Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Big Mike: A lesson about believing in yourself

I really need to get the NFL Sunday Ticket. A few years back it would have been great for fantasy football reasons, but now there are so many former All-Zoners and former CCU football players playing on Sunday that I crave the Ticket so I can check in all of our former guys.

The most pleasant surprise of all our of alumni right now is Mike Tolbert. When Tolbert was a nightmare for defenses in the Big South, you tend to not let it translate to the NFL. But now Tyler Thigpen, Quinton Teal, Jerome Simpson and Big Mike have taught us that it is possible to be a I-AA star at CCU and then move on to the NFL.

I will always remember the second day of the NFL Draft in 2008 when Hags and I went to Mike Tolbert's house. There was no big celebration - Tolbert was not drafted. But he was all smiles when we pulled up to his house. He was getting his shot with the San Diego Chargers - a signing bonus of a whopping $5,000 (did the Chargers get a bargain or what!??!!) All Mike Tolbert wanted was a shot. He was determined to make the most of it and he sure did.

We gave so much attention to Jerome Simpson and the hype that came with his dazzling workouts. Jerome has not gotten his opportunity yet as the Bengals struggle. There's no doubt that as soon as he gets his chance Jerome will do some great things in the NFL. Back in April, we thought we'd have a highlight reel full of Jerome catches in Bengal stripes, but instead we have Mike Tolbert with a TD catch, a 67 yard catch against the Broncos and bulldozing holes for LaDandian Tomlinson. Tolbert not only made the roster as an undrafted free agent, he's starting as a rookie at fullback for one of the NFL's elite teams.

I remember being at CCU's Pro Day where about a dozen NFL scouts were on hand to eyeball Jerome. I had put together a DVD of highlights of both Simpson and Tolbert. The scouts were all grabbing the DVD's of Jerome and watching every move he made. Tolbert was second fiddle, but the Chargers were at that Pro Day workout and my guess is they grabbed the Tolbert DVD. If it wasn't for Jerome attracting a big crowd, maybe the Chargers wouldn't have discovered their new starting fullback.

David Bennett was bending every scout's ear who was on Simpson watch. "We've got another one that can play on Sundays", he'd always say. It would have been so easy for Big Mike to get caught up in the hype and resign himself to the fact that Jerome was going to be the guy who made it, but quietly Big Mike made the absolute most out of a minimal opportunity.

The NFL is finding out what already knew - Big Mike can play the game. Tolbert believed in himself and now there's a legion of Lightning Bolt fans and one of the best running backs on the planet who are believing in him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mailbag - September Edition

I really had a goal of posting a blog entry at least once a month and August zipped by before I knew what hit me. 34 high school football previews and getting ready for football will do that to you. I apologize for not answering these emails sooner, but here it goes:

Clara Curry asks: How do you pick the End Zone teams for each week?

A great question Clara. Logistics is the single biggest factor in determining which teams join us in the Chevy End Zone studio. We make it a goal to try and get the best teams in our area the opportunity to come in and be a part of the Friday night Zone. For some teams, it's very difficult to get to our Conway studio by 11:00pm. Teams like Lamar and Timmonsville never get a chance to play close enough to get into the studio. Usually on Sunday, Hags and I look at the schedule and run through the options. We are almost always on the same page and get the invite out ASAP.

Chris Martin asks: I wanted to know if you guys were going to do the Palmetto Pigskin competition like you did last year?

Chris - you probably know by now that the Picks competition is up and running. You can access the picks by clicking on "Palmetto Picks" on the left side of the main sports page at wpde.com or you can always go to www.palmettopigskin.com
If you haven't done the picks, you are missing out. It's totally free and takes just a couple of minutes. Jim, Ed, Ally and I enjoy the friendly competition and I think the contest will grow over the next couple of years.

Marty Parker asks: I was wondering if there is anyway to get some to the video highlights that you have from Cheraw. I want to add them to our school website library.

Marty: Many apologies for not getting back with you sooner. Our new web video player which was launched in April is fantastic and easy to use. I love the fact that you can email a story directly to someone's email. Unfortunately, there was a price to pay with that. We had to lose all the web video we previously had over the years as it was in a different format. If you haven't seen it yet, check out the Cheraw page on wpde.com - it is a new addition to our web lineup and I enjoy having each team getting its own page

Kevin Forsee writes:

Just a thought.... I originally grew up in Ohio and most news programs have a rolling graphic of up-to-date sports scores at the end of the sports segment for all pro team games played that day. Not a single news program in the area uses that type of graphic. There are many locals and tourists that have no way of keeping up with their favorite teams without switching to ESPN or the web. I think it would be beneficial and convenient for the Channel 15 viewers to be the first in the area to have a graphic or "ticker" with their favorite sports teams, not just the Braves or Falcons during the sports segment.

Thank you for your time!


