Monday, April 30, 2018

Interview With Keon Broxton

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

What a difference a year makes.

During the 2017 season, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton was the starting center fielder.

But things changed in the off season as the Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain as a free agent and obtained Christian Yellich in a trade with the Miami Marlins.

In 2017, Broxton hit -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------.

With these acquisitions, at the moment Broxton seems like the odd man out and is currently playing for the Brewers AAA team the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

Time will tell whether he makes a return to the Brewers depending on injuries or whether he gets traded or whether he returns when the rosters are expanded in September.

There is somewhat of a Detroit connection to Broxton.

He was born in Lakeland, FL., the Spring Home of the Tigers.

Prior to the Brewers March ----- game against the Colorado Rockies, we had an interesting conversation about his time growing up in Lakeland and how much he followed the Tigers.



Wednesday, March 7, 2018

My Highlight of NHL Season, The NHL All-Star Game

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

As the 2017-2018 season winds down, I want to take a moment and reflect on one of the biggest highlights of the year that we experienced just a short couple months ago.

When it comes to experimenting with their All-Star Game, I give the NHL a lot of credit for attempting to create interest amongst it's fan base.

As I was researching this, I couldn't believe how many formats the league has used throughout the years.

The only thing that hasn't changed is every team has at least one representative.

Back in the 1940's, the defending Stanley Cup Champions faced All-Stars from the five other teams during The Original Six Era.

In 1969, the format was geographic as the NHL went to four divisions with the Wales Conference taking on the Campbell Conference.

The first team was voted in by the fans while the remainder of the teams' roster were chosen by the NHL's Hockey Operations Department in consultation with the teams general managers.

In the 1980's the Wales Conference faced the Campbell Conference but what changed was the Eastern teams faced the Western squads.

The 1990's saw the Skills Competition and the Heroes of Hockey get introduced.

In 1994, The Eastern Conference faced the Western Conference.

One of the more interesting concepts occurred from 1998-2002 when the North American All-Stars squared off against the World All-Stars.

On three occasions, there would be a fantasy format which saw two captains pick teams, and this concept was also utilized in the NFL and NBA.

The most recent format change occurred in 2016 with a three-on-three tournament that consisted of four separate All-Star Teams--each representing one of the leagues divisions.

There are three separate 20 minute mini-games in a round robin format. Each team has three skaters and a goaltender on the ice.

The third period is considered the championship game.

Throughout the years, the All-Star Game has been canceled to promote international competition.

In 1979, The Challenge Cup saw the NHL All-Stars play the Soviet Union.

In 1987, Rendez-vous once again featured the NHL All-Stars play the Soviet Union.

Lastly, NHL Players would participate in The Olympics.

Who knows what other changes could occur in the coming years.

I have actually been to three All-Star Games, two as a writer and out of all of them, there is no doubt the most recent change is the best.

My father took me to the NHL All-Star Game at Joe Louis Arena which featured "Mr. Hockey" Gordie Howe in 1980.

Seeing the Skills Competition in person impressed me of the athletic ability of hockey players.

During this story, we spoke to many people not only at the game, but when the Detroit Red Wings visited the Florida Panthers on February 3, 2018, to get their opinions on the three skaters and one goaltender format.

Before talking to players, I asked Commissioner Gary Bettman whether he foresees participation in the Olympics.

"The fact is we find, the clubs find, the owners find that the Olympics are very disruptive on our season, and for that and a whole host of reasons we've been over repeatedly over the last year or so, it didn't make sense for us to attend. Could that circumstance change at some point in the future? I suppose so. But it's not something that we're currently contemplating."

From a management standpoint, there is no better person to speak to other than Detroit Red Wings Senior Vice President and Alternate Governor Jim Devellano.

Devellano is in his 36th season with the Red Wings and has been in the NHL for 51 years.

His tenure with the Red Wings makes him the longest serving hockey employee in the history of the team.

"I think it's very good in an All-Star Game because you have the world's best players and they're all skilled. When you get them open ice like that, they're going to put on a great display, stick handling, scoring and skating.

"The other good thing about it is, you hate to have players hurt in an All-Star Game, and with the open ice, and fewer players, there is less chance of injuries. I think it's good all-around."

What does Devellano think of other formats and is this the best one?

"It is because it got to the point where the players didn't really try very hard. They didn't want to get hurt, hurt other players, so they played soft. But with the three-on-three, there isn't a lot of body checking and it's all skill. So I think it worked out to be a good format."

Here is what some current players had to say about the current format.

Forward Josh Bailey, New York Islanders, formerly Windsor Spitfires.

"I like it. It's good for the All-Star Game, good for the fans to really see the skill and speed. You could see before with the four-on-four, five-on-five, obviously no one wants to get hurt out there, no one wants to run around and hit people. It's a good way to kind of meet in the middle to see the talent of what the league has to offer. So I think it's a good format."

Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues.

"I think it's fun. Part of the All-Star Game is to showcase the skills of the players. I'm sitting on the bench and I'm like it's hard to score goals. You realize how good these goalies are right. It's just the shot or it's a breakaway. Boy, you realize how hard it is to score. It's good. Not only good for us, but to showcase how good the reserves are."

Forward Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks. His Pacific Division defeated the Atlantic Division 5-2 in the Finals.

"I really had a good time and it was fun winning the whole event. I really enjoyed the three-on-three format. After the first game, it was slow paced, but it was nice to pull through."

Forward Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers said it was awesome to play in his first All-Star Game and provided interesting perspectives about the regular reason.

"In real games, you have to defend even harder than you do in these games. But still, you get tired when you run around those guys like (Edmonton Oilers, Connor) McDavid, (Calgary Flames, Johnny) Gaudreau and guys like that. If you lose the side of them, they'll make you pay. Three-on-three is fun to play when you have the puck, but when you don't have the puck, it's not fun."

Goaltender Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens.

"I think it's much better personally. I think the flow of the game is a little bit better because there aren't so many guys standing around. The guys are skating more and there is more room out there. It kind of open things up a little bit, guys not standing still as much. There is more skating room and as a goaltender, it's nice I can play with the puck to get a couple touches in and get an assist or two."

The two former players I spoke to were from the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.

I'm speaking of Bill Lindsay and Paul Woods of the Red Wings.

Lindsay played in the NHL for 14-years and was a member of the 1996 Panthers Eastern Conference Championship team.

He's in his third year as the radio color analyst, and previously spent six seasons as a team television analyst, after spending two years as the club's radio color commentator.

Lindsay has played in more than 750 NHL contests. So he's seen plenty of hockey.

Like everyone in this story, he was impressed with the three skaters and goaltender format.

"It's exciting. I think the players like it and the fans. The All-Star Week you want a celebration and you want a bit of competition. They're playing for some money so that puts a little bit of an edge into it.

"Plus, the three-on-three can show the skill that's in this league. The NHL in my opinion has never had more skill or talent than it has now. There is no better way to showcase it than with the three-on-three. It's absolutely fabulous. It's a great way to showcase the premier players and show how legitimately talented our athletes are.

"I'm not sure the goaltenders love the three-on-three. But you can get exposed. This kind of stuff is magical. The way the players can do it now with this kind of hockey at the pace at which it's played is fun to watch."

Detroit Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland was an advocate for the three-on-three to be played in the regular season in overtime to replace four-on-four.

The NHL took Holland's recommendation and added it to the All-Star Game which has worked so well with the excitement level drastically increasing.

Woods is another player that has seen a lot of hockey.

He played seven seasons with Detroit from 1977-1984 and his career was cut short because of a hip injury.

He has been a radio analyst since the late 1980's.

Woods, 62, is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet and he's quite colorful.

He definitely enjoys the three-on-three format.


