2020 NFL Mock Draft (Round 1)

1. Cincinnati Bengals – Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

Let’s stop overthinking this. Joe Burrow is not only coming off of one of the best seasons by a QB in college history, but his roots trace back to the state of Ohio. The Dolphins might possess the draft capital to get a deal done, but it’s nothing more than a pipe dream.

2. Washington Redskins – Chase Young, Edge Rusher, Ohio State

Washington’s decision seems like a foregone conclusion. It is too early to move on from Dwayne Haskins after using your 15th pick on him last season, and it doesn’t hurt matters that Chase Young appears to be a generational talent off the edge. There really isn’t much to think about here; Young will be the selection.

3. Detroit Lions – Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

Conventional wisdom would typically point towards this being a prime spot for the Lions to be able to trade down in the draft and still acquire either CB Jeff Okudah or DT Derrick Brown. Unfortunately, a weak QB class significantly dampens the potential that Detroit can pull off a deal in a year that is going to have its fair share of issues with teams forced to select their picks virtually. I don’t think it is out of the question that Miami moves up a pick or two to prevent the Chargers from leapfrogging them at either three or four, but I think the cost ends up not being worth the price of admission for anyone involved. Detroit’s staff can’t afford another losing season, which makes it challenging to trade too far down the board, place the Lions in a position where they must grab the player who can help them win right away. I believe that to be Okudah over Brown.

4. New York Giants – Tristan Wirfs, Offensive Tackle, Iowa

If we have learned anything from the New York Giants, it is to expect the unexpected. That narrative is going to drive many to believe that general manager Dave Gettleman is going to have a shocking pick in store for us on draft night, but it is essential to look at his previous two opening-round selections before jumping to that conclusion Yes, RB Saquon Barkley at the 1.02 in 2018 and QB Daniel Jones at the 1.06 in 2019 might not have been what fans wanted, but it does tell me that the Giants are placing a heavy emphasis on the offensive end of the football. While Isaiah Simmons is a do-it-all savant on the defensive side of the ball, the team needs someone that can not only keep Jones upright but also open up running lanes for Barkley. Tristan Wirfs might be the most athletic tackle in a class that is deep at the position, and I think that level of skill will catch the eye of the Giants.

5. Miami Dolphins – Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

From a personal standpoint, I don’t think Miami has to select a quarterback here. Isaiah Simmons makes a lot of sense for a team that is loaded with draft capital over the course of the seven rounds, and there is always a chance that we see either Tua Tagovailoa or Jordan Love still available for Miami’s 18th pick, but the issue is that I am not sure that mentality will be seen the same way by fans. There will already be some scrutiny thrown the direction of the Dolphins if they pass on Tagovailoa at five and going anything other than quarterback might be enough to cause a complete meltdown of the fanbase.

*** Reports have come out that Miami does not have Justin Herbert in their plans and will instead decide between Tua Tagovailoa and Andrew Thomas. Those rumors may very well be accurate, but it feels like a drastic stance to take in the final few hours and could be nothing more than an attempt to bait Los Angeles into moving up in the draft to grab Tagovailoa themselves. While it doesn’t seem like it would accomplish much on the surface, it does give the team a built-in excuse for why they had to settle on Herbert and potentially could net them a trade partner if a team like the Chargers or Cleveland Browns want to move up to grab their man. I’m going to stick with Herbert at 5, but it is a situation worth monitoring.

6. Los Angeles Chargers – Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Georgia

Tom Telesco runs a tight ship as the general manager for the Chargers. You aren’t going to get much insight into what way the team is leaning, but I don’t think it is farfetched to believe the organization bypasses on quarterback if given the option. NFL teams haven’t been able to run a physical of their own on the former Bama quarterback, which leaves me to believe that he is going to experience a slide on draft night. Once again, Isaiah Simmons is an option on the defensive end, but is it too much of the same thing with what they already have on defense with Derwin James? I’m going to say yes, leading me to believe that they will attempt to bolster up the offensive line with Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills or Mekhi Becton.

7. Carolina Panthers – Isaiah Simmons, Defensive Player, Clemson

It is difficult to label a position for Isaiah Simmons. He has played strong safety, cornerback, both inside and outside linebacker and it seems likely that he will transition to the NFL as a hybrid safety/linebacker/edge player. Position-less prospects sometimes can scare off teams because they aren’t sure how to use them in their system, but Simmons is as versatile and talented of a player as we have seen in years. The Panthers most likely have their eyes on DT Derrick Brown but would have to think twice about passing on Simmons if he slips to seven.

