Murray's Mailbag: Will Nevada football ever retire Colin Kaepernick's number? – Reno Gazette Journal


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The guys talk Nevada football, Austin Corbett draft position, Caleb Martin at the NBA draft combine, The Floss and more.
Chris Murray, Reno Gazette-Journal

Is Reno a football town or a basketball town? I get that question a lot. There’s no doubt right now it’s a basketball town. The Wolf Pack football team just finished spring camp and I got two questions about the team among my Monday Twitter Mailbag inquires. Meanwhile, I got 20-plus questions about the basketball team, which is in the middle of the offseason (albeit an active offseason). Also, my 10U girls soccer team – The Regular Tigers – got blasted last weekend, 4-1, in a game that wasn’t even that close. But we will solider forward and look to even our 1-2 record next week. On to the questions.

I very much wanted to do a story on that topic – How does Reno view its former hero, Colin Kaepernick? – earlier this year, but never found the time to do so with the Wolf Pack basketball team keeping me plenty busy. My impression is it’s mixed. There was the whole Reno airport fiasco when his memorabilia was briefly taken out of the Wolf Pack’s case – spring cleaning, the airport said – before his stuff was downsized from three cases to one. One restaurant took a shot at him by running a banner that said something to the effect of, “Here, we stand for the anthem.” Then there was the gas station situation. And you won’t see many Kaepernick jerseys hanging in sports bars around town, but I’m not sure there’s any link there to his protest. Reno just isn’t a great sports town.

Like most places, people in Reno are split on Kaepernick, the only difference being everybody here used to idolize him. Whenever I write about Kaepernick, I get tons of emails, both supporting him and denouncing him. It’s usually even. UNR president Marc Johnson has been supportive of Kaepernick’s protest, saying the school “will not abandon the many contributions” he made to Nevada. Kaepernick is included in the mural inside the Basin Street Club at Mackay Stadium, so the school hasn’t banished imagery of him on campus. I tweeted this about Kaepernick while on a trip in San Jose earlier this year.

I don’t see Nevada adding a statue of Kaepernick any time soon, but will the Wolf Pack retire him number? I doubt that happens in the next decade, although it should. I’m with you in regard to players wearing his No. 10 (which also could be retired in honor of Chris Vargas). Nevada shouldn’t be issuing that number, but the school has had two complete staff turnovers since Kaepernick last played for the Wolf Pack, so I doubt many people associated with the program right now even know Kaepernick wore No. 10.

Nevada didn’t issue No. 10 in 2011 – the first year post-Kaepernick –  but Reggie Coates, a defensive end, wore it from 2012-13. It wasn’t worn in 2014. Linebacker L.J. Jackson wore it from 2015-16, and quarterback Griffin Dahn wore it in 2017 and will do so in 2018. Retiring numbers can be difficult in football since there are usually 100-plus players and only 99 numbers. Nevada has retired only three football jerseys in its history – Dick Trachock’s 21, Frank Hawkins’ 27 and Marion Motley’s 41.

Kaepernick’s 10 deserves to be in that group. No player had a greater impact on Nevada football than Kaepernick. Will it happen? I doubt it, especially in the short term given how controversial he is in a county that is evenly split between red and blue (and Nevada can’t afford to drive away potential fans given its issues filling Mackay Stadum). Let’s see if Kaepernick gets in the Hall of Fame in 2020, the first year he’s eligible, first, but I’d like to see the number retired.

TJ Friedl’s story is the bar. He walked on to the Nevada baseball team in 2013, redshirted in 2014 because he wasn’t deemed good enough to get regular at-bats, starred for the Wolf Pack in 2015 (becoming the first Nevada player to hit better than .400 since 2001) and because no MLB teams knew he was draft eligible he signed with the Reds for a $735,000 bonus two months after the draft.

That bonus is the third largest in Wolf Pack baseball history behind Braden Shipley ($2.25 million in 2013 with Arizona) and Darrell Rasner ($800,000 in 2002 with Montreal) and the largest in MLB history for a domestic non-drafted free agent. All that from a guy who walked on and was redshirted in his second season with the program because he wasn’t good enough to play.

As far as football is concerned, Corbett’s story is the bar. From unrecruited walk-on to No. 33 pick is pretty incredible (although these things happen somehow often in football; Boise State alum Leighton Vander Esch played eight-man football in rural Idaho, walked on to the Broncos and was the No. 19 pick in this year’s draft). Mike Crawford also walked on at Nevada from Whittell High and was drafted.

