Tag Archives: UofL

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College Spotlight | Jaire Alexander

Photo & Story by Jeff Nunn of CardinalSportsZone.comscreen-shot-2017-09-25-at-7-14-23-pm

The University of Louisville had a player voted to the first team in the first-ever Associated Press preseason football All-American list.

No, it wasn’t the reigning Heisman trophy winner, Lamar Jackson, but rather junior cornerback, Jaire Alexander.

Alexander also was named to Sports Illustrated’s 2017 Preseason All-America Team as well as 247Sports’ Preseason All-American team and the All-ACC preseason team, and was named to numerous preseason watch lists, including the Paul Hornung watch list (most versatile player in major college football), the Jim Thorpe watch list (best defensive back in college football), the Bednarik watch list (college defensive player of the year) and the Nagurski watch list (best collegiate defensive player). Those awards will be handed out after the season.

All those awards and nominations are very impressive for any college athlete but especially impressive for Alexander because he didn’t start playing cornerback until his junior year of high school. He grew up playing wide receiver but made the switch to corner when he transferred high schools. When the Charlotte, N.C., native transferred, his new school already had established wide receivers, but there was a need at corner. So, he moved to the defensive side of the ball and played corner full time but still managed to play wide receiver part-time.

The 5-foot-11-inch, Alexander managed to be the leading receiver in the Charlotte area during his senior year at Rocky River High School. Despite being the state’s most productive two-way player, and being ranked as the fifth best player in the state of North Carolina by Scout.com, he received exactly zero scholarship offers from the from any of the power-conference teams in North Carolina. He was rated as a consensus 3-star athlete and the No. 67 cornerback in the nation by Rivals.com.

The lack of big-time offers and low player ratings didn’t seem to bother Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, who is known to recruit to what he feels is a good fit for his style of play rather than “expert” rankings or star ratings. Petrino knows talent when he sees it, and so Louisville was the first school to offer Alexander a scholarship

Alexander committed to Charlotte but soon changed his mind when South Carolina came calling.

Alexander comes from a tight family, and they were heavily involved in his college decisions. It was said that Alexander and his parents felt like South Carolina didn’t give Alexander the love he deserved and the coaches couldn’t exactly tell them where their son fit into their plans.

It was time to move on, so they moved on to the University of Louisville where Alexander was only promised a chance to compete for the starting job. He had to earn it.

Alexander enrolled early in January of 2015. In his freshman year, he played in 10 games and recorded 19 total tackles, one interception, and two passes defended He also had 23 punt returns for 223 yards (9.7 yard per return average).


ALEXANDER BY THE NUMBERS

4.32

40-YARD DASH


While those statistics are good, they were not good enough for Alexander. He worked very hard in the offseason in the weight room as well as the film room.

In his sophomore season, he burst onto the national scene when he returned a punt for a touchdown versus second-ranked Florida State with ESPN Gameday in the house. He nearly broke off a second touchdown but was tripped up short in his attempt. He told his father, Landis, that “his body locked up preventing him from scoring” on that second punt return.

He later had two amazing interceptions and a forced fumble in another nationally-televised game in Death Valley versus fifth-ranked Clemson. He also had a two interception game vs Virginia. He finished his sophomore season with a team leading five interceptions, nine pass breakups, 39 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Pro Football Focus (a website that focuses on a thorough analysis to grade every player both college and the NFL) graded Alexander as the No. 1 Power-5 cornerback for the 2016 season.

Entering this season as a junior, expectations of his performance have been raised by everyone, including Alexander himself. He again has worked hard in the off-season and has become faster. He was clocked with a 4.32-second 40-yard dash.

Along with those expectations come talk of skipping his senior year and entering the NFL draft. Alexander is ranked as the No. 19 draft prospect in 2018 by ESPN’s Mel Kiper. Landis praised his son and said that he has remained grounded and focused despite all the awards and attention. He also said if his son is not projected as a first- or second-round pick at the end of the 2017 season, he’ll return to Louisville for his senior year.

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790 KRD | From Ali to Kanye to Lamar: Adidas’ American BOOM is a Huge Boost for Louisville

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was written and published in the print version of our October issue prior to the developments at the University of Louisville. Instead of pulling it from our website – because you can’t do that when something is published in print – the Extol Sports team made the decision to publish this column online and in our digital format, too. Please keep that in mind. Like so many other sports fans, we’re waiting to see what happens next.  –Angie Fenton, Extol Sports Editor-in-Chief

By Howie Lindsey of 790 KRD

screen-shot-2017-09-25-at-7-57-20-pmA NEW PARTNERSHIP worth $160 million makes Louisville the highest-earning college program in Adidas history.

The new deal, announced in late August, will include 10 years of apparel and branding partnership between the University of Louisville and the global shoe brand at a rate of $16 million per season.

