Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Los Angeles Dodgers On FSN Prime Ticket Earns LA Emmy For Best Live Sports Coverage

One of the coolest things about my career is that I get the chance to cover some of my favorite boyhood teams and work with some of the best sportscasters in the business. It's an honor and a privilege to be on the same telecasts as Vin Scully. I would also like to point out that our latest award could not have been achieved without the work of the countless people behind-the-scenes, especially producer Brad Zager and director Doug Freeman. Great job, everyone!!

Los Angeles – FSN PRIME TICKET, the destination for the most comprehensive Los Angeles Dodgers coverage, was recognized with the best Live Sports Coverage Emmy for its Dodgers game telecasts. The Live Sports Coverage Emmy was one of five 2007 Los Angeles Area Emmy Awards given to FSN PRIME TICKET and its sister network, FSN WEST, by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the 59th Los Angeles Area Emmy® Awards.

Said Steve Simpson, senior vice president and general manager of FSN WEST and FSN PRIME TICKET: “FSN PRIME TICKET could not provide viewers with the level of quality Dodgers access and information without a close partnership with the team. This honor is as much the Dodgers as it is ours.”

“We are committed to providing the best fan experience in all of sports and that includes a quality telecast for the millions of fans who watch at home,” said Marty Greenspun, COO, Los Angeles Dodgers. “We appreciate all of the hard work that the team at FSN PRIME TICKET does on our behalf and salute them for this important achievement.”

In addition to best Live Sports Coverage for “Dodgers Baseball: Padres at Dodgers”, FSN PRIME TICKET and FSN WEST received L.A. Area Emmys for best Sports Feature, best Sports Tease, best Sports Series and best Graphics.

Throughout a decade of recognition by the Academy, FSN WEST and FSN PRIME TICKET have received 109 nominations and netted 39 wins. The 2007 Awards were presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on Saturday, August 25, 2007 at the Academy's Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre.

About the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was founded in 1946 just one month after network television was born. It is a non-profit organization devoted to the advancement of telecommunications arts and sciences and to fostering creative leadership in the telecommunications industry. In addition to recognizing outstanding programming through its Emmy® Award, the Television Academy publishes Emmy® Magazine and stages many industry-related programs, services and year-round events for the television community.

Together, FSN WEST and sister network FSN PRIME TICKET present more live, local sports programming than any other network or broadcast system in the market. Serving sports fans in Southern California, Nevada and Hawaii, FSN WEST and FSN PRIME TICKET produce over 700 live sporting events and telecast 5,000 hours of original programming every year. For complete national and regional sports news, provocative opinions, telecast schedules and updated statistics, log-on to www.foxsports.com.

Weekend Leftovers

Random thoughts from this past weekend in no particular order...

1) Justin Timberlake concert Sunday at Staples Center.
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Now that he has finally put the "boy band" days behind him, JT should really be appreciated for what he is: one of the greatest all-around entertainers in the last 20 years. Yes, you read that right. He's that good. He sings with range, plays multiple instruments, and dances like a choreographer. I didn't even mention his production skills. His partnership with Timbaland (who is also extremely talented and under appreciated publicly) could become the most powerful combo in popular music, if it's not already. In fact, they may be the only people capable of saving Britney Spears from complete career disaster, or did that happen at the VMA's?

2) Kanye West's surprise appearance at The FUTURESEX/LOVESHOW.
Without question, the highlight of the Justin Timberlake concert was the guest performance by Kanye West, just hours after he appeared on the Emmy Awards across town. To say Kanye killed the crowd with his performance of "Stronger" would be an understatement. The last performance at Staples Center on par with this one was Kobe Bryant's 81-point barrage laid on the Toronto Raptors in 2006.


Kanye's ability to continue to create a new sound of hip-hop with each new album is beyond impressive. You can't help but dig his music. Not only is it innovative enough for the critics, it's also catchy enough for the popular music set. A mix that leads to platinum record sales and millions of dollars in revenue. However, what it seemingly doesn't lead to-- at least not frequently enough in the mind of Kanye West-- is awards. After feeling dissed yet again by MTV at the Video Music Awards, Kanye spent the immediate few hours after the show and the next several days bitching about his failure yet again to claim a coveted MTV Spaceman. In the words of JT, "cry me a river," Kanye. Awards don't measure your success, record sales do. Just ask your record company.

But I think I'm finally hip to Kanye's game. I believe he's somewhat like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods in the sense that despite being one of the greatest in their sports, they still needed and sought out extra motivation. That motivation usually came in the form of criticisms or perceived slights by the media and/or fellow competitors. Kanye uses disrespect to keep pushing the envelope with his music and his career, and it definitely seems to be working. However, it's worth pointing out, MJ and Tiger keep those slights to themselves for the most part, where Kanye seemingly goes out of his way to tell the world that he got dissed. Just let it go, Kanye. You can't win everything all the time. And remember you're smart enough, you're good enough, and doggonit people like you!

3) Utah throttles UCLA 44-6.
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(Courtesy: LA Times)

Wow, talk about the shock of the weekend. Even if you thought the Utes were good enough to compete with or even beat the Bruins at home, there's no way you thought the margin would have been 38 points. The question now is, how will UCLA respond? Karl Dorrell said recently that even though the loss to Utah was embarrassing, it's no time to panic. Bruins fans probably don't want to hear that, but it's true. They are still undefeated in the PAC-10, and if they want to remain that way, they need to focus on Saturday's match up with Washington. If you spend too much time looking back, you're likely to get runover by what is in front of you.

4) USC dropkicks Nebraska in Lincoln 49-31.
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I'm still not sure who would win a match up between the Trojans and LSU, but I do know this: USC has as much claim to the #1 ranking as anybody. Pete Carroll's team was a victim of its schedule the first two weeks of the season. An uninspired blowout of Idaho and a bye week gave pundits and fans plenty of time to hypothesize that the Trojans were not as good as first believed. Prompting Tommy Trojan to say Saturday night after the game, "I've got your hypothesis right here!"

USC thoroughly dominated Bill Callahan's team in every facet of the game. And don't let the score fool you, the Trojans led 49-17 before putting in the last players on the depth chart and giving up two touchdowns in the final 5:00. This game was over at halftime, something every one of the 81,000 fans at Memorial Stadium can attest to.

Here's my current top 5 teams, even if I don't have a vote in the AP or Harris Polls.

1) USC (probably not as good as Leinart & Bush's teams, but they can still win it all)
1) LSU (speed, speed and more speed.. and as we all know in football, speed kills)
3) Florida (quietly looking as dominant as anyone in the country)
4) Oklahoma (the Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State has the Sooners booming in '07)
5) West Virginia (White & Slaton: enough said)

5) Kentucky stuns Louisville 40-34.
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(Courtesy: Lexington Herald-Leader)

Let me start by stating this fact: I am a proud graduate of the University of Kentucky. So, with that being said, I'm sure you can appreciate the joy I felt Saturday night as my Wildcats rallied to knock off the 9th-ranked Cardinals in the final minute. Not only did that victory snap a 4-game losing streak against Louisville, it also relieved some of the frustration built up through countless near misses and unbelievable defeats at Commonwealth Stadium for the UK faithful.

Two of the biggest collapses came against Florida in 1993 and LSU in 2002. Each time UK fans were ready to finally celebrate an upset of a top-ranked team, only to see the impossible become yet another reality of Kentucky football. I'm especially happy for the players and the coaching staff since they are the ones who put in the long hours of preparation for games each week. But my heart goes out to all the UK fans--myself included-- who felt as if they deserved a win such as this one as payback for decades of unrewarded faith in their team. Despite zero wins over a top-10 team and only two bowl game wins in 30 years, fans still poured into Commonwealth Stadium by the tens of thousands just hoping that this game would be the game. Thankfully, Saturday finally gave us That Game!

(Editor's note: 1993 was especially painful for me, because I had scheduled the party of all UK parties for after the game immediately across the street from the stadium--only to have the energy sucked right out of the night by Danny Wuerffel and Chris Doering. Heck, even the expected blowout would have been better than the last-second loss. We had 10 kegs waiting on ice, people!!)

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One other note from the UK/Louisville game: Andre Woodson outplayed Brian Brohm. The two state-born quarterbacks are a great story within themselves having grown up about 30 miles apart and competing against one another in both high school and college. But in the state's biggest game, it was Woodson who got the best of his more publicized counterpart. Brohm already owns a couple of wins in the Governor's Cup and he will likely still be the first QB chosen in next year's draft, but at least for one night in the commonwealth, Woodson's star shined the brightest.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Conversation with Angels Outfielder Garret Anderson

From the time I first arrived in LA, I was told by just about everybody that Garret Anderson hated the media and didn't seem to care too much about what happened on the field since he never showed any emotion. But I have found quite the contrary. He won't go out of his way to give you an interview, but he doesn't exactly run from the media either. And although, he's not as emotional as some other players on the field, no one cares more about winning and losing than Garret Anderson.

