He slammed down the phone

Every opportunity for an interview is a good one.

Some people, of course, don’t want to be interviewed. Or the timing of, or topic(s), for a particular interview may be lousy.

There were rumors – perhaps wild – circulating in 1997 that Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim was going to leave New York and replace then-Arizona State men’s basketball coach Bill Frieder.

It never happened.

Yet, at the time, I wanted a reaction from Frieder himself. (I thought it would jazz up a story I planned to write on the ASU Sun Devils’ struggling basketball team.)

A phone call to his home was made at, if my memory is intact, around 11 p.m. (Generally I consider 9:30 p.m. a cutoff point to make a call for an interview unless a later time has been arranged.)

On this particular weekday, as a gung-ho college student/reporter, I was thinking about getting a response, not about the time of the call.

Frieder picked up the phone and didn’t exactly sound excited that I’d called.

“Hello,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, or I think that’s what I remember him saying. “What is it?”

“Any truth to the rumors Jim Boeheim is replacing you?”

“If that’s true, Ed,” he said, pausing for emphasis, “I’ll come down to the State Press and work as your personal assistant for free.”

He slammed down the phone.

One of the shortest interviews I’ve ever done.

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Helping to rebuild in the Philippines

In the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, which caused widespread damage in the Philippines, sports teams and various individuals and groups have organized fundraisers to help the recovery efforts.

For example, Heroes For Hope is scheduled for Nov. 30. It’s a charity sports auction. (Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/177004595827102/)

More details, including what items will be auctioned off, will emerge via this Twitter account (@heroesforhope_)

On the same day, a charity basketball game is scheduled, as detailed here: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/sports/11/13/13/kiefer-ravena-organizes-charity-game-yolanda-victims

Here is another game that’s in the works: http://www.interaksyon.com/interaktv/james-yap-la-tenorio-to-lead-pba-stars-trip-to-eastern-visayas-to-visit-yolanda-victims

Pro players are also getting involved in the efforts, with an event scheduled for Monday: http://instagram.com/p/g4goyowLyr/

Feature flashback – 82-year-old weightlifter

This feature column, highlighting an 82-year-old weightlifter’s positive outlook on life, appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

MAJOR SETBACK IS NO PROBLEM FOR LOCAL 82-YEAR-OLD

January 09, 2004

By Ed Odeven

Everyone encounters setbacks in their lives. It’s how we deal with them that really defines who we are as individuals.

In that case, Mel Katz, an avid weightlifter, is an optimist and a fighter. Always has been, always will be.

After experiencing one of the special weekends of his life in early June 2002, when he set three records for his age group/weight class at the IWF Pan American Masters Championships in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Katz was part of an ordeal at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum.

Katz, who lifted 35 kilograms in the snatch and 50 kg in the clean and jerk for a winning total of 85 kg at the Pan-Am Masters, was diagnosed with colon cancer.

He was 80 years old.

During the next several months, Katz endured six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy at Flagstaff Medical Center. On Sept. 11, 2002, he had a colostomy, followed by six more months of chemotherapy. His perseverance paid off again.

“You’re clear of the cancer right now,” Katz said Thursday, reiterating what doctors told him earlier last year. “It was just plain gone.”

So, looking back, what was that experience like?

“It was harder on my wife than it was on me,” he said. “I went in for chemo and so forth, and my body was in pretty good shape. Outside of it wearing me down a little bit, why, it was really no big deal as far as I was concerned.”

Aside from the chemotherapy doing a number on Katz’s strength — “my vitality has not come back yet,” he said — the weightlifting enthusiast is doing fine. In fact, a whole new chapter is about to begin, a happy one, when Katz will participate in his first competition since being diagnosed with cancer.

Today at the Peaks Weightlifting Club (located at 1819 N. Center St.), lifters from Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Utah will compete in the Peaks Classic Weightlifting Championships. The youngest competitor there will be P.J. Fabritz, who is 12; Katz, now 82, will be the oldest.

Certainly, the emotions will be as ramped up as the adrenaline, but Katz said he’ll have no problem handling it. At least for a while.

“When I get on the platform, why, it might hit me all of a sudden,” he said. “I don’t know, but I’ve been practicing real well all week. If I can just continue what I’ve been doing, I’ll be fine.”

Typically, Katz works out at Peaks four to five times a week for two hours a day.

His warm-up exercises include stretching, lunges and walking on a treadmill. Workouts are divided into two categories: snatch days and clean and jerk days.

As Katz’s head coach and president of Peaks, his son-in-law Joe Kavanagh, explains, “(a snatch is) one movement from the ground over head with arms straight up.” The clean and jerk involves two movements, “from the ground up to the shoulder, and from the shoulder over the head with arms straight.”

And what was it like for Katz to get reacclimated to his workout routine?

“I’ll put it this way: all the time I was taking chemo, I was trying to go in and work out, or exercise anyway,” Katz said. “It really wasn’t (that difficult). I just fell right into it. As far as I’m concerned, nothing is a big deal.”

Even so, Katz attracts attention when he’s pumping iron.

“When Mel goes to lift, people usually stop to watch,” Kavanagh said.

Having Katz at the club also reminds other lifters that mental discipline is an admirable trait in sticking to their workouts.

“It’s inspirational,” Kavanagh said. “Nobody can say they can’t do that if he’s doing that.”

Others share Kavanagh’s sentiments.

“I get frustrated as a lifter sometimes, and everybody who lifts does,” said Peaks lifter Lorrie Whorton, who has won gold medals at national meets. “And I see him out there and I say, ‘What am I whining about?'”

“He’s the kind of individual when there were days that he was in recovery, when he was finishing up chemotherapy and radiation, when you know he felt awful and he looked awful,” Whorton added. “But he was there (at Peaks). Some days he couldn’t do a whole lot. … and it’s hard, but he would be there.

“He’s stubborn. He has this incredible drive to keep going. How many people are 82 years old who have had the medical year that he has had that are doing what he’s doing? He’s the eternal optimist.”

Katz plans on returning to prestigious competitions this year, including the National Masters in Savannah, Ga., April 2-4, and the Pan American Masters, also in Savannah, July 17-18.

So why is weightlifting such an integral part of Katz’s life?

“Most people my age are either dead or they are in front of the TV most of the time,” he said. “When you sit in front of the TV, you’re dying slowly.”

Football flashback – Dave McGinnis

This column on Arizona Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun during preseason training camp in 2003.

PLOTTING A TURNAROUND

By Ed Odeven/Odds and Evens column

July 31, 2003

Day in and day out, Dave McGinnis pours his heart and soul into his job. He has one goal, and only one goal, making the Arizona Cardinals a winning football team.

To call it a demanding job would be an understatement. NFL head coaches routinely work 16-hour days. It’s a job that certainly differs from his previous posts as the Cardinals defensive coordinator, the Chicago Bears’ linebackers coach and college coaching stints at Texas Christian, Missouri, Indiana State and Kansas State.

“(As a head coach) you are in charge of everything, when we’re going to eat, when we’re going to travel, what we’re going to do,” McGinnis said. “You are in charge of completely everything, not only the football team but the whole football atmosphere you are in charge of. It’s a full responsibility, and I’ve always wanted to be out front.”

McGinnis joined the Cardinals in 1996 as the defensive coordinator. He had been the Bears’ linebackers coach for 10 years and coached a trio of Pro Bowl stalwarts: Wilbur Marshall, Mike Singletary and Otis Wilson. In late December of 2000, he took over as the head coach, replacing Vince Tobin.

In each of the past two seasons, McGinnis’ youthful Cards have shown stretches of success. They won five of their final eight games in 2001 en route to a 7-9 finish. They jumped out of the gates with a 4-2 start a year ago, but stumbled to a 5-11 record.

After victories at home at Sun Devil Stadium, he’s always high-fiving fans in the stands, thanking them for supporting the team. And he takes the blame when things go wrong. (“Believe me, all the anger and disgust that I know is out there, it’s tenfold right here on me,” McGinnis told the East Valley Tribune after a 27-6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9 last year, the team’s third straight loss.)

It’s impossible to stick a label on McGinnis. He’s simply a genuine, down-to-earth individual with a good sense of humor and a refreshing sense of politeness — he always calls you by your first name.

Ask him if he patterns his coaching style after anyone. Here’s what he’ll tell you: “Well, I’m not going to be like anybody,” McGinnis said. “All I want to do is treat my players with dignity and respect and get this thing straightened out to win ballgames. I’ve been influenced by a lot of people, and I will take any idea in the world from anybody. (Legendary Grambling coach) Eddie Robinson said if you take one idea it’s stealing; if it’s two, it’s research. Well I research the hell out of anything.

“I call coaches all the time. … Anytime we have league meetings I get together and visit with a lot of them because there’s so much knowledge out there and so many guys that have done this a lot of different ways successfully for so many years. I will take from anybody and I’m not afraid to go up and ask anybody questions about how to get better.”

McGinnis takes the time to make people feel good about themselves.

After third-year receiver Bryan Gilmore made a nice reception in the right corner of the end zone in Wednesday’s practice, McGinnis loudly blurted out, so everyone at NAU’s East Fields could here, “Hey Bryan Gilmore, that looked like a football play right there.”

He also knows the importance of being critical when the situation arises.

Moments before praising Gilmore, McGinnis was voicing his displeasure after a poorly executed blocking scheme.

“Keep pushing it, keep pushing it,” he barked out.

A demanding coach, a stickler for details, a perfectionist, McGinnis has earned the respect of his players and coaching colleagues.

“One thing I do know for sure is that in this organization Dave McGinnis is one of the solid things they’ve got,” said Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. “I love him. I like playing for him. I like working with him.

“If there’s any goal that I ever had for this organization it would be to see him get back to the playoffs. That would be my goal – to see him get there and let him get some of the benefits that he deserves, because a great person like that, and a great motivator like he is and the way he takes care of his players and all is something. For me, that’s the kind of coach that I want to play for.”

Why do so many others share that view?

Because, “trust and respect and truth are all big things in David’s life as a person, and he reflects them each day,” offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan said.

Those are qualities all leaders should have.

Football flashback – Emmitt Smith

This feature on future Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was featured in the Arizona Daily Sun during preseason training camp in 2003.

DIFFERENT BUT THE SAME

July 26, 2003

By ED ODEVEN
Sun Sports Staff

For 13 seasons, Emmitt Smith made a living dashing between the tackles, side-stepping would-be tacklers and leaping head first over a pile of linemen into the end zone with the Dallas Cowboys.

That was then.

Now, Smith is the marquee member of the new-look Arizona Cardinals after signing a two-year deal with the club during the off-season.

“The only thing that’s changed on me has been the helmet color, the jersey color, the shoe color and the pants color,” Smith said after Saturday morning’s practice at NAU’s East Sky Fields. “That’s it. Football is football. It’s the same kind of football I played since I was in Pop Warner. It’s just at a higher level now and a different location.”

A location with enthusiastic supporters. About 1,500 spectators showed up for the first practice of training camp, many to snap photos of No. 22 or to get a prized autograph of the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

With a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye, Smith looked like a 7-year-old ready to go on a $5,000 shopping spree at Toys ‘R’ Us as he explained his outlook entering the season.

“I’m glad to be here and I think I can bring some of the things that the Cowboys have given me right here,” he said. “That in itself is a tremendous opportunity for the Cardinals as well as for myself. We just have to embrace change. Everyone has to embrace change. Change is good. Sometimes when you stay stagnant, you get stale. That’s one reason why I think the change from Dallas to here was something that was very much needed.

“I think when you change you do have new motivation and you do have newly found energy and new excitement, and excitement brings a lot of energy and a lot of change. You have to embrace it. It’s one thing to just look at it and say, ‘Let it weigh on your mind.’ It’s another thing to accept it and move past it and make the best of it, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Smith has already proved his worth to the Cardinals coaching staff.

“No. 22 is pretty sweet,” said head coach Dave McGinnis, whose team lost nine of its final 10 games a year ago. “Just to stand around with him and watch him interact with these players, even when he’s not in there, to see him talking with Pete (Kendall) and the other offensive linemen, to see him over there talking with the young receivers. Emmitt Smith is Emmitt Smith for a reason, and I love the reasons.”

Asked what especially stood out about Smith’s first day in camp, McGinnis said: “Just his presence. Everywhere he moved and everywhere he moved around, you could tell Emmitt Smith was there, and that’s why he’s here.”

Yet many wonder whether Smith’s best days are behind him. His rushing total has decreased in each of the past three seasons — from 1,203 yards in 2000, to 1,021 in 2001 to 975 last season.

Peter King, a longtime NFL writer for Sports Illustrated, discussed this topic with Phoenix sportscasters while watching Saturday’s morning practice.

“A 34-year-old running back going to a rebuilding team has the recipe for disaster,” said King, who’s writing a cover story on Smith for SI this week. “But that’s why they play the game.”

Smith dismissed the notion that he might be tarnishing his legacy by joining Arizona.

“You know who tarnishes legacy? People (fans and media). We don’t. We play the game because we love it. We don’t think about a legacy,” he said. “As an athlete, or a gladiator so to speak, you don’t worry about your past. You worry about what your future is like and what you’re doing right now. That’s what we do. We play football for a living. We don’t play legacies and history for a living. We play football for a living. That’s on a day-to-day, year-to-year situation. That’s that.”

MR. CONSISTENT

In 13 NFL seasons, Smith topped the 1,000 yard rushing mark 11 straight seasons . As a rookie in 1990, Smith rushed for 937 yards. Last season he wracked up 975 yards on the ground. In between, he helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in four years.

Smith has rushed for 10 or more touchdowns eight times, including 21 in 1994 and 25 a year later. He has 153 rushing touchdowns over the past 13 seasons. By comparison, the Cardinals’ leading rushers in each of those seasons combined for 53 rushing touchdowns, led by Ronald Moore’s nine in ’93. The Cardinals have had three 1,000-yard rushers in the past 16 years, mostly recently Adrian Murrell in ’98.

Those stats are indicative of why the Cardinals want Smith in the starting lineup.

“Emmitt’s done it. He is who he is — he’s a great back,” veteran offensive lineman Pete Kendall said. “He’s got the numbers, the stats, the production, the rings. All that stuff backs up those statements. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

“I think we all like that his consistency is going to be a model for all of us throughout the season. I don’t know that it’s going to happen but I think that’s the expectation. I think that’s why they brought him here. That’s certainly been his history, and that’s what we’re all looking forward to.”

After all he’s accomplished in his distinguished career, a career that will one day place him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, one might wonder what motivates Smith to continue playing football.

“Some players always walk around with a chip and have never been happy or satisfied with what they have done in the past,” Smith said. “They are more looking forward to what they can do in the future, and that’s where I’m at.”

Football flashback – Duane Starks

This feature on cornerback Duane Starks appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun during preseason training camp in 2002.

HIGH STAKES FOR STARKS

July 27, 2002

By ED ODEVEN
Sun Sports Staff

Duane Starks loves challenges, and that’s what he will encounter this season — a series of obstacles.

His most visible challenge will be giving the Arizona Cardinals a swift, pesky, pass-deflecting, receiver-frustrating presence at cornerback, something the team has sorely needed since they lost their secondary leader before the 2001 season when All-Pro Aeneas Williams was traded to the St. Louis Rams.

Signed to a five-year contract in March, Starks is someone the Arizona Cardinals’ braintrust is counting on to provide the kind of leadership and big-play showmanship that made Williams a fan favorite and a well-respected presence in the locker room.

Starks welcomes the challenge.

“My job is to come out and do what I do best, which is basically cover a guy, make tackles and make plays,” Starks said Saturday, the opening day of the Cardinals’ 2002 training camp at NAU. “Interceptions are a bonus as well, and that is something this team really needs.”

It’s no secret: There are high expectations for Starks in 2002.

