Removing The Negative Stigma From JUCO’s: Ta’Rayle Cates Shares His Transition From A JUCO-Product To An International Athlete

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With only a short drive from Mt. Clemens To Port Huron where St. Clair Community College is, Ta’Rayle Cates was preparing for his career as a basketball player for the next two years.

Cates had just graduated high school and was a JUCO product in the making. As a point guard, Cates always felt his game was good enough for the Division 1 or 2 route, but he ended up taking a different path. But this path didn’t defer his dreams of playing at the next level— it prepared him.

“Being a juco product is something I take pride in,” he says. “Attending a junior college was one of the best decisions I made not only athletically, it helped me academically, and help build my character off the court. At the junior college level its basically what you make it, as a athlete you have to put the work in to get to the next level.”

In today’s society, attending a JUCO is always associated with negative annotations; including athletes who play at these colleges being labeled as  “university rejects” or being seen as “not good enough.” Even Ta’Rayle has witnessed these negative perceptions and is here to erase the stigma behind it.

“Knocking JUCO’s is something I see on the daily bases. I see people getting laughed at for committing to a junior college or getting bashed,” says Cates. “My advice for those student athletes that are or will be attending junior college is simple: Never give up and never get discouraged. Just stay focused and trust the process, but most importantly believe and have faith in yourself.”

A JUCO or Junior College is a post-secondary educational institution designed to prepare students for skilled trades or to transition to another college with more advanced academics and athletics. Students typically attend junior colleges for 1–3 years. For athletes in particular, JUCO’s prepare them physically, mentally to go to the next level while also helping them meet the grade criteria.

“Attending junior college helped me focused a lot more towards my academics, especially coming from a high school that lacked a good education system I always struggled academically, but during my two years of junior college it help strengthened my study habits.”

But besides the most obvious benefits of attending these small colleges, there are also other perks that Ta’Ryle has experienced and benefited from; one of those was learning to be humble.

“Juco was very beneficial for my journey. My first year of junior college was kind of a humbling experience,” he says. “I came in with a big head, thinking that I was too good to play at this level but that mindset changed quickly.”

And it was after gaining humility and doing some hard work that Ta’Ryle was offered a more advanced opportunity to play ball. After two long years, the Mt. Clemens native was offered to play basketball for Redeemer College in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada.

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“I emailed numerous of coaches begging for an opportunity. Some responded some didn’t, but the school that I will be attending the coaching staff showed the most interest, they were honest and loyal.”

Now that Ta’Ryle is moving further down the path to accomplish his dreams of playing basketball professionally, he’s faced with more challenges and opportunities to better his game.

“The transition is all mental. The game is a lot faster and more physical now, so now that I'm here I have to work twice as hard.”

By Cates using his time at a JUCO as a stepping stone, he’s become one of the few to help paint a positive light on JUCO’s.

Cates is set to start playing at the international university on September 28th, 2018. He’ll be starting in his original position as point guard for the Redeemer Royals.

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Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess gives back to his community

Photo taken by yours truly. 

Photo taken by yours truly. 

Over the weekend the Carolina Panther’s wide receiver, Devin Funchess came back home to host his youth summer camp at Harrison High School in Farmington Hills, Mich. This is a community event he’s put together for a third year in a row for kids of ages 5 to 13-years- old.

During the 11 a.m. registration, I was able to get ahold of Funchess for a short interview about the purpose of events such as the one he was holding.

“Just to give back to the community,” says Funchess. “It’s just to tell kids they can come out and have fun at a free event and to instill discipline and respect in them, and keep them in school and off the streets.”

This year over 250 kids showed up excited to meet the football star and to participate at the camp from 12-4 p.m. Luckily Funchess had assistance from seven of his friends who currently play football for the University of Michigan, including Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Long Jr., and Tarik Black.

From left to right: UofM FB Players Freddy Canteen II, Lavert Hill, Tarik Black, Joe Milton, Funch, Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones,David Long Jr., Former UofM Captain Machael Martin, and squatting on the ground is Ambry Thomas. Personal photo belong to Devin Funchess, retrieved from @dfunch via Instagram. 

From left to right: UofM FB Players Freddy Canteen II, Lavert Hill, Tarik Black, Joe Milton, Funch, Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones,David Long Jr., Former UofM Captain Machael Martin, and squatting on the ground is Ambry Thomas. Personal photo belong to Devin Funchess, retrieved from @dfunch via Instagram. 

Devin, now going into his fourth year of playing professionally, said he decided to invest in his community the moment he was drafted as a second round pick.

“I trademarked ‘Funch Bunch’ when I just got in because I thought it would be a good thing to do. I’m all about the community and the kids-- you’re safe with me, you can learn and have fun. I’m a good mentor and big brother.”

Devin started his rookie season back in 2015 with the Panthers and made his preseason debut against the Buffalo Bills later that August.

“I already knew I was going to go to the NFL because of the work I put in,” says Funchess. “But I was happy I was drafted, it was a goal checked off my list.”

During that first season, the Panther's primary receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, tore his ACL at training camp, leaving the team to depend on Devin to take over as a consistent target for Cam Newton.  You’d think a big responsibility like that would put a lot of pressure on a rookie, but Devin disagreed.

Photo retrieved from @dfunch. From left to right: Damiere Byrd, Cam Newton, Austin Duke and Funch.

