Shawnee (Okla.) lineman Tristan Wyatt gaining looks from Memphis, offered by Tulsa

Although Shawnee (Okla.) High quarterback John Jacobs III has been labeled by various recruiting analysts as a “game changer,” given he helped steer Shawnee from years of futility to a team that enjoyed consecutive playoff appearances, the East Carolina commitment is quick to point out that Tristan Wyatt has played a pivotal role in his progress in recent years.

HUGE IMPACT --- Shawnee (Okla.) High offensive lineman Tristan Wyatt (No. 74) adjusted comfortably to his new role as a starter this past season. Wyatt has been offered a scholarship by new American Athletic Conference member Tulsa and has generated interests from the University of Memphis. (Photos courtesy of Shawnee Athletics)

HUGE IMPACT — Shawnee (Okla.) High offensive lineman Tristan Wyatt (No. 74) adjusted comfortably to his new role as a starter this past season. Wyatt has been offered a scholarship by new American Athletic Conference member Tulsa and has generated interests from the University of Memphis. (Photos courtesy of Shawnee Athletics)

“Tristan is the biggest asset to our team,” Jacobs told MemphiSport on Friday. “He’s one of my best friends and keeps the team leveled headed and focused.”

Wyatt, 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman who said Friday he’s being recruited by the University of Memphis, was a key ingredient to an offensive unit that was among the finest in Oklahoma Class 5A football this past season. For starters, Wyatt showed no signs of inexperience in his first full season as a starter. As a result, Jacobs managed to register impressive numbers both in and outside of the pocket.

To his credit, the assertiveness and poise Wyatt demonstrated in 2013 are among the reasons the Wolves recovered from years of futility and enjoyed consecutive playoff appearances.

A team that boasts an offensive line that weighs an average of about 275 pounds, the Wolves finished with a 9-3 mark and advanced to the Class 5A championship game.  

While an offensive lineman isn’t the most glamorous position, credit Wyatt and his crew — a massive, rugged unit — that will be destined to pick up where it left off this past season.

As Wyatt is acknowledges, the effort he displayed was a testament of brutal offseason workouts he had last summer.

“I learned that I truly have the potential to be one of the best linemen in Oklahoma,” Wyatt said in assessing his performance.

Fortunately for Wyatt, a slew of college scouts took notice of the constant strides me made as a junior.

Wyatt, in fact, has already been offered a scholarship by the University of Tulsa, which will join Memphis in the American Athletic Conference this upcoming season. Besides the Tigers, he is being heavily recruited Arkansas, OklahomaState, and a host of Division I schools.

Expect that list to increase in the coming weeks, considering Wyatt is scheduled to attend several camps and combines, mostly at Iowa, Tulsa, and Arkansas, among others.

Weeks after the 2013 season, he earned invites to the Nike and Rivals camps in Dallas.

As he prepares for what figures to be a stellar senior year for a Shawnee team that returns the bulk of its offensive unit and will likely be a favorite to capture the Class 5A crown, Wyatt said there are number of mechanics on which he must improve to ensure his final prep campaign is a success.

HOLDING HIS OWN --- Wyatt (No. 74) was the centerpiece of a Shawnee offensive line that helped quarterack John Jacobs III amassed more than 5,000 yards of total offense last year.

HOLDING HIS OWN — Wyatt (No. 74) was the centerpiece of a Shawnee offensive line that helped quarterack John Jacobs III amassed more than 5,000 yards of total offense last year.

“My biggest strength is my footwork speed,” Wyatt said. “I’m still trying to get quicker, but I can get my foot down real quick, kick back very quick, and get to the spot I need to in order to block any defender on the field.”

Besides having an experienced, bulky unit, which enabled him to adjust comfortably to his new role, Wyatt also credits Shawnee coach Billy Brown for instilling in him the confidence he needed to thoroughly carry out his duties.

“Coach Brown has really helped me understand football,” Wyatt said. “I was at a loss coming into high school since I had never played and Coach Brown’s coaching as well as the other coaches had helped me to understand the game better.”

That Wyatt adjusted masterful to his role and evolved as the centerpiece among Shawnee’s offensive linemen made his quarterback’s job easy.

At least, Jacobs thinks so.

“It never hurts to have a body guard either,” Jacobs said with a grin.

He has his best friend to thank.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Fairley’s Shannon Lucas witnesses mother beat breast cancer, graduates with honors

Shannon D. Lucas played football during his middle school days.

He was quite good at it.

However, his competitive football tenure was short-lived, in large part because of an assortment of injuries.

