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No. 22 Cowboys get behind 'Choo Choo' Chelf at QB

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No. 22 Cowboys get behind 'Choo Choo' Chelf at QB

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) No matter who's at quarterback, the offense has chugged right along this season for No. 22 Oklahoma State.

The engineer these days is Clint ``Choo Choo'' Chelf, the third-stringer who has gone from practically unknown to cult hero in a matter of weeks.

Once forgotten at the bottom of the depth chart, Chelf was thrust into the starter's role after Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh both got hurt. After back-to-back wins in the first two starts of his career, Chelf is the starter after coach Mike Gundy spent the past two months trying to keep it a secret who'd take the snaps from game to game.

``Whatever train he's driving, I'm getting on,'' Gundy said Monday.

The ``Choo Choo'' Chelf concept was sparked by a profanity-laced Internet post that was jokingly attributed to him leading up to Oklahoma State's game against West Virginia two weeks ago. With uncertainty over whether Lunt would be able to play, the possibility arose that Chelf would finally get a real chance after backing up first-round NFL draft pick Brandon Weeden the past two seasons.

A Chelf-related hashtag trended on Twitter as he threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Mountaineers, and center Evan Epstein only encouraged it after the game with his tweet: ``All Aboard!''

``I think it's hilarious,'' Chelf said. ``I think it's great any time they can take something and run with it. It just happens to be about me, I guess. I think it's funny.''

Making it all the more comical is that the boisterous, all-caps expletive rant couldn't be more different from Chelf's actual mild-mannered, unassuming personality. When asked if he was looking forward to starting in the Bedlam game, Chelf answered simply: ``Absolutely.''

No bragging about Oklahoma State's potential to win back-to-back games in the series. No trash talk.

``He's not a guy that's going to be running in there head-butting guys like a train ... pumping his fist,'' defensive end Cooper Bassett said. ``He's more like a quiet competitor, and he'll celebrate with his teammates, but he very rarely tries to get the attention on himself, which is the sign of a great leader and a great competitor.''

Gundy said part of his rationale in naming Chelf the starter at this point is the groundswell of support for him not just in public, but on the team.

``I think the guys are behind him,'' Gundy said.

Chelf's story is one of perseverance. His only chances to play over the past couple seasons were in garbage time, taking meaningless snaps after Weeden and the first-teamers had victory well in hand.

He finished third in the three-way competition with the freshman Lunt and redshirt freshman Walsh in the spring, and there didn't seem to be a light at the end of his tunnel. Yet the junior didn't quit or transfer somewhere else where he'd be more assured of playing time.

``For me, I don't really feel like it's any type of feel-good story. There's a lot of stories around college football that are a lot more exciting and better than mine,'' Chelf said. ``I just was a player that got beat out and stuck with it and got a chance. I'm happy that it happened.''

Chelf grew up in a divided household in Enid, about an hour's drive west of the Oklahoma State campus in north-central Oklahoma. His mother's family supported the Sooners, his dad's side the Cowboys and he attended games at both stadiums.

As he was getting recruited by OSU in high school, he really started to pick sides. His older brother, Colton, also walked on as a wide receiver for the Cowboys.

Now, he'll be the one in the spotlight when Bedlam rolls around.

``Any time that you can get on a stage like that and perform well, you want to do it. There's a lot of times when I said, `I hope that can be me some day,''' Chelf said.

With all the sudden attention, Chelf said he's not the big man on campus - perhaps because he's nearing graduation and only has one class a day, with the rest online. With social media, though, his stardom is well-known.

``I saw it on Twitter and it just kind of blew up after that,'' receiver Isaiah Anderson said. ``I've seen people with conductor hats on and train whistles. It's ridiculous, but I'm happy that he's kind of getting out there like that, and I'm pretty sure he's enjoying it too.''

At practice, his teammates will yell ``choo choo'' at him and Bassett even caught himself celebrating a Cowboys touchdown pass by pumping his fist as though he were pulling on a train whistle.

``It's really taken off. It's only about a week old, but he's already got shirts made for him,'' guard Lane Taylor said. ``It's crazy. I've never seen anything take off like this before.''

Bizarre as it may be, the Cowboys just hope Chelf doesn't get derailed any time soon.

``If that makes him play better, then I'm all for it because he's done a great job being known as the Clint Chelf `Choo Choo' Train,'' Bassett said. ``So, we'll ride that train the rest of the season and hopefully it'll carry us to a few more wins.''

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Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Vernon Davis urges Redskins fans to have patience with Bruce Allen

Tight end Vernon Davis has seen the Washington Redskins go through many ups and downs since becoming a part of the organization in 2016, but the 2018 season brought a new set of challenges.

Two injured quarterbacks headlined the Redskins' 7-9 season and fans were once again calling for team president Bruce Allen's job.

In a rare media availability during Tuesday's Senior Bowl practice, Allen noted how "close" he felt the Redskins were to reaching the postseason but his continued lack of transparency is something that does not sit well with Redskins fans.

Davis, speaking Wednesday on 106.7 The Fan's Sports Junkies, is standing by the team's president.

"I strongly believe, like I said before, we have the pieces to win games."

"Bruce and Dan [Snyder], those guys are constantly sitting in their office trying to find ways to win. It's not like they're not doing a great job with it. I believe in them. I believe that they're going to make the right decision to do the best they can do to help us win football games around here because that's what they're there for. Bruce is there to make sure that we're a championship team. Make sure that we're winning. Making sure that we have all the pieces when it comes to different positions on the football field. So, they're doing just that.

Allen has continued to praise the Redskins fans for their passion throughout the offseason. But if you know the Redskins, don't expect many changes to take place. 

And if it's hard for you to hang on to the little insight Allen provides Redskins fans with in regards to the future of the organization, Davis urges fans to keep holding on. 

"I wouldn't quite count him out. I just say have patience and continue to support the Washington Redskins." 

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

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Grizzlies putting Gasol, Conley on trade block creates opportunity if surging Wizards turn aggressive

News that the “grit ‘n grind” era is apparently ending in Memphis effectively tips off the NBA trade deadline rumors.

No shock if the John Wall and Dwight Howard-less Washington Wizards receive a mention or two for deals involving Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr. Mention and final destination are different worlds, of course.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the Grizzlies are finally open to hearing trade offers for their two franchise stalwarts. They never reached the level of other famed big man/guard tandems, but Gasol and Conley were at the center of a seven-year run of playoff appearances peaking with the 2013 Western Conference finals.

With age and injuries striking the duo, Memphis slipped in recent years. The postseason streak ended last season. After a hot start to the 2018-19 campaign including an early-season win over the Wizards, the Grizzlies have lost 12 of 13, falling to 19-28 overall. While that record would not automatically end playoff hopes in the Eastern Conference, it slots Memphis 14th out of 15 teams in the West.

As NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman noted, finding a trade partner will not come easy for the Grizzlies.

Gasol, 33, has a player option next season for $25.6 million. That’s a huge number for a center in this perimeter-oriented era on top of the $24.1 million the three-time All-Star is earning this campaign. Gasol’s highly skilled game is showing signs of decline, though his basic statistical numbers (15.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.3 blocks) remain helpful.

Conley, one of the NBA’s most underrated talents of his generation, offers lead guard, leadership skills – and a financial challenge. From Feldman:

Mike Conley will have a lot of interested parties, he is an All-Star level player (he’d make it in the East easy, but in the West probably falls short again), but his contract is bigger than Gasol’s. Conley makes $30.5 million this season and has $67 million the two seasons after that (the second is an early termination option, but Conley isn’t opting out of that money, so consider that $67 million fully guaranteed).

As Memphis’ season turned south, Washington surged, winning seven of its last 10 games to move into a ninth-place tie with Detroit. Still two games back of the eighth and final playoff berth, the Wizards could use general depth if not actual star power with Wall sidelined for the season. Howard (back surgery) and forward Markieff Morris (neck) face uncertain recovery timelines.

No disrespect to the Wall and Howard replacements, Tomas Satoransky and Thomas Bryant, but Gasol and Conley would upgrade Washington at those positions. The cost, however, keeps such grandiose thoughts on the shelf. 

During the team’s recent London trip, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis emphatically stated the team would not consider throwing in the towel despite injuries and a losing record. That is not the same as stating the luxury-tax paying team would take on significant salary or trade coveted assets for help.

Washington’s 2019 first-round selection takes on additional importance because the team already exceeds next season’s salary cap with only five players under contract.

Now, if some creative mind conjures a trade that removes the final year of Ian Mahinmi’s four-year, $64 million contract from the books without sending Washington dramatically further into the tax or deals with Wall's trade kicker, hmmm.

If the Wizards decide the overall roster needs a dramatic shake-up, perhaps a deal centered on Wall and Conley gets interesting (Thanks, NBA trade machine, though maybe include draft picks already).

Wall’s run of recent surgeries combined with his four-year, $170 supermax contract kicking in next season and that substantial kicker may end all discussion. However, he is three years younger than Conley. Memphis, set to build around 19-year-old Jaren Jackson Jr., could find that age factor appealing or use Wall/Conley to fascilitate a larger trade.

Other teams will offer more future-friendly deals for Gasol and Conley. The Wizards appear set in their belief the current roster, even with the injuries, can reach the playoffs. Therefore, it's wise setting aside the notion of a major move from Washington involving the Grizzlies’ stars or any other high profile/big salary players. Bookmark the trade machine page regardless. 

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