"I like it for sure. It's way better than the five-on-five. In the five-on-five, sometimes in games like that, you can hide a little bit. In three-on-three hockey, you're naked out there. You just have to keep up all the time, offensively, defensively otherwise you let your team down. It's a much better format. Again, players get to show their skill more in three-on-three so it's a good idea for the NHL."

When I asked Woods what he thought about the NHL changing formats through the years, he responded, "The thing I like about this is it becomes real competitive because they have some money on the line. So each team or each guy on the winning team can make a $100,000 so there is a reason why to win those hockey games. So it's important and again back to the three-on-three, and the skills competition, there are a lot of good ideas.

"The NHL is a well run league and have made a lot of good decisions on going back to setting the salary cap. They just keep getting better and better, and the All-Star Game is an example of that."

Woods was gleaming about the skills competition and even had some ideas on how to make it better.

"To watch the players in the games all the time, they can't use all those skills. But when you do see the guys and what they can actually do with the puck, with a stick in practice, it's amazing the hand and eye coordination that NHL players have.

"The one thing I would like to see in the fastest skater competition is an actual race. Instead of having a timed race, one guy skating one way, the other guy going the other way, I would like to see a two lap race. The fastest guy around and manage those turns.

"Connor McDavid is a very fast guy, but we have two with Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou. It would be a very exciting format for the fans."
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It remains to be seen if the NHL continues to make more changes to make the All-Star Game more entertaining.

But I do agree with Woods that fastest skaters competition would be a great change.

When you think of horse and auto racing, track and field, there is nothing like a competition with combative speed.

I give the league a tremendous amount of credit for trying many things until we've reached this point.

The other major sports have also made changes based on poor ratings, lack of intensity, and at one point the NFL nearly eliminated the Pro Bowl.

After this experience in Tampa Bay, watching the skills competition, it's easier to gain a deeper appreciation of the talent these players do possess.

I look forward to returning to another one when the situation presents itself, but will  enjoy it more when I watch it on TV as well.

It will be interesting to see with the Red Wings influx of young, athletic, skilled speedsters which ones will appear in the NHL's mid-season big stage.

The Red Wings have been stockpiling draft choices for the next two seasons, so it will be interesting to see what new talent they acquire as the organizational skill level improves.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media. Candy Ebling also contributed to this story.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Trade That Wasn't Made

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

During NHL All-Star Weekend in Tampa Bay from January 27-28, Detroit Red Wings Defenseman Mike Green found himself answering a lot of questions about where he could find himself at the trade deadline at the end of February.

Would he be happy to return to the Washington Capitals?

Green politely answered every question in a 25 minute media session.

But one thing remained consistent during his questioning.

He kept telling the media how much he enjoyed playing for the Detroit Red Wings and really never wanted to leave.

Green does have a full trade clause in his contract and would later indicate that the only teams he would waive it for were the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning.

But there was one major thing which prevented a possible trade.

Green sustained an upper body injury which caused him to miss games, therefore, teams wouldn't trade picks for an unrestricted free agent rental which could be damaged goods.

Red Wings GM Ken Holland still managed to trade Goaltender Petr Mrazek and Forward Tomas Tatar as he stockpiled draft choices for the next two seasons.

During Green's Press Conference, I did manage to slip in some questions as he provided some insightful thoughts about different subjects.

Q: Do you relish the opportunity that you can be a veteran player to mentor and teach a lot of these kids since you've been a Red Wing?

A: I just think it's a matter of understanding the game. I don't think you can teach these guys much because they're so skilled and talented. My approach is getting them to understand how to be consistent. To be honest, I've learned a lot from them too. This next generation of young guys is incredibly talented, incredibly focused and it's great to see.

Q: The one thing I've noticed with these young guys is they play with an incredible amount of energy. Do you draw from that energy?

