Friday, May 05, 2006

"G" Walker Invited to Colts Minicamp; NCAA Meetings

I'll get to the NCAA meetings in a moment, but first the big news in the Lehigh football family.

Unlike TE Adam Bergen last year, senior WR Gerran Walker may not have been expecting to be picked in the NFL draft. But "G" is in the same place as Bergen was last year, signing a rookie free-agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts.

Anyone who watched a Lehigh game last year could tell you that Walker was a difference-maker with his speed. Against Monmouth he racked up 311 all-purpose yards and 2 TDs, including 144 return yards. He was one of the fastest athletes I'd ever seen as a Mountain Hawk. His hard work during the season -- and offseason -- has given him a shot at professional ball.

The press release has some interesting quotes:

“The opportunity to one day maybe catch a pass from Peyton Manning and learn from one of the best receivers in Marvin [Harrison] is still sinking in,” Walker said Tuesday afternoon from Bethlehem. "If I work hard enough, I might get the opportunity to make a name for myself and for Lehigh.”


Walker and Bergen worked out with one another in February and March leading up to the draft. The one year NFL “vet” gave the rookie some words of advice. “He told me how tough it’s going to be,” Walker said, “and I know how hard I am going to have to work. Lehigh gave me the tools to work hard in the off-season, taught me how to carry myself as a student-athlete, and taught me how to be a good teammate.”

One thing is crystal-clear - "G" has no illusions about the amount of work it's going to take to make it in the NFL. Today, he had his first taste of the work in Colt minicamp. On the Colts Website, coach Tony Dungy spells it out:

“We just talked through how we do things, what we expect from them and what they can expect from us,’’ Dungy said early Friday afternoon on the first day of the Colts’ 2006 rookie mini-camp, which will continue through Sunday at the Union Federal Football Center.

“Basically, we encourage them to relax and take in the information.”


“Ten or 12 guys are going to make contributions,’ Dungy said. “We don’t know who it’s going to be. Many years, it’s the No. 1 draft choice, a Dwight Freeney. But many years it’s a Gary Brackett, an Aaron Moorehead, a Brad Pyatt. The reason we brought them here is we feel they have the talent to continue. Now, it’s up to them. . . .

“The advice I give them is, ‘Follow the veterans, No. 1.’ We have a great group of leaders here, so they can see how things are supposed to be done. No. 2: have high expectations. We expect guys to come in and play. We’ve had good success with guys coming in and contributing. Everybody has talent. It’s the guys who take advantage of their opportunity, that work hard, that will succeed. We’ve had a lot of guys, from first-round draft choices, to free agents, that have done a lot of good things for us.”

You'll note the recurring theme here: "hard work". You would think coach Dungy would appreciate Walker's attitude.

Hopefully "G" will have a chance to prove himself on special teams, where the Colts had an uninspiring return unit with 0 punt returns and 0 kickoff returns for TDs in 2005. Lehigh fans everywhere will be rooting for him to make it, just as Adam Bergen ('04) has made it already. "G" has his opportunity.

Good luck!

NCAA Meetings
On my piece on the results of the NCAA Meetings last week was published. The big news was that a proposed football "name change" -- from I-AA to "Division I, Playoff Championship Group" -- was delayed because presidents couldn't agree what the new name should be. I went at length as to what I felt the names should be: "Division I, Bowl Series" and "Division I, Classic Series".

It may not seem that important, but I think it is more important than you think. I-AA is different than I-A, but it isn't *that* different. It's all Division I athletics. I-AA sounds "minor league". It should change to what it really is: a level of Division I competition. It seems like a matter of time - probably by next season - that the name will change officially.

Other than the delayed name change, the only changes that might have directly affected Lehigh football were voted down - seeding 8 teams in the playoffs, and adding a 12th game. Personally I think it was a shame these two measures were voted down, but in particular the seeding of 8 teams in the playoffs hurts the most. Without the seedings, the chances of Patriot League teams hosting one or more rounds in the I-AA playoffs becomes much more tough.

Think of it this way. Let's say Lehigh beats Hofstra and Delaware upsets #1 seeded Hampton in the first round of the playoffs. Lehigh faces Delaware in the next round, and both teams put in a bid for a home game. With no seeding, Delaware wins that bid every time. Delaware's home attendance trumps Lehigh's every time, even though Lehigh has a great fan base of their own.

But with 8 seeded teams, the Hens would have to travel to Lehigh to play the second round. It would be Patriot League teams more chances to host if they win their first round games.

No venue should trump a better team.

Coming Soon: My Patriot League Spring Roundup
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