Dec 3, 2019

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

๐Ÿ‘‹ Good morning! Ever wondered what it's like to be a long snapper in the NFL? You're about to find out.

  • ๐Ÿ€ Yesterday's poll: 52.5% of you think Luka Donฤiฤ‡ is the NBA MVP so far, followed by Giannis Antetokounmpo (27.5%), James Harden (10%), LeBron James (8%) and Anthony Davis (2%).
  • ๐Ÿ’ฌ Quote of the day: "Ravens are killing it, Maryland basketball is killing it, now we just need the Orioles to start stealing signs." (Heard on 105.7 The Fan)

Today's word count: 1,569 words (6 minutes).

1 big interview: ๐Ÿˆ Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox

Photo: Silas Walker/Getty Images

On Sunday, Justin Tucker kicked the game-winning field goal to give the Ravens a thrilling 20-17 win over the 49ers.

  • Snapping the ball was Morgan Cox, a former walk-on at Tennessee who signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and has been their long snapper ever since.
  • During his nine-year career, Baltimore โ€” led by former special teams coach John Harbaugh โ€” has had one of the most consistent kicking and punting units in the NFL. (Tucker has the best career field goal percentage ever; that doesn't happen without Cox.)

Interview: I spoke with Cox about life as an NFL long snapper.

1. How does one get into long snapping?

  • "I just started doing it one year in youth football, and every year after that I raised my hand when the coach asked who could long snap. In high school, I went to snapping camps at the University of Tennessee. I didn't even know guys were recruited to play long snapper in college โ€” I just went because I wanted to do well for my high school."

2. What's unique about playing long snapper in the NFL?

  • "What's unique is that technically we're 'specialists' and lopped in with the kickers and punters, but we actually get to be real football players โ€” blocking, running down the field and (attempting) tackling."
  • "On field goals, I'm looking through my legs while multiple 300-pound men are waiting to run through me. On punts, I snap the ball then I'm blocking/reacting and running downfield to bring down their best athlete. Then I go sit down for 10โ€“30 minutes."

3. What's the best and worst part about the gig?

  • Best part: "The lack of notoriety. I get to be in the NFL and be good friends with some of the biggest stars in the sport while also being completely anonymous."
  • Worst part: "How few chances you get to be perfect. Other positions might play 65+ snaps per game, whereas I might have 12 snaps in a game. If something goes wrong, everyone knows about it. If you have the best snap of your life, virtually no one knows."

4. Who is your backup?

  • "This season, it's one of our tight ends, but it changes year-to-year. When I was a rookie, my backup was actually Willis McGahee, who had done some snapping in practice at the University of Miami."
  • "Funny story, actually: In Week 16 that year, I tore my ACL mid-game. I ended up playing through the injury, but I remember the fear in Willis' eyes when it dawned on him that he might have to go in and snap."

5. Who is the best NFL long snapper ever?

  • "A lot of people in my era look up to Patrick Mannelly and David Binn. Patrick played in the Windy City for 16 years and there's a college long snapping award named after him. David had a long career with the Chargers and was known for dating Pamela Anderson in her 'prime.'"

6. Do you have a favorite memory as a football player?

  • "It would be easy to say winning the Super Bowl in 2012, but the memory that first comes to mind was from eighth grade football. We had 16 players on the team at my small Christian private school and lost seven straight to start the year.
  • "During our final game, we had a chance to kick a game-winning field goal. Good snap ... good hold ... kick was shanked. BUT roughing the kicker was called.
  • "Our kicker was injured on the play, so our star player and running back came in to kick the second attempt. Good snap, good hold, GOOD KICK! Finished the season feeling like Super Bowl champs at 1-7."

7. How do you describe what's happening with your team right now?

  • "This team is so fun to be a part of. I've never seen anything like it."
2. ๐Ÿ€ Men's poll: L'ville on top; Michigan leaps to 4th
Expand chart
Table: Axios

Louisville became the fourth team in five weeks to claim the top spot in the men's AP poll, receiving 48 of 65 first-place votes.

  • Season of parity: The record for most teams at No. 1 is seven, set in 1983, so this season is already more than halfway there and itโ€™s only Dec. 3.
  • Wolverines rising: Michigan went from unranked to No. 4 following wins over No. 7 North Carolina and No. 9 Gonzaga in the Bahamas. It's tied for the largest jump from being unranked in the history of the AP poll, which dates all the way back to 1949. Shoutout Juwan Howard.

Coming up: We've got a epic doubleheader on tap for this evening. Both games on ESPN.

  • 7:30pm ET: (1) Louisville vs. (4) Michigan
  • 9:30pm ET: (10) Duke vs. (11) Michigan State
3. ๐Ÿ€ Women's poll: Stanford supplants Oregon
Expand chart
Table: Axios

Stanford took the top spot in the women's AP poll after a weekend that saw the previous No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Baylor both lose on the same day.

  • Welcome back: Rising mid-major power Missouri State entered the Top 25 for the first time in 15 years, coming in at No. 22.
  • West coast, best coast: The Pac-12 has five teams in the Top 25, including three in the top five: (1) Stanford, (3) Oregon, (5) Oregon State, (11) UCLA, (20) Arizona.

Coming up: Thursday should be fun.

