April brings intensified soccer matches

For college basketball, March Madness is where the games get more exciting. For the English Premier League, April is where soccer matches get more intense. The end of the regular season for the Barclays Premier League is May 11, so during the month of April, everyone starts fighting for not only the top spot, but to get out of the bottom three spots so that they won’t be relegated for next year. Right now, Chelsea is just over Liverpool for first place in the league with 69 points (Liverpool has 68). Chelsea’s defense is the best in the league with only 23 goals allowed and is the major reason why they are at the top. A win for Manchester City could spring them to the top if both Chelsea and Liverpool lose their next game. Chelsea should notch an easy win against Crystal Palace on Saturday after coming off a dominating 6-0 victory over Arsenal. Liverpool, however, will have a challenging match against Tottenham on Sunday. For now, Manchester City will have to worry about their upcoming showdown with Arsenal tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. eastern time. Arsenal will be looking for their 20th win of the season as they are looming around 4th place in the table. What makes the top three teams different from any other team in the league is their dominance. Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City all have a goal differential of 39 or more. No other team in the league is even close to that number (Arsenal is the closest with 19).

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has had a fantastic career and continues that career with 71 saves so far this season. Credit: telegraph.co.uk
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has had a fantastic career and continues that career with 71 saves so far this season.
Credit: telegraph.co.uk

As for Manchester United, they have struggled with consistency this season. They lost to a nearly sell-out crowd at Old Trafford against Manchester City 3-0 last Tuesday. They were able to beat West Ham and West Bromwich recently, but they fell short against Liverpool 3-0 on March 16th. Manchester United has faltered greatly against top teams and that is the main reason why they are sitting at seventh in the standings behind Tottenham Hotspur and Everton. The triple threat of Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck has proved somewhat successful, seeing that those three players are in the top 20 in goals scored. Rooney’s 13 goals is tied for 6th in the league and Van Persie has 11 goals accredited to his name.

Manchester United has scored 48 goals this season, but it's not enough as they have also allowed 37 scored against them. Credit: sportblog.co.za
Manchester United has scored 48 goals this season, but it’s not enough as they have also allowed 37 scored against them.
Credit: sportblog.co.za

The most impressive performance so far is Liverpool’s deadly combination of top goal-scorer Luis Suarez and young Daniel Sturridge. They are the only players in the Premier League with 20 goals are more and they are on the same team! It’s no surprise that Liverpool has the best offense in England with 84 goals scored.Suarez has had a year he will never forget. The 27-year-old from Uruguay has 28 goals and 11 assists, which are tremendous numbers for this point in the season. Last year, he only had 23 goals and 5 assists for the whole season! The last time Suarez was this dominant at his position was when he played for Ajax Amsterdam back in the 2009-10 season where he put up 35 goals and 4 assists. He is definitely at the prime of his career and looks to add on to his astounding numbers later on in the season as April comes around.

Another big reason why April is so much fun to watch is the semi-finals of the FA Cup. On April 12, Arsenal will play Wigan Athletic and Sheffield United will play Hull City on April 13. Arsenal was expected to advance this far, but no one expected these other three teams to be where they are right now. Hull City are 13th in the Premier League and Sheffield and Wigan are not even in the League! This Cup tournament is a true underdog story, no matter who advances to the top.

Speaking of underdogs, Everton has surprised many fans with their rise to glory. They are only 5th in the League and are above teams like Tottenham and Manchester United. Their defense and ability to succeed in close games are the main reasons why they are near the top of the standings. They are 3rd in goals allowed behind Chelsea and Manchester City and that’s due in large part to United States’ goalkeeper Tim Howard who has 81 saves so far this year. They are currently on a four-game win streak heading into their upcoming match with Fulham on Sunday. Everton has always been overlooked by the bigger and more popular teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and the others, but historically, Everton has always been a formidable opponent in the Barclays Premier League ever since they were the founders of the Football League in 1888. They have played more matches in the highest division than any other club, and have been outside it for only four years out of the 126 years they have played. Look out for Everton when April comes round, they might surprise a few folks.

