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Custom Leo Sanford Jersey Large

A two-time all-conference pick at both center and linebacker for Louisiana Tech, an all-America selection in 1950, and a linebacker on the mythical all-Louisiana First 100 years of Football team, Leo Sanford recently established an endowed scholarship, the largest in Tech Athletics history, to be awarded annually to a deserving student-athlete.

Family and friends gather to celebrate the Leo and Myrna Sanford Endowed Athletics Scholarship.“I’ll be happy to have given the second-largest endowed scholarship if one of you other guys would step up,” Sanford said recently at the breakfast that an unofficial club of friends enjoy each Friday in Shreveport at Southfield Grill.

“Leo, you’re such an icon to us as an institution; the best part of my job is getting to say ‘thank you’ to people like you who support the University’s mission and truly understand what we’re trying to do,” Tech Vice-President for University Advancement Brooks Hull said. “We celebrate this moment and gift today, but your philanthropy started long ago.”

President Les Guice recently held a lunch reception to honor the Tech Athletics Hall of Famer and Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer in the Chris Richardson Family Suite Level at Joe Aillet Stadium, which sees its 51st season of football begin Sept. 8 when the Bulldogs host Southern in Tech’s 2018 home opener.

“Listen, it was a great day,” Sanford said. “When the president does something like that for you … the AD was there and a few others, a lot of my family. The food was great and the atmosphere was out of this world.”

“Leo has had a most positive impact on Louisiana Tech since arriving on campus 70 years ago,” Guice said. “He has set a standard of excellence, loyalty and commitment to this institution as a student athlete and alumnus that few can match. His performance as an athlete at Tech and in the NFL played a major role in elevating Tech’s reputation as a powerhouse in the Joe Aillet era, a reputation that Tech continues to benefit from today.”

“I made this investment because I think Tech is one of the finest schools you can go to, for two reasons: for education and also for athletics,” he added. “I realize we may not be in the class of majors like Notre Dame or LSU, but we play a good brand of football. And you don’t have to spend every nickel in your savings account to go to a game. You can take your whole family and you’re going to see football as good as you’ll see it played anywhere.”

The scholarship will reach all teams in Tech’s athletics department, not just football.

“Might be a basketball player or a track man,” Sanford said. “I gave it to the program to use as they see fit; whatever is best for the school and the program.”

Sanford hopes the scholarship will help an athlete who loves the game, needs the financial assistance, and is willing to persevere, which is something he knows a little about: In 1943, when he was a sophomore at Shreveport’s Fair Park High, Sanford was one of only four players on the Fair Park football squad who didn’t get game uniforms. Fifteen years later, he was wrapping up an 8-year NFL career in Yankee Stadium in “the greatest game ever played,” Sanford’s and Baltimore’s overtime victory over the New York Giants.

Such a gift as this endowed scholarship is not out of the ordinary for Sanford. Bobby Aillet, a Tech teammate for two years with Sanford, has been close friends with him since, and the two families they formed grew up together and often traveled together.

“He wouldn’t fit the mold of most of today’s linemen,” said Aillet, who retired from NCAA football officiating as one of the game’s most respected referees. “He is a very gentle man but a very hard-working linebacker. None of that ugly stuff, nasty stuff; he was strictly about tending to his business.

“I wouldn’t say he was gentle on the field, because he wasn’t,” Aillet said. “He was always a very gentle man, but a hard player. He was right there at center and linebacker, right in the middle of things. But such a kind person.”

He and his late wife Myrna, who passed away this spring, began dating when he was a student at Fair Park High in Shreveport and she was a soda jerk. From her obit:“On their first real date he told her he was going to marry her, and she told him he was crazy. While she spent the next 68 years admitting he was right, she’d also tell you he was still crazy.”

Curt Joiner, one of Leo’s son-in-laws, will tell you it’s a “good” kind of crazy. “I don’t know if there’s any guy in the world I enjoy spending an evening with more than my father-in-law,” Joiner said.