“I think he’ll make a big impact,” Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis said. “He’s a veteran guy. He’s a quality individual. He’s a consummate professional. He’s very, very serious about his business. Plus, he’s got a World Championship ring, and that means a lot to me. He’s been on a team that came from nothing to a World Championship.

“What I’m trying to build here is a young football team you can assimilate and get going and to have a guy that has been there and was in it, that did it and you can see what it takes. I like that.

“He’s got quickness and he’s got speed and he’s got a great break on the ball. He’s one of the premier corners in the league.”

Even so, Starks said he’s not pressuring himself to be the next Aeneas Williams.

“I’m not filling (that) void,” said Starks, the 10th overall pick in a 1998 draft featured seven defensive backs selected in the first round. “I’m filling in with what I can do. I’m not Aeneas Williams. I don’t think like him. I may play like him, but I don’t think like him. It’s basically me coming in and filling my job.

“I don’t want to be placed in the shoes of Aeneas Williams. I don’t want anyone thinking that I’ve got to be like Aeneas. D. Starks can only do what D. Starks can do.”

And that’ll mean battling some of the league’s elite receivers on a regular basis this season. The NFL’s new four-team, eight division realignment puts the Cardinals in the same division as St. Louis, which features Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, and San Francisco, which boasts the talented tandem of Terrell Owens and J.J. Stokes.

For the 28-year-old Starks, proving his mettle against the league’s top receivers is purely motivational.

“I believe going against those guys is the only way I’m going to get to go to the Pro Bowl,” he said. “I’ve tried. I’ve had great seasons throughout my four years in Baltimore — 24 interceptions in four years and I still haven’t made the Pro Bowl not even as an alternate.

“So I guess what I’m up against are receivers that are considered the best in the league and if I do my job, then maybe they’ll consider me for the Pro Bowl.”

A CONFIDENT SWAGGER

Playing for one of, if not the greatest defense ever, as some say, Starks excelled in a pivotal role for the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, helping the team win Super XXXV with a 34-7 victory over the New York Giants.

Starks snatched three interceptions during the Ravens’ playoff run, including a 49-yard pickoff that was returned for a score in the Super Bowl.

Not one of the league’s taller defenders, the 5-foot-10, 172-pound Starks possesses one of the league’s hardest work ethics and, maybe, the highest self-assurance of any player. It’s something, he said, he developed after hearing people, year after year, doubt whether he was big enough to be a quality defensive back. The naysayers repeated those words when he was in high school, in college and when he joined the Ravens.

“I notice that I’m not going to get any bigger, so I have the heart of a giant,” said Starks, a University of Miami standout who first spent two years at Holmes (Miss.) Junior College.

“The thing is I’ve always come out on top regardless of who I’ve faced or what people said. There’s never been a problem where they said D. Starks got beat because he was too small. It’s never been that, and over four years I’ve proven that my size doesn’t make a difference. I tackle, I hit, I cause fumbles and I make big plays.”

Starks sees similarities between this year’s Cards, coming off a 7-9 record, and the Ravens of three years ago.

“We went 8-8 and came back the next year and won the Super Bowl,” he said, recalling Baltimore’s turnaround from 1999 to 2000.

“(With Arizona), what I saw, besides the contract and everything else, was that it’s a young team, a growing team and a hungry team. And when you get those three combinations together, you’ve got a team that is (headed in the right direction).”

For the wide-eyed rookies, Starks is also making a good impression, i.e., setting a good example of how to play this game.

Just ask rookie linebacker Charles Burton.

“I see a leadership role from him first of all,” said Burton, who attended Syracuse University. “He sets good examples for everybody. When he’s on the field he’s all business and he goes 100 percent every play, and I think that rubs off on all the players, too.

“He’s a champion and that’s what you want to be — champions. That’s who you want to learn from. He’s one of the guys that we could learn a lot of lessons from.”

Football flashback – Travis Lulay

This feature on Montana State quarterback Travis Lulay, who’s now in the CFL, appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

LULAY COOL IN THE CLUTCH

October 28, 2004 10:00 pm

By ED ODEVEN
Sun Sports Staff

Here’s a stress-producing, frustration-building challenge: Go to the Library of Congress and thumb through thousands upon thousands of newspapers’ football game recaps or travel across the country and talk to hundreds of football coaches from Pop Warner to the NFL.

