Robert Griffin III Has an Eye-Opening Debut
Become President? Forget about it. West Virginia’s Daron Roberts Wants to Coach
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Is Feeling Great Heading into the Chase
Rae Carruth’s Son Survived Near Death at the Hands of His Father and Is Now Thriving
(NEW YORK – September 12, 2012) – Peyton Manning’s commanding performance against Pittsburgh put many Broncos fans worries at ease. After completing 19 of 26 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, there is a feeling in Denver that this team could have a special season. Manning’s dominating performance in first game in more than 20 months lands him on the cover of the Sept. 17, 2012, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now. This is the 11th time Manning has appeared on the cover, the first time since Nov. 16, 2009.
After signing with Denver in March, Manning immediately moved in with his old college teammate, Rockies first baseman Todd Helton. Throughout the summer Manning would put in long hours, rehabbing his neck, learning the playbook and gathering his receivers for informal throwing sessions. Wide receiver Eric Decker told senior writer Alan Shipnuck (@AlanShipnuck), “We were trying to keep it light, but it was a pretty serious vibe. We wanted to show him that we could do things the right way and that coming here was the right choice” (page 32).
With a performance like this on opening weekend, the expectations in Denver will grow larger. When asked about that possibility, Manning said, “I don’t really carry that burden. I know how hard I’ve worked to get back to this position, how much time I’ve put into rehab, how much time I continue to put in. I’m gonna play as hard as I possibly can. That’s all I know to do.”
On the Tablets: Peter King’s last word on Week 1 of the season.
After just one start in the NFL Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III finds himself on the cover of the regional edition of Sports Illustrated. If he continues to play the way he did during his first start, more will be coming his way. Griffin had a perfect rating in the first half and finished the day 19 of 26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. The plays he made throughout the day were eye-opening. After many years of trying to find consistency under center, the Redskins may have found their man (page 36).
He worked tirelessly throughout the off-season and did all he could to keep in touch with teammates that he had never met in person. Griffin also sought out retired signal-callers, such as Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon, to pick their brains, hoping to find an edge. Gannon said, “He wanted to be great—he wants to do the work.”
On the Tablets: Slideshow of great rookie quarterback debut performances.
West Virginia cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts had lofty goals growing up in Texas. He wanted to be his state’s governor and eventually a Supreme Court justice. But while attending Harvard Law, he did an interview with then Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach for a paper he was doing on a possible connection between legal training and coaching football and it changed his life forever. Roberts spent two weeks in Lubbock, Texas, shadowing Leach as he analyzed game video, hosted high school coaches and dealt with players. Of the experience, Roberts said, “The most amazing two-week period of my life.” In that moment he knew what he was supposed to do with his life (page 46).
In 2006, during his third year of law school, he wrote 164 letters to head coaches and defensive coordinators throughout the NFL and college football. His story and his willingness to work for free gained the attention of then Kansas City Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards. After a three-week unpaid internship with the Chiefs, Roberts stayed on as a full-time unpaid employee for the 2007 season before landing a staff job at the end of the season. After two years in the NFL he felt he was better suited for the college game. He ran into West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen at the BCS national title game in 2011, and Holgorsen hired him because he was intrigued by his resume and was given a great recommendation from Leach. This past year Roberts was named co-recruiter of the Big East by Scout.com. Edwards said, “The way he goes about his business, it won’t be long until he’s a head coach.”
On the Tablets: Teaser trailer on the segment from the NBC show.
DALE JR.’S BACK IN THE RACE – LARS ANDERSON (@LarsAndersonSI)
The biggest story in American motor sports this year has been the renewed relevance of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finds himself in position to win his first Sprint Cup championship. Despite being the sport’s most popular driver and raking in money from endorsement deals, Earnhardt realized last March that he had to become more accountable for his actions on and off of the track if he wanted to win. He says of the epiphany: “I knew right then that if I didn’t change a bunch of s— in my life, I was going to be a has-been. But in Las Vegas, I just knew I needed to put more effort into this thing” (page 52).
A deeper commitment to physical fitness has been a prominent factor in Earnhardt’s return to contention. Encouraged by his girlfriend to cut out the six packs of Mountain Dew, he now jogs, lifts weights and avoids alcohol in the four days before every race. As a result, his stamina and concentration late in races have improved. Reaching closure about his father’s death has also helped him race with a healthier attitude. Says NASCAR all time wins leader Richard Petty, “Trust me, when your personal life is crap, your racing life is crap. Junior has finally got his personal life figured out, and, damn, that boy is now running like he can win a championship. It isn’t a coincidence.”