A: It's definitely helped me. It's caused me to change my workout routines and approach because these guys are so fast now that I have to keep up. But playing with guys like Dylan Larkin create so much energy the way he skates, moves the puck up the ice, along with Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha and some of the other kids coming up. So it does create a lot of energy. I think that's what's exciting about Detroit is that they have a lot of the great energy young players coming up and will be good.

Q: In the new NHL, enforcers are not as common but the Red Wings have one in Luke Witkowski. When he does play, how would you describe what he's meant to the Red Wings this year?

A: I think immeasurably. At times, when we come out and have played with high energy, it's because Luke's in the line-up. He creates that sort of energy for us when he is there. Not only that, he's an utterly great teammate and player. It's been a pleasure playing with him so far.

Q: When you look at the banners in the rafters and all the great players who have played for Detroit, and the town itself, how does it feel to be playing in "Hockeytown" compared to other cities?

A: I don't know if you can compare it when you're with an "Original Six" team. Obviously, I've played on a different team. You can't compare it with Detroit. Walking in the dressing room, all the pictures of all these old players, captains, and obviously the amount of Stanley Cups they've won on the walls. It's pretty special. You have to take a moment to kind of respect and appreciate what that organization has done.

Q: Tell me what it's like to play in Little Caesars Arena (LCA) and give me your thoughts about Joe Louis Arena?

A: It's been great. The facility is incredible. We're fortunate as players that we have this incredible work out facility and spoiled in that sense.

Comparing to "The Joe," it's different and interesting starting the season at LCA. We wondered what kind of energy it would bring knowing what Joe Louis had and represented, which with it's history in itself and you could feel it. It's about creating the energy now here at Little Caesars Arena and building a legacy there.

Q: Do you know much about the old Olympia Stadium?

A: I respect it because when I first got to Detroit, I read this book on the history of all the buildings, and the history of the Olympia building at the time was creative and was pretty cool. When you're in Detroit, it's a pretty incredible city and what's transpired over a long period of time.

Whether the 32-year Green gets a contract remains to be seen. He definitely does embrace the history of Detroit Red Wings Hockey. Anybody that researches previous stadiums comes across as a traditionalist which is tough to find nowadays.

When you're rebuilding, it's vital to have veterans to provide a positive influence on the younger players that demonstrate leadership, plus lead by example.

But as we stand right now, The Trade That Wasn't Made could pay dividends in the immediate and foreseeable future.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Must See!

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

During my last trip to Detroit in early December there was one major sports priority, and that was seeing Little Caesars Arena (LCA) in "The District."


On December 5, 2017, George Eichorn, Myself and Candice Ebling worked the Red Wings vs the Winnipeg Jets.

We arrived at the venue around 4 pm and Red Wings Public Relations Assistant Kyle Kujawa was really super about giving Myself, Eichorn and Ebling a tour of this Magnificent Crown Jewel.

What made this trip neat was Kujawa took us down to the Red Wings practice rink (pictured below)
on a different floor and when I saw this, the only question which came to mind is how can anybody not come across impressed?

Not only do the Red Wings use this for practice but it's used for youth hockey.

To try to dig this deep underground for a venue in Florida, one would go on a date with a shark.

Kujawa gave us the personalized tour of everything in the arena.

If he ever leaves the Red Wings for a job in the hospitality field as a tour guide, he would easily get my recommendation.

All of us were able to walk around before the game and took some neat pictures.

Even Eichorn, who had covered a couple of games before our visit got to see some new things.

Eichorn and I sparred and even though Don King Productions wasn't paying us money for a main event, it was neat taking this type of photo.

I was truly amazed at all the restaurants at the arena as well as the souvenir stores.

But what floored me the most were the man holes of all the names which have been a part of Detroit Sports History.

As you can see in the photo on the left, the man hole of late Red Wing Owner Mike Ilitch, is the reason why this arena is standing as he's been the true catalyst as to why Detroit has made an incredible comeback.

He's the main reason the Red Wings won four Stanley Cups and reached the playoffs 25-consecutive seasons.

