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a lack of college football recruits
Roger French sometimes would arrive early to his Minneapolis Henry High School office only to see a very large, athletic youngster walk out the door of his home to catch a city bus.
Some days, the former Ryan Fitzpatrick Jersey Henry coach would push his window open and call out to Seantrel Henderson as the muchhyped high school lineman started his daily trek to St. Paul's CretinDerham Hall. "I'd yell out to him, 'Hey, I've still got a spot open for you,' " said French, who left Henry four years ago and is now an assistant coach at Minnetonka.
Minneapolis supplied a pipeline of talent to the Gophers through their last golden era in the 1960s, and for more than a decade after that. But only three City Conference alums have received football scholarships at Minnesota since Glen Mason started as coach in 1997; current player Ra'Shede Hageman was the first City player since 2004 to sign with the Gophers. It's been since the mid1980s that City Conference alums have made significant contributions to the state's only Division I program.
The lack of nearby talent is one of the reasons the Gophers have the longest droughts in terms of conference championship (their last was a threeway tie in 1967) and major Nike Ryan Fitzpatrick Jersey bowls (1962) in the Big Ten. Consider this: Former Gophers coach Tim Brewster got four players in a single recruiting class out of Dallas Skyline High School or one more than the Gophers have gotten out of Minneapolis the past 15 years.
Minneapolis has produced a handful of Division I players in that time, but most have attended private or suburban schools. The list includes Henderson, an offensive tackle who will be a junior at the University of Miami this fall, NFL AllPro receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. (Holy Angels) and NFL tight end Dominique Byrd (Breck).
"I'd see the kids playing basketball [in the city], even stop to watch them, and say to myself, 'Why aren't there more good football players?'" Mason said. "It's an enigma.''
Mason started a free summer football camp in north Minneapolis, hoping to identify youngsters with the size and speed to develop into Division I players. It didn't produce a single player for his program.
Gophers coach Jerry Kill seems as determined as Mason once was to develop City talent, saying he plans to run lowcost camps that will enable innercity youth to attend. Kill already has offered a scholarship to Washburn sophomore running back Jeffrey Jones.
Carlton Littlejohn and Marcus Williams are teammates at North Dakota State, which this past season won the Football Championship Subdivision national title. Littlejohn and Williams both played youth football at North Commons Park, across the street from North High School. When it came time to choose a high school, Williams, also one of the state's top high school basketball players, opted for Hopkins. Littlejohn said he received overtures from suburban coaches, but wanted to stay at North.
"I didn't want to travel that far to go to school,'' Littlejohn said. "Plus, I saw it as helping out our community. I figured if some of my friends and I stayed, we could build a foundation for North."
Williams said it was a difficult decision to leave North, where his father once had served as an assistant football coach. But he said he weighed all the options, and decided Hopkins offered more athletic exposure, better facilities and academic advantages "having enough books for the whole class, extra help if you need it" that larger school budgets can provide.
"Only a few players go Division I and make it out of Minneapolis,'' Williams said. "That's why a lot of kids are choosing to go to suburban schools.''
Minnesota State High School League rules allow students to select a high school after eighth grade, but can limit eligibility if they transfer after that. Williams said at least five wouldbe North football players opted for Hopkins along with him, receiving transportation through "The Choice is Yours'' program.
Littlejohn spent all four years at North, starring for the football team as a quarterback and defensive back. But he said he understands why Williams and others choose the suburbs. He also has a better understanding of why so few Division I players make it out of the City Conference.
"I saw good athletes [at North] who could have made it to DI, but they got sidetracked," Littlejohn said.
South coach Lenny Sedlock, the longesttenured City football coach who played in the conference in the 1970s, traces the roots of the current situation to the school district's decision in the early 1980s to virtually eliminate geographic boundaries and go to a system of magnet schools.
"Once we got rid of neighborhood schools and kids started bussing all over the place, I think that hurt not only football but a lot of things in Minneapolis,'' Sedlock said. "Kids didn't have a sense of community anymore. And then we had transportation issues in athletics."
Statewide open enrollment, which went into effect in 1989, added another layer of challenges to City Conference schools, as top athletes gravitated toward powerhouse programs that would highlight their abilities for college recruiters.
National recruiting expert Tom Lemming said innercity football has declined in many areas. New York City has very few public school programs, and bluechip football players are becoming more rare in Chicago and Los Angeles.
"I don't see it turning around anytime Bernard Pollard Jersey soon,'' he said. "It seems the exodus to the suburbs, and the Catholic schools, is pretty much complete.''
Lemming said city schools that still regularly produce talent, such as Detroit's Cass Tech and Miami Central where the Gophers expect to sign at least two players next month are successful because of head coaches who are "Coach Cartertype guys from the movie." Detroit's 18 public school football programs produced four Big Ten signees this year all from Cass Tech.