While doing so, try to find some evidence of someone not named Jake Plummer who has accomplished what Montana State quarterback Travis Lulay has done over the past three Saturdays.

Lulay has led his team to three successive wins on the game’s final drive.

The Bobcats began this remarkable stretch against Weber State Oct. 9. Trailing 14-0 at the half, Lulay and Co. scored 20 second-half points capped by E.J. Cochrane’s 44-yard field goal with no time remaining to win it 20-17.

A week later, Lulay threw for 375 yards in a 31-24 overtime triumph over Portland State. He was knocked out of the game in the first half, but returned to lead the Bobcats to a fourth-quarter rally; Justin Domenick scored the game-tying, 1-yard TD with no time left in regulation, and added the game-winning run in OT. (Here’s how teammate Brant Birkeland described Lulay’s game-changing impact that day after returning from an injury: “You see Superman coming out of the phone booth like that and it makes you play that much harder,” Birkeland told the Great Falls Tribune. “He’s a great leader.”)

The Lulay legend continued to grow last Saturday against South Dakota State, a game in which the junior QB threw for a career-high 411 yards and three touchdowns. It ended with Cochrane nailing a 22-yard field goal with two seconds left.

As a result, the 24th-ranked Bobcats (5-2 overall, 3-0 in the Big Sky Conference) are once again fighting for the conference championship, which they won a piece of the last two seasons.

“It’s not how you draw it up,” Lulay said of the down-to-the wire victories. “You don’t draw it up winning a heart-stopper every week … but as long as we’re winning the football game, that’s ultimately what counts. The record still shows we’re 5-2 right now. I think it’s just a testament to how hard we’ve been playing and some things have gone our way.”

Montana State coach Mike Kramer said, “He’s won big games, and he’s won them with his brains, his arm and his feet. … And like all legends, he’s driven by a competitive nature that has nothing to do with what he’s already accomplished.”

Indeed, NAU knows all about Lulay’s flair for the dramatic. After all, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Oregonian helped produce a magical victory for the Bobcats last October over NAU. In that contest, MSU trailed 17-7 with 2:19 remaining. Lulay engineered the comeback, running 32 yards for a TD with 1:07 left. After the Bobcats recovered an onsides kick, Lulay got back to work, finishing it off with a 1-yard keeper with 15 ticks left on the clock. And, voila, the Bobcats won the game, 21-17.

The Bobcats have been on a roll ever since and they’ve won eight straight Big Sky games.

“It really comes down to execution and critical plays in critical situations,” Lumberjacks coach Jerome Souers said. “Defenses have every opportunity to make a play, too. But that just makes a statement about Travis Lulay and the way he can rise above however they are struggling during the course of a game — things they are doing right, things they aren’t doing right — that he manages to bring it all together in the fourth quarter, in a critical situation.

“I’m sure in the fourth quarter we’ll be very aware of Travis Lulay and his mobility and the things that he can do.”

Lulay, who also serves as MSU’s rugby-style punter, said mental toughness is a key characteristic of his team.

“We never believe we are out of a football game, regardless of the score, regardless of how much time is on the clock,” he said.

That belief starts in the huddle and transcends any other thought during games, especially in crunch time.

“I think my teammates have recognized that I am a leader,” Lulay said. “My role in those situations is to keep guys cool and keep guys believing that we are going to go downfield and score, regardless of the situation. That’s my mentality in the huddle.”

Though Lulay doesn’t usually produce as many eye-popping statistics as Eastern Washington QB Erik Meyer or NAU’s Jason Murrietta, people recognize that he’s an exceptional quarterback.

“He’s won championships and led his team from behind and he’s a big-game quarterback,” Kramer said.

Poise and preparation make this happen.

“Confidence comes from time and repetition,” Souers said. “Lulay’s been doing it often enough that you have a pretty good feel that he can do it again (win a game in the closing seconds).”

The Lumberjacks just hope it doesn’t happen Saturday.