However, my favorite Wolf Pack football rags to riches story is Eric Sanders, a Wooster High alum and Nevada offensive lineman in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sanders quit football after his freshman year to drive a truck delivering Coca-Cola products. As part of his job, he delivered Coke to the Nevada football offices. It’s then coach Chris Ault set Sanders up with his secretary, Irene, on a blind date to try and get her to talk him into returning to football. She did just that and Irene and Eric ended up getting married. “It was truly amazing what he did,” Ault said of Sanders’ return for the 1979 and 1980 seasons. “He took two years off and came back a better player. He really was a changed person. He became dedicated to us, a real leader.”

In last week’s Mailbag, I said 30 percent. Given Brown now has a top three of Nevada, Cal and Arizona, I’ll bump up the Wolf Pack’s odds to 40 percent, with Cal at 30 percent, Arizona at 20 percent and a wild card at 10 percent. Nevada likes it chances – so much so it feels like the front-runner at this stage.

The date to withdraw from the NBA draft and return to college is May 30. I highly doubt Jordan Brown will wait until May 30 to make his decision. So while I’m sure Brown would like that additional information, I don’t think his decision hinges on the status of the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline.

As with the previous question, they’re not related. The Martins and Caroline wouldn’t make their decision based on Jordan Brown’s recruitment. They know if they return to school Nevada will be a preseason top-15 team with a shot of competing for a Final Four berth. Their decision is more based on feedback from the NBA, where they believe they might go in the draft and whether they want to pursue a professional career now rather than playing another college season. They know Nevada will be loaded if they return, with or without Brown.

Probably one of the incoming freshmen who signed in November.

No. They would have to sit out another season, but I don’t see any of the four sit-out transfers leaving.

Caleb Martin did receive a full NBA draft combine invitation, so he will be at the event in Chicago from May 16-20. Prospects are allowed to work out with NBA teams right now, and all three will get some sessions. They have until May 30 to return to school. If they don’t do so before then, they’re turning pro.

I read something over the weekend that said 70 percent of the players invited to the NBA draft combine get drafted. Now, that hasn’t exactly worked out with Wolf Pack players of late. Deonte Burton and Cameron Oliver were both invited to the combine and weren’t drafted. But if 70 percent of the roughly 65 players invited to the combine get drafted, that takes up 45 of the 60 spots. The other 15 are likely overseas players who didn’t go to the combine. There are maybe one or two non-combine players who get drafted per season, although that doesn’t mean they won’t make the NBA via an undrafted free-agent deal or through the G-League. You’re probably looking at 8-10 players per class who don’t get invited to the NBA draft combine who still make it to league at some point (Nevada’s Kevinn Pinkney, for example).

The locked in games at this point are:

Home: Pacific (Nov. 9); Arkansas Little Rock (Nov. 16), Cal Baptist (Nov. 19); South Dakota State (Dec. 15)

Road: Loyola Chicago (Nov. 28)

Neutral: Tulsa (Nov. 22 in Las Vegas); UMass or Southern Illinois (Nov. 23 in Las Vegas); Arizona State (Dec. 7 in Los Angeles)

That’s eight games, which leaves five more to add (unless Nevada adds a game at Hawaii, which would give it a sixth game to schedule). The Wolf Pack will add at least one home-and-home with a Power 5 school and potentially two. An additional neutral-site game against a quality opponent is likely.

In the end, next year’s schedule will probably look at lot like this year’s schedule with the Arizona State game being comparable to last year’s TCU game; the South Dakota State game being comparable to last year’s Rhode Island game; and a home-and-home Power 5 add (likely starting with a road game in 2018-19) being comparable to last year’s Texas Tech game.

Begin Fremont portion of Mailbag

Deepest? Sure, a possibility. But not the best. The 2010 team had Vai Taua, Rishard Matthews, Virgil Green and Brandon Wimberly. That’s two NFL players and two more who made NFL camps. The 1996-1998 teams had Chris Lemon, Trevor Insley and Geoff Noisy. I’d take the trio, too. One thing Jay Norvell has done a good job of is recruiting playmakers on offense. The 2020-21 Wolf Pack teams could rival that 2010 team in the play-making department.