MOTHERLY LOVE --- Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, LaTonya McKinney overcame the dreaded disease and was in attendance recently to witness her son, Shannon Lucas, graduate with honors from Fairley High. School officials announced recently the closing of Fairley as a member of the Shelby County Public Schools system. (Photos submitted by LaTonya McKinney)

MOTHERLY LOVE — Despite being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, LaTonya McKinney overcame the dreaded disease and was in attendance recently to witness her son, Shannon D. Lucas, graduate with honors from Fairley High. School officials announced recently the closing of Fairley as a member of the Shelby County Public Schools system. (Photos submitted by LaTonya McKinney)

So much, in fact, that Lucas sensed that playing football in the high school ranks would not be in his best interest.

“The reason I stopped was because I had three injuries during the season,” Lucas told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “Afterward, I went on to realize that doing so in high school would be much harder for me. I wanted to focus on actually finishing high school, not missing days in the hospital, and missing assignments. That was an Achilles Heel that I couldn’t afford to carry.”

With football all but a distant memory, Lucas was determined to make good of what appeared to be discouraging ordeal.

To his credit, he did just that.

COLLEGE BOUND --- After graduating with honors on May 17, Lucas will enroll this fall at the University of Memphis on an academic scholarship.

COLLEGE BOUND — After graduating with honors on May 17, Lucas will enroll this fall at the University of Memphis on an academic scholarship.

The 17-year-old Memphian recently was among 153 individuals who were awarded diplomas during Fairley High’s final commencement exercises as a part of the Shelby County Public Schools system. For Lucas, while learning that Fairley will no longer be a public institution for inner city children in the Whitehaven community was a bittersweet moment as he sat among his classmates, among his fondest memories, he said, will be how he went about erasing the memories of the trials he endured as middle school athlete.

In a nutshell, Lucas wasn’t just a recipient of a diploma. He graduated with honors.

“My memories travel back all the way to when I first stepped foot into Fairley as a freshman with everyone else,” Lucas explained. “We didn’t know who anyone was, we didn’t know where we were, or were to go. It was like we were lost in a deep jungle. Then as we entered our senior year, everything seemed so old. We even felt old when we saw the newbie freshmen coming in. All we could think was, ‘We were never that bad as freshman!’”

During Fairley’s graduation ceremony before an overflow crowd in Memphis’ historic Orpheum Theatre in the heart of downtown, among those who were enthralled and sat nearly on the edge of her seat near the stage was Lucas’ mother, LaTonya McKinney.

To get a thorough understanding of why McKinney, a Coldwater, Miss. native, was brought to tears before her son’s name was called throughout the loudspeakers to receive his diploma, look no further the events that swarmed her life roughly eight years ago.

In 2006, McKinney was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Such news was a devastating blow for McKinney, whose twin sister, LaSonya Thomas, was diagnosed with the same dreaded disease approximately three years later.

“I didn’t have a response at all,” said McKinney, explaining her initial reaction during an October 2012 interview with MemphiSport. “I didn’t know how to respond, didn’t feel any anger. It was just some information that was given to me. My mom came over and then asked me if I wanted to cry. But I didn’t feel like crying.”

Today, however, McKinney and her twin — who were born approximately five minutes apart — are years removed from having gone into remission from breast cancer, a life-altering occurrence that made Lucas’s graduation day more of a celebratory occasion for his mother.

“It did cross my mind,” said McKinney, when asked if she thought she might not live to witness her son’s graduation. “But I quickly took that out of my head because I am a believer in God. My mother was my rock in my battle with cancer and she took really good care of me.”

Lucas, meanwhile, admits that because his mother fought vigorously to beat her battle with breast cancer, the poise she exhibited enabled him to establish a solid work ethic, particularly at an institution where the student body’s overall performance in the classroom had become an issue with state officials.

In other words, Lucas steadfastly defied the odds, erasing the memory — at least for a short while — of the upcoming closing of historic Fairley High.

Next up: He’s off to the University of Memphis this fall on an academic scholarship.

“I am highly disappointed that my school is closing,” Lucas said.  “Imagine, in the class of 2014 lies that last true blood Bulldogs of Fairley High School. The final O.B.’s (original bulldogs) are out of the building, and now the school that we all grow up together in will now seize to exist as we know it.”

Regardless, that doesn’t merely compare to the graduation memories his mother will forever cherish — memories she witnessed unfold close and upfront in the historic Orpheum Theatre.

So much for football.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Throwback Thursday: Dr. Tom Prichard is coming to MSL

Bodydonnas

The Bodydonnas & Sunny

We are excited to announce that on the June 21st edition of MSL, former WWE Tag Team Champion and Memphis Wrestling mainstay Dr. Tom Prichard will be joining us live to discuss professional wrestling.  Not only has Tom Prichard been an in-ring performer for more than thirty years, but he has also been the head trainer for World Wrestling Entertainment on several different occasions.

