Carmody's Corner: The All-Underappreciated Team

The following was written by former Louisville kicker and 2006 Lou Groza Award winner Art Carmody

Team Walk-On Foundation:

I wanted to start this week’s blog off with a quick note about The Team Walk-On Foundation.  Team Walk-On is the vision of John Thomas Hall, a former Louisville track and field athlete (96-99), and something that I am in full support of.

I have had the privilege of getting to know John these last few years and his story is absolutely remarkable. John was paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 16 and told that he would never walk again.  I couldn’t imagine getting that kind of news at the age of 16, but John’s never give up spirit drove him to prove that not only could he walk-on, but he could fulfill his dream of becoming a Division 1 athlete.  Eventually, John walked on to the Louisville Track and Field team where he competed in the pole vault.  His original vision after college was to find a cure for all spinal cord injuries and to help in the caring for spinal cord injury patients, but his story took another turn a few years ago.

In the past two years John has also successfully battled lymphoma and leukemia.  He now wants his message to extend beyond just spinal cord injuries, and to benefit and support cancer patients as well.  I spent some time with John in December where I first got to hear about Team Walk On.  This is just the beginning and it truly is a great cause from someone who has remarkably overcome many obstacles.  The best part about this is that John is one of our own.  He is a former Cardinal that is a huge Cardinal athletics fan.  I look forward to following and contributing to Team Walk-On and all that it can do in the future.  The website is still in development but you can check it out at www.teamwalkon.org. 

First off, have to mention the amazing win over Marquette.  I really enjoyed it.  I'm also looking forward to drinking my coffee out of my official Card Chronicle mug thanks to Sohl.  Pure genius.  I can't wait for whenever the Card Chronicle bobbleheads come out. 

Quick note on the recruits leaving early during the basketball game. That's also how it was when we would host recruits back when I played.  The recruits are kept to tight schedules on their visits because there is only so much time you have to sell the University of Louisville to them.  The visits start Friday night and are done by early Sunday morning, so keeping them on track is key.  The reason they leave early is to avoid the potential traffic and fans when leaving the basketball game. 

This happened once when I was hosting a recruit in 2006.  We went to the Louisville/UCONN game when UCONN was highly ranked.  We tried to stay until the end before UCONN pulled away, which turned into us sitting in traffic with the recruits.  A lot of time was wasted and the coaches were not happy about it. I am sure if the recruits had a choice it would be to stay until the final buzzer. 

Over the weekend I got to thinking about some of my former teammates and some of the great players who either didn’t get the recognition they deserved, might not have been All-American, didn’t get all the attention, maybe not even really played a whole lot, but contributed to the Cardinal football program.  I figured I could come up with a whole team of guys, which I did.  It also led me to come up with my an all-decade team (even though I am a year late it seems that everyone has come up with an all-decade team except me, which I plan to have next week) I am sure there could be some guys that you could add or subtract, but these are the guys that I came up with. 

I only went with guys from 2003-now because that is what I know.  Not only were these guys great players, but they were great teammates as well.  Please fell free to debate.

QB: Will Stein- He could have surely gone and played at a handful of 1-AA or smaller schools, but instead took the challenge to walk-on.  I have a soft spot for walk-ons because I was once one and know how hard it is to do it.  Stein has been a winner from his days at Trinity to his performance against Rutgers this past November.

QB: Bill Ashburn – Another walk-on who stayed five years in the program.  He ran the scout teams, was a holder for me when Harry was briefly injured in 2007, took a handful of snaps in his career.  Most QB’s will transfer when they don’t get a chance to play. He stuck it out and was a team favorite. 

RB: Kolby Smith – I feel that Kolby was overshadowed in his time as a Cardinal behind the likes of Eric Shelton, Lionel Gates, and Michael Bush.  He was a great football player and when he got his chance to shine in 2006 he jumped at it.  He helped lead us to the Orange Bowl and was drafted the following spring by the Kansas City Chiefs.  He was a guy who showed up everyday ready to work. 

RB: Lionel Gates - Another great football player who had to split carries with Eric and Michael.  He had all of the tools and looking back at how deep the running backs were in 2004 shows just how good that team was. 

FB: Deriontae Taylor/D.J. Kamer – Deriontate and D.J. were both walk-ons.  D.J. was sort of a Rudy figure for the team in 2003.  He did everything that was asked of him and was rewarded with a scholarship just before his senior year.  Deriontae was a former walk-on linebacker who was converted to a fullback.  He was also what a model student-athlete should be.  He was a C.I.S. (Computer Information Systems) major and served on the student-athlete advisory committee with me.  Two great guys.

WR: Scott Long – Scott’s Louisville career was overshadowed by injuries, which was a shame.  A very talented individual, which was apparent when he stepped on campus in the summer of 2005.  He has now turned his attention towards a career with FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) One of the nicest guys you will ever meet.

WR: Tiger Jones – Tiger was overshadowed by J.R. Russell, Josh Tinch, Montrell Jones, etc. but had one of his best games against Miami down in the Orange Bowl.  He hauled in two touchdowns that night.  He has been a great player in the arena football league the past few seasons.