1. Ty Gangi

2. Cristian Solano

3. Kaymen Cureton (Nevada should try and redshirt him)

4. Griffin Dahn

5. Carson Strong (makes sense to make him the scout team QB for reps)

The No. 2 seed behind San Diego State.

I don’t think a horse-sized duck could do any damage to me, so I’ll pick that.

Pass.

Nevada would be ranked sixth in the nation.

It will help most in recruiting. Couple the Wolf Pack’s Sweet 16 run with its assistant continuity with some available playing time next season and I’d be surprised if Nevada didn’t land at least one four-start/top-150 prospect in its 2019 recruiting class.

It was not a good weekend for Nevada in the Governor’s Series. The Wolf Pack lost 4.5 points over the weekend with UNLV now leading, 21-18, but Nevada is still in solid shape. There are three events left: outdoor track and field; baseball; and Academic Progress Report. UNLV won the MW’s indoor track and field event while Nevada placed 10th, so I’m going to assume the Rebels with that to go up 24-18.

Nevada would need to win the final two events (baseball and APR) to force a tie. The Wolf Pack would win a tie since it holds the Fremont Cannon. Nevada enters next weekend’s baseball series with a two games to one edge. The Wolf Pack needs to win two out of three next weekend to clinch those points. A tie won’t help. It then needs to win the APR, which it usually does. So it really comes down to the baseball team.

That being said, UNLV has won five MW titles this year to Nevada’s one, so it’s hard to argue the Wolf Pack has had a better athletic season no matter what the Governor’s Series says.

End Fremont portion of Mailbag

I don’t believe there is a walk-on maximum in the NCAA.

I doubt we know that until right before the start of the season.

Not having a men’s track and field team has no impact on Nevada football.

I’ve never seen the movie, so I cannot comment.

It was a very good, or as good as a movie can be without a true ending. It was clearly a bridge to Avengers 4. The pacing and transitions were awesome given how many worlds had to be blended. If you want to see how not to blend worlds, watch Justice League. Thanos is a badass and the movie really showed which Marvel superheroes have actual powers – basically Doctor Strange, Thor, Scarlet Witch and to some degree Mantis. The rest of the “superheroes” are worthless against Thanos.

Rankings of the Marvel movies I’ve seen.

1. Black Panther

2. Thor: Ragnarok

3. Deadpool

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

5. The Avengers

6. Avengers: Infinity War

7. Thor

8. Captain America: Civil War

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming

10. Iron Man

11. Logan

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

13. Big Hero 6

14. Iron Man 3

15. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

16. Thor: The Dark World

17. Doctor Strange (son was bugging me during this movie, so it was a partial viewing)

18. Avengers: Age of Ultron

19. Ant-Man

20. Howard the Duck

21. Iron Man 2 (yes, this was worse than Howard the Duck)

It is not necessary to see Black Panther before Avengers: Infinity War. You wouldn’t miss anything important leading into Avengers: Infinity War. But I would see Black Panther in the theater if you can. The visuals are worth the cost of seeing it on the big screen.

The Wolf Pack has lost a season-high six straight games. Nevada has allowed at least nine runs in each of its last five games, so that’s the biggest issue that needs correcting. Nevada had allowed nine-plus runs in just five of its first 34 games and has now done that in five straight. The Wolf Pack needs to get that sorted out since this team is built on pitching and defense.

The Mountain West is a two-team race with Nevada (14-6 in the MW) and San Diego State (13-7) being the only teams above .500. The Wolf Pack plays three games at SDSU to end the regular season, so that series will almost certainly decide the MW champ.

If you put “Go Giants” in your question, your question doesn’t get answered.

This video posted by Wolf Pack player Tyson Williams after Nevada’s spring game went viral and has around 2.2 million views.

I don’t understand why it went viral. She scored a touchdown and did what the kids are calling The Floss. It’s cool, I guess, but 2.2 million views? File it under Cardi B, Post Malone, YouTubers and the Kardashians as things that are popular that I don’t understand. But good for Nevada to get that exposure.

To get back to your question, I’ll go: (1) The Floss; (2) The Wave; and (3) Kids Announcing Names, although I’m confused why there is no C on your list of options. You go straight from B to D. This could be something the kids are doing nowadays that I don’t understand. I am a very old 35-year-old.

I’ve never oiled by garage door chain or replaced my door’s weatherstripping, so I fail The Man Test. Tim the Toolman Taylor would grunt at me in disapproval.

