with a two-run homer to left field. On his 25th birthday and after falling short in the finals of Monday's Home Run Derby, Arizona's No. 7 prospect was named the Top Star for the PCL.

Iowa's Carlos Pimentel (Cubs) got the start for the home squad. He gave up one run on two hits in the first two innings. New Orleans' Andre Rienzo (Marlins), Memphis' Dean Kiekhefer (Cardinals), Fresno's Tyson Perez (Astros), Colorado Springs' David Goforth (Brewers), Oklahoma City's Ryan Buchter (Dodgers) and New Orleans' Nick Wittgren (Marlins) shut down the IL for the next six innings. Edwards took the loss.

Charlotte's Erik Johnson (White Sox) started for the IL. He tossed two innings of scoreless ball before IL/Syracuse manager Billy Gardner Jr. handed the ball to Norfolk's Michael Bowden (Orioles), Rochester's Taylor Rogers (Twins) and Gwinnett's Carlos Fisher (Braves) -- all of whom threw scoreless innings. The Red Wings' A.J. Achter picked up the win by securing the finalicon1 out of the eighth.

"I think that's the definition of coming in and sneaking a win right there," Achter said. "For me, it was a little bit of redemption. I kind of had a rough All-Star Game in Durham last year. I didn't record an out -- faced two batters, so it's pretty rewarding.

"At the same time, it's a great time with a great group of guys."

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Panthers' Josh Norman admits to 'eye-gouging' Allen Hurns in fumble pile

You know where I never want to find myself? In a pile full of NFL players fighting for a loose football. Especially if Panthers cornerback Josh Norman is in that pile.

During the Panthers' 20-9 win over the Jaguars on Sunday, Norman had himself quite the day. For starters, he picked off Blake Bortles and returned it to the house. And, prior to the interception, Norman forced Allen Hurns to fumble. Then, he recovered the fumble after your typical pile of bodies formed around the loose football.

Actually, I'm not so sure "normal" is an accurate descriptor of the fumble pile. Instead, let's allow Norman to describe it himself (via Black and Blue Review):

"I can't even describe it to you. It was like being in the doghole, trying to get out of there. Fight, fight, fight. Trying to grab the ball, digging in folks' eyes and everything; eye-gouging. I think Hurns didn't like that too well. He was pushing and I went somewhere else and I had to understand it was the game and can't go out there like that."

So, it seems that Norman resorted to gouging Hurns' eyes on Sunday. Except, despite trying to poke out Hurns' eyeballs, Norman didn't really recover the football!

"I seen the ball and said screw that. I'm not going to tackle him; I'm going for the ball. I'm going down with a violent strike and that's what happened. It was on the ground and we picked it up and I ended up getting it then losing it on the ground, but don't tell the referees that. No. 88 ended up recovering it, but we got the ball still. Bene [Benwikere] jumped on it, too."

Memo to the league: Avoid Josh Norman in fumble piles. Also, make sure he actually recovers the football.

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Duke Johnson almost quit football, but armed himself with a reason to be great

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Duke Johnson lifts up his left t-shirt sleeve to reveal a bulging shoulder completely enveloped by the smiling face of his mother, Cassandra Mitchell.

"She's the reason I'm playing football,'' Johnson, the Browns rookie running back, told Northeast Ohio Media Group last month while pointing to his tattoo. "It's all for her.''

If not for Mitchell, who sometimes worked three jobs to provide for her family, the Browns' third-round pick may very well have quit football a couple of years ago.

It was the summer before his sophomore year at the University of Miami, and Johnson felt like giving up. Never mind that he was coming off the greatest freshman season in the history of the U, rushing for a first-year record of 947 yards and 10 touchdowns and setting a single season school mark with 892 kickoff returns and two TDs.

The Miami native (5-9, 206) was struggling with the demands of college life -- the homework, the practice, the social pressures, the football expectations, the creaky ankles and temperamental hamstrings -- and he thought about quitting the team. What's more his dad, Randy Johnson Sr., had died of Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS, four years earlier when Johnson was 14, and the sadness still sometimes engulfed him.