“Our new partnership with Louisville is one of our largest ever investments in sports in America,” Adidas North America president Mark King said. “When you think about college sports in America, you think Louisville. The athletic program the Cardinals have created is remarkable. These young athletes are impressive competitors in every sport.”

The partnership between UofL Athletics and Adidas will not only include clothing and shoes, but also facility enhancements and collaborative, widespread brand-marketing efforts meant to take the Louisville logo to an international audience.

While the $160 million is certainly headline grabbing, the more interesting story is where this deal came from and where it is going.

GENESIS

The deal with Louisville started nearly 20 years ago when Louisville Vice President and athletic director Tom Jurich was working to find a partner for athletics in the apparel business.

“Our first deal was if we bought two pairs of shoes, the third would be half price,” Jurich said with a smile. “We have come a long way since then.”

Since then, Louisville has gone from Conference USA to the Big East to the American and now to the ACC, arguably the nation’s top all-sports league. And along the way, Louisville’s elite athletes – national champions, Gold Medal winners and Heisman Trophy winners – have worn the three stripes that Adidas is known for.

“When we began our relationship with adidas nearly 20 years ago, we weren’t in the same shape we are now,” Jurich said. “Adidas has stood arm-in-arm with us through adversity and success. The biggest winners in our cooperative partnership have clearly been our student-athletes, who are at the focus of all that we do.”

King, the Adidas’ North American president, explained, “Louisville has been an important partner of ours for nearly 20 years, and we see tremendous value in our new partnership as we continue to shape the future of sports together.”

While Louisville’s success led to higher numbers in each subsequent apparel deal, Adidas’ rise as a North American power helped send the newly announced deal into the stratosphere.

Essentially, as Louisville built itself into a multi-sport national power under Jurich’s guidance, Adidas built itself into a stronger American brand.

Signing innovative shoewear designers and art and culture influencers like Kanye West, Kendall Jenner, Pharrell and Missy Elliott, Adidas transformed its image from European soccer shoes and shell-toes to Yeezys, UltraBoosts and innovative design like Tubular Shadow.

It has worked so well that Adidas’ stock has been rising for nearly two years straight and the brand just leaped Michael Jordan’s signature line.

“Adidas has overtaken Jordan as the No. 2 brand in U.S. sport footwear. This is an achievement I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” sports industry analyst Matt Powell of the NPD Group wrote. “Adidas sport footwear sales grew more than half for the month of August, and shares grew by nearly half, to 13 percent of the market.”

“Adidas basketball grew more than 40 percent, while Nike declined in the mid-singles and Brand Jordan lost about a third of its sales,” said Tonya Garcia of MarketWatch in mid-September.

Adidas’ rise in market share and stock price meant more money available for schools like Louisville, Nebraska and Kansas.

THE FUTURE

So that’s where this new deal came from, but where is it going?

Jurich was asked to name details at the official announcement and declined, smiling while saying, “We have big plans and we’re excited about our future together.”

Adidas wants UofL – and its other collegiate partners – to think outside the traditional box of teams wearing sneakers and gear.

Jurich said, “We are thrilled to be partnered with an enterprise who shares our passion for innovation, pioneering efforts, striving for excellence and simply doing things differently.”

Doing things differently fits with Jurich’s brand – he is always thinking five years down the road to see what is next in collegiate athletics. Part of Louisville’s plan is to continue its strong Adidas Interns program, where UofL students can learn the business of sports apparel with an inside look at the Adidas brand.

And what else will the deal include? Jurich and Adidas’ Chris McGuire said fan and media will have to wait and see.

“It’s not vague,” McGuire said. McGuire is Adidas’ senior director of sports marketing. “It’s just that our product timelines are 12 months in advance, so we have a lot of work to do on our end to bring those products to market. It’s a long process for releasing products. There’s a lot of concepts that are out there, a lot of different ideas, just not anything that’s ready to come to fruition yet.”

Part of the Adidas partnership announcement centered around Louisville Athletics’ new slogan, “We, The Future.” The slogan, developed over the last 18 to 24 months, firmly focuses Louisville Athletics’ vision on the future of its athletic programs.

“It is here the future of sport will be written,” the UofL mantra states. The “We, The Future” branding is all over Louisville’s campus and athletic fields this fall.

Louisville’s slogan fits hand in glove with Adidas’ longtime mantra “Impossible is Nothing,” especially considering “Impossible is Nothing” comes from a 1974 quote by Louisville’s native son, Muhammad Ali.

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it,” Ali said. “Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

Most people familiar with the metropolitan commuter school in the early 1990s would have thought it impossible that Louisville would sign a $160 million dollar deal with an international brand like Adidas. But it happened this fall.


U OF L & ADIDAS PARTNERSHIP BY THE NUMBERS

10 YEARS

$16 PER SEASON

ADIDAS HAS OVERTAKEN JORDAN AS THE NO. 2 BRAND IN U.S. SPORT FOOTWEAR


 

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Louisville City FC | LouCity Poised For Another Historic Playoff Run

Can They Go One Better This Year?

