Sunday, February 21, 2016

#CSUDH Bulletin - Rite of Passage pt 1

It has been almost a year and a half since this blog has been active. Well, the wait is over! My professor asked me to share my experiences and give advice in hopes it will provide insight to my fellow and younger classmates.

I have, however, been doing a lot of writing and podcasting for other sites. I'm back here because it's a requirement for my school's online student newspaper. So from now until the end of May, all original material you see here is for the purpose of enlightening readers about my journey toward becoming a paid media professional, hopefully.

The key to reaching all of the heights I have has been networking. That will be the keyword in all of my future posts in this series. Talent will only take you so far, you have to be able to communicate with people and sell yourself or your story. But in the end, it's all about doing good work and putting in hard work.

Enough of the tutorial, for now. Below is a list of some things I have done for other publications:

  • The Pick and Roll - writer and NBA editor
  • OpinioNation - blogger
  • Sideline Pops and Blacktops - podcast for OpinioNation
  • Samsung Las Vegas NBA Summer League - media credentials for The Pick and Roll
  • Lakers and Clippers home games - media credentials for The Pick and Roll
  • NGSC West Recess - podcast for NGSC Sports
  • NFLPA Bowl - media credentials for Pro Player Insiders
  • NBA All-Star Game - media credentials for The Pick and Roll
  • CSUDH Bulletin - print edition Staff Writer
  • BallisLife High School All-American Game - media credentials for The Pick and Roll
  • Fantasy Football Addicts Support Group - podcast for NGSC Sports
  • Super Bowl - media credentials for Pro Player Insiders (everything but the game)
  • CSUDH Bulletin - online Staff writer and copy editor for both editions
I didn't even mention the social media work I have done on behalf of the above companies, which is very important. Remember... NETWORK!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Carolina Panthers Super Bowl Preview

Panthers Charles Tillman story by Melissa Mahler

Carolina on offense

Let’s take a look at Carolina’s offense versus Denver’s defense via the run. The strength of this team on offense is their rushing game. They ran the ball more than any other team in the league this season with 526 attempts, finished with the second most yards, racking up almost 143 per game, and they scored 18 touchdowns on the ground, which was tied for second. Jonathon Stewart has shown burst at times this season and has had two nice games inCam Newton 350 the post season. However, Cam Newton‘s size and fearlessness when he decides to run the ball is what makes this offense go; he converted a whopping 56 of his runs for a first down and 10 for touchdowns. Newton’s ability to run is the main reason this team hasn’t been held to under 100 yards in ANY game this season.

So basically, if they just continue to do what they’ve been doing all season, they’ll win the game right? Well it’s not that simple because they’re facing an opponent that was third best against the run this year. Denver gave up less than 84 yards rushing per game. Middle linebackers Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall are two of the fastest on the second level that Carolina will have seen all season long; they read the run well and flow quickly to the ball to snuff out running attempts. Safety T.J. Ward is loves to mix it up with inside and lay the hat down.

The slight edge here goes to Carolina. Many times when teams struggle running the ball early against Denver, they tend to abandon it, which plays right into their defense’s game plan. But not Carolina, they will keep pounding it. Denver is facing an offense that is similar to the Seattle team that destroyed them in the Super Bowl two years ago, but the main difference is the physicality that Newton brings to the field.

Now let’s look at Carolina’s offense versus Denver’s defense via passing game. The Carolina wide receivers aren’t much to write about (read what I wrote about them before you continue) but make plays when they need to. Cam Newton finished with modest passing yardage with just over 3500 but he threw 35 touchdown passes to only 10 interceptions. The truth is, he didn’t need to throw it that much because of how well the team ran the ball this year.

If you go by the raw numbers, you’ll say that Denver has the clear advantage here because they were the best defense in the league, especially against the pass where they allowed less than 200 yards per game. Starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Chris Harris were both voted to the Pro Bowl; they both rsz_120714-nfl-von-miller-ln-pivresize1200675high41do an excellent job in coverage. The coverage versus wide receivers allows outside linebackers Demarcus Ware and Von Miller time to terrorize quarterbacks. They both are tremendous pass rushers – both selected for the Pro Bowl – who makes it difficult for quarterbacks to go through their progressions.

Denver having a slight advantage. However what I didn’t mention in the previous paragraph is the tight end play. Tight end Greg Olsen is Cam Newton’s main weapon. If there is a weakness in Denver’s passing defense, it is guarding the tight end. Rob Gronkowski had a field day both times he played against Denver; Olsen is just as good as Gronk is.

Carolina on defense

Carolina finished in the top four of the league against the run. Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short clogged things up in the middle to make life easier for theStar-Panthers linebackers. Lotulelei commands a double team every time, if you don’t double him, the entire ground game will be shut down. Everybody knows about the All Pro linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis because of the freedom to roam that the defensive line pressure affords them.

It always starts with the run in a Gary Kubiak offense. Unfortunately for Denver this offensive line never got up to the desired speed necessary to make things click on offense for them. CJ Anderson and Ronnie Hillman seemed to get on track down the stretch, though. They will really need to force the issue here and continue that momentum to give them the best chance at winning. This offense was only 17th ranked in this department.

The advantage here goes to the Panthers.

Let’s see how the game might look when Denver is throwing it. Peyton Manning has had the worst year of his career. Manning has thrown almost twice as many interceptions as touchdowns and never seemed to look comfortable in this scheme. However, he hasn’t thrown an interception in the post season. Demaryius Thomas has been the main guy for Manning’s run in Denver; he has been quiet in the post season and will need to step up to loosen up the Carolina defense.

The Panthers play fundamentally sound defense. Safety Kurt Coleman’s job is simple because of the sound play by the rest of this group; Coleman led this team with seven interceptions. The aforementioned All Pros at linebacker are also great pass defenders at the intermediate level. Cornerback Josh Norman had a breakout season and he rightfully garnered a lot of attention because of the plays he has made. Norman will likely lock down one of Denver’s receiving options. However, it all starts up front with the defensive linemen, they pressure the QB so well that Carolina rarely blitzes the pass. Kawann Short led them in sacks; a feat not usually accomplished by a defensive tackle.

The advantage here goes to Carolina. This defense isn’t called “Thieves Avenue” for nothing. I won’t rule out either of Denver’s wideouts having a big game. Where they might have success is when they go to three-wide sets and move Emmanuel Sanders to the slot to assure he doesn’t get defended by Norman. Other teams have had a measure of success by targeting the wide receivers that Norman doesn’t cover.

The deciding factor

The team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the football game. Carolina led the league with a +20 turnover ratio; they forced 39 turnovers. Carolina led the league in scoring points after turnovers. This category is crucial to their success. Denver’s ratio was -4. Denver has reached this game because of their defense putting this offense in a position to succeed or by scoring it themselves; offenses have a very difficult time moving the ball against them. It’s almost safe to say that if Denver doesn’t turn the ball over they will be holding the Lombardi trophy when it’s all said and done.

Prediction: Carolina 23 – Denver 20

Friday, February 5, 2016

Meet the 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Finalists

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The NFL announced the three finalists for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide at a press conference at the Moscone Media Center in San Francisco Friday morning. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson are the three finalists chosen for the honor.

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. The award was established in 1970. It was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton.

Each team nominates one player who has had a significant positive impact on his community.  The nominees for Super Bowl 50 participants were Denver Broncos safety David Burton Jr. and Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen. Olsen’s team mate linebacker Thomas Davis was the recipient of this same honor last season.

Walter Payton’s daughter, Brittney Payton, addressed the audience and spoke of the community service work the finalists are doing.

“Benjamin Watson’s ONE MORE foundation carries the hope and love of Christ who need it most… While understanding the best and effective way to reach people’s hearts is by first meeting their physical needs.”
 “Eli Manning is an avid supporter of causes that support children… Eli and his wife founded the Eli and Abby Children’s Clinics in 2007 and kicked off a five-year funding campaign raising nearly $3 million.”
 “Anquan Boldin continues to seize opportunities to save lives… The Anquan Boldin (Q81) Foundation was formed in 2004 with a mission to expand the education and life opportunities of underprivileged youths.

