NCAA

Jones, Te'o, 2 of college football's good guys

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Jones, Te'o, 2 of college football's good guys

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) Alabama center Barrett Jones was hobbling toward the plane, awkwardly clutching crutches and a bag when a helping hand reached out.

``Here, let me get this for you,'' said Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's star linebacker.

Just a show of good manners from one of college football's best to another as they started an awards circuit that took them from New York to Houston to Orlando. And now they'll meet again, even farther south in the BCS championship Monday.

Jones and Te'o are the most acclaimed players on teams with national honors galore, and their upbeat personalities give college football just what it needs right now - an image boost - after being hit wave upon wave of scandal from State College, Pa., to Miami over the past couple of years.

Both players could be drawing sizable NFL paychecks right now, but they opted to stick around for their senior seasons and wrap up degrees. It's no coincidence that their teams have wound up here playing for a national title.

Te'o's answer Thursday to why he stuck around was telling. Representing Notre Dame, his native Hawaii and his teammates is ``one of the biggest pleasures and honors that I get.''

``And to just be an example to (Hawaiians) of somebody who made that leap of faith to leave the rock just for a few years and to find comfort in knowing that Hawaii will always be there,'' said Te'o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up. ``You can do a good amount of service to the state by sacrificing a few years away from home to help live your dream, and by you helping to live your dream, you help other people's dreams seem that much more real.''

It almost sounds too good to be true.

But teammates, coaches, friends and even acquaintances insist Jones and Te'o are just what they seem: good guys with strong faiths who work hard on and off the field.

They're not just Boy Scouts, though. OK, Te'o actually is an Eagle Scout.

He's also a rugged player who overcame the loss of two loved ones this season. Jones looks like a 6-foot-5, 302-pound version of the kid next door with his boyish blond hair, but he also gutted out most of the Southeastern Conference championship with a sprained left foot.

Te'o has even been known to write poetry, reciting a sizable poem during a talk last summer at Honolulu's newly formed Downtown Athletic Club.

``It was really well done,'' said Bobby Curran, a Honolulu radio show host who was emcee for the event. ``When do you see vicious linebacker types reading poetry? The kid is so self-assured. He didn't have any hesitation. There was no awkwardness or embarrassment or any of that.''

Jones grew up learning the violin and memorizing dozens of Bible verses, and was a pretty darn good Scrabble player. He spends his spring breaks on mission trips overseas to places such as Haiti and Nicaragua.

Tide coach Nick Saban has called the lineman ``as fine a person as you're ever going to be around - me or you or anyone else - in terms of his willingness to serve other people.''

Like Te'o, he says and does the right things.

Without profanity. ``He's never cursed,'' insists Alabama tailback Eddie Lacy. ``Ever.''

Adds right tackle D.J. Fluker: ``There is not a dark side'' to Jones.

Their accomplishments almost have to be divided into on the field and off the field for brevity's sake.

Te'o is the first player to ever get a clean sweep of the following litany of awards: Butkus, Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik, Maxwell, Lott and Walter Camp player of the year.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said Te'o has responded to all that hardware by practicing harder than he had all season.

``For as talented a player he is, he's a better person,'' Diaco said, adding that his star defender is ``happy, full of life.''

``On a day where maybe as a coach you might be feeling a little down or maybe slightly distracted with the world's problems, Manti is easy to see, look at and see his face and immediately be energized,'' Diaco said. ``So that's just the kind of guy that he is.''

Te'o is an Academic All-American with a 3.324 GPA in design.

Te'o, a Mormon, showed his character when his girlfriend and grandmother both died within a few hours of each other. He had huge games against Michigan State and, the next week, against Michigan on the day his girlfriend was buried.

``Courageous, is one of the best words I can come up with to describe him,'' said Mickey Standiford, a member of the Mormon church in South Bend attended by Te'o, who is close with Standiford's family.

``To face those adversities and be able to still focus and have that determination, I think, to want to succeed for them. He wanted those games to be tributes to them. He didn't want it to be about him and the fact that he was out there doing it. It was more that he wanted to bring light to them. Courageous, determined, focused and just family is the most important thing to him.''

Jones won the Outland Trophy as a left tackle last season, the Rimington Award as the nation's top center in 2012 and the Campbell Trophy, the Heisman's academic equivalent.

He just finished graduate school in accounting.

``I just feel like I've been gifted with a mind that enjoys school and enjoys learning,'' Jones said. ``I wanted to leave with a master's degree. That was my goal the whole time.''

He made a strong impression on Rich Houston, director of Alabama's master of accountancy program. Houston taught Jones in advanced auditing in the fall of 2011, a discussion-heavy course that students call ``the current events class.''