8. Arizona Cardinals – Derrick Brown, Defensive Tackle, Auburn

Offensive line is going to be a popular position most will take when mocking out who the Cardinals will select with the eighth pick in the draft. While I do believe a player like Jedrick Wills is firmly an option in most scenarios, I find it difficult to imagine we would see Arizona bypass selecting Derrick Brown, who would step in and be the anchor for the defensive line on day one

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

Many believe CJ Henderson is the best CB in this year’s draft. That general belief should be all the Jaguars needed to hear to realize the Florida corner won’t be available for them at pick number 20. There are teams like the Atlanta Falcons that could take an aggressive stance to try and get themselves into the top 10 for either Okudah or Henderson, but it is challenging to see where that opening will come with the way the board has played itself out so far.

10. Philadelphia Eagles (Via Cleveland Browns) – CeeDee Lamb, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma

It seems likely that the Cleveland Browns are eyeing a left tackle in this year’s draft, and if the Chargers do decide to take LT Andrew Thomas at six, things open up for the cards to be shuffled for the first time on the night. There have been rumors circulating for the last week that the Eagles are “aggressively pursuing” trading up for Lamb, and this might be their last chance to jump the teams ahead of them to land their man.

11. New York Jets – Jedrick Wills, Offensive Tackle, Alabama

It would be considered a moderate surprise to see Jedrick Wills drop out of the top 10, but it does seem possible with the way the board is set up in front of the New York Jets. Wills allowed only one sack in his college career and would provide much-needed help if Sam Darnold wants to stop seeing ghosts.

12. Las Vegas Raiders – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

Henry Ruggs is more than a burner and has the ability to transform into a Tyreek Hill sort of player for whatever team drafts him. Reports are that head coach Jon Gruden is enamored with the speedster out of Alabama and may try to mimic what the Chiefs have in Hill. It would be a bit of an upset to see Ruggs go ahead of Jeudy, but it is well within the range of possibilities.

13. Atlanta Falcons (Via San Francisco 49ers) – Javon Kinlaw, Defensive Tackle, South Carolina

The Niners are running a masterclass on how to manipulate a draft. It feels as if they have been linked to every player around this range, which should allow them to acquire a little extra value at the end of the day. If the Falcons whiff on getting themselves into the top 10, Javon Kinlaw should be their last go-to choice.

*** I do believe San Francisco might stay put if Henry Ruggs falls to them at 13. Ruggs would be a dynamic playmaker to pair next to Deebo Samuel.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mekhi Becton, Offensive Tackle, Louisville

Mekhi Becton’s flagged drug test might cause a slight slippage to occur on draft night. If that does end up being the case, Tom Brady and company would land a mountain of a man at the 14th selection. Becton measured in at 6-foot-7 and 364 pounds while running a 5.1 40-yard dash. Tampa needs help in protecting their newly acquired asset, and Becton would be an ideal fit.

15. Denver Broncos – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Some believe the Broncos are prime candidates to move up in the first round to grab one of the big-three WRs, but if things play out in this manner, they will be able to stand pat and potentially land the best WR in the class at no extra cost.

16. New England Patriots (Via San Francisco 49ers) – Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Originally slated to be the selection of the Atlanta Falcons, the Niners move back for the second time in four picks – this time working out a deal with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Predicting trades can be difficult, but we do know that John Lynch and company will be doing everything in their power to add to their measly two selections in the first 155 picks. Belichick gave San Francisco Jimmy Garoppolo for what was considered to be pennies on the dollar in 2017, and don’t be surprised if the two sides are able to work out another deal that can help both organizations.

17. Dallas Cowboys – K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge Rusher, LSU

The loss of Byron Jones and Jeff Heath has thinned out Dallas’ secondary, but the Cowboys remain stubborn with their attitude of not selecting a safety in the first round, settling on edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson out of LSU. Chaisson might be viewed as a disappointment to some Cowboys fans, but he is the perfect fit for their defense.

18. Miami Dolphins – Xavier McKinney, Safety, Alabama

I am not sure the options of Xavier McKinney or Joshua Jones will make Dolphins fans feel better after losing Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but both are options and firmly in play with the 18th pick. If Miami plays their cards right, they have a chance to walk away with both, and I believe selecting McKinney first gives them their best chance of doing that.

19. Las Vegas Raiders – A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

The Raiders would prefer to trade back to gain extra selections in this year’s draft, but assuming they are unable to do so, Mike Mayock has never been afraid to reach for a guy he likes. Terrell is shooting up draft boards, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Las Vegas grab a corner that could bolster their secondary for years to come.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars – Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

With the way the board is currently set, the Jaguars would have a few ways to go about this selection. A.J. Epenesa of Iowa and Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State are both in play as replacement options with the Yannick Ngakoue situation in mind, as is Wide Receiver Justin Jefferson, who could be an intriguing addition to a squad that needs help for Gardner Minshew. Frankly, the Jaguars need pieces across the table, making what they will do a complete shot in the dark. I lean towards Jefferson after the team just released Marqise Lee, but all options are in play.

21. Cleveland Browns (Via Philadelphia Eagles) – Ezra Cleveland, Offensive Tackle, Boise State

Ezra Cleveland to the Cleveland Browns?! It sounds like a match made in heaven. As noted for Philadelphia’s selection at number 10, the Browns are in the market for a left tackle, and Cleveland is the player they will have in mind if they trade out of the 10th pick.

22. Minnesota Vikings – Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

Enter one of the disaster situations for the Minnesota Vikings. Justin Jefferson looks like a surefire choice for the Vikings if he falls to 22, but their man won’t be on the board for the selection this time around. Jeff Gladney, Jaylon Johnson and Kristian Fulton are all options that can help fill a void at cornerback, but Gladney seems like the best stylastic fit.

23. San Francisco 49ers (Via Patriots)  – Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

The 49ers have been left with an intriguing board after moving down multiple times to the 23rd pick. Is CB the biggest need for San Francisco this season? Probably not. But with Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon all dealing with expiring contracts in 2021, either Kristian Fulton or Trevon Diggs would make sense as potential replacements. There have been some reports that the Niners have Fulton in play if they stay pat with the 13th pick, but Diggs feels like a more natural selection for Robert Saleh’s defense because of his size. In reality, I could keep trading these picks back for the Niners, but it becomes redundant after a certain point.

24. New Orleans Saints – Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

I really did want to mock Jordan Love to the New Orleans Saints, but I think it is going to take head coach Sean Payton falling in love with the Utah State QB to pass on a pressing need. I find it hard to believe Payton would use a valuable selection on a quarterback when 1. Taysom Hill is a fascinating-but-unproven backup and 2. With no second-round pick, it feels like a waste of a resource when you are trying to win a Super Bowl in what could be Drew Brees’ final season. Both Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray fit the system and would give the team athletic linebackers who can not only drop back in coverage but also blitz or roam the sidelines. Murray seems like more of the prototypical selection the Saints would make, but the intrigue of selecting an LSU Tiger in the first round has to be something worth considering for a team that has never been able to call one of their own on opening day.

25. Minnesota Vikings – Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor

I think it is important for the Vikings to leave the first round with a WR to help replace Stefon Diggs. Assuming they don’t get that at 22 with Justin Jefferson, they should have a handful of options that include but aren’t limited to the likes of in Denzel Mims, Brandon Aiyuk or Jalen Reagor. Perhaps no wideout has helped himself more since the end of the season than Mims, who several teams grade as a top-25 caliber prospect.

26. Miami Dolphins – Joshua Jones, Offensive Tackle, Houston

The situation plays itself out perfectly for the Dolphins, who are able to land Xavier McKinney at 18 and still get Josh Jones at 26. Jones logged four seasons as the starting left tackle at Houston and has an ideal frame at 6’7″ and 320 pounds.

27. Seattle Seahawks – Yetur Gross-Matos, Edge, Penn State

I can’t imagine we see Yetur Gross-Matos slip out of the first round, and Seattle may do something they typically don’t – which is stay put on opening day. At 6-foot-5 and 266 pounds, Gross-Matos is an athletic specimen that will add needed help off the edge, even if the team does ultimately re-sign Jadeveon Clowney.

28. Baltimore Ravens – Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

The slide of Kenneth Murray ends with the Baltimore Ravens, and they get themselves arguably the best pure linebacker in the draft. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale would acquire a chess piece that can create havoc from sideline-to-sideline, making him one of the best value picks in round one.

29. Tennessee Titans – A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

A.J. Epenesa’s 5.04 40-yard dash will cause him to slide in this draft, but he still has the power, size, and skill set needed to succeed at the NFL level. It doesn’t hurt that he is a great fit for the Titans next to Jeffery Simmons on passing downs.

30. Green Bay Packers – Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

There is a definite buzz forming around Brandon Aiyuk, and you can sense it from multiple GMs. Aiyuk has quickly started to propel up draft boards and makes for the perfect fit in a Packers offense that can use a playmaker.

31. Los Angeles Chargers (Via San Francisco 49ers) – Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

The 49ers have made it clear that they are open to trade on Thursday and will move back for the third time on the night at pick 31. This is an ideal spot for any team that wants to trade up and secure that fifth-year option on a first-round pick, and organizations such as the Los Angeles Chargers or Indianapolis Colts feel like the prime candidates to be the ones to make that move if they want Jordan Love.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan

Kansas City is capable of going in any direction. They are returning 20 of 22 starters next year and should have a handful of credible choices when they do round out the opening day. Kristian Fulton is in play, as is a dynamic playmaker such as Georgia RB D’Andre Swift. With no real need in place, I expect the Chiefs to take the best man available and adding an intelligent player that can protect Patrick Mahomes is never a bad idea if they do believe Cesar Ruiz is that guy.

 

 

Week 4 NFL Betting Card

Season Results: (8-2-1) +5.63 Units

The card will be updated throughout the week. Stay tuned for new additions as numbers change.

Week 4

Denver Broncos -3 over Jacksonville Jaguars
1.25 Units to win 1.14 Units

 

Past Results:

Week 3

Jacksonville Jaguars +110 over Tennessee Titans
0.90 Units to win 1.00 Units

Pittsburgh Steelers +7 -115 over San Francisco 49ers
1.15 Units to win 1.00 Units

Washington Redskins & Chicago Bears Over 40.5 -110
1.10 Units to win 1.00 Units

Week 2

Cincinnati Bengals 0 (+100) over San Franciso 49ers (-120)
1.50 Units to win 1.50 Units

Green Bay Packers -2.5 (-110) over Minnesota Vikings (-110)
1.10 Units to win 1.00 Units

Pittsburgh Steelers -3.5 (-110) over Seattle Seahawks (-110)
1.37 Units to win 1.25 Units

In-Game Wagers (Halftime)

Detroit Lions +3.5 over Los Angeles Chargers
0.82 Units to win 0.75

Washington Redskins +10 over Dallas Cowboys
0.82 Units to win 0.75

Week 1

Green Bay Packers +3.5 (-110) over Chicago Bears (-110)
1.65 Units to win 1.50 Units

Buffalo Bills +3.5 (-110) over New York Jets (-110)
1.37 Units to win 1.25 Units

Houston Texans +7 (-110) over New Orleans Saints (-110)
1.10 Units to win 1.00 Units

Mount Rushmore of Sports

A friend of mine recently contacted me and asked, “You know sports, who do you think would be on the Mount Rushmore of Athletes?” I responded to him and said, “This is easy” and answered the question pretty quickly. The more I started to think about it though, the more I realized how complicated this question was. My mind began to race to different variables that needed to be taken into account. I wrote him back again and inquired for more information about what we were using as a yardstick to gauge athletic excellence. We went back and forth all day and finally realized this question was not only complicated but one that required clear rules for the criteria that needed to be used.

Mount Rushmore Criteria:
On the field achievements
Off the field legacy

We will be looking for the best athletes in their sports but also will be taking into account legacy off of the field. The computation of those two factors will determine our Mount Rushmore.

This is a tricky topic to touch on because different parts of the world would view this question contrastingly. I can only speak from an American point-of-view when putting together this list. The popularity of a sport worldwide will be considered, but dominance in a given sport compared to other combatants, mixed with positive off the field legacy will weigh most heavily. Remember, a Mount Rushmore and The Greatest of All Time are different debates. A Mount Rushmore needs to take into account athletes who transcended their sport.

Mount Rushmore Finalists 

NBA-Michael Jordan
MLB- Babe Ruth
Boxing- Muhammad Ali
Tennis- Roger Federer
Golf- Tiger Woods
NHL- Wayne Gretzky
Soccer- Pele
Track & Field- Jesse Owens
Swimming- Michael Phelps
Tennis- Serena Williams


#10 Tiger Woods

Transcendence in sports describes more than just the ability to dominate. Transcendence is a term to describe climbing beyond ordinary limitations. In this example, it is the capacity to rise above the sporting realm. It isn’t a word thrown around lightly. Very few athletes have ever been considered transcendent. Tiger Woods was just that. Similar to the way Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Woods carried the mantle for golf. Never had the game seen a player mixed with African American, Chinese and Thai ethnicity. He was a marketer’s dream, both on and off the course.

With that being said, it is amazing to think that Tiger Woods sits here at #10. A couple of years ago it would have seemed more likely that he might have been considered #1 for a Mount Rushmore list. Woods in the late 1990’s-early 2000’s single-handily put golf on the map. Everyone in the world from Nike to Gatorade wanted to be linked to Tiger. Unfortunately for Woods and the game of golf, off the field scandals started to catch up to him in 2009. From extramarital indiscretions to DUI arrests, Tiger’s image has taken a significant hit but let’s not forget the impact he has had on the game of golf.


#9 Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth began his MLB career as a left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox but later grew to fame as a home run hitting slugger for the New York Yankees. Ruth set many MLB records during his career, both pitching and hitting. Some of these records still stand today, like slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging (OPS). His larger than life power and personality helped make him one of the greatest sports heroes in North American culture and is considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time.