Watson hosts several youth football camps, is a spokesperson for All Pro Dads and annually holds an annual event where he selects 25 families from a domestic shelter and treats them to a shopping spree for their family’s needs.

“It’s an honor to be standing in front of you as a finalist,” Watson said. “I want to thank the Payton family for continuing to being an example of excellence. One thing my wife and I always talk about is leaving a legacy not only for our children but other people we come in contact with.”

Manning had served as the chairman of the New York March for Babies, Tackle Kids’ Cancer, Guiding Eyes’ for the Blind and other charities to add to his own foundation. He also recently partnered with FedEx for their newly established program.

“I really want to thank Nationwide and the Walter Payton Man of the Year [committee] for supporting and recognizing all the great works NFL players are doing in their communities,” Manning said. “It’s funny having known these guys for 12 years. We all trained together back in 2004. Our finest moments won’t be the catches, the touchdowns or our successes on the field but the impact we’ve made on people’s lives in our communities.”

Boldin was the 2014 recipient of the NFLPA Byron “Whizzer” White Award, which recognizes the player who goes above and beyond to perform community service. Boldin’s Q81 foundation has showcased charitable activities in Phoenix, Baltimore, South Florida and the San Francisco Bay Area — all communities he has lived and served in throughout his playing career.

“I was definitely honored to be here,” said Boldin. “The things that we do in the community is not for accolades. It’s because we truly feel in our heart that it’s the right thing to do. We want to see people succeed and be successful in their lives, as well.”

The winner will be announced during NFL Honors, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Saturday, the night before Super Bowl 50, from 9-11 p.m. ET on CBS.

The winner will receive a $55,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice and the two runners-up will receive an $11,000 donation. The other 29 team finalists received a $5,000 donation. Donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

Notes from Funny Cold Play Super Bowl Presser

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On Thursday afternoon, the NFL held a press conference for the headliners of the Pepsi Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show – Coldplay – to address the media. But before the performers were introduced to the press, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy made some announcements of other game-day activities that were yet to be disclosed.

 First, let’s highlight some of what the band had to say:

Lead singer Chris Martin revealed that his children would be in the venue for the performance after his son Moses designed two pairs of shoes for him: one to wear at the press conference and one to wear during the halftime show.

When asked about handling the pressure of performing on this big stage, Martin said the group is dealing with the stress by speaking to each other about what they wanted to communicate in the halftime show.

“We decided that we wanted to make it about togetherness and acceptance and the things we really believe in,” explained Martin. “And then we called the right guests, so we know that we have great people joining us.”

Coldplay didn’t reveal who all the guests were but it had been known for some time that BeyoncĂ© would be one of the performers to join them. Also, prior to taking the stage, Pepsi CMO Seth Kaufman announced Janelle Monae will open the show for the British band.

When pressed for details on what fans can expect from their performance Martin told the audience they were asked to honor the past, present and future because it’s the 50th year.

“The way we’ve done that is looking to the future by asking these kids from YOLA – Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles,” explained Martin. “The way we’re sort of honoring the past is by asking some of the people whose halftime shows we really loved and BeyoncĂ©’s of course is right up there.”

Martin expressed that anyone who does this halftime show knows that this is the biggest honor and privilege ever and they just want to make it enjoyable.

The group showed in this presser that they’re not just entertainers while performing songs on the stage but have a good sense of humor as they exchanged comedic barbs with some of the reporters.

At one point, Martin dropped an F-bomb, while jokingly answering a question about a “Left Shark” moment in reference to Katy Perry’s performance in last year’s show.

“We’ve trained our sharks so well,” said Martin. “It’s a difficult question to answer. Are you saying which part of our show will we F*** up terribly?”

Of course, this couldn’t be a Super Bowl event without discussion about the game itself. The band let it be known that they know absolutely nothing about the sport. But became Panthers fans when they were told Cam Newton is a fan of the group.