Photo retrieved from @dfunch. From left to right: Damiere Byrd, Cam Newton, Austin Duke and Funch.

“It was the family aspect of it—nobody was too selfish, it didn’t matter who caught the ball, everybody’s numbers that year were phenomenal and when you have a team atmosphere like that, it gets kind of easy and it took a lot of pressure off of me.”

Compared to his first year, Devin believes he’s improved greatly as a player. However, he still believes he can improve in some areas.

“I have to continue to work my keys, work technique, and work everything else.” He says. “ I want to be a better leader—a better vocal leader.”

As part of being a better leader, Devin has also reached out and interacted with his hometown community in other ways besides having youth camps.

Personal Instragram story photo retrieved from @dfunch  

Personal Instragram story photo retrieved from @dfunch  

“I got a 7 on 7 program that I’m a part of with rising stars, and then I got my ‘Funch Bunch’ team,” says Funchess.  “I try to make sure they get to visit colleges and make sure they get into the colleges with the coaches, and get out in the world so they can be seen to get the scholarships they need to go to school.”

The NFL player says that he helped send around 35 to 45 students to college last year on Division 1 and 2 offers.

After five minutes of speaking with this 6’4 225 lbs. athlete, I realized how genuinely humble and giving he is. With so much talk about the community and caring for the youth,  I concluded our short interview by asking him to offer advice to aspiring football players. In that southern accent he’s acquired since moving his life to Carolina, he says something that could possibly be life changing for any youngin’ reading this.

“Work ethic; I tell my little cousin all the time, you have to out work the guys that’s older than you and the same age as you just to get to your level,” he says. “I worked every day—late, morning, afternoon, at the peak of the sun, and I just couldn’t be stopped. So you have to be a student of the game, you have to get good grades, respect your parents because without them you wouldn’t be in the world and keep grinding.”

And as far as facing challenges, Devin gave the ultimate advice that anyone should hear.

 “Our motto in Carolina is ‘keep pounding,’ I took on that and just kept on going,” says Funchess. “There are always challenges: injuries, off the field stuff, family, but you just have to keep that at the back of your head and keep moving.”

The camp came to an end at 4 p.m. with kids asking for autographs and giving many thanks to Funchess for having a great event. Devin took his time through the crowd of kids and parents, taking pictures, talking and shaking hands. And even then he proved his self to be the perfect role model.

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Toni Harris facing death threats and discrimination as a female football player

Personal photo of Toni Harris retrieved via Instagram @_toniharris

Personal photo of Toni Harris retrieved via Instagram @_toniharris

It’s clear that football is evolving, but now it’s time to look at things from a different angle. Yes the sport is becoming more inclusive for females, but what about the negative aspects due to women breaking the gender barriers of this game?

Toni Harris, a Detroit native and a Safety at East Los Angeles College is the JUCO product we’ve heard about wanting to be the first female NFL player. So far she’s headed down the right path to get her to her goal; successful academic achievement, being the second woman to receive full-ride scholarship offers from NAIA schools such as Bethany and from Adams State, and many more colleges to officially play football.

But along with her accomplishments comes a lot of backlash.

“I have faced discrimination issues involving my gender, coaches telling me I’m not a college football player, no one would recruit me because I was a female & that I wasn’t strong, fast, or big as the guys,” says Harris.

“I’ve even had death threats from people to make me quit.”

But these aren’t Toni’s first experiences of harassment. When Toni was a little girl, her love for football came to life when watching her cousins play football.

With a growing desire to play like her cousins, Toni began participating in youth football. Unfortunately, she was soon forced to leave the team because she was a girl.

Since the time she started dreaming of playing football people have been prejudice, giving her lip and side eyes. But, the question is how was she able to deal with it for all these years?

“It can be discouraging at times but I just use it as motivation to keep going everyday,” says Harris.

“I feel like those people are only one minded, they don’t believe in the impossible & the impossible happens everyday.”

Speaking of “the impossible,” women participating in, picking up on any activities or hobbies that are thought to only be for men— like football are usually thought of as impossible. Toni Harris believes contrary to those statements.

“Back in the day, it was not accepted that women played football and women barely did it because men sought us out to be housewives and in a kitchen but now people are beginning to accept it a lot more.”

Based on Toni’s words, some people still use this way of thinking and try to force these outdated norms onto society. However, it’s hard to have a fixed view when the vast majority of society and it’s way of thinking is continuously evolving. More women are playing and now more people are starting to accept it.

“I do believe the sport is evolving now that more woman are interacting because now these ladies are not afraid to show their talent & take it to the extreme,” says Harris.

“We are further in history than ever before.”

Toni pictured with ELAC teammates (from left to right) Chad Mac, Kevin Trejo, and Tyrus Douglas. Photo retrieved from Instagram via @_toniharris

Toni pictured with ELAC teammates (from left to right) Chad Mac, Kevin Trejo, and Tyrus Douglas. Photo retrieved from Instagram via @_toniharris

Now Toni is becoming a part of history from making changes in society as far a gender roles and athletics.

“Some advice I would give women who aspire to break barriers would be to follow your dreams, keep your faith & stay ten toes down,” says Harris.

“Take the criticism & use it to be great. The sky is not the limit when there are footprints are the moon!”

As Toni gets closer to her NFL dreams, she says doesn’t mind being a part of any NFL team as long as her dream is sought out and accomplished.

“But if I had to choose it would be either The Jags, The Seahawks-my favorite team or the Lions because that’s my hometown.”

In order to even be considered for the league, Toni knows she has to give up some of the luxuries of being a young college student-athlete, including partying and hanging out with friends.

“I don’t want those things to steer me away from my dream,” says Harris.

“I know I have to be 10x more tuned in than the average player. I have to sacrifice. “

Outside of football, Toni is a frequent church goer and tutor. Since her JUCO career she has won The Student Athlete Academic All-star, Scholastic Athlete, and “The Game Changer” Awards. This summer she will be attending the sports banquet where she will possibly be awarded many other accolades.

Toni has yet to commit to either Bethany College or Adams State due to other colleges that have interest. Stay tuned for more about Toni in the future as she transitions from JUCO football.

NFL Network’s Dan Hellie shares how he started hosting NFL Total Access

From left to right: Ladainian Tomlinson, Dan Hellie, and Reggie Bush. Photo received from @danhellie via Instagram.

From left to right: Ladainian Tomlinson, Dan Hellie, and Reggie Bush. Photo received from @danhellie via Instagram.

If you’re a football fan then I’m sure you’ve watched NFL Network’s NFL Total Access before. Which would also mean you’ve seen and heard of Dan Hellie.

Dan Hellie is the co-anchor to this flagship and has been since 2013. However, getting there was no easy ride. Dan says he had to face a lot of challenges as an upcoming journalist to earn the career he has now.

“It took persistence and perseverance,” says Hellie.

“Getting that first on-air job seemed impossible. I had to be willing to move anywhere, learn to survive on a very small $18,000 salary, and once I got the job I had to be self motivated.”

Growing up in Washington D.C., Dan says his dreams of being an on-air sports journalist began when he was in middle school.

“I did a career day in 7th grade with a legendary local sportscaster in Washington D.C. named Glenn Brenner. I spent the day with Glenn and his producers watching them put together the days sportscast and helping pick out highlights.”

Glenn became one of Dan’s inspirations as he continued to watch him as he got older. Other sports broadcasters that Dan also admired were George Michael and Frank Herzog from D.C.’s local news.

“I wanted to be just like them,” says Hellie.

Years later Dan Hellie attended the University of Tennessee. After graduating in 1997, he says it only took him a few months to land a job all because of the advice he was given while interning at Knoxville’s ABC News station.

“The sports director at the time encouraged me to apply for an open news photographer position. I wasn’t interested in being a photog, but he explained to me that it would help when I got my first on air job because I’d have to shoot and edit all of my own stuff.”

Dan got the job as a photog and worked the position during the last 3 months of college and 2 more months after he graduated.

“While I was working there I was firing out resume tapes— yes, when I was in college we actually sent out tapes. I started my first on air job at KCCO in Alexandria, Minnesota a few months after.”

From then on Dan spent the next several years working in Minnesota, Orlando and then in West Palm Beach, Florida. 2006 was when he finally made it back home in Washington to work for one of his inspirations; George Michael at NBC News.

Dan moved on to become one of the longest-serving and best connected broadcasters at NBC after working there for seven years. During those years he had the dream job for a sport anchor, seeing that NBC was one of the most powerful local stations with the strongest sports brand in the country.

Dan Hellie (last on the left) pictured with other analysts during the 2018 Draft segment in April. Photo obtained from @danhellie via Instagram.

Dan Hellie (last on the left) pictured with other analysts during the 2018 Draft segment in April. Photo obtained from @danhellie via Instagram.

“When I was a sports anchor in Washington D.C. I auditioned at several places: ESPN, FOX Sports and NFL Network. I had never planned on leaving NBC Washington it was my dream job, but the time was right to make a move.”

Out of the all places he auditioned, Dan took his opportunity with the NFL Network. And even today he still faces some challenges and sacrifices like he did when he first began his career.

“I was once told by an old boss if you want regular hours work at a bank. I think the biggest sacrifice is the schedule. Working weekends and holidays in this business is the norm.”

Dan also has multiple work settings including being the TV voice for the Tennessee Titans, and the host of the UFC Contender Series.

“It can be a difficult balance. I also call NFL games for Fox, college football games for Facebook, and college basketball for Spectrum Sportsnet here in LA.”

“The most important thing for me is to try and stay ahead so I always feel prepared for each event or show that I’m doing.”

In addition to hosting, Dan says that he works alongside the producers of the show.

“Hosting the show includes working closely with the producers to decide what stories and discussions will be included on the show on a daily basis.”

Even though Dan has moved up the ladder in sports broadcasting, he says he’s unsure if the LA life and The NFL Network was another dream job.

“I don’t know if it was my dream job. Channel 4 was my dream job. That’s the only place that I ever wanted to be so I’d really never thought beyond that. I had no desire to do national television.”

However, The NFL Network worked out in the favor of his career and family. Now Dan aims to continue to diversify hisself as a sports host, continue host and play by play.

Dan concluded his interview with offering advice to aspiring sports journalist in college. 

“Internships are the key to getting your first job. Get a resume reel or writing portfolio together as soon as you can.”

You can watch Dan Hellie chopping it up about football with analysts Monday-Friday at 7 p.m. on the NFL Network. You can also find him on twitter @DanHellie.

