Fight Like Luke Siegel During Football Season (And Every Day)

Every time Drew Brees fired up the New Orleans Saints’ pregame huddle with his words and his inspiration, it was something special to see.

Wow! That 2019 season opener against the Texans, a heart-stopping Monday night victory, brings back memories.

While we won’t see Brees in those huddles or orchestrating 2-minute drills anymore, he recently gave a powerful speech at the funeral of 15-year-old Luke Siegel, that I wanted to highlight as we usher in the 2021 NFL season.

Luke was a young boy I had the privilege of meeting for just a minute through my computer screen after I interviewed his father, Tim Siegel, for my 10th podcast episode earlier this year. Brees was Luke’s hero and the Saints his favorite team – a bond he shared with his father that I also share with my own dad.

As Tim recalled on our podcast for Brain Injury Awareness Month in March, Luke suffered a devastating injury in 2015 when a modified golf cart landed on him and his brain was deprived of oxygen for more than 7 minutes.

In the interview Tim explained how Luke motivates him to never give up. You can see that determination through the foundation he started, Team Luke Hope for Minds, to provide financial help, emotional support and education to families of children impacted by brain injuries.

Photo from Tim Siegel

Luke died Aug. 19, but his legacy will live forever. And not just in New Orleans, where Tim was born. He coached tennis at Texas Tech, so Patrick Mahomes, the Red Raiders football team & Kansas City Chiefs,

The Red Raiders attended Luke’s funeral, and Kingsbury is donating $5,000 to Team Luke Hope for Minds for every Cardinals win this season.

and former coach Kliff Kingsbury (now with the Arizona Cardinals) are prominent Team Luke ambassadors, along with many tennis players worldwide.  The Red Raiders attended Luke’s funeral, and Kingsbury is donating $5,000 to Team Luke Hope for Minds for every Cardinals win this season. -

I still remember how seeing Luke after our interview impacted me. His room was filled with New Orleans Saints paraphernalia, and I felt an instant connection to him. Tim told Luke how he’d just talked to me about Drew Brees, and I saw Luke’s tongue move, exactly the motion Tim described when he or a therapist would ask Luke, “Can you do this for Drew?” or “for the Saints?”

His fight took my breath away. Since then, I’ve been inspired to hug my loved ones tighter and not take a single day for granted. When life gets overwhelming, I also remember these 5 inspirations from Luke that Tim shared on the podcast:

  1. Find your passion.

  2. Don’t ever quit.

  3. Lean on friends, family, coaches, siblings and counselors.

  4. Make good choices.

  5. Have faith.

And you know what?  If the Saints fight like Luke this season, they might shock the experts and string together some unexpected wins. - I’ll end with some of Drew Brees’ words at Luke’s funeral, where he called him the Saints’ good luck charm.  You can see the whole video on Tim Siegel’s Twitter account:

And you know what? If the Saints fight like Luke this season, they might shock the experts and string together some unexpected wins.

I’ll end with some of Drew Brees’ words at Luke’s funeral, where he called him the Saints’ good luck charm. You can see the whole video on Tim Siegel’s Twitter account:

“Your strength and courage and your fight motivated us more than you ever could imagine. To watch the extraordinary love of your family, your father Tim, and your community as they rallied around you was truly awe-inspiring. I’m a better person for having had a chance to know you. The best of you will live in all of us for the rest of our lives.”

I agree with Drew. I’m a better person for knowing people like Luke and Tim Siegel. I’ll carry Luke close to my heart this Saints football season. May he rest in peace, and may we all fight like Luke every single day.

NFL COVID-19 Vaccine Policies Should Aim to Unite, Not Divide

I’ll never forget being in the Superdome on September 25, 2006. About 13 months after Hurricane Katrina, never was I so happy to see a Saints game with my dad.

