Joe Santoro: NFL draft good for Nevada Wolf Pack (but not recently) | NevadaAppeal.com
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Joe Santoro: NFL draft good for Nevada Wolf Pack (but not recently)

By Joe Santoro For the Nevada Appeal
A view of AT&T Stadium as Georgia's Roquan Smith is selected by the Chicago Bears during the NFL draft in Arlington, Texas on April 26, 2018.
David J. Phillip/AP

Jay Norvell is likely going to have to wait until at least next year to see his first Nevada Wolf Pack recruit selected in the NFL draft. Norvell has coached the Wolf Pack for three seasons and has yet to recruit, sign and develop a player the NFL has deemed worthy of a draft pick. Offensive lineman Austin Corbett was picked in the second round in 2018 by the Cleveland Browns but the Reed High graduate was brought to the Pack by former coach Brian Polian. Polian and Norvell have combined to coach the Pack for seven seasons and Corbett is the only player they have brought to Nevada that has been picked in the NFL draft. Before Polian and Norvell came to town the Wolf Pack was almost an annual participant in the draft. The Pack, after all, had 16 players picked in the 12 drafts from 2003-14. No less than 10 players that were on the roster of the 2010 team that went 13-1 were drafted from 2011-14.

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The lack of Wolf Pack draft picks in recent years (one since 2014) is not due to a lack of talent. Polian and Norvell have brought a ton of talent to Northern Nevada worthy of an NFL draft pick. It’s just that NFL scouts have been quick to relegate Pack players recently into a pool of free agents to be signed after the draft. Linebacker Malik Reed and long snapper Wes Farnsworth, now on the Denver Broncos roster (two more Polian recruits), were free-agent signings last spring. A lot of Pack players (Harvey Dahl, Horace Gillom, Josh Mauga, Terry Hermeling, Shar Pourdanesh, Sherman Howard, to name just six) had long NFL careers without being drafted.

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The Wolf Pack has had 53 players selected in the NFL draft. And that doesn’t even include three (Alphonso Williams, Derek Kennard, Tony Zendejas) that were taken in a supplemental draft in 1984 of USFL and CFL players. The Pack has been very good to the NFL, either with draft picks or free agents. The Pack has had an NFL presence since the 1940s, giving the league such solid long-time pros as Colin Kaepernick, Brandon Marshall, Joel Bitonio, Rishard Matthews, Josh Mauga, Harvey Dahl, Jonathan Amaya, Virgil Green and Nate Burleson just since 2003. Before that it was Alex Van Dyke, Brock Marion, Mike Crawford, Doug Betters, DeShone Myles, Henry Rolling, Patrick Hunter, Charles Mann, Kennard, Zendejas, Don Morgan, Eric Sanders, Frank Hawkins and others going back to 1978. Before that there was Marion Motley, Terry Hermeling, Tommy Kalmanir, Bill Mackrides, McClure, Dan Orlich and others. You would think the NFL would give the Pack a little more respect than it has in recent years.

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The NFL has recently approved adding a 17th regular season game (starting in 2021) and two more (now 14) playoff teams (starting this season, if there is a season). Adding a third wild card team to each conference, giving us six wild card games to open the playoffs, is a great idea. The more playoff football, the better. Yes, we might see some 8-8 teams make the playoffs, which isn’t such a good thing. But it’s happened before. And we also likely won’t see any 10-6 teams miss the playoffs, which is a good thing. Also, just one team in each conference gets a first-round bye, which is also a good thing. Adding another regular season game, though, is not such a good thing unless you run a sportsbook or a hospital or clinic near a NFL team. A 16-game schedule was already about two games too long.

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The NFL should have simply gotten rid of all its preseason games and just jumped right into the regular season. If college players can do it, why can’t NFL players do it? Preseason NFL games are meaningless. They are just glorified scrimmages. Players don’t make the team based on what they do in the games. That’s what a month of practice is for. But those meaningless games are a way to force season-ticket holders to buy more tickets, beer and hotdogs, and TV networks to pay for more games so we’ll never see the end of them.

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ESPN recently conducted a silly social media poll that supposedly tried to determine the greatest college basketball player of all time. They set it up like a 64-team NCAA tournament bracket and asked people to vote on one-on-one matchups.  Like almost everything ESPN does, it was contrived, ridiculous, absurd and exposed the network’s lack of knowledge of sports history yet again. The winner was Michael Jordan. Jordan isn’t even one of the Top 25 greatest college players of all-time, let alone No. 1. He only played three years at North Carolina. He only averaged 17.7 points a game. He wasn’t a great shooter or rebounder and he averaged under two assists a game. He was a very good-to-great college player that flashed some amazing moments for some very good-to-great college teams. That’s it.

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Who had a better college career than Jordan? Well, here’s a Top 30, in no particular order: Pete Maravich, Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elvin Hayes, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Austin Carr, Shaquille O’Neal, Tom Gola, Bernard King, David Robinson, Wes Unseld, Ralph Sampson, Elgin Baylor, Rick Mount, Danny Manning, Calvin Murphy, Rick Barry, Bill Bradley, Billy Cunningham, Paul Silas, Christian Laettner, Frank Selvy, George Mikan, Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore. Look up the stats and compare them to Jordan’s numbers. Not all of them would have beaten Jordan in a game of one-on-one but all of them had better college careers than Jordan and had a bigger influence on college basketball. And there were others. ESPN, though, thinks sports was invented in 1980.

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One player that didn’t make the above Top 30 is Indiana’s Steve Alford. But Alford also had a college career as good as Jordan’s, if not better. Alford played four years at Indiana, to Jordan’s three at North Carolina and played 24 more games in his career. But he also led Jordan in just about every category, namely field goals (898-720), free throws (535-314), scoring average (19.5-17.7) and assists (3.1 a game to 1.8). Alford was an amazing shooter. And he competed and battled every bit as much as Jordan. They both won one national title. And, oh yeah, Alford scored 27 points as a freshman (9-13 from the floor, 9-10 from the line) to help beat North Carolina and Jordan (13 points, four turnovers, 6-14 from the floor), a junior, in the 1984 NCAA tournament. Alford’s teammates were Uwe Blab and a bunch of guys only remembered today by Alford and Bobby Knight. Jordan had Sam Perkins, Kenny Smith and Brad Daugherty.