“Leo and Myrna have maintained loyal support and involvement in Tech’s activities over many decades, frequently reuniting at Tech events with other legends from that era, while inspiring many of us by their loyalty to their alma mater,” Guice said. “Now we’ve celebrated a new standard established by Leo, the most generous athletics scholarship endowment in Tech’s history. In honoring Myrna, that gift will benefit and inspire many other student athletes and alumni in the future.”

The Sanfords, for decades a fixture at all sorts of Tech events, invested in each other and in the University, but also deeply in friendships. The weekly Friday breakfast group was started by former Tech football player and Fair Park High coach, the late Clem Henderson, with 47 present 10 years ago. Time has marched own, but a few of the longtime friends are still able to gather: Sanford and fellow former Bulldogs Aillet and Charlie Glover, former Arkansas hoops star Leo McDonald from Many, Tech supporters Glenn Price and Joe Roach, and the only LSU Tiger in the bunch, Jack Daniel.

“But,” Sanford said with a smile, “he’s still a good guy. And, we’ve got him outnumbered.”

Tech’s student-athletes have continued to increase their success in the classroom over the past decade. In the NCAA’s most recent Academic Progress Rates (APR) released in May, all 16 of Louisiana Tech’s Division I sanctioned programs remained penalty-free, and two programs recorded historical bests in their multi-year scores.

Women’s soccer and softball both recorded their highest multi-year rates at 984 and 987, respectively, while baseball, football, men’s golf, women’s basketball and women’s cross country joined them with an increase in their scores from the previous year.

Tech also posted its highest multi-year average of 965.4, besting last year’s 963.0 by 2.5 points. It marks the eighth time in the last nine years that LA Tech has boasted an average of 960 or higher on its multi-year rate.

Custom Lee Nelson Jersey Large

Hall of Fame Class: 1987 (Football)

One of the hardest hitters to ever roam the Seminole secondary, Lee Nelson earned his place in the Florida State Hall of Fame after spending just two years on the campus. Nelson walked on to the Seminole team in 1974 and promptly won a starting cornerback job. He led FSU in tackles that year (86) and as a senior, was named the Seminole MVP on defense. He finished his collegiate career by playing in the American Bowl All-Star game. As a 15th round draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1976, the odds were against him once again but he not only made the club but went on to spend the next 11 years with the Cardinals. He retired from pro football in 1986.

Custom Lyle Sendlein Jersey Large

Patrick Vahe still has a chance to make an NFL roster. The former Texas offensive lineman who started for the Longhorns for four seasons made it through rookie mini-camp with the Baltimore Ravens and was signed by the franchise on Monday.

Vahe was one of two players signed by the Ravens to fill out the team’s 90-man roster following the mini-camp, which took place this past weekend. By no means is Vahe a lock to survive the cut to make the 53-man roster once training camp ends (even though the Baltimore Sun reported upon Vahe’s signing that left guard specifically has been an issue for the club), but he wouldn’t be the first undrafted free agent offensive lineman from the Texas program to catch on in the NFL.

Beginning with Lyle Sendlein in 2007, Texas has seen six undrafted free agent offensive linemen — Kyle Hix, Michael Huey, David Snow, Donald Hawkins, Trey Hopkins and Kent Perkins — become either active-roster players for various franchises, stick on a roster as a member of the injured reserve (Hix spent two seasons with the New England Patriots) or get multiple chances to make a roster (Huey spent time with four different clubs over parts of four different seasons). Sendlein has enjoyed the most successful career among the undrafted Texas offensive linemen with 124 career starts over nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, but both Hopkins and Perkins spent active-roster players during the 2018 season with the Cincinnati Bengals (Hopkins logged nine starts while Perkins appeared in one game).

Like some of the aforementioned Longhorns, Vahe got no time to develop when he arrived on the Forty Acres (Sendlien was the only one of the seven who received a redshirt year in the program). Vahe and fellow 2015 signee Connor Williams were thrown into the fire immediately, becoming the first true freshmen offensive linemen in recorded school history to log starts in a season opener when Vahe and Williams were on the field for the first offensive snap at Notre Dame in 2015.

Including the Notre Dame game to begin his career, Vahe started 45 games for the Longhorns (all at left guard) and saw in action in 48 contests (three games missed due to injury). A 2015 Freshman All-American ( and a three-time honorable mention All-Big 12 performer during his career, Vahe is one of four Texas products on the Ravens roster as he joins former All-American safeties DeShon Elliott (2017) and Earl Thomas (2009) and kicker Justin Tucker.


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Elliott and Vahe were both members of the 2015 signing class that’s produced six NFL draft picks to date (Elliott, Williams, linebacker Malik Jefferson, punter Michael Dickson, defensive end Charles Omenihu and cornerback Kris Boyd). The first full-cycle recruiting class for former head coach has also produced one active-roster undrafted free agent (Holton Hill) and one undrafted full-season injured reserve roster member (Chris Warren III) with Vahe and safety P.J. Locke III (Pittsburgh Steelers) vying to get their way onto the roster of their respective clubs ahead of the 2019 season.

Custom Pat Harder Jersey Large

Marlin Martin “Pat” Harder (May 6, 1922 – September 6, 1992) (FB) was the first player in NFL history to scored 100 or more points in three consecutive seasons and was a member of the Chicago Cardinals “Million Dollar Backfield” with quarterback Paul Christman and halfback Charley Trippi. The Milwaukee native played fullback for the University of Wisconsin, leading them to an 8-1-1 record in 1942 and a third place finish in the NCAA national standings. In 1943, Pat began serving in the United States Marine Corps during World War II and turned pro after returning once the war ended. Having drafted Harder second overall in the 1944 NFL Draft, the Cardinals also used the 5’11, 200 pound fullback as a place kicker and kick returner. Subsequently, he led the NFL once in field goal attempts, field goals made and field goal percentage, twice in extra point attempts and extra points made and three times in total points from 1947 to 1949. Pat played eight seasons with the Cardinals (1946-1950) and the Detroit Lions (1951-1953) and was named to two NFL Pro Bowls. In 1948, Harder rushed for 554 yards and six touchdowns and hit 53 of 53 extra points to earn the NFL UPI Most Valuable Player award. He led the Cardinals to the 1947 NFL Championship and then took the Lions to back-to-back league titles in 1952 and 1953. Pat Harder finished his career with 3,016 rushing yards and 33 TDs, 864 receiving yards and five touchdowns, 35 field goals made on 69 attempts and 198 PATs on 204 attempts. In 86 career games, he scored a total of 531 points. Harder remained in football as an NFL official from 1966 to 1982 and officiated the famous 1972 Immaculate Reception game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. Pat Harder was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Custom Pat Tillman Jersey Large

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Another former Arizona Cardinals player is training to serve our country, and he says Pat Tillman was his inspiration to enlist. Army Specialist Jimmy Legree, 28, was a cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals just five years ago. Today, he’s at Fort Sill in Oklahoma for basic combat training.

[WATCH: “Putting service over self.”]

“I went a different route by going to college and playing football, but once that window was closed I reverted back to my Plan A, which was joining the military,” Legree told the Fort Sill Tribune.

Legree told the U.S. Army it was his childhood dream to serve in the military, but he also was one of the few to make it playing professional football. But just like Pat Tillman, Legree’s passion for our country never faded. “I think he’d be like, ‘Hell yeah! That guy’s a champ.’ He’d be 100% behind him,” said Jeremy Staat, who played football with Tillman at Arizona State University before they both played in the NFL.

Tillman decided to enlist in the Army after 9/11. He was killed while on patrol in the Khost Province of Afghanistan in April 2004. He was 27 years old.

A year later, Staat became U.S. Marine, serving in Iraq. “It was such being a part of something bigger. And above ourselves. Putting service over self,” he said.

Staat said he knows of fewer than 15 former NFL players who went on to serve the United States military over the past decade. He said it goes from a life of luxury to a one in the barracks — a tough transition very few will ever make. Staat commends Legree for making that sacrifice.

“It really motivated me,” he said. “[It] makes me excited to see there are still individuals ready to serve and willing to put their life on the line for this country. You don’t see enough of that today.”

Legree told the Army, which shared his story on its Facebook page, that it was Tillman’s passion for the game and his love for his country that helped encourage him to join. Staat said Tillman would be proud.

“Here we are, you know, 15 plus years after Pat’s death, and he’s still motivating and inspiring people to go in and serve and be the best that they can be,” Staat said.

Staat also said one of the hardest parts about joining the military after the NFL is physically being older and going through training. Staat was 29 at the time. Legree is 28. Most of the recruits are in their late teens and early 20s.

Legree, whose battery graduates in February, old the Army he is already thinking about a long military career.

Custom Jalen Davis Jersey Large

The 2020 East-West Shrine Bowl will be broadcast exclusively on NFL Network as well as the NFL and NFL Network apps at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 18.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — At Navy, Malcolm Perry was an option quarterback who — more often than not — chose the option to run. In fact, only one running back in the FBS finished with more rushing yards than his 2,017 this past season, and only two had more rushing touchdowns than his 21.

So, naturally, the undersized, dual-threat quarterback who served more as a running back with the Midshipmen got invited to this week’s East-West Shrine Bowl as a … wide receiver. And that’s just fine with Perry, who learned a long time ago that a roster position to him is merely a suggestion.

“Whatever it takes,” Perry said after his first practice on Monday inside Tropicana Field. “Anything that gets the ball in my hands, anything that keeps me on the field.”

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Playing different positions isn’t anything new to Perry. Coming out of high school, he wanted to be a running back at Tennessee, his preferred college and just a three-hour drive from home, but the Vols — with future NFL players Alvin Kamara (Saints), Jalen Hurd (49ers) and John Kelly (Rams) already on the RB depth chart — never offered a scholarship.

Instead, Perry — whose mother and father were both career enlistees in the Army — chose Navy, where in his first three seasons he struggled to find a home, bouncing around from slot back to quarterback on offense to kick returner on special teams. When you’re the best athlete on the field, as Perry was, coaches try to keep you off the sidelines.

As a senior, however, Perry was handed the starting quarterback duties and was the clear leader of a team that went 11-2 — an eight-game turnaround from 2018 and the second-best year-to-year improvement in FBS history. By beating Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl at the end of last month, a game in which Perry rushed for 213 yards on 28 carries, Navy was assured only its third top-25 finish in 56 years.

In 2019, Perry became the first FBS quarterback to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and the fourth to rush for 300 in a game (against Army in the regular-season finale). He only attempted 86 passes, for 1,084 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

In many ways, Perry is a lot like Keenan Reynolds, the athletic, dual-threat quarterback from Navy who was drafted in the sixth round in 2016 by the Baltimore Ravens. Reynolds, at almost the exact same size as Perry, was also invited to the East-West all-star game. He practiced at running back and kick returner, and his athleticism was clearly visible, something Perry hopes to put on display for the East coaches this week.

Monday was a good start. He showed an ability to run crisp routes, then use his soft hands to snag the ball away from his body.

“He looked like he needed a little training,” said Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El, who is coaching the East wide receivers. “But you could see the way he snagged the ball out of the air. That’s one of the things you look for in a young receiver — can he catch the ball and catch it clean? And he had no issues doing that.”

Perry said when he saw Randle El was going to be his coach this week, he turned on YouTube to watch videos of old Pittsburgh Steelers games, then saw some surprising older clips pop up from Randle El’s days at Indiana.

“I didn’t even know he played quarterback in college,” Perry said. “I plan on sitting down with him throughout the week and talk about making that transition.”

The talks would only be a continuation of what is happening on the field. At Monday’s practice, Perry took advantage of his fortuitous situation — being coached by Randle El and Amani Toomer, the former New York Giants wide receiver who is serving as an NFL Legends mentor this week. He stayed close to them and asked a lot of questions.

Randle El told him he needs to find someone who has played or understands the position and “run routes as much as he can” before his next opportunity in front of NFL scouts, whether that be at the NFL Scouting Combine or his pro day.

“I had Terance Mathis, who was with the Steelers when I first got there, and Hines Ward. Those guys started teaching me routes,” Randle El said. “He just needs to figure it all out, and I think he will because he’s such a smart kid.”
Day 1 practice notes

SMALL-SCHOOL STANDOUTS: Prospects from small schools have a chance at these all-star events to really get on the radar with NFL teams. There were three who stood out on Monday. Princeton QB Kevin Davidson (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) is as advertised with a big arm and deep-ball accuracy. WR Mason Kinsey from Berry College doesn’t look like a Division III player with his route-running and ball skills. And DT Tershawn Wharton from Missouri S&T more than held his own in one-on-one line drills. “It was funny,” said one scout. “Some of the big-school kids couldn’t compete with him.”

COMPETITIVE ROSTERS: More than one scout mentioned the overall quality of the rosters this year, as opposed to the past. “Scout-friendly,” said one. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see one or two taken later in (Round) 2,” added another. “Lots of mid-round picks where teams make or break their drafts.”

LATE SCRATCH: According to an East-West official, Auburn CB Javaris Davis (concussion) was sent home before practices began after event doctors failed to pass him on his physical.

LATE-COMERS: Five players in Monday’s National Championship are expected to arrive on Tuesday. One — Clemson safety Tanner Muse, who initially accepted an invitation — is not expected to participate this week. The five players include wide receiver Derrick Dillon and linebacker Michael Divinity Jr. from LSU, and wide receiver Diondre Overton, center Sean Pollard and guard Gage Cervenka from Clemson.

Custom Vontarrius Dora Jersey Large

The Cardinals’ injured reserve list grew Wednesday by two, when inside linebacker Tanner Vallejo (ribs) and cornerback Kevin Peterson (shoulder) landed there to end their season.

It kick-started a handful of roster moves for the Cards, which promoted outside linebacker Vontarrius Dora from the practice squad and signed two players away from other practice squads: cornerback Andre Chachere from Carolina and linebacker Keishawn Bierria from Jacksonville.

The Cardinals had three open roster spots, after releasing linebacker Terrell Suggs on Friday.

The loss of Peterson means Chris Jones is likely to get the bulk of the work as the No. 2 cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson, with Byron Murphy having moved back into a role as slot cornerback. Chachere is familiar with the defense, having spent time on the Cardinals’ practice squad earlier this season.

With the loss of Vallejo, Dennis Gardeck — who was named as a special teams Pro Bowl alternate — figures to be the top reserve at inside linebacker behind Jordan Hicks and Joe Walker.

The Cardinals also signed cornerback Duke Thomas and linebacker Jamey Mosley to the practice squad.

Custom Drew Anderson Jersey Large

Rex With Kyler Murray’s status in doubt for Sunday’s game, the Cardinals promoted quarterback Drew Anderson from the practice squad Saturday.

Coach Kliff Kingsbury had said Friday the move was coming “so we have every scenario covered.”

To make room on the roster, the Cardinals placed tight end Darrell Daniels (biceps) on injured reserve.

Murray, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, still could be active. Kingsbury didn’t rule out having all three quarterbacks active for the game. If Murray cannot play at all, Anderson will be the backup for Brett Hundley. Kingsbury also said there is a chance all three were active with Murray simply there for an emergency situation while Hundley starts. The Cardinals could also in theory test-drive Murray early in the game and if he could not continue, they would still have Hundley and Anderson available.

Anderson, an undrafted rookie from Murray State, was with the Cardinals through the offseason and preseason. He was released when the team signed Kyle Sloter to the practice squad at the outset of the regular season, and brought back to the practice squad when Sloter signed with the Detroit Lions in November.

Custom Andy Lee Jersey Large

From the Miami Dolphins’ place-kicker scrambling wide open to receive a touchdown pass to the Houston Texans’ quarterback catching a pass and diving into the end zone, there were several trick plays that wowed NFL fans during the 2019 regular season.

ESPN’s NFL Nation selected six incredible plays that caught fans — and each of these team’s opponents — off guard, and then inquired from each team the origin of the plays. Here are their stories behind the most notable plays, which do not include flea-flickers or TD passes from quarterbacks, ranked in no particular order:
Dolphins: Punter Matt Haack shovel passes for a 1-yard TD to place-kicker Jason Sanders
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

The game: Sunday, Dec. 1 — Dolphins 37, Eagles 31

The play: On fourth-and-goal, the Dolphins sent out their field goal team, then audibled into a unique formation with center Daniel Kilgore snapping to Haack and the other nine players split wide on either side. When the ball was snapped, Haack scrambled to his left and Sanders slid behind the defense in the end zone. Haack pitched a shovel pass to Sanders, who slid to the ground and caught the touchdown.
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The quote: “Kickers and punters are people, too. They are athletes, too. I’m tired of them getting disrespected. Those guys are athletes. It was good to see those guys have a little fun. I was happy for those guys. So now Haack is officially the best quarterback on the team and the best receiver goes to Jason. They are 100% on passes and catches, so it was good to see that,” said Dolphins rookie defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who was an eligible receiver on the play.

The story behind it: The play was titled the “Mountaineer Shot” in honor of Kilgore, the Appalachian State Mountaineers graduate who snapped the ball and distracted two defenders as he blocked. The Dolphins practiced it for two months, Dolphins players said. Miami QB Ryan Fitzpatrick thought special teams coordinator Danny Crossman was taking a big chance when he first saw it practiced. Fitzpatrick figured the Dolphins would never run it in a game, and if they did — it wouldn’t work. But he was pleasantly surprised.

The play took advantage of the Eagles’ aggressiveness as three defenders attacked Haack while Sanders slid behind them to get open for the touchdown. It was the first time a team’s leading punter and kicker combined for a passing touchdown since December 1964. — Cameron Wolfe
Texans: Receiver DeAndre Hopkins pitches a 6-yard TD pass to quarterback Deshaun Watson
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire

The game: Sunday, Dec. 1 — Texans 28, Patriots 22

The play: On first-and-goal midway through the fourth quarter, running back Duke Johnson took the handoff from Watson, and then handed it off to Hopkins, who was hit right as he pitched the ball back to Watson. Watson took the ball six yards and dove into the end zone to give the Texans a 28-9 lead over the Patriots.

The quote: “I think they drew that one up in the dirt over the bye week, and they brought it in,” coach Bill O’Brien joked after the game. “They had it on a piece of notebook paper and they handed it to me. We’ve been working on that for a while.”

The story behind it: About a month before the Texans ran the play, Watson and backup quarterback AJ McCarron were watching film of an old Chicago Bears game when they saw the Bears run a trick play. Watson said the pair thought it could work in a game, so they “threw it out” to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and O’Brien.

“And then Hop [Hopkins] saw it, and Hop of course is like, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s do it!,'” Watson said.

O’Brien said the Texans worked on the play for a long time in practice, and when they ran it, they didn’t even get the exact look they had hoped for. But Watson said he knows “Hop like the back of my hand,” and knew they would make it work. — Sarah Barshop
Patriots: Receiver Julian Edelman throws a 15-yard TD pass to receiver Phillip Dorsett
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The game: Sunday, Nov. 17 — Patriots 17, Eagles 10

The play: The Patriots’ inconsistent offense was in need of a spark, and coordinator Josh McDaniels gambled that running a double pass at the 15-yard line — a play that is usually more effective with more space — would pay off. So, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would throw to his right to Edelman, who then had a couple options on what to do from there. Edelman could have thrown back across the field, but with Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins pressuring him, he delivered a strike over the middle to Dorsett for a touchdown.

The quote: “Keeps his quarterback rating up there pretty high. Sure he’ll have to ice his shoulder down and massage it,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who commented on Edelman’s throw.

The story behind it: The double pass has a special place in the Patriots’ history of success, most notably coming through for them in one of their most exciting comebacks ever — a 35-31 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs Jan. 10, 2015. In that game, Edelman connected with wide receiver Danny Amendola on a 51-yard double-pass touchdown. Belichick noted that the team had used something similar all the way in 2001 against the Colts. So it is practiced regularly with Patriots players, especially with Edelman, who was a quarterback in college at Kent State. — Mike Reiss
49ers: Receiver Emmanuel Sanders tosses a 35-yard TD pass to running back Raheem Mostert
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The game: Sunday, Dec. 8 — 49ers 48, Saints 46

The play: With 6:08 left in the second quarter at New Orleans’ 35-yard line, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took the snap and handed it to receiver Deebo Samuel, who was coming across the formation from Garoppolo’s right. Sanders circled in the opposite direction and received a lateral from Samuel as Saints linebacker Craig Robertson closed in on a blitz. Sanders evaded Robertson and flung a pass down the right sideline as he fell backward. Mostert caught it cleanly at New Orleans’ 13 and raced into the end zone for a touchdown.
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The quote: “We ran it like five times [in practice],” Sanders said. “The last time we ran it, I actually threw a duck. I was like, ‘man, don’t throw a duck in the game because that will be on ESPN Not Top 10.’ I know [coach Kyle Shanahan] was like, ‘please, do not throw a duck again.’ It felt good. It was one of those plays coming into the game that we wanted to be a touchdown.”

The story behind it: Shanahan said he had seen the play run a few times over the years, and it came up again in a conversation with Jets coach Adam Gase a couple of weeks before the Niners played the Saints. Gase told Shanahan that the Jets had run that play and then San Francisco passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur saw Buffalo run it for a touchdown the week before. So, while the Niners practiced in Bradenton, Florida, before the game in New Orleans, they installed it. Shanahan said the play didn’t look too good in practice as Sanders struggled to deliver a good pass, but he had seen Sanders throw well before, so he trusted him to pull it off. — Nick Wagoner
Cardinals: Punter Andy Lee completes a 26-yard pass to receiver Pharoh Cooper
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

The game: Sunday, Nov. 10 — Buccaneers 30, Cardinals 27

The play: It was fourth-and-10 from the Cardinals’ 36-yard line with 8:39 left in the game, and Arizona had the ball. The Cardinals were down 23-20 when they ran a fake punt. The ball was snapped to linebacker Zeke Turner, who ran left and flipped the ball to wide receiver Trent Sherfield, who was crossing back right. Sherfield then flipped the ball to Lee, who completed a 26-yard pass to Cooper. Arizona scored a touchdown three plays later.
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The quote: When the play was initially introduced during meetings, special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said “Andy” would throw the pass. Cooper was confused. “I said, Andy Isabella?” Cooper said. No, Rodgers said, it was Andy Lee. “OK, OK, OK, it might work now,” Cooper said. When Cooper ran his wheel route, he noticed the Bucs’ outside cornerback was looking inside. “I guess he kind of just forget about me, like he was too focused on what was going on with the pitch,” Cooper said. Once the cornerback looked back at Cooper, Cooper was already past him and the ball was in the air. “He wasn’t even looking at me,” Cooper said. “He was still confused at that point.”

The story behind it: Rodgers explained the play to Cooper and Lee a couple weeks prior to the Week 10 game with the plan to run it after Arizona’s Week 12 bye, Lee said. During meetings, the play was named “Pharoh” in anticipation of Cooper taking the pass to “Egypt for the touchdown,” Cooper said.

Rodgers was about 15 yards away from Lee when he called the fake punt. It took Lee a moment to realize what the call was. “I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the pass,'” Lee said. The play was repeated a handful of times in practice, but the key to it working in the game was whether the defense would follow Sherfield after he pitched the ball back to Lee. If the defender followed Sherfield, Lee knew he’d have time to throw it. If the defender peeled off and chased Lee, Lee knew he would have to rush it. Fortunately for Lee, the defender followed Sherfield, giving him enough time to throw the longest pass of his career. — Josh Weinfuss
Bills: Receiver John Brown throws a 28-yard TD pass to running back Devin Singletary
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

The game: Thursday, Nov. 28 — Bills 26, Cowboys 15

The play: Bills quarterback Josh Allen received the snap and handed the ball off to receiver Andre Roberts, who then tossed it to Brown on a double reverse. Brown then found Singletary wide open downfield for a 28-yard touchdown.

The quote: The play nearly didn’t happen. “[Brian] Daboll’s an aggressive playcaller. He told me in the headset if it’s zone, get out of it — but the headset cut off before I could hear that. It was zone and John Brown made a great play,” Allen said.

The story behind it: Bills offensive coordinator Daboll said the trick play was one of the many things the team fooled around with during organized team activities and training camp, but the decision to run the play came when he saw Brown throw a ball into the stands when the team played Miami a few weeks earlier. Daboll made the call six plays after Buffalo’s defense strip-sacked Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and one play after Allen converted a fourth-and-1 run. The result gave the Bills a 13-7 lead just before halftime — a lead they would not relinquish. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Custom D.J. Humphries Jersey Large

Free agency is still about two months away but NFL teams are preparing, making their own lists of players and ranking them by priority. The Arizona Cardinals have their own free agents to perhaps re-sign as well.

According to Pro Football Focus, two of their pending free agents are among the top 50 in the league. However, one big name does not appear on the list.

Who makes the list?

It includes receiver Larry Fitzgerald and tackle D.J. Humphries. It does not include running back Kenyan Drake.

Fitzgerald comes in at No. 48.

The NFL needs Larry Fitzgerald in it, and the Hall of Famer is somehow still playing at a pretty high level, even if he isn’t quite the force he once was. This season, Fitzgerald caught 72.1% of the passes thrown his way and didn’t drop a single pass all year. Fitzgerald has had the best hands in the game since he came into the league, and despite slowing down, he was still able to register a catch of 54 yards this season along with four touchdowns. His days as a true No. 1 receiver are long gone, but in a league that needs deep benches of receiving talent, Larry Fitzgerald can still be a valuable member of a receiving corps and a solid contributor on Sundays.

Humphries comes in at No. 45.

Humphries battled injuries early in his career, only flashing the ability that made him a 2015 first-rounder, but he is coming off his best effort as a pass blocker. He gave up only 30 pressures on 677 attempts in 2019, just two more pressures than he allowed in 2018 on 335 fewer opportunities. It was Humphries’ first season grading below 72.0 in the run game, but he could be the classic “late bloomer” along the offensive line as he heads into his age-26 season.

Fitzgerald won’t actually make it to free agency. He will either re-sign with the Cardinals before it begins or he will announce his retirement. He will not play for another team.

Humphries, though, is another story. He would like to re-sign, but if he doesn’t have a new deal before free agency begins and the Cardinals do not use the franchise tag on him, he will land a big contract elsewhere.

The absence of Drake, who was dynamic down the stretch for the Cardinals after he was acquired in a midseason trade. In eight games, he ended up leading the team in rushing and rushing touchdowns. Both general manager Steve Keim and head coach Kliff Kingsbury believe he could be their top back and express their desire for his return.