Appreciate you writing in. I just have to laugh off the start, because I see you wrote about the Falcons. There is a stigma among some folks that we show all Atlanta pro sports when that is in fact, not the case. The only time we may show a Falcons highlight is if Lamar native John Abraham does something, but we do not give a steady diet of Falcons highlights. The Braves are the Pelicans single "A" affiliate and the closest MLB team to us and that's why we show them a lot.

Now on to your idea, which is a great one. I am all for it - back in the day we used to do scores heading to break before sports, but that was taken away from us. The ticker would solve that problem - right now I don't think we have that technology at our station. If we did, I think it's a great idea and something that I would be in favor of. Hopefully, that can happen down the road.

Danielle writes: I've been checking the website for over an hour trying to find some high school football scores. Could you please make it easier to find and also please let me know where I'm supposed to look. I've tried just about everything and this is exhausting!!!!

Danielle: I believe I may have shot you a short email right after the show when you sent this a couple of weeks back. When I work on the website, accessibility is the single most important thing for what we're trying to accomplish. I know we have lots of content when it pertains to high school football, but we need to get it to you folks! Our 50 minute show forces me to not post the final scores on wpde.com until 12:10 am at the earliest. I have now made it a point to make that the lead sports story on wpde.com on Friday nights and we will have it updated ASAP. The red banner on top of the main sports page is the portal to our 34 team pages. Hopefully, fans are going to their team's page and being able to see all the web video and insider blog from their school. Getting the content from the Friday night show onto the web is a long process, but our goal is to have it up as quickly as possible and we'll continue to work on doing that.

Angie Smith writes: I live in Ruby South Carolina, and our high school is Chesterfield High. I just wanted to know why all the tv stations can come or cover the Cheraw High School's football team, but never come or even say anything about Chesterfield, which is only a 10-15 minute ride from Cheraw. Yes, Cheraw is state champion for 2A, but Chesterfield is state champion for 1A, and last week in Chesterfield's opening game, Chesterfield won 42 - 0 over a 4A Fort Mill High School. I would just like to have some coverage of Chesterfield. This team has really turned around in the past several years from winning no games to winning a state championship, and I think the team players and coaches deserve to have a least one game covered on tv. Could you tell me if there is a reason why Chesterfield is never on tv?

Angie: I have answered this question many times and you can apply the same answer to other schools like Central of Pageland, Manning and Sumter area schools. About six years ago, we decided to make an exact definition of what schools would be part of the Chevy End Zone family. For the last six years, we have had the same 34 high schools defined as the area that we cover. Chesterfield County is not considered part of the Myrtle Beach/Florence market. That means if every single TV in Chesterfield County were to watch WPDE for 24 hours a day, it wouldn't count in the ratings. I realize that Cheraw is in Chesterfield County, but it is on the border of Marlboro County and Cheraw plays many teams from our area, unlike Chesterfield, who is in a region with many out of area teams. We made the decision 6 years ago to keep Cheraw due to the Braves fans strong following of our station. Another factor is having WPDE on your local cable system. Some of our fringe areas don't have us on there, perhaps that has changed over the years. It is nothing personal against the Rams as they have an outstanding team and passionate football fans.

Cathy writes: Hey Rich, Let's give Socastee their due and update passing and rushing etc... to include them also!!!

Hello Cathy: I am glad you checked in on this. The stats are a big part of what I do on Monday's as I know fans across the area enjoy checking on the area leaders. We have the same routine for the past nine years where coaching staffs have to email or fax us their stats over the weekend or on Monday and we compile the list. At this point, I have not received stats from a number of schools, Socastee included. Hopefully, in the next week or so, we'll get everyone to come on board and get stats from all 34 schools. If I can get ahead of schedule this week, I'll attempt to send an email to all 34 coaches to remind them to email me stats every week.

Marilyn P. writes: Why does Rich ignore Panthers games when we are more interested in them than High Sch.& College, which he seems to prefer? There are many retirees in this area who prefer NFL to local. No mention of the great game the Panthers had Sunday. Shame.

Marilyn: Ironic that you wrote this email on the night that I did show John Fox talking about the Panthers big win over San Diego. I understand your criticism, but I'll explain my philosophy. The Panthers play on Sunday's and Mark Haggard does an excellent job of giving thorough highlights and I would say at least half of the time post-game sound. It's not like Hags is doing just one highlight - he goes in depth. On Monday, I will run John Fox if there's something relevant (injury update, etc). It sounds like you want me to run the highlights that Hags ran on Sunday on Monday - if there's nothing new to add, there's no point. Of course, I think that was an awesome win for Carolina and it was great to see Jake Delhomme back under center, but if there's nothing new to add, it would be lazy of me to re-rack highlights. That being said, I do try and make it a point to run Panthers interviews at least once a week. The NFL will not allow us to shoot video on the sidelines, so unfortunately, it's not worth our time to go to Charlotte and cover a game when we can't shoot highlights. I would love to go up and do a long feature on Quinton Teal for example. I will continue to show the Panthers whenever it's warranted.

Thanks to everyone for writing in! Ed and I are leaving 6am for NJ and the CCU/Monmouth game - that's usually an adventure - I'll recap our journey next week!