 When Randy Sr. was in the hospital dying from the neurodegenerative disease that can rob a person of the ability to speak, breath, eat or move, Johnson didn't want to see him that way. But his mother insisted.

"He supported me in everything that I do,'' Johnson, who's given name is Randy Jr., told espn.com when he was a senior at Miami's Norland High School. "He used to come to all of my games. He would take me to all of the University of Miami games, also."

But it was the memory of his mother working those three or more jobs -- as a corrections officer in Miami for more than two decades, as a waitress, as a school-board aide and as a seasonal employee at a toy store -- that kept Johnson going that summer. During their bleakest hours growing up, Johnson, his older sister Ranisha and their mom were sometimes forced to sleep in Mitchell's car. Other times, when Mitchell worked the overnight shift, Johnson and Ranisha stayed with their grandmother, Martha Williams.

How could Johnson give up when Mitchell never did?

"I'm knocking on the door (of the NFL) and wanting to quit and I didn't think that was fair to her,'' he told NEOMG.

Instead, Johnson decided to wear his heart on his sleeve -- or just underneath it. He called his mom and asked her to send a photo, claiming he had plenty of everyone but her. When the first batch wasn't quite right, he called back and asked specifically for a headshot. She happily obliged, not realizing what an indelible impression she was making at the time.

Mitchell never gave the request another thought, until Johnson came home a few days later, on the Fourth of July, with an almost life-sized replica of Mitchell emblazoned on his left shoulder.

"I teased him, 'at least you could've given me a nose job,''' she told the Detroit Free Press in February.

The tattoo served as a daily reminder to Johnson of why he was lifting weights until his arms went limp, why he took a pounding from defenders almost twice his weight and why he muscled and churned his way to the top of Hurricanes record book in career rushing yards with 3,519 in only three seasons.

 "I thought about all of the things my mom sacrificed growing up for me to get there,'' he said. "So anytime I'm in any kind of doubt with myself or whatever, I just look at the tattoo and it just kind of reminds me of what's the big picture.''

Besides, as Johnson journeyed through his career at the U and on to the NFL, he came to the unfortunate realization that he wasn't the only one who ever slept in a car or watched his father die when he was young. In fact, all he had to do was look to his left or right in the Browns running back room to find hardship and adversity. Isaiah Crowell was kicked out of Georgia after a felony weapons charge and forced to finish at Alabama State. Glenn Winston was kicked out of Michigan State and spent six months in jail after seriously injuring a hockey player in an assault. And so on.

"I don't really talk about it much because at this level, I look around the guys that are with me, and everybody's got similar stories,'' Johnson said. "Everybody's got the same story. Everybody has something they have to overcome and I don't do well with people feeling sorry for me.

"I just look at it like this is a story of never giving up because we have guys who have been through worse stuff than me and worse situations than I have and they're still here and we're not making excuses.''

And even though Johnson, the smallest of the Browns backs, poses a significant threat to the playing time of Crowell and Terrance West, they've welcomed Johnson with open arms in the running back room.

"I find it funny because Isaiah and Terrance West were in my position last year and they don't have to do it, but they're helping me out and have taken me under their wing,'' said Johnson. "It says a lot because they just got in the league and they haven't really made a name for themselves with what they're trying to do, and yet, they're still willing to bring a rookie in -- a couple of rookies in -- and teach them the right way.

"You also have Glenn and Shaun (Draughn) who also are in the same situation and they're teaching us the ropes. It's all love in the running back room and we're just enjoying it.''

The brotherhood reminds him of the strong bond he has with the decorated running backs that came before him at Miami, guys like multiple NFL Pro Bowlers Ottis Anderson, Willis McGahee, Frank Gore, Edgerrin James and Clinton Portis. Three of them were offensive rookie of the year, and one, Anderson, was a Super Bowl MVP.