BY KEVIN KERNEN | PHOTOS BY JONATHAN LINTNER FORMERLY OF LOUISVILLE CITY FC 

screen-shot-2017-09-25-at-8-01-24-pmAs the calendar turns the page to October, Louisville City and the United Soccer League enter the home stretch of the regular season calendar, the most consequential time of the season for teams whose playoff destiny is in doubt. Luckily, the only thing Louisville City has to concern themselves with is securing top seed for the playoffs and home field advantage that comes with it.

The team has established itself as one of the most formidable outfits in the league, boasting a dangerous rotation of strikers, a flexible group of midfielders and a staunch cadre of defenders that together have given LouCity the tools they need to improve on their last two seasons’ playoff exits, both in the conference finals.

For a second division soccer team in America, success is hard to replicate and nearly impossible to maintain, especially for the almost three seasons that Louisville City has. This almost unparalleled success can be laid at the feet of the coaching staff and Coach James O’Connor, who is a great recruiter of players and an even better scout.

The team was lucky to hold onto as many players as they did over last offseason, and additions to the squad during that time have proven the difference in this regular season. Coach O’Connor looked to import players with USL experience, and guys like Brian Ownby, George Davis IV, and “Speedy” Williams have certainly contributed much to the teams continued success.

The addition of Ownby and Davis IV, in particular, as well as the adventurous play of outside defenders Kyle Smith and Oscar Jimenez, have yielded some exciting and expansive soccer, and the team has been more positive in their play because of it. All of this has taken some pressure off central midfielders and also gave the physically imposing Luke Spencer opportunities to outmuscle and outwork defenders to get on the end of crosses, something he does exceedingly well. LouCity hasn’t had a player quite as imposing as the 6’2” almost 200 pound forward, who has thrived after a move from his hometown club of FC Cincinnati.

After having a couple of offensive talismans in the first two years in League MVP and goal scoring record holder Matt Fondy and MLS-level proven Chandler Hoffman, the team has found a reliable replacement with Spencer. There’s also been more of a rotation in the strikers, Ilija Ilic got more starts in one month than he has in his first two years with the club, and Cameron Lancaster has also factored into a handful of goals himself, taking the load off the de facto single striker system that had developed with Fondy and Hoffman playing in attack.

The only real moments of doubt that have come up throughout the season have been associated with the goalkeeping. When Greg Ranjitsingh reinjured his groin in the season opener, Tim Dobrowolski took up the role of keeper for the duration of Ranjitsingh’s absence, playing well and maintained his spot for five games, even after the former’s return to health. A disappointing outing against Tampa Bay led to Greg reprising the spot between the sticks.

Ranjitsingh has had a few gaffes, which has led to a healthy competition for the spot, and there’s been a back and forth for selection by Coach O’Connor, where Ranjitsingh has edged Dobrowolski in appearances, but the spot is far from safe for the Canadian born Tobagonian.

On the whole, Louisville City experienced an upturn in performance from 2015 to the 2016 season, and the club is again on pace to edge their point total from last year, where they managed to lose just four times in the 30-game season. What caught up with the team last year, however, was not their four league defeats, but the nine draws they had, several of them in games against much weaker opponents, something that the squad has largely been able to avoid this season, even having lost a greater number of matches, they are now in a better position.

Not only has the team’s performance improved year to year, but there has been a marked uptick in attendance as well. Where the team saw an average of just over 6,700 at home in 2015’s regular season, and 7,200 in 2016, 2017 has averaged almost 9,000 through the turnstiles at Slugger, punctuated by the five-goal dismantling of FC Cincinnati in front of the club’s first ever sellout crowd of 13,812 on Aug. 12.

While all signs are pointed in the right direction, the real moment of reckoning for Louisville City has yet to come. They have a condensed schedule over the last few weeks of the season, including the recent road swing to Canada before playing out their final two games of the season at home, the penultimate contest against Charlotte, which may end up deciding who enters the playoffs in the top spot in the East, and a finale against a listless Richmond Kickers outfit, which could be an opportunity to rest some players before the start of the nearly month-long postseason.

The playoffs will begin a week after the final regular season matchday, and with the table as congested as it is, you can expect to see teams’ seeds change and if last year’s final weekend is any indication, some teams knock another out the playoffs on the final day.

For LouCity, attaining the top spot is important. They’ve gone to two straight conference championships, both on the road (Rochester in 2015 and New York Red Bulls II in 2016) and neither in front of very many people. The crowd at Louisville Slugger Field is great and to be able to play there as long as possible is a very worthwhile goal to see out the season with.

Having talked with Coach O’Connor after the heartbreaking penalty shootout loss at Red Bull Arena to end last season, I know that both he and the team expect more out of themselves, and as for qualifying the season as a success or failure, River Cities and Kings’ Cups aside, anything less than a USL finals appearance would be a disappointment.

