Which former Boise State player in the NFL was poised for a breakout season? I was asked on Sunday Sports Extra last week which former Boise State player in the NFL was poised for a breakout season. I said “Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas.” I thought I’d drum up some supporting material, though. Things for Lawrence are much the same now as they were at this time a year ago. There were high expectations in Dallas—those come with the territory when you were the 34th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Then came training camp. Lawrence broke his foot on just the fourth day of practice, requiring him to undergo surgery and shelving him for the first nine games of the regular season. All he could muster over the final seven games of the regular season were nine tackles. “It was hard,” Lawrence said on the Cowboys’ website. “It was a real tough grind to deal with, just trying to stay focused and into the playbook and just coming back trying to get back into your rhythm and your groove.”
But it was the NFL Playoffs that gave the Cowboys hope. Lawrence ended Detroit’s postseason with a strip-sack of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an ensuing fumble recovery. That came on the heels of another fumble recovery by Lawrence in the game, one that saw him cough it up before the whistle. A week later, he logged one of Dallas’ only two sacks on Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers in a Divisional Round loss to the Packers. Lawrence has since been working out at both right and left defensive end for Dallas. “We’re going to figure out who the best guys are and play them, figure out what the rotations are to get the most out of that defensive front,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told ESPN.com. “And he’ll be a big part of what we’re doing.”
In Mountain West terms, Boise State has a lot of money. On the national—read that Power 5—scope, the Broncos don’t. The Mountain West will dole out a record $47 million to its members for its 2014-15 academic year, up from $29 million a year ago. Boise State will get the most, $5.3 million in “regular” revenue, plus $4 million for its appearance in the Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos received $3.7 million a year ago. Now for the perspective. Last year, for example, the SEC distributed $292.8 million, a record amount that is sure to be broken this year (and then some). But let’s just take that 2014 figure and divide it by 12. That’s $24.4 million per university. It’s a massive uphill climb for Group of 5 schools.
The IFAF Football World Championship next month presents an interesting opportunity for two guys with Boise State ties. For former Bronco coach Dan Hawkins, who will lead the USA team, it’s a chance to get back in a rhythm as he keeps coaching opportunities on his radar (and vice-versa). For former Boise State cornerback Bryan Douglas, who has been named to the 45-man American team, it’s a chance to reignite his football career after a slow finish with the Broncos. Hawkins became familiar with the world tournament when his son Cody quarterbacked the USA team to the championship in Austria in 2011. Former Boise State fullback Richie Brockel also played on that team and parlayed it into a tryout with the Carolina Panthers, for whom he plays to this day.
Gary Stevens knows as well as anybody the challenge that lies ahead for American Pharoah at the Belmont Stakes tomorrow. The one-time Capital High wrestler and Les Bois Park jockey, now a Hall of Famer, will be aboard Tale of Verve, one of seven horses trying to keep American Pharoah from winning horse racing’s first Triple Crown in 37 years. Can Pharoah go the distance—literally and figuratively? “You really have to ride Belmont to know it,” Stevens said Monday. “It’s really not a track where you just ride a couple of races and you’re OK. It’s the only mile-and-a-half track in North America and it can really get you confused. The mile pole at Belmont, that’s where the three-quarter pole is at any other track. That’s the kind of difference that can fool a jockey into moving too soon if he is unfamiliar with Belmont.”
Stevens has been on both sides of the Triple Crown fence at the Belmont Stakes. In 1997 he rode Silver Charm to victory in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before finishing second by half a length to Touch Gold at Belmont Park. The following year, Real Quiet was gunning for the Triple Crown before Stevens guided Victory Gallop past him by all of four inches in one of the most thrilling finishes in horse racing history. Can’t wait to see how Stevens handles this race tomorrow.
One bad round can ruin a weekend, and don’t Graham DeLaet and Troy Merritt know it. Both former Boise State stars are in position to make the cut at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, OH, but a couple ill-timed bogeys today could change that. DeLaet is tied for 21st after carding a three-under 69 in the first round. He had just one bogey on the day. Merritt turned in a two-under 70 yesterday and was super-hot down the stretch. He started on No. 12 and absorbed a double-bogey three holes into his round. But Merritt birdied four of his final six holes and is tied for 32nd.
The ECHL has released the 2015-16 “protected lists” for each team, and the Idaho Steelheads have 28 players on theirs. It’s not that significant, but it is noteworthy that five of the protected guys are the ones who have recently agreed to contracts in Europe. The Steelheads will have the rights to Wade McLeod, Jason Bast, Brett Robinson, Matt Case and Gaelen Patterson—if any of them come back from across the pond next season.
While Boise State’s Nick Duncan is trying to make the Australian national team for the World University Games, Bronco women’s basketball players Yaiza Rodriguez Ortego and Marta Hermida are involved in the Spanish Junior national squad. Rodriguez Ortego has made the U20 team that will represent Spain in a series of competitions starting in Istanbul in two weeks and culminating with the European Championship July 2-12. Hermida, an incoming freshman, has been invited to training camp to try out for the Spanish U18 squad that will compete for the European Championship July 30-August 9.
This Day In Sports…June 5, 1977:
The Los Angeles Dodgers retire Walter Alston’s No. 24 jersey in a ceremony at Dodger Stadium. Alston had stepped down as the club’s manager after the 1976 season, ending a 23-year run that spanned the Dodgers’ move from Brooklyn to L.A. In 1955, he was the first manager in team history to win a World Series and would be victorious in three more (1959, 1963, and 1965) after the move to the West Coast.
(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.)