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With a rash of injuries at running back for the New York Giants, former UMass Minuteman Michael Cox is taking advantage of the opportunity. The Dorchester native is taking all the reps for the Giants at the beginning of this week as the team prepares for Minnesota next Monday.
Paul Schwartz of the New York Post has a story on Michael Cox and his journey towards making the New York Giants 53-man roster over the weekend. Schwartz echoes that Cox's journey was similar to that of Victor Cruz.
Perhaps the Giants have a Cruz redux in Michael Cox, the rookie running back who remains on the 53-man roster. This wasn't much of a surprise on cut-down day, as his body of work this summer made it obvious he was going to stick -- just as Cruz performed his way onto the team in 2010.
Without UMass, Cox wouldn't have gotten a sniff of the NFL. He barely got on the field at Michigan. In 2009 he got 13 rushing attempts, 113 yards and two touchdowns, but after that he sat the bench, managing to find only six more carries the next two years. He earned his degree, though, and, with one more year of playing eligibility, he moved closer to home, enrolled at UMass, took post-graduate courses and started all 12 games at running back. His 198 rushes for 715 yards and five TDs got him on the fringe of the draft radar.
Cox, after struggling at Michigan, follows Cruz's path to Giants - NYPOST.com
Seven former Minutemen survived the weekend's NFL cuts and are now on the 53-man rosters for the regular season. Additionally, Julian Talley was signed to the New York Giants practice squad, while John Griffin was assigned to the New York Jets injured reserve list after being hurt during preseason camp.
Michael Cox - New York Giants
Victor Cruz - New York Giants
Vladimir Ducasse - New York Jets
Emil Igwenagu - Philadelphia Eagles
James Ihedigbo - Baltimore Ravens
Jeromy Miles - Cincinnati Bengals
Josh Samuda - Miami Dolphins
Practice Squad: Julian Talley - New York Giants
Injured Reserve: John Griffin - New York Jets
Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel has a feature on former UMass standout offensive lineman Josh Samuda who is now fighting for a starting spot with the Miami Dolphins in just his second season in the NFL.
Jeff Moeller has a feature story on Michael Cox who was taken in the 7th round of the NFL Draft and how he has been fighting for a spot on the New York Giants active roster during preseason camp. So far during camp, Cox, who is one of three former Minutemen with the Giants currently, has drawn positive reviews from the New York coaching staff and media.
Former UMass tailback Michael Cox continues to impress the New York Giants after Saturday's preseason game against Pittsburgh. Cox is fighting for the No. 3 tailback spot after being drafted in the 7th round.
A trio of Minutemen saw action last night for the New York Giants as Victor Cruz, Julian Talley and Michael Cox each played in the preseason game at Pittsburgh.
Cruz finished the game with one catch for 57 yards and a touchdown, while Talley had one catch for 29 yards. Cox was the team's top rusher with 33 yards on 9 carries including a long run of 12 yards.
Nick Underhill of the Springfield Republican has a story on UMass lineman Stephane Milhim and his hopes at the NFL Combine which takes place this weekend.
Stephane Milhim's journey to the NFL Scouting Combine began during one of his daily walks to the bus stop while a freshman in high school.
Despite his size, the Haitian native was never interested in football. He was a soccer player and had never considered using his frame to protect a quarterback. But a football coach caught sight of him on the sidewalk and immediately began pleading the benefits for the sport.
Milhim decided to listen and give the game a shot.
Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston has some quick hits from the NFL Combine which has begun in Indianapolis. Reiss, a UMass alum, made sure to catch up with Minutemen lineman Stephan Milhim.
3. UMass lineman Milhim making big jump. As part of the media interviews at the combine, UMass offensive lineman Stephane Milhim noted that it was nice to be part of a process with players he watches on TV, such as those from Alabama and LSU. "It kind of hasn't hit me yet, but it's like 'I'm here too with these guys.'" Milhim said he measured at 6-3 7/8 and 314 pounds, and called tackle his best position even though some project him to move to either guard or center in the NFL. He has experience at all five positions along the line and felt his performance against Michigan defensive end Frank Clark was one of his best.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a story on James Ihedigbo and how success has followed him throughout his four-year NFL career. In addition to playing in back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams, Ihedigbo has been a member of four AFC Championship teams.
David Anderson of the Baltimore Sun has a profile of James Ihedigbo's mother, Rose, who talks about her son's path to the NFL and his second straight Super Bowl. Rose and her late husband, Apollos, came to the United States from Nigeria in 1979. James grew up in Amherst playing at Amherst Regional High School before coming to UMass. Rose will soon be publishing a book called "Sandals in the Snow" which describes their life and the path their family took.
