I love this time of summer. NFL Training camps are open and the season is in sight. I hear about the guys who are "football players," which really inspires me. A football player overcomes obstacles each and every day out there on the field. We can learn from them. Fortunately, during the first week of August, there were at least 13 stories about football players who were football players.
Bills defensive backs coach Steve Szabo, safety Troy Vincent, and wide receiver Lee Evans recently declared rookie free agent Jim Leonhard "a football player." The 22-year-old Leonhard played four years at Wisconsin and four years in high school, but evidently only now has it been discovered that the game he actually played was football.
Terrell Owens is "a football player," says agent Drew Rosenhaus, "and a great one." Eagles president Joe Banner says Owens is committed to being "a football player" this season. Apparently, next season he might do something different, like Dancing with the Stars.
Longtime Steelers receiver Hines Ward is "a football player," says agent Eugene Parker, adding that Ward is "also a family man and a business man."
Now that's questionable. A football player must absorb, ingest, and embody the game of football 25 hours a day, eight days a week, 13 months a year. There's no time for family or business, unless he's a family-business man like Tony Soprano, who would make an excellent football player in the Bill Romanowski vein. The other night on a Sopranos repeat, Tony smacked Ralph up like that Prodigy tune.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan says rookie cornerback Darrent Williams is "a football player." Houston Texans rookie defensive lineman Travis Johnson says Chargers rookie return man Darren Sproles is "a football player." Saints coach Jim Haslett says veteran offensive lineman Wayne Gandy is even better than a football player, calling him "a heck of a football player." Incidentally, Chargers general manager A.J. Smith says rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman is also "a heck of a football player."
Denver Post staff writer Mike Klis says that Colorado State fans would often describe their QB Bradlee Van Pelt --- now a Denver rookie --- as "a football player who happened to play quarterback." Call him what you want, but that's still a football player.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick says veteran wide receiver Troy Brown's presence and competitiveness as "a football player" are big positives. Former Colts safety Mike Prior, who's the Colts' youth football commissioner, says his program will help kids better understand what goes into becoming "a football player." Obviously, the top qualification for football players is to be a football player.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis says he can tell from rookie linebacker Odell Thurman's eyes that he's "a football player." I thought Thurman's helmet and shoulder pads would be dead giveaways.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin says offensive lineman Rich Seubert is "a football player" with a smile on his face because after five surgeries --- and the insertion of 12 ankle screws and two metal plates in his legs --- he's finally playing again. That's what it's all about. Of course, I'm almost certain that after practice, Seubert's face is contorting in pain because he's still human, and has not fully transitioned into Robocop, which will require a few more surgeries.
New Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer says it took only one off-season practice to determine that he had "a football player" in receiver Andre Davis. Before that, Dilfer heard Davis was a track guy masquerading as a football player. But after that one practice, Dilfer spilled the beans and told Davis that he was, in fact, "a football player." Davis might not have been sure what he was. To this day, Dilfer is cocksure: "That's a football player."