This week’s Throwback Thursday will feature a few different sides of Dr. Tom.  Starting with the old school wrestling fans, they will remember the loud-mouth, obnoxious Prichard with the long hair hanging in his face.  One of the best promo men of the ’80’s, in my opinion.

Let’s rewind back to the late, great WWE Hall of Famer Gordon Solie interviewing an irate Dr. Tom Prichard.  Prichard tells the story of how Dirty White Boy attacked him, leaving him for dead.  You can feel the hatred and passion, as Dr. Tom gets more and more fired up.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this version of Dr. Tom Prichard, do you remember the tag team Heavenly Bodies?  Dr. Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray lead by Jim Cornette won the Smokey Mountain Tag Team Titles at WWF Survivor Series 1993 by defeating Rock n’ Roll Express.  This was a historic Championship match because it was so rare to see another companies titles defended on WWE pay-per-view.

We certainly can not forget the former WWF Tag Team Champion Bodydonnas, lead to the ring by Sunny.  Dr. Tom (as Zip) tagged with the late Chris Candido (as Skip) and won the WWF Tag Team titles at WrestleMania XII’s Free for All.

Dr. Tom Prichard will join MemphiSport Live (MSL) for an exclusive interview on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM on Saturday, June 21st. MSL airs live from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm.

Fun Facts:  

“Throwback Thursday” is a weekly Memphis Wrestling post at MemphiSport.com.

Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and MSL. Follow him @DustinStarr.

SEE ALSO:

MSL Podcast: Memorial Day Weekend Show 2014

 

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HOUR 1:

(Segment 1) Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter recap the week’s biggest stories during the Starting 5.
(Segment 2 & 3) Memphis Flyer Grizzlies writer Kevin Lipe in studio for his weekly segment to talk about Robert Pera, all the changes in the front office and to discuss possible coaching candidates.

MemphiSport Live

 

HOUR 2:

(Segment 1)  Hang Up & Listen with the winner getting $25 to Elfo’s Restaurant in Germantown.
(Segment 2) The guys discuss the Grizzlies’ situation while ranking things on a scale of 1 to 10.
(Segment 3) Woohoos and Boos.

MemphiSport Live

Kevin Cerrito and Marcus Hunter host MemphiSport Live (MSL) on Sports 56 & 87.7 FM every Saturday from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm. MSL was voted 3rd Best Sports Radio Show in the 2010, 2011 & 2012 Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis poll.

Follow the MSL hosts on Twitter @cerrito @marcus__hunter.

‘We’re a more dynamic team with D-Wade’ LeBron James tells MemphiSport

One week before the end of the regular season, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James spoke about the importance of the team having a healthy Dwyane Wade for the playoffs.

Now we know why.

Wade, an 11-year veteran who missed nine straight games late in the season while nursing a sore left hamstring, hasn’t shown any indications that his health is a concern.

Even after Lance Stephenson’s bold comments last week when the Indiana Pacers’ guard told reporters that Wade’s knee is “messed up” and that he got to be “more aggressiveness and make him run,” Wade hasn’t been anything short of magnificent in the Eastern Conference Finals.

HEATIN' UP --- Dwayne Wade proved in the Miami Heat's Game 2 win against the Indiana Pacers that he isn't fazed by the slew of injuries that sidelined him 28 games during the regular season. Wade scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting to help the Heat even their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Finals series versus the Pacers at one game apiece. (Photos by Michael McCoy/NBAE Getty Images)

HEATIN’ UP — Dwyane Wade proved in the Miami Heat’s Game 2 win against the Indiana Pacers that he isn’t fazed by the slew of injuries that sidelined him 28 games during the regular season. Wade scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting to help the Heat even their best-of-7 Eastern Conference Finals series versus the Pacers at one game apiece. (Photos by Michael McCoy/NBAE Getty Images)

Through the first two games versus Indiana, Wade has been the Heat’s top scorer, averaging 25 points while shooting a career playoff-best .531 percent from the field.

To his credit, the 32-year-old Wade undoubtedly has complemented the play of James during such a critical stretch in the season.

Such was the case in Tuesday’s pivotal Game 2, a game the Heat desperately needed after their sporadic performance in the final’s opener.

Wade, continuing what has been a super-efficient season despite missing 28 games due to an assortment of injuries, scored 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting to help Miami tie the series against the top-seeded Pacers at one game apiece with an 87-83 win. Wade and James combined for 22 of Miami’s 25 fourth-quarter points, including the team’s final 20.

Most importantly, the win allowed the second-seeded Heat to seize home court as the series shift to Miami’s American Airlines Arena for the next two games, starting with Game 3 Saturday night at 7:30 CST.