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Strong on the field and in his faith

Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Sam Acho had a rough season last year. He was on the verge of breaking out as a star pass rusher before breaking his fibula in his leg back in September. In three seasons, Acho has 12 sacks and 7 forced fumbles. The fourth round draft pick out of the University of Texas has been a major force on the field when he is healthy and is going to be one of the key components of the Cardinals’ defense this upcoming year. However, Acho finds that his strength physically is nothing compared to his strength spiritually in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Below is a video clip that will give you a good introduction to who Acho really is:

As you can tell, Acho has committed his life to not just be the best football player he can be, but the best follower of Christ that he can be. He is currently involved in a ministry called Living Hope, a ministry that his parents started 20 years ago. His parents were born and raised in small villages in Nigeria. The large country in Africa holds about 170 million people and two-thirds of that population lives on a dollar a day. God’s grace took over the lives of Acho’s parents as his father now has a Ph.D in psychology and is also a pastor, while Acho’s mother is a nurse practitioner. The Living Hope ministry allows Acho’s parents to bring doctors and surgeons to different parts of Nigeria where they can cure diseases and give them medicine that people in the United States are very blessed to have access to.

“Every year I go, my life changes and I’ve become somewhat of an ambassador for this cause because a lot of my heart is in Africa,” Acho said. “I see the lives, not only in the NFL, but living life in America and then I see the people over in Nigeria who have absolutely nothing and I feel the joy that they have after we have had a chance to serve them. Living Hope’s  goal is to serve people in need.” (Credit: http://www.radical.net Secret Church Blog)

The ministry has grown so much, that now the organization is planning on building a hospital in Nigeria where people can have more access to this hope that they desperately need. Living Hope is currently raising money in order to make that dream a reality. You can find out more information about that here at their website: http://livinghopeministries.us/

One of the biggest challenges Acho has faced since entering the NFL in 2011 is finding out that some people are not who they appear to be. More specifically, he had struggled with people who had claimed to be Christians, but their actions and attitudes didn’t match up.

“The challenge has been not wanting to be one of those people who says ‘Hey I’m a Christian’ and then use that blanket statement so that people wouldn’t ask them any more questions,” said Acho. “A lot of people are looking for someone to look up to and hold on to. It’s very hard to hide your life in an NFL locker room and so one of the biggest challenges has been walking the walk and showing people that I love Jesus.”

I would like to pray for Sam Acho’s strength in his faith as he enters his fourth season in the NFL and also for his to leg heal up. Hopefully, he can be a shining example to the players and other people around him that Jesus is alive and He is the hope that everyone needs.

 

New Soccer Season has begun

The MLS is entering its fourth week of the season and teams are starting to come together to form some sort of chemistry. The Houston Dynamo seem to have their chemistry down quick, leading the entire league in goal differential with five. The defending eastern conference champions have won both of their opening home games, destroying New England 4-0 and slipping by Montreal 1-0. Not only that, but their top striker Will Bruin is tied for first in goals scored this short season with 3. The young forward is tied with Jermain Defoe of Toronto FC and Erick Torres of Chivas USA.

FC Dallas stands alone in the Western Conference as the only team without a loss so far. The Seattle Sounders FC have had a great start, defeating the defending champion Kansas City 1-0 in the home opener. They lost Toronto on March 15 1-2, but then bounced back with a 2-0 win at Montreal last week. As for the defending champs, they have had a slow start. They are now 1-1-1, so their next game at Colorado will show what kind of team they really are.

The most surprising story taking place right now is the performance of 22-year-old Joao Plata Cotera of Real Salt Lake. The young forward out of Ecuador as had 2 goals and 2 assists in just three games this season and his team has not lost a game yet. He shows promise as a young talent and could step up as a potential leader for his team that already features veteran U.S. soccer star Kyle Beckerman. The 31-year-old midfielder has 1 goal and 1 assist this season. Look out for Real Salt Lake to make a run in the middle of the season behind these two stars.

The young and small striker  is quickly making a name for himself. Credit: ecuagol.com
The young and small striker is quickly making a name for himself.
Credit: ecuagol.com

Speaking of stars, Jermain Defoe is doing great in his first season with the MLS. After spending solid careers in West Ham United and Tottenham for the Barclays Premier League, Defoe is quickly becoming a tremendous playmaker in the U.S. His Toronto team is currently 3-0 after a 1-0 victory over DC United last week. Toronto FC is now battling for first place in the eastern conference with Houston and the Columbus Crew.