We sat together on the 50-yard line on the visitor’s side as the Saints dominated Atlanta 23-3, in awe of the power of sports to unite us. Not just the people in our row, or the 70,000 people in the Superdome that day, but everyone in New Orleans recovering from Katrina.

But what about now? More than a year after COVID-19 upended the world as we know it, the NFL is trying to divide locker rooms rather than unite. In the league’s latest effort to force players and personnel with even a slight question about the COVID-19 vaccines, the NFL is using every tool in its toolbox to blackmail them with lost wages and potential game forfeitures this season.

The NFL recently released a memo stating if any game has to be canceled “due to an outbreak of unvaccinated players,” that club will forfeit the game. Then on top of that, players on BOTH TEAMS will lose their weekly salary. So tell me, Roger, how exactly is that fair to those that choose to get vaccinated?

This terrifies me because the NFL is essentially creating fear and division in the locker room when it should be trying to unite in 2021 after the year Americans have had. We’re seeing the unvaccinated as “second-class citizens” plot line play out already on cruise ships – I saw this Bloomberg story a few weeks ago.

Hopefully we won’t see any COVID-19 outbreaks like the Ravens or Titans had in 2020 as teams report to training camp. But remember, even with all the postponements and games played on every day of the week last season, no games were ultimately canceled in the heart of the pandemic. Most importantly, all the players emerged healthy.

Now with three safe and effective vaccines widely available, NFL Network numbers report 14 teams have 85% of players vaccinated, and it’s likely that figure will grow. So maybe this nightmarish policy won’t even be a factor. Not only do I wish that for the teams, but also because press conferences shouldn’t be dominated by questions about COVID cases or vaccination rates.

However, I’m glad some players are speaking out about it, like Deandre Hopkins, who posted this on Twitter, before deleting it:


Screen Shot 2021-07-24 at 2.12.13 PM.png

Then he followed it up with these two, including a quote tweet of Gary Sheffield, Jr.:

Screen Shot 2021-07-24 at 2.17.48 PM.png

I’m not here to argue about being pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination. This is America after all, so everyone is free to state their opinions loud and clear and exercise their medical freedom. It’s about the NFL’s refusal to follow the science and care for the people it serves. Instead they make a blanket statement in July that they’re unwilling to add an extra week to the season, so cancellations = forfeits. That’s not just draconian, it’s unnecessary.

  • Look what everyone in America and the world has endured since March 2020 when the pandemic began, especially front-line healthcare workers. Flexibility has been the name of the game for the past 17 months, adjusting to masking, social distancing, business restrictions, you name it. I’ve tried to see sports as an escape from the grind of working and studying from home, and it’s disappointing how the NFL thinks it’s so high and mighty that it can’t give its players freedom to choose whether an experimental vaccine is best for them or not. After all, these are among the healthiest people in the country, and the vaccines aren’t fully FDA-approved yet. Players like Jalen Ramsey aren’t fans of the coercion:


Screen Shot 2021-07-24 at 2.40.59 PM.png
  • What about players and staff who may have recovered from COVID-19? Is the NFL considering natural immunity or conducting COVID-19 antibody tests? A Cleveland Clinic study published in June revealed that vaccines do not provide additional protection to those who have already been infected – “the strongest argument for restricting vaccine administration to those who have not had the infection.”

  • Say, God forbid, a team has an outbreak this season. How will the league determine if it originated from an unvaccinated or a vaccinated player if cases involve both unvaccinated and vaccinated people? Will the NFL just pick a narrative? (Saints fans, cue the conspiracies now…) Breakthrough infections can, and do happen. And you want to talk about unfairness and resentment? Making the team that didn’t even cause an outbreak lose its game check – where’s the logic there? I’m sorry, but that’s pure fear-mongering, and players like Seattle’s DJ Reed are succumbing to the NFL’s pressure despite being wary of “long-term effects.”