"I get something from all of them,'' he said. "All have different stories, different situations. I've talked with Edgerrin and Willis and they just told me to take care of my body to be healthy and being able to take coaching and to be on time. I have Mike James from Tampa Bay. ...he just told me that special teams may be the way. Lamar Miller in Miami, he rushed for 1,000 yards last year and he was just saying 'play football, 'don't make it hard, just be in your playbook.'''

In an open letter to NFL general managers and coaches before the draft, Johnson promised to carry the enormous 'Canes torch.

"I believe that I'm the next great running back to come out of Miami,'' he wrote. "Yes, I fully understand how big the footsteps I'm following in are. Running backs that come through The U realized what it took to play there. It's no coincidence that they've been successful at the next level. Guys like Clinton Portis, Edgerrin James and Frank Gore laid out a blueprint for how to handle business. When you're a running back at Miami, making it to the NFL is an expectation rather than a goal. I have a legacy to live up to.''

Given the all-star lineup of predecessors, Johnson still can't believe he's the answer to the Miami trivia question of who holds the rushing title there.

"Yeah, from the outside looking in, I probably wouldn't guess me, either," Johnson said at minicamp. "Just because what those guys were able to do as far as wins, and I guess the way they were able to do it, that's why those names will always be at the top of my list."

Despite eclipsing Anderson for the 'Canes rushing crown, Johnson doesn't dare mention himself in the same breath with his famous Miami alum.

"Just for the record, in my book I'm not at the top," he said. "I'll probably be fifth, sixth. I'll probably be toward the middle bottom. I won't be one. I still haven't done anything close to what those guys were able to do, as far as winning."

The sixth running back selected in the 2015 draft, Johnson fancies himself a LeSean McCoy, the three-time Pro Bowler from the Eagles and now the Bills -- another quick, shifty back who can make people miss in the open field and also be a threat in the passing game. In addition to bringing the heat on offense, Johnson promises to be a force on kickoff returns.

"It just brings more competitiveness to the room,'' said Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery. "He's a guy that played outside. The best way I can describe Duke is what Thurman Thomas was for Buffalo. It's going to be all over the field. It's a 'Where's Waldo?' He gives you another dimension. He creates one-on-one problems. We hope he can be a little bit like the kid, Giovani Bernard, in Cincinnati.''

In the early going, Johnson, who displayed fine hands and explosiveness in offseason practices, might be used mostly on third down. But the opportunity is there for him to stake his claim to the marquee role.

"It's hard to have an every-down back in this league,'' Montgomery said. "There's too much punishment going on out there on the field. We've got to carve out a role for Duke. It wouldn't be fair [when] we have never put the pads on yet to say, 'He's our starter.' We don't know how he's going to recover from practice to practice yet.

"So with Duke, we've just got to find a way how we're going to utilize him. Like Le'Veon Bell, his first year, he wasn't the guy, but you kind of like working him into being the guy. Duke, I'm not saying he's not going to be the guy. But I don't know the workload he can handle right now."

Johnson is ready to shoulder whatever the Browns have in store for him, and he's got the perfect shoulder for the job.

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Pat O'Donnell preparing for second year in NFL with stop in Daytona Beach

DAYTONA BEACH — Pat O'Donnell's road to the NFL took him through Daytona Beach for workouts with Dan Lundy and One on One Kicking, and now that he's established the Chicago Bears punter appears intent on keeping his offseason stops on the calendar. 

O'Donnell made a recent trip to Daytona Beach to workout alongside Lundy, Kansas City Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos, former Spruce Creek and current Mercer kicker Jagger Lieb and former Seabreeze and current Saint Anselm punter/kicker Shane Grayson.

"It's always great to get back to your roots and work with the guys that you are used to working with," O'Donnell said. "Dan Lundy is a great guy, and it's great to work alongside guys like (Kansas City Chiefs kicker) Cairo Santos."

O'Donnell is a physical specimen.