James Ihedigbo of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after the Indianapolis Colts missed a field goal attempt during the AFC Wild Card Playoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium on Jan. 6. His mother, Rose, who lives in Abingdon says her son exemplifies the values she and his father instilled in him, the values of hard work, perseverance and faith in God.(Patrick Smith/Getty Images, Getty Images / January 5, 2013)
In a photo gallery by the Associated Press which is featured on Yahoo! Sports, James Ihedigbo is shown filming Media Day as the Baltimore Ravens are interviewed prior to the Super Bowl.
Baltimore Ravens safety James Ihedigbo shoots a video as safety Bernard Pollard, right, looks over his shoulder during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
UMass alum and Boston Herald sportswriter Jeff Howe has a piece on local connections in this year's NFL Super Bowl between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. Included in his piece are mentions of UMass alums James Ihedigbo and Clarence Brooks.
Ihedigbo is making his second straight Super Bowl appearance albeit with a different team after helping the Patriots reach the title game last year.
Brooks played football at UMass from 1970-72 and was an assistant coach in the mid-70's for the Minutemen. He is now the Ravens' defensive line coach.
UMass alum and current New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz added yet another milestone to his NFL resume. In the annual NFL Pro Bowl, his first selection as an NFL player, Cruz set a new game record with 10 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Cruz and quarterback Eli Manning were instrumental in the 62-35 win for the NFC.
David Driver of the Springfield Republican has a feature story on James Ihedigbo and his return to a second consecutive Super Bowl. Last season, Ihedigbo played in the Super Bowl for the New England Patriots before falling to the New York Giants and fellow UMass alum Victor Cruz.
Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun has a story on how Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl veterans, including UMass' James Ihedigbo, have shared their experiences with teammates over the last week. Ihedigbo is only one of four players on the 54-man roster to have played in a Super Bowl and the only current Raven to have played in the big game last year.
Victor Cruz paid tribute on Sunday to Jack Pinto, one of the children killed last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
After finding out that he was Pinto's favorite football player, Cruz wrote "Jack Pinto 'My Hero'" and "R.I.P. Jack Pinto" on his cleats and gloves.
Cruz spoke to the family prior to Sunday's game against Atlanta and has said he will visit the family later this week. Pinto was laid to rest on Monday.
Several news outlets reported the promotion of former UMass football standout Emil Igwenagu to Philadelphia's active 53-man roster this week. The fullback/tight end signed as a free agent with the Eagles in the preseason, but has spent the year as a member of the practice squad.
J. Michael of Comcast SportsNet Washington takes a look at James Ihedigbo's addition to the Baltimore Ravens defense in preparation of playing his former team New England this Sunday night.
Joe Reedy of Cincinnati.com has a story on the play of former UMass standout Jeromy Miles and his transition from a special teams player to a regular in the defensive secondary as he has played 70 of 129 possible plays this year.
Geoff Hobson, editor of Bengals.com, has a story on Cincinnati's stock of undrafted free agents and other players from small college programs who are now making an impact on the club. Included in the story is former UMass standout Jeremy Miles who is making a serious bid for a starting safety spot after being a special team standout.
After being picked up as an undrafted free agent last spring, former UMass standout offensive lineman Josh Samuda has been earning praise during the NFL preseason. Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel lists Samuda as a key back-up center and one of the Dolphins' top eight offensive linemen.
"Josh Samuda, an undrafted rookie from UMass, spent his third week as the backup center, and performed well enough it appears he's locked down a spot on the 53-man roster. Samuda, a Hollywood Hills product, is presently one of the team's top eight offensive linemen."
Kevin Kelly of Cincinnati.com has a feature story on Jeromy Miles and his impact with the Bengals this preseason. Last week against the Falcons, Miles had 6 solo tackles on defense and two on special teams. He also forced a fumble and had an interception in the end zone to prevent an Atlanta scoring drive.
Several news items on Victor Cruz today as ESPN says "Cruz can't wait to see Jets again". Bleacher Repot also has a story on "3 candidates to be this year's Victor Cruz". SB Nation gives their Fantasy Football Rankings for 2012 Wide Receivers and says Cruz is a must have.
Andrea Hangst of Bleacher Report has a breakdown of the CIncinnati Bengals position battle at strong safety. Jeromy Miles has been getting numerous reps with the first team defense after an injury to Taylor Mays. Miles has primarily been one of the top special teams players for the Bengals.
Jorge Castillo of The New Jersey Star-Ledger has a Q&A with former Minuteman Julian Talley who is an undrafted free agent for the New York Giants. The piece outlines some of the similarities between Talley and Victor Cruz.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a story on the success of Jonathan Quick and Victor Cruz and their meteoric rise to sports fame this year.
On Friday, Victor Cruz wore a maroon tie on his trip to the White House, a silent nod to the prominent color of his college (University of Massachusetts) and high school (Paterson Catholic) alma maters. Three days later, shortly after hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy, Jonathan Quick thanked UMass coach Toot Cahoon and the Minuteman program during a televised interview.
It's continued to be a good year for the UMass athletic department. Even after the Minuteman baseball team was eliminated from the Atlantic 10 tournament, ending the 2011-12 athletic season, its prominent former players are keeping the school's name in the news in good ways.
UMass has had alumni shine in the ranks of the four major professional sports before. Mike Flanagan won a Cy Young Award. Jeff Reardon was, at one point, baseball's all-time leader in saves. Marcus Camby was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
But none of them captured the attention of their fan bases like Quick and Cruz. In the nation's two largest media markets, the two former Minutemen not only found the spotlight, but have shined in its glare.
Lenn Robbins of the New York Post has a story on Victor Cruz who was on hand for the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York.
"Cruz is the man,'' said Jose Vargas, 37 of Puerto Rico, who said he's flown to New York for this parade each of the last six years. "He's fearless and fast. He makes catches across the middle and he can beat you deep. And he can dance, man, he can dance.'' Cruz, who was in attendance at the parade, made his touchdown celebration salsa dance a favorite among fans.
As Vargas was lauding his favorite player a group of his friends and family, as young as his two month niece, Danica, and his 84-year great grandmother, Rosa, broke into their renditions of Cruz's dance.
Victor Cruz and the New York Giants will visit the White House today in honor of the Super Bowl XLVI victory. The big question posed by Art Stapleton of NorthJersey.com: Will POTUS bust a move out of respect for the "Silk City Salsa" made famous by Paterson native Victor Cruz?
That would certainly be a hit on C-SPAN.
Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger has a story on Victor Cruz who was a member of the NFL's unveiling of Nike's new uniforms for the league.
"I'm not frustrated at all. I'm just trying to go in there and play football," he said of his current contract. "When I was young it wasn't about money, it wasn't about fame and fortune. It was just about playing football. So regardless of how short-term this career can be, I just want to go out there and play. All of that stuff will take care of itself."
Earlier, he said, "You just gotta remain humble and remain yourself and understand that all the good things are going to come to you in time. So you just have to keep doing what you're doing, remain positive at all times and the good things will come."
Kevin Goheen also contributed this story on James Ihedigbo's experience as he prepares for the Super Bowl and how his NFL career has unfolded over the last four seasons.
Kevin Goheen contributes this story to the Daily Hampshire Gazette on how Victor Cruz is savoring the Super Bowl experience. He will face fellow alum James Ihedigbo of the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Stephen Hewitt of the Daily Collegian has a look at Victor Cruz and his storybook season with the New York Giants.
Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe has a feature today on how the success of James Ihedigbo and Victor Cruz has helped recruiting for Charley Molnar and the UMass football program.
Charley Molnar hasn't spent much time in the football offices at the University of Massachusetts since he became head coach in December.
With the program moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision next season and joining the Mid-American Conference, Molnar has been on the road recruiting. But he did find time to do a little interior decorating.
Hang a left when you walk through the doors, and there on the wall are super-sized photographs of Patriots defensive back James Ihedigbo and Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz.
The display is a reminder to the current players and recruits visiting campus that the Minutemen have two players in the Super Bowl.
"I want every player who comes through our program to know they can do great things, just like Victor and James did,'' Molnar said. "They were on the same practice fields and in the same weight room and look where they are now.''
Jim Slater of the AFP has a story mentioning James Ihedigbo as Super Bowl 46 has a 'global array of talent'.
As the Super Bowl draws closer, James Ihedigbo of the New England Patriots and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants have both been in the media spotlight - both here in Massachusetts and nationally.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a story on how the success James Ihedigbo and Victor Cruz are having in the NFL has served as an inspiration and a blueprint to pro-football hopefuls Julian Talley and Tyler Holmes. Talley and Holmes are currently in Florida working out to prepare for various NFL scouting combines.
Zach Schonbrun of Newsday has a story on Victor Cruz's appearance at a Modell's store in Times Square where he gave out salsa-dancing lessons, signed autographs and promoted a new t-shirt with "Cruuuuuuuuuuuuz!" on the front and salsa steps on the back - his trademark touchdown celebration.
No matter if you are a Giants fan or a Patriot fan, if you are a UMass fan, then this year's Super Bowl will be a win for you. Congratulations to Victor Cruz and James Ihedigbo who will both be playing in the title game.
Coverage of Cruz & Ihedigbo:
Coverage of Ihedigbo:
Coverage of Cruz:
UMass' Victor Cruz once again put on a show for New York Giants fans - this time adding an on-side kick recovery to his resume - in Sunday's win over the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
UMass alum James Ihedigbo will be playing in his third career AFC Championship Game after he helped the New England Patriots defeat the Denver Broncos on Saturday. Ihedigbo made two appearances in the AFC title game with the New York Jets prior to joining the Patriots.
In Jennifer Toland's NFL playoff notebook for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, she has a snippet on Victor Cruz and James Ihedigbo.
Cruz not dancing
Patriots safety James Ihedigbo isn't the only UMass product in the playoffs.
Giants receiver Victor Cruz, a two-year teammate of Ihedigbo's at UMass, leads New York into its NFC divisional game at top-seeded Green Bay.
Cruz set a Giants record with 1,536 receiving yards this season and finished third in the league behind Calvin Johnson and Wes Welker.
"He's doing amazing," said Ihedigbo, who said the two are good friends. "I'm happy for him.
Cruz has become so big he was invited to join the cast of "Dancing with the Stars." He turned it down.
Several stories looking at the Cincinnati Bengals defense have mentioned the play of Jeromy Miles and his success as a member of the special teams units.
Jeromy Miles is one of the best special teams players on the Bengals. I don't think he has much of a shot at being the future at safety, but he is certainly a contributor to this team. He is a restricted free agent this year, and will probably be back in 2013 for another year of dominance on coverage teams.
The 6-2, 210-pound Miles had 15 tackles on special teams as part of the NFL's No. 1 kick coverage...Miles is conscientious and reliable enough to be one of the team's most dependable players.
Erik Matuszewski of Bloomberg.com has an extensive piece on the meteoric rise of Victor Cruz with the New York Giants. As he closes in on a new contract negotiation, Matuszewski points out:
Cruz has emerged as one of the Giants' most valuable and popular players. His No. 80 jersey is the team's second-best seller for the season behind Manning and the 13th-best seller in the league last month, according to NFLShop.com. Cruz is ninth on the ranking of rising sports stars issued today by Irvine, California-based Brand Affinity Technologies, which calculates consumer appeal based on performance, media exposure, popularity and other indicators among more than 45,000 athletes and celebrities.
Steve Serby of the New York Post has a story on the amazing season that Victor Cruz has put together this year for the Giants.
"It's amazing, man," Cruz said. "It's something you dream of when you grow up and you hear all the chants that different stadiums have for different people. For me to have one in New York, it's just a surreal feeling. I get goose bumps every time I hear it."
New York gets goose bumps every time he takes a short pass from Manning and takes it to the house.
After putting together an unbelievable regular-season performance, Victor Cruz has been selected as a second alternate for this year's NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu.
Jeff Roberts of The Record has a feature on Cruz who says he feels "blessed" and that he's "having the most incredible year of my life."
An amazing game by Victor Cruz against the Jets over the week where he had a 99-yard pass reception-and-run to help him set a new Giants single season receiving record. Along with his season total, the 99-yard play also ties a franchise record putting the UMass standout's name in the Giants record book twice.
CBS Boston (WBZ) has a feature story on former Minuteman and current New England Patriot James Ihedigbo that focuses on his life growing up and his HOPE Foundation which helps students in Africa gain a college education in the United States.
Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal has a story on Vladimir Ducasse and his recent success with the Jets who are using him exclusively in "Jumbo Formations" where he plays as a third tackle/tightend.
UMass alum Mike Reiss has a profile of James Ihedigbo up on ESPNBoston.com. Included in the Q&A session is Ihedigbo recounting some of his favorite memories while at UMass including the 2006 win over Montana in the NCAA Playoffs in 2006.
Victor Cruz of the New York Giants was a guest on Colin Cowherd's show on ESPN Radio yesterday. The former UMass standout talked about the win over the Cowboys, his season so far, and playing with Eli Manning.
GangGreenNation.com ran a story yesterday on Vladimir Ducasse and the New York Jets mixing him in the offensive line as an extra tight end in power sets.
With 7 catches for 83 yards in last night's win over Dallas, Victor Cruz of the New York Giants continues to show why he is one of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
*Cruz had seven receptions for 83 yards in Dallas. His 1,159 yards is the seventh-highest single-season total in Giants history. Cruz needs 185 yards in the final three games to top Amani Toomer's franchise record of 1,343 yards, set in 2002.
UMass alum Dan Duggan has a story on New England Patriots' safety James Ihedigbo and how the veteran has contributed not just on the field but also in the locker room.
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com has a feature on James Ihedigbo has quickly become a key part of the New England Patriots defense and a spokesman in the locker room.
Dan Salomone of Giants.com has a feature on Victor Cruz who was just shy of his career-best performance in last night's loss to the Saints. On a 72-yard touchdown catch, Cruz refrained from his now-famous Salsa dance in the endzone - a sign of his maturity as a professional football player.
Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com has a Q&A session with James Ihedigbo as the New England Patriots head to the New York Jets on Sunday. Ihedigbo started his NFL career with the Jets and will face fellow Minuteman Vladimir Ducasse his former teammate in New York.
A big game for UMass football fans on Sunday was the match-up of former Minutemen as Victor Cruz's New York Giants played James Ihedigbo's New England Patriots
. Cruz got the better of the meeting as the Giants won 24-20.
For the game, Cruz led New York with six catches for 91 yards, while Ihedigbo had five tackles including four solo stops.
At 17.3 yards per catch, Cruz ranks 8th in the NFL among players with 20 or more receptions. Overall, his 73.5 yards per game ranks 19th in the league.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette caught up with Marcel Shipp and Steve Baylark at Saturday's Homecoming Game against Villanova.
Geoff Hobson has a recap from Cincinnati's win over Tennessee yesterday in NFL action and mention's former UMass standout Jeromy Miles served as one of the game captains.
The Titans won the toss and took the ball with the Bengals captains looking on: Jeromy Miles, Kyle Cook, Domata Peko, Brandon Johnson, and Donald Lee.
Be sure to check out the Giants/Patriots game today as UMass alums Victory Cruz and James Ihedigbo are almost certainly going to face each other.
Fellow UMass alum Jeff Howe has a great piece on the two of them playing against each other on the pro level and how they refined their games at UMass.
Former UMass football standout Jeremy Horne was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad on Wednesday after being put on waivers on Tuesday. Horne had played in three games on the active roster this season after playing in three the previous season as well.
Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News has a terrific feature on UMass alum and current New York Giant Victor Cruz and the obstacles he had to overcome in life.
Victor Cruz was center stage again for the New York Giants in their 36-25 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. The former UMass wide receiver led the Giants with eight receptions for 161 yards, including a juggling one-handed 68-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Cruz was also involved in a pair of late turnovers by the Giants. All of that leads to lots of Cruz headlines today:
New York Times
New York Daily News
Wall Street Journal
New York Post
James Ighedibo made the first start of his career at safety for the New England Patriots, helping lead them to victory over his former team, the New York Jets, 30-20. The Amherst Regional High and UMass alum played the first four seasons of his career with the Jets, so Sunday's first start took on extra meaning. Ighedibo finished with six tackles on four solos and two assists.
UMass football alum Victor Cruz had another big game for the New York Giants
on Sunday. The wide receiver caught six passes for 98 yards
in the Giants' 31-27 win at Arizona. Cruz was also involved in a controversial play
on the Giants' winning drive late in the game.
VIDEO: Cruz interviewed after game
VIDEO: Game Highlights
Former UMass standout Jeremy Horne has been promoted to the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs active roster as a wide receiver heading into this weekend's action.
UMass football alum and current New York Giant Victor Cruz (80) performed on the big stage last night - Monday Night Football. The wide receiver caught the first two passes of his career
for a total of 17 yards to help the Giants to their first victory of the season, 28-16 over the St. Louis Rams at the Meadowlands, not far from his hometown of Paterson, N.J.
Cruz could be seeing even more action to come as two Giants receivers, Mario Manningham and Domenik Hixon left Monday's game with injuries, and another starter, Hakeem Nicks, played but is still recovering from an injury suffered in Week 1.
In this blog post from the Cincy Jungle, Jeromy Miles is mentioned for leading the Cincinnati Bengals with a pair of special teams' tackles in the 27-17 win over Cleveland.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette has a story on former Minuteman James Ihedigbo making the New England Patriots 53-man roster
along with four other Minutemen making NFL rosters. Jeremy Horne was cut, but later signed to the practice squad - the same being expected for John Griffin soon.
Former University of Massachusetts and Amherst Regional standout James Ihedigbo made the New England Patriots final roster as the Patriots cut two-time Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather to trim their roster to the limit of 53 on Saturday.
Ihedigbo was one of five Minutemen to survive cutdown day. Victor Cruz, who is expected to see regular playing time in the New York Giants wide receiver rotation after missing most of last year with an injury, made the roster out of camp for the second straight season. Jeromy Miles, who started last year on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad before being elevated during the season, made the 53-man roster out of camp this year.
Jeremy Cain starts his sixth NFL season and his third with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's primarily a long snapper.
Vlad Ducasse begins his second season as a reserve guard for the Jets.
Glen Farley has a story in the Enterprise about former UMass offensive lineman Greg Niland with the Detroit Lions
preparing to face the New England Patriots.
John and Beth Niland face an interesting dilemma this weekend. The East Bridgewater couple are long-time New England Patriots season ticket holders. Their son, Greg, is a rookie with the Detroit Lions.
The Lions host the Patriots in a nationally televised game at Ford Field this Saturday night.
So, whom do the Nilands root for?
"That's a good question," Greg Niland laughed during a telephone interview from the Lions' training facility in Allen Park, Mich. "I'm going to have to ask them."
Ron Borges of the Boston Herald has a lengthy feature on the newest New England Patriot - former UMass standout James Ihedigbo
Even when James Ihedigbo didn't have a job he always had HOPE. Because of that, so do a lot of struggling kids from Africa who want the same thing he hopes to find in New England -- a chance to prosper.
Not a week goes by, it seems, that the excesses of big-time sports aren't in the headlines -- greedy owners, amoral and sometimes immoral players, cheating, law breaking, rude behavior, slovenly disregard for their blessings and their talents. It happens so often there are websites that keep track of how many days it's been since a professional athlete was last arrested, a sad reality that can blind us to other things.
Ihedigbo, the newly signed safety and special teams maven formerly of the hated Jets, is a shining example of those other things. Although obsessively dedicated to his trade -- which is the sledge hammer side of football -- he is a guy who long ago was taught to see a world exists beyond the end zone, a world where much can be done if one man is willing to try.
Rich Garven of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette has a feature on former UMass kicker Chris Koepplin
who is fighting for a spot with the New England Patriots.
While he knows the chance of the Patriots carrying two kickers is slim, Koepplin says the experience is a great opportunity.
"I'm getting some film out there," Koepplin said today while standing in front of his metal locker, a temporary one that will soon be taken away and placed in storage until next year. "I'm doing whatever they're asking of me -- right now, it's kicking off -- and it's just been a great learning experience."
It was announced last night that James Ihedigbo has signed with the New England Patriots after playing three seasons for the New York Jets. That places two former UMass players on the Pats current roster as Chris Koepplin has been handling the kick-off duties this preseason for New England.
Here are the headlines on Ihedigbo's signing:
• Boston Herald
: Patriots sign former Jets safety James Ihedigbo, a UMass product
: Pats sign former UMass safety Ihedigbo
: Former UMass Star James Ihedigbo Signs With Patriots
: Ihedigbo signs with Patriots
Also, here is a feature written on Ihedigbo earlier for the Amherst Bulletin by Matt Vautour:
Chris Koepplin again handled the kick-off duties for the New England Patriots as the Pats won their second preseason game last night at Tampa Bay.
Koepplin gets a shot Rookie Chris Koepplin, a UMass product, handled the kickoffs for New England. His first, to open the game, went nine yards deep in the end zone. His second sailed over the end zone. Koepplin has had some struggles with field-goal kicking in camp as he has gotten a lot of work with Stephen Gostkowski slowly being worked back from injury, but has shown a powerful leg throughout.
Koepplin's first three kicks were touchbacks before the Bucs were able to return the fourth when it went only two yards deep in the end zone.
Matt Vautour has a football notebook up today
mentioning UMass being ranked No. 25 in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 preseason Poll, Tyler Holmes and Emil Igwenagu being named team captains once again and a recap of several alums from NFL preseason training camps.
In its last season playing in the Championship Subdivision, the University of Massachusetts football team was ranked No. 25 in the Sports Network FCS Top 25 preseason poll, which was released Monday.
The Minutemen were one of seven Colonial Athletic Association teams ranked. They were picked fifth in the CAA preseason poll. Villanova and Richmond, which were ranked lower in the CAA poll, were above UMass in the national poll.
Two more CAA teams - Rhode Island and Maine - as well as Central Connecticut State, which UMass faces in nonconference play, were among the teams "also-receiving votes."
Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger
has a feature today on Vladimir Ducasse and the upside of his career with the New York Jets.
"In the future, Vlad is going to be a much better football player than me," Matt Slauson said last week at Jets camp. "God-gifted, just a freak. If he knew the in's and out's of the playbook like (a veteran), he'd be an All Pro."
Former UMass wide receiver Victor Cruz continues to get a lot of attention at New York Giants training camp. Cruz is competing for the No. 3 wideout spot in addition to a place on the active roster, but as you can read in the links below, he continues to impress his coaches.
New York Daily News:
Victor Cruz off to a fast start in Giants camp
"Victor Cruz is probably a sure thing."
Paterson's Victor Cruz ready for more with the Giants
Several stories today on Minutemen around the NFL.
- Arrowhead Pride predicts Jeremy Horne to be among the top-five receivers for the Kansas City Chiefs this season.
- Jeromy Miles is in the hunt for one of five safety positions according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
- John Griffin is the 16th photo in a slide show from Bengals Training Camp. He is also shown in the 20th photo.
- According to the Jets Insider, Vladimir Ducasse will be switched to tackle this year after getting most of his reps at guard last season. That is reflected in a preseason depth chart on New York Sports Today which lists Ducasse as the No. 2 left tackle.
Despite a crowded wide receiver situation at New York Giants training camp, former Minuteman Victor Cruz continues to impress coaches and teammates as the No. 3 receiver position, or slot receiver, job is up for grabs. ESPN New York writes that Cruz is in the mix for the job.
"He's a baller," Mario Manningham said. "He fits right in with our receiver group. He's not tall, but he's big and strong, he's got good hands, he's quick and he's fast."
"I think I'm understanding coverages better and reads as far as route running," Cruz said. "I think it's coming together for me a little better this year, and hopefully I can get that third spot."
Jeff Thomas of the Springfield Republican reports this morning on the Philadelphia Eagles signing former UMass defensive tackle Brandon Collier. The Eagles, who have made plenty of news with big free agent signings in the last couple weeks, have seen their defensive line decimated by injuries already in training camp, creating a good opportunity for Collier, who last played at UMass in 2009.
The Hampshire Daily Gazette and the Springfield Republican report this morning that an AP source with knowledge of the situation says that former UMass safety James Ihedigbo will not be resigning with the New York Jets. The Amherst product has been with Gang Green since 2007, but will be looking for a new team for 2011.
Ihedigbo led the Jets with 27 special teams tackles in 2010.
Make it one more UMass football alum at an NFL training camp this summer. The Philadelphia Eagles have signed former Minuteman defensive tackle Brandon Collier. CSN Philadelphia
reports that due to injuries, the Eagles had just one healthy defensive tackle in camp, leading to the signings of Collier and Charlie Noonan as undrafted free agents.
Collier was an All-CAA defensive tackle as a senior in 2009, recording 38 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 8.5 TFLs.
Former UMass kicker Chris Koepplin (2) continues to handle most of the kicking duties at New England Patriots training camp as Pro Bowler Stephen Gostkowski recovers from a torn quadriceps that ended his 2010 campaign.
The Boston Globe
, The Kings Park Patch
, and WEEI.com
all report on Koepplin at training camp.
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette
reports that former UMass guard Greg Niland, who was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent, was released earlier this week but was scooped up quickly by the Detroit Lions.
The Pride of Detroit
reports on Niland's signing as well.
New York Jets GM and UMass alum Mike Tannenbaum was on Ruocco and Lundberg on ESPN Radio 1050 in New York
on Tuesday talking about Jets training camp and several player personnel topics. Among those, Tannenbaum pointed out former UMass lineman Vladimir Ducasse as someone that could surprise everyone this season and also spoke about the contract situation with former Minuteman and free agent safety James Ihedigbo. Follow the link above and go to the 8:00 mark for Ducasse and 8:45 for Ihedigbo.
Former UMass wide receiver and current New York Giant Victor Cruz has been in the news lately as the Giants' wide receiver situation begins to work itself out. After a breakout preseason last year, Cruz missed most of the season on injured reserve. This year, he is competing for a spot in a crowded corps. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham appear to be the starters, but with Steve Smith still unsigned and recovering from an injury, the No.3/slot position is up for grabs as well as the remaining wideout roster spots. Those competing with Cruz are Dominek Hixon, Jerrel Jernigan, Devin Thomas, Ramses Barden, and the newly signed Michael Clayton. Check out the stories below.
The Bleacher Report
ESPN New York
Matt Vautour of the Daily Hampshire Gazette
as a nice feature today on former UMass kicker Chris Koepplin and his efforts at Patriots training camp to make the roster. It also points out that Koepplin's path to the NFL was not he traditional route, as his final season at UMass was 2007 and, after playing two seasons in the Arena 2 league, did not kick professionally last season.
Koepplin says of when he got the news the Patriots wanted him, "I was in my car. It was a surprise, a happy surprise," said Koepplin, who immediately called his parents and tweeted "Today Was A Good Day... #understatement."
ESPN.com reports that former Minuteman and New York Jet James Ihedigbo remains an unsigned free agent.
NBC New York speculates that money the Jets saved by losing out on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha not only allowed them to resign Antonio Cromartie, but could allow them to resign players such as Ihedigbo.
Former UMass running back John Griffin, who was signed last week as an undrafted free agent by the Cincinnati Bengals, has taken advantage of his early opportunities at training camp. According to CincyJungle.com, he has gotten the attention of Head Coach Marvin Lewis.
"(Williams and Griffin) both guys caught my eye in what they were doing," Lewis said.
Former UMass kicker Chris Koepplin continued to handle most of the kicking duties at New England Patriots training camp over the weekend as Pro Bowler Stephen Gostkowski is out with an injury. Reports from camp on Sunday said Koepplin had a couple struggles early, but redeemed himself with a strong showing late. Check out coverage below.
ESPN Boston Sunday: Patriots Practice 7 Observations
ESPN BostonSaturday: Patriots Practice 5 Observations
PatsFans.com: Sunday News And Notes
Patriots.com: Sunday afternoon practice notes
At New England Patriots practice yesterday, newly signed former Minuteman Chris Koepplin was handling all of the kickoff duties. Pro Bowl kicker Stephen Gostkowski was held out of practice while recovering from a thigh injury. MassLive.com and the Boston Herald has coverage.
Former UMass running back John Griffin was in Cincinnati yesterday, passed his physical and was signed by the Bengals. Cincinnati.com reports thats 17 players in all were signed as free agents by the Bengals on the same day they sent wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to the Patriots.
Former UMass kicker Chris Koepplin (2006-07) was signed as a free agent by the New England Patriots on Wednesday. He is the third former Minuteman to be signed since the free agent signing period opened this week, joining undrafted free agents Greg Niland (Cardinals) and John Griffin (Bengals).
Koepplin, who transferred to UMass after two years at Nassau Community College, was a Honorable Mention All-American in both 2006 and 2007 with the Minutemen, while also earning All-Conference honors both years. He holds the UMass record for PAT percentage (98.0) on 99-of-101 and ranks second in field goal percentage (71.0) on 27-of-38.
Koepplin's most memorable field goal was the 43-yarder he hit at No. 2 Montana on Dec. 8, 2006 in the NCAA Semifinals which proved to be the game-winner and send the Minutemen on to the Championship game for the first time since 1998.
Koepplin played two seasons of arena football for the Manchester Wolves in 2008-09.
Hampshire Gazette: Koepplin signs with the Patriots
Boston Globe: Patriots sign 2 draft picks, 12 rookie free agents
NESN.com: Patriots make 16 roster transactions>br>
Former UMass football players John Griffin and Greg Niland benefitted quickly from the NFL lockout ending as both signed contracts as undrafted free agents on Tuesday. Griffin, a running back, signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, the same team former Minuteman Jeromy Miles plays for, while Niland, a guard, signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Below is coverage of their signings.
Hampshire Gazette: Lockout's end opens door for ex-Minutemen Niland, Griffin
MassLive.com: UMass football players Niland & Griffin signed by NFL teams
Worcester Telegram: Oakmont grad John Griffin signs with Bengals
Cincy Jungle: Bengals sign running back John Griffin
Matt Vautour of the Hampshire Gazette
reports that former UMass football players Greg Niland (pictured, right) has signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals and John Griffin (left) has signed with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Wall Street Journal
has a story on the company Player Protect that provides security and transportation services for professional athletes when they are attending social events.
Jets safety James Ihedigbo said ceding control has never been an issue. The Jets signed with Player Protect this past September, and Ihedigbo said he has used the service both as part of a large group of teammates going out after a game, and on his own. He has never been in a situation where his assigned officer indicated he was unsafe, but if he was, he said, "I wouldn't even hesitate to listen. It's what they're there for. Their ears can pick up things mine can't."
The goal of the company is to not only keep the player physically safe but also for the agents to keep the player informed of anything that might come up during the event which could put him in harm.
Kansas City has a look at some of the team's position groups and where certain players will fit and where the Chiefs will need to add with free agents. UMass' Jeremy Horne is mentioned among the top-five receivers on the team.
The Chiefs had hoped Jerheme Urban would be their possession-type receiver last year, but a preseason hand injury proved otherwise. Verran Tucker came out of seemingly nowhere to make some big plays and Jeremy Horne is a burner, but both are probably cut out best for roles on the outside and so is Urban.