Screen Shot 2021-07-24 at 2.36.59 PM.png

We also just saw Minnesota Vikings assistant coach Rick Dennison almost lose his job, reportedly after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. New Orleans Saints fans can rest assured that shouldn’t be a threat to the Saints in 2021 – back in June Sean Payton said 100% of Tier 1 and Tier 2 staff were vaccinated.

Nonetheless, the NFL is wading into extremely dangerous waters here. This issue could divide locker rooms and lead to competitive disadvantages for athletes who simply choose to exercise their rights in a different way. If a roster battle comes down to two equally talented players, but one is vaccinated and one isn’t? I can see the media drooling….

The NFL has some of the toughest athletes you’ll ever find on the planet. They fight tooth and nail, now for 17 games a season, all for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Some sadly suffer injuries that carry life-altering consequences – just ask Alex Smith, Ryan Shazier, or even Drew Brees, who reportedly played his final season with broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a torn rotator cuff and a torn fascia in his foot, his wife Brittany emotionally revealed on Instagram in January.

So what is the league trying to achieve here?

Legendary NFL QB Joe Theismann, who suffered a pretty gruesome leg injury in his day, just talked to Brian Kilmeade about all this (scroll down to the full interview and swipe to the 3:00 mark). When you start talking about forfeiting games and salaries, the penalty is no longer limited to just unvaccinated players. These players put themselves in real danger on the field week every week, and it’s time for the NFL to respect their freedoms once and for all – seeking unity over division.

I hope that happens, and I’ll be back in the Caesars Superdome supporting my Saints regardless. But I’m not holding my breath.

A Trip Down Memory Lane with Mike Hoss: Lessons from Jim Henderson, Mike’s Goals as the Voice of the Saints

 

It’s a New Orleans Saints tradition: Turn down the sound on your TV, pause your DVR and turn up the Saints radio network. Can you hear color analyst Deuce McAllister reciting the promotion between plays? Football season is almost here, and Deuce will have a new play-by-play announcer in the 2021 season – broadcasting icon Mike Hoss – since Zach Strief became the Saints’ assistant offensive line coach.

Hoss arrived in New Orleans in 1989 with no attachment to the city at all. But that changed during his 30+ years in local television – New Orleans is more than a workplace. He met and married his wife here, had children, and saw the Crescent City was different than his previous jobs in Charlottesville, Virginia, Lawton, Oklahoma, or Lubbock, Texas. Hoss moved up the ranks from #3 sports reporter at WWL-TV under former Voice of the Saints Jim Henderson, transitioned to the news side, and became an avid Saints fan and season ticket holder himself (Section 317, anyone?)

So Mike Hoss has worn many hats in the media era, from broadcaster to communications strategist and more. Tune in to Episode 28 of Black and Gold Rush, as host Rachel Jones takes Saints fans behind the scenes of his journey from aspiring pro golfer at James Madison University to being named the newest Voice of the Saints.

  • Mike Hoss grew up in Manassas, Virginia, and went to college on a golf scholarship (8:28)
  • No plan B until his junior year
  • Golf stories on his resume helped him get a job at WWL-TV in New Orleans, a “national powerhouse” (15:35)
  • Lessons from Jim Henderson: “He is a brilliant writer and orator” (22:42)
  • What sparked Mike’s deep connection to the Saints – this time as a fan (29:00)
  • “I became like a crazy person … beyond fanatic” (30:00)
  • What are the final stages of preparation like for his new role (32:39)
  • “Zach and Jim are polar opposites” (37:35)
  • Nerves for his first call? (44:13)
  • Random Round (48:55)

Plus, you might have heard the Saints now have the highest paid right tackle in the NFL! Ryan Ramczyk just signed a five year $96 million contract extension, including $60 million guaranteed.

When I think of Ryan Ramczyk, I think of Mr. Dependable and Mr. Reliable on the Saints offensive line. He’s part of the Saints’ banner 2017 draft class, only missing one game in four seasons. In 70 career games, Ramczyk has been on the field for every single snap 64 times. Now that’s dependable! In 2020, he gave up just two sacks and committed only five penalties.

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Mike Hoss named play-by-play announcer for New Orleans Saints game day broadcasts on WWL

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He Trains Saints’ Dogs and Helps Thousands Uncover Purpose Through Pain: Meet Saints Fan Joseph James

 

The Who Dat Nation is full of incredible people.

On a new episode of Black and Gold Rush, you’ll meet Joseph James, whose first client at his dog training business, Professional K9 Solutions, was someone New Orleans Saints know well – Zach Strief.

You’ll hear how Joseph became the “unofficial dog trainer of the New Orleans Saints” thanks largely to Zach Strief and Senio Kelemete.  A major theme throughout the episode is the power of relationships.  The Saints welcomed Joseph and his family, and when Joseph’s wife died of cancer in 2019, several players attended her funeral and others sent well-wishes, including Mrs. Gayle Benson.

But Joseph’s story doesn’t end in tragedy.  He and host Rachel Jones discuss how he’s coaching others to understand their purpose in life even if they’re experiencing crushing pain.  This is a wide-ranging episode that touches on grief, loss, love, relationships, and yes, also a lighthearted look at some of your favorite Saints dogs from Sean Payton to Drew Brees and much more.

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Professional K9 Solutions

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Episode 19 – Eroding vs. Growing with Michael James (on Apple Podcasts)

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Kawaan Baker the Touchdown Maker | Saints Draft Series Part 6

Kawaan Baker, an explosive WR from fledgling football program South Alabama, concludes our New Orleans Saints draft series.

Rachel Jones sits down with JT Crabtree, the voice of the Jaguars, on a new episode of Black and Gold Rush to discuss Baker (or “KB”) the person and the player whom the Saints chose in the seventh round, just three spots behind where they selected legendary WR Marques Colston 15 years ago.

Baker stole the show at South Alabama’s Pro Day with a 4.41 second 40-time and impressive vertical leap and broad jumps, and he became the first Jaguar ever drafted by the Saints in South Alabama’s 13-year football history.

Known as Kawaan Baker the Touchdown Maker, Rachel and JT explore the Atlanta native’s route to the final roster, his quiet demeanor off the field, and much more.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: New episodes of Black and Gold Rush return June 21, 2021!

TOP 3 TWEETABLE QUOTES:

  • (7:54) “He really opened some eyes late in the game, and I think that’s what got him the 255 spot with the Saints. I know he’s thrilled to have just an opportunity to show what he can do.”
  • (9:54) “I cannot think of a better spot for Kawaan to land, not just being local, but also I really think he fits into that Saints offense that uses so many different weapons and utilizes them in so many different ways.”
  • (11:21) “I don’t really remember him posting anything or saying anything pro-Falcons, so I think it’s a pretty easy change for him … you will never see him wearing black, white and red at the same time ever.”
  • (23:10) Random Round

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Saints Draft Pick Series Part 1 – Payton Turner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 2 – Pete Werner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 3 – Paulson Adebo

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 4 – Ian Book

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 5 – Landon Young

SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Landon Young Leaves Places Better Than He Found Them | Saints Draft Series Part 5

No one outworks Landon Young. In football or in life.

On this episode of Black and Gold Rush, you’ll hear from University of Kentucky grad assistant coach Ryan Finck, who took over much of the offensive line coaching duties when longtime Wildcats O-line coach John Schlarman passed away in November 2020.

Finck describes how Young led the “Big Blue Wall” as a team captain and left a legacy at Kentucky.

Tune in FRIDAY for the finale of the Saints draft series – all about Saints seventh-round pick Kawaan Baker with South Alabama’s own JT Crabtree!

TOP 3 TWEETABLE QUOTES:

  • (1:27) “He is everything that is the state of Kentucky, Landon is the perfect example.”

  • (2:54) “You could walk down this hallway right here, and every coach is going to have something different, something new, and something wonderful to say about Landon Young.”

  • (12:07) “Landon, I think, has a chance to come in and be a guy who plays the right tackle position. When he came back after training for his pro day, he looked like a million bucks, and he said he’d been doing a lot on the right side because he knows all his reps were on the left.”

  • (17:57) Random Round

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Ryan Finck Twitter

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Saints Draft Pick Series Part 1 – Payton Turner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 2 – Pete Werner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 3 – Paulson Adebo

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 4 – Ian Book

SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Ian Book – Future Starting QB or Long-Term Backup? | Saints Draft Series Part 4

Be honest. We’re not 100% sure whether the New Orleans Saints will start Jameis Winston or Taysom Hill at quarterback in 2021.

Sean Payton also could install a package for the Saints fourth-round draft pick, Notre Dame QB Ian Book. On a new episode of Black and Gold Rush, Notre Dame football reporter Tyler James is here to break down how Ian Book won the starting job at Notre Dame and why some people insist on calling him “deceptively athletic.”

Many in Notre Dame circles believe landing with the Saints will give Ian Book time to learn the offense, but what is his NFL future? Can he be a starter one day, or is he a long-term backup?

Tune in MONDAY for Part 5 of the Saints draft series – all about Saints sixth-round pick Landon Young with Kentucky grad assistant coach Ryan Finck!

TOP 3 TWEETABLE QUOTES:

  • (7:15) “Certainly Ian Book has been a guy since his high school playing days who has been doubted a little bit.”

  • (11:25) “He will be willing and certainly prepared to handle a quarterback competition in whatever sort of opportunities and pecking order the Saints put him in.”

  • (15:30) “I think it is a good situation whether or not he plays at all in his rookie year or just sort of waits in the wing and learns what he needs to learn at the NFL level and prepares himself to have a sustainable career, whether that’s as a starter or as a long-term backup.” 

  • (21:42) Random Round

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Tyler James Twitter

NDInsider.com

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Rachel Jones Instagram

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 1 – Payton Turner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 2 – Pete Werner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 3 – Paulson Adebo

SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Why CB Paulson Adebo Should Intrigue You | Saints Draft Series Part 3

Former Stanford cornerback and Saints third-round draft pick Paulson Adebo lets his play speak for itself. He’s no quote machine, just shy and straightforward, but very well-respected by teammates and coaches.

On a new episode of Black and Gold Rush, longtime Stanford radio broadcaster and Pac-12 Network reporter Troy Clardy is here to discuss how Adebo can impact the New Orleans Saints’ secondary. Get ready for a crash course in the Cardinal football brand too!

Tune in FRIDAY for Part 4 of the Saints draft series – all about Saints fourth-round pick Ian Book with South Bend Tribune reporter Tyler James!

TOP 3 TWEETABLE QUOTES:

  • (5:36) “The physical, the tangibles, the measurables are the one thing that certainly give you the first impression about Paulson Adebo … but don’t forget the ball skills and don’t forget the recovery speed as well.”

  • (7:18) “Some numbers that you might not necessarily be aware of and numbers that might not necessarily show up are his ability to show up in big games.”

  • (13:25) “Stanford guys have a bit of a brand as being a bit more readily made to handle some of the rigors you might face in the NFL on and off the field. I’m looking forward to seeing how Paulson can apply some of those with the Saints in the future.”

  • (22:22) Random Round

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Troy Clardy Twitter

The TreeCast with Troy Clardy

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Rachel Jones Instagram

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 1 – Payton Turner

Saints Draft Pick Series Part 2 – Pete Werner

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Is Pete Werner the Saints’ Next Ohio State Success? | Saints Draft Series Part 2

We’ve all heard the line how the New Orleans Saints must have a satellite office at Ohio State. Linebacker Pete Werner is the fourth Buckeye New Orleans has drafted since 2016.

What skills and personality does the Saints’ second-round pick bring to the table?

Host Rachel Jones asked Pete Werner’s high school coach, Rick Streiff. He said Werner’s ability to run and move, along with his intelligence & football savvy, will make him an excellent addition.  In other words, he’s got the “it” factor.

Tune in MONDAY for Part 3 of the Saints draft series – all about Saints third-round pick Paulson Adebo with Stanford/Pac-12 reporter Troy Clardy!

LISTEN FOR THESE QUOTES:

  • (6:05) “He’s a young man who always kept his nose to the grindstone.”

  • (7:15) “Really quiet, fly-under-the-radar kind of guy – you have to kind of pull teeth sometimes to get words of out him. But once on the field, he just plays so hard.”

  • (9:23) “He’s seen it all, between his high school experience and then obviously at Ohio State, they play the best of the best.”

  • (10:38) “He even played a little bit of cornerback for us in high school when we played some heavy run teams, we would put him on the tight end side into the boundary, and it was a thing of beauty.”

  • (11:33) “If you go back and watch the Ohio State films, they played him all over the place and it was because of those two things – his ability to run and his ability to grasp the scheme and understand what his responsibilities are.”
  • (15:37) “I watched Sean Payton sling it around as a high schooler … talk about a guy that had football savvy.”
  • (17:35) Random Round

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Saints Draft Pick Series Part 1 – Payton Turner

Rachel Jones Twitter

Rachel Jones Instagram

SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Doubt Payton Turner At Your Own Risk | Saints Draft Series Part 1

We kick off our series on the New Orleans Saints’ 2021 draft picks spotlighting former Houston DE Payton Turner. 

Cougars radio broadcaster Jeremy Branham (UH Learfield IMG) explains how he’s shined under different coaching staffs and schemes at Houston, why being a multi-sport athlete is so valuable for the first-round pick, why Turner’s best football remains in front of him, and much more.

Branham has a unique viewpoint covering the Cougars from the sidelines – you’ll hear in the Random Round his most memorable moment covering Turner, the one skill he needs to improve most, and Branham’s message for the rookie as he arrives in New Orleans.

A new episode is coming FRIDAY featuring Saints second-round pick Pete Werner’s high school coach Rick Streiff from Cathedral in Indianapolis!

LISTEN FOR THESE QUOTES:

  • (4:45) “His stock was roaring up before the start of the draft. When the season ended, was probably considered a 3rd or 4th rounder, and then when people started to watch more film on him and look at all his pro day stuff was when his stock really started climbing.”

  • (7:36) “It wasn’t a matter of can he play in the league or would he go in the first, to me it was just find him a good landing spot where the coaches will put him in a spot to excel and succeed. And now that he is a first-rounder, really the Saints have no choice right, because you have to protect your investment. He’s a kid that deserves everything he gets. I’m really excited for Payton Turner.” 

  • (8:46) “That’s the biggest intangible – how much he really enjoys playing.”

  • (12:20) “Not only is he big, but he covers a lot of ground left arm to right arm. But he also has a burst of quickness that allows him to get into the backfield.”

  • (14:33) “The first two years of Payton Turner’s career he was in a 3-4, and then when Dana Holgorsen came in he kinda changed it to a 4-2-5. It was a 4-3 base, but they ran a lot of 4-2-5 out of it, and he excelled with that defense.”
  • (15:40) “I think he’s going to be more of an edge guy with the ability to move in on pass rushing situations.”
  • (17:10) “That’s one thing I would add about Payton Turner – his best football is far from him.”
  • (19:10) Random Round

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Coogs’ Corner Podcast

Houston Athletics on iHeartMedia

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SUBSCRIBE, RATE AND REVIEW:

“Black and Gold Rush is awesome and authentic, and I can’t wait for more.”<— If that sounds like you, please rate and review the show! —> It’s easy – scroll to the bottom on Apple Podcasts, tap to rate out of 5 stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then let me know what you loved most about the episode!