Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’

Steelers version of Devin Hester?

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad – Football Talent Advisors

Pretty cool development with the Pittsburgh Steelers to start the NFL season.  Stefan Logan a CFL veteran and University of South Dakota grad made the Steelers 53 man roster.  What is special about Logan is he’s got a kick returning style similar to the Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester.  Logan hasn’t played a regular season NFL game, he certainly won’t contribute at another position for some time and he’s physically smaller than Hester so I’ll stop the comparison here. 

However upon further examination their athletic skills (speed) do have some similarity.  Devin Hester was quite a track athlete in high school and as a freshman at U. of Miami.  Hester won the long jump at Big East Conference Indoor Championships in 2004 and finished third in the 60 meter dash.  Logan had a collegiate personal best in the 60 meter dash of 6.75, slightly ahead of Hester’s 6.77. 

An interesting fact:  Stefan Logan actually ran against current New York Jet, running back, Danny Woodhead.  The two squared off a few times running the 60 meter dash during the 2006 Division II collegiate indoor season.   Woodhead along with Logan ran at the ’06 NCAA Division II Indoor Championships too. Translation?  The 60 meter dash isn’t a bad barometer of football related speed.  But both of these guys were cut by NFL teams before for being too small and perhaps perceived too slow?  No one probably believes the latter about either player anymore.     

Anyway it’ll be interesting to see if Logan can go from supplying the Steelers some preseason excitement to being a regular season contributor.  He’s a long way from running track at South Dakota and returning kicks in the CFL.

Super Sunday Fun

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad                                                                                                                                      Football Talent Advisors, Ltd.

Great game!  I have to admit I’m a die hard Steelers fan so I was awfully happy to see them win.  However during the game I couldn’t help but wonder what the high school backgrounds of some of the players were.  I wonder if any of the impact players during the Super Bowl were high school track stars? 

Lets find out…

Arizona Cardinals

Larry Fitzgerald  (WR)  * Baddest player on the field…maybe in the league!

Academy of Holy Angels HS, Minnesota:  Ran track and posted (11.2) 100 meter dash and 2yr. basketball letterman.

Anquan Boldin  (WR)

Pahokee HS, Florida:  Great basketball player and ran on the 4×100 relay

Mike Gandy  (OT)

Garland HS, Texas:  Threw shot put and discus

Levi Brown  (OT)

Granby HS, Virginia:  Threw shot put and discus at regional level

Tim Hightower & J.J. Arrington  (RBs)

Waldorf Episcopal HS, Maryland / Northern Nash HS, North Carolina:  Both 100 meter sprinters

Antonio Smith  (DE)  * Besides Dockett seemed to be the biggest problem for Steelers

John Marshall HS, Oklahoma:  Threw shot put (all-city performer) 

Chike Okeafor  (LB)

West Lafayette HS, Indiana:  Threw shot put (56’10”) and discus (over 170’00”) state meet qualifier

Gerald Hayes (LB)

Passaic County Technical HS, New Jersey:  Long jumper and triple jumper (43’08”)

Karlos Dansby  (LB)

Woodlawn HS, Alabama:  Long jumper state meet qualifier (over 20’00”)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie  (CB)  *Made some big plays for a rookie defensive back

Lakewood Ranch HS, Florida:  Long jumper (over 22’06”), triple jumper (over 46’00”) and (10.75) 100 meter sprinter

Adrian Wilson  (SS)

High Point Andrews HS, North Carolina:  (11.0) 100 meter sprinter and (22.8) 200 meter sprinter state meet qualifier

Roderick Hood  (CB)

Carver HS, Georgia:  100 meter sprinter and 400 relay state meet qualifier

Antrel Rolle  (FS)

South Dade HS, Florida:  110 meter hurdler and state meet qualifier, also ran on college track team at the U. 

Steve Breaston  (WR / KR)

Woodland Hills HS, Pennsylvania:  (48.60) 400 meter dash state champion and (38.60) 300 intermediate hurdler

Pittsburgh Steelers

Justin Hartwig  (C)  * Okay he had a really bad holding penalty for a safety…but he was a good thrower

Valley HS, Iowa:  Threw discus (164’07) state meet qualifier 

Willie Parker  (RB)  * Yup his nickname is “fast”…and he sort of was in high school

Clinton HS, North Carolina:  (11.1) 100 meter sprinter state meet qualifier and 400 relay sprinter

Santonio Holmes  (WR)  * Super Bowl 43 MVP

Glades Central HS, Florida:  (3:16.18) 1600 meter relay state champion and (49.85) 400 meter sprinter state meet qualifier

Brett Keisel  (DE)

Greybull HS, Wyoming:  State champion shot put and discus thrower and high jump state meet qualifier

LaMarr Woodley  (LB)

Saginaw HS, Michigan:  Threw shot put (54’04”) state meet qualifier

James Farrior  (LB)

Matoaca HS, Virginia:  100 meter and 200 meter sprinter and high hurdler 

Lawrence Timmons  (LB)

Wilson HS, South Carolina:  (21’05”) long jump state meet qualifier


Oh yeah, it is interesting to note that both quarterbacks Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger each lettered in football, basketball and baseball during their high school athletic careers.  That’s a follow up to the high school sports specialization post.

Athletic Kickers and Punters are the New Football Norm

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Posted by Mark Branstad                                                                                                                                   Football Talent Advisors, Ltd.

Sounds strange to say but today’s football punters and kickers generally have extensive athletic backgrounds.  That wasn’t always the case in the past but in today’s game of football these players are asked to do much more than just kick a ball.  For example, many punters are asked to play safety after they kick and several times each season make touchdown saving tackles.  Mitch Berger of the Pittsburgh Steelers made a touchdown saving tackle on a punt return by the Ravens, Jim Leonhard, during the AFC Championship game this past week.  Punters and kickers today are also asked to carry out fakes and run the ball on occasions as well…which requires a higher degree of athleticism and football skill. 

Since Jan Stenerud and the introduction of “soccer style” kicking  many of today’s kickers have soccer in their athletic backgrounds at the junior high , high school, and sometimes college level.  In fact, Jan Stenerud was a terrific ski-jumper, went to college on scholarship for this sport, and is the only true kicker / punter in the NFL Hall-of-Fame. 

Stenerud started the movement of kickers with soccer backgrounds.   The following NFL great kickers and punters all had soccer in their athletic backgrounds: Gary Anderson (Steelers & Vikings), Morten Andersen (Saints & Falcons), Neil Lowery (Chiefs), Olindo Mare (Dolphins & Seahawks), Sebastian Janikowski (Raiders) and  Mark Mosley (Redskins).  The list could go on and on.  But soccer isn’t the only other sport that many successful kickers and punters participated in. 

It is true that kickers and punters, position-wise, have the lowest high school track and field participation, followed by quarterbacks.  There are many surprising examples of all-time greats that were also successful track athletes.  Ray Guy (Oakland Raiders), arguably the greatest punter ever, was a state caliber discus thrower in high school and he also performed the high jump in high school.  Brian Moorman (Bills – punter) actually participated in the NFL fastest man competition in 2006!  A punter did that!  He’s actually got an extensive track background and was a state champion high hurdler in high school and NCAA Division II 400 meter hurdle champion in college. 

There are many examples of kickers and punters with athletic backgrounds in high school track: Eddie Murray (Lions), Hunter Smith (Colts), Kris Brown (Texans), Rob Bironas (Titans), Adam Vinatieri (Patriots & Colts), Chip Lohmiller (Redskins), Kyle Larson (Cincinnati), Jay Feely (Eagles),  and Jason Elam (Broncos).  Interesting enough Kris Brown and Hunter Smith were 6’08” high jumpers in high school and Steve Weatherford (Saints – punter) was a state caliber high jumper and 300 intermediate hurdler. 

While the total number of kickers and punters that participated in high school track is statistically rather small there are many extraordinary examples.  But there’s no doubt that most of today’s kickers and punters have extensive and varied athletic backgrounds and are more complete football players than ever before.  We need only look at this year’s Lou Groza Award winner (Top Collegiate Placekicker), Graham Gano of Florida State.  He became the first punter to win MVP honors in a college bowl game at this year’s Champs Sports Bowl. He is the top rated placekicker in the upcoming 2009 NFL Draft.  

By the way, Graham ran an electronically timed 11.34 / 100 meter dash and 22.68 / 200 meter dash at his high school regional track meet in 2005.  Not bad…for a kicker!

Here’s a link to an interesting article that follows up on this topic: