Next time you’re having a bad day, think of Akron DL coach Todd Stroud
Akron defensive line coach Todd Stroud has always run, always lifted, and always been a football coach. For his entire adult life, that’s all he’s known. But last year he added some new rituals to his routine: constantly disinfecting his hands to protect a broken immune system, huddling by the heater in his office because air conditioning gave him chills and, every Monday night, low-dose chemotherapy.
At the prodding of his wife, Stroud visited a doctor last spring, where he was ultimately diagnosed with amyloidosis, a cancer-like blood disease caused from a buildup of protein in the organs. Most patients with amyloidosis live between 12 and 36 months.
“He doesn’t take even a Tylenol, doesn’t get headaches. His family is very strong, healthy, vibrant people,” Stroud’s wife Marianne told the Akron Beacon-Journal. “All of a sudden, symptom by symptom would come up. He was swollen in the eyes, like he’d eaten a pound of potato chips. He had a cut on his lip that didn’t heal for over a year. The biggest thing was a persistent cough that progressively worsened. That was a great reminder because every day he would cough.”
With no other choice available to him, Stroud persevered. “I read it and I said, ‘Oh, [crap]. This is a bad scene,’ ” Stroud said. “You get your life in order. You get yourself ready to die. That’s a tough thing to swallow when you feel pretty good. Then you meet with the doctors and you realize there’s a lot of hope and a lot to live for and you can extend your life a pretty good bit.
He underwent treatment while never missing a beat coaching the Zips’ defensive linemen. He was diagnosed in May and underwent a transplant over the summer, from which he returned to the field well before doctors’ orders. “He’s a walking testimony to what you can overcome and not let it get you down,” head coach Terry Bowden said. “It’s been an incredible story.”
“After the stem cell chemo, he’d get up in the morning and he’d be puking,” Marianne said. “He’d continue on his [workout], get in the shower, go back and puke some more. When you’re going through it you think, ‘Can you make it another day?’ It took him to his knees, but he would stand straight back up every time.”
Though the prospect of more chemotherapy has not been ruled out, the 52-year-old’s life expectancy has grown from 36 months to 20-to-30 years. “You find out being in athletics, the biggest part of this whole situation is mental,” Stroud said. “You picture yourself where you want to be six months from now and how you want to do it and make it become reality, just like a player uses visualization. It goes back to what’s between your ears and your belief in God.”
A five-point plan to fix the Big 12… forever.
In light of Oklahoma president David Boren’s comments last week that the Big 12 would be better positioned for the future with 12 members instead of 10. Like the conference itself, the topic of Big 12 realignment simply will not die. And because it’s the end of June and there’s nothing else to talk about, a number of major outlets have offered pieces speculating on who the league might add. Consensus has settled around two of BYU, Cincinnati, Central Florida, South Florida and Memphis. As if two schools deemed in the last round of musical chairs as not worthy of sitting at the adult table somehow hold the key to the Big 12’s future.
Rather than make a defensive and, as we’ve seen lately, risky move by adding members, here are five things the league can do that will bolster its profile without changing its roster.
1. Have Texas and Oklahoma start performing like Texas and Oklahoma. As the last few years have shown, the SEC can still remain a power even when Florida is down. The same goes for the Big Ten with Michigan and the Pac-12 with USC. The Big 12, with its smaller roster and limited bench of national powers, needs its brand name programs to behave like brand name programs unlike the rest of the Power Five. (The lone exception among the Power Five would be the ACC and Florida State.) As the first half of this decade has shown, a Big 12 headed by Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU is a competitive, entertaining league, but it needs its flagships to push itself over the hump.
That’s not to say Texas and Oklahoma are the only Big 12 programs carrying enough wattage to earn a top four selection by the College Football Playoff selection committee. That would be foolish, especially after seeing how tantalizingly close the conference came in 2011, and 2012, and 2013, and 2014. What I am saying is that a Big 12 champion Baylor needs an impressive burnt orange carcass on its wall, not the .500 outfit the Longhorns have been the last five years.
2. Adopt my break-if-neccessary Big 12 championship game idea. If you haven’t yet familiarized itself with this idea, fix that now.