Justin Turner’s return to the Dodgers will certainly help the team, whose offense has been sub-par for the majority of the season, but the bigger issue is the bullpen, and I don’t think Turner’s return will help that group. The Dodgers’ bullpen ranked fourth in baseball with a 3.38 ERA last season. This year, it is 21st with a 4.61 ERA. Not good.

Despite trailing the Diamondbacks by seven games, the Dodgers are still projected by FanGraphs to win the division by three games. A lot depends on injuries. If the Diamondbacks’ rotation stays healthy, they will probably win the division. But that rotation is thin. If they suffer one or two injuries there, I think the Dodgers catch them.

(Update: Corey Seager’s arm is broken and so is the Dodgers’ season).

I have two girls who won’t run during the game and if you have two girls who don’t run during the game with six offensive players per team you’re going to be playing four on six and you’re probably going to lose. I need to find a way to get them to run. That’s the adjustment that needs to be made.

Uber, although I should probably use Lyft. Also, I consider the day I lost my five-star Uber rating among the worst days of my life. I am a people-pleaser and perfectionist and bend over backward to try and appease strangers. One time an Uber driver farted on me while taking me to the Boise airport, but I still gave her a five-star rating because I’m nice. I fancy myself as the perfect Uber rider – I talk to the drivers even if I don’t feel like talking to them, I make sure I don’t slam their door while getting in and out, I always walk to get to an easier pickup location for the, I tip a lot (because the RGJ is paying for it anyway) – yet somebody gave me a four-star rating at some point. I would like to know who this evil person is. My 4.96-star overall rating is a slap in the face. I will mourn the loss of my five-star rating forever.  



Michigan State football has plenty of NFL draft prospects for 2019 – Detroit Free Press


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Michigan State’s offense won the annual spring game, and coach Mark Dantonio tried to put the Spartans in tough situations.
Chris Solari/DFP

EAST LANSING — Michigan State had just one player — center Brian Allen — taken in this year’s NFL draft.

Keeping the Spartans’ draft streak alive next year shouldn’t be as dramatic.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said earlier this month that the Spartans “will have several” NFL prospects next year at this time. And depending on how this season goes for a number of MSU’s juniors, it could be more.

The phrase “it’s never too early to look ahead” defines two things in football — recruiting and the NFL draft. So let’s glimpse into the crystal ball to see which Spartans might be hearing their name called at the 2019 NFL draft.

Seniors

Felton Davis III, WR: Davis blossomed into one of QB Brian Lewerke’s top targets and a third-team All-Big Ten pick by the coaches. At 6-foot-4, he could have considered entering the 2018 draft, but his size and sure-handedness projects him as the 11th-best wide receiver for next year according to draftscout.com.

Jake Hartbarger, P: A four-year starter and honorable mention All-Big Ten pick in 2017, Hartbarger has shown the ability to both boom punts vertically and hang them up horizontally to pin opponents deep in their own territory. He is rated ninth among 2019 punters by draftscout.com, but NFL teams showed a willingness to draft punters, taking four in this year’s draft.

LJ Scott, RB:Scott bypassed entering the draft following his junior year, though he has yet to have a 1,000-yard rushing season in college. He is ranked the 14th-best running back for 2019 by draftscout.com, but showing durability and ability to hold onto the ball could boost him into a second-day selection.

More: Michigan State’s Chris Frey agrees to deal with Carolina Panthers

Matt Sokol, TE: A converted high school quarterback, Sokol continues to grow into his position and develop as a pass-catcher and blocker. His acumen and athletic ability has him rated fifth at tight end by draftscout.com.

Khari Willis, SS: NFL teams love a strong safety who can crash down and fill gaps in run support, which Willis excels at doing. The All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2017 is ranked 13th at strong safety for the 2019 draft by draftscout.com.

Others (with draftscout.com ranking): David Beedle, OG (21st); Andrew Dowell, OLB (57th); Grayson Miller, SS (40th).

Juniors

David Dowell, FS: Dowell earned first-team All-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention by the coaches in his first year as a starter, thanks to ranking second in the league and 11th nationally with five interceptions. He is the seventh-best safety prospect for 2019 according to WalterFootball.com.

