Today was a very special day for one former Kentucky football player, Dermontti Dawson. Dawson was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, one of the most prestigious honors imaginable for a football player. The honor put Dawson into a very special category, as one of only two former UK Wildcats to ever be inducted into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame. George Blanda was the first.
Throughout his NFL career, Dawson was heralded for his versatility and consistency. Dawson was a mainstay at the center position for the Steelers for years. Dawson played in 170 consecutive games– an impressive feat for any athlete at any level. Dawson also reached the Pro Bowl in seven straight seasons, signifying his dominance as a center in the league. Dawson led the way for Jerome Bettis to become one of the premier rushers in the NFL. Dawson’s high school football coach, Steve Parker, was his presenter. Parker went up to Dawson during his junior year of high school and put his arm around him before talking him into playing. It’s a pretty neat story and Kentucky fans should be very proud of Dermontti Dawson and his achievements.
And now on to some news from a fairly slow Saturday…
– The morning started with an Olympic basketball game that packed much more excitement and suspense than I think a lot of people expected. Lithuania gave Team USA a run for their money, keeping the game interesting until literally the final minute. LeBron James channeled some of his playoff magic down the stretch, with Team USA making just enough key plays to hold off a Lithuania team doing nearly everything right to pull the upset. The final margin ended up being 99-94, sending a bit of a message to the world that Team USA is capable of falling victim to an upset. I think the elimination games coming up might be quite interesting. The reality of the closer games though is that Anthony Davis likely won’t see much of the court. And contrary to some people’s belief, I don’t think it’s a major “Coach K hates UK” conspiracy theory. Although I would have liked to see Davis play in a more “crunch time” situation, potentially providing a shot-blocking presence for a United States team that could have used it at times against Lithuania, I think Davis’ inexperience is keeping Coach K from feeling comfortable using him in those key game situations. Perhaps that will change as the tournament goes on, but it seems as if Davis will likely only receive playing time when the game is already in hand.
– Nerlens Noel tried to quiet the worries, rumors and speculation about the exact date of his arrival on UK’s campus by talking to Rivals.com. Noel wanted Big Blue Nation to know that he will be in Lexington on August 19th. According to Noel, he has finally finished all of his requirements and will be ready to join his teammates very soon. I will still feel much more comfortable when I see pictures of him and Archie Goodwin shootin’ in the gym, or eating a burger at Tolly-Ho. But it’s hard to imagine that Noel would go out of his way to name an arrival date and make it public that he’s finished his course work if he really hasn’t.
– Speaking of Nerlens Noel, he and two other future Wildcats are currently participating in the Adidas Nations event. For those unfamiliar with the event, it is used to identify the top young basketball players in the world, providing training and competition for the athletes. The world’s top players who are under the age of 19 are brought together and placed on 1 of 9 regional teams from Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Willie Cauley-Stein, Nerlens Noel and Kyle Wiltjer were all invited to participate for the United States team. The event is taking place in Orange County, California. A few other Kentucky targets were selected to the team as well, including Cliff Alexander and Jordan Mickey.
– UK Football hosted “Fan Day” this evening at Commonwealth Stadium. The best news of the day was that the weather held off beautifully, though threats of rain seemed likely, allowing the show to go on as planned. Only a limited amount of stock can be placed on an open practice to the public, but a few interesting nuggets did leak out about what took place at Fan Day:
– A lot of positive feedback on the play of Morgan Newton. All four quarterbacks had the opportunity to throw under light pressure, and Newton seemed to surprise a lot of people coming off of a shoulder surgery. Newton threw the two most impressive deep balls of the day, completing a 30-yard pass to Demarco Robsinson and later a 40-50 yard bomb to Aaron Boyd. The arm appeared to look fine and Newton might have raised some eyebrows, continuing the great debate about the starting quarterback issue.
– Patrick Towles looked good in the routine passing drills, but once the defenders were added he showed a bit of inexperience and perhaps nervces. Towles threw two picks, including one on his first throw of the evening. Max Smith also threw a pair of picks, and seemed to struggle a bit with accuracy overall. For Towles’ part, Joker Phillips had positive commentary following the practice on his play. Phillips liked his confidence and the way he commanded the huddle. But Phillips also seemed happy with Newton’s play, and reminded everyone once again that the competition is alive and well.
– Freshman RB Dyshawn Mobley may have been the biggest bright spot in the evening, drawing rave reviews, especially regarding his strength and size– prompting his coach to make some bold statements about him as well. (Fun fact: word on the street is that Mobley can dead lift 700 lbs. Yikes). “He could be one of those guys that sets all kinds of records here. He’s very, very, very strong.”
– A picture of approximately 1/2 the crowd from Kentucky’s Fan Day (h/t Kyle Tucker’s hair)
– In “Kentucky players in the NBA” news, we had two very different stories come out this afternoon. Daniel Orton has to be one happy guy with his news today. Orton has signed a deal with his hometown NBA team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not only will Orton be joining one of the best teams in the NBA (a team where young players are given an opportunity to play, as well), but he gets the luxury of returning to a comfortable place. Daniel Orton has struggled in his first few seasons in the NBA with the Orlando Magic, but I can’t imagine a better POTENTIAL place for Orton to succeed than with the Thunder. What he does with the opportunity is yet to be determined, but I can’t imagine the stars aligning much better for Orton.
– Josh Harrellson found his name on the opposite end of the NBA news spectrum. Reports came out today that the Houston Rockets will likely wave Josh Harrellson by August 15th. When the Knicks sent Harrellson to the Rockets, many believed this might eventually be his fate, seeing the number of big men being stockpiled in Houston. Harrellson fits a niche though for NBA teams who need a big man who can play a back-up role, with high character, who can play in the pick-and-roll offense. Harrellson is more than capable, as we saw him play the pick-and-roll almost to perfection at times while at Kentucky. He also had success in his short time with the Knicks. The move, though sad for Harrellson in the short-term, should signify the Rockets being more likely to keep another former Cat– Patrick Patterson. It also means one less person for Terrence Jones to compete with for playing time. Best of luck to Harrellson if the speculation turns out to be true.
– Coach Cal had a humble brag moment, comparing rings with Ed “Too Tall” Jones (1978 Super Bowl ring)…