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Some of Dungy's fondest memories from college

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Some of Dungy's fondest memories from college

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) Tony Dungy won Super Bowl titles as an NFL player and coach. Still, some of his fondest memories are his college days at Minnesota.

``There is nothing in my life that I've done that's been as much fun as my junior and senior years in college. All things considered, it was a special time,'' Dungy said Friday.

``I can't even fathom not having my senior year and that experience and just finishing up with the guys that I came in with.''

At the NCAA convention, Dungy received the organization's highest award. The Roosevelt Award is presented each year to a person who used their college athletic experience to produce a distinguished career.

After playing quarterback for the Golden Gophers from 1973-76, Dungy won the Super Bowl as a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers and later as coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

The current NFL analyst for NBC broadcasts also works through his Dungy Family Foundation to help improve communities, and has written several books.

In an age when many top-notch college players leave early for the NFL draft, some go to Dungy for advice when trying to decide what to do. What he tells them is similar to what he was told by Olympic basketball player Jim Brewer after first arriving on the Minnesota campus.

``He told me something that I never forgot. He said you're going to have a great four years here, don't cheat yourself out of anything. Take advantage of everything. If you don't come away from this with a degree you will have cheated yourself,'' Dungy said.

``I tried to take that advice and take in everything, and from the classroom to the athletics to meeting people, building relationships. When I look back at it, it was the best four years you could have.''

Of course, Dungy signed with the Steelers out of college for $20,000 and ``felt I was happy. That was great.''

Now there are millions of dollars at stake.

Dungy said big dollars provide a different part of the equation and he does talk to players about the business part that is certainly a factor. He does recognize there are some risk factors, especially the possibility of injuries in football.

``But here's what I tell most of them. If you go to the NFL, you'll enjoy it and you'll make money and you'll a great career. But if you go, you may regret not playing your senior year in college,'' he said. ``If it's meant to be, you'll go and you'll have a great time in the NFL, but you will never regret coming back. You may regret going.''

Along with Dungy's award during the NCAA honors celebration, former Hampden-Sydney College running back Kirk Rohle received the NCAA's Award of Valor.

Rohle and his longtime best friend, Ben Rogers, were teammates from youth football through high school and then at the Division III college in Virginia.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2012, a house they shared with seven other guys caught fire. Once outside in nothing but boxer shorts, Rohle realized that Rogers was not there, and ran back inside to find his friend.

Following the shouts of his friend, Rogers made his way out of the house though they didn't see each other in the flames and smoke.

Rohle suffered burns over nearly half of his body before getting back out, and it wasn't until he woke up in a hospital four days later that he knew Rogers was OK. Rohle was hospitalized for about six weeks before returning to campus and graduating last summer.

``No one really wants to get awarded something that you wish something that had never happened,'' Rohle said. ``It's kind of like getting the comeback player of the year award where you have to get injured first and go through all the struggles and everything to get back. I guess what I've really learned is this award isn't really just for me.''

Rohle, whose scars are mostly covered when he's dressed, said he considers himself a representative for people who have done what he did without any recognition. He has repeatedly told the story, and he and Rogers are soon moving into a new house together.

``Every time I say it, it actually means more,'' Rohle said. ``I'm realizing now that things happen in life and you're going to have challenges. ... I'm hoping this is going to inspire other people when I say it. It doesn't really affect me mentally at all, I don't go back and have flashes or anything like that.''

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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