“This changes things significantly,” exclaimed Will Champion, jokingly. “Plus they have a Scottish kicker as well, and Guy, our bass player, is Scottish as well, so we feel a certain affinity with the Scots, so I think we’ll go Panthers.”

Trying to maintain a level of political correctness, Martin jumped in with another joke.

“I’m going with the Panthers,” added Martin. “Just to be clear, that’s the Denver Panthers that we definitely are rooting for, Okay? So put that in your paper!”

And now for the aforementioned announcements:

McCarthy announced 40 Super Bowl MVPs will be introduced to the crowd on the field in a special pre-game moment. That will be followed by recognition of the Walter Payton Man of the Year recipient.

The Armed Forces Chorus will then sing “America The Beautiful” and Lady Gaga will sing the National Anthem afterwards.

McCarthy also provided details about the Super Bowl coin toss, which will feature a special ceremony honoring football greats from the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers. Joe Montana will toss the coin. Jerry Rice and Steve Young will surround Montana. Representing the Raiders in the ceremony will be Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Plunkett and Marcus Allen.

At the conclusion of the game, Brett Favre, Emmitt Smith and Lynn Swann will bring the Vince Lombardi trophy to the podium.

Seal and Sam Hunt, earlier in the week, were tapped to headline the Super Bowl 50 NFL Tailgate Party at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

America The Beautiful for Super Bowl 50 Announced

We already know Lady Gaga will sing the national anthem and Coldplay will the headline the performance in the Pepsi Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show. And we now know that the Armed Forces Chorus will sing “America The Beautiful.”

Below is a press release from NFL Communications

The ARMED FORCES CHORUS will sing “America The Beautiful” as part of Super Bowl 50 pregame festivities at Levi’s Stadium in the San Francisco Bay Area on Sunday, February 7, the NFL and CBS announced today. The performance will be televised live on CBS prior to kickoff.

The Armed Forces Chorus is made up of 50 U.S. Service men and women from the premier military bands in Washington DC representing the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

More than 118.5 million viewers watched last year’s Super Bowl, the most-watched television program in history.  The pregame show, including the National Anthem, and Super Bowl 50 will be broadcast worldwide.

In addition, on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Academy Award winning actress MARLEE MATLIN will perform in American Sign Language “America The Beautiful”.

The Armed Forces Chorus joins VICKI CARR (Super Bowl XI), RAY CHARLES (Super Bowl XXXV), MARY J. BLIGE & MARC ANTHONY (Super Bowl XXXVI), ALICIA KEYS (Super Bowl XXXIX), FAITH HILL (Super Bowl XLIII), QUEEN LATIFAH (Super Bowl XLIV & XLVIII), LEA MICHELE (Super Bowl XLVI) and JOHN LEGEND(Super Bowl XLIX) in singing “America The Beautiful” at Super Bowl.  In 2013, JENNIFER HUDSON along with 26 children from the Newton, CT community sang the song in advance of Super Bowl XLVII.

The NFL previously announced LADY GAGA will sing the national anthem and COLDPLAY will be one of several special artists performing in the Pepsi Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show. The pregame and halftime shows are an NFL NETWORK PRODUCTION and will be executive produced by RICKY KIRSHNER.

FedEx Commits to Delivering for Good


FedEx, the NFL and Eli Manning teamed up to host a press conference and panel discussion at the Super Bowl 50 Media Center Presented by Microsoft on Tuesday. The press conference, moderated by USA Today editor David Meeks, unveiled a new global FedEx program called FedEx Cares. Since 2002, FedEx has donated almost $2 million to important community initiatives as part of the FedEx Air & Ground NFL program.

FedEx Senior Vice President of Integrated Marketing Communications Patrick Fitzgerald made the announcement that FedEx Cares is donating $50 million for immediate use for disaster preparedness and relief efforts in honor of Super Bowl 50. The $50 million contribution is part of a larger $200 million commitment to over 200 communities globally by 2020.

“FedEx and our team members have a long history of supporting the communities where we live and work,” said Fitzgerald. “This new strategy builds on that heritage and takes it to the next level by focusing on ways we can use our operational strength and business expertise to address social challenges.”