Justin Layne, CB: The converted wide receiver has the combination of size (6-3), speed and ball skills that NFL scouts love. He’s only entering his third season at MSU after playing as a true freshman but earned honorable mention All-Big Ten last year.

Brian Lewerke, QB: NFL teams are starting to look more at mobile quarterbacks who can run the ball, and Lewerke fits that bill. He would need a strong season of throwing the ball downfield with accuracy, however, to consider leaving early.

Raequan Williams, DT: An honorable mention All-Big Ten pick by the media, Williams was one of the anchors up the middle for MSU’s run defense that finished second nationally. A big junior season could vault him up draft boards, and he is considered the 10th-best defensive tackle who could enter the draft by WalterFootball.com.

Others: Joe Bachie, LB; Mike Panasiuk, DT; Darrell Stewart Jr., WR; Kenny Willekes, DE.

Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Download our Spartans Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!

 



Iowa football: Undrafted Akrum Wadley heads to Tennessee Titans – DesMoinesRegister.com


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The outgoing Iowa running back meets with media a day after his Pro Day.
Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral

One of the most electric running backs to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes in decades wasn’t drafted. But he has found an NFL home.

Akrum Wadley tweeted after Saturday’s NFL draft concluded: “Head to the sky! This won’t be the last time you heard of me. #Tennessee”

The Tennessee Titans are a pretty good fit for Wadley. While they have a featured back in Derrick Henry and signed Dion Lewis in free agency, the franchise headed to the offseason with only two other running backs on its roster (barely used David Fluellen and Khalfani Muhammad) and didn’t draft one. 

It was thought that Wadley could be drafted as early as the fourth round. Instead, he wasn’t picked — a surprising development that still leaves Shonn Greene in 2009 as the most recent Hawkeye running back to be taken in the NFL draft.

At 5-foot-10, 194 pounds, Wadley won’t be an every-down back at the next level. But he should be an asset on third downs (he developed as a pass-blocker toward the end of his Iowa career and racked up 64 receptions in his final two seasons) and kick returns. His 171 kickoff-return yards in the Pinstripe Bowl almost single-handedly helped the Hawkeyes snap a seven-year bowl losing streak in December.

Most NFL teams carry at least three running backs, and Wadley should have a good shot to be the No. 3 guy in Tennessee.

Wadley finished his college career with 35 touchdowns, one shy of Iowa’s school record. His 2,872 rushing yards and 3,633 yards from scrimmage both rank No. 5 in Hawkeye history.

What other undrafted Hawkeyes are planning:

Offensive lineman Sean Welsh is headed to the Washington Redskins, his agent Jack Bechta told the Register. That reunites the longtime Hawkeye fixture at guard with another that’s become a Pro Bowl guard in the NFL: Brandon Scherff. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has compared Welsh to Marshal Yanda, another former Hawkeye who is one of the best guards in the NFL. 

Offensive lineman Ike Boettger, also represented by Bechta, has signed with the Buffalo Bills — where he will have a chance to block for new quarterback Josh Allen of Wyoming, which Iowa defeated in Week 1 in 2017. Boettger had surgery after blowing out his Achilles tendon in Week 2 against Iowa State.

Linebacker Ben Niemann has signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, according to Land of 10. Niemann was a three-year starter as the all-important outside linebacker position for the Hawkeyes who was adept at both run stopping and pass coverage.

Wide receiver Matt VandeBerg will get a tryout with the New York Jets, he tweeted; offensive lineman Boone Myers will get one with the Indianapolis Colts; running back James Butler will try out with the Jets and Redskins, he told Land of 10.

This file will be updated as necessary.



7 years after a football accident paralyzed him, she helped him walk down the aisle – CNN


Then, she crouches over his wheelchair, slips her arms under his armpits and heaves.

Chris Norton, 26, was told nearly a decade ago that he might never walk again. Alone in his motionless body, he feared he’d never find love.

Then came Emily Summers.

After working for years to rebuild Chris’ strength, the couple on April 21 managed what even experts once thought impossible: They walked seven yards together — their arms intertwined as Emily bore much of Chris’ weight — down the aisle. The moment, first reported by People, was not just a personal triumph but also the latest chapter in a young couple’s mission to help and inspire others.

“When I walked with Emily at the wedding, it was such a special moment to share with her and to know that we did this together,” Chris told CNN. “It wasn’t just me, or her, but we did this together, and how powerful love can be and how far love can carry you in life and to know that we’ll have each other going forth until we pass.”