To embrace Gordie Howe, Joe Louis, the great Pistons teams, LCA was like walking into an actual Sports Hall Of Fame.

When we were there, there was work being done on the office space. The area around the stadium is still being developed.

Being around the Red Wings my entire life, first as a fan than as a member of the media, it was great to see Olympia Stadium's letters on display in this "New Gem."

While I enjoyed Joe Louis Arena, to me, Olympia will always rank amongst the best stadiums I've ever witnessed a sporting event in.

When you go into a new arena, you expect the media lounge, locker rooms, and press box to be first class, therefore, I will not spend much time talking about this.

For the media people complaining about how high the press box is above the ice, those comments will be heard on deaf ears.

As long as I have sufficient space to connect my computer, spread out, and go over my notes, I'm happy with that.


I have to admit that it was neat hearing an Organist at LCA.


But the Red Wings finally caught up with the
times having an attractive female interacting with the fans as visualized on the big scoreboard. I've seen that for years at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL., covering the Panthers.

What was different about this Red Wings home game was not hearing a tape recording of late PA Announcer Budd Lynch talking at the end of the period.

But I understood that it was in with the new and out with the old indicating a new building and era of Red Wings Hockey.

At least the Red Wings had Karen Newman singing the National Anthem.

Over the years, I've traveled to some of the newer arenas around the USA.

Some of the impressive ones include: Staples Center (Los Angeles, CA), America West Arena (Phoenix, AZ), United Center (Chicago, ILL), Bradley Center (Milwaukee, WI) which will be replaced next season, Target Center (Minneapolis, MN), Nationwide Arena (Columbus, Ohio), AT&T Center (San Antonio, TX) Amalie Arena (Tampa, FL), American Airlines Arena (Miami, FL) and as aforementioned the BB&T Center in Sunrise, FL.


Some of these venues had practice facilities right next to or connected to the stadium. I was impressed with what I saw in Phoenix and Columbus.

Each are different and special in their own way whether they're part of a downtown revitalization or near water.

But the one thing that stands out about Little Caesars Arena is it's located within a half a mile from Ford Field and Comerica Park.

It's unheard of to have all four major sports teams play in that close of a proximity.

If Major League Soccer passes on Detroit as a future expansion area, playing at Ford Field, not only will it miss on three billionaire owners and an excellent fan base, they'll lose a large TV Market and a chance to be part of a downtown area making a huge comeback.

You won't find a more sound ownership group than Tom Gores, The Ford Family and Dan Gilbert.

But let's face it, for $862.9 million dollars to construct, you're going to build an arena for the ages.

To use the word potential for not only the arena's finished product and surrounding areas describes what Detroit has to bring me back wanting more when I return home.

Seeing this place figures to be an annual opportunity to cover the Red Wings.

I guarantee that by the time LCA gets outdated many decades later, I will be long deceased and never see its replacement.

There are some cities which will tear down buildings inside of 30-years old.

It will be unfortunate to see the Palace of Auburn Hills give way to the wrecking ball.

I'm still puzzled as to why a State Of The Art Building such as this one can't be utilized for some purposes especially since it's paid off.

There are other metropolitan areas which have multiple arenas in use.


Los Angeles has Staples Center, and The Lakers former home The Forum, New York has Madison Square Garden and The Barclays Center.

In Minnesota, the Wild play in St. Paul while the Timberwolves play in downtown Minneapolis.

My home area is the best example.

In Downtown Miami, The NBA's Heat play at The American Airlines Arena meanwhile in the suburbs, the Florida Panthers of the NHL, play in the BB&T Center in Sunrise, and therefore, there are enough events to hold in each building.

I love the BB&T Center! This place is more centrally located to Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties and the Miami Marlins should have built their new stadium in Sunrise, FL.


Nonetheless, in an age where every city is trying to out do each other with their State Of The Art Creations, objectively speaking, it will be tough to top LCA, especially with the
underground practice facility.