He stands 6-foot-4, weighs 220 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.6 seconds and did 23 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine last year.

That, along with his booming leg, was enough to convince Chicago to use its sixth-round pick on him.

As a rookie, the former Miami Hurricane finished 23rd in the league with a net average of 37.7 yards per punt.

That's a number he would like to see improve.

"I'm just trying to be more consistent," he said. "And, I think,  any time you can be more consistent, you will see your numbers increase."

That doesn't mean that O'Donnell hasn't been working on adding a little flash to his game. During the offseason, he has posted several trick punt videos to social media — including one that shows him booting the ball over a house and into a garbage can.

"That's just having some fun," he said laughing. "And it's a way to keep the fans excited about the season."

As for O'Donnell, he said he doesn't need much to get him going heading into the season. The Bears have a new coach in John Fox, and there has been some overhaul to the roster.

"I'm excited," O'Donnell said. "There is a lot of energy in the locker room. We start back up July 29, and I think everybody is ready to get after it."

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Jimmy Graham talks of being traded to Hawks, first impressions of team

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Andre Johnson Close To Becoming NFL's 3rd All-Time Leader in Receptions

While the Indianapolis Colts Adam Vinatieri is set to become the NFL’s 3rd all-time leading scorer this season, another member of the team in recently added wideout Andre Johnson will be looking to make his own NFL career milestone (via NFL.com):

“In week 16 of 2014, Andre Johnson became the 10th receiver in NFL history to record 1,000 receptions. He is the second quickest player to hit the 1,000 reception mark, doing it in just 168 games. Marvin Harrison reached the milestone in 167 games. Johnson is currently 9th on the all-time receptions list. However, a mere 91 receptions with the Indianapolis Colts would bolster Johnson all the way up to the No. 3 spot on the all-time reception list behind only Jerry Rice (1,549) and Tony Gonzalez (1,325).”

The longtime former Houston Texan only needs 91 receptions to surpass another Colts wide receiver great in Marvin Harrison for 3rd all-time on the NFL receptions list. Currently, Johnson has 1,012 career receptions (9th all-time) to Harrison’s 1,102 (3rd all-time):

Considering that Johnson still had 85 receptions last year despite suffering from shaky starting quarterback play with the Texans, 91 receptions seems certainly attainable for next season. In fact, over the last 3 seasons, Johnson has averaged 102 receptions per season, so it seems like a fairly realistic benchmark for the 34 year old wideout.

While there are a multitude of receiving options in the Colts passing game, Johnson will also get the luxury of playing with an elite quarterback in Andrew Luck for the first time in his future Hall of Fame career. Johnson looks to fill the possession wideout role to complement T.Y. Hilton‘s deep threat ability, meaning that he should be in-line for a good amount of receptions.

For comparison purposes, a 34 year old Reggie Wayne caught 106 receptions for the Colts in 2014, playing the possession wideout role that has now been seemingly filled by his former Miami Hurricane teammate in Johnson. It’s worth noting that Johnson figures to pass Wayne as well, who is currently 7th all-time on the NFL career receptions list with 1,070 receptions.

It’s easy to forget how impressive Johnson has been during his 13 year NFL career, despite oftentimes suffering from inconsistent starting quarterback play with the Texans. He’s had one of the most decorated receiving careers in NFL history and should be Canton-bound for sure. For the 4x All-Pro and 7x Pro Bowler, all that’s seemingly left is winning an elusive Super Bowl championship.

While “receiving king” Jerry Rice appears safely out of reach with 1,549 career receptions, Johnson could potentially surpass Tony Gonzalez 2nd all-time 1,325 career receptions with 3 more productive seasons, who he trails by 313 catches. At the very least, it appears he should be topping Marvin Harrison for 3rd all-time in NFL career receptions this season.