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Events | Louisville vs. Purdue

Photos by Jeff Nunn courtesy of CardinalSportsZone.com

Louisville vs. Purdue: The Cardinals pulled off a win in the nail-biter season opener Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium

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The University of Louisville’s season opener was a nail biter for Cardinal fans thanks to Purdue coach Jeff Brohm’s Boilermakers. The 26-point underdogs played Bobby Petrino’s team to the wire, ultimately losing the game 35-28.screen-shot-2017-09-25-at-8-13-19-pm

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The Final Say | September 2017

By Zach McCrite

By Zach McCrite

Role Play: If I Were Athletic Director At Louisville

I should be an athletic director.

Well, I guess I should first explain: I am not qualified to be an athletic director at the collegiate level.

Why? Well, I’m not real good at raising money.

You got to be the ringleader of raising a lot of dough when you’re an A.D. I’m just not good at that. I could do it once. One big capital campaign.

But, continuously going “back to the well” would be like going to the dentist for me (no offense, Dr. Fust). Perhaps with practice, I’d be better.

Alas.

For purposes of this space, here is the one and only thing I would do immediately if I, indeed, were athletic director at the University of Louisville, a school that has been a mainstay of the usually-dormant summer sports news cycle.

I would learn to be happy again.

It’s been a tough go for Athletic Director Tom Jurich. But, hey, who doesn’t hit turmoil at their job every once in awhile.

I don’t know what goes on privately there, but publicly, Jurich has come out smelling like a rose far more often in his 20 years at the helm of Cardinal athletics than not.

But then, last month happened.

That’s when WAVE-TV Sports Director Kent Taylor had a one-on-one interview with Jurich in which the A.D. talked about how the last couple of years – between the basketball program’s escort scandal, the UofL Foundation scandal and much more – has been tumultuous.

Jurich was asked if he was happy right now.

“I’m getting there. I’m getting there. It’s been a long couple of years.”

There’s no doubt that things haven’t been all rainbows and lollipops over there. However, life doesn’t seem all that bad at UofL.

It’s not like someone slammed all the way down on the brake pedal and impeded the progress Jurich has made.

Having a national championship banner coming down on your watch is no picnic, and that banner is coming down unless UofL wins what many are calling a “long shot” appeal to the NCAA.

Let’s not be phony, that one will leave a mark.

But, there’s far more in the good column than the bad for Jurich.

The latest evidence are the cranes currently affixed around Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. Another expansion for a place that is seemingly always being expanded.

That’s something for which to be happy. That’s something for which to be proud.

College World Series appearances, a Heisman Trophy winner, more fancy athletic facilities and the most profitable college basketball program in the country, right?

I understand always wanting to be better. That’s the kind of drive that made him the respectable, if not legendary, athletic director that he is today.

But, if I were A.D., I would find time every now and again to appreciate what is already there.

You could almost literally trip and fall anywhere on the UofL campus and land on something for which Jurich is responsible, at least in part.

To most fans, Jurich has been given carte blanche to do with the athletic department as he pleases, without as much as a sign-off sheet from the school’s former president on much of the matters at hand.

And that carte blanche equalled Cardinal skyscrapers and success.

However, I’m going to guess where some of his unhappiness lies.

It seems, perhaps, some checks and balances have been put back in place between the athletic department and the university as a whole.

At least, that’s the vibe many got with the introduction of interim president Dr. Greg Postel, who has taken over the mess created, in part, by the school’s former president James Ramsey.

That vibe strengthened among many in the area when Postel apparently decided to spearhead an effort to pay higher rent to the Yum Center for being it’s main tenant.

Why? Well, it seemed that the university got a “sweetheart deal” the first time around that made it tough for the arena to pay off the arena’s $690 million loan.

And that’s not UofL’s fault that it signed that deal. We know that.

That initial deal – a deal put together by Ramsey, Jurich and others – was deemed by one current university trustee as a “bad deal, and we’re paying for that now,” according to a July 20 story from The Courier-Journal.

But, the new lease amendment, led by Postel, was to make sure the Yum! Center could stay afloat financially.

Ensuing reports came out that Postel kept Jurich in the dark about the lease renegotiations. WAVE-TV reported a “source also said the new deal represents a shift in power from the athletics department to the president’s office.”

Although Postel denied that claim, my guess is that’s one reason Jurich happiness at the University of Louisville isn’t at peak levels.

Postel has become a watchdog for the school. And we saw what happened when the school was without one. Not all of it was pretty.

And even if there is a “shift of power” going on at UofL, Jurich has landed on his feet.

Sure, a piece of neatly-knitted cloth may have to come down from the ceiling of a building where basketball is played. But look what’s left? Unwavering support of tens of thousands of Cards fans all over the Commonwealth and surrounding areas.

And, I mean this in the least aggressive manner possible, how many athletic directors around the country would survive the turmoil that, while not directly your doing, happened while on your watch?