Changing the Gender Roles of Football: Tatyhana Blaise talks about playing for the Detroit Dark Angels

Photo by Kelly R. Williams Photography.

Photo by Kelly R. Williams Photography.

Although football is recognized as a male dominated sport, women like Tatyhana Blaise are starting to change that view.

Attending Wayne State University, Tatyhana is a 25-year-old running back for the Detroit Dark Angels. Originally football wasn’t a focus of hers; throughout high school she played basketball and volleyball. She took an interest in the sport a few years ago and decided to give it a try.

“I was playing Madden with some friends who were trying to teach me how to play, but I didn’t understand it. That is when I became interested in learning the sport because I love sports,” says Blaise.

But it wasn’t really until Tatyhana decided she wanted to become a sports journalist that led her to actually want to learn how to play football.

“I was almost given the opportunity to work for ESPN, but I fell short after I failed the analyst exam. I didn’t know everything there was to know about the five major sports— basketball, baseball, golf, hockey, and football.”

Tatyhana later learned about the Women’s Football Alliance and the Detroit Dark Angels through a teammate while she was working out at the gym.

“She just so happen to catch me lifting and she approached me about playing. I asked her if it was with men and she told me that it was an all-women league and proceeded to tell me about it, but I was sold already based on my competitive nature and eagerness to learn the game.”

Soon after, Tatyhana was sponsored onto the Dark Angels by various colleagues from the companies that employ her. Due to it being individuals who sponsor her, names or any additional information could not be disclosed.                                                                                 

Since being a part of the team Tatyhana has played in multiple positions and has been awarded many titles.                                                                                                       

Photo of Dark Angels playing against Pittsburgh Passion taken by Kelly R. Williams Photography.

Photo of Dark Angels playing against Pittsburgh Passion taken by Kelly R. Williams Photography.

“My primary position is running back, however, I’ve played slot receiver, wide receiver, kick returner, punt returner, cornerback, free safety and defensive end,” says Blaise.

“I have also broken the franchise record by being the first RB to rush over 1,000 yards in a single season and made first team All-American for two years in a row.”

Based on her and many other women’s involvement in football, Tatyhana believes the sport is becoming more diverse and could possibly be as big as the NFL one day.

“The sport is definitely evolving. The WFA is the largest women’s football league in the country. When I tell people that I play football, women are excited to know, but men are shocked to hear that an attractive woman plays such a physically demanding sport and don’t believe it unless they see it.”

In response to men and women who still disagree that football can be a female sport, Tatyhana says that it shows their lack of knowledge to the way the game is transforming and are blinded because they are used to seeing it as a man’s sport.

“I laugh because that shows how little they know about the league I play in and the waves we are making in not just the NFL, but the entire sports industry.”

“We have women who are coaching in the NFL from our league, female referees now, we compete against other countries around the world every three years for the IFAF Women’s World Championship title, and we have camps hosted by NFL organizations now.”

But that’s only a handful of the gains that female athletes have achieved in recent times.

From left to right: fullback Lisa Gomes, Tatyhana, and offensive tackle Candace Campbell. Photo from Rebel Life Media.

From left to right: fullback Lisa Gomes, Tatyhana, and offensive tackle Candace Campbell. Photo from Rebel Life Media.

“There are even some women who are just as good as some of the men who play in the league now, but because we live in a society where people can’t seem to see pass the fact that we are women, they miss out on giving us a chance to show the world how good we really are and how intense and exciting our games can be,” says Blaise.

“We playfully padded 11 on 11 outside, which is the only difference between the WFA and the LFL.”

Although Tatyhana doesn’t get to play against men in the WFA, she says she does get to go against them during flag.                                                                                                                   

“It’s really fun actually because most men think they are unstoppable and naturally a better athlete than most women until they come across someone like me who has the athleticism equivalent to a man in most cases. I’m just as fast, just as strong, just as talented and just as knowledgeable about the game as them. I love showing them up and will do it any chance I get to prove them wrong.”                                                                                                                                               

As for future goals, Tatyhana plans on making First Team All-American for a third year in a row, breaking her current franchise record of having rushed over 1,000+ yards in a single season to 1,500 yards, increasing her average yard per carry, leading the nation in rushing, and carrying The Dark Angels  to playoffs and a national title.

Photo of entire Dark Angels Team taken by Kelly R. Williams Photography.

Photo of entire Dark Angels Team taken by Kelly R. Williams Photography.

The upcoming season for the WFA will begin next year in January. However, the Dark Angels are having try-outs once a month starting in August for the new season.

“The Detroit Dark Angels is a great team to play for. We have a great coaching staff and all the right tools are in place for it to become a bigger and better organization. Our home field is Southfield Lathrup and we always play typically on Saturday evenings around 7 p.m.”

If you’re interested in trying out or catching a game, just search “Detroit Dark Angels” on any social media platform to find out more information or you can personally reach out to Tatyhana via Instagram @imjust_blaise.

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Making Fitness a Business: Jelany White talks about training Carmelo Anthony and other athletic professionals

Photo of Jelany White taken by Jordan Sands (IG: thejsands)

Photo of Jelany White taken by Jordan Sands (IG: thejsands)

In need of a little training to get you to the next level of your athletic career? Jelany White is the person to go to! 

Jelany, a Hawaii Pacific Univ. alumni and owner of Pit Performance LA in Los Angeles, is an athletic trainer who has whipped plenty of public figures into shape. From Ish Smith, Greg Ducre, Monte Morris, David Nwaba, Larry Nance, to Carmelo Anthony and numerous international professional basketball players, Jelany has worked with them to accomplish their workout goals. 

Carmelo Anthony and Jelany White pictured after a workout session. Photo by IG: @jwhite.pitla

Carmelo Anthony and Jelany White pictured after a workout session. Photo by IG: @jwhite.pitla

At 24-years-old Jelany created Pit Performance LA in June of 2015. His goal of creating his own sports management firm sparked from previously working at a player development agency that he helped create alongside a few former college basketball teammates.

“Our business was bought out but I wanted to continue to be an entrepreneur and I had a knack for strength and conditioning, so I went for it,” says White.

“I started out helping athletes in my neighborhood who didn’t have access to structured training programs.”

Since then Jelany’s clientele and business has grown, training people in various athletic backgrounds. However his primary focus of athletic training is basketball.

“My business has progressed tremendously. I started with maybe only 3 solid clients now I’m seeing upwards of 25 or more clients in a day, between 40-50 clients,” says White.

Now at 27, Jelany not only trains some of your favorite celebrity athletes, but he also trains elite high school level athletes at some of the top basketball camps in California.

“Growing up in LA playing AAU basketball I was able to build great connections with coaches, directors and parents. These days I am able to use those same connections when it comes to having access to some of the top high school basketball prospects.”

At Pit Performance LA, the starting age to be trained is 13 in order to build a solid athletic development. Clients up to as old as 63 can also be trained.

“My training is to get them prepared for next level basketball whether that is to make a varsity team, play in college, or playing on the highest level being professional, but most importantly I’m trying to train their minds to become winners at life and the first step to becoming a winner is to put in the work.”

Jelany training Chicago Bull David Nwaba. Photo by: Jordan Sands (IG: @thejsands)

Jelany training Chicago Bull David Nwaba. Photo by: Jordan Sands (IG: @thejsands)

On another note, opening a business wasn’t the only goal that Jelany had in mind. During his time at Hawaii Pacific University, Jelany played guard for the Sharks. After graduating in 2013, his goal was to play basketball overseas.

“Playing professionally was definitely a goal of mine, but after committing to starting my own business out of college I wanted to make due on my word to my business partners,” says White.

“The best part about my job is being able to still interact with athletes and help them reach their goals whether that be playing at a high level in college or professionally.”

Currently, Jelany’s new goal is to get a store front location where top athletes can come to train during their off-season.

“Right now I have a main location, which is in Culver City where I train clients, but I also have clients that I travel to for training.”

If you’re a person interested in signing up and getting fit with Jelany visit www.thepitla.com.  There you’ll find information on pricing, scheduling and the services that are offered. 

You can follow Pit Performance on Twitter: @pitperformance15, Instagram: @jwhite.pitla /@pit.performancela, and Facebook: Pit Performance LA to view live training sessions, see actual results from clients and more. You can also send an email for more information to pitperformancela15@gmail.com

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Detroit Lions Free Agent Goes International

Photo Credit: Inside Sport: Japan

Photo Credit: Inside Sport: Japan

At 22-years-old, Clint Floyd was the next look in the 2012 NFL Draft. Standing at 5’10 and only 195 lbs, he was the primary starter as a free safety at Arizona State University. But what got everyone’s attention was his action in the 2011 season.

The Sun Devil led with four interceptions, along with 69 tackles and two forced fumbles. He was also named second team ALL-PAC 12 and PAC 12 ALL Bowl. It was only one thing- or rather two- that was holding him back from his opportunity to go pro.

“I was suppose to be drafted 5th round to the  Kansas City Chiefs, but my shoulder information scared them away once they saw my paperwork from doctors,” says Floyd.

According to doctors notes, Floyd needed surgery on both shoulders at the time. 

“I tore my labrum on my left shoulder and my right shoulder was a repair,” says Floyd.

However, his injuries didn’t keep him from trying to pursue his dreams. Since Clint was no longer a 5th round pick, he decided to become a free agent and go to the Detroit Lions. Yet again Clint found himself at a stand-still.

“It was basically the first day of camp when the Lions let me go,” says Floyd. 

“No team is going to waste money on a player with two injuries. It was a very sad day, but I understood.”

Clint had to take a 2-year break from football for rehab and recovery. Now, at 28-years-old, he’s playing for the Asahi Soft Drink Challengers in Japan’s Football League.

Photo Credit: Inside Sport: Japan

Photo Credit: Inside Sport: Japan

“I heard about international football from teammates once I was let go from the Detroit Lions,” says Floyd. “They told me about a site, Europlayers.com, that helps players in the states and in other countries get recruited by teams overseas.”

After doing some research, Clint’s highlight film was sent in by his friend, Reggie Mitchell, to a coach that was looking for a defensive back in Japan. This will now be his second year playing as no. 8 on the field as a defensive back and return specialist. This season he is focused on his team winning the Rice Bowl and becoming an All Conference Player.

Besides a good network and sending in clips, Clint says there are additional requirements in order to play in the international league.

“To play professional here in Japan, you need to be a college or university graduate,” says Floyd. “Players should also always stay in shape and be prepared for future opportunities at any time.” 

During the season Clint is required to live overseas for 8-10 months of each year. But during the off season, he enjoys being an entrepreneur.

“When I’m not playing I'm teaching English and coaching college athletes,” says Floyd. “Back in the states I'm a personal trainer for ‘Creatively Elite Fitness’ too. I work with all levels and all sports starting from age four to adults.” 

Footage from Clint's personal training sessions with Creatively Elite Fitness. Photo Credit: Clint Floyd via Instagram

Footage from Clint's personal training sessions with Creatively Elite Fitness. Photo Credit: Clint Floyd via Instagram

Clint is also partnering with Europlayers.com to help more athletes further their football career. 

“We will be holding tryouts next year to help players in the states get on the 200+ teams in Europe.”

As prospective players are recruited they need to have a passport in order to play.

Clint also mentions that the international teams will help players finish their Bachelors and or help them earn their Masters Degree at their local Universities.

“You get to play ball, get paid, travel the world and get a degree. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“If you're looking to play overseas, sign up and use me as a referral- Clint Floyd- or direct message me on Instagram (@_clintfloyd) so we can get you playing.”

 

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From Michigan to Poland: Jonathan Williams talks about the Polish Basketball League

Photo credit: Gliwickie Towarzystwo Koszykówki 

Photo credit: Gliwickie Towarzystwo Koszykówki 

Coming straight out of Southfield, Mich., Jonathan Williams is a 23-year-old graduate from the University of Toledo with plenty of ambition.

At UT, Williams was a 2-year consecutive 3rd team ALL MAC and the Top 5 scorer in his school history at 1,757 points. His talents caught the attention of his current agent, Andy B who eventually helped him get contracted to the GTK Gliwice team in Poland.

“My agent showed a lot of interest in me after college,” says Williams. “He told me he wanted to represent me for my professional career.”

Jonathan says that it was mostly the basketball teams overseas that reached out with interest after viewing his college highlights.

“The individual and team success that I had in college played a big factor in gaining interest from international teams,” says Williams. 

When asked what was the qualifications to be contracted to play abroad, Jonathan says there weren’t any specific requirements to be considered. 

“An athlete that can play should be good enough in most cases,” says Williams. “You just have to get the attention of a team. The coach and organization just have to believe that you can help their program elevate.” 

Photo credit: Press Focus, Norbert Barczyk.

Photo credit: Press Focus, Norbert Barczyk.

Williams began his rookie season with GTK Gliwice in August 2017 where he did a month of training camp. Following, he had a preseason tournament in September before the actual season started in November. 

Jonathan was positioned as a combo guard, playing point and shooting guard. He led his team in scoring by 15 points average throughout the season. Alongside of that accomplishment, Jonathan was also able to travel while playing.

“I visited different places in Poland including Kracow, Katowice, Dombrowa, and Warsaw,” says Williams. “ I only had time to visit two other countries which was Prague and Germany.” 

Jonathan says that a few other positives about playing abroad are learning about different cultures, site seeing, eating different foods, learning new languages, and learning to be more independent. However, there are some downfalls to playing overseas too.

“You have to be away from family and friends for 8 to 10 months,” says Williams. “You also have to learn to adapt to the different lifestyle and be in an environment where not too many people can relate to you.”

In addition to facing and adjusting to cultural differences in a foreign country, Jonathan also talks about how the Polish league contrasts with the American league.

“The whole system is different,” says Williams. “They have less athletic players, some rules are different, they’re more aggressive, there’s a lot of illegal screens, and they enforce sharing the basketball more.”

Photo credit: Viewpoint Exposure, Wojtek Sebzda

Photo credit: Viewpoint Exposure, Wojtek Sebzda

In the Jonathan plans on leveling up and moving to a different country now that his rookie year is over. He has interest in playing in Italy, Spain or Turkey.

“My goals are to move to a more dominant country, perfect my craft, make the playoffs and be a key asset to whatever team I’m playing for.”

He also has dreams of eventually moving his talents back to the states one day.

“My ultimate dream was to play in the NBA, but everything doesn’t workout how you want when you want it to,” says Williams. “Playing overseas is a great opportunity to showcase my talents. Hopefully with the success here, I can get a NBA look and possibly a workout or tryout.” 

When asked to share some advice with anyone aspiring to be a part of the international league, Jonathan’s response was to be mentally strong and have a positive attitude.

“There were times where things got hard for me and I had to be mentally strong to make it through.”

 Jonathan also advised those who are aspiring to be to have fun. 

“At times you have a countdown of when you get to fly back home in your head, but that only makes time go slower. When you enjoy yourself, time by goes faster.”

To find more information about the Polish Basketball League click here.

 

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From the Buffalo Bulls to the International League: Brandon Berry shares his story of adversity

Photo Credit: Brandon Berry via Instagram

Photo Credit: Brandon Berry via Instagram

A few years ago you may have read the headlines about the University of Buffalo’s middle linebacker making the decision to leave the team. Brandon Berry was a second-team ALL MAC and a dynamic part of the Buffalo’s defense in 2015. Berry leaving during the middle of his thriving college football career left many wondering why.

“I wasn’t right within myself,” says Berry. “I let adversity get the best of me.”