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Antrel Rolle posts Instagram message to ex-Giants teammate Jason Pierre-Paul

This is just a message so you all can take it however you want..... Many people worry about football, the money, all things that can be replaced in the blink of an eye. I am just happy that my boy has his health. This was a freakish accident that could have happened to anyone. Every year I do fire works for the kids in my family and some of the kids in the neighborhood. Have been doing it for 7 years strong already. So my point is this could have happened to anyone including myself. Sometimes trying to do a good deed can have the opposite affect as it did in this situation. My focus point here is health. As long as my boy and can go home and kiss his baby boy and pick his baby boy up whenever he wants is all that matters to me at this point. Everything else will take care of itself. This is just a bump in a road that I am sure he will hurdle in no time. Only the strong survive and you are that @iamjasonpierrepaul So go ahead and do what u have to do for yourself bruh. You already know I got your back no matter what just like you have always had mine. This is about a brotherhood that had developed over years! Many people are going to doubt, hate, speculate and that's all cool and they are well within their rights. But one thing they can't do is define who you are as a person and put a limit on your will and determination! So do you homeboy becuz the reals one will always be here no matter what. So like I said they can take this however they want to! #BandofBrothers

A photo posted by @skilled_31 on

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Devin Hester's charitable efforts etched in childhood blessings

Devin Hester isn't looking for attaboy pats on the back. He's not posing as some sort of cleansing agent for the bad boys in the NFL. He stands on his own, far above the contentious fray embattling Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and others.

He spent his weekend surrounded by more than 600 kids, from ages 5 and up, talking not only about the fundamentals of football but the basics of life. It is his way of paying it forward. There are bigger plans on the horizon.

"I'm not here to look good," said Hester, who will begin his 10th year as an NFL player this season. "I'm not out to get publicity, but I don't mind it being put out there that it's something that comes from the heart."

If anyone was able to peek inside, they'd find a heart filled with compassion and the scars of a kid who grew up in Riviera Beach. His parents divorced when he was a toddler. A step-father filled the void, but Devin's biological father died just before he turned 10.

Hester stood on the precipice, oblivious to the meaning or implication of that word, but fortunate enough not to have the world betray him, as it would so many of his friends. He and his older brother were soul survivors. They got out alive, which cannot be said for a number of his buddies.

The village gathered around the brothers to protect them: his mother, a church pastor to this day; Demetrius Thompson, who inspired him to stay in school and pursue his love of sports; and all the people and friends at the local Boys & Girls Club, who showed him a better way, away from the streets.

Hester rose way above the usual expectations, becoming a star at the University of Miami, followed by a fabulous sprint toward NFL fame. Now with his second team, the Atlanta Falcons, Hester holds the league record for touchdown returns (punt and kick combined) and most punt-return touchdowns.

But he also knows that speed and fame are fleeting. So there is Plan B. Or maybe it's Plan A. Life after the NFL. It's coming. He knows it. He refuses to be blindsided, like so many others who have crossed that path.

Hester, who has lived with his wife, Zingha, and two sons in Windermere for the last three years, wants to build a Boys & Girls Club in the community or surrounding area, whether it's Winter Garden or the Dr. Phillips neighborhood. It's more than holding up a big cardboard check with a bunch of zeros on it and putting his name up in lights. He wants to be involved and show up for work three to four times a week.

He drives back and forth to his home every day and is saddened by the view. He doesn't see any kids playing tag, climbing on trees, riding bicycles. He assumes they all are inside, zombies obsessed with video games.

He wants to show his boys, Devin Jr. and Dray, what he had:

Meet new friends. Interact with all cultures. Play active games.

"A lot of kids today don't even know how to play with other kids," Hester said.

The club is a vision on the horizon, and then there's the reality: steps along the way. He welcomed hundreds of kids, from 5 to 15, at Olympia High School for his one-day camp on Saturday. They came from Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and other youth organizations.

It's all under the big umbrella of the Devin Hester Foundation. It would be wrong to mistake this as Hester's rainy-day plan for life after football.

It's all about sunny skies for every kid on the block. It's about remembering where you came from and honoring those who helped you along the way.