On the Tablets: Dale Jr. photo slideshow.
Eleven years ago this week at the Lausitzring track in Germany, former open-wheel driver Alex Zanardi lost both legs in one of the most horrific crashes racing has ever seen. Zanardi avoided the depression that could have beset him by tackling his situation head on. He competes in handcycle events across the country. Earlier this month, he won two gold medals at the Paralympic Games in London and won the hand cycling division of the New York City Marathon last November (page 42).
After his win in London, Zanardi said, “To win in this way… makes me really proud. It shows that I am a complete cyclist, even if I have no legs.”
Thirteen years ago then former NFL receiver Rae Carruth conspired to kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, and their unborn son. The boy has not only survived, but thrived. His grandmother, Saundra Adams, has provided unwavering love and has shown him the most important trait she knows: Forgiveness (page 60).
When Saundra spoke at Carruth’s sentencing hearing, she said, “In my heart, because I’m a Christian, as an act of my will, and because I know it’s out of obedience to God, I am forgiving Ray Carruth.”
When she spoke with senior writer Thomas Lake earlier this summer, she said, “I’m not gonna have anything negative to say about him [Carruth]. I thank him for my grandson. I thank him for my grandson. Like I say, you can focus on what you’ve lost or what have you have left. So I didn’t lose. I have my grandson. I have my daughter with me in my heart, always. I have her with me through Lee. So I don’t focus on loss. I mean, I think she’s in Heaven, with God, so that’s definitely not a loss.”
On the Tablets: Podcast with Richard Deitsch and Thomas Lake.
Nate Silver is a professional predictor and his political blog, FiveThirtyEight, is sure to see heavy traffic numbers as the Nov. 6 election comes closer. In 2008, Silver correctly called the Electoral College vote in 49 of 50 states and went 35-0 in Senate races. His success in predictions doesn’t just resonate in politics; he has a similarly impressive record in baseball, thanks to breakthrough forecasting system, PECOTA. The system has been successful because Silver was always adding to it, taking that extra step and forecasting seven possible paths, each with its own degree of probability (page 14).
Anil Kashyap, a professor at Chicago’s Booth School of Business, says of Silver, “Nate has a way of interpreting stuff, but not in the way someone trained by rote would do it. For PECOTA, I would have used a standard regression analysis, and it would have been way less good than what he did. Nate rolls his own all the time.”
POINT AFTER: BOTTOM OF THE 19TH, THE WALK-OFF – CHIPPER JONES
Braves third basemen Chipper Jones, who is retiring at the end of the season, reflects back on a career of high’s and low‘s and his excitement for what lies ahead (page 72).
He writes, “I believe everything happens for a reason. My four kids, three with my second wife, are athletic, smart, fun, still young. I’ve been a part-time father. Now, come October, I’m going to be a full-time father, like my father was to me. I’m going to teach Shea to bat switch. He’s eight. It’s time. I’m saying goodbye without a tear in my eye. I gave it my all.”
THIS WEEK’S FACES IN THE CROWD (COACHES EDITION)
- Dylan Beasley (Bardstown, Ky./Nelson County High) – Football
- Diamond Deshields (Norcross, Ga./Norcross High) – Basketball
- Tyler Dunn (Manhasset, N.Y./Manhasset High) – Lacrosse
- Beatrice Burns (Hamden, Conn.) – Triathlon
- Martin Murphy (Cary, N.C./North Carolina) – Soccer
- Dominique Mecca (Orchard Park, N.Y./Orchard Park High) – Riflery
To submit a candidate for Faces in the Crowd, go to SI.com/faces. Follow on Twitter @SI_Faces
INSIDE THE WEEK IN SPORTS
- NFL (page 24): Air Time – Armed with a trio of offensive weapons and a new offensive strategy, Matt Ryan and the Falcons are ready to showcase a high-powered offense this season. (@si_jimtrotter)
- MLB (page 28): Home Run Derby – Even in a low-scoring era, the Yankees and Orioles are relaying on hitting home runs to score and it’s working well for both teams. (@joe_sheehan)
- College Football (page 30): Follow the Hog Wild Brick Road – Since 2005 no team in college football has endured a more topsy-turvy path than on the field, with the coaches and players than the Arkansas Razorbacks. (@LarsAndersonSI)