Manning, a well-known philanthropist and nominee for this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award, discussed being a part of this program is important to him.

“I think it’s a wonderful cause and wonderful program,” said Manning. “The things that FedEx can do by getting supplies to areas when they see a disaster is on the way and, obviously, what they can do afterwards. It’s just really a great program and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

FedEx Cares will focus on the following “five pillars of strategic investment to strengthen communities:
  1. Delivering for Good:  Using our global network to deliver resources where they are needed most in times of disaster and for special shipments.
  2. Sustainable Transportation:  Developing solutions that connect the world responsibly and resourcefully.
  3. Employment Pathways:  Leveraging their global reach to provide pathways to success for young adults in underserved populations.
  4. Road Safety:  Applying their expertise in road safety with its global reach to protect pedestrians and make roads safer.
  5. Global Entrepreneurship:  Advancing women and minority-owned small businesses and continuing to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs, helping them access new markets and grow.
Joining Fitzgerald, Manning and Meeks in the panel discussion were:

  • Thomas Tighe – President and CEO, Direct Relief (a nonprofit providing medical aid to people around the world)
  • Anna Isaacson – Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility, NFL
  • Cliff Holtz – President of Humanitarian Services, American Red Cross
  • Kristina Griffin – Director of Corporate Alliances, USO

Here are a few highlights from the discussion:
One thing that I have learned as we’ve gone through various natural disasters is the importance of water and our ability to get water in. Whether it be from an earthquake, hurricane or other type of disaster, water is desperately needed. – Patrick Fitzgerald
 I was in New Orleans a couple of days after Hurricane Katrina hit. Just hearing the stories firsthand from the people whose lives were affected by the hurricane about the horror stories they went through. And also how appreciative they were for the American Red Cross for having shelters and the help they were getting trying to get in touch with their family members who might have been displaced. -Eli Manning
 We really feel that responsibility to give back — at the core — and serve our fans who make the game what it is. - Ana Isaacson
 In Nepal, we were getting request for aid — there were thousands dead, traumatic injuries — the supply lines were down. FedEx doesn’t fly there, they hadn’t landed a plane there in 18 years. FedEx said, “we’re in let’s go.” FedEx arrived with over 350 tons of supply. It was this great uplifting moment. -Thomas Tighe
 The American Red Cross responded to 176 major disasters last year in the United States, alone. -Cliff Holtz
 FedEx has truly helped us deliver goodness to our service men and women all over the world. Around Veteran’s Day, we hold a program called “Holidays for Heroes” where we stuff 10,000 care packages in one day to go to our troops in Afghanistan during the holidays. FedEx helps with logistics and their employees volunteer to come in all day and help stuff the packages. -Kristina Griffin.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Thomas Davis Set to Play in Super Bowl

photo courtesy of B. Lively Images

All-Pro linebacker Thomas Davis will be good to go as far playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. It’s very rare in this league that a player appears as a full participant on the injury report but doesn’t play in the game.

This is pretty much what we’ve being hearing from Davis all week and ever since he got injured.  Davis broke his right forearm in the NFC Championship victory over Arizona and had surgery to put a plate and 12 screws in his right arm the day after.

Below is an Instagram photo shared by Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

A post shared by Albert Breer (@albert_breer) on

In a Carolina Panthers Pool Report by Jarret Bell released earlier Wednesday, he also thinks Davis will be playing in the Super Bowl:

Davis is due for another exam on Friday, but his practice load clearly indicated that the 11th-year veteran is on track to play against the Denver Broncos on Sunday

What this means is that the NFC champs will be injury free. Jarred Allen is a situational player who should be healthy enough to play on passing downs.

Panthers Defense is Sound, Says Coleman

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The Carolina Panthers defense likes to have fun but they are still all about business. Safety Kurt Coleman was on hand to discuss how the team is approaching Super Bowl 50.

“I think we’ve (done) a great job of just being able to enjoy the moment. I don’t think we’re putting much pressure on ourselves,” said Coleman. “Obviously, the lights and the glamour get bigger, but to us, it’s about executing the X’s and O’s, really just playing fundamental football and having fun while we’re doing it.”

“That has been our pedigree all season, and the one (time) that I didn’t feel like we were ourselves, per se, was the one game that we lost,” Coleman added. “So, I think all we have to do is be ourselves throughout this whole process and enjoy this game.”

In regards to enjoying the Super Bowl experience, Coleman shared the message that radio broadcast analyst Eugene Robinson  spoke to the team about before they arrived in the Bay area.  Robinson was arrested the night before his team played in the Super Bowl when he was with the Atlanta Falcons.

“He [Robinson] did say, ‘enjoy this moment,’” said Coleman. “This is something that you have to enjoy. Enjoy this process, but while you’re here, understand that it is a business trip, and it’s only good if you win… So, his message was have fun, enjoy this moment, but understand why you’re here. You’re not here to go to the beach. You’re not here to go to the parties. You’re here to win a football game and do everything you can to win it.”

Coleman said that his familiarity with defensive coordinator Sean McDermott’s system – that he played in during his rookie season in Philadelphia – made his transition to this team seamless.

“I felt like I was familiar with what Sean wanted to do before I came here, obviously, and that gave me the familiarity to know what he could trust me [to do] in his system,” said Coleman. “But also, I felt like the guys that I would be playing with… I had a lot of trust in their leadership, that I could come into and feel very comfortable really just being myself.”

The sixth-year free safety elaborates on how the Panthers defensive unit has been so successful.

“This defense is very technically and fundamentally sound, said Coleman. “We’re not asked to do anything other than what our job states. If I’m in the deep post, I’m not going to go and try and snag something across the middle. I’m going to stay in the deep post, because I know my corners are trusting that I’m going to be in the deep post. So, if anything comes across deep, I’m going to be there to help make a play for the ball.”

(Coleman emphasizes the trust going both ways) “Vice versa on the front four: If Jared Allen is in a five technique, a six technique, if he has a gap that he has to control, he’s going to control that gap, because he knows that I’m – or the linebacker is – going to be filling the other gaps. So, if he tries to get out of his gap, that puts us at a liability. So, I think it’s just a trust that we have amongst each other, with the coaches and the players all alike, that we’re going to do our job and nothing more than that.”

This defense has had a propensity for creating turnovers, a goal that Coleman said secondary set before the season started. They were tabbed with the nickname “Thieves Avenue” after they started forcing turnovers at a high rate early in the year.

“Every game, we’ve figured out ways to, ‘how do we get more picks?’” said Coleman. “How do we get more forced fumbles? How do we just create more opportunities for our offense to have the football?’ And then one week, [Panthers defensive line coach] Eric Washington kind of called us thieves, and it stuck.”

The entire defense shares the same mindset.

“It’s who we are as a group, as a collective unit, but it doesn’t just start in the back end,” said Coleman. “It’s because of our front seven that have been getting tremendous pressure all year.”

Ginns Giving Hope to Cleveland's Youth

courtesy of B. Lively Images

When Ted Ginn Jr. lines up at wide receiver this Sunday for the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California. He won’t only be playing to win a championship, but trying to save a life – like his father does.

Ginn Jr. grew up in eastern Cleveland, Ohio where he witnessed his father, Ted Ginn Sr., take troubled boys  from an underserved neighborhood under his wings and help turn them into upstanding young men. Junior says senior is the sole reason for where he is today.

“He’s been my coach my whole life,” said Ginn Jr. “Without him, there’s no me.”

Ginn Sr. has been helping his community through coaching football for about 30 years and, often times, have taken boys into his home when they had nowhere else to go to be safe.

In 2007 Ginn Sr. founded what is the only all-boys high school in Ohio.

“My father has been living with kids his whole life,” said Ginn Jr. “We have our own school back home.”

Ginn Jr. and others mentored or coached by his father, including Cleveland Browns safety Donte Whitner, who have received college scholarships, whether for athletics or academics, and have found success are examples for the youth back in their hometown.