Once you look past the big check and the marquee name in lights, you will see a grateful boy paying it forward. Don't be surprised if he shakes your hand as you walk through the door one day.

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How Jimmy Gaines became a more controlled 'Ferrari'

When Jimmy Gaines first showed up at Proformance Sports Training in Amherst as a Canisius High School junior, his raw numbers were "off the chart," trainer John Opfer said.

He could get A to B as fast as anybody Opfer has seen at that size, be it at the high school, college or pro level.

"But his body control," Opfer said, "was absolutely atrocious. As soon as he had to change direction on somebody, he had so much momentum going one way and no body control of a first, second and third gear in his engine. He was like a missile. If he hits you, watch out. But if he misses, he might take somebody else.”

Fast forward to today and Opfer sees an explosive athlete who starred at Miami (Fla.) and is now ready for Sundays.

As he detailed in Friday's paper, Gaines believes his smarts, his ability to take total control of a defense could be the difference. The second-year undrafted linebacker will try to make his hometown team this training camp.

And here at Northtown Center in Amherst, with Opfer, is where he transformed his body to reach this point.

“I told him he was a like a Ferrari engine with one flat tire," said Opfer, who also works with former UB stars Khalil Mack and Branden Oliver. "What an unbelievable raw ability and desire to be great. Those are the two things I can say about Jimmy Gaines. Raw talent, his God-given talent was through the roof. But his willingness to work compared to guys I’ve had, and their talent, it’s just not even close.

“I would honestly rank Jimmy’s work ethic up there with any of those guys. Bo Oliver, probably, in my mind as far as work ethic is hand in hand with Jimmy. ... Those guys realize how close they are to exploding in the NFL, so they refuse to let it slip through their hands.”

While Gaines' pre-draft workout numbers didn't dazzle, Opfer believes the 4.70 time in the 40-yard dash can be deceiving.

For his job, moving in 10-yard spurts, Gaines is as fast as Mack, who pulled a 4.47 at his pro day.

"When you put that into perspective — the ground he’s covering — four, five steps it’s insurmountable," Opfer said. "The problem is when you deal with guys who have that kind of stature, if you look at the frame on him, he’s packed. He’s dense. So when you deal with guys like that, typically they break apart after 12-15 yards, they’re not strong enough in their little muscles to keep up with what their big muscles are generating. So that’s the secret with Jimmy we’ve been working on in the off-season. We’re trying to get all those small muscles that haven’t had to do anything to support these muscles so that the power output is as efficient as possible."

A strong core has always been a focus with these two. That helped him control his explosion.

And this off-season, Opfer is making Gaines use his mind during drills.

Between exhausting reps in the weight room, on the field, wherever, the trainer will ask "What are you thinking on third and 4?" It's all part of playing fast in what promises to be a complicated Rex Ryan defense. Soon, Gaines will be gunning for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"I want him to be able to understand that game," Opfer said. "It’s so fast. So he has to think as fast as he’s able to move. Above and beyond that, we’re fine-tuning his speed for not just forward but multi-directional as possible. I’m trying to help him be a stop-start guy at any angle and absolutely shut down an offense.”

"Sometimes guys go and you say they’re a perfect fit and they get there and they’ve got two other guys they got in free agency that play another position and you’re now a practice dummy, a guy who won’t make it out of camp. So my thing with Jimmy is, ‘as long as you get a fair handshake, we’re going to be prepared to make a splash.’ I don’t think any different.”

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Ryan Braun shines

Milwaukee right-fielder Ryan Braun, who was booed during the pregame introductions, pinch hit to lead off the ninth. He tripled to right off Minnesota's Glen Perkins and scored on Brandon Crawford's sacrifice fly.

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Peter O'Brien finishes 2nd in Triple-A home run derby

Diamondbacks' farmhand Peter O'Brien's already legendary power wowed the crowd in Monday night's Triple-A Home Run Derby in Omaha, Neb., but it wasn't enough to bring home the grand prize.

O'Brien, an outfielder for the Reno Aces, hit 13 home runs in the first round of the competition -- the most prolific display of the night -- but he had just seven in the next two rounds and finished second to Orioles' prospect Dariel Alvarez, an outfielder for Norfolk.

Alvarez hit six home runs in the final round to finish with 21 on the night. O'Brien hit five in the final round but came up short on his final four swings.

Jamie Romak, O'Brien's teammate at Reno, finished third. He belted three homers in the first round and 10 in the second.

The competition also included Indians minor-leaguer Jesus Aguilar, White Sox minor-leaguer Matt Davidson and Padres minor-leaguer Cody Decker in addition to a pair of high school sluggers from the Nebraska area: Alex Bohm and Jack Kalina.

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Padres blew it with Yasmani Grandal

LOS ANGELES — Before we get to the quote, let's make clear that Yasmani Grandal looks back on his time with the Padres fondly.

He has friends in San Diego he still roots for. He exudes gratitude toward the organization that birthed his Major League career. He said he would have loved to have represented the Pads in the All-Star Game like he will the Dodgers on Tuesday.

But when asked about his old club's pitching philosophy, Grandal couldn't help but speak his mind.

"(Stuff) comes back to bite you in the (behind)," he said.

Sorry about the parentheses. Family newspaper. You can probably fill in the blanks, though.

Grandal spent his final season in San Diego as an untrusted catcher whose offensive talents were minimized. He started just 67 games behind the plate and, consequently, struggled to find his swing.

Andrew Cashner didn't pitch to him at all. Tyson Ross permanently switched to Rene Rivera in late June, then Ian Kennedy did the same in mid-July.

Granted, the latter pair each had slightly more success with Rivera than Grandal, and Rivera was just as effective in the batter's box. But in retrospect, the Padres' reluctance to use Yasmani every day may have been like repeatedly taking the popcorn kernels out of the microwave just before they were going to pop.

In 128 games last year — many of which he entered midway through the contest — Grandal hit .225 with 15 home runs. Through the first 67 games of this year — 65 of which he started — Grandal was hitting .278 with 14 home runs.

Yasmani said he he would have been more consistent with his bat if he were a regular part of the Padres' lineup, but he never approached then-manager Bud Black about it. He didn't talk to Cashner, Ross or Kennedy about his behind-the-plate banishment, either, although he has a pretty good idea of why it happened.

Despite the general San Diego approach being to throw down and away, Grandal thought the power pitchers should be throwing inside in the early part of the count before using the outer half of the plate to record the out. But the veteran hurlers weren't catching his drift, and as a result, he wasn't catching their pitches.

Of course, it may have gone beyond mere strategical disagreements. Grandal served a 50-game PED suspension in 2013, which, according to reports he would get, cost him much of the Padres' clubhouse.

He stayed positive, though. After last season, Grandal texted Cashner, Ross, Kennedy, Odrisamer Despaigne and Yangervis Solarte among others to see how he could improve his relationship with his teammates.Only Ross responded.

A few weeks later, Yasmani was part of a package shipped to the Dodgers in exchange for Matt Kemp. And while he didn't know it at the time, it was the best day of Grandal's career.

Heading into Friday's game against the Brewers, Grandal had more home runs and a better slugging percentage than any catcher in the National League. And in addition to upping his caught-stealing percentage from 13 percent last year to 26 percent this year, he also is the second-best pitch framer in baseball, according to statcorner.com.

Perhaps that's why Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke have no issue throwing to Yasmani. In fact, Greinke praised Grandal's consistency in calling his strengths after extending his scoreless-inning streak to 35.1 innings Thursday.

The cumulative effect has been Yasmani being selected to his first All-Star game after two disappointing seasons in San Diego, all the while batting clean-up for a first-place team.

"I'm the happiest I've ever been," said Grandal, adding that Kennedy was the only current Padre to congratulate him on his All-Star selection.