That Wade — who averaged 19 points per game in 54 regular-season appearances this year — has played a significant role in the Heat’s success of late is exacting what James had been stressing heading into the playoffs.

“It’s very important,” James told MemphiSport during a recent interview, when asked to assess the health of the former Marquette star. “Obviously, he’s one of our Big Three. We’ve won two (consecutive) championships for the most part because our Big Three were on the floor.”

Miami center Chris Bosh who, along with James, joined Wade at South Beach in July 2010, said when healthy, Wade could potentially emerge as the most dangerous player on the floor.

“I mean, he’s our second option,” Bosh said. “When you miss a player like that, you’re going to feel it. And in order for us to be successful, he has to play well. He’s the guy we rely heavily on defense and offense.”

Especially on the offensive end, where Wade has provided the Heat with some much-needed energy, particularly with the game hanging in the balance.

FIERCE TANDEM --- James told MemphiSport during a recent interview that the Heat are a "more dynamic team" with Wade in the lineup. James and Wade combined for 22 of Miami's 25 fourth-quarter points in Tuesday's win at Indiana. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE Getty Images)

FIERCE TANDEM — During a recent interview with MemphiSport, James said the Heat are a “more dynamic team” with Wade in the lineup. James and Wade combined for 22 of Miami’s 25 fourth-quarter points in Tuesday’s win at Indiana. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE Getty Images)

Wade, in fact, was just as impressive in the decisive fourth quarter of Game 2 against the Pacers when he scored 10 points, a display that was highlighted by his reverse two-handed slam off a dish from James in the waning moments that sealed it for the two-time defending champs.

“The way I look at, LeBron James’ presence alone makes most teams a title contender,” ESPN Miami Heat reporter Michael Wallace told MemphiSport Friday in a telephone interview from Miami. “But with Dwyane Wade, he puts them over the top. There’s a reason LeBron James came to join Dwyane in Miami and now we’re starting to see it.”

With the best-of-7 series shifting to Miami and a chance for the Heat to put a stranglehold on the upset-minded Pacers, the biggest question now is whether Wade’s heroics can be sustained.

So much for the dauntless comments about his health.

“It’s not going to be Lance Stephenson bringing out the best in Dwyane Wade,” Wallace said. “It’s Dwyane Wade who’s going to bring out the best in Dwyane Wade. So what we’re seeing is Dwyane Wade at his peak right now.”

A late-season resurgence James and Co. were expecting days before the playoffs began.

“We’re a more dynamic team when (Wade’s) out there,” James said.

Now we know why.

Andre Johnson covers the NBA for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Potential Head Coaching Candidates for the Memphis Grizzlies

Dave Joerger has interviewed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for their head coaching vacancy. He was 50-32 in his first season as a head coach.

Dave Joerger has interviewed with the Minnesota Timberwolves for their head coaching vacancy. He was 50-32 in his first season as a head coach.

All hell has broken lose in the Memphis Grizzlies front office with the announcement that Jason Levien and Stu Lash are both out after possibly clashing with majority owner Robert Pera.  This news is unsettling to more than just Grizzlies fans as first year head coach Dave Joerger has decided to interview with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Rumors are circulating about Pera not being a Joerger supporter, and that Pera wanted to fire him midway thru the season during the Grizzlies rough start.

Should Joerger leave for Minnesota Pera is going to need to move quickly to fill the head coaching vacancy before all the qualified candidates are taken.

Here is a list of potential coaches that Pera and the Grizzlies should think about hiring…

Tom Thibodeau
This is the dream hire for the Grizzlies. Thibodeau would be a perfect fit because of his tough, gritty, defense first mentality.  Since becoming the Bulls head coach in 2010, Chicago has been among the league’s best defenses, finishing no lower than third in the NBA in opponents points per game.  As the head coach for the Grizzlies, Thibodeau could revolutionize the defense is played in the association with players like Tonya Allen, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. Let us also remember this is the same coach that managed to lead Chicago to the playoffs the past two seasons without his best offensive player, Derrek Rose.  Since Thibodeau is still under contract with the Bulls they will need some sort of compensation, which Memphis should be more than happy to give up for a coach of his caliber.  Doc Rivers was traded to the Clippers last season for a first round draft pick and some cash, surely the Grizzlies can package a deal involving a draft picks and some other form of compensation.

George Karl
The 2012-2013 Coach of the Year recipient is still out of work and would be another great hire for the Grizzlies.  He is a future Hall of Famer with an impressive resume.  He interviewed last year for the Memphis head coach position before the Grizzlies decided to go with Joerger.  Karl is known for his ability to get the most out of his team’s offensively, which could help the Grizzlies who are always amongst the worst teams in the NBA when it comes to offensive production.    His 80-105 playoff record is a little concerning, but he has won over 1100 games in his career so it is clear he knows how to coach.

