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“There was a small crater in the turf where the 314-pound Gilkey tried to dig in his cleats and stop the charge of John Jenkins, a 359-pound defensive tackle from the University of Georgia. Gilkey is an offensive lineman from Chadron State, an outpost in northwest Nebraska, and NFL scouts were gathered around to see if the player from a small Division II school could block a player from a Goliath of college football, a school from the mighty Southeastern Conference.
Jenkins thrust his powerful claws straight into Gilkey’s chest and it was an instant mismatch. Big beat little, for the moment.
It was a one-on-one drill at a practice for the Senior Bowl, a college football all-star game, which is the next step in the 2013 NFL draft process. Gilkey was shoved back by Jenkins and left standing on a white towel, which was the imaginary quarterback Gilkey was supposed to protect. This would have been a sack in a real game, the quarterback in a heap at the feet of Jenkins, and Gilkey humiliated. Gilkey, a small-college nobody, did not pick up that white towel and start waving it as a flag of surrender.He wasn’t going to be defined by one stinking play.” [Glier/CNN]
“The least popular kid at Sandwich High was booed at a school assembly, and he ran to the bathroom and cried. He had red hair and freckles, pasty-white skin and a pear-shaped body with roomy hips and an agonizingly skinny torso. Evidence of Garrett Gilkey’s awkward attempts to fit in is well documented in the 2004-05 Sandwich High School yearbook, a book that Gilkey, to no one’s surprise, did not bother purchasing. Who would sign his book at the end of the year, anyway?
In most of the yearbook pictures, taken his freshman year, Gilkey is wearing a blank stare, trapped in a sea of toothy grins. He’s on the scholastic team, the math club, the science club, the book club and is in the very back row of a grainy photo of the football team.
He even tried baseball, although he was never very good at it. A teammate thought it would be funny to urinate in Gilkey’s glove once, but young Garrett did not respond with his fists. No, that’s not what his mother had taught him. She knew, judging by the size of his dad and his uncles, that someday Gilkey would tower over people. “You’re going to be a great big man of God,” Catherine Gilkey had told her boy when he was 3 or 4 years old. “You have to learn to respond with your words and never be mean.”
Garrett, who grew up with sisters Hannah, Mallory and Hilary, was an extremely active kid. Once, shortly after he had heart surgery, his mother said “he had his snowboard duct-taped to his shoes and was on the trampoline.” He read books and developed an extensive vocabulary. But neither his eloquent words nor his vast knowledge of science could stop him from getting beaten up or shoved into lockers. When you’re 14, tiny comments are monumental, and time moves excruciatingly slow. The walks through the narrow hallways in between class were the scariest parts of the day for Gilkey, so he moved quickly through the gantlet of punches, insults and swipes at his stack of books.” [Merrill/ESPN]
“He’s a hard worker who has went from an undrafted rookie out of Hawaii to becoming a sure-handed slot receiver in this league. Bess has never had fewer than 50 catches in any of his five NFL seasons. He also has caught 130 third-down passes, second most in the NFL during the past five years, according to the Browns. That trails only the Falcons’ Roddy White (146). Beyond the numbers, the impressive part is the impression that Bess makes. Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland called Bess “a consummate professional” and said he “worked hard to become one of the team’s most popular and respected players.”
Bess is an important player to have on a team whose top two receivers, Josh Gordon and Greg Little, have a combined three seasons of NFL experience. The Browns didn’t have to give up much for him either. Cleveland traded picks in the fourth (No. 104) and fifth (No. 164) rounds in exchange for Bess and selections in the fourth (No. 111) and seventh (No. 217) rounds. That fifth-rounder was acquired by the Browns in the deal that sent backup quarterback Colt McCoy to the 49ers earlier this month. The hope is either Bess or David Nelson will emerge as the team’s slot receiver. Nelson still hasn’t recovered from knee surgery, so Bess provides insurance at receiver, at the very least. What the Browns know for sure is he’ll provide a positive presence in a young locker room.” [Hensley/ESPN]
“Mark Reynolds. Reynolds is one of the newest residents of Chief Wahoo’s longhouse (a teepee can’t fit a 40-man roster) and as I’ve already written, I’ve quickly come around to him. He doesn’t play defense anywhere above average, he doesn’t run the bases well, and he strikes out by the handful every series, but he swings the bat like it’s going out of style. He’s no Griffey, but the man can club the ball.
That kind of bat has been a rarity in Cleveland for a while now. Jim Thome came back a couple years and made us smile, and Carlos Santana has shown flashes. But Reynolds is something else. Cannon shots abound, when he’s not striking out 15 times in a week. It’s not even like I get too mad over all the strikeouts, at least not in the long run. He’s a boom-or-bust kind of guy, and that’s exciting. Perhaps it’s in part because of my childhood dream to be an oil baron, but I like the Joy of Victory and Agony of Defeat in my sports—it mirrors the kind of life I want to live.
When you watch Reynolds really connect on one, the power he pours into the swing seems almost accidental. His homer in Tampa earlier this year looked almost like he was just swinging defensively, then 408 feet later the Indians led 4-0. His grand slam would have been a pop up for a lot of guys. But he will have none of that. Maybe he studies jet streams and wind patterns, and part of his hitting style involves hitting it seemingly thousands of feet straight up in the hope he’ll catch a draft or drop it on a sparrow’s back. Or maybe he heard “swing hard in case you hit it” and thought it was a valid strategy to consistently adhere to.” [Rohlfing/WahoosOnFirst]