NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, March 30, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
There's more than one path to pro success
By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.
Before they even graduate, at least eight
seniors who recently bid farewell to Pirate football hope to cast their lot
with an NFL team.
One of those East Carolina products
wide receiver Aundrae Allison
is getting most of the sparks from the pre-draft
Allison is ranked between eighth and 11th among
wide receivers on draft prediction Web sites, and most pundits predict that
he’ll be picked on the first day of the draft, anywhere from the first to
But the other pillars of the Pirates’ bowl-bound
2006 season should take heart. While college results and pre-draft
performance in team workouts and the scouting combine certainly have some
bearing on future professional success, that elusive leap to glory at the
next level seems more like Peter Pan’s recipe for flight: faith, trust and
Just ask Vonta Leach, whose star has risen so
far after four seasons in the NFL that he was recently the subject of a
bidding war between the Giants and the Texans. Leach, who spent his first
three years with the Packers, signed with the Texans last year after being
released by Green Bay.
He started his career in Houston in the shadows,
mostly watching from the bench for the early games until the coaches decided
to see what the 6-foot, 250-pound blocking specialist could offer their
team. Leach’s answer to that question was so resounding that he became a
starter and the Texans’ primary blocker.
So it’s no surprise that the Texans responded
when New York made a play for Leach last week, offering him a four-year
contract worth $8 million. New York fans began lauding Leach on their
message boards and hoping that the Texans would fail to match the offer in
the seven-day time limit.
On the seventh day, Houston grabbed Leach back.
Two of Leach’s teammates from the class of 2004
are also making their name after periods of uncertainty.
Wide receiver Terrance Copper recently signed a
one-year contract extension with the New Orleans Saints after showing his
versatility last fall. When Joe Horn went down with an injury halfway
through the season, Copper came in and started four games at receiver,
grabbing 23 passes for 385 yards and three touchdowns.
For offensive lineman Brian Rimpf of the
Baltimore Ravens, the 2006 season consisted of truckloads of rehabilitation
on his severe hamstring injury and a concerted effort to keep the team
executives from forgetting him during his long year on injured reserve.
The Ravens clearly got the message that Rimpf is
back to normal or better, and they signed him to a one-year contract
extension on March 14. Rimpf, who attended meetings and film sessions
regularly during his IR banishment, told Ravens’ website writer Mike Duffy
that he got the motion back in his leg early in the rehabilitation, but the
greatest challenge was to find the strength he lost over those long months.
"The mobility didn't take long to get back, but
being able to push off that leg and feel 100 percent about it, you need to
build back the strength," he said. “I'm glad to be able to have another year
with the team I started out with. The Ravens showed confidence in me, and
hopefully I can get back to a high level of play."
Ironic, isn’t it, that each of those players is
entering his fifth season out of college? Each is coming into his own after
years of getting accustomed to the intensity of the NFL and finding out
which of his athletic gifts will translate to the big gridiron setting.
So players like Jamar Flournoy, Eric Graham and
James Pinkney might find hope from stories like those of their older
teammates. If they can find a way to get into an NFL camp and stay while
they bulk up and learn, they might find themselves making news in March of
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03/30/2007 12:51:51 AM