Brandon explained that one of the adversities that he faced was losing his little brother and teammate, Solomon Jackson who died in February of 2016.

“We made a promise a year before he passed away that one of us would go pro in football.”

Although Jackson’s death was one of the reasons he left, the promise that they made to each other is what motivated Berry to return to the game. Today Brandon is living up to that promise.

He is now positioned as a linebacker for The Challengers in the X-league. The X-league is a top-level American football league that was founded in 1971 in Japan. 

“Solo’s family is really excited for me, I talk to them very often,” says Berry. “All the years I put in to get the opportunity to take my talents to the professional level, I couldn’t waste what God gave me,” says Berry.

February is when Brandon announced that he was going to play in Japan after being signed under a one year contract. He shared his good news by posting a picture of his official jersey with the number 41 in honor of Jackson. Post is shown below.

Photo credit: Brandon Berry via Instagram

Photo credit: Brandon Berry via Instagram

“I was excited,” says Berry. “It’s the best overseas league you’ll find! I felt that all the let downs and disappointments was God getting me ready for this big blessing.”

Between the time of leaving UB and going international, Brandon finished college, got a job and trained for an opportunity in playing professionally to come.

“I worked as an administrative assistant, now I have my own company called ‘Built to Last,’ which is a home remodeling company. I also did a little real estate consulting.”

When asked what led to him getting the opportunity to play overseas, Brandon said that he did excessive research and reached out to international athletes that he knew of.

“The number one thing I also did to prepare myself was make sure my prayer life was in order,” says Berry.

Photo credit: Inside Sport: Japan

Photo credit: Inside Sport: Japan

Now Brandon is preparing to play his first game since returning in the Green Bowl tomorrow at 10:30pm at Oji Stadium. The bowl is a spring Western Japan tournament where different teams compete for ranking. The actual season begins this fall.

“I look forward to mainly winning a championship and being All-Pro,” says Berry.

Tune in live to watch Berry and the Challengers in the Green Bowl tomorrow at 10:30pm by clicking here.

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Kyra is more than just the daughter of 1984’s Olympic Bronze Medalist, Thomas Jefferson

Photo credit: Loreal Curtis Photog

Photo credit: Loreal Curtis Photog

It’s been about a year since Kyra Jefferson took on track professionally. But yet, she still finds herself in her fathers shadow.

“ I feel that since my father was an Olympian, my accomplishments are often compared to his,” says Jefferson. “It doesn't add pressure on me, in fact it makes me want to be better than him.”

After graduating from the University of Florida, Kyra took the first step to accomplishing her goals of making track a career and surpassing her father by signing with NIKE.

“I knew that I wanted to run professionally,” says Jefferson. “NIKE saw my performance at NCAA Championships - breaking a 28 year old collegiate record in what is a race to remember at Hayward Field. They decided to sponsor me because they saw something in me. They saw that I could be great.”

Through her contract with Nike, Jefferson is paid to practice and compete in their gear. Along with being paid to be seen in their clothing, NIKE has also opened opportunities for Kyra to travel and compete on behalf of the brand.

“I competed briefly last summer as a Nike athlete and enjoyed the hospitality at the NIKE House in London for the world championships, I absolutely love their fashion innovations,” says Jefferson.

Out of the few countries she has traveled to already, Kyra says that her favorite place to visit was Monaco.

Jefferson participating in the 4x1 relay in Monaco in 2017. Photo credit: Diamond League Monaco .

Jefferson participating in the 4x1 relay in Monaco in 2017. Photo credit: Diamond League Monaco .

“It’s so beautiful, the people are so welcoming and are big track fans, you feel like a celebrity.” Kyra has visited four countries altogether so far and plans to visit three more countries this summer.

To add on to her accomplishments, Jefferson has also competed in the Diamond Leagues for Team USA. This is a series of international competitions and recently she competed in the Penn Relays, which is a track and field competition that’s hosted annually by the University of Pennsylvania at the Franklin Field.

“This was my first Penn Relays and it was exciting! The crowd was really loud on the final turn where I was, but this meet was different because it was just relays,” says Jefferson.

Jefferson competed in the women’s 4x1 for the USA Red team where they came in second place to Jamaica by .04 seconds.

Kyra Jefferson competing in the 4x1 Penn Relays. Photo credit: J Swift Sports.

Kyra Jefferson competing in the 4x1 Penn Relays. Photo credit: J Swift Sports.

When asked what were her the plans for the future, Kyra responds that she will compete in a few more Diamond League and International World Challenge meets, and then compete at the USA Championships.

“There are no major championships this summer so everyone's objective is to win the Diamond League series. This is done by accumulating enough points per race to qualify for the Diamond League Final and winning,” says Jefferson.

Kyra explained that the Diamond League Final will be held in either Brussels or Zurich this year depending on the events. “A win in this year's Diamond League will give the winners per event a bye to compete in Doha for 2019 World Championships,” says Jefferson.

According to Jefferson, a “bye” means that some athletes will not have to try out to make the top three at USA Championships and that USA will take four people in the respective event.

As for plans to exceed her fathers accomplishments, Kyra aims to be an Olympic Gold medalist one day.

“I want to be better than I think I am, I want to run 21 seconds, I want to win world championships, I want to win an Olympic GOLD, I want to be a well-known name in this sport and someone who people remember years after I retire,” says Jefferson.

