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RPI's Hermann being eyed by NFL; simply amazing

RPI's Hermann being eyed by NFL; simply amazing

TROY, N.Y. (AP) At 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, RPI's Mike Hermann isn't your typical Division III quarterback, not by any stretch.

Sure, he stands out, and his 4.64-second speed in the 40-yard dash has enticed nearly every NFL team to come more than once to take a closer look.

``It's obviously overwhelming, a small D-III school,'' Hermann said. ``I'd always hoped for the opportunity, but it just happened so fast. They showed up one day and the next thing you know I was running my 40-yard dash for them.''

Running. Seems like the big guy has never stopped.

Born in Australia nearly 23 years ago to parents who never married, his dad, Roy, left with him right away and headed back home to the United States.

A year later they got a phone call. Long distance from Down Under with this message: Mike's mom, 29-year-old Diane Brooking of New Zealand, who never wanted to move, had been killed in a car accident.

That's it. Hermann and his dad still don't know what happened, probably never will.

``It was a rough childhood,'' Hermann said. ``There were women always coming in and out of the house. I never really had a mother-type figure until eighth grade.''

And he never knew where his dad, a self-employed car restorer, was going to move next: Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Pennsylvania, New York.

``He kept moving for no reason,'' Mike said. ``It was very difficult. I'd get comfortable in a place after a while, and we'd pack up and leave out of the blue. I met a lot of people, I've experienced a lot of different things.''

``The poor kid got dragged around,'' said Hermann's aunt, Estelle Nadel. ``He never knew where he was going to be.''

Thanks in large part to his dad, a mountain of a man who once played semi-pro football in Australia, sports became an outlet for young Mike. He excelled as a catcher in baseball, but while playing junior varsity in Hilton Head, S.C., the football coaches spotted him.

``I had a good arm,'' Hermann said. ``They asked me if I wanted to play quarterback. I thought I'd give it a shot. At the very beginning I played for the fun of it. I was more of a baseball player, but I grew out of baseball. It was too slow for me. A lot of sitting around and bad on the knees.''

Roy Hermann pushed his son to greater heights.

``I learned that in order to be successful at this you actually have to want to hit people,'' Mike recalled, not knowing he'd soon feel the urge to do just that to his dad, too.

By the time he turned 17, the arguments with his father, who had contracted a debilitating form of dementia, became too frequent and too heated, so Mike divorced him.

``My dad's illness has unfortunately messed up his brain,'' Mike said. ``We were on the verge of killing each other. It was in my best benefit to get out of the house.''

Legally adopted by aunt Estelle and her husband, Steve, Hermann ended up in prep school at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut and became a captain. Despite earning player of the year and All-New England honors, dreams of playing college ball seemed remote at best.

``No one was really taking me serious,'' Hermann said. ``No one wanted me to play quarterback.''

RPI did, and its new stadium and facilities and a substantial financial package he ``desperately needed'' sold him. He's made the most of the opportunity at a school with an undergraduate enrollment of 5,400.

In his first three seasons, Hermann passed for 4,821 yards and 34 touchdowns, and ran for 1,425 yards and 22 TDs. In eight games this year for RPI (5-3), Hermann has rushed for 469 yards and six TDs with a long of 88 yards and has completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,080 yards and 21 TDs with eight interceptions. That's 2,549 yards of total offense, or 78 percent of RPI's total of 3,262 as a team.

A stellar game Saturday in the season finale at home against upstate New York rival Union will push his career totals for total offense close to 9,000 yards.

``It's hard to characterize or put into words,'' RPI coach Bob Bodor said. ``His football ability and his productivity speak to his character and to his commitment. To be that committed is more than admirable. He's pretty special. He was offensive player of the year last year as a junior and the coaches elected him. To be elected that and not be in the running for the championship, I think tells you what the other coaches felt about Mike.''

His teammates voted Mike a game captain every week last year as a junior when the team didn't have a permanent one and feel an even stronger bond.

``You see everything he's been through and kind of appreciate the person he's become,'' said senior Matt Lauro, who met Hermann at Avon and roomed with him at RPI as a freshman. ``For someone like Mike, it's easy to come and be down on themselves and not succeed. But everybody that he comes in contact with is automatically influenced in a positive manner.''

If Hermann has a regret, it's most likely what's happened to his 53-year-old dad, who's confined to a wheelchair. They still speak to each other on a daily basis, but not for long.

``He's a typical proud parent,'' Mike said. ``He wants to be there for every moment. Unfortunately, he can't be. My dad and I did do a lot together. He's raised me since I was a child without a mother. That's why I'm grateful for what he's done. It was his illness that pushed us apart.

``What happened with my father, it's made me a stronger person. I'd love to do everything that I do from this point on in memory and dedication to my father. He's pushed me in this direction.''

A direction that might just land him in the NFL.

``It's all about overcoming adversity,'' Bodor said. ``It's a cliche, but it's a cliche for a reason. At every competitive event, there's going to be adversity, and when you have a kid that's really kind of developed a blueprint of how to overcome adversity you embrace that as a coach. It's a big part of his success.

``He's a tough kid. He's got all the measurables. He just needs to be given a chance. My big hope is that people don't look at Division III and hold that against him. Once he gets that chance, I have no doubt he's going to be successful.''

Whatever happens, Hermann will leave RPI with a degree in business and management and a trail of amazing accomplishment in his wake.

``The thing that I've taken away most from my experience is I don't regret anything that I've been through,'' he said. ``I don't regret anyone that's been part of my life. I've been through a lot of turmoil, a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs. But I've found a way to persevere.

``People use what I've been through as an excuse to take a different path, a different road. People have always told me, `I'm so proud of you. I can't believe you've come this far considering what you've been through.' I just tell them it's been easy to be where I am now because of what I've been through. I don't ask for sympathy. Everything that I do is for a purpose. I'd like to look back one day, hold my head high, and be proud of what I've accomplished.''

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5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

5 reasons the Caps beat the Avalanche

A shorthanded Capitals team marched into Colorado and took a 3-2 overtime win over the Avalanche on Friday.

Here are five reasons the Caps won.

A big glove save

With no T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov or Braden Holtby, the Caps were a bit shorthanded heading into the game. After the Avalanche took a 1-0 lead just 68 seconds in, it felt like it could be a very long night for Washington.

It could have been if not for an early breakaway save by Pheonix Copley.

Soon after the goal, Nathan MacKinnon grabbed the puck on a breakaway. MacKinnon is one of the best offensive players in the league and not the guy you want to see going in alone on Copley on a breakaway.

Copley, however, flashed the glove and made the save to keep the game at 1-0.

One year ago to the day, the Caps lost 6-2 in Colorado. With the injuries Washington was dealing with, it’s not a stretch to think this game could have gone off the rails quickly had the Avalanche jumped out to a 2-0 lead.

Tic-Tac-Toe

The Caps struggled through the first period to get any real penetration on Colorado’s defense and were kept largely on the perimeter with very few high-danger opportunities. The Avalanche defense got a bit more porous in the second and Washington took advantage.

Travis Boyd collected the puck in the offensive zone below the goal line. As he skated along the wall, he found himself face-to-face with four Colorado players who were all just following the puck. As far as defense goes, that’s not an ideal situation. Boyd found a wide-open Chandler Stephenson on the cross-ice pass, Stephenson goes back left to Devante Smith-Pelly who had an empty net to shoot on to get the Caps on the board and tie the game at one.


Game speed

After six seasons in Washington, Philipp Grubauer has faced literally thousands of shots from Alex Ovechkin in practice. But he never faced one of those shots in a game until Friday. Those shots come off the stick a bit faster when it counts as Grubauer learned.

Nicklas Backstrom entered the offensive zone with the puck and backhanded it to Ovechkin. Backstrom kept driving to the net drawing the defense with him except for Tyson Barrie. Backstrom’s passed to the left, but Ovechkin collected it going right which caught Barrie flatfooted. Ovehckin easily skated around Barrie to find an open shooting lane, then snapped a shot past Grubauer to put the Caps up 2-1. Ovechkin’s celebration was almost instantaneous, he knew he had Grubauer beat.


A late penalty

The referees really put away the whistles in the third period. They even missed a clear high-stick to Dmitry Orlov that drew blood and should have been a double-minor. Colorado came back to tie the game, but Smith-Pelly finally drew a blatant holding penalty from Ian Cole with just over a minute left to go in regulation.

The Avalanche survived to force overtime, but Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winner on the power play just 22 seconds in for the win.

Tom Wilson making a Tom Wilson play

Space is important in hockey. That’s what makes a four-on-three power play harder to cover than a five-on-four power play. You know what’s even better? A three-on-two.