For youngsters to be able to practice, play hockey games, tournaments on a rink for which its own NHL team uses creates its own "Ice Of Dreams."

As of this post, the prospects don't look good for either the Red Wings or Pistons making the playoffs.

From what I've been told, there have been a fair amount of empty seats at their games.

Whether that's attributed to each teams' struggles or the newness of the arena where fans want to check out the numerous things to do, restaurants, etc... is subject to ones opinion.

I have a feeling that the louder crowds will come in time when the honeymoon phase of the arena wears off and these teams are winning.

By the way, the Detroit Red Wings defeated the Winnipeg Jets 5-1 in my only and initial trip to the arena.

Yes, there was a game played and what was even more special was seeing many old friends again that I haven't seen in a long time since I don't get home as often as I like.

Health permitting, I expect that to change.

I look forward to covering the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the not so distant future.


I do spend money on the NHL Center Ice Package and these guys have been involved in a lot of one goal games, but are fun to watch.

It will be interesting to see how this team grows together with a nucleus of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi, and then the eventual retired jersey of Henrik Zetterberg when it gets eventually raised into the rafters.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Nostalgic Return

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

After our recent trip to Metro Detroit I wrote a post called  "The Ageless Wonders", which I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.

There is another story that I will write after this one about My return home and I hope you enjoy this Three-Part Series.

Today's theme is a Special One.

It features two incredible places.

The Pontiac Silverdome and The Highland House Restaurant.

We'll begin with the former home of the Detroit Lions, the Pontiac Silverdome.

I really believe the City of Pontiac, MI, really blew it when Lions Owner William Clay Ford wanted to renegotiate the lease and they failed to do this.

You can say what you want about the Lions success on the field or lack there of, but nobody will ever accuse Ford of threatening to move the team out of Michigan if he didn't get a stadium.

I've covered enough football throughout the years and have seen it happen.

A couple areas that stand out are Houston, Texas, where the Houston Oilers eventually moved to Nashville, Tennessee.

Art Modell moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore.

Both cities would eventually get NFL teams, but they paid a steep price to get them back by building new stadiums.

But Ford was looking to get a better lease and bring it up to NFL revenue standards so he could eventually pay for a franchise QB like Matthew Stafford.

When Pontiac failed to come through, Ford moved his team back to Detroit and the Lions play in a dynamite facility, Ford Field.

When I took my wife to Michigan, we drove by the Pontiac Silverdome.

This is a building that was eventually sold for pennies on the dollar and deteriorated over time. It was an eyesore when you drive down M-59. It took two attempts to implode it because that's how well built the Silverdome was.

Every time I would drive by the Pontiac Silverdome, I would ask myself, "What If" Pontiac had done the right thing for the dome which had many big events and a capacity of 80,000?

This is a facility that I had lots of memories not only as a fan early in my childhood, but as a member of the media.

I saw a lot of football in this venue plus some Detroit Pistons games.

When I was living in Michigan, I knew where My Sundays were being spent.

The Monday Night Football games were great.

Covering the Thanksgiving Games was an event I looked forward to doing.

Whether the Lions won or lost, I had my permanent seat in the press box and the parking for the media was a breeze.

My football ritual would be arriving around 3-4 hours early and then preparing for the game.

Whether I was talking to other media members, coaches or other prominent people that I could plug into my stories, there was never a dull moment.

There would be the game and then post-game interviews.

My game days at pretty much any sporting event range between 7-10 hours.

I enjoyed watching Barry Sanders run his way into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, taking a photo of Gordie Howe when I was in a sling, plus watching a lot of explosive Lions football. There would be the career ending injuries of Mike Utley and Reggie Brown.

The photo with Howe was taken in the media dining area and I was also with long-time Lions Broadcaster Bob Reynolds.

I once did an interview with former CBS Pro Football Hall of Fame Sideline Reporter Lesley Visser, who was one of the pioneers for women in Sports Media.