Garret, you put together the best single game performance in baseball this year when you drove in 10 runs against the Yankees. You have had some time now to think about it. Do you think that moment will define your career with the Angels?

No. I think being here for 13 years, the World Series, playing everyday and showing up, and being in this organization will probably define me a little bit more than one night. Playing here all these years is something that really sticks with me.

You could make a strong argument that you are “Mr. Angel.” You’ve played more games, you’ve got more hits, rbi, doubles, total bases, the longest hit streak, more grand slams. You own pretty much every record in the books with the Angels.

Yeah, I do, but I think my former teammate Tim Salmon probably has that title because he was the first one. He was the first guy to come through the system. I have respect for that. They can call him Mr. Angel, but they will know what I did on the field as well.

You talk about Tim and you look at yourself as well. It’s very rare nowadays in Major League Baseball for a player to be drafted by a team, come up through the minor leagues and play his entire career for that team. You are on path to do that with the Angels. That is a rarity to say the least.

Yeah, it is a rarity. It takes an effort on both sides. They made it possible for me to stay here. I have nothing but thanks for the people in the front office.

There’s a common misconception that Garret Anderson is very serious and he doesn’t laugh. But talking to some of your teammates, they say you are one of the funniest guys on the team. Are you just sly with the humor or is it just for certain people?

You know what? People only see me on the field. I had a talk with some reporters about it. What it boils down to is that win or lose, I never want the other team to know what I feel on the inside. Meaning that I don’t want to let them know if they got the best of me. And if I do something well-- like I did a while ago against the Yankees-- I don’t ever want them to think I’m showing them up. So, I’m going to be a professional. And what you see on the field is my interpretation of a professional. I have fun playing like everybody else. I enjoy coming out to the park, and I enjoy being silly with my teammates. They are true when they say that. I have a good time. You have to laugh in this game. We have so much failure, but on the field it’s going to be business.
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(Courtesy: LA Times)

One thing you’ve definitely been in your career is a professional. There’s no question about that. Let’s play a little “What’s In.” What’s in the Ipod?

Carl Thomas. He has new cd out. I’ve been listening to it quite a bit.

What’s in the DVD player?

The last movie I watched was “Breach.”

What’s in your travel bag when you hit the road?

Ipod. Portable dvd player. A couple of books.

Is it the same for every trip?

It pretty much stays the same. I keep the same things in there. I have a PSP in there. I’m playing Tiger Woods golf right now. And whatever book I may be reading at the time.

What’s in the garage?

I have a 1968 Pontiac Firebird that I restored. My mother-in-law gave it to me. I’ve run the gamut with cars. I get a free car from Toyota of Orange, and I just drive that right now.

What’s in your wildest dreams?

I can’t wait to see my 3 kids grow up and see what they get into with their lives. Something that’s a part of me living in this world. I’m hoping I can just mold them in the direction to go out and do something positive in their lives.

Conversation with UCLA Running Back Kahlil Bell

After missing most of last season due to injuries as well as a 2-game suspension for breaking team rules (translation: being too confrontational with teammates and coaches), Kahlil Bell opened the Bruins 2007 schedule by rushing for 195 yards against Stanford.

LL Cool J once said, ‘Don’t call it a comeback. I’ve been here for years.’ And I guess that applies to you as well, Kahlil. You’ve been a part of this team. You’ve shown what you can do, but now you are getting a much better chance to display those skills.

I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity that has presented itself to me. The coaches believe in me. My teammates believe in me, and they are giving me a chance to showcase my ability. Anytime I get the rock, that’s what I’m going to try to do—just showcase my ability and take advantage of the opportunity.

Is it a season of redemption for you though? Missing so many games last season with injuries and of course the suspension at the end of the season. Did you feel as if you had to redeem yourself in the eyes of your coaches and teammates?

I did in the beginning at spring ball and camp. Right now, it’s not a season of redemption. It’s a season of trying to win a championship. The stuff I’ve been through made me a stronger person, but now we need to focus, and I need to focus, on trying to be the best team in the PAC-10 and try to get that PAC-10 championship. That’s all my focus is on right now.

I would assume being away from the game as you were last season really gave you an added appreciation for it as well.

Very much so. A lot of people say ‘You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry.’ It took the things that transpired last year to happen [for me to realize that]. But now I’m back, I’m ready and I’ve put things behind me. I have moved on and I’m a better person and teammate for it.
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(Courtesy: LA Times)

People have seen what you can do on the field so far this season. Let’s get a little insight into your life off the field. Let’s play a little “What’s In.” What’s in your Ipod?

In my Ipod is a Bay Area rapper named, Mac Dre. He’s my favorite rapper. He’s his own person. That’s the thing about him. Nobody raps quite like Mac Dre, and that’s why I love him so much.

What’s in your DVD player?

The last thing I watched was this movie called “Afro Samurai.” It’s animated. I’m really into cartoons, “Dragon Ball Z,” and stuff like that.

What’s in your travel bag?

The thing I need to have in life most is cocoa butter. If I do not have my cocoa butter, we have problems. I must put on lotion every time I get out of the shower. I just love the smell of cocoa butter. I’ve been using it since I was like in the 7th grade. It’s the only lotion I use. Nothing else touches my skin.

What’s in your class schedule this semester?

A lot of people may actually find this funny or laugh, but I’m a history major and a theatre minor. So, I take a lot of theatre classes. I’m really into that. I like acting. I like being up in front of people and try to be a different person.

What’s in your wildest dreams?

To play on Sundays. I think a lot of people grow up and look forward to opportunity to get there. Hopefully in a couple of years, I will have the opportunity to play on Sundays and do what I do on that level. That’s a dream.

If you keep doing what you’ve been doing so far this season, NFL scouts will definitely be paying attention.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Conversation with UCLA Safety Dennis Keyes

Dennis, you’re a senior. You’ve been on this team for a while. I know a lot of expectations are on this team right now. But it seems to me, talking to some of the other seniors on this team, everyone’s expectations aren’t nearly as high as the expectations you place on yourselves.

We have high, high, high expectations. We’ve been here for 5 years and have been going through a struggle. Our expectations are to be the best in the country. People want us to be a good solid defense, but our expectation is to be the best and to go out there and just dominate anybody we come up against.

What gives you that confidence that it’s going to be that case this year? Even though the expectations are high, there are others out there still doubting what UCLA can do this year.

That doubt helps us. It adds motivation. Just having the experience and having 10 seniors on the starting defense helps us, and that’s what gives us that confidence in being able to go out there and feel as if we can dominate whoever we play against.

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(Courtesy: LA Times)

You look at the secondary and you have some pretty good athletes back there. You, Rodney Van and Trey Brown especially. I have to ask you about your boy Trey. Everyone calls him “Mr. Mouth” because he’s always talking. Do you like that? And does it help you guys on the defense for someone to be so talkative in the secondary.

I love it because he’s doing a great job of taking the opponents out of their game. If he can get them more caught up in talking back to him, then they are not too worried about their play and the route they are supposed to be running. It definitely helps the secondary. I love it anytime Trey is out there talking. Plus, it keeps me on my toes and gives me a good laugh in the middle of the game.

Are you a big talker?

Nah, I don’t talk too much. If someone says something to me, I’ll give them a little something back. But I’m not big on talking. I never have been.

You have too many other things to worry about?

I’m just focused on the game. I try to hear Trey more so than myself.

Because he’s funny, right?

He’s way funnier than I am. That’s for sure.

Let’s do a little “What’s In” so the fans can find out a bit more about Dennis Keyes. What’s in your Ipod?

Kanye West’s new album. It’s hot. A real good album. Real good. I have that and the new 50 Cent. They have that whole big controversy, but I think Kanye might have him.

They both tore it up at the MTV Video Music Awards. What’s in your DVD player?

The last movie I had in my DVD player was “Nacho Libre.” That movie is hilarious. Jack Black is a great comedian. I love that dude.

What’s in your travel bag when you guys hit the road?

My PSP-- play games, watch movies, and listen to music all in one. So, I gotta have my PSP.

What’s in your class schedule?

I’m just finishing up my final courses. I have this Latin American seminar to finish my history major.

With a history major, I guess you can always be a teacher if football doesn’t work out.

That’s what I planned on—work on football and when that’s over and done with I will go and teach on the high school level.

What’s in your wildest dreams?

My wildest dream is to be able to fly.


Yeah, like Superman. Just thinking back as a kid, that was in my dreams mostly every night. I think flying would be fun. Just go out there and be free in the sky.

Anyone who’s seen you on the football field knows that you fly around pretty well from your free safety position. So maybe there is still some flying in your future.

I hope so. I’ve been trying!

Conversation with Angels outfielder Reggie Willits

Here's a transcript of a conversation I had recently with Reggie Willits. It appeared on "Angels Live."

Reggie, you have quickly become one of the biggest fan favorites at Angel Stadium. How do you react to that? I know you catch it sometimes when the fans bring in signs and the girls yelling your name. You’ve become sort of a boyhood idol.

It’s something I’m kind of learning with. It’s something new to me. I really love the fans here. I appreciate all the support they give us. It’s something you really appreciate, but you try to stay focused when you are out there playing.

I guess that is an adjustment because when you are coming up through the minor leagues, you concentrate on baseball, baseball, baseball. When you make it, there are 44,000 fans at Angel Stadium pretty much every night watching you guys play.

One of the biggest adjustments you have to make when you do get to the big leagues is to control your emotions. You have to realize it’s just a game you’re playing. The same game you’ve been playing all those years. Can’t let your emotions get a hold of you.

Is it sometimes hard not to get caught up? Whether it’s a big momentum swing with the fans getting into it, you’ve got to feel that emotion as a player when you are at the plate or out in the field.

No matter where you play, when a big situation comes up, you kind of get that not really a nervous feeling, but that good feeling. If you don’t have that edgy feeling, something is wrong. I love it. I love to come up in big situations and have an opportunity to bunt a guy over, to try to win a game with a hit, or something like that. Early on in the year when I was kind of new to it, you really had to take a hold of your emotions going up there with all those people going crazy.

Let’s talk about dedication to baseball. There’s a story that shows your dedication to your craft. Correct me if I’m wrong, but at your home you were actually building a batting cage to work on your swing. It was going to be a part of the building of your house. Were you building the batting cage before the house?

What happened with that was my wife and I were staying in Norman, Oklahoma and decided to move back to where I was originally from because I was gone so much. We had about 4-5 acres and built a utility-type building where I was going to put a weight room and a batting cage. When I finished, I was in the minor leagues and we basically ran out of money. So we had two options, either live with my parents or try to find a way to live in the batting cage. We basically figured out a way to live there, and we’ve lived there the last 3 years. Her house will hopefully be done real soon because she’s ready to get out of there.

Yeah, hopefully so because I can see how living with Mom would not be a good idea for a brand new marriage. Ok, let’s play a little “What’s In.” What’s in your Ipod?

Country music. I’m a country music guy. I like Jason Aldean and Brad Paisley. They are my two favorites.

What’s in you DVD player?

I like all kinds of movies, but I like serious movies that are intense. I watched “300” the other day. It was pretty good. I like movies with a lot of action in them.

What’s in your travel bag? When you go on the road, what do you have to have with you?

I like to read, so I take a little entertainment book, plus my PSP. But the two things I absolutely could not do without: a pillow and my Bible.

What’s in your garage?

I’m driving a Dodge quad cab truck.

What’s in your wildest dreams?

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve dreamed about being in the major leagues. Every kid envisions going out there like [Darrin] Erstad did when he caught that final out in the World Series. I think that would be pretty amazing to accomplish something like that.

The rate you and the team are going, who knows, it could happen this year. Good luck!


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Russell Martin Feature (FSN Airdate: July 2007)

This feature ran during "Dodgers Live" in July.

From calling a game, throwing out runners and doing damage at the plate, Russell Martin is “Mr. Everything” when it comes to the catcher position.

In less than two full seasons in the Major Leagues, he established himself as one of the elite catchers in the game and one of the more invaluable players on the Dodgers roster.

“It's not only with his play on the field,” said Dodgers Manager Grady Little. “This kid listens to everything you say so you better tell him right. He's going to listen and he's going to put it into force in his own game. He'll put it right into play.

“This kid is so much fun to watch play. He works hard everyday. I can't sit here and tell you enough about the kid, and I think the people around the country are recognizing his value.”

“Russell is very polished for 24,” said Mets and former Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca. “Not only does he have the talent, but he knows the game. He plays the game the right way, and he has the intensity that you want too. He's going to be a good player for a long time. “

And as of right now, he may be 'the' best in the National League behind the plate. He leads all catchers in hits, runs, RBI, stolen bases and games played. Statistics that are more than deserving of his starting spot in the All-Star Game.

“The other day I was driving by Santa Anita thinking about Seabiscuit and then I started thinking about Russell in the same breath. Because he was on the West Coast, nobody knew about that horse, but he turned out to be ok.

“This kid deserves anything he can get. And whatever support he can get from anyone is well deserved.”

Martin received that support thanks in part to new marketing campaign from the Dodgers which urged fans to vote as many times as they were allowed for their favorite backstop.

“It's not something you want to think about during the season too much. I mean we've got other things to think about, said Martin. “But definitely as a kid, that's one of the things you want to do. It's like a dream come true.

“It's kind of gratifying because you play hard everyday, and it just means that the fans appreciate the effort that you put out. It's just a pleasure to be put in with all the great names--all the great catchers that are out there today. It's a pleasure.”

Brian Price Feature (FSN Airdate: Feb. 2007)

This feature ran during FSN's National Signing Day Special in February. As of this publishing, Brian Price has yet to be cleared by the NCAA to play this season.

At 6'1" and 285lbs and the ability to bench press 400lbs, Brian Price may seem to be indestructible. And on the high school football field, he has been. In fact, it's Price who's been doling out the destruction at Crenshaw High School the last few seasons.

"He made my linebacking career very easy," said Crenshaw Linebacker Elijah-blu Smith. "I got two All-City honors through him just opening holes ready for me to just go make plays. And people don't see that sometimes. [With] him causing so much attention makes it easier for us."

But that rugged exterior has been shaped and hardened the last nine years by some internal destruction--as in a broken heart. Not once, but twice.

In 1998, Brian's brother, Eddie, was shot and killed while coming to the aid of a young lady being harassed by a group of would-be killers.

And then in 2003, Brian's other brother, Damon, was murdered in cold blood by a personal friend.

Each tragedy alone was devastating beyond belief. But two equally traumatic events within just 5-years of one another would without question leave an unnerving effect on even the most mature of teenagers.

"I thought I was going to be next. You know, being killed," said Price. "And I was scared to walk around at night and stuff. [I] never went outside."

"With him, he felt he was going to be the next person in the family, said Brian's father, Frank Price. "On his highlight tape, he has this song, "Sole Survivor." He looks at himself as the sole survivor in the family."

To help him deal with the mourning process, Brian turned to two outlets--football and drawing. Both of them gave him a means of releasing his emotions. One through physicality. The other through creativity.

"When I was young, my hand would just take over and draw things that I would think in my head," said Price. "Sometimes it would help me ease the pain, but sometimes it wouldn't. I would just draw because I loved to do it, and as a remembrance of my brothers."

"That is his way of coping," said Brian's mother Jeanetta Price. "It's amazing how we have to go through our own little ways of.. you can't tell me how to get through, or overcome, you have to find it from within. And drawing is one of his tactics."

That love for creativity made Brian's choice for a major in college an easy one. He wants to be an architect.

But his other tactic for dealing with the loss of his brothers is the reason he will attend college absolutely free. Price played his way into one of the most sought after recruits in Southern California. He's a defensive tackle in the mold of a Warren Sapp.

Both UCLA and USC--along with other PAC-10 schools--battled to sign him. But when it came time to make a decision, it was the Bruins who made the lasting impression. "Right after they offered me, they continued to recruit me," said Price. "I went up there and they invited me to games. I enjoyed the time I spent up there.

"I quickly got a relationship with Coach [DeWayne] Walker, [Karl] Dorrell and Todd Howard. Those are the guys I committed to. I committed because of those guys."

"UCLA is going to get one hell of a ballplayer, said Frank Price. "He is going to be committed. He is going to do what ever the coaches ask him to do. And if he commits to the coaches the way they commit to him, UCLA is going to win a national championship. He will not be denied."

And the Bruins will have Price and his fallen brothers to thank for that.

Rey Maualuga Feature (FSN Airdate: Sept. 2006)

In addition to my regular posts, I will also be sharing some of the feature stories I write for FSN. Some of these are from last season.

At 6'3" and 250 pounds, Rey Maualuga has been a star-in-waiting since arriving on campus in 2005. With the speed of a running back and the strength of an offensive lineman, number-58 could one day be revered as much as legendary former USC number 55's Junior Seau and Willie McGinnest.

"He's a great player," said USC Head Coach Pete Carroll. "He'll be big time. He's so athletically gifted. He'll play on Sundays for a long time."

But before we can look to Maualuga's future, we must first look at his past. Growing up in Eureka, Calif.--about 270 miles north of San Francisco--kids had to be tough both on and off the field. A fact Maualuga had no choice but to accept.

And when he came to USC, he struggled with some of the cultural differences between Eureka and Los Angeles, as well as being away from his tight-knit family.

In November 2005, Maualuga was booked on suspicion of misdemeanor battery after punching a student at a Halloween party. Two months later, his father passed away after a long bout with cancer.

"I know my dad's here in my heart. I know he's there with me, said Maualuga. "I'm going to treat each day as if he's here, and I'm blessed to have people that care and stuck with me even though my dad is not here."

"It rocked his world when his father passed away, said Carroll. "It had been happening for a long time before he passed, and it did affect Rey a great deal. All of that and being a freshman at USC and everything, it was very difficult. And he got himself into a situation and made a terrible mistake, and then he had to deal with his dad passing soon after that too. So it had a big effect on him.

"He has grown. "It is a wonderful process to watch kids grow up and take care of their responsibilities and Rey has done that."

And he's done even more on the field. After earning freshman All-American honors in 2005, he quickly became the most ferocious tackler on the premier unit of the Trojans defense--earning a starting job just two games into his sophomore season.

"My goal is to be a leader and go out there and take charge and show everybody what I can do is something special," said Maualuga.

Michael Pitre Feature (FSN Airdate: Aug. 2006)

In addition to my regular posts, I will also be sharing some of the feature stories I write for FSN. Some of these are from last season.

The average fan attending a college football game has no idea what physical and mental pressures these athletes must endure. And yet, not every football player is capable of dealing with those pressures--let alone overcoming them to be successful.

However, there are individuals such as Michael Pitre, a quiet unassuming fullback for the UCLA Bruins. A player not even many UCLA fans would recognize because he doesn't light up a stat sheet nor does he bring additional attention to himself. But to a man, the Bruins say Pitre is one of the most indispensable players on the roster.

"I'm willing to do whatever it takes for this team to win," said Pitre. "If it means touching the ball more [or] if it's blocking. I'm just gonna try to do my job to the fullest."

But there's much more to Michael Pitre than his bone-crushing blocks or his versatility out of the backfield. Pitre is a survivor. In fact, it's amazing he's even playing football at all.

After just 3 practices his freshman year, doctors advised him to end his career before it even got started out of fear that a spinal condition could result in paralysis. Advice Pitre was unwilling to follow.

"I realized that I couldn't be at school without football," Pitre said. "Football to me was everything. It's what I've always wanted to do. And with the condition that I have, I would hate to get hurt outside doing something else living my everyday life, and miss an opportunity to play college football."

But that physical injury pales in comparison to the mental pain Pitre suffered off the field. His mother, Allison, was diagonsed with thyroid cancer while he was in high school. A tragic blow that caused ripple effects throughout the family, especially to Michael, the youngest of 4 children.

"When my mom got sick, my mind really wasn't on school," said Pitre. "I would come home and see her struggling, or I would have to miss school to take her to her chemotherapy. There were alot of times I was away from school. That stuff wears on you after a while."

Odds are most of us do understand. Just about everyone has been touched in some way or another by cancer. But as daunting a task as it was to deal with his mother's deteriorating health, Pitre actually found inspiration in his mother's struggles.

"It really made my focus have to go back to school and what I was doing," said Pitre. "I was one of the few at-risk players to get into UCLA. "I was not only going to high school, but I was also going to a junior college repeating a math class that I didn't pass at my high school to get into UCLA. So I think it really refocused my mind on what my goal was."

Pitre's mother finally succomb to cancer in March 2003, but not before instilling into her son a passionate work ethic that promises to serve him on and off the field for several years to come.

"I try to tell myself if she can sit there and go through the things she went through then I can come out here and work for 2 hours a day and bust my butt on the field because she was fighting the ultimate battle," said Pitre. "This is something I do for fun."