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BALDINGER: My 2002 NFL Europe 'Baldy Awards'

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Brian Baldinger

 
   
 

Postcard from Baldy

This is World Bowl week, and this year has been sweet! I've been out here for about 5-6 weeks, and with a couple back-to-back games this Saturday's game will be my eighth of the season. Then after the game, I'm cruising to Italy Sunday morning. I'm flying into Rome, then picking up a couple of "dogs" (aka "Baldy's Boys") and heading north along the coast. We're going to bring a lot of good cheer. Now we're not going over there with pirate patches around our eye and looking to rape and pillage, but I think we'll have a good blend of some fun and some — how should I say? — good fellowship.

BIG BALDY (League MVP):
QB , Berlin (BRONCOS) It's an odd year for this award honestly, because there's no clear-cut winner. You could go the traditional quarterback route, and if that's the case I would take a QB who's not even ranked in the top three in rating — and that's . He makes a lot of mistakes, but he has also thrown the ball more then anyone else in a passing league. I would lean that way, but then again it was the best year for RBs that we've ever had, and there are a few guys who would be candidates for that. Raphael Cooper (Amsterdam) has been outstanding this year with almost 1,000 yards from scrimmage on a bad team. He impressed me a lot and carried the ball more than anyone else in this league (30 carries in one game, unheard of for NFL Europe). of Frankfurt, of Scotland and Jamal Robertson of Rhein all are legitimate candidates. Robertson led the league in rushing the first seven weeks, but the haven't been able to run the ball for the last three weeks. But he was very impressive in a number of games. You know what? Berlin would not be in the World Bowl without their quarterback, . Most of the MVPs at the World Bowl have been QBs — , , Will Furrer. I'm going to take Husak for the Big Baldy. BIGGEST CEILING AWARD
(Player with Most Pro Potential):
DT , Frankfurt (CHIEFS)
Of all the players I've seen in this league this year, has the most potential to be a good NFL player. I think this guy has classic pro size and ability. Now, he doesn't always play hard and he's still a bit immature. Plus he's also in Kansas City, which also spent its top two draft picks on defensive tackles. Ouch. But he's got raw talent, take-off physical size at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds. He's a good athlete with strong hands and big potential. I think he could have a good, long career. His college coach at East Carolina — a friend of mine named Cliff Yoshida — is an ex-Marine and a tough guy. A number of his guys have gone on to play in the NFL. McCleary was on a D-line with some good guys, like Rod Coleman — who starts for the . GUY I'D LOVE TO HAVE ON MY TEAM:
DT , Rhein (FALCONS) I think of the Rhein is your classic nose tackle with a personality like a — just a big person and a big personality.

Rhein came to Frankfurt in Week Nine in a game that was for first place and Brandon got into a cab with a couple other guys to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken. Some people want to go out and buy shoes and leather, but he'd heard there was a Kentucky Fried Chicken in Frankfurt. Of course, they got lost. The cabbie didn't know where they wanted to go, and they're driving all over looking for this chicken. Plus they had meetings they had to go to. But they finally got their chicken, and got lost coming back to the hotel. After all that, the chicken upset Miller's stomach. If you put a bucket of 21 pieces of chicken in front of him, you know he's going to eat all 21 pieces with no crumbs left, plus the bones have probably been swallowed. But when he's done with the bucket of chicken, he'll take any double-team on. You need guys like that.

