NEWS, NOTES &
Friday, September 28, 2007
By Bethany Bradsher
Career ladder slippery in
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Coaches in college football stand on shifting
sand, but for their players life is relatively stable.
Collegiate athletes commit to a school like East
Carolina and — if they work hard at practice and keep their grades at a
reasonable level — they can be sure that for four or five years they’ll be a
In the Pirate Nation, where fans can be assured
that Van Eskridge is a sophomore with 33 tackles and next fall he’ll be a
junior with lots of tackles, the uncertain environs of the NFL can seem
distant. But at least nine former Pirates are on some point of the NFL
continuum that ranges from highly valued team member to also-ran.
Two of the safest pros these days, but players
who are not strangers to the other side, are David Garrard and Vonta Leach.
The starting quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the starting
fullback for the Houston Texans, Garrard and Leach are the personification
of the classic NFL dream: hard work and talent leading to gridiron glory.
After he led the Jaguars to a 23-14 victory over
Denver on Sunday, Garrard was being touted as the offensive star of the team
where he labored for five years as Byron Leftwich’s backup.
“Who is this guy?” wrote Vic Ketchman on
www.jaguars.com. “Is this model of efficiency the same guy who nearly
trashed his career with a barrage of turnovers late last season? Three games
into this season, Garrard has yet to throw an interception. A week ago, he
keyed a 13-10 win over the Falcons by driving his team 80 yards for the
eventual game-winning touchdown.”
Leach might not get as much individual press as
Garrard, but his team has been in the spotlight, as pundits have named the
Texans one of the league’s teams to be reckoned with this season.
A former Packer who was
the subject of a bidding war between the Texans and the New York Giants in
March, Leach is right in the thick of it at fullback, with one carry and
seven pass receptions for 30 yards so far.
Another ex-Pirate who is
accustomed to the rarified air of an NFL starting post is Atlanta Falcons
defensive tackle Roderick Coleman, who has become a pillar of the Falcons
defense but is currently listed as third on the depth chart because he had
arthroscopic surgery to clean out debris from his knee early this month.
Next are the
middle-of-the-road players, those who are less certain of their
contributions but are still part of an NFL team where their fortunes could
turn on a dime with the right break or impact play.
Aundrae Allison is the
second-string wide receiver for the Vikings with one catch for 11 yards, and
Terrance Copper with the New Orleans Saints is also the second wide receiver
on the depth chart, but he has already caught 3 passes for 29 yards.
Guy Whimper, in his
second year with the Giants, is the backup left tackle behind David Diehl.
So to see those six, just
tune in to the NFL telecasts this weekend. But for a few other favorite
former Pirates, you’ll need to keep your eyes trained on the tiny type in
the daily sports section, the one that details NFL transactions.
Eric Graham was released
from the Panthers on August 26, and two days later the Steelers released
Richard Koonce. But the most startling roster move within the Pirate Nation
came from Baltimore, where Brian Rimpf was released Sept. 2 after three
years of contributing to the Ravens.
“My agent said he was
pretty sure I would get picked up,” said Rimpf, a three-time first team
All-Conference USA selection in his ECU days. “It’s just a matter of when.”
Many NFL teams keep 10
offensive linemen, and when Rimpf came to the Ravens three years ago they
kept nine. This year they only kept eight, with Rimpf out of the loop as the
ninth. So he and his family are effectively on hold while Rimpf keeps
working out and waiting for the right team with a need for an offensive
guard to call.
“We’re just waiting,” he
In the ever-fluid world
of the NFL, he’s not the only one. Just check the NFL transactions column,
with new comings and goings every day.
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Dig into Bethany Bradsher's Bonesville
09/28/2007 03:08:36 AM