Lionel Hollins
Seems crazy for Hollins and Grizzlies management, right? After all, the two sides parted ways about a year ago after Memphis refused to offer Hollins a new contract.  Yet, if Pera is really serious about cleaning house in the Grizzlies front office there will be nobody left over from that ugly break up in 2013.  Memphis tried the analytics route and Pera was not a fan of it, so he could very easily approach Hollins and say we made a mistake please come back.  He could then make Hollins coach and even give him a position in the Grizzlies front office (I have a feeling that there will be more openings soon).  Hollins has interviewed with Minnesota and it is rumored that he and the Cavilers have a mutual interest also, but neither one of those teams are as good as Memphis. Throw in the fact that Hollins is one of the architects of the grit and grind culture and you have a good fit for the Grizzlies.

Mark Jackson
Although he was unable to last as Warriors head coach Jackson is still a hot commodity among organizations looking for a quality man to lead their team.  Golden State won 50-plus games this year for the first time since 1993 and made it to the playoffs before being ousted by the Clippers.  Jackson was instrumental in the development of young guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, and he can help Conley make the jump to elite point guard status.  Not only will he help Conley, but Jackson will inject some much needed offensive spark into a team that needs to become more efficient on that side of the ball.

CJ Hurt covers the NBA for MemphiSport. Follow him @conradicalness for live tweets from games.

SEE ALSO:

 

Braircrest standout Rashad Muhammad patterning his game after Bo Jackson

Rashad Muhammad is only 15 years old.

Still, his young age doesn’t prevent him from studying the game of football.

'RAGING' RASHAD --- Briarcrest Christian School running back Rashad Muhammad emerged as one of the area's finest rusher despite a a year in which the sophomore endured an early-season knee injury. With two season left in his high school career, Muhammad has already drawn rave reviews from college scouts. (Photos by Steve Austell)

RISING STAR — Briarcrest Christian School running back Rashad Muhammad emerged as one of the area’s finest rusher despite a a year in which the sophomore endured an early-season knee injury. With two season left in his high school career, Muhammad has already drawn rave reviews from college scouts. (Photos by Steve Austell)

Muhammad, who plays running back for Briarcrest Christian School, admittedly spends a lot of time studying the likes of former NFL greats Emmitt Smith, Herschel Walker, and Bo Jackson.

No one appears more intriguing than Jackson who, according to Muhammad, is the best rusher to ever play the game.

“Bo Jackson is my all-time favorite player,” Muhammad told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “He was an all-around player. He can play all sorts of sports.”

Jackson, a former Auburn star and the 1985 Heisman Trophy winner, was a force on the gridiron, which ultimately gave way to a solid professional career. Nowadays, Muhammad is clinging to lofty aspirations of making a name for himself in the backfield much like Jackson did in the 1980s.

To his credit, Muhammad has quickly blossomed into one of the top rushers in the Shelby-Metro area in his brief time as a starter for Briarcrest. In helping the Saints to a postseason berth this past season, Muhammad emerged as a the team’s featured back during a year in which he finished as the team’s top rusher.

Through 10 starts, Muhammad showed no signs of rust as a first-year starter, having produced 745 yards on 54 carries and 10 touchdowns for a Briarcrest team that advanced to the playoffs despite a losing record (4-8).

Credit Muhammad for the Saints’ late-season surge, in large part because the speedy, durable back showed that despite his lack of experience on the varsity roster, he could manufacture impressive numbers against the area’s best defensive units.

WATCH RASHAD IN ACTION VIA VIDEO:

“I don’t want to be known as an average player,” Muhammad said. “I want to be known as a great player, a great student average.”

If nothing else, Muhammad appeared destined to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in his first full season as a starter before a knee injury weeks into the season reduced his effectiveness. Muhammad injured his right knee during a Week 4 28-27 loss at Germantown. After undergoing an MRI the following day, doctors discovered that an in-grown bone was chipped, an injury they said needed to heal on its own.

As a result, the Briarcrest coaching staff kept its featured back out of action for two weeks for precautionary reasons. Consequently, the Saints dropped their next two games, a sequence Muhammad sensed would have played out much differently if not for his early-season injury.

RAISING THE BAR --- Muhammad said among his goals for next seasons to to rush for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

RAISING THE BAR — Muhammad said among his goals for next season is to rush for 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

 

“I wanted to play because I didn’t want to sit on the sideline,” Muhammad said of being sidelined. “But I had to cheer my team on. Looking back, I probably would have been more careful in what I was doing (before the injury).”

While Muhammad recouped comfortably from his knee injury, the Saints used him sparingly in the lineup the rest of the regular season. Still, he managed to register impressive numbers which, fortunately for him, have already generated interest from multiple colleges.