WR: Doug Beaumont- Doug represents all that is great about Cardinal football.  A local high school legend that chooses his hometown school.  No matter how bad it got Doug always kept his head up and worked his butt off each week to get better.  Two things that I will take from this past season were Doug’s first touchdown as a Card and the look on his face after the West Virginia game.  The season ended happily with the bowl win but Doug still deserved to win that last home game.  The game of football mirrors life sometimes and after watching Doug these last four years there is no doubt in my mind that he will be a success in any endeavor he chooses.

TE: Adam McCauley – Another walk-on who was one of my best friends on the team.  He moved from fullback to tight end and was sort of a mentor figure to all of the young tight ends we had in 2004.  He also was a great prankster and would help out in any pranks that the kickers and punters would draw up in our spare time.  One of my favorite memories was first touchdown as a card and after the Liberty Bowl in which he carried the trophy around the field for all of the fans to see.  He married a beautiful Louisville soccer player (Leighann Carroll) and now lives in Cincinnati with their three little girls. 

OL: Danny Barlowe –Workaholic and smart player, now getting his MBA and M.D. at the same time. Safe to say he had no problem remembering the plays.

OL:  George Bussey – how he was a walk-on blows my mind. 

OL:  Dan Koons – Leader of the 2003 Offensive Line

OL:  Jeremy Darveau – he thought he was a great poker player, great lineman in 2004 and 2005 after transferring from UK. Last time I checked he was coaching at a small school in Minnesota

OL:  Will Rabatin – Great player and hilarious guy to be around.  Had a great arena football career before the league folded in 2008.

DL: Rodney Gnat – Player who has matured the most in five years.  Great senior year in 2010.

DL: Bobby Leffew – Injuries slowed him down but was still a great player during his time at Louisville, and a leader as well.

DL: Marcus Jones – An All-CUSA performer in 2004.  Had a great year in helping us get to the Liberty Bowl.

LB: Preston Smith – A former quarterback who made the transition to linebacker.  Did whatever was asked of him.  Now an assistant coach at KCD in Louisville.

LB: Malik Jackson – A player I felt flew under the radar his last few years.  Made some big plays in 2006 and 2007.  Pride of Dunwoody, GA.

LB: Matt Sanders – Another local kid whose playing career was cut way too short by knee injuries.  He was an outstanding special teams player and all around great guy.  He was a graduate assistant in 2007, and an assistant coach at Lehigh in 2008 and 2009. 

DB: Gavin Smart – A player who had the biggest pass deflection in 2006 (breaking up the pass in the end zone against Cincinnati.)  He broke his ankle during Orange Bowl practice and didn’t get to play in the game, but that didn’t diminish the great season he had as a senior. 

DB: J.T. Haskins – Another special teams demon.  He was the 2003 Special Teams MVP for the team.  I will have more on J.T. in a later post when I write about arena football. 

FS: Brandon Sharp – As I am writing this I realize that I have included a lot of guys on that 2006 Orange Bowl defense.  Brandon was another player who didn’t get a lot of the attention, but was a reason why that defense was so underrated.  A smart player.

FS: Jonathan Gannon – Jonathan was a good personal friend of mine who had his career cut down by a terrible hip injury (kind of like Bo Jackson).  When I arrived as a freshman in 2003 he was a guy that I looked up to, and all of his teammates talked about how great of a football player and athlete he was.   He battled back to suit up in spring practice in 2004 but when he realized he couldn’t be the same player he was he decided to become a coach.  He was a student assistant and then graduate assistant.  Coach Petrino hired him on as a defensive quality control coach while with the Atlanta Falcons.  He is now a scout for the St. Louis Rams. 

K: Rob Zarrilli – Nate Smith was my first choice here but because he made my all-decade team I had to put someone else in this spot.  Rob Zarrilli and I walked on together in the fall of 2003 and competed with each other in a dogfight for the starting kicker job after Nate graduated.  We became great friends because of this and we pushed each other to get better.  I always knew that if I screwed up Rob was right there to take my job from me, I eventually won the job and after the 2004 season Rob transferred to Hofstra where he went on to be a 1-AA All-American and set many school records.  We were our biggest supporters and would talk almost weekly for the next three seasons after he transferred.  He is now kicking for San Jose in the Arena Football League.

P: Todd Flannery – Todd was a great athlete and my workout partner in the weight room for four and a half years.  He had a tough job as a kickoff guy where he would sometimes have to kick off 10 times a game and punt as well.  He was also voted MVP of the SFL (Specialists Football League, a two hand touch game we would play when the coaches weren't looking) in almost a unanimous decision.  I think Dane Mattingly voted for himself.  

LS: Michael Sturgeon/Matt Webb – I have to give credit to two of my snappers for their hard work.   In the spring of 2005 Matt Webb had to have shoulder surgery, which affected his snapping going into the 2005 season.  When he couldn’t snap Michael Sturgeon stepped in and didn’t miss a beat all season.  In 2006 Michael re-injured his back in the first game against Kentucky and couldn’t snap the rest of the season.  Matt jumped back in and we went on to win the Lou Groza Award.  Both of these guys were incredible snappers. 

 

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  Go Cards.

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