The Gophers' biggest recruiting obstacle is that Minnesota as a state produces only between 10 and 15 Division I players a year, which annually puts it at or near the bottom of Big Ten states, far below Ohio, Pennsylvania and Nike Bernard Pollard Jersey Michigan.
Minneapolis' innercity football problems only seem to keep getting worse. Last year, Roosevelt dropped its varsity program because of a lack of numbers, although school officials hope to resume a varsity schedule this fall. The City has retained its minimum 2.0 gradepoint average for eligibility higher than state standards and that has affected numbers at several schools; Henry finished last season with only 30 players. South, based on enrollment, has been moved to the new Class 6A despite a home field that lacks lights, a press box and artificial turf.
A plan was proposed last year to consolidate the city's seven programs into two teams based on geography. Such a move theoretically would enable the City to compete against other top metro teams, but opponents say it would exacerbate the transportation problems and add to the lack of community feeling. The bottom line, everyone agrees, is creating football programs that keep top players from emigrating to the suburbs. It won't be easy.
Fitzgerald, an AllPro receiver with the Arizona Cardinals who attended the University of Pittsburgh, is a product of Minneapolis Park Board youth football, playing for teams at Martin Luther King Park on 40th and Nicollet through eighth grade. Fitzgerald, who graduated from Holy Angels, wonders whether the City can prep its elite athletes for the next level if so many keep leaving for the suburbs.
"You're not playing against the upperechelon teams on a weekly basis,'' he said. "If you're at a school like Eden Prairie, you're playing against top of the line football teams every week. You need that, because the competition only makes you better.''
Hageman said his technical skills were behind those of Gophers teammates who had played at suburban schools. But he said he would choose Washburn again.
"No regrets at all,'' Hageman said. "I came out with a chip on my shoulder, and wanted to put Minneapolis schools on my back and prove everybody wrong. You can be successful no matter where you come from if you work hard enough.''
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A Great Occasion Of State
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a few words on basketball and bromance
After 15 seasons on the Nate Washington Black Jersey air, the television show ER wraps up Thursday with a twohour finale. If you care at all, you can read Alan Sepinwall's excellent wrapup of what made the series groundbreaking, if not always great. It's weird for me to write this, but I was 16 years old when it debuted. I used to come home from basketball or football practice on Thursdays, halfheartedly do some homework, and then glue myself to the television until ER was over. Although I stopped watching it somewhere around the sixth season actually right after I moved to Baltimore it truly is one of the reasons I fell in love with episodic television.
And one of the main reasons I loved it, believe it or not, was that Mark Greene and Doug Ross often unwound and talked about their lives by playing pickup Nike Derrick Morgan Jersey basketball outside the ER.
Television, and popular culture, can't get enough of the term "bromance" these days, and thanks to shows like Scrubs, Boston Legal, How I Met Your Mother, Entourage and Flight of the Conchords, it has become perfectly acceptable for guys to express their affection for one another. The Judd Apatow Universe has thrived on this very idea, in fact. But for the most part, a lot of us still use sports as a way to communicate these feelings, whether it's shooting hoops or playing golf or watching football.
ESPN even wrote recently about "The Best Bromances in Sports" and included Juan Dixon titansofficialnflshop.com/Black+Derrick+Morgan+Jersey and Steve Blake as well as Ray Lewis and Ed Reed among their picks. (This might be a good time to point out that Reed and Lewis haven't exactly been locker room BFFs throughout their careers, but I guess we'll give ESPN a pass.)
I always enjoyed the subtle way Anthony Edwards and George Clooney played those scenes. (It was supposedly Clooney's idea to have a basketball hoop on set, just so the actors could play ball and blow off steam, and the producers liked it so much, they decided to incorporate it into the show.) Mark and Doug could be furious with one another, stressed out about work or down on www.titansofficialnflshop.com/Black+Nate+Washington+Jersey love, but they could still find time to talk about the Bulls and play oneonone to 20, . I grew up on outdoor basketball rims like that one, chucking up 3pointers and confessing to my best friend that I had a crush on some girl in our English class. When family members died, or relationships unraveled, my friends and I sought refuge in driveways and backyards. We'd shoot jumpers late into the night, cracking jokes, sharing our dreams and our fears, and we'd play until the neighbors complained about the noise.
It's bizarre, I guess, that I associate this show with sports, since it was almost always about anything but sports. I haven't seen more than 10 minutes of the show in years, and have no vested interest in the current characters, (although I will confess that Parminder Nagra was pretty cute in her one sports movie, Bend It Like Beckham). But long before helicopters started falling on doctors and chemical spills were threatening to wipe out the city of Chicago, ER was a show where two guys could disappear in a game of pickup basketball and talk about life, or about nothing at all. That subtle ode to male friendship meant a lot to me. And for that, it will be missed.
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