She was an absolute sweetheart. I wish there were camera phones back then because that would have been a photo for the ages.

The NFL Draft was interesting as we'd spend 10-12 hours at the Lions offices on Saturdays and Sundays watching the ESPN Broadcast, flushing through the countless media notes, talking to not only the head coach but the assistants.

There would be a press conference after every pick or trade with the head coach.

I have to admit that by talking to the coaches, I learned a lot about football.

The Lions made sure we were well fed as there was no shortage of food.

But aside from the memories on the field, I met and worked with a lot of great people within the Lions organization.

A few that stand out were Bill Keenist, Mike Murray and James Petrylka Sr.

I see Bill when I cover the Lions on the road.

James moved to Tampa, FL, and I see him when our paths cross at football games in the state.

The photo with Petrylka Sr. was at a recent Jacksonville Jaguars game in Northern Florida.

I value all of these three people as real great friends.

From The Pontiac Silverdome to The Highland House.

These two places are a 30 minute drive on M-59 and for many years there were not many restaurants on this thoroughfare.

Thus the Highland House would gain customers on Sundays especially those that took this route back to cities en route to Lansing, MI, which is Michigan's capital.

I have an incredible history with the Highland House.

My cousin Ron Kroll introduced me to one of the Owners Elia Nicholas.

I've known Elia for over 40 years. He's like an older brother to me and has a heart of gold! He would give a person the shirt off his back if they needed it.

I love this guy!

I became very familiar with this restaurant when my parents, who lived in Southfield, MI, at the time used to take a 45 minute trek to Highland when they owned and rode horses.

They eventually moved us out to Highland, MI. Before we moved, we always ate at the Highland House.


In 1978, Elia hired me to be a Salad Maker.

In this photo, I couldn't resist the opportunity to take a photo in the Salad Area to hold a salad like the good old days. On this day, I wouldn't ruin my clothes with the Highland House's incredible house dressing.

Elia did give me two bottles to take with me but they'll never be opened and are in my trophy case at home completely sealed.

Elia and I have had lots of memories through the years.

When I would come into the Highland House, his first question with me with a smile was, "Are You Hungry instead of asking, How Are You?"

This was neat because he's a guy in the food business and his job is to feed people.

When he had a restaurant in West Bloomfield, MI, called E.G. Nicks, we'd spend time together there as well.

I worked at the Highland House through High School and I would come back from college to earn extra spending money. The Highland House was my first job.

They threw me a going away party when I moved to Florida in 1981 to continue my education and it was an incredible experience.

I would later work at the Highland House as an interim manager in the kitchen in late 1986 then as a consultant from 1987-1999.

When you talk about the restaurant business, this family has it figured out down to a science.

In 1976, the Highland House, which is located at 2630 Highland Rd, in Highland MI, opened it's doors.


Tom Nicholas, Elia, Steve Ryeson and his brother Gene were the owners.

Tom's lovely wife Despina was the hostess and her heart was bigger than the Good-Year Blimp!

Elia's sister Elizabeth was involved before she would move on to another family restaurant.

On our trip to the Highland House, Elizabeth's daughter Despina Nevells joined the team to work in the marketing department.

I had the good pleasure of working with Elia's late younger brother Greg, who died at 49 because of Cancer.

To this day, it kills me internally that Michigan never had the Clean Air Act like we have in Florida which prohibited smoking in a restaurant. After Greg's passing, Michigan did add the Clean Air Act.

There were other people that I enjoyed seeing and working with through the years. Abraham Ryeson was Steve's and Gene's father and his sense of humor was off the charts.

I always enjoyed working with Jeff Ryeson.

His brother Gregg Ryeson is one of my best friends!

Gregg actually lives in South Florida and last year, his beautiful Wife Michelle and My Princess Candy got together at Duffy's in Boynton Beach, FL.

Gregg and I reminisced about the incredible memories we shared at this Iconic 42-year old Restaurant that opened in 1976.

