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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 Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.