  • 7pm ET on ESPN: (9) Maryland vs. (13) NC State
  • 8pm ET on ACCN: (19) Michigan State vs. (8) Florida State

Worth a read: A welcome funding source for college athletics: Women (NYT)

4. ๐Ÿ“ธ Last night in photos
Photo: Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

SEATTLE โ€” The Seahawks held off the Vikings, 37-30, to improve to 10-2 and move into a tie with the 49ers atop the NFC West.

  • Why it matters: This is the first time since the NFL expanded its playoff field to 12 teams in 1990 that two teams from the same division started a season 10-2 or better. It could all come down to their Week 17 matchup in Seattle.
Photo: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

BUFFALO, N.Y. โ€” Jack Eichel (1 G, 2 A) and the Sabres scored five goals in the first period en route to a 7-1 victory over the struggling Devils.

  • Fun fact: Yesterday was the Sabres' 50th birthday as a franchise. In that time, they've won three conference titles (most recent: 1998-99), two MVP awards (goalie Dominik Hasek in 1996-97 and 1997-98) and zero Stanley Cups.
Photo: Stacy Revere/Getty Images

MILWAUKEE โ€” Giannis Antetokounmpo (29 pts, 15 reb in 22 mins) led the Bucks past the Knicks, 132-88, marking the fifth time in league history โ€” and the second time in two weeks (Mavericks) โ€” that a team has won consecutive games by 40 or more points.

  • Top of the league: This was Milwaukee's 12th straight victory, giving them the best record in the NBA (18-3).
  • The other side: Meanwhile in Atlanta, the once mighty Warriors lost to the Hawks and now sit alone with the league's worst record (4-18).
5. ๐Ÿˆ Chris Petersen abruptly steps down

Photo: Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Washington coach Chris Petersen will step down after the Huskies' bowl game and be replaced by defensive coordinator Jimmy Lake, the school announced yesterday.

  • Why it matters: This is the most unexpected resignation in college football since Bob Stoops stepped down at Oklahoma in 2017.
  • By the numbers: Petersen's career winning percentage of .783 (146-38) ranks second among active coaches with at least five years of FBS experience, and that's without ever coaching at a true powerhouse program.

What they're saying: "[Petersen's announcement] came as shocking news. But maybe it shouldn't have been," writes The Athletic's Stewart Mandel (subscription).

  • "He's always done things differently than the rest of his profession.... He was a coach who took the off-field development of his players more seriously than nearly any coach in the country."
  • "[A]ll indications are this was not health-related. Presumably, a guy who we know puts a lot of mind into life outside of football felt like he needed a break from football."
6. ๐ŸŽฎ Astralis plans esports industry's first IPO

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Astralis, a Denmark-based esports group that includes the world's top-ranked Counter-Strike team, is planning to go public next week in Copenhagen, writes Axios' Dan Primack.

Why it matters: This would be the first-ever public listing of an esports group, possibly priming investors for future floats from larger organizations.

  • Canada's Overactive Media, for example, has been weighing an IPO, and NRG Sports' Andy Miller tells Axios that he's been approached by Canadian banks about a Toronto listing ("we felt it was too early").

Details: Astralis is set to list on the Nasdaq's Copenhagen exchange for small companies, raising between $18 million and $22 million.

The bottom line: "The global esports market will generate almost $2 billion in 2022, with global esports viewership expected to reach 595 million that year," writes Bloomberg's Nick Rigillo.

Go deeper: Esports deep dive (Axios)

7. Dec. 3, 1956: ๐Ÿ€ Wilt shines in Kansas debut
Photo: Hy Peskin/Getty Images

63 years ago today, sophomore Wilt Chamberlain made his much anticipated varsity debut for the Jayhawks, scoring 52 points and grabbing 31 boards (both school records) in a 87-69 win over Northwestern.

Must-see highlight: Chamberlain led Kansas to the national title game that season, where they fell to North Carolina in triple-OT. Please watch these highlights. 7-footers aren't supposed to be able to move like that.

Go deeper: From a 1956 Sports Illustrated story:

"The University of Kansas campus comprises for the most part a singularly unimpressive hodgepodge of local limestone and brick ... These days, however, Kansans only have eyes for another โ€” human โ€” variety of architecture: Wilton Chamberlain, a 7-foot sophomore who strides the Jayhawk campus like a Gulliver among the Lilliputians."
8. The Ocho: โšฝ๏ธ 2019 Beach Soccer World Cup

Photo: Buda Mendes/FIFA via Getty Images

Portugal defeated Italy, 6-4, in the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup final in Paraguay to become world champions for the second time.

Podium:

  1. ๐Ÿฅ‡ Portugal
  2. ๐Ÿฅˆ Italy
  3. ๐Ÿฅ‰ Russia

Go deeper: Highlights from the final (YouTube)

9. โšพ๏ธ MLB trivia

The Pirates hired Twins bench coach Derek Shelton as their new manager last week, meaning all MLB managerial vacancies have been filled.

  • Question: Of the 30 active MLB managers, who has served in their current role the longest?
  • Hint: He was hired in 2011 and his team plays in the AL.

Answer at the bottom.

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Door 4" Baker

Trivia answer: Oakland's Bob Melvin