Don't think Yasmani doesn't pay attention to the Padres, though. After the hitters they added to the lineup this offseason, he expected his former team to compete with the Dodgers for the NL West crown.

San Diego's pitching, however, has disappointed, and Grandal can't help but wonder if that would be the case had his advice been heeded.

It wasn't, though. Didn't seem anybody wanted to hear what he had to say.

And now, one year later, Grandal's new team isn't hearing the Padres' footsteps.

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Ryan Braun named to National League all-star team

Los Angeles — Ryan Braun's plans for the all-star break changed quickly and dramatically on Sunday.

Now, instead of remaining home in the Los Angeles area and spending time with family and friends, the Milwaukee Brewers rightfielder will be traveling to Cincinnati to take part in his sixth All-Star Game, which is Tuesday night.

Braun was named as a replacement for the injured Matt Holliday by National League manager Bruce Bochy.

"It's a good problem to have," said Braun with a smile minutes before the Brewers' 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Braun homered in his first at-bat and finished the day 2 for 4.

"Logistically it makes things a little more challenging with a 10-month-old baby, but a good problem to have. A tremendous honor to have an opportunity to go to the All-Star Game again.

"It's something I'm really proud of. It's something that's extremely difficult to do, and I'm really looking forward to it."

Holliday has been out with a right quadriceps strain since June 8, and Braun admitted the news he'd take Holliday's place surprised him a bit.

"Obviously when guys get hurt you know there's an opportunity, potentially," he said. "I had a decent first half — certainly deserving of at least being in the conversation. When guys get hurt, ultimately it isn't the way you want to end up in the All-Star Game, but it's a tremendous honor to be there nonetheless."

Manager Craig Counsell believes Braun was well-deserving of the honor.

"I'm thrilled for him," he said. "Six All-Star Games is pretty incredible. I know it means a lot to him."

It will be the first time Braun will participate in MLB's midsummer classic since 2012. That year he was voted in as a starter, and eventually he finished as runner-up to Buster Posey for NL MVP after hitting .319 with 41 homers and 112 RBI.

Braun was suspended for the final 65 games of the 2013 season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Last year, he posted career lows with a .266 average, 19 homers and 81 RBI while dealing with a nerve issue in his right thumb.

"I don't think about things in those terms," Braun said of making it back to the All-Star Game after being suspended.

"I recognize how difficult it is to have an opportunity...so the fact that I get to go is definitely something that's special.

"I just found out a little while ago, so I haven't really had too much time to reflect on it yet."

Braun has had two cryotherapy injections in his thumb since last season, and he's bounced back nicely to hit .275 with 16 homers and 56 RBI while also stealing 15 bases in 84 games this season.

He's also one of five players in the majors to have at least 15 homers and 10 stolen bases.

"It's been a little challenging just getting back to a consistent place mechanically," Braun said. "Obviously I've deal with a lot with the thumb over the last year and a half, just trying to get my swing and bat path back to where I expect them to be.

"But over the past couple months I feel like I've been a lot better, a lot more consistent. Certainly a lot of room for growth, a lot of room for improvement, and I expect to be better moving forward. But overall, the last couple months have been pretty good."

Added Counsell: "I think he's been really good for a while now. It's not the same every day, but he's a force in the middle of the lineup."

Braun joins closer Francisco Rodriguez on the NL team, giving the Brewers multiple all-stars for the third consecutive season.

In four career All-Star Games — Braun didn't play in 2011 in Arizona due to injury — Braun has hit .200 (2 for 10) with a double, triple, RBI and run scored.
Braun's six All-Star Game nods rank him first in franchise history. Paul Molitor and Cecil Cooper each earned five during their time in Milwaukee.

"I think as you get older you have greater perspective on just how difficult it is to make one all-star team, let alone multiple all-star teams," he said. "You look around the league now and it's really dominated by young players.

"Looking back, first All-Star Game was 2008. To be going back to another All-Star Game in 2015 is certainly something I cherish."

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