Currently, Muhammad has garnered letters from Duke, Cincinnati, Georgia, Memphis, Colorado, and Ole Miss, among others, according to his father, Clarance Muhammad.

And, with a summer itinerary that includes appearances at a host of camps and combines — one of which is Auburn — the possibility exists that Rashad will receive more feedback from colleges heading into what figures to be an intriguing junior season. In addition, Rashad is scheduled to participate in a month-long tour in June in that will include visiting eight major Division 1 colleges.

“Rashad Muhammad is an exceptional young man with tremendous football ability,” said Major Wright, who coached Rashad the previous two seasons at Briarcrest. “His progress from his freshman season to his sophomore season was a testament to the amount of works he puts into it. He also places heavy emphasis on his academics. He will be a heavy contributor to the Briarcrest football team over the next two seasons.”

Arguably the biggest reason Rashad is expected to witness his production increase next season is that he worked intensely this offseason to upgrade his mechanics, a trend that, according to him, has inspired him to set what he describes as an “attainable feat” during the 2014 season.

“I had set some goals for myself,” Rashad said. “I want to get 2,000 yards (next season). I figured 1,000 is for average person. So I plan to get 2,000 and 20 touchdowns. (My coaches) are hoping for big things for me this upcoming season.”

As Clarence Muhammad tells it, the sky’s the limit for his son, whom he said handled the maturation process well, particularly after his early-season injury.

“Rashad embodies exactly what every coach covets and that’s hard work and respect,” Clarance Muhammad said. “Also, he’s blessed to be in a two-parent home with support for his God-given athletic ability. He’s tough. He’s coachable, and he has had exposure, meaning he has seen the world from both sets of eyes, white and black. He desires success for himself.”

Much like Bo Jackson did in the mid-1980s.

Not bad for a talented 15-year-old.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Throwback Thursday: Jerry Lawler wants Andy Kaufman in WWE Hall of Fame

Last Saturday afternoon on MemphiSport Live, we discussed the late Andy Kaufman and his contributions to professional wrestling.  Being a part of one of the most famous segments in Late Night with David Letterman history, his ongoing feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler made national headlines.  Recently, The King even tweeted his thoughts on Andy Kaufman going into the Celebrity Wing of WWE’s Hall of Fame.

Lawler Tweets about KaufmanThis week’s Throwback Thursday dates all the way back to 1982.  Before the footage hits WWE Network, let’s take a look at the segment that not only helped put Memphis Wrestling on the map – but it was also what Lawler calls “one of the best things in his career.”  This clip will not only show the segment from Letterman in its entirety, but also highlights of interviews, attacks and so much more from the epic feud between the two.

* Caution – Mature Language *

One of the greatest feuds in professional wrestling history started right here in Memphis, TN.  It is amazing that this feud is so highly regarded among fans and experts, with Kaufman not even being a wrestler.  That shows you just how talented Kaufman truly was.  As for Jerry Lawler – well, he is The King after all.

Andy Kaufman was indeed a Hollywood celebrity.  But he absolutely loved professional wrestling.  He starred in numerous television shows and specials, including his most popular run on the hit television show Taxi.  My personal favorite skit was his rendition of “Mighty Mouse” on Saturday Night Live.  Kaufman’s love of Memphis apparently ran even deeper than just wrestling.  Have you seen Andy’s Elvis Presley impersonation on the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show?

With the Memphis Wrestling video library headed to WWE Network, maybe then The King will get his wish of Andy Kaufman being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.  Do you think Andy Kaufman deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame?

Fun Facts:  Most thought that the Lawler vs. Kaufman feud was legitimate for many years.  It wasn’t revealed until 10 years after Kaufman’s untimely death from lung cancer that Lawler and Kaufman were actually friends who were simply putting on a show.  Kaufman was so sneaky and secretive, many actually thought Kaufman faked his sickness with cancer and even his own death.

A movie based on Kaufman’s life was made in 1999 entitled “Man on the Moon.”  Jim Carrey starred as Andy Kaufman.  Jerry Lawler & Jim Ross were also featured in the film.  It is a must-see.

“Throwback Thursday” is a weekly Memphis Wrestling post at MemphiSport.com.

Dustin Starr is an active sports entertainer and regular contributor to MemphiSport and MSL. Follow him @DustinStarr.