The veteran still has enough talent to carry Toronto FC this season. Credit: torontosun.com
The veteran still has enough talent to carry Toronto FC this season.
Credit: torontosun.com

Things are shaping up well in the MLS and many fans are excited that the new season is finally here. The Seattle fans truly epitomize that with their excellent game participation. Both of the Sounders’ home games have been the largest attendance so far this season, reaching over 38,000 in the two games. More and more soccer fanatics are watching these soccer stars play, hoping that they perform well as the MLS season gets rolling early.

March Madness at its Finest

Well I can safely say that no one expected this! Over nine million people participated in the tournament challenge and none of them have a perfect bracket. Including me! In my best bracket, I’m ranked in the top two million in the country and I have Arizona beating Florida in the national championship and winning the whole thing. From the looks of things, I could be right! Arizona only has to defeat San Diego State and either Baylor or Wisconsin in the Elite Eight. Let’s review on some of the crazy things that has happened in the past week.

Duke just can’t get it done in the tournament. They did fairly well last year, losing to the eventual national champion Louisville in the Elite Eight, but in 2012, Duke lost to Lehigh in the first round as a 2-seed! Ever since they won the national championship in 2010, Duke has fallen short of expectations. For a Tar Heel fan like me, that was awesome when Mercer defeated them in the first round 78-71! Don’t worry Blue Devils, you’re going to have a great team next year with the addition of Jahlil Okafor, the best overall player in high school recruiting. With this dominating center joining Mike Krzyzewski’s team next season, Duke will remain as a deadly force in the national tournament.

Kentucky making headlines. The Wildcats were not expected to go far in the national tournament this year after falling out of the top 25 in the last week of the regular season. However, they were the only team to beat Wichita State this year after the 78-76 victory on Sunday. The Shockers were shocked this time as Julius Randle put up 13 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists with the Harrison twins combining for 39 points in the win. If Kentucky can beat Louisville on Friday, they will look like a team that’s ready to make a case for another championship.

Goodbye Doug McDermott. After Baylor crushed Creighton 85-55, senior Doug McDermott played his last college game. He finished as the 5th all-time leading scorer in college basketball history and will probably land with a good team in the NBA as a mid to late first round pick in the upcoming draft. The Creighton Bluejays put up a good run, but now they will have to watch from afar as Baylor plays Wisconsin on Thursday.

There were a lot of other story lines involved in this tournament, but now that the Sweet Sixteen has been decided, I’m sure that even more stories will unfold with these teams. Hopefully the rest of the tournament will provide just as much fun and excitement as the last games have produced.

Christian Athlete of the Week: Jeremy Lin

Mostly everyone knows that Houston Rockets’ point guard Jeremy Lin is already a Christian. He professed his faith back during the  2011-12 season when he played for the New York Knicks. Back then, he was known as Linsanity for putting up improbable numbers during the Knicks’ winning streaks. Now, the 25-year-old Harvard grad is on a 47-22 Houston Rockets team that is 4th in the Western Conference standings. They are currently on a three-game winning streak and in those three wins, the Rockets scored 118 points or more. This is one of the most explosive offenses in the NBA with James Harden and Dwight Howard leading the way. Lin hasn’t had a spectacular season statistically (he’s averaging 12.4 points and 4.2 assists a game this season), but he’s not exactly worried about keeping track of how well he plays. Lin is more focused on how he glorifies God on and off the court.

“I’m still learning to be selfless and submit myself to God and give the game up to Him,” Lin said. “It’s a challenge, but thankfully I’m learning more and more.” (Credit: gospelherald.com)

Check out this video I found about Jeremy Lin’s faith and his rise to “Linsanity”

As you can see, Lin has become a pioneer for all of sports. He is now on a team that is poised to win a NBA championship in the near future. What Lin is probably more proud of is his walk with Christ and the relationship he has with the Father.

 

The 2014 Bracketology

The 2014 NCAA Men’s National Tournament has finally arrived and true March Madness is here. With all 68 teams fighting to get to the big dance, college basketball will start to get a little more interesting. My favorite team UNC is in the tournament as a 6-seed, but I doubt that they will last too long. Last year, I picked Indiana to win the whole thing, but I was wrong. My 2013 bracket was pretty bad. I only got just over half of the picks right. I tried again this year to fill out my bracket and we’ll see what happens. I won’t give you all of my exact picks, but I will make some predictions!

Fantastic, fabulous, whichever alliteration you like best, but the teams with these freakishly talented freshmen will make it far in the tournament, but I don’t think a team with one of these freshmen will win the whole thing. Kentucky was the last team that had a fabulous freshman (Anthony Davis) to win the title. Although these freshmen do a great job of carrying these teams, they don’t have a lot of experience to carry them all the way to the top. I have Jabari Parker (the winner of the freshman of the year award) and Duke losing to Wichita State in the Elite Eight. Syracuse and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis will go very far in the tournament (I have them in the Elite Eight against Syracuse), but this Syracuse team has weaknesses and people are starting to figure them out. C.J. Fair will help Ennis carry the load, but Syracuse has too many obstacles to overcome in this tournament. Aaron Gordon and Arizona have the best shot at winning the title, but I have them losing in the Final Four to the upset-minded Wichita State Shockers! Then there is a team with two fabulous freshman on the squad: Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid for Kansas. Embiid is still battling a back injury and no one knows how well he will be able to perform in an enduring tournament full of heated competition. Wiggins showed that he could carry the team on his back with the 41 scoring outburst in the loss at West Virginia and a barrage of points in the overtime win against Oklahoma State with 30. However, he has also managed to turn the ball over in crucial moments and the rest of his team isn’t at the same level. I have Kansas losing early in the Sweet Sixteen to Syracuse.

Parker was phenomenal as a freshman this year with 13 double-doubles this year. He finished the regular season with 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Credit: nbcchicago.com
Parker was phenomenal as a freshman this year with 13 double-doubles. He finished the regular season with 19.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.
Credit: nbcchicago.com

The 1-seeds are very promising this year. Wichita State is always ready to give an unexpected performance of brilliance, Virginia could create a lot of bracket busting with their surprising rise in the ACC tournament, Florida is the number one team in the nation (their last loss was at Connecticut on December 2nd), and Arizona’s strength and athleticism outshines their weaknesses and flaws. Virginia is the only team I don’t have in the Final Four because I have them losing to a very well-coached and experienced Michigan State team in the Elite Eight. Virginia’s run in the big dance would make for a great story, but sometimes happy endings don’t come for most Cinderella teams. The two teams I have in the National Championship are two number one seeds: Florida and Wichita State. I believe in the Shockers and think that they can go all the way, unfortunately they’re going to hit a brick wall against Florida. Billy Donovan is too good of a coach to let the drama of an undefeated team beat his club. His coaching and his player’s experience in big games (mostly against Kentucky) will be his advantage in the Gator’s national championship win. Donovan is a very underrated coach who has been overshadowed by Kentucky’s star power over the last few years. I strongly believe that he will solidify his place as one of the greats with this win in the national championship.

If I had to pick a wild-card to win it all, I would go with two teams: Michigan State and Louisville. Tom Izzo’s Spartans have been overlooked this year, but they are quietly one of the best teams in the country. If they could beat Florida in the Final Four, then they deserve to win the national title instead of them. Louisville could win back-to-back championships if they play their cards right. If they properly utilize the talents of Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell, then that deadly combination could lead them to victory once more. Not only that, but Luke Hancock has some experience in big games and is always ready to put up a big performance if asked (he did it before last year). Louisville would possibly have to beat Wichita State, Duke and Arizona if they were going to go all the way again.

This senior point guard led his team to great heights with 18.3 points and 4.7 assists per game. Credit: sports.yahoo,com
This senior point guard led his team to great heights with 18.3 points and 4.7 assists per game.
Credit: sports.yahoo,com

So there you have it. Don’t rely too much on my understanding, but this is what I believe will happen this year. Then again, you can never correctly what is going to happen in all the madness that is the month of March. All I know is that the team with the most experience is going to be the one to win it all. Freshmen are great and talented, but talent always falls short to the heart of the champion. Never underestimate the heart of a champion!

Christian Athlete of the Week: Danny O’Rourke

Danny O’Rourke is an American soccer player who plays in the MLS for the Columbus Crew. His skills were first noticed after being named to three consecutive All-Big 10 selections and winning back-to-back national championships with the University of Indiana in 2003 and 2004. From there, he was the fourth overall pick of the 2005 MLS SuperDraft by the San Jose Earthquakes. After moving around team from team throughout his career, he finally found a home with the Columbus Crew in 2007 and has played midfielder and defender for them ever since. He was a crucial part in their 2008 MLS Cup win and helped his team win the Supporter’s Shield award twice in 2008 and 2009, which is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. With all of these accolades and awards, O’Rourke is probably more proud of his relationship with Jesus Christ. He grew up in a Catholic family and never understood why Jesus was so important to him early on in his life. It wasn’t until dealing with knee injuries early in his professional career that O’Rourke had the time to reflect on the meaning of the Mass and his relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Not being able to play soccer for long periods of time gave me a chance to think about life and to pray more than I had before,” said O’Rourke. “Prayer is the essential thing. You can go through all the motions of what Christians should do, but continual prayer makes it personal and gives you the grace to have a better idea of what it is you’re doing in the first place. Another thing that really comes into play when you’re injured is patience. I was used to doing everything pretty much on my own, with very little practical interest in what God wanted to do for me. The injuries were opportunities for me to let go and allow God to work though my life. Physically I was held back by injuries, but spiritually I was set free by them.” (Credit: National Catholic Register)

Not only did O’Rourke learn about patience through his injuries, but strangely, he also learned about strength.

“Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:10 that when he is weak he is strong. That sounds contradictory, but in light of faith, it makes sense,” O’Rourke said. “The only way you’re going to be motivated to ask for God’s help is if you realize you need it. Otherwise, you won’t bother asking, and you’ll remain alone.”

O’Rourke made the shift from treating Christianity as a religion to treating it is a relationship with God. He hopes to not only make his team better on the soccer field, but also to make his personal relationship with Christ better. Until we make the same realization that O’Rourke made, we can never fully understands what it means to be a Christian. That personally relationship with Jesus will get us through the ups and downs of life as O’Rourke has so eloquently put it.

Regular Season Recap of Ravishing College Basketball

As the regular season draws to a close and the NCAA tournament is starting to unfold, let’s review some of the big moments that happened this weekend that could affect your decision-making when filling out your brackets. First off, Doug McDermott scored a career-high 45 points and became the eighth player in Division I
history to go over 3,000 for a career. Not only did he surpass Oscar Robertson on the scoring list, but he also helped No. 13 Creighton roll to an 88-73 Senior Night victory over Providence on Saturday. He’s one of the finalists for the John Wooden Basketball Player of the Year award. If he wins, it will just be a delicious icing on the cake for an illustrious career at Creighton. He’s also the only senior on that list; the rest of the finalists being freshmen: Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Tyler Ennis.

Speaking of Parker, his Duke Blue Devils got revenge on North Carolina by beating them 93-81. Parker solidified himself as one of the best players in the country with his fourth straight double-double and a career-high 30 points, which is the most ever by a Duke freshman against UNC. The Blue Devils also won their 33rd straight home game. The last team to beat them at home was, you guessed it, North Carolina back in 2012. After Syracuse defeated Florida State today, the Blue Devils become the 3-seed in the ACC tournament and the Tar Heels drop to the 4-seed.

Probably one of the biggest news and highlight of the year was Wichita State going undefeated in the regular season. The last team to do that was UNLV back in 1991. The Shockers defeated Missouri State yesterday 67-42 and then won the conference title today against Indiana State 83-69. This Wichita State team might be for real even though they have beaten some poor teams. I would still watch out for them when filling out my bracket.

Another team that won their conference title today was Saint Louis. It is their second straight Atlantic-10 title and they did it by beating Massachusetts 64-62. This is another under-the-radar team that could also go far in the NCAA tournament, so give them some respect when making your bracket! As for another conference title story, this one is a little more interesting. Louisville and Cincinnati both won yesterday, making them share the American conference title. To determine seeding in the conference tournament, a coin toss commenced. Cincinnati won the coin toss, making them the number one seed in the AAC tournament. I’m sure Rick Pitino of Louisville was pretty upset about that.

Speaking of upsets, Oregon took down Arizona 64-57 yesterday to give the Ducks their 7th straight win. It was the largest margin of defeat for the Wildcats this season, but they shouldn’t be too worried heading into the NCAA tournament. They still get a number one seed in the big dance. Another big upset occurred in the ACC today and that’s when Maryland defeated ACC-champion Virginia 75-69. Maryland’s Dez Wells and Seth Allen combined for 38 points in the big win over their big rival. This loss wasn’t too devastating to the Cavaliers, but they should learn from this loss if they want to go far in the national tournament.

The Florida Gators won 30 games this year and the SEC tournament starts on March 12th. Credit: usatoday.com

The Florida Gators won 30 games this year and the SEC tournament starts on March 12th.
Credit: usatoday.com

One team that is on a roll right now is Florida. There is no denying that they are the best team in the country right now after pulling off an undefeated SEC conference season. They devoured Kentucky 84-65 for their club-record 23rd straight win. These Gators will be tough to take down when the national championship is on the line.

Andrew Wiggins averages 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this year. Credit: fansided.com
Andrew Wiggins averages 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this year.
Credit: fansided.com

While Florida was going off on Kentuck, Andrew Wiggins was going off on West Virginia yesterday. He scored a career-high and Kansas freshman-record 41 points, showing everyone why he should be considered a top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. The Jayhawks lost, but Wiggins showed that he could carry a team on his back. Joel Embiid was out with injury, which was probably why Wiggins took so many shots, but the Jayhawks were never out of the game. The 92-86 loss was Kansas’ eighth of the season, but when Embiid comes back from injury, they should be a force in the tournament.

Last story I want to share is teams getting in that haven’t in a while. Eastern Kentucky will make its first tournament appearance since 2007 after a 79-73 win over Belmont yesterday. The Colonels are probably a team that will get kicked out of the big dance in the first round, but who knows, there might be another Cinderella in the making! Another possible Cinderella could be Mercer. After beating former Cinderella team Florida Gulf Coast, they secured their first berth in the tournament since 1985! Then Coastal Carolina will make an appearance after missing the tournament for 21 years! They defeated Winthrop to attain the Big South title.

March Madness is already upon us and it’s nearly time to predict those bracket busters. A lot of teams have the possibility of winning the championship this year. Never count out Wichita State, although they might have their hearts broken in the Elite Eight or the Final Four when they play teams like Florida, Syracuse or Arizona. If I were to pick a champ right now, it would be Florida. They have a very talented and experienced roster and are well coached by Billy Donovan. However, Kansas might be that wild-card pick with the deadly combo of Wiggins and Embiid. So just sit back and enjoy this one folks, because in college basketball, you never know what’s going to happen!

Christian Athlete of the Week: Caron Butler

Caron Butler has been known to be a journeyman in the NBA. He has played for seven different NBA teams since being selected as the 10th overall pick by the Miami Heat in 2002. Butler now plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder after playing for the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this year. Despite moving from team to team, the small forward from the University of Connecticut has averaged 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game in his career. However, Butler’s journey before he played basketball is more amazing in itself. As a small boy living in Racine, Wisconsin, Butler looked up to his two uncles. His mother was a single parent and was working two jobs at the time and so his uncles were the only father figures he had around at the time, but they were not exactly good examples. Both were drug dealers and got their nephew into the business when he was only 11 years old. From there, Butler got arrested 15 times before he turned 15. While he was serving his last sentence at a juvenile institution, Butler fell in love with two things: basketball and Jesus Christ.

“My grandmother told me to pick up a bible and just believe in God,” he said. “God can hinder all obstacles that you’re going through. And my mother staying in my corner, because a lot of parents, when kids fail, give up on them. A lot of the people that I was incarcerated with didn’t have visitors, but my mother was always there, sometimes twice a day, uplifting my spirits and telling me to stay positive. And I think that really showed me how much she cared and believed in me. She believed in me more than I believed in myself.” (Credit: insidehoops.com)

Butler went on to say that basketball was his ticket out to living on the streets. He started playing so well that he got noticed by Jim Calhoun of the UConn Huskies. In his freshman year, he led his team in both points and rebounds. Then in his sophomore season, he was named co-Big East Player of the Year. Butler was able to accomplish all of these tasks by making God the father-figure in his life that he desperately needed.

“God puts stuff in front of you for a reason,” he said. “He put His hands on my life and said, ‘I’m going to touch you so that you can touch others.”

And he has. Butler donated $200,000 to four local charities in his hometown of Racine back in 2012. He also created a youth basketball league to show other kids that basketball can get you out of the life of a drug dealer. God has shown through Caron Butler’s life that he can take anyone off the streets and make them into a great example of God’s grace and mercy.