‘Not part of the plan’

Chris works hard at the gym in February 2018, to regain some of his strength.

Chris was an 18-year-old freshman when his life changed in an instant, just six weeks into college.

He was playing football for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. On October 16, 2010, it was the third quarter in a game against Central College, and Chris was about to make a play he’d made many times before.

“I was running down to make a tackle at kickoff after we scored a touchdown, and I made a diving tackle at his legs,” Chris recalled. “I mistimed my jump just by a split second.

“Instead of getting my head in front of the legs of the ball carrier, my head collided right with his legs, and instantly, I lost all movement and feeling from my neck down.”

Chris lay in the grass, face down. He couldn’t push up. He didn’t know why.

“‘Chris, you have to get up,” he told himself, embarrassed that the game would stop.

Trainers ran onto the field. A helicopter arrived. Chris knew something was very wrong.

“I just closed my eyes and started praying and trying to block out what was happening around me,” he said. “I did not want to accept what was unfolding.”

At the hospital, Chris learned he’d suffered a spinal cord injury, fracturing his C3-C4 vertebrae. He needed surgery.

“I asked a surgeon, ‘Will I walk again?’ And he said, ‘Chris, I don’t know.'”

“At that point, I just lost it,” Chris said. “I was completely scared for my future because up until this point, as an 18-year-old, my life went according to plan. Everything was working out for me. For me, this was not part of the plan.”

‘Take care of today’

Each day in the hospital was like a fight, Chris said. Now a quadriplegic, he had lost much of the sensation below his neck.

Chris had suffered an incomplete spinal injury, and over time, some feeling returned to his body. Eventually, he’d be able to feel touch — but not temperature, pain or texture — he said.

At first, though, Chris couldn’t scratch his face. He couldn’t bathe. He couldn’t feed himself.

“I know everyone really just focuses on the walking part, but there was so much more that I couldn’t do,” he said.

But instead of focusing on what he couldn’t do, Chris tried to concentrate on tiny successes, like when he started feeding himself, or the day he first drove a motorized wheelchair.

“It’s about sending the correct signal through my muscles to communicate,” he explained. “The signal is getting messed up because of my injury. In training, they’re trying to work me through walking patterns, working through my hands and arms and putting me through the motions I’m used to doing so I can reconnect and get those signals strengthened and controlled.”

A major success came when he returned to school in August 2011.

“I just focus on that day,” he said, referring to every day. “‘What can I do today to get just a little bit better?’ and that’s been my motto. I just knew the future would take care of itself when I take care of today.”

‘She saw me for who I was’

Chris and Emily pose in 2017, several years into their dating relationship.

Three years after his accident, Chris met Emily on a dating app. She was in college at Iowa State University, about three hours away.

“I was nervous because I didn’t know if I would find love,” Chris admitted. “I didn’t know if that was on the realm of that actually happening, for me to find my true love.”

The connection was instant.

“For someone to look past my injury and my physical challenges, and instantly I knew, Emily, she didn’t see that — she saw me for who I was, and I instantly had a connection with her.”

Emily felt a similar vibe.

“I just remember feeling a sense of peace that I knew that if I had Chris, that no matter what I went through in life, that I was going to be OK,” Emily Norton, formerly Summers, told CNN recently. “I could never have imagined this is where we would be right now, thinking back to when we first started dating, that this was the plan that God had for us.”

There was a lot that attracted Emily to Chris. He wanted to make a difference in other peoples’ lives, and so did she. He loved God, and so did she.

By then, Chris had started the Chris Norton Foundation, a nonprofit “dedicated to helping people with spinal cord and neuromuscular disabilities live their best lives,” according to his website. And, he was working as a motivational speaker.

Emily got involved in Chris’ recovery just a few weeks later. She went with him to physical therapy and learned how to help him stretch, exercise and practice walking.

“Now, she can walk me better than any physical therapist I’ve ever worked with,” Chris said with a smile. “She just knows how to get me around, move me around.”

Chris, who was still enrolled at Luther College, moved to Michigan so he could train at Barwis Methods, a program known for helping patients regain independence after a serious injury.

He had a big goal: to walk across the stage at his college graduation.

Chris trained four or five hours a day. Emily, now a college grad, moved to Michigan, too, to support him.

The night before his graduation in May 2015, Chris asked Emily to marry him. She said yes.

The next day, she hoisted him up out of his wheelchair and he made that walk. Chris’ arms shook quickly as Emily positioned him. She stood in front of him, just like a physical therapist, her body weight supporting him as he made tiny, unbalanced steps. The crowd roared as the pair slowly crossed the stage.

“I just always knew that I wanted to marry Emily,” Chris said. “It was even more special that she was the one that walked me across the stage of my college graduation as my fiancée, not just my girlfriend, but someone that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.”

With one walk behind them, the couple hatched their next challenge: walking together down the aisle at their wedding.

‘The best thing that we’ve ever done’

Emily spends time in 2018 with one of the couple's foster children.

To focus on Chris’ training and to enjoy more accessibility and sunshine, Chris and Emily moved to Florida in May 2016. Not long after, a call for help came that they couldn’t ignore.

A student Emily had mentored in high school, Whittley, was now 17 and faced aging out of a group home for foster children. She had nowhere to go.

Emily and Chris, then just 22 and 23 years old, became Whittley’s foster parents for a year. They loved it and decided to foster more children. Soon, the couple — in the throes of wedding planning and Chris’ therapy — took in a 3-year-old and a 2-month-old.

“It’s slowly grown … and now we have five kids, 8 and under,” Emily said. “It is the best thing that we’ve ever done.

“Life has never been easier, and I know that’s crazy, but when you find something that you love so much, it just doesn’t seem like work, and it brings us so much joy, and it’s incredible to see the power of love.”

Chris’ motivational speaking supports the family, and he and Emily are also working on a book. Like any couple, they do their best to share the workload, but their situation is not typical.

Chris handles the finances, including paying the mortgage and bills, which he can do easily without moving his body. He has someone come clean the house, do laundry and wash dishes. “I wouldn’t want all that to be put on Emily,” he said.

“With the kids, I know that there wasn’t a lot I could do with helping them put a shirt on,” he said. “I can be more of a cheerleader and helping them grow as a person rather than being physically active.”

Some outsiders have admitted they don’t quite get Chris and Emily’s relationship.

“We do sometimes get that that people think I’m his sister or something, but honestly, just because we are so close and just with everything, me helping him feels like nothing. It’s just what you do when you love somebody,” Emily said. “Chris helps me as much as I help him, not necessarily in a physical way but in emotional ways. That’s the big part for me.”

To Chris, Emily “is just Wonder Woman.”

“We can travel all over the place, and she can get me in these awkward cars and down or up stairs,” he said. “She doesn’t complain. She just loves it and just has so much joy. I’m just in so much awe of her every single day.”

‘We all want to rise again’

Chris calls Emily his "Wonder Woman."

After Chris’ graduation walk, the couple’s story gained national attention, and training for their wedding walk became less a personal duty than a mission to help others find hope, they said.

“I don’t have to walk to be happy,” Chris said. “It’s not me trying to get back my independence. It’s about me not being defined by my physical ability, being defined by a wheelchair — I’m so much more than that.

“We need to spread more hope in the world, and we need to be a light in the world,” he said. “We feel that it’s our calling from God and it’s our purpose, and it just brings me to life and it just energizes me.”

A documentary by Fotolanthropy, which describes itself as a “nonprofit organization that celebrates stories of hope of those who have defied great odds,” follows the couple’s journey to the altar. Called “7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story,” crowd-funding has raised almost half the $250,000 goal to cover production costs.

“What I’m passionate about is to share the experiences from the worst day of my life of suffering a spinal cord injury seven years ago to walking seven yards with my bride, the greatest day of my life,” Chris said. “I think that we all want to come back, we all want to rise again, and I’m just really excited to be able to share that.”



Oregon is trying to save high school football – My Columbia Basin


PENDLETON, Oregon – This fall, the Pendleton Buckaroos will join a new football league. PHS Athletic Director Troy Jerome says declining numbers by the hundreds each year have led the Oregon School Activities Association to form a special committee to try to save the sport in the state.

That committee has created special divisions at each classification. There are only three divisions in the 5A ranks.

“For us here in Pendleton, we’ve been put into Special District 1, which is 14 schools from the Portland area and up through Hood River and to Pendleton,” he said. “There will be six teams that will represent Special District 1 in the playoffs. There’s 37 teams in the 5A for football and we’re going to go straight to the 16-team bracket. There won’t be any play-ins like we’ve had in the past.”

