Writing

Take a look at some of my work at the OU Daily, Colorado Springs Gazette and the Detroit Free Press below.

OU Daily

Concussions, consequence and conscience: OU football great Rickey Dixon reflects on Hall of Fame career that’s killing him

DeSOTO, Texas — Rickey Dixon barely dents the mattress.

The only noise is the television softly playing gospel music and the humming of his ventilator.

In a few hours, family and friends will surround Rickey to celebrate his life and athletic accomplishments at Wilmer-Hutchins High School. But first, I have an interview with the former All-American football player.

Rickey’s Eyegaze — a tool that allows him to communicate through the direction of his eyes — is broken that day. So his son, RJ, and niece Micah, help Rickey answer my questions by holding a yellow sheet of paper in front of him with all 26 letters of the alphabet printed on it.

Rickey tries his best, mustering all his strength to lift his withered arm to point at the letters. But his wavering hand and shaky fingers prove too much, leaving RJ and Micah to often guess what he’s trying to convey.

After an hour of short answers and growing frustration from Rickey, it’s time try something different. I pull out my laptop and play a four-minute highlight video of Rickey’s hall of fame football career at Oklahoma.

At first, Rickey begins to smile. Then, he begins to cry.

“G…r…e…a…t    c…a…r…e…e…r,” he says after watching the video. It takes him two minutes and 58 seconds to point out those 11 letters.

Read the full story here.

OU football: Sooners spirit squad told not to do ‘horns down’ as controversy over Oklahoma-Texas gesture spreads

OU spirit squad members have been “heavily encouraged” not to perform the “horns down” hand sign at athletic events or on any social media platform, sources within the program have told The Daily.

The horns down symbol — a staple among Oklahoma fans for over 50 years to signal disdain toward their chief rival, the Texas Longhorns — has been widely controversial in the past two years after the Big 12 Conference decided to penalize teams that use it during games.

Seven student members from across OU’s spirit teams, including the cheer squad, RUF/NEKS, Lil’ Sis and mascots programs, have told The Daily they’ve been instructed by OU Spirit Coordinator Phil O’Neill not to use the hand sign. The students, some of whom have graduated and some who remain in the program, all shared the information on the condition of anonymity. Their identities are known to The Daily.

According to the sources, on several occasions, including at a meeting in August 2018, O’Neill told the students they were not allowed to use the hand symbol. O’Neill informed them that any use of the hand symbol on social media would be asked to be removed. Several sources told The Daily they have been asked to delete posts with horns down in them over the past two years.

Read the full story here.

OU football: Inside Lincoln Riley’s Houston interview and how Joe Castiglione’s late-night visit kept him at Oklahoma

Lincoln Riley sat before a combination of eight University of Houston administrators and boosters at an undisclosed location in Dallas.

He was one of eight candidates interviewing to become the Cougars’ next head football coach.

“Lincoln’s name kept coming up,” then-Houston athletic director Hunter Yurachek said of the meeting the morning of Dec. 5, 2016. “When Tom (Herman) left for Texas, Lincoln’s agent was one of the first people I called.”

Riley, 33 at the time, was one of the most sought-after coaches in college football that December. In his two years at Oklahoma as offensive coordinator, he had turned the Sooners from an identity-less offense into a juggernaut. A Texas native, Riley was seemingly a perfect fit at Houston — a program known for jumpstarting future head coaches’ careers like Kevin Sumlin, now at Arizona, and Herman, now at Texas.

In the days following Riley’s interview, reports circulated saying he “knocked it out of the park” and that their sources “would be surprised if they don’t hire him.” It seemed Riley’s days in Norman might be numbered.

Read the full story here.

‘It’s all about how you approach adversity’: How OU’s Bill Bedenbaugh builds linemen into men

One of Orlando Brown’s first conversations with Bill Bedenbaugh came after he had recently lost his athletic scholarship from the University of Tennessee.

The 6-foot-8, 338-pound offensive lineman from Suwanee, Georgia, was regarded as one of the top tackles in the country. But, as the Volunteers told him when they revoked his scholarship offer, he didn’t have the grades.

That’s when Bedenbaugh, Oklahoma’s offensive line coach, called Brown.

“How the hell are you failing financial literature?” Bedenbaugh yelled over the phone.

It was a full on ass-chewing, Brown recalled, and a much-needed one for the then-18-year-old.

Five years and a unanimous first-team All-American selection later, Brown is the starting right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens. He’s one of 12 former OU offensive linemen to make an NFL roster after playing for Bedenbaugh.

Read the full story here.

Colorado Springs Gazette

Colorado Springs plays host to ‘Best kept secret in sports’

Leticia Detrow lines up second to last as her competitors stand in front of her.

In speed roller skating, the last racer at the end of each lap is eliminated, so 11-year-old Leticia knows she has to make up ground fast in the 30-lap elimination race.

As the skaters in front of her begin to move forward for the pace lap, Leticia follows close behind. And while the other 19 racers wait to hear the gun for the start of the race, she focuses only on the flashlight in the referee’s hand — a tool specifically used for her.

The light flashes and Leticia takes off. She quickly weaves in and out, moving to the middle of the pack. Everything is silent for Leticia — the fans, her coach yelling instructions, the referee’s whistle — it’s just her and her thoughts. But that’s not by choice.

Leticia is deaf. She’s also one of the best speed skaters in the country for her age.

Read the full story here.

Do the numbers measure success? Using analytics to help win | Broncos preview

When Joe Freitag needed help with his calculus homework, he called his good friend and Monmouth College teammate Mitch Tanney.

Read the full story here.

Every bull has a name.

Some are named after their pedigree. Others are named after old western novels or songs. And some are named after a little girl’s imagination.

Read the full story here.

To continue readin

Detroit Free Press

G-Leaguer Zeke Upshaw diagnosed with heart disease year before he died

Less than a year before Zeke Upshaw died, he fainted while playing basketball and was diagnosed with heart disease.

Now, his family is suing for damages on the premise that the Grand Rapids Drive basketball player’s demise could have been prevented.

Upshaw, 26, collapsed on the Drive’s home court at The DeltaPlex Arena near the end of a game on March 24. And though a second heart test in October 2017 yielded results that were interpreted as normal, he did not receive any basic life-saving treatment for more than four minutes after he fell face-down to the floor and his oxygen-deprived brain began to die, according to records  obtained by the Free Press.

Upshaw was pronounced dead two days later.

His heart had failed him.

Read the full story here.

Does college football have a rape culture? BIG Ten players weigh in

What does a rapist look like?

Brenda Tracy asks this exact question each time she speaks to a group of athletes. The room goes silent after the question. The players don’t move. They just wait for Tracy to answer her own question.

“A rapist can look like anybody,” says Tracy, a rape survivor herself, “we don’t want to think that someone we know is a rapist. Society doesn’t want to think their favorite athlete is a rapist.”

Tracy is one of the nation’s leading activists in ending sexual assault on college campuses. She was gang-raped by four Oregon State football players in 1998. In 2014, she started to share her story and has since traveled the country and spoken with more than 70 college athletic teams.

Sexual assault has been at the forefront of conversations on college campuses recently, thanks to activists like Tracy and movements like #MeToo. But especially in college football.

Among the most prominent cases came in 2017, when three Michigan State football players were accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a party at a campus apartment. The three, Donnie Corley, Josh King and Demetric Vance, pled guilty to a seduction charge and were sentenced to 36 months probation.

Baylor, Florida State, Florida, Texas Tech and others have all had sexual assault cases filed against a player on their football team in the past two years. Earlier this month, at Big Ten and MAC media days, the Free Press anonymously surveyed 33 footballplayers asking them this question:

Is there a cultural problem in college football as it relates to sexual assault?

The answers varied. Fifteen said no, 11 said yes and seven were indifferent or declined to comment.

Read the full story here.

Late Detroit Mackenzie coach Elbert Richmond lived life to fullest

Elbert Richmond loved poems.

One of his favorites was “Mr. Meant-to” by an anonymous author. It goes like this:

Mr. Meant-To has a comrade,

And his name is Didn’t Do;

Have you ever chanced to meet them?

Did they ever call on you?

These two fellows live together

In the house of Never-Win,

And I’m told that it is haunted

By the ghost of Might-Have-Been.

Richmond, also known as “Poppie,” seemed to live his life by this poem. His family says he finished everything he started and never had any regrets. A few days before he died on July 5, he made sure nothing was unsaid, leaving his last words to his wife, Velva.

“I love you,” he told her as he lay in his bed at Ambassador Nursing Center.

He was 87.

A husband to one, a father to two, a coach to many and a friend to seemingly everyone, Richmond lived a life worth remembering that impacted countless people across Detroit.

He was a beloved high school football, basketball and baseball coach at multiple Detroit high schools and was a star football and basketball player at Wayne State. But while many will remember Richmond for his activities on the field, court and diamond, those closest to him will remember him as a loving husband, father, coach and friend.

Read the full story here.

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