``The class was at 8 in the morning,'' he said. ``He was always there, and he was the No. 1 participant in class in terms of both quantity and quality. And that includes having some fairly high-profile people in the accounting profession come into the class. He would ask great questions of those people, engage in conversation.

``Even if he wasn't an athlete, I'd be saying all the same things about him. Just what a really, genuinely good kid he is.''

Virginia snaps 3-game losing streak with 63-58 win over Georgia Tech

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USA Today Sports Images

Virginia snaps 3-game losing streak with 63-58 win over Georgia Tech

ATLANTA (AP) -- Jay Huff and Mamadi Diakite scored 17 points apiece as defending national champion Virginia snapped a three-game losing streak with a 63-58 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

The Cavaliers (12-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) finally regained their winning touch after dropping out of The Associated Press ranking for the first time since November 2017.

Georgia Tech (8-10, 3-5) lost its fourth straight home game. The Yellow Jackets haven't won at McCamish Pavilion since a Dec. 4 victory over Nebraska. 

Diakite's dunk with 14:47 remaining gave Virginia its biggest lead, 43-29.

The Cavaliers were still up 48-37 with just over 10 minutes to go when Georgia Tech suddenly came to life offensively.

The Yellow Jackets scored on four of five possessions, stringing together a 9-0 run that cut Virginia's edge to 48-46.

That was as close as Georgia Tech would get.

Huff, a 7-foot-1 center, knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key to thwart Georgia Tech's momentum. A few minutes later, he swished another open jumper to make it 55-48. 

Georgia Tech got a basket and a defensive stop, but Braxton Key swooped on for an offensive rebound to give the Cavaliers a second chance. With just over 2 minutes to go, Diakite was left open on the wing for a jumper that made it 57-50, effectively finishing off the Yellow Jackets.

Jose Alvarado paced Georgia Tech with 20 points.

Virginia led 33-25 at halftime, taking advantage of the home team's sloppy play. The Yellow Jackets hit 11 of 18 shots (61.1%) but turned it over 13 times, wasting far too many possessions against the defensive-minded Cavaliers.

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers picked up a desperately needed victory to avoid their longest losing streak since a four-game skid from Feb. 12-20, 2017. While still a far cry from their national championship squad, Virginia showed some offensive efficiency to go along with its always-tenacious defense. Key chipped in with 10 points. 

Georgia Tech: This is shaping up to be another disappointing season, raising more doubts about whether coach Josh Pastner can turn around a program that is approaching a decade since its last NCAA Tournament appearance. The Yellow Jackets continue to show flashes of promise, but Pastner has been unable to develop any sort of consistency in his fourth season. 

UP NEXT

Virginia: Returns home to play North Carolina State on Monday night. 

Georgia Tech: Hits the road for the first of two meetings against No. 11 Louisville. The teams will meet again in Atlanta on March 7, the final game of the regular season. 

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Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

Capitals hosting Rock The Rink skate and watch parties around DMV

The Capitals may not be participating in Stadium Series this year, but the team is embracing outdoor hockey around Washington for spirited game day fun.

The Caps are hosting Rock The Rink skates at The Wharf, Penatgon Row, Rockville Town Square and The Avenue at White Marsh on select game days from January to March 2020. Fans attending these events can wear Capitals jerseys or gear to get either $5 off admission or free skate rentals.

The Wharf

Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., Jan. 31 at 6 p.m., and Feb 17. at 1 p.m.

Transit Pier will boast a Capitals-paneled ice rink with an ice resurfacer, trivia contests, giveaways, along with a DJ. The Capitals Campire will also boast Adirondack chairs around a fire to roast marshmallows for smores in front of a 14-foot jumbotron screen to watch the Capitals games. 

Pentagon Row

Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. and March 9 at 6 p.m.

These skates will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants. The Caps games will also be on at surrounding bars. 

The Avenue at White March

Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.

This event will feature Slapshot, giveaways, a DJ and Capitals-centic specials at local restaurants.

Rockville Town Square

Jan. 31 at 5:30 p.m. and March 5 at 6 p.m.

In addition to the above fun, Rockville native and Capitals hockey ambassador Haley Skarupa will be there on Jan. 31. You can watch the Capitals game at local bars as well. 

Fans attending these events or using local outdoor rinks this season are encouraged to post about it on social media by tagging @capitals and using the hashtag #RockTheRink to enter themselves for a chance to win prizes.

Caps slept through the first 40 minutes, they did not give Holtby much help though he was bad in his own right and Vrana sure did show something with the game-winning goal.

As for no penalties...not so much.

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