Redskins Offseason Strategy

News just broke out that the Washington Redskins have just released defensive lineman Adam Carriker and punter Sav Rocca. Carriker was battling injuries during his tenure with the Redskins and never saw the field that much, while Rocca was a big disappointment at punter. This was the first big step for the Redskins towards the time of free agency. The other one was franchise tag Brian Orakpo for next season. Keeping him on the team was a major priority for Washington and now that it has been taken care of, they can focus on other issues at hand. As a die-hard Redskins fan, I am very intrigued with what they do during the offseason to make their team better. They are obviously moving in a different direction with new head coach Jay Gruden at the helm, so all fans can do is wait and see. Before the free agent market hits, let’s look at some needs for the Redskins this offseason:

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins plans to be traded and wants to start for another team, but the Redskins won’t say for sure whether or not they will trade him. Knowing that Robert Griffin III is prone to injury, Washington needs to find a backup quarterback soon. Rex Grossman will be gone to free agency and the future is up in the air for Cousins. I think the Redskins should bring in a quarterback from free agency, someone with experience and does not plan to start. Personally, I think it would be really cool to see the Redskins sign Tim Tebow to help RG3 run the option! The question isn’t whether Washington will sign a free agent quarterback, it’s who.

Wide Receiver: Pierre Garcon broke the franchise-record for most receptions in a single season last year. However, you can’t win a championship with one great receiver (ask the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals). The Redskins need to draft a young player that will take some pressure off Garcon. The best option would be Brandin Cooks of Oregon State. He is crazy fast and can also be used as a great kick-returner (which is also something that Washington drastically needs). There’s also the big Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State. The Redskins could use a big possession receiver to draw coverage away from other players. The free agent market isn’t very deep in receivers, so if the Redskins do get another target for RG3 to throw to, it would be in the draft.

Offensive Line: The Redskins used to be known for having one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history. Now, they are a joke. Trent Williams is the only good lineman they have. If I were in charge of the Redskins, I would cut the entire offensive line roster and start over. Sign guys like Rodger Saffold, Tyson Clabo, Travelle Wharton, Zane Beadles and maybe a guy like Jonathan Goodwin and then Washington would be set. The Redskins could also go into the draft and get a guy like David Yankey from Stanford. He could make big blocks in the run game and also do a good job of protecting a mobile quarterback like RG3. If the Redskins can protect RG3, then their offense will be in great shape.

Defensive Line: This isn’t a huge concern for the Redskins, but it’s still one of the main priorities on defense. With Carriker gone and Barry Cofield getting older, Washington is going to have to bulk up the run defense. Justin Tuck’s name keeps coming up, but the Redskins would have to spend a lot of money to get him. There’s also guys like Kevin Williams and Ryan Pickett to go after, but the Redskins will probably have a better chance of building their roster through the draft.

Cornerback and Safety: The Redskins secondary last year was just awful. The opponent’s wide receivers kept getting open on every single play. Josh Wilson was disappointing and Brandon Merriweather kept getting suspended and injured after every game. The Redskins will have to build this part of their game through the draft unless they get really lucky in the free agent market. Jairus Byrd and Vontae Davis are available, but will the Redskins have enough money to sign them while also filling other needs? This offseason must be planned out carefully, because if the Redskins go out and sign a big-time player in free agency, they won’t have enough money to sign another great player and the fans of Washington would have to wait another year for a great team. If I was Bruce Allen, I would get at least one superstar player in free agency and use the rest of the money to spend on promising draft picks.

Punter: Now that Rocca is gone, the Redskins could sign a much better replacement. Pat McAfee from the Indianapolis Colts would be a great pickup, but he’s probably the most expensive punter available. If the Redskins sign an undrafted free agent, they could save a ton of money, but also risk the fact that they just signed a horrible punter. I would play it safe and take someone who has proven to be worthy in the NFL as a good punter.

Well there you have it. The NFL offseason is a complicated task for most general managers. I feel sorry for Bruce Allen, because he is under a ton of pressure at Washington. He’s got to make sure he makes the right decisions and sign the right players. He also has to cut the right players and make sure he does not upset the chemistry of the team. I really hope the Redskins do well this offseason so that I can finally get a championship-winning team that I’ve been waiting for since 1991!