The Caps entered overtime on a power play which gave them a four-on-three to start. Tom Wilson had the puck on the wall and took a hit from Carl Soderberg. He saw the hit coming and took it so he could make the pass to Backstrom. He won the board battle and the hit took Soderberg out of the play, giving the Caps a three-on-two in the offensive zone to work with. Backstrom passed to John Carlson who passed back to Backstrom. He had all day to fire the game-winner and it was all thanks to a tremendous play from Wilson that most people would not have noticed.

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Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

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USA Today Sports

Wizards try maintaining focus yet cannot shake inconsistencies

 

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- The Washington Wizards were finally feeling better after that 2-9 start to the regular season. Three wins in a row with three games remaining on the homestand starting with the Brooklyn Nets Friday night. They didn’t conquer all of their problems. But at least they could breathe a bit easier, smile more natural. Heck, they were only 1 ½ games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and three back of third place.

“And we’ve been playing terrible," John Wall said to NBC Sports Washington Thursday night at the point guard’s annual turkey giveaway.  “That’s how shaky it is. You never know how it’s going to go, but we can’t look at that aspect. ... Have to take it one game at a time. Our focus is on Brooklyn right now. Try to win to make it four in a row.”

Last season Brooklyn was one of those non-contending teams that flummoxed the Wizards. Brooklyn finished 28-54, yet won two of three over Washington. While the current momentum was compelling, the reporter told Wall he’s heard such focus talk before and witnessed mixed results. The point guard nodded in acknowledgment.

“You put yourself in that situation, you have to answer (questions) and [reporters] have to ask," Wall said.

Another batch of questions came at Wall and the Wizards Friday. Brooklyn, a try-hard squad lacking high-end talent, dumped Washington 115-104.

The Nets, who lost leading scorer Caris Levert to a nasty ankle injury this week, turned a 56-54 halftime lead into a 19-point margin in the fourth quarter. They also converted 13 Washington turnovers into 19 points.

The Wizards, now 5-10, finished 3 of 17 on 3-pointers. Their defense lacked oomph at the point of attack.

“They were more aggressive than we were, offense and defense,” Bradley Beal said. “They forced us to turn the ball over. We couldn’t make shots [and] we definitely couldn’t guard them. Our one-on-one defense was suspect.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks echoed the defensive struggles.

“The problem was that we couldn’t stay in front of the basketball tonight,” said Brooks, addressing a broad topic he largely could skip during the recent winning. 

Washington no longer ranks last in scoring defense thanks to the woeful Atlanta Hawks, but the 116.9 points allowed per game serves as a reminder that Friday’s struggles were no one-off.

Brooklyn had its own defensive woes during a three-game skid entering Friday. Second-year center Jarrett Allen, the player the Nets selected 22nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft with the pick acquired from Washington in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade, missed the previous two contests. His return fueled an interior turnaround.

Those stops led to Brooklyn’s generating offense. The Nets, who often used no more than one traditional big man, outscored the Wizards 13-2 in fast-break points. They hit 13 of 15 free throws in the third quarter and finished 30 of 38.

“I thought because we got stops, (we) got into transition, got easy buckets,” Nets forward and ex-Wizard Jared Dudley told NBC Sports Washington. “I thought they were fouling so much we were on our drives. We kept attacking. … I thought defense opened up our offense.”

Wall opened up the postgame Q&A session with reporters in Washington’s locker room. He noted Brooklyn’s constant use of pick-and-rolls with the Wizards switching one through four didn’t work. “Just about every time they drove, they got a foul.”

Wall lives a fishbowl existence. People pay good money to watch him work. That means they witness the highs and lows, the advancement and the learning. Teammates also have eyes on him. All observe the five-time All-Star reacting to some whistles or non-calls he deems incorrect, or his body language during a tough loss.

Wall, 28, acknowledges his role as the team leader. He accepts that fishbowl reality and knows when those frustrations show, everyone can see.

“It’s fun. It’s a challenge," Wall said of being a leader to NBC Sports Washington Thursday. "Every day you have to be perfect. Nobody is perfect, but you have to be good every day. You can’t take a bad day or dwell on something. You have to let that slide because when it gets bad or gets shaky, everybody is looking at you. If your head is down, everybody else’s head is down. That’s something I have to learn."

Despite the streak-busting setback Friday night, Wall stuck with his big picture, no panic approach.

“They just came out and played better tonight. That’s all it is,” Wall told NBC Sports Washington. “We didn’t make shots. We didn’t do a great job of executing. They attacked us defensively. We lost one game. We have to get past and prepare for Sunday with a good team in Portland coming in.”

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