When I was a pre-teen (or as they say in the industry – TWEEN) I, like many others, thought The Outsiders, written by mercurial housewife S.E. Hinton, was the third greatest piece of literature ever penned – right behind That Was Then and This Is Now (also part of the Hinton canon) and of course the novelization of Private Lessons.
I liked That Was Then and This Is Now more than The Outsiders because I could relate to characters named “Mark” and “Byron” more than I could “Ponyboy” and “Sodapop.” Still, when you grow up on the poor side of town in the tough streets of Monmouth County New Jersey, you’re no stranger to being jeolous of the rich kids and feel the need to bust some heads. I mean, I’m a stranger to that, I was one of the rich kids and had little time for the greasy minions who would eventually grow-up to change my oil at the Jiffy Lube and perform as Guy #36 in the latest Gang Bang Audition flick. Once a kid in my elementary school stole my whiffle ball bat so in retaliation I just simply bribed a member of the mob-controlled city council to fire his dad from the sanitation department, eventually resulting in the mom leaving the dad which drove the kid to soft drugs which eventually led to a career as a dancing sandwich in front of a subway that I believe I now own.
Still, I loved the book The Outsiders, and read the book twice – both in my 11th year of life. When the movie came out a year later in 1983 I was more excited than my wife when Ben & Jerry’s came out with Willie Nelson’s Peach Cobbler. And I was hugely disappointed in the movie. First of all, they deleted the entire first chapter – and THAT CHAPTER SET THE TONE FOR THE BOOK – God Damn It. Secondly, by focusing so much on Ponyboy (C.Thomas Howell of Side Out fame) and Johnny (Ralph Maccio, currently on Dancing with the Stars) that it short shrifted the secondary characters and along with that we don’t see enough of Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe. Granted Lowe was completely miscast and Cruise could overact in Fruit-of-the-Loom commercial (that’s right F. Murray Abraham, I’m calling you out), but still the movie could have used more balance.
Yet with that said, I couldn’t stop watching it over and over again on HBO. I was fascinated by the way Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Burum, and the entire Art Direction department tried to paint this rather slight teenage melodrama as if it was the next version of Gone with the Wind. I was fascinated by how hot Diane Lane was – one of her top 3 best-looking performances along with Ladies and Gentleman, the Fabulous Stains and Unfaithf ul. (Her least sexy performance? Last year’s Secretariat. I mean when she stares down the horse while speaking to it telepathically it ended any chance of an erection).
And I was fascinated trying to figure out how high Leif Garrett was during his scenes – it was like watching the male version of Dawn Buccellato when I was in high-school? Why does she keep getting up to go to the bathroom during Dan Lane’s English class? Doesn’s she know he’s Nathan’s brother.
In the NFL, the outsiders are the Outside Linebackers. Those who drop down into coverage; those who rush off the edge; those who chase down running backs from the backfield. And like the movie, the book on outside linebackers is built upon the foundation of greatness – L.T., Andre Tippett, Derrick Thomas, Ricky Jackson, even 3-4 pass rushing mavens like Pat Swilling. However, just like The Outsiders strides for greatness that it never achieves, the same can be said with most of the Outside Linebackers drafted in the last 10 years. Yes, Clay Mathews is coming off a banner year and the Redskins’ Brian Orakpo can bring the pressure, but what you end up with more are guys who don’t quite live up to expections – Aaron Curry, Keith Rivers, Jerod Mayo, A.J. Hawk, Ernie Sims, Boss Bailey, Napoleon Harris.
This year, however, there hasn’t been a faster riser since the end of the college football season through the bowl season and into the combines and right up to draft day then Texas A&M’s Von Miller.
The Aggies defense wasn’t great last year but it’s hard to pin that on Miller. Sure, I’d like to see more than the 21 reps he lifted at the combines but not everyone can be UCF’s Bruce Miller and that guy’s slower than BK after an all-you-can Zankou Chicken Buffet.
I might not take Von over Bruce in an arm-wrestle, but I like that 4.53 40, and then you combine that 6.70 3-cone drill with a 4.06 20-yard shuttle and 10’6″ broad? Get out of town mack, big Von Miller has it all going for him. He’s so clearly heads and tails over any other OLB in the draft that a TOP 5 pick seemsall but a given.
The rest of the outside linebackers we’ll break down as follows:
DALLAS WINSTON: BRUCE CARTER
North Carolina had a goofy season in 2010. Going into the season, everyone said UNC had the most talent in all of College Football. Everyone said more NFL Draft choices were coming out of Chapel Hill in 2011 than any other program. Despite this, no one picked them to be the National Champion – most people picked them to finish 2nd in the ACC Coastal Division. Then, right before they kick-off the season versus LSU ,they end up throwing something like 194 kids off the team for various violations including many of the top Pro Prospects. They still end up playing LSU competively before limping to an 8-5 record and beating a sub-.500 Tennessee team in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl to close out their strange season.
Like Matt Dillon’s Dallas Winston, UNC’s Bruce Carter is all talent and questions; a scallop of potential wrapped in a trouble of bacon.
He managed to sidestep some of UNC’s trouble, but Carter has the added dollop of a torn ACL in December and a spattering of other injuries that have derailed various parts of his college career.
His physicals are impressive. A Pro-Day 4.57 40 with a respectable 25 reps. His performance in 2010 inconsistent – just 2.5 sacks prior to the injury. Can he stay healthy and find the right motivation to reach his potential? Or does he end up dying on the football field just like Dallas died on the street? When the Giants draft him in the 2nd round we’ll find out.
DARREL CURTIS: JUSTIN HOUSTON
Patrick Swayze as Darrell Curtis was a man among boys in The Outsiders and in many ways at 270 pounds and 30 reps, Georgia’s Justin Houston may not be Swayze’s ghost but he doesn’t back down. He ran a respectable sub 4.70 40 at the combines and can shuffle his feet a bit too. He’s being converted from defensive end and some people question how that will turn out. But Brandon Graham made that switch and netted himself a 13th overall pick last year. While Houston won’t be drafted as high, I don’t see why he should be considered just a 2nd rounder. It’s like when they say The Hold Steady are just some poor man’s child of Husker Du mating in a barn with Bruce Springsteen circa The Wild, the Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle. Sure sure that’s all true and granted Houston may hold up over time worse than “Sandy”, but like Darrell Curtis this Georgia peach is a tough son-of-a-gun and as a situational pass-rusher he’ll easily be as effective as Graham.
JOHNNY CADE: AKEEM AYERS
Let’s call a spade a spade here. The idea that Diane Lane’s Cherry Valance would be attracted to greasy, too-Italian for his own good, 95-pound Johnny Cade (played with whimpering gusto by Ralph Macchio) was ludicrous. Yet, OH CHERRY, she kisses Johnny and don’t let anyone tell you different, that could really happen. So just because the idea that a guy from recently football weak UCLA who only ran a 4.8 at the combines and couldn’t pull off more than 18 reps (and don’t even get me started on the 7.49 3-cone drill) could actually be an effective outside linebacker at the pro level may seem ludicrous. But Johnny Cade had heart and that’s what Cherry saw and perhaps that’s what scouts see in Ayers as well.
Ayers is, so he likes to say, a football player. Plain as can be. “Ignore the physicals”, Ayers’ said to me recently in a make believe conversation we had outside the Ronald Reagan Medical Center, “and focus on the play…focus on the heart…focus, if you will, on what’s in here” and he points to his stomach because he just had the big Fat Deal at the Westwood Fatburger with fat fries right next to that camera shop and honestly, how does that place stay in business?
Yet as much as I like Akeem Ayers, I have a hard time seeing it. He’s not a playmaker and strikes me as another Michael Boley and I don’t even know if he’ll be as solid as Boley who while not big-time play-maker, is at least a starter.
Then again, we all remember when Johnny Cade won that karate tournament, dumped Cherry Valance for Ali Mills and eventually ended up washed up and playing a supporting role to Artie Lange in a movie about a softball team so dreams can come true…unfortunately I fear they won’t for whatever team is foolish enough to draft Akeem Ayers.
TWO-BIT MATHEWS: DONTAY MOCH
Have you ever been to the University of Nevada campus at Reno? Have you ever been to Reno? Reno can seem like a town time forgot. Home of casino’s that aren’t as nice as they never really were, people who love bowling and suburbs of individuals yearning to pretend they aren’t less than hour’s drive from a row of brothels in Carson City one way and nicer casino’s that pay out less the other way in Tahoe.
Forgotten…that’s what Emilio Estevez’s Two-Bit Mathews must have felt like. It’s not a particularly big character and, along with Tom Cruise’s Steve Randle, barely belongs in the movie. In fact, because they cut that first damn chapter out of the film why not just eliminate Two-Bit’s character altogether?
Well, that’s what some will say about UNR’S Dontay Moch. Why bother mentioning this converted defensive end who was part of a defensive squad that was lit up on more than one occassion in 2010? Well, how does a 4.4 40 on a nearly 250lbs. frame strike you Jack? What do 41.5 tackles for a loss and 14.5 sacks in his last 2 year’s of college ball mean to you Leroy? I think maybe a 3.85 GPA majoring in Hotel Management with a minor in Mexican-American Folklore could possibly ring your bell Sarah? Too bad that last part didn’t actually happen.
Still, I’m not going to give up on Dontay the way The Outsiders screenwriter Kathleen Rowell did on Two-Bit. If the feeling is that guys like Houston, Brooks Reed and Sam Acho can make the conversion than seemingly Moch can too. There’s some concern about how he does at the point of attack, about his general ability to read coverage and the rest, but right now he’s projecting as 3rd round pick and for a guy with legitimate pass rushing skillz and real NFL size and speed that doesn’t make sense.
No no, Two-Bit Moch’s gonna make it this man’s NFL.
PONYBOY CURTIS: MARTEZ WILSON
I honestly have nothing against C.Thomas Howell. I enjoyed The Hitcher despite both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s disgust upon their initial review. And while Soul Man was an unfortunate choice and he’s carried by Peter Horton in Side Out, let’s not forget he kicks some ass while still showing vulnerability in Red Dawn and his performance in Jail Bait isn’t nearly as awful as the film itself is.
Still, C. Thomas Howell could not handle the full-weight of the Pony Boy Curtis role. I’m sorry it’s true. And I fear the same will be the fate of the Fighting Illini’s Martez Wilson. You see that 6-4″, 250lbs. body moving down the field at a 4.49 40 pace and you watch clips of his seeming versatility in playing well against the run and pass and you think – this guy could make it. Just like C. Thomas. You saw him in E.T., why can’t he play Pony Boy?
I don’t even care about the herniated disc that had him miss all of 2009; but I can’t dismiss the 2008 stabbing at 2 in the morning and I can’t dismiss the general underachievement and lack of consistency when he actually did get on the field.
Pony Boy left the Outsider’s a scarred man and C. Thomas Howell left the set of The Outsiders with a far less promising career than he had coming into it. We didn’t see Tank coming, but we can see the problem Martez Wilson is going to become. Yet NFL teams will be tempted and truly believe he’s changed; like the time BK truly believed that Tijuana stripper liked him because she slipped him the tongue. But in the end BK left that bar that night penniless, broken-hearted and chock-full of gential warts and I fear the same thing will happen to Cincinnati Bengal GM Mike Brown after he drafts Martez Wilson in the 2nd round.
In 1983 the New York Football Giants were coming off Bill Parcell’s first year as head coach and it didn’t go well. The Giants went 3-12-1 and the vultures were circling around Parcells. Seemingly the one-strength the team did have going into the 1984 campaign was their linebacking corps, consisting of emerging superstar Lawrence Taylor, perennial All-Pro’s Harry Carson and Brad Van Pelt and solid veteran Brian Kelly. Known as the “Crunch Bunch” these 4 backers were seemingly the only thing keeping the G-Men from complete ineptitude. Granted the 3rd pick that year in the draft, I stayed home from school and anxiously awaited to see who the Giants were going to pick? One of my two favorite defensive tackles perhaps – Pitt’s Bill Maas or Oklahoma’s Rick Bryan? Perhaps trade down and pick-up a solid run-pulling guard like Maryland’s Ron Solt? Or best yet, give Jeff Rutledge (who ended the ’83 season as the starting QB) something to work with and draft Penn State’s exciting wide-out Kenny “Don’t Call me Jesse” Jackson. Instead, the Giants drafted Michigan State’s Carl Banks, yet another outside linebacker. “Why George Young, why?” I screamed at the TV while eating a PB&J and Choco Milk. But it turned out to be stroke of genius by the bespectacled Young as Van Pelt and Kelly were both at the end of their careers and Banks turned out to be an All-Pro caliber linebacker for the Giants for the next decade. In face, he was debatably the best player picked in the entire first round of the draft that year. On an unrelated note, BK also stayed home from school that day with a bad case of head lice which he apparently contracted from a Tijuana stripper he met at the tender age of 12. He knew nothing of football at the time, nor apparently, of proper hair washing technique.
TOP 8 OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
1. Von Miller, Texas A&M – Nothing more to say here, Miller will be the first (and possibly only) OLB selected in the first round and should be a Pro-Bowler by year 3.
2. Justin Houston, Georgia – Picking converted defensive lineman to make an impact their first year in the league is as risky as meeting John Travolta alone in a men’s bathroom. But one of these college DE’s is going to make it work in the pro’s and my money is on Houston.
3. Bruce Carter, North Carolina – Injuries and inconsistency means laying my chips down on Carter a questionable choice. But I was an underachiever in high-school and college and look at me now? I write this blog for free. So my money is on Bruce Carter to make it – as either a pro linebacker or amateur blogger. Either way, I win.
4. Dontay Moch, Nevada – I once stayed at the MGM Grand in Reno as a child and spent the entire time bowling while my father gambled away my college money in a wicked game of Baccarat. On an unrelated note, Donty Moch went to school in Reno and scored a high DDI.
5. Chris Carter, Fresno State – The 2nd OLB Carter ranked in this year’s draft has speed, power and a wicked high DDI which could make him the SodaPop Curits of 2011.
6. K.J. Wright, Mississippi State – I like guys from Mississippi State because after reading “The Blind Side” Michael Lewis paints it as being the Watts of College Campuses which means someone would have motivation to leave there. I also like folks who’s initials are the same as former NBA All-Star Point Guards and current mayor’s of Sacramento as opposed to those whose initials mirror poorly produced, faux-European sneakers.
7. Martez Wilsonm, Illinois – I can’t deny his talent exists, but his DDI is lower than than Bow Wow’s pants and even his BK-o-Meter ranks him lower than one would expect despite the physicals.
8. Mike Herzlich, Boston College – I’m not going to put this guy down, I mean he’s a cancer survivor who knows how to play football. But his long-term health sadly still has to be a question and his physicals aren’t great. Plus he’s from Boston so he’s probably got a drug-addicted brother who used to be a professoinal fighter and is now just trying to make ends meet and will eventually have a movie made about his life and it will likely star Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg or, more likely, C.Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio.
Brian Rolle, Ohio State
“Don’t let something undersized fool you” said BK shortly after disrobing prior to his first intimate encounter with CK1. “It’s short but can pack a powerful punch.” At only 5’10” and under 230 many teams will dismiss Rolle as too small to play in the league. A special teamer at best. But he’s quick (4.53 40); strong (28 reps) and like BK on that infamous night he possess a quick burst before exploding and making a play.