SEE ALSO:

Cottonwood (Ala.) QB Cory Gill drawing interest from Vols, other SEC schools

'HIGH COTTON' --- Cottonwood (Ala.) High quarterback Cory Gill enjoyed a memorable junior season that resulted in him becoming the top passer in the state. His performance didn't go unnoticed by scouts, including those at the University of Tennessee. (Photos courtesy of Cottonwood Athletics)

‘HIGH COTTON’ — Cottonwood (Ala.) High quarterback Cory Gill enjoyed a memorable junior season that resulted in him becoming the top passer in the state. His performance didn’t go unnoticed by scouts, including those at the University of Tennessee. (Photos courtesy of Cottonwood Athletics)

Following an efficient junior campaign, Cory Gill is about to partake in what will be a busy summer.

Among the reasons is that the Cottonwood (Ala.) High quarterback is scheduled to attend a number of camps and combines, most notably the University of Tennessee camp in the coming weeks.

To his credit, Gill’s stock on the recruiting circuit has steadily progressed in recent years, primarily because he has evolved into the centerpiece of the Bears’ potent offense.

For starters, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Gill was the catalyst of coach Toby Greene’s Cottonwood team that recovered from a midseason three-game winless streak and clinched a trip to the Alabama Class 2A playoffs. In engineering the Bears to a 6-5 finish, Gill demonstrated why college scouts have taken notice of his keen ability to manage an offense.

The two-year starter, for instance, enjoyed a masterful junior season, generating a career-best 2,574 passing on 183 of 325 attempts (which was best among Alabama quarterbacks) while throwing 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

AERIAL ATTACK --- Gill passed for more than 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last year for a Cottonwood team that advanced to the Alabama Class 2A playoffs.

AERIAL ATTACK — Gill (No. 6) passed for more than 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns last year for a Cottonwood team that advanced to the Alabama Class 2A playoffs.

Add to the fact that he has proven he’s capable of extending plays with 211 yards rushing on 47 carries through 11 games, and it’s no wonder why the senior campaign of his resilient passer figures to be a memorable one.

In other words, as Gill goes, so does the Bears.

“I feel like I played pretty good this past season but there are some things I need to work on in order to improve my game and to get ready for the next level,” Gill told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I led the Wiregrass in passing yards.”

Gill, a multi-sport athlete, also starred on the mound for Cottonwood's baseball team.

Gill, a multi-sport athlete, also starred on the mound for Cottonwood’s baseball team.

Fortunately for the 17-year-old Gill — a speedy, durable passer who worked intensely last summer to upgrade his mechanics — various recruiters have monitored closely his performance under center.

So far, Gill has garnered interest from Auburn, Southern Miss, Samford, South Alabama, Alabama State, West Alabama, Florida, Florida International, Troy, Western Kentucky, Appalachian State, Jacksonville State, and Furman, among others.

Such an impressive list is expected to expand as his senior season looms, considering Gill — who also starred in basketball and baseball for Cottonwood — is scheduled to attend an array of camps and combines this summer, including the Southern Elite Top 150 Mississippi Combine.

According to Gill, the knowledge he will acquire this summer will enable him to pick up where he left off after a productive junior season.

“The mechanics that I need to work on in order to be a better quarterback would be my footwork, my ability to extend the play, and my ability to read the defense,” Gill said. “Spring practices this year went pretty good! The whole team gave it their all every chance it got. I feel good about this team. We all have a good mind set and we’re looking to be state champs.”

That the Bears will return the nucleus of a team that showed signs of things to come during the season’s latter stages, many of the Cottonwood faithful believe an elusive state championship isn’t unrealistic goal.

At least not with Gill orchestrating the offense.

“He has been as good a leader for us and we expect the same (next year),” Cottonwood assistant coach Joshua Allen said. “I explained to him often that he needs to be remembered and that people don’t remember losers. We expect Cory to be the motivator, leader by example, and the face of a (team) that has put in the overtime to become the best. He is a smart, humbled, disciplined young man that has a bright future and will be successful in life because he wants to be.”

On and off the field.

A trend various recruiters have taken notice of.

Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Quarterback instructor Joe Dickinson having huge impact on Mid-South-area players

JOE COOL --- Joe Dicksinson, who served as an assistant to former Oklahoma legendary coach Barry Switzer in the mid-1980s, has trained a number of Mid-South-area quarterbacks during a football coaching career that spans nearly 30 years. (Photos submitted by Joe Dickinson0

JOE COOL — Joe Dickinson, who served as an assistant to former Oklahoma legendary coach Barry Switzer in the mid-1980s, has trained a number of Mid-South-area quarterbacks during a football coaching career that spans nearly 30 years. (Photos submitted by Joe Dickinson0

For Joe Dickinson, New Year’s Day essentially is a time of reflection.

Among the reasons is that he has the luxury of watching a number of the nation’s premiere quarterbacks, many of whom he trained intensely long before they entered the collegiate ranks.

“You’re just happy that you can give something back to the game,” Dickinson told MemphiSport during a recent telephone interview from Jacksonville, Fla. “It makes you feel very proud obviously. It makes you feel you’re still apart of the game. I stay in touch with a lot of them.”

