From Chicken Dinner Road to Foxboro

The Patriots begin OTAs Monday, with a blonde-haired country guy from Marsing, Idaho, ready to introduce himself. NFL “organized team activities,” better known as OTAs, begin in earnest next week (some teams are already underway). The New England Patriots begin Monday, and a blonde-haired country guy from Marsing, Idaho, will introduce himself, wearing No. 58. It’s a fresh start for former Boise State star Shea McClellin. The 2012 first round draft pick signed with the Patriots as a free agent when the Chicago Bears no longer had a place for him. But the Bears didn’t just shoo him out the door. “It’s not like we didn’t want Shea McClellin,” Bears coach John Fox told the Chicago Sun-Times when McClellin left. “There’s the way it fits, there’s number problems. Shea is probably an arrow-up guy.”

McClellin’s in a good situation in New England. After bouncing from defensive end to outside linebacker to inside linebacker the last four seasons in Chicago, and having his ability questioned by many, it appears he’ll jockey between the inside and outside with the Patriots. “Historically, Bill (Belichick) up in New England, he likes those guys that can play both,” said Fox, himself a one-time Boise State secondary coach. “It can confuse, at times, the opponent.” And the Patriots are serious about McClellin, signing him to a three-year contract worth $3.5 million guaranteed. He settled in comfortably at inside ‘backer last year with the Bears, calling the defensive signals and making 96 tackles.

The Bears, who begin their OTAs on Tuesday, still have a Boise State product in the fold, and he’s become a prominent one. For Charles Leno Jr., the ramp-up to the 2016 season is a lot different than last year. Heck, it’s like Matt Paradis’ situation in Denver, only without the ring. Leno, a seventh-round draft pick of Chicago in 2014, began last season as a backup. But he was thrown into the fire early in the campaign when Jermon Busrod was sidelined by an injury. Leno played so well as a starter that the Bears kept Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowler, on the bench when he was healthy again. The guy on the opposite end of the O-line, star right tackle Kyle Long, is excited about Leno. He is so talented and is so young,” Long told this spring. “He is this big ball of clay and they just get to mold him how they want.”

It’s “watch list season” in college football, and the Rimington Award has released its candidates for 2016. Idaho’s Stephen Matlock, the former Capital Eagle, is one of 58 mentioned for the honor that goes to the nation’s best center. Matlock enters his senior season as the Vandals’ returning starter at the position. He was activated as a true freshman in 2013 and played guard for two years before sliding over to take the spot of four-year starting center Mike Marboe.

Without much ado (KTIK’s John Patrick’s said it took “two minutes and 10 seconds”), the State Board of Education approved the return of Idaho football to the Big Sky yesterday. The Statesman reported this bit of info from the documents the university provided to the SBOE: “The UI estimates funding for competitive Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) play to be $4-6 million annually, not including facility upgrades required to be considered by an FBS conference. The Vandal Sports Fund (boosters) funding for Vandal Athletics has hovered under $2 million for the last 10 years. Meeting the financial obligations of competitive FBS play is not realistic.” That’s it in a nutshell.

We now call him former Boise State forward James Webb III, and he was one of 12 players invited to work out yesterday for the Boston Celtics. Hope Webb was in shape, because Celtics general manager Danny Ainge put the prospects through a three-minute run that one player called lung-cracking. “Toughness is a big part of our program,” said Ainge. “Putting them in strenuous situations to see how they react matters.” San Diego State’s Malik Pope also worked out for the Celts—we don’t call him “former” yet, because Pope hasn’t signed with an agent yet and can still return to the Aztecs.

Graham DeLaet is looking to get back on track on the PGA Tour this week, and he’s in a good location to do it. The former Boise State star tees off today at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Irving, TX, coming off a missed cut at The Players Championship. DeLaet had made six straight cuts before that. In the past three years at the Byron Nelson he has tied for 22nd, seventh and 10th. Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge is also in the field this week. Elsewhere in golf, it took a 14-under par performance by Baylor to keep Idaho out of the NCAA Championships yesterday. The Bears, with all four of their players under par, surged past the Vandals to claim the fifth and final spot at nationals, with Idaho finishing sixth at the NCAA Kohler Regional in Wisconsin.

Former Boise Hawk Rich Hill is doing something that’s very difficult as an Oakland Athletics pitcher this year. He’s winning. Hill picked up his third straight victory yesterday as the A’s walloped the Texas Rangers 8-1. It was his first win in Oakland. Hill threw six strong innings, allowing one run on three hits. The 36-year-old leftie has become a heckuva successful reclamation project this season for the A’s—he’s now 6-3 with a 2.54 ERA.

The College of Idaho baseball team was in a morning battle royale yesterday, trying to stay alive in the NAIA Championships Opening Round in Santa Barbara. The Coyotes used a three-run first inning and a five-run fourth to outlast Madonna University of Michigan, 11-8. Then the Yotes faced elimination again last night in a rematch against William Carey, who had defeated them Wednesday. C of I trailed 6-2 in the eighth before dramatically tying the game on a Tommy Wright grand slam. But a solo homer in the ninth from William Carey’s Wes Brown spelled a 7-6 defeat, and the Coyotes’ season ends at 39-23.

This Day In Sports…May 19, 1999:

The mile-high air of Denver brings a record-setting day at Coors Field. The Cincinnati Reds blasted the Colorado Rockies, 24-12, as the two teams broke a 76-year-old big league record with 81 total bases. The Reds pounded out 15 extra –base hits to tie a National League record. Among Cincinnati’s 28 hits were three home runs by Jeffrey Hammonds, a feat that would have been the big story on any other day.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)