“We have like little things that really make us go,” said Ginn Jr. “We’re just trying to save a life and that’s what it’s all about. Getting up every day playing this game is saving a life in Cleveland, Ohio.”

Ginn Jr., now in his 9th NFL season, had the best season of his career  as he led the Panthers with 10 receiving touchdowns. Throughout his career, he had been relegated to playing as a situational receiver and a returner, leading him to bounce between four teams – including Carolina two seasons ago – before he re-signed with them again last offseason.

Circumstances have led him to being a major offensive weapon for this team’s Super Bowl run.

“The coaching staff and organization really gave me a chance,” said Ginn Jr. “And with that chance, I put my best foot forward and it came out great for me.”

The chance given to him was an opportunity to become a full-time wide receiver for the first time in his career.

“They put a plate in front of me and I ate,” Ginn Jr. added.

For Ginn Jr., the environment that the Carolina franchise has created is very familiar.

“This organization is similar to my pops,” Ginn Jr. said. “I was given a chance to save a life. That’s what it did. For everybody here, they did. Somebody said that they won’t [succeed]. And as people say, we’re a bunch of misfits who are in the Super Bowl.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Carolina Receivers Key to Super Bowl 50 Success

Clockwise: Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn jr., Ed Dickson. photos courtesy of B. Lively images

San Jose, Calif. -- The Carolina Panthers wide receivers played a vital role in the team having the best record in the NFL and are on the verge of winning a championship. A feat that will be accomplished only if they are the TEAM that plays the best when they face the Broncos in Santa Clara on Sunday.

But when it was the Panthers turn to field questions from the media on Monday at SAP Center for Super Bowl Opening Night, most of the eyes and ears in the arena were geared toward Cam Newton and the standout members of its defense, few on the receivers.

“That’s how it goes in the NFL if you’re not one of the big guys, one of the headline guys” said Tight End Ed Dickson, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Baltimore Ravens.

The headline guy – Newton – will likely receive the league’s MVP Trophy after having an outstanding season, in which he threw 35 touchdowns and added 10 more via rushing attempts. However, he couldn’t have achieved those statistics without the lesser-known guys who were on the receiving end of throws.

“We have a lot of unselfish guys who have continued to make plays all season,” said Dickson. “The way the wide receiving core has stepped up, we went into this as a family.

They were calling for eight wins this season once [Kelvin] Benjamin went out.”

Benjamin was the star player from Carolina’s wide receiver group last year in his rookie season. But he spent this entire season cheering on from the sidelines after tearing an ACL last August. And for the most part, the other pass catchers not named Greg Olsen were written off.

“I think they are the most overlooked group on the team,” said Benjamin. “Without them, none of this would be possible. Cam was able to balance it out where no one could key onto one receiver. I think by having that balance, they are hard to stop.”

Four times during Carolina’s 15-1 regular season, teams thought they had the Panthers caged while leading in the fourth quarter. Only to end the game with a loss after Carolina wide receivers rewarded Newton’s confidence in them.

Ted Ginn, who led this team with 10 receiving touchdowns, thinks the Panthers have one of the best wide receiving cores in the game.

“Every time it was time for us to make a play, we made one,” said Ginn. “No matter if it was me, Philly, Funchess… whoever you want to name… You know, whoever had to come in and step up at that time, they did it. It’s a collective bunch of guys that love to play football.”

Devin Funchess was selected in the 2015 draft by Carolina with hopes he and Benjamin would form a physical tandem on the outside. Instead, due to his teammate’s injury, he entered the season with the added pressure of pundits saying he had to fill Benjamin’s shoes. But to him, it doesn’t matter if his position group is receiving accolades or not.

“It doesn’t really phase me because where I grew up, nobody gave you respect, you had to go out and take it,” said Funchess. “I go out there and try to earn respect each week. That’s how I approach this game.”

If the Panthers end up with a Super Bowl 50 victory, that respect will be earned by a pass-catching group who was matched up against the top passing defense in the NFL this season. The Broncos gave up less than 200 yards per game through the air in 2015.