3. Perform better in non-conference play. Pop quiz: how many non-conference Top 25 wins did the Big 12 own at the end of the 2014 season? Zero. 2013? One. 2012? One. 2011? Two. 2010? One. The league hasn’t placed a team in a national championship game since Texas’s 2009 team. The conference has lost the last seven Cotton Bowls running. Heck, we may as well call this the Curse of Jerry World, because the Big 12 is a cool 0-for-13 in non-conference games in that building.
4. Perform better in March Madness. Since Kansas’s 2008 national title-winning team, only one Big 12 club has reached the Final Four: the 2012 KU club that lost to Kentucky in the national championship game. Only two Big 12 teams reached the Sweet 16 in 2015, the same number of Big 12 clubs on the wrong end of 3-14 upsets in the opening weekend.
5. Perform better in baseball… and everything else. Since Texas’s 2005 baseball national championship, only one Big 12 club has reached the CWS Finals – the 2009 Texas team that fell to LSU. Meanwhile, the SEC has placed a team in the CWS Finals for seven years running. All told, the Big 12 claimed two national championships in 2014 and 2015 – in women’s gymnastics and men’s swimming and diving.
Rather than extend the Big 12’s brand with a risky land-grab, extend it by playing important games in all sports from Labor Day weekend to late June. That’s what the other four leagues do.
Boren and company, rightfully, want to protect their turf from poachers from the east, west and north. What’s the best way to do that? Leave Doll-Man at home and beat them on the field.
When considering another job, “as an assistant coach, you look for two things…”
Mel Tucker spent the last few seasons coordinating NFL defenses in Chicago (2013-2014), Jacksonville (2009-2012), and Cleveland (2005-2007). Now he’s overseeing Nick Saban’s secondary in Alabama.
Although Marc Trestman and his staff in Chicago (which included Tucker) were let go following last season’s 5-11 finish, Tucker’s move from NFL defensive coordinator back to the college ranks as a position coach made some scratch their heads. But as Tucker explained to AL.com, his decision to take the job on the Tide’s staff came down to a few key details – beyond his friendship with Saban.
“As an assistant coach, you’re looking at two things — who you’re working for, and can you win? As we left Chicago, that’s what we took into account.”
“I know, and my wife, Jo-Ellyn, knows, exactly what you’re going to get from coach Saban day in and day out. He’s a guy we have a tremendous amount of respect for. We trust him. He knows us. He knows me. And obviously at Alabama, you’ve got a chance to win. So it was just a great fit for me.”
The last time Tucker was in the college ranks was 2004, when he was the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State, and from 2001-2003 he coached the Buckeye defensive backs. Prior to that he had a year at LSU with the secondary, a year at Miami of Ohio with the defensive backs and two years at Michigan State as a graduate assistant, where he worked under Saban in East Lansing.
Even though Tucker and Saban have a history together, the two items on Tucker’s checklist are something all assistants can take notes on.
Video: Gary Pinkel takes Mizzou for off season training with the National Guard
Football programs utilizing the summer months to train with a branch of the American military is a story line as old as the game itself.
The time spent training with the armed forces builds camaraderie, teamwork, and mental and physical toughness and gives players a taste of what it’s like to serve. It also serves an important purpose of breaking up the monotony in the weight room for 18-22 year old kids.
At Missouri, Gary Pinkel and his staff reached out to the Missouri National Guard to partner with for a few days of unconventional training. That training included a handful of team building exercises, some military training exercises, some paintball with the coaches, a surprise 5:30am wake up call followed by a grueling workout, and many players’ first taste of military MREs.
Good to see Pinkel and the staff mix in a healthy dose of fun with the workload.
What do you give your 7-on-7 champions?
The belt is the premier piece of championship memorabilia. This is indisputable. Only the belt combines the gaudiness of the trophy combined with the immense wearability of a ring.
On Saturday, Rutgers hosted 102 different teams for its 14th annual 7-on-7 tournaments. The Scarlet Knights had traditionally given away a trophy to its winners, but this year Kyle Flood and company opted to replace to upgrade to a championship belt.
— ScoutBrianDohn (@BrianDohnScout) June 27, 2015
Jest aside, the belt is a neat attention-grabber. A trophy goes in the case with all the others. A belt grabs eyeballs. Nice little bit of marketing here by Rutgers, a ploy other programs would be wise to copy and tweak.