Not many, if any at all.

That’s because of the behemoth Jurich is responsible for shepherding.

And I would wager a healthy amount that Jurich will continue to nourish his behemoth – even if he has a watchdog now.

I would be happy with my creation if I were the UofL A.D.

But, alas, it’s back to my recliner for more football.

Where’s my beer?

Want to find Zach on Twitter? Just follow @BigEZ. 

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A Little Man’s Take On A Big Sports World | The Business of Rebuilding

Jim Biery

BY JIM BIERY

As the Purdue Boilermakers begin their 2017 football season Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, they will be led out on the field by first-year head coach Jeff Brohm.

Coach Brohm has led teams into battle before, most recently at Western Kentucky University where he led the Hilltoppers to consecutive Conference USA championships in 2015 and 2016.

The big difference this year is that he will have a pretty large task ahead of him: trying to rebuild a program that has seen little success in recent years and, more importantly, has lost a large part of the fan base mainly because they haven’t posted a winning record since 2011.

When it comes to rebuilding a program, it helps to understand exactly what steps need to be taken and what direction you must lead not only the players on the team but the fan base as a whole. I sat down with Brohm to ask him exactly what the business of rebuilding entails.

Brohm played under Howard Schnellenberger at the University of Louisville from 1989 to 1993 and credits his former coach as being the master of rebuilding programs. Schnellenberger turned the University of Miami into a national championship winner and football powerhouse. He is perhaps best known in these parts for stating the Cardinals were “on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.” This seemed laughable at the time.

The key to the start of a rebuilding process is to get people interested and motivated while giving them a product on the field that is entertaining to watch. Another aspect is to create a brand for the program and also market it in the right way. “As far as getting the team to buy into the right philosophy, you need to get them to believe they are better than what they think they are,” said Brohm. “Create a sense of confidence and swagger as they take the field against any given opponent. The players need to know you are a genuine person and you’re in it for the right reasons, and if you surround yourself with the right people, anything can be achieved.”

For the fans, he said, you have to provide an exciting style of football that they want to come and watch, and know that the team is going to play to the very end with confidence, to see a team that plays hard and lays it all on the line.

Over the past three years, the Boilermakers have averaged 35,731 in attendance and have compiled an overall record of 8-26. This is the lowest three-year average since 1950-1952. That’s pretty dismal considering the seating capacity at Ross-Ade Stadium is 57,236. During this span, teams like Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame have had more fans in the stands for the game than the Boilermaker.

As far as the boosters of the program are concerned, Brohm said being open and honest with them and having an open-door policy is critical. Letting them know you are listening to them and willing to address any questions they may have is vital to building their support. “If you can get them to buy into what we’re trying to do and show the effort on the field, it helps to get them to trust in your beliefs for the team,” he said.

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Photo of the author with Purdue football head coach Jeff Brohm.

When it comes to putting fans back in the seats, you have to play an exciting schedule with teams outside the Big Ten that people want to see, Brohm said. You need to show the fans that you are competing at a high level, and if you can’t win all the games, the fans need to see the effort. Eventually, you win a few games that you’re not “supposed” to and get better every year, which should bring more people to the games.

When asked what a successful first year would look like, Brohm said he wants a team that is competitive and fights to the very end. This competitiveness should be evident to the average fan. They should be able to walk away from the game and say, “These guys play hard and they competed.” Of course, trying to win six games and go to a bowl is the logical first step.

With such an impressive start to his head coaching career Brohm had several opportunities to choose from when it came to taking the next step. So, why Purdue? “The school has a great tradition, is part of a great conference, and people are hungry for success,” he said.

Is Purdue football on a collision course like Schnellenberger believed UofL was? Who knows. But I’ll tell you this, given Brohm’s track record so far in coaching, not to mention his legendary mentor, I can’t wait for the journey to begin. Boiler Up!

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Grey Matter

acr907620400824322587647LouCity fan Joey Cecil is in the fight of his life with much support along the way.

BY KEVIN KERNEN | PHOTOS BY JONATHAN LINTNER OF LOUISVILLE CITY FC 

For most 27-year-olds, life is relatively simple. It’s no different for Joey Cecil – a financial educator and Trinity-Bellarmine-Louisville grad – who also has a love for sports.

He also happens to have terminal brain cancer.

Back in late March, after experiencing recurring migraines followed by bouts of vomiting, Joey visited three different immediate care centers. They were ready to chalk his symptoms up to a simple sinus infection, but after a couple weeks of his symptoms not diminishing, he went to the emergency room. There, a CT scan was ordered and after medical professionals spotted a growth that was causing the pressure, Joey was immediately admitted, and neurosurgeon Dr. David Sun went to work removing the growth.