Our wives really had fun listening to the good old days and the four of us made a goal to see one another more since we live in the same area.

On our visit, there was one familiar face in the kitchen.

Chris Burke (on the left), who I am in the photo with has been working with daytime preparation dating back to my days in the kitchen. He says the job never gets old, is comfortable working with ownership and knows he'll always be taken care of. Chris looks fantastic.

Gene recently relinquished ownership to his son Rob (on the right) and this guy is like a younger brother to me. Like his dad, he's an unbelievable person and will be counted on to continue the Highland House's magnificent tradition for years to come.

There is no question that Rob and Elia will make an excellent one-two punch!

One of my favorite stories which draws laughs is the time I grabbed an extra time card to record my hours and Tom Nicholas saw me doing this in the break room.

In his ruffled voice, he says "those time cards cost me six cents apiece." I pulled the six cents out of my pocket, put it on the table and he grabbed it.

I told Elia and Gene about this and we started to laugh so hard that we nearly started to cry. I swear, this was the best monetary laugh I've ever had in my life!

Nothing even comes close.

Even Gregg and I talked about this to our wives at Duffy's.

To date, we still couldn't believe it happened.

For years, Steve Ryeson would have some of my sports photos in his Sports Room so his customers could see them.

But when I return to The Highland House, the majority of the time I spend is with Gene and Elia.

When Gene's wife Diane was alive, no trip would be complete with her as we exchanged hugs and talked. She's a polished diamond of a person!

I'm glad that Candy has spent time in The Original Highland House and won't depend on my own memories as to what it was like.

Like the Silverdome, the Original Highland House will have a date with the wrecking ball. It will become a parking lot.

This building is actually 100 years old.

It was once a truck stop, then became The White Duck Restaurant, Nick's Big Platter and then the Highland House.

When I return, it will be different because I'll have to get used to a totally different atmosphere.

A State Of The Art Atmosphere.

This happens all the time in sports when older arenas get torn down and the new ones are built.

But one thing will always be consistent about the Highland House.

When I tell you that these people have the restaurant business down to a science, I really mean this!

This restaurant reminds me of Cheers, where everybody knows your name.

At the Highland House, you'll always see that familiar bartender as turnover at this position is very rare. In this photo of Elia and I, John Brodie is listed as a bartender that's been with the company several years. He is a great person and it was unfortunate that we didn't see him on this visit.

The original owners were always present and they knew there regular customers by name.

When I sent them customers and told them to look for a particular person, these individuals were there on their specific days.

Elia is a workaholic and never goes out of town.

Then again, when you love what you're doing for a living and making a good living and are comfortable, then he doesn't consider it work.

For years, Elia used to have business interests with former Detroit Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch, who was the founder of Little Caesars Pizza. Ilitch died on February 10, 2017.

These owners go out of there way to sit with there customers and make the experience and food right.

They're known for their Ribs, Garlic Bread, Pizza and Greek Salad with the Special Dressing. It can be ordered online.

The Highland House owners and staff have treated every vendor, customer and employee as an extension of their family.


As for Myself, Elia and Gene are Gold To Me!

Their love, friendship and my growth as an individual is something that is unforgettable!

Elia and Gene are extended members of my family!

As I've mentioned before and am proud to say it again, Elia is the older brother I never had while Gene is a Jewel of an Uncle!

I'm glad that Candy had an opportunity to spend time with Elia and Gene!

I've made other friends through them such as Gus Pantelides and Mike Pantel.

Both of them live in Clearwater, FL, and I see them periodically when we go to the Tampa Bay Area.

But if you want to open up a restaurant, The Highland House is the model you want to follow!

These people have gotten right for years and the future has never looked brighter!

I'll miss the Pontiac Silverdome and Original Highland House, but what a Nostalgic Return on a chilly but dry December 7, 2017 in Southeastern Michigan.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Ageless Wonders

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

In sports, aside from interviