Gary Shelton - 4/188 - SaintPetersBlog

Gary Shelton

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

Now comes the selecting season of NFL’s general managers

Now, it is Jason Licht’s season, poobah of the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Now, it belongs to John Lynch, boss of the San Francisco 49ers.

Now, the NFL belongs to Steve Keim of the Cards and Ted Thompson of the Packers and John Schneider of the Seahawks and the rest of the general managers of the league.

The Super Bowl is over, which means free agency is next, followed by the NFL draft, followed by coaches proclaiming they are simply delighted by the additions to their teams. The thing is, no one can quite be sure who will be a free agent, and no one can ever be certain about the draft.

Once a week, then, the SaintPetersblog will examine the upcoming Bucs’ draft and the predictions for it.

Today, we start with the Bleacher Report.

In the first round, they have the Bucs taking Miami tight end David Njoku. Not a bad player, but don’t the Bucs’ need a speedy receiver and an athletic safety more? Bleacher Report still has linebacker Jarrad Davis of Florida, safety Jabrill Peppers of Michigan and wide receiver John Ross of Washington still on the board.

In the second round, Bleacher Report has the Bucs taking Florida defensive lineman Caleb Brantley. UCLA cornerback Fabian Moreu is the third round pick. LSU receiver Malachi Dupre is the fourth-round choice. Utah tackle J.J. Dielman is the fifth-round choice.

The sixth round pick is interesting. Bleacher Report has the Bucs taking San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, who led the nation in rushing this year. In the seventh round, the site has the Bucs taking Xavier Woods of Louisiana Tech.

Last year’s Bucs’ draft worked out fairly well (cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and defensive end Noah Spence started. The draft will be remembered, however, by the noise surrounding the selection of FSU kicker Roberto Aguayo.

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Patriots’ Tom Brady is immortal after winning his fifth Super Bowl

The drive of the ages.

The comeback of the ages.

The quarterback of the ages.

Now, does anyone want to talk about anyone else but Tom Brady?

Brady’s fifth Super Bowl – more than anyone else has ever won – came in a classic style Sunday night. He overcame a record 25-point deficit. He endured the first-ever overtime at a Super Bowl. And he led the Patriots to yet another Super Bowl victory.

“You know, we all brought each other back,” Brady said. “We never felt out of it. It was a tough battle. They have a great team. I give them a lot of credit. We just made a few more plays than them.”

The Patriots came from behind – 21-0 and 28-3 – to beat the Atlanta Falcons, 34-28. The Patriots scored the last 31 points in a row to beat Atlanta.

Brady threw the ball an amazing 62 times, completing 43 for 466 yards in the comeback.

It was a complete reversal from the first half, when the Falcons seemed on the verge of a blowout. Matt Ryan threw for 266 yards and two scores, but he couldn’t get enough going in the second half.

The Falcons took a 21-0 lead on a five-yard run by Devonta Freeman, a 19-yard pass from Ryan to Austin Hooper and a 82-yard interception return by Robert Alford. After a Patriots field goal at the end of the first half, the Falcons went up 28-3 on a six-yard pass from Ryan to Tevin Coleman early in the third quarter.

But with just over two minutes to go in the third period, the Patriots began to show life. Brady hit James White for a five-yard score to make it 28-9 (Stephen Gostkowski missed the extra point).

In the fourth period, Gostkowski hit a 33-yard field goal, Danny Amendola caught a six-yard touchdown from Brady and White scored a one-yard touchdown. The Patriots scored  two two-point conversions to tie the game.

In overtime, Brady led his team on an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. White scored the winning touchdown on a two-yard run.

White caught 14 passes for 110 yards in the victory.

Atlanta kept the ball for only 23 minutes and 27 seconds. The Patriots had it for more than 40 minutes. Part of the reason was the Falcons converted only one of eight third downs.

The Falcons had a chance to lock up the game in the third period. After Julio Jones made a nice catch, all the Falcons had to do was run the ball three times to make the Pats use time-outs and then kick a field goal for an 11-point lead. Instead, Ryan was sacked and the Falcons ended up punting.

In the post-game, commissioner Roger Goodell presented the Lombardi Trophy to Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft, who he had clashed with after suspending Brady for four games.

“Two years ago, we won our fourth Super Bowl down in Arizona,” Kraft said after receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy from  Goodell. “I told our fans that was the sweetest one of all. But a lot has transpired during the last two years. I don’t think that needs any explanation. But I want to say to our fans, our brilliant coaching staff, our amazing players who are so spectacular, this is unequivocally the sweetest. I’m proud to say, for the fifth time, we are all Patriots.”

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Tampa Bay Lightning finally win, beating Anaheim 3-2 in shootout

They won? Finally?

The Tampa Bay Lightning finally put up a winning scoreboard Saturday night, beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in a shootout.

The Lightning had lost six of its previous seven games (two in overtime), including two straight at home in which it managed only 21 shots per game in losses to Boston and Ottawa. This time, the Lightning outshot Anaheim by 21 shots (37-16).

The Bolts scored three goals in the shootout. Brayden Point started the scoring, Nikita Kucherov tied the extra period with a goal and Brian Boyle won it.

In regulation, Jonathan Drouin and Alex Killorn scored.

The Ducks were lucky to get to overtime. They got off only 16 shots, none in overtime. It was enough to help Ben Bishop win his 12th game against 12 losses.

“It’s a real proud group in there,” said coach Jon Cooper. “They were not going to be denied tonight.”

Tampa Bay is home Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

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Voters elect seven to Hall of Fame, but not the Bucs’ Lynch

Former Tampa Bay Buc great John Lynch is still short of immortality.

The NFL announced its new Hall of Fame class Saturday night, and Lynch was not among them.

LaDainian Tomlinson was named to the Hall. Kurt Warner, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Jason Taylor, Morten Andersen and Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones also were elected.

Easley, the senior candidate, was a rare safety named to the Hall. Lynch and Brian Dawkins were left out. Ed Reed becomes eligible in two years and Troy Palumalo in three.

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Hero of the Super Bowl might turn out to be a ‘Who’s he?’ guy

It won’t be a quarterback. It won’t be a star receiver. It probably won’t even be the star pass-rushing defensive end.

But sometime during Sunday night’s Super Bowl, a guy you’ve barely heard of might take over. A run-of-mill, blue collar guy from somewhere in the team photo.

Hey, it happens in the Super Bowl. Despite all the millionaires cavorting beneath the stadium lights, there might be a guy or two emerge to be a star. Odds are, he won’t follow up it up with stardom. Hey, there are reasons that guys are unsung; most of the time, they can’t sing.

Remember David Tyree’s catch off-of-the-helmet as the Giants upset the unbeaten New England Patriots after a four-catch season? Remember Timmy Smith of Washington running for 204 yards, and then running to oblivion. There was the Packers’ Max McGee (138 yards receiving) and the Raiders’ Rod Martin (three interceptions) and the Bucs’ Dexter Jackson (two interceptions). There was Dallas’ Larry Brown (two interceptions) and the Rams’ Mike Jones (game-saving tackle) and the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler (game-saving interception).

Hey, they can’t all eat pizza and go to Disney World.

So who will it be this year? How about Atlanta’s Mohammad Sanu as he takes advantage of the double-team that Julio Jones is sure to get? How about the Falcons’ rookie Keanu Neal? How about New England’s LeGarrett Blount. Or Chris Long?

Yeah, yeah. The smart money is still on Tom Brady or Matt Ryan.

But sometime during the game, someone’s going to make a play. You’re going to have to check your roster to find out who he is.

And that’s kind of cool.

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Former Buc John Lynch hopes to get into Hall of Fame despite position

His interception total (26) is kind of low. If you’re looking to knock John Lynch, you can begin there.

His teams won only one Super Bowl. That keeps him from being a slam dunk of a candidate.

He already has two teammates from his defense into the Hall. Other teams have more, but voters lose interest the more players a team has in.

But if you want to know the challenge that Lynch, the great of the Tampa Bay Bucs, faces in today’s Hall of Fame vote, it’s easy. He’s a safety. And most years, safeties need not apply.

It has been 19 years now since the Vikings’ Paul Krause made it to the Hall as a pure safety, and his election came after 19 years in the voting. The knock persists that safeties are really slow corners — never mind that coaches will tell you it’s a whole different skill set. Only kickers have it harder than safeties.

Oh, other players have gotten in — Ronnie Lott and Mel Renfro and Rod Woodson, but those guys all started their careers as cornerbacks. But guys who have played only safety have vanished from Canton.

Of course, it’s hard to quantify. Receivers have catches and quarterbacks have passes, and running backs have yards. But safeties are more of a challenge.

This year, a logjam has begun at the position. Brian Dawkins has joined the race with Lynch and former Broncos Steve Atwater, and former Seahawk Kenny Easley is the senior candidate.

In upcoming years, Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed will join the list.

For Lynch, a heavy hitter and sure tackler in the Bucs’ great defensive run, this might be the best chance he has to get into the Hall.

In Tampa, not many doubt he belongs.

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When it comes to the Lightning, have you heard this before?

Groundhog day, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are repeating themselves.

Check out Thursday night’s 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators. They started with a lead. They fell behind. They got off only 21 shots. And they lost their second game in a four-game home stand (and third overall)  that was supposed to turn all of this around.

“What did Punxsutawney Phil say?” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. He was told six more weeks of winter. “Let’s hope not,” he said.

Things are cold enough for the Lightning, who fell to 22-24-6 with the loss. They lead only Detroit, by only one point, in the Eastern Conference.

“This group’s never been through this before,” Cooper said. “It’s kind of uncharted territory for them. A lot of guys are used to winning a lot. It tests you a little bit. Maybe in other times we’ve had this, but we’ve found a way to fight through it. Right now, it’s tough. Every time we start talking a step forward, we take two back.

“Maybe in the past, we knew something good was going to happen. We were going to work our way through. Now they’re waiting for something bad to happen. That’s the part you have to get over.

The Bolts have obviously been affected by the losing streak.

“It’s tough to describe really,” said Brian Boyle. “We’re just banging our heads against the wall right now. We’re trying to fix things. We’re putting a lot of effort into it. A lot of people are putting their time and effort into it. For whatever reason, we’re not executing.”

“I believe there’s 30 games left, so we can’t have that attitude that were being kicked while we’re down because I don’t think any other team is feeling sorry for us right now, that is going to give us a charity win along the way here. Every game is going to be like this, and whether we know it or not, it’s been like this in the past.”

Tampa Bay plays host to Anaheim Saturday night.

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The five recruits who could help the state’s three football powers

The freshman year is no longer for a football player to learn his way around campus.

There is no more time for growth, no more time for learning. There is no more apprenticeship.

These days, the best players play as freshmen, or redshirt freshman. They start as sophomores, and they star as juniors. These days, a player learns how to say hello.

Given that, who are each team’s five players most likely to make a first-year impression. According to 247sports.com, FSU finished sixth in recruiting, Florida 10th and Miami 13th.

FSU

1. Cam Akers, running back: Akers could conceivably step in for the departing Dalvin Cook. He was the nation’s No. 2 prospect. As a senior, Akers rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns. As a quarterback, he threw for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns. For his career, he had more than 13,000 yards and 149 touchdowns. Akers might be one of the backs by committee next year, but he should run to the head of the pack early.

2. Marvin Wilson, defensive tackle: Wilson was FSU’s final coup of the recruiting season. If you want to know how quickly a defensive tackle can help, just look at Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, who made an impact for the national champs right off of the bus. Wilson should do the same.

3. Joshua Kaindoh, defensive end: Is Kaindoh physically able to play with veteran linemen? We’ll see. Look for him to get into a rotation with Josh Sweat and Brian Burns. By the time he’s a senior, Kaindoh should be a force.

4. D.J. Matthews, wide receiver: Matthews could be taller, but he’s quick enough to see playing time in the team’s rotation already.

5. Stanford Samuels, cornerback: Some of the best quarterbacks in college football victimized the Noles last year. Samuels is expected to help stop that. His playing time will increase as the season goes along.

Florida

1. James Robinson, wide receiver: Robinson was a surprise signee with the Gators after being arrested for marijuana. Robinson, 6-4 and 205, represents a problem for smaller defensive backs. He missed two games but still caught 46 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.

2. Tedarrell Slaton, defensive tackle: Slaton was the Gators’ top ranked recruit. He should be able to get some playing time as a freshman.

3. Christopher Henderson, cornerback: With the Gators facing heavy losses in their secondary, Henderson could step in quickly.

4. Dequon Green, wide receiver: No matter who the quarterback turns out to be, he’ll need targets. Green averaged 19.6 yards per catch at Tampa Bay Tech.

5. Zach Carter, defensive end: Another product from Tampa, Carter could be a force off the edge early in his career.

Miami

1. N’Kosi Perry, quarterback: Quarterbacks usually wait a year, but Perry might be different. He’ll compete with Cade Wilson, but he’s a two-way player who could help. Coach Mark Richt hasn’t been shy about playing freshmen in the past.

2. Jeff Thomas, wide receiver: Thomas caught 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was elusive enough so the Hurricanes dipped into St. Louis to get him on board.

3. Navaughn Donaldson, offensive tackle: Not many offensive linemen are able to play as freshmen, but Donaldson might be different. He’s big, and he has good feet.

4. Mike Harley, wide receiver: With Thomas and Harley, the Hurricanes are adding to their speed and their depth. Harley was a star in nearby Fort Lauderdale.

5. De’Andre Wilder, linebacker: The Hurricanes featured young linebackers a year ago in their improved defense. Now, Wilder could work into the mix in a hurry.

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Tampa Bay Rowdies announce their under 23 development team

The Tampa Bay Rowdies would like to grow a player or two on their own.

The Rowdies will field a team in the USL’s Premier Development league this year, as the Rowdies U23 team is to begin play.

The team will remain based in Tampa at the Waters Soccer Complex and will compete in the PDL’s Southern Conference’s Southeast Division, which currently features seven other teams from around the Sunshine State.

“Rowdies U23 will give us an opportunity to develop young talent in the Tampa Bay area, while also developing a strong connection with the community,” said Rowdies Chairman and CEO Bill Edwards. “There are many talented youth players in the region and Rowdies U23 will hopefully guide them towards becoming professional soccer players in the years to come. We want the sport to continue to grow in Tampa Bay and Rowdies U23 will do just that.”

The PDL, a part of the United Soccer Leagues – which also operates the USL and Super Y League – has served as a major development platform for aspiring professional players for more than two decades. Since 2010, nearly 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft selections have had PDL experience, with 59 PDL alums chosen in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.

FC Miami City, The Villages SC, Palm Beach Suns FC, IMG Academy, the South Florida Surf, Weston FC and the Tropics will serve as the Rowdies U23’s in-state rivals.

“The PDL is always excited and supportive of highly-operated teams from the USL, given the resources they provide to aspiring professionals,” PDL Director Todd Eason said. “There is a hotbed of talent in this region, and the Tampa Bay Rowdies U23 will provide an exceptional environment for the development of many college-aged players. I have no doubt the Rowdies U23 will adopt the ‘Path to Pro’ model and field a talented side to compete in a tough Southern Conference.”

The PDL, acknowledged as a leading “Path to Pro,” is a key phase in the development of emerging soccer talent in this country. As an amateur competition, the PDL allows college-aged players to retain their college eligibility, while also benefiting from high-level, competitive play during the college offseason.

The Rowdies U23 will enter the PDL alongside the Weston FC, Lakeland Tropics, Myrtle Beach Mutiny, Nashville SC U23, Tobacco Road FC, Wilmington Hammerheads FC and a San Diego-based team as expansion franchises.

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FSU finishes its recruiting by signing another Top 10 player

A good day got even better for the FSU Seminoles Wednesday.

The Seminoles signed highly regarded defensive tackle Marvin Wilson.

Wilson had been rated as the No. 6 player in the country and the No.1 defensive tackle. His signing improved FSU’s standings to fourth in the ESPN rankings, although the Seminoles were still sixth in the 247sports.com rankings.

Wilson’s signing gives FSU three players in the top 10. No other team had more than two.

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