Dr. Sun was confident he removed the majority of the tumor in question, but it’s impossible to completely remove the affected area without risking loss of various functions of the brain, so there are inevitably a few cancerous cells remaining. So, a sample of the growth was sent for testing. Joey and his family faced a tense two-week period before the results came back: It was a Grade IV glioblastoma, the most advanced phase of the relatively uncommon disease.

The numbers associated with that prognosis do not make for light reading: While it generally affects older patients, most people survive somewhere between 14 months and 3 years, with just 10 percent of people affected living beyond five years, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

But Joey isn’t interested in the numbers.

He lives by a motto of “defying the stats” and he does something every day that puts himself a step ahead of the disease, be it improving his diet or taking a walk. He’s also an avid bowler (he has more than a dozen perfect games and a state championship to his name) and Louisville City FC fan.

Joey has taken a hiatus from his work at the Community Services department of Louisville Metro Government – where he served as a financial educator for low- and middle-income families – while he gets adjusted to his medication. He has used the time to both reconnect with friends and spread awareness about glioblastoma, but he is eager to return to his work, something he aims to do by October.

When you see Joey, the only indication he has a terminal disease would be the Optune device he wears around his head most days, a component of his treatment that’s used in concert with chemotherapy.

Battling any disease can be expensive. So, Joey’s friends made t-shirts bearing the words “Love My Joey” to sell with proceeds going toward medical costs. Additionally, the Louisville Coopers – LouCity’s supporters – have jumped on board showing support by way of banners, promotion of the t-shirts and much more.

“I love to see the shirts out there, but what I’m (most concerned with) is people learning about this disease,” Joey said.

Since glioblastoma is terminal, his student loan company has forgiven his loans from his history and political science bachelor degrees from Bellarmine and public administration master’s from the University of Louisville. He also has an open invitation to attend Louisville City training sessions, which was extended to him by Coach James O’Connor.

Joey’s relationship with the team started back in 2015, when he worked as a game-day intern to help his Trinity classmate and then-communication director Steve Peake. During Joey’s recovery at Norton Hospital, the team sent Joey a get-well-soon video, and he has had a personal relationship with many of the players since. acr907620400824321321249

“(I have been happy) to see everyone in my life who wants to step up and help out,” Joey said.

Despite facing a daunting outcome, “(I am) happy that it’s happened,” he admitted. “I wouldn’t change anything.”

Instead of looking down the road, Joey takes things a day at a time. He’s talked to other people with the same diagnosis and found that “a lot of people with these diagnoses get bogged down, looking too far down the road instead of just doing what they can control.”

Like most anyone, Joey has a bucket list of sports – he’d like to visit London to see Chelsea play and take in the Masters, among other goals – but he’s not allowing himself to consider “I might not be here next year. … You cannot live in fear of (cancer), you live in spite of it.”

For more information on Joey’s battle, visit www.LoveMyJoey.com.

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Sirmon Says “Simple”

screen-shot-2017-08-28-at-8-02-31-pmBy Howie Lindsey

Louisville Football Spring PRactice

Photos courtesy University of Louisville Athletics

Sirmon’s ‘simple’ defense might be what the Dr. ordered for Louisville

WHAT’S THE OLD PHRASE? KISS: KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID?

Well, for Louisville football, the defense might co-opt that acronym: KISS: Keep It Simple, Sirmon.

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino made a change in his defensive coordinator at the end of the 2016 season to bring in Peter Sirmon. Part of Petrino’s charge to Sirmon was to revamp Louisville’s defensive efforts for the 2017 season.

And how did Sirmon plan to improve Louisville’s defense? By keeping it simple.

Some of the key phrases Sirmon heard when talking with defensive players at Louisville when he arrived were “complicated” and “confusing.” That’s not what you want to hear from a defensive group tasked with stopping an offense.

While all college football defenses are more complex than just “See ball, get ball,” the UofL defense seemed to be suffering a bit from overthink on the part of former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham (now at Mississippi State).

“I want to take pride in keeping it simple,” Sirmon told reporters back in the spring.

He has, and the players seem to be responding well.

“It’s not that much different, but the words are different, easier to understand,” senior defensive lineman Drew Bailey said.

“The vocabulary is brought down so we can get the plays quicker,” said senior linebacker Stacy Thomas. “We had a couple games where they would run hurry-up, and then we would have trouble getting the call and then echoing it to everybody, so that was an issue last year.”

“I want it to be player-friendly,” Sirmon said. “I’m not so sure if simple is better or complex is better. I don’t know if it is better or worse. What I know is my job is to develop that locker room and find the best combination of players to get on the field. It was probably 18 to 20 years ago when free agency started hitting and getting wild in the NFL, and it was at that time that you saw defensive coordinators start to simplify their concepts because the owners needed to see the new players come in and play immediately. In the 70s and 80s you had teams that had players for eight to 11 years and they grew up in a system. There wasn’t a lot of movement team to team within the league.

“The same thing happened, in my mind, in college football. The better you recruit and the more talent you get on a young roster, how do you turn that talent into production?”