The Buckaroos will play Benson, LaSalle, Milwaukie, Parkrose, Putnam and Hood River in the eastern division of Special District 1. In all other sports they will participate in the 5A InterMountain Conference against Crook County, Redmond, Ridgeview of Redmond, Hood River, and The Dalles.

The first through third place in each division will have a spot in the playoffs. Then, starting with week nine, the teams will play their counterparts in the rankings from the west division. Jerome says the declining number of players and concerns about injuries fueled the change.

“We are down hundreds of football players this year, and each year it’s declining,” he said. “With all of the coaches’ safety and concussion protocols and concussion testing that everybody’s taking, we’re getting that under control so that we feel pretty confident that we’re educating our people about concussions and coming back to play when they’re ready.”

The new divisions also impact other schools in the area. McLoughlin High School in Milton-Freewater will join Baker, La Grande, Ontario, and The Dalles (who are playing down) in Special District 6 of the 4A division.

In 3A, Irrigon, Umatilla, Nyssa, Vale, and Burns will be in Special District 3.

The 2A division sees Heppner, Riverside of Boardman, Stanfield, Weston-McEwen, and Grant-Union in Special District 6.

There are two 1A divisions, one for eight-man football and the other for six-man football. Special District 3 (eight-man teams) is comprised of Pilot Rock (who is playing down), Ione, Arlington, Cove, Dufur, Sherman, Adrian, Crane, Elgin, Enterprise (who is playing down), Imbler, Pine Eagle, Powder Valley, Union (who is playing down), and Wallowa.

Echo is the only team from this immediate area playing 1A six-man football. They will be in Special District 2 with Burnt River, Dayville, Harper, Huntington, Joseph, Monument, Prairie City, South Wasco, and Spray/Mitchell/Wheeler.



Football Player with One Hand Hopes to Make History in the NFL Draft – PEOPLE.com


With the 2018 NFL Draft set to begin Thursday night in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the dreams of hundreds of prospects will be either realized or crushed by the week’s end.

One of those hopefuls is the University of Central Florida linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who was born with a congenital birth defect that affected his ability to use his left hand. While the extremity was nonfunctioning, it still caused Griffin great pain, to the point he even considered removing it himself as a child.

“It was just so sensitive to touch and everything else, that I remember the night where I wanted to be Dr. Griffin,” the 22-year-old from St. Petersberg, Florida, told CBS News. “And I remember I got up and climbed on top of the counter to get a knife out, trying to cut my fingers off… and my mom caught me in the kitchen.”

Griffin’s mother, Tangie, recalled the emotional night with her son, which eventually lead the family to go to the hospital the next day and start the process of amputating the hand.

“And I’m holding him, just trying to put him back to sleep,” she told CBS News. “I don’t want him to go through that pain. It was just that bad.”

Though he was down a hand, Griffin didn’t stop playing the game of football. Griffin, along with his twin brother, Shaquill, went on to play football at UCF — though Shaquill saw much more playing time, and is now a cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. Yet, during Griffin’s last two seasons at UCF, he earned more playing time under coach Scott Frost, who recognized his skill.

“It was obvious right away how good he was,” Frost told ESPN. “It was easy after the first couple of practices to look past how many hands he had and we knew we had to find a place for him on the field.”

After helping UCF complete an undefeated season in 2017, Griffin got a spot in the NFL combine in March, and he put on quite the show.

Griffin clocked a 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds, the fastest time at the event for a linebacker since 2003.

“We did not expect a 4.38. It was… Oh, my God. Wow,” Griffin’s mother told the Orlando Sentinel. “That is amazing. I said, ‘227 pounds with that type of speed?’ Now that explains why you see him on the edge get in so fast. I mean, there it is. This is why.”

Not only that, but he pulled off a herculean feat of bench pressing a 225-pound barbell 20 times while wearing a prosthetic hand to hold it in place.

Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Griffin has told multiple outlets that he expects to be picked up by a team during this year’s draft, which would make him the only one-handed athlete to play in the league. But for Griffin, aside from making history, being selected would be a realization of his childhood dreams above all else.

“One day I’m going to be called ‘Shaquem Griffin the football player’ and not ‘Shaquem Griffin the one-hand wonder,” Griffin told Today. “I don’t need that name. Just call me Shaquem Griffin the football player. I’m good with that.”