MR. LUNCHPAIL (Best Offensive Lineman):
C , Berlin (BRONCOS) The best offensive lineman is this league is the center from Berlin, . He's allocated by the , and he's a typical Denver lineman — well under 300 pounds, total technician, will out-think and out-hustle you on every play. He doesn't look like he should be much (6-1, 283 pounds) and doesn't have the biggest arms, but he's a real technician and can play center or guard. Denver's had a lot of success with linemen in this league — , Lenny Friedman, Steve Herndon. You could put an All-Star team of linemen from Denver together, and this kid Hamilton can probably start for a few NFL teams right now. He may not have the potential that Lepsis because of his lack of size, but Hamilton can play. SOFT SPOT AWARD
(Player I'm most rooting for):
RB Jamal Robertson, Rhein (49ERS)
That's easy for me. I'm pulling for this kid Jamal Robertson, who will be starting at tailback Saturday for the Rhein . He's a little kid with a big heart, a big smile and a big love of the game. He really loves this league and what it's done for him. He came out of high school and went to Central State in Ohio, a small school that has turned out a number of big-time players — , , etc. After he got there, they shut down their program, so he went back home and played at a junior college in Ohio. He was barely eligible, but his buddy said he should try Ohio Northern. He didn't even know where it was, but he went there and played football in front of 500-1,000 people each week. San Francisco signed him as a free agent and yo-yoed him, had him on the practice squad. Then he was out for a while with a hamstring injury last year, but he was re-allocated and sent out here this season. He was the last player picked in the NFL Europe Allocation Draft and was the third running back on the Rhein roster to start the season. But he made the most of it, finishing third in the league in rushing averaging over five yards per carry. We'll see what he does over there in San Francisco. I think when given a chance, he can prove he's a pretty good player and a guy you want to pull for. CINDERELLA STORY (Player beating longest odds):
WR , Berlin (RAMS) There's a guy named , a wide receiver with Berlin. He was coached in high school by the father of Brock and up in Washington. He wasn't recruited by anyone for football, so he went to college at a small Division III school and played basketball for two years. Back home one off-season he ran into , who said to him, "Why don't you come up to Washington and play football? You're a great wide receiver, and I play quarterback there." So he transferred to Washington and plays two years there. He doesn't get drafted, but the sign him as a free agent. Then he got cut, and afterward told him to keep his head up and gave Looker an autographed copy of his book. Looker met and found out that he is exactly the same size, and Proehl only has 537 catches in 13 years in the NFL. New England picked him and put him on the practice squad, but then they released him — so he went to two Super Bowl teams in two years. But the picked him back up, and who knows? If Ricky, who's going into his 13th year, is too old, maybe things open up for Looker. There are a bunch of stories like his in this league, which is why I love NFL Europe. JAMES BROWN (not J.B.) AWARD
(Hardest Working Player in NFL Europe):

WR III, Barcelona (COWBOYS) My favorite story is III, a receiver with Barcelona who ended up leading the league in touchdown catches with six. His father is , a great old track star from the University of Tennessee. His grandfather was an attorney general for Alabama.

CLARK JUDGE ON FLOWERS
People who watch the Dallas want to know how they'll sort out their quarterbacks. Not me. I want to know how they'll make room for another wide receiver.

More to the point, I want to know how they'll make room for .

I don't care how they do it, and I don't care when they do it. All that matters is that Richmond McDavid Flowers III has a chance to demonstrate what he believes to be true ¿ namely, that he can play in the NFL.

He went to Duke, graduated in four years from Duke but had an extra year of eligibility. So he transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga and played a fifth year of football. Jacksonville drafted him and cut him, but Dallas picked him up and they like him. He's a big kid (6-2, 210 pounds) and has never heard a whistle in his life. He never knows when to stop anything, going full-speed every single play in practice. He was out there on the beaches of Barcelona catching footballs all day long, and he's going to make the this year. He'll be a special teams player and I think it's just a matter of time before he becomes a pretty good receiver. But I'm pulling for him because his attitude is so good. EURO-TRASH AWARD (Best European-born player):
T Patrick Venzke, Rhein (JAGUARS) There's one guy, Leland Brickus of Berlin, who just intercepted a pass for the third game in a row last week — that's never been done in this league before. But I would say the best National player is Patrick Venzke, a tackle for the Rhein . He comes out of Essen, which is the most heavily populated area in all of Europe with 20 million people in the North Rhein Valley just outside of Dusseldorf. He was a big fan of the Rhein growing up, and he wrote all kinds of colleges back in the United States to see if anyone wanted a football player. Idaho was interested and brought him over, so he played football there for four years there and got some American experience. This is what NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue wants, where guys like Venzke will be recruited by American colleges and move on to play football. He was actually on the active roster for the Jacksonville last year, but he came over here to NFL Europe and will go to Jags training camp to compete for a roster spot in July. He's a legitimate player. His feet aren't too good, but you can hide those guys at right tackle. But the German players, the way they're bred — you tell them that this is the way you do it, and they do everything in their power to do it that way. They're coachable, their work ethic is undeniable ¿ The German national guys have the size and athletic ability, but then it's a question of getting as many reps as they can get. Because they didn't grow up with the game, they're not a natural and fluid with everything and have to be taught everything. But when it comes to being in shape, nutrition and everything you have to do for an extra edge, they do all of that. They're just good guys. This guy Venzke comes up to me every week and asks what I think he needs to do, how his footwork is — he just wants to be coached. After calling World Bowl X, NFL on FOX analyst Brian Baldinger plans on touring the Italian countryside with his mission of, well, "spreading good cheer."
Tagged: Falcons, Bengals, Cowboys, Broncos, Packers, Colts, Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, Eagles, Jaguars, Ravens, Jon Kitna, Ben Hamilton, Kurt Warner, Ricky Proehl, Dane Looker, Damon Huard, Hugh Douglas, Jonathan Quinn

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