Tuesday, April 27, 2010.
A week before the NFL Draft, former Boise State star Ian Johnson told Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Now that (Chester Taylor) is gone, that gives me and Albert (Young) an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this is the position we want to solidify our future with the team.’" That dynamic has obviously changed, as the Minnesota Vikings used their second round pick last Friday on Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, the Heisman Trophy runnerup last year. Gerhart is a 6-foot, 231-pounder who gives the Vikings a changeup to Adrian Peterson, with Taylor having moved on to the Chicago Bears. And Ian is left to work hard, hoping there’s a reward somehow.
Even before the draft, Ian understood what it would mean if the Vikes selected a running back. “This game is a business, and you understand that once someone is paid, you kind of have a commitment to them,” said Johnson, who spent all of last season on the practice squad. “You say, ‘Hey, we're not going to pay someone to sit the bench. We've invested in him.’" Now that Gerhart’s fitting the profile Ian described, he’s in limbo again. Which is hard to imagine for the WAC’s career rushing touchdown king and Boise State’s single season rushing leader.
You can be drafted into the NFL if you play well for high-visibility teams like Boise State—or if you play well against them. During Ryan Mathews’ press conference last Friday introducing him to the San Diego media as the Chargers’ first round draft pick, he said he thought strong showings at the Combine and at Fresno State’s Pro Day were key to his burst up the draft ladder. Chargers coach Norv Turner felt it was something else. "I think those 250 yards against Boise State had something to do with it, too," Turner said with a grin. The total was actually 234, for what that’s worth. But Turner wanted to point out that Mathews’ performance in a big game like that bodes well. The coach had better hope so—the Chargers are being roundly roasted for trading up to No. 12 in the draft to get Mathews.
Little-known fact: Kyle Wilson will become the fourth former Boise State player to play for the New York Jets. He was preceded by Cedric Minter, who played for the Jets in the mid-1980’s after his career got a jump start in the CFL; Chris Wing, who parlayed a free agent shot into some on-field time in 1997; and Kimo von Oelhoffen, who signed with the Jets after winning the Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. One other note on Wilson: he is one of three first round picks off New Jersey’s 2004 state championship team at Piscataway High School. The others are Rutgers offensive tackle Anthony Davis (11th overall this year to the 49ers) and Ohio State cornerback Malcomb Jenkins (14th overall last year to the Saints).
Who says the Boise State offensive line never gets any pub? Hey, Nate Potter’s picture is in the Sporting News this week. Dave Curtis and Matt Hayes give their spring recap on SN’s preseason top 10 (the Broncos are No. 4). The angle on Boise State is the revamping of the O-line despite the fact it allowed only five sacks in 14 games last season, with Potter’s switch from tackle to guard the highlight. And quarterback Kellen Moore seconds the motion. “With the talent we have behind him at tackle, the best move was to move (Potter),” said Moore in the magazine. “He’s adjusted. It’s all about getting the best five guys on the field.”
There were some ill-advised early declarations for the NFL Draft this year, as there are every year. One of the worst decisions was made by Nevada defensive end Kevin Basped (although opposing WAC coaches won’t mind his absence on the Wolf Pack D-line). Basped departed the Pack after his junior year—and went undrafted last week. He has now signed as a free agent with the Jets as an outside linebacker. Basped, as talented as he is, was considered vastly unpolished coming out of Nevada. He really could have benefitted by playing another year in Reno.
We talked about this at the end of the year—how early in this Idaho Steelheads season it seemed to be all Stockton all the time. The Steelheads and Thunder started the season against each other in October and had played 12 times by January 2. But there have been no games between those two since. That changes in a dramatic way Friday night when they start the ECHL National Conference Finals in Qwest Arena. Stockton may be the No. 6 seed in the conference, but the Thunder have a mojo going after dispensing with the Alaska Aces and Bakersfield Condors rather easily in their first two playoff series,
Two former Steelheads are done in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and neither made headlines. Left wing Richard Clune, who played in Boise two years ago, was on the L.A. Kings roster and appeared in four playoff games in a first round loss to Vancouver, getting five penalty minutes. Clune tallied two assists in 14 games during the regular season.
Then there’s goalie Dan Ellis, whose Nashville Predators were eliminated last night by Chicago. It’s been a step back the past two seasons for Ellis in the NHL. After putting up 23 wins in 2007-08, Ellis slipped to 11 wins last season and was replaced as Predators’ starter by Pekka Rinne. Ellis went 15-13-2 this season as a backup and did not play in the postseason. But Ellis’ spot in Steelheads lore is secure. In 2004, he was 13-0 in the postseason with a 1.86 goals-against average and was the MVP of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, leading the Steelies to their first Kelly Cup championship.
This Day In Sports…April 27, 1956:
One of the great sports careers of all time comes to an end, when Rocky Marciano retires as the only unbeaten heavyweight boxing champion in history. His record was 49-0 with 43 knockouts—11 in the first round. Marciano won the crown from Jersey Joe Walcott in 1952 and successfully defended his title six times. In the tournament to decide Marciano’s successor, Floyd Patterson knocks out Archie Moore to claim the heavyweight championship.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He’s also handled color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football the last five seasons.)