In hopes of inspiring other aspiring professional track and field athletes that watch her, Kyra encourages them to always believe.

“Always believe something wonderful is going to happen. It's easy to think negatively and allow doubt to creep in on your goals,” says Kyra. “Being professional is challenging but its also so much fun. If you want to be great you have to decide that you will do anything it takes to do so.”

As of now, you’ll find Kyra in Shanghai, China getting ready to take on another IAAF Diamond League competition this Saturday, May 12th, 2018. You can watch her complete on NBCSN/NBS Sports Gold at 8:14am EST.

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UNCHANGED NFL POLICY RECEIVES BACKLASH

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty

Taking a knee during The National Anthem has been such a controversy since San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick started the act last year. It’s been identified as a problem and a matter of disrespect, especially to President Donald Trump.

Trump has launched multiple attacks on athletes taking a knee during the anthem on multiple occasions, even during times where it should have been the least of his concerns.

Trump has challenged the NFL’s owners to dismiss anyone who engages in the movement and publicly insulted protesting players in multiple speeches and social media post.

“That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” he said in September in Huntsville, Alabama.

Over a months’ worth of time after his freewheeling speech in Alabama, the world began to see more and more NFL players across the country kneel for the anthem in unprecedented defiance of Trump. Even other pro-athletes outside of the NFL joined in to kneel, including baseball player Bruce Maxwell.

This led Trump to push for the NFL to change their policy and ban kneeling. “The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem,” Trump tweeted on Sep. 26.

Many professional athletes and sport executives have criticized the president’s statements and suggestions, arguing that kneeling during the anthem is a form of protest and protesters are just exercising their free speech.

On the morning of Oct. 10, Trump tweeted that tax laws should be changed to prevent the NFL from getting tax breaks since players were protesting.

“Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” tweeted Trump.

That same day, a letter was issued to NFL team presidents and executives from Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, discussing to consider a possible change of the policy for the anthem.

The NFL policy asks that players “stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking” during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner, but it’s not stated to be a requirement. The policy also only allows for potential discipline from teams toward players failing to be on the field at that time.

But during a press conference on Wednesday, Goodell said that he and other team owners decided to leave the league’s policy unchanged. Instead of making a rule to force players to stand, NFL owners aim to convince players to participate, according to Goodell.

“What we try to do is deal with the underlying issue and understand what it is they are protesting and what we can do to address that,” said Goodell.

This left the president not too happy. He took to Twitter the same day saying that the NFL not changing its policy was a total disrespect to the country.

But Trump isn’t the only one who’s unhappy. The unchanged policy has been problematic for league sponsors and their customers according to The Wall Street Journal.

The financial service company USAA’s spokesperson said the company has been in regular contact with the league on this topic in recent weeks. “We’ve communicated with the NFL that we believe it’s an honor to stand during the national anthem,” the spokesman said.

USAA serves military members and their families. The company’s message boards have multiple complaints from angry customers about the company continuing to be affiliation with the NFL. Many customers also threatened to move their business elsewhere.

Smaller businesses say they are seeing “increasing blowback from fans angry about the protests.” Ben DeVoe, the director of franchise development for Pro Image Sports said his firm, which operates more than 100 retail franchises selling athletic merchandise, had a 20% drop in some markets.

Wall Street also mentioned a store in Arizona that sales NFL jerseys said that sales were flat for the first two weeks compared to 2016, and ended the month of September down 54%.

The policy has also angered NFL team CEO’s and Owners. Jerry Jones Dallas Cowboys owner said that his team policy is that players must stand for the anthem and that those who don’t will not play.

Now the question at hand is; what will The NFL do if teams attempt to overlook the policy and enforce their own rules on players?

Sources: cited from twitter and wall street journal

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GOODBYE TO BLACK MAMBA

kobe_bryant.jpg

At first I didn't want to believe it, until it was actually confirmed by social media a while ago that Kobe Bryant announced his retirement. After 20 years of a great career, the forward-guard will play his last game Utah Jazz today. The man is truly a living legacy, playing professionally straight out of high school; he was one of the first people to be drafted before entering college. He's accomplished so much from doing what he loved, 5 time NBA final champion, 2 time final MVP and a 18 time NBA all-star, it's so inspiring. 

It's a happy and sad moment that the Lakers are saying good bye to one of the best basketballs players. Many celebrities have already congratulated Kobe multiple times on his retirement on social media. There have also been multiple tributes, starting with post listing unknown facts about Kobe, the highest number of points he scored against every basketball team in the country, and recap videos of his best games. But the most heart warming post dedicated to his retirement was the one posted by his wife on Instagram. The post described all the sacrifices Kobe and his family had to make because of his career. You'd think being in the professional league would be everything you dreamed ever dreamed of, but really you have to miss out on a lot of important things such as family events and spending quality time together as mentioned in the post.

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But the big debate about his retirement, of course, is which jersey number should he retire. He played as No. 8 and No. 24 for his whole career. In my opinion, I think he should retire the No. 8 jersey because that's the number he originally started with, it mark the start of his career and success. But it has been mentioned a few time that the Lakers may retire both, which may be for the best. We will see what will be decided for ourselves live at the Staple Center later on tonight, but until then, take a look at the farewell clip dedicated to Kobe Bryant.

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