Linebackers coach Cort Dennison, who coached under both Grantham and now Sirmon, explained it this way: “We want to have one meaning for each signal, not multiple words for any particular defense. We want to get the call in and make it as easy as we can for our guys to play fast.”

So the need for simplicity seemed to be clear, but what does Sirmon’s “simple” defense look like? Well, that’s a little more complicated.

Louisville lined up in a base 3-4 defense for most of the Grantham tenure. Sirmon sparked debate and intrigue when the 2017 media guide was released and showed Louisville’s base defense in a 4-3 scheme. He used both – and more –during his time at Mississippi State, and Louisville has even been practicing 4-2-5 and other pass-heavy defenses during Fall Camp in preparation for some pass-heavy opponents.

“I like to be the toughest group of guys out there,” Sirmon said when asked how he wants his defense to play. “I think there is toughness that intrisically in us and there is some toughness that is developed and I think there is some toughness when 11 guys choose to play together. I think the tough guys can pull some guys along with them. We talk a lot on defense about the terms team, we and us. Team, we and us is the slide that we begin every meeting with and that is about the 40-50 guys we are working with and the coaches supporting the 11 guys on the field at that particular time.”

Sirmon’s pedigree in the NFL gives him a certain weight that makes the players take notice.

After a strong career at Oregon, Sirmon was drafted in 2000 by the Tennessee Titans and played seven seasons as a linebacker in the NFL.

“As with most athletes, I got old,” said Sirmon. “I hit 30 and got older, and then I took a year off after the NFL and did some broadcasting with the Titans. Then, I coached at Central Washington, and the coaching bug bit me. I didn’t really plan on going into coaching, but it bit me, and I’ve been a coach ever since.”

Sirmon is one of the hottest names in college football. He broke into coaching at Central Washington in 2008 and then Oregon as a GA in 2009, followed by stops at Tennessee (2010-11), Washington (2012-13), USC (2014-15) and Mississippi State (2016) before coming to Louisville.

“You know he understands what it takes to play defense at the highest level,” Dennison said when asked why Sirmon seems to be such a hot commodity in the coaching ranks. “It is great to get to work alongside him, and our entire defensive staff is strong with ‘LD’ and ‘Whammy,’ too.”

Whammy is Lorenzo Ward, the veteran defensive backs coach from South Carolina who was hired after the bowl game to help Louisville’s secondary reach its potential. LD, is former Louisville defensive lineman L.D. Scott, who has been Louisville’s defensive line coach since Petrinoreturned to Louisville.

Sirmon and the new coaching staff on defense will be tested early and often. Louisville’s schedule is packed with dynamic offenses that include two of the last four national champions in Clemson and Florida State and some of the top offensive coordinators in the country.

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The Final Say | August 2017

screen-shot-2017-08-05-at-5-36-06-pmZach’s State Of College Football Address

By Zach McCrite 

Here ye, here ye.

As we embark on another season of college football, in the backyard of the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, it is I, the all-knowing (hardly), almighty (not really) Zach McCrite here, leader of Sports Gasbag Nation, to give you the State of College Football Address.

There will be no predictions, as predictions are doomed to fail (I fail enough on my own, thank you).

There are, however, expectations. Expectations created by fans, media and even the donors and administration at their respective school.

Do the coaches have their own expectations? Of course. And, short of a College Football Playoff berth, those expectations never seem to be met, so I, your fearless (most would disagree, but let’s go with it) leader of Sports Gasbag Nation moves to strike them from public record.

Let us begin nationally, where I can say this once and for all: The Southeastern Conference is not your king.

They’re not good. It’s Alabama and everyone else. Anyone who tells you differently is likely an SEC fan mad that their team isn’t in the same ballpark as Nick Saban’s NFL farm.

You see, the patented SEC “honk” has a patented SEC move: to tell others if teams in their conference are not living up to expectations, it is for no other reason than the league is “just too good” and everyone in the league is “just beating up on each other” because the SEC is just a different animal.

It is I, leader of Sports Gasbag Nation, who will agree that the SEC is, indeed, a different animal. We shall call them a kitten.

Of course, the exception to this is Alabama. Because Saban.

This year, instead of going at these delusional pro-SEC people with your own set of facts and opinions, all you have to do when you hear these nimrods tout their conference as almighty is this: chuckle.

Now, a minute, if you will, on each of the “big three” college football teams in our own backyard.

THE STATE OF LOUISVILLE FOOTBALL 

I hereby declare that the Louisville Cardinals are national championship contenders. Why not? Many publications that deem themselves smarter than I are predicting that Louisville is no better than the third-best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, behind Clemson and Florida State.

There are simple reasons why that can, and should, be disproven.

First, too much emphasis is being placed on the finish, albeit regurgitation-worthy, of last season. That season-ending three-game spiral began with a blowout loss at Houston. Nevermind that Houston had already beaten perennial power Oklahoma earlier in the year.

The Cardinals laid an egg, plain and simple.

Ging into that game, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee had deemed Louisville just one spot out of the playoff, ranking them fifth in the country.

That Houston loss, combined with the earlier loss at eventual national champion Clemson in one of the best games of the season, took Bobby Petrino’s bunch out of the national title discussion with just one game left in their season.

And that one game left was Kentucky.

Let it be known, Kentucky was the better team on that day against Louisville. But they wouldn’t have been the better team that day, in your leader’s eyes, had Louisville still had a national championship berth for which to play.

By the time Louisville play LSU in the Citrus Bowl, they appeared to be at a football game that they did not want to play in, getting bludgeoned 29-9.

I hereby grant UofL a reprieve from that unbelievably embarrassing season-ending tumble. Too much of the Cardinals’ 2017 public expectations are based on their performance in the final two games of the year, which had far less meaning to the coaches and players than it did to the college football world.

Also, lest we forget, the Cards have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Clemson lost their all-star quarterback, and Florida State was embarrassed by this same Louisville team just 12 months ago.

I hereby declare the Cardinals title contenders.

THE STATE OF KENTUCKY FOOTBALL 

Ah, Kentucky. You are quite the lovable football character. You are the program we pat on the head like a good dog who just brought back the ball we launched into the neighbor’s yard.

Sure, you may urinate in a million places that we don’t really appreciate (like vs. Southern Mississippi), but every once in a while, you find a bone (like at Louisville).

And for some reason, the majority of fans seem fine with this. It’s like they said “hey, we’ll take all your 7-5’s and your 6-6’s and your 5-7’s. Just get us to basketball season and try not to embarrass us.”

And this season is no different. Kentucky feels like another mediocre-at-best member of the aforementioned below-average-after-Bama SEC.

THE STATE OF INDIANA FOOTBALL 

Let us start off the field. I, your leader of Sports Gasbag Nation (an admitted IU fan), am still a little salty with how athletic director Fred Glass introduced Tom Allen as the new head coach of Indiana University football.

Glass made Allen, on what quite possibly was the best day of Allen’s professional life, sit mostly idle at the press conference table while Glass announced the very sudden firing of former coach Kevin Wilson. Save for a quick statement from the new head coach on how this was the opportunity of a lifetime, the press only cared about “Where’d the old coach go?” Glass didn’t give his new head coach his own day filled with positivity about the football team. That’s sat with me all offseason.

Now, as far as the actual football is concerned: see Kentucky.

So, let it be written. So, let it be done.

– Your Leader of Sports Gasbag Nation

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GET A GLIMPSE | Amy Wilson

screen-shot-2017-08-05-at-5-20-26-pm-copyHow can you positively impact people’s lives? Amy Wilson knows.

AMY WILSON

LONG TERM CARE CONSULTING PHARMACIST/GROUP FITNESS DIRECTOR/FITNESS INSTRUCTOR/MASTER TRAINER FOR R.I.P.P.E.D.

I found the Louisville Athletic Center (LAC) when I moved to the area from Chicago. I knew I wanted to be part of the instructor team when I first walked in to the Westport LAC facility 11 years ago. Since then, I have become the group fitness director at the Taylorsville Road location. The members and staff are my second family. Everyone is so positive and encouraging. I love seeing my regular group participants encouraging and helping new students. I love helping people get healthy and fit. As a pharmacist, I don’t want people on medication because of being sedentary. At LAC I can positively impact people to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

I am proud at the age of 46 that I can do more push-ups and jump higher than I could when I was in high school.

The biggest challenge for me is taking a day off. As an instructor and master trainer, I am usually working out most days. When I was 29, I ruptured my L5 disc and had to have back surgery. So, it is very important for me to keep my core strong and stay flexible. My goal is to do more recovery workouts such as yoga to increase my flexibility.

My biggest supporters are my husband, Drue King, and my general manager at LAC Taylorsville, Stephanie VonTrapp.

If you are looking to go on a journey to reclaim your health, just know you have to start somewhere. It’s OK to start slow. The most important aspect is you show up. Don’t do it alone, come to class, introduce yourself to the instructor and your fellow classmates. The things I hear the most are: “People will be staring at me and I need to be in shape first.” No, people will not be staring at you. They are concentrating on the instructor and what they, themselves, look like, and you do not have to be in shape first. That is what the class is for – to help you on your journey, to get you out of your comfort zone.

I stay fit by doing R.I.P.P.E.D. two to three times a week. It is both cardio and weights, which is so important because as females, we do way too much cardio. Lifting weights increases muscle which increases metabolism. It’s a win-win. I also teach other classes, including Dance Fitness, Cardio Kickboxing, Muscle Sculpting and Pop Pilates, which all help me stay in shape. As for diet, I follow the blood-sugar stabilization program and limit the amount of sugar intake and drink lots of water.

Photo by David Harrison