Having served as quarterbacks coach for several high-profile coaches during his well-publicized tenure on the sideline, Dickinson is currently the lead quarterback instructor and cam director for DeBartolo Sports University, a position he’s held since 2007. Dickinson frequently conducts quarterback camps and private training nationwide. And, since 2007, more than 1,100 quarterbacks have been trained by Dickinson, ranging from amateur to professional levels.

Since joining DeBartolo Sports, Dickinson, 57, has had a profound impact on a plethora of up-and-coming quarterbacks, many of whom ultimately signed National Letters of Intent with major Division 1 programs.

This year was no exception for Dickinson, a quarterback coaching guru whom many have labeled the mastermind behind having trained an assortment of America’s most sought-after passers for the Class of 2014.

So far, at least seven high school quarterbacks who trained under Dickinson at DeBartolo Sports have inked with major colleges: David Cromwell (Alabama), Rafe Peavey (Arkansas), Landon Root (Northern Illinois), Travis Smith (Wake Forest), Collin Feller (Miami, Fla.), Tristian Threatt (Harvard), and Alexander Diamont (Indiana).

His Class of 2015 quarterbacks appears promising, considering Shawnee (Okla.) High highly-touted prospect John Jacobs III last week made a verbal commitment to play at East Carolina University next fall.

So how to explain the continuous success of Dickinson who, according to former San Francisco 49er offensive lineman Randy Cross, has had a major impact of how today’s collegiate game is played?

MID-SOUTH PRESENCE --- Since joining DeBartolo Sports in 2007, Dickinson has trained more than 1,100 quarterbacks, several of whom have ties to the Mid-South.

MID-SOUTH PRESENCE — Since joining DeBartolo Sports in 2007, Dickinson has trained more than 1,100 quarterbacks, several of whom have ties to the Mid-South.

For starters, Dickinson, a Wayne, Okla. native, has enjoyed a career in which he has been afforded opportunities to work alongside college football finest coaches, most notably former Oklahoma and Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl-winning coach Barry Switzer. Dickinson served as a graduate assistant to Swizter from 1983-85 during which he helped the Sooners to the 1985 national title.

“I’m a big fan of the way Joe coaches and handles quarterbacks,” said Cross, whose son, Brendan, trained under Dickinson before playing quarterback for Wake Forest. “There are people who have PR firms and all sorts of sponsors and stuff for quarterbacks. But the way Joe does it, he has invented the new way to throw. He knows it from a fundamental standpoint, from a mechanical standpoint.”

Not only that, Cross, who starred for the 49ers and won three Super Bowls between 1976-1988, said Dickinson’s contributions are still impacting the way the college game is played today, although he doesn’t remotely assist college coaches.

“College football coaches are recruiters,” Cross said. “They don’t have time to coach guys up. So they need guys like Joe Dickinson. He can help with footwork. He can help with throwing. He can help with film study, especially for young players who must know how defenses are set up. I think his insight is unique.”

Prior to joining the DeBartolo Sports staff, Dickinson enjoyed a prosperous collegiate coaching career that spanned nearly three decades.

From 1986-1989, for instance, Dickinson was the running backs coach at the University of Tulsa before assuming an offensive coordinator position at Marshall University in 1990. Consequently, he took his play-calling skills to nearby Northern Illinois, where he served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 1991-95, a stint that allowed him to oversee the nation’s leading rusher, LeShon Johnson, who amassed 1,976 yards on 327 carries while finishing 6th in the Heisman Trophy voting.

In addition, Dickinson moved back to his native Oklahoma in 1996 during which he assumed a second stint with the Sooners’ coaching staff. He started as the running backs coach from 1996-97 before being promoted to offensive coordinator for the 1998 season. To his credit, Dickinson helped the Sooners to their best finish since 1995, but would leave the program four seasons later after the arrival of OU’s current coach, Bob Stoops.

Dickinson later accepted a running backs coaching position at Tulane before assuming a joining staff at Central Oklahoma from 2003-2006.

Having devoted a majority of his life to helping enhance the lives of athletes, Dickinson admittedly has never grown tired of his craft as arguably one of the best quarterback coaching minds in the game.

“I’ve played (football) in high school and college and I’ve always wanted to coach,” Dickinson said. “I’ve never thought of it as a job. It’s a great sport. It’s allowed me to do a lot for kids. It’s the best sport that teaches how the lessons of how life is.”

Something by which Dickinson, one of football’s brightest minds, relishes quite often.

Especially when he’s watching the annual New Year’s Day bowl games.

Andre Johnson, a senior writer for MemphiSport, is a regular contributor for Bleacher Report. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.