During his playing career, he was subjected to extraordinary press and public scrutiny. A lot of the attention revolved around his affinity for drinking and his escapades with women. He was a known womanizer and a habitual cheater. Ruth did very little to hide his extravagant lifestyle. A famous quote by Ruth was, “its simple kids, if you drink and smoke and eat and screw as much as me, well kiddos, someday you’ll be just as good at sports.”  In defense of Ruth, the press generally ignored the good he did, like often visiting children in hospitals and orphanages. For all the turmoil surrounding Babe Ruth, his on the field prowess is too incredible to ignore. He changed the way baseball was played.


#8 Michael Phelps

If this were a Greatest of All-Time list, Phelps would have to be higher. Phelps has 28 Olympic medals, with 23 of those being Gold. I think Phelps has a couple of factors working against him here though, for why I do not have him higher.

The Olympics are held every four years. When the Olympics were not going on, Phelps would be out of sight and out of mind as far as competitive sports were concerned.
However, during those stretches of time, Phelps wasn’t always out of sight of the public eye. Marijuana controversies and multiple DUI arrests plagued his in-between time till the next Olympics would arrive.
I think Phelps is a fascinating person of where the future will take him. As time goes on, his accomplishments will become even more revered.  He has done a great job of changing up his public image as well. In 2008, he spent $1,000,000 to set up the Michael Phelps Foundation, which focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles. Also, in 2017, he joined the board of Medibio, a company that is focused on the diagnosis of Mental Health Disorders. I believe he has the most room for growth, being only 32-years-old at the time of writing this. If Phelps can continue to develop his legacy positively, it will be interesting to see where that might take him in years to come.


#7. Roger Federer

Roger Federer is undoubtedly one of the most well-rounded individuals to show up on this list. 20 Grand Slams (the most in history for a male player), 302 weeks ranked #1 in the world, 237 of which in a row. Outside of the court, you can expect the same. He has won the ATP’s sportsmanship award a record thirteen times and has been voted by fans to receive the ATP’s fan favorite award for fifteen consecutive years. Federer has redefined longevity in the world of tennis. It was once unheard of to play into your 30’s, but he has dispelled any notions of that being a set in stone rule, by not only winning at the age of 36 but actually having a resurgence back to the top. He is grace and fluidity in a volatile tennis world.

How is it possible that he could land at only #7 with all the accolades that have been mentioned? Longevity is a beautiful thing and not something that I want to dock Federer on.  His ability to play late into his 30’s resonates from the elegance he plays with. His counterparts of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal do not look like they will be able to play very long into their 30’s before they have to retire for numerous reasons, many of which have to deal with the ferocity both players play with.

Nadal is currently 31-years-old, and Djokovic is 30-years-old. Djokovic still has a year to add to his total, but if you compare all three players at the age of 31 (or younger for Djokovic) you get the following:

Grand Slam Titles
Federer 17
Nadal 16
Djokovic 12

Current Head to Head Records:
Rafael Nadal 23 wins vs. Roger Federer 15 wins
Novak Djokovic 23 wins vs. Roger Federer 22 wins.

All-Time Winning Percentage
Federer 82.0%
Nadal 82.5%
Djokovic 82.7%

Yes, Federer is currently the greatest male tennis player of all time, but it isn’t inconceivable that Nadal could catch a second wind late in his career, kind of like the one Federer is going through right now and come very close to matching the exact statistics Federer put up. I don’t think it will end up happening, but for Nadal, and even Djokovic, to be as close as they are to Federer in the same era, I believe it does take away from putting Federer any higher than #7.


#6 Wayne Gretzky

Wayne Gretzky “The Great One” is the greatest hockey player of all time. He is the leading scorer in NHL history, with more goals and assists than any other player. Gretzky has amassed more assists in his career than all other players have scored total points and is the only NHL player to score over 200 points in a season – a feat Gretzky accomplished four times. At the time of Gretzky’s retirement, he held 61 NHL records, and currently today he still owns 60 of them.

Gretzky’s biggest downfall for this list is hockey has a smaller pool of players to draw from and isn’t as popular worldwide as any of these other sports that have been mentioned. From a pure individual dominance standpoint, I am not sure if anyone can hold a candle to him. From a team dominance point of view, he won four Stanley Cups in his twenty-year career, outstanding but maybe not as dominant as others in their respective sport. Gretzky is another athlete that would be better suited for a Greatest of All-Time list than he would on a Mount Rushmore ballot. His accomplishments take him to #6, but a lack of hockey interest worldwide will stall him there.


#5 Pele

Pele is universally regarded as one of the best soccer players of all time. In 1999 he was voted World Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics. That same year, The International Olympic Committee elected him Athlete of the Century. Pele is the most accomplished league goalscorer of all time, scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games. This total includes unofficial friendlies and tour games. During a portion of his playing days, Pele was the highest paid athlete in the world.

Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, how can Pele show up at only #5 and just miss our Mount Rushmore? This will surely be a controversial take, but I think Pele is not the most dominant soccer player ever. Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, in my opinion, could both stake claims as being that. Maradona was soccer’s bad boy and often loses points to Pele because of that and Messi still has an active career, and I find it difficult to accurately rank a player until their career is either done or close to over. No World Cup does hurt Messi’s argument slightly to be lauded as the best soccer player ever.

My biggest gripe of Pele from a dominance standpoint comes from him not being challenged in his club career. After the 1962 World Cup, rich European clubs tried to sign him but the government of Brazil a year earlier had declared Pele an “official national treasure” which prevented him from being transferred out of the country. Most of Pele’s club career was spent playing against inferior opponents in Brazil. It must be noted that when his club team of Santos did tour to play European teams, Pele did dominate scoring 204 goals in 195 career games. It is just unfortunate that we didn’t get to see more of that night in and night out. He is very close to being on my Mount Rushmore, and you could make sound arguments for why he should be on it but on my list he will just miss.

Meet our Mount Rushmore of Athletes!

Michael Jordan muhammad ali williams Jesse Owens

Michael Jordan

Not only is Michael Jordan the greatest basketball player of all time, but he is also the most marketed athlete of his generation. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson helped to put the NBA on the map, but Jordan took the NBA’s popularity to a new level in the 1980’s and 1990’s. His prolific scoring caught the attention of diehard NBA fans, but his leaping ability captured the imagination of casual and non-basketball fans. His dynamic hops earned him the nickname of Air Jordan and His Airness.

As new fans started to gravitate towards the NBA, they quickly became aware that Jordan was the complete package. Offensively he was a giant, but defensively he was just as stout. Jordan’s individual accomplishments include: five Most Valuable Player Awards (MVP), ten All-NBA First Team Awards, nine All-Defensive First Team Awards, fourteen-time NBA All-Star, three All-Star Game MVP Awards, ten scoring titles, three steals titles, six NBA Finals MVP Awards, and the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Along with all those awards he also holds the record for highest career scoring average of 30.12 points per game and the highest career playoff scoring average of 33.45 points per game. Jordan’s six NBA Finals MVP Awards were the result of his six NBA Championships he won in his career.

As marvelous as his records and stats are, they pale in comparison to his product endorsement power. He fueled the success of Nike’s Air Jordan shoes and in the process incited worldwide sneaker fandom. His influence has made collecting, wearing and buying sneakers a global phenomenon. Endorsements didn’t stop with Nike though. Gatorade, McDonald’s and even Warner Brothers, to name a few, all shilled out millions of dollars to have Jordan’s name attached to their product. His 1996 Warner Brothers film Space Jam, where he starred as himself, became a global hit. All these factors have helped to make Michael Jordan the third richest African-American at 1.2 Billion dollars, behind only Oprah Winfrey and Robert F. Smith.

Jordan’s short retirement from basketball in 1993 and decision to play professional baseball in 1994 only adds to his lore and mystique. Any Greatest of All Time list or Mount Rushmore needs to start with Michael Jordan. His influence across the board is uncanny compared to all other athletes.


Muhammad Ali

Born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942, the self-proclaimed “Greatest of All-Time” was a towering figure in his prime, with a mouth that was as brash as his stature. Ali was known for being quick-witted and shrewd with his words, but he was equally as nimble and fast with his hands and feet. It is safe to say no athlete has touched as many lives or has been celebrated as widely. This wasn’t always the case though. If you had told someone in 1967, that Ali would become the most beloved athlete in the world by the end of his life, well you would have won yourself a lot of money. The day after defeating Sonny Liston for the Heavyweight Title in 1964, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Cassius X, for religious reasons, and shortly after to Muhammad Ali. His true adage comes from his battles outside of the boxing ring, versus the ones that were inside of it. He refused to accept induction into the United States armed forces based off of spiritual beliefs. This decision cost him millions of dollars, his heavyweight belt and years off the prime of his career.

This choice of a “fighter,” who decided to not fight for his country, turned Ali from a boxing phenomenon to a nationwide villain.  On April 28, 1967, appearing for his scheduled induction in Houston, he refused to step forward three separate times at the call of his name. Warned by officers that he was committing a felony that was punishable up to $10,000 in fines and five years in prison, he once again refused to step forward when his name was called. That very day he was stripped of his titles.

At his trial two months later, it took the jury only 21 minutes of deliberations to find Ali guilty. The judge levied the maximum sentence possible. After a court of appeals in 1968 upheld the conviction, the case eventually went to the Supreme Court. Between 1968-1971, the countries opinion began to change on the Vietnam War and people turned against the thought of it and started to side with Ali and his stance. In 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that Ali’s conviction was to be overturned.

Eight months before the Supreme Court ruled, Ali had returned to the ring in Georgia (where there was no state commission.) Having not fought in almost four years, Ali scored a third round TKO over Jerry Quarry. Back into the fight game and still undefeated he set his sights towards bigger and better things and on March 8, 1971, he took on undefeated Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier, in a fight billed as “The Fight of the Century.” Each man received 2.5 million dollars. The fight amazingly lived up to its billing, but unfortunately for Ali, Frazier left with a unanimous decision victory and the belt.

Ali reeled off ten straight wins following his loss to Frazier from 1971-1973, before suffering a shocking loss to Ken Norton. He avenged this loss in his next fight and once again set his sights on a Joe Frazier clash. A lot had changed since their first encounter though. Ali was not the fighter he was once considered to be, and Frazier was no longer the Heavyweight Champion of the World, after being knocked down six times in two rounds by George Foreman. January 28, 1974, the second fight for Ali-Frazier took place. This contest wasn’t as entertaining as the first but still was a thrilling bout. This time Ali gained a unanimous decision victory over Frazier and this set up a clash of Ali versus undefeated Heavyweight Champion George Foreman.

George Foreman was a behemoth of a man. Many feared that Ali’s life was at risk taking on such an impossible task. “The Rumble in the Jungle” was fought on October 30, 1974, in Kinshasa, Zaire. Ali was a 7-1 underdog for the fight. During the bout, he introduced his Rope-A-Dope strategy, where he stood flatfooted against the ropes and covered up as Foreman flailed away. His strategy worked. As the eighth round was coming to an end, Ali noticed that Foreman began to look visibly exhausted. With only seconds remaining in the round, Ali took advantage of the situation, knocking Foreman out to regain the belt. Ali was America’s champion once again. The most hated athlete of the sixties was now the most heroic of the seventies. A man that was once denounced as anti-American in 1967 was being invited to the White House in 1974.

Unfortunately for Ali, all the punches he took affected him. In 1984 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder characterized by tremors and slowness of speech and movement. The condition left him a shadow of his former self, but he still attempted to spread goodwill to all. Arguably Ali’s most defining moment in the public eye came at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, where he stood front and center in the spotlight. With the world watching and his hands shaking, he steadied them to light the Olympic cauldron, which signified the start of the games. Many in attendance and around the world shed a tear watching. Ali who once divided a nation was now a unifying and beloved symbol.

Serena Williams 

If Serena Williams were a man would this choice even give you a second thought? Williams doesn’t get onto my Mount Rushmore for being a woman, but she most definitely won’t be excluded because of it.

We are conditioned to think “the greatest of all-time” or “Mount Rushmore” has to be a compiled by a bunch of men. In reality, this type of question will always be rigged against any woman. Our culture, unfortunately, does not view sports played by women as equal to sports played by men. Even when a female athlete like Serena Williams, dominates her given sport, we must find a way to put down her accomplishments. It starts with a comment like, “she definitely can’t beat a top-ranked man, how about a top-50 man? Top-100? We even further demean her achievements and start mentioning retired men. The sexism that goes into that thought process is astounding. If you want to compare Serena Williams to a man, compare her by her dominance level against competitors or her contribution and elevation of the game she has provided. Measuring her achievements in any other way is ridiculous.

So let us take a look at some of her achievements:

319 weeks at #1 in the world
72 Career Singles titles
23 Career Doubles titles
783-130 Singles record
185-31 Doubles record
27-4 Mixed Doubles record
Four Olympic Gold Medals
39 Grand Slam titles (23 singles, 14 women’s doubles, and two mixed-doubles)
Held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously (twice)- only Rod Laver and Steffi Graf have achieved this twice. Also did this in doubles with her sister Venus Williams.
She is the only tennis player in history (man or woman) to have won singles titles at least six times in three of the four Grand Slams
Only tennis player (man or woman) to have won seven Grand Slam titles in two separate Grand Slams
Only tennis player (man or woman) to have won 10 Grand Slam titles in two different decades

Serena’s biggest impact astonishingly may come off the tennis court. Tennis has had some great African American influencers throughout the years like Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson, but Williams’s influence to young African American boys and girls who see her as a role model and ambassador to the sport of tennis may be unparalleled to any who have ever played the game. Players such as Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, and Donald Young, who have all credited her and her sister Venus Williams for getting them into the sport, have already felt her effect. For generations, African Americans had preferred to play other, but Serena has had a significant influence in showing young children that tennis is another option. It is hard to find someone who has had more significance both on and off the court than Serena Williams has. She is the current face of tennis because of her dominance but also is the future of the sport because of the brigade of young African American boys and girls who she has influenced.


Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens may only have a singular Olympics he is remembered for, but in my opinion, it is the greatest moment in American sports history. Owens during his lifetime was identified as the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field. He specialized in sprints and the long jump. He rose to fame in 1935 when attending Ohio State, by setting three separate world records and tying another at a Big Ten track meet in Ann Arbor Michigan. These records happened in a 45-minute span and are called “the greatest 45 minutes in sports ever.”

It is often forgotten that leading up to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, that many African American’s felt that Owens shouldn’t represent the United States at the games. This was based on the thought process that the black community was suffering at the hands of a white racist regime. Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee, stigmatized the advocates of a boycott as “un-American agitators” and eventually Owens and his other African American teammates decided to go to the Olympics.

In 1936 Owens and his United States teammates set sail on the SS Manhattan and arrived in Berlin for the Summer Olympics. German tyrant Adolph Hitler was using the games to show the world a rejuvenated Nazi Germany. He had high hopes that German athletes would dominate the games in front of the world. Just before the competitions, Adi Dassler, the founder of Adidas, visited Owens in the Olympic Village. He convinced Owens to wear Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik shoes, the first sponsorship for a male African American athlete.

The first day of competition on August 1, 1936, Hitler shook hands with only the German winners and then left the stadium. The president of the International Olympic Committee insisted that Hitler greet every medalist or none at all. Hitler decided to welcome none and skipped all further medal presentations. Owens started his Olympics on day-two (August 2nd) and won gold medals in all four events he was entered in. Hitler came under criticism for failing to acknowledge or shake hands with Owens during any of these wins.  Owens responded to these claims by saying, ” Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It happened he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100-meter race, but before he left, I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me, and I waved back.”  African-American newspaper editor Robert L. Vann is one of the only ones who claimed to have seen this small interaction. He wrote, “And then… wonders of wonders I saw Adolph Hitler, salute this lad. I looked on with a heart, which beat proudly as the lad who was crowned king of the 100 meters event, get an ovation the likes of which I have never heard before. I saw Jesse Owens greeted by Grand Chancellor of this country as a brilliant sun peeped out through the clouds. I saw a vast crowd of 85,000 or 90,000 people stand up and cheer him to echo.”

Albert Speer later reported that Hitler “was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from the games.” In a 2009 interview, German journalist Siegfried Mischner claimed that Owens carried around a photograph in his wallet of Hitler shaking his hand. Mischner alleged that Owens showed him the picture and told him: “That was one of my most beautiful moments.” Mischner added that the photo was taken behind the honor stands and because of this was not captured by the world press. This picture has never been seen or been confirmed to have ever existed.

However, in 2014, Eric Brown, Britain’s most decorated living fighter pilot, independently stated in a BBC documentary, ” I actually witnessed Hitler shaking hands with Jesse Owens and congratulating him on what he had achieved. Additionally, an article in The Baltimore Sun in August 1936 reported that Hitler sent Owens a commemorative inscribed cabinet photograph of himself. On October 15, 1936, Owens addressed an audience of African American’s in Kansas City and said, ” Hitler didn’t snub me- it was our president who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram. Upon arriving back in the United States things didn’t get easier for Owens, he was not permitted to enter the main doors of the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York and instead was forced to travel up in an elevator to reach the event that was honoring him. President Franklin D. Roosevelt refused to invite Jesse Owens to the White House to celebrate his accomplishments.

Racism was more rampant than ever in the United States, and Owens found it very difficult to get a job. He took on small jobs such as working as a gas station attendant and playground janitor. Later in 1942, a friend and former competitor Willis Ward brought Owens to Detroit to work at Ford Motor Company as an assistant personnel director. He later became a director for the company. In his spare time to make extra money, Owens would race against thoroughbred horses. Owens said, “People say that it is degrading for an Olympic champion to run against a horse, but what was I supposed to do? I had four gold medals, but you can’t eat four gold medals.”

It is arguable that no athlete has ever suffered more discrimination or exemplified the struggles of cruelty and poverty better than Jesse Owens. His career and life seemingly and regrettably coincide with one another. Generally the forgotten about American superstar in sports history, his life suffered the same fate. Owen’s was pushed to the back burner after standing up to tyranny in Berlin and representing the United States with honor and grace at the 1936 Olympics. It is unfortunate that Owens does not have a better end to his story, but he is a true American icon, who didn’t always get the accolades or respect he deserved.

 

These are my choices for a Sports Mount Rushmore. I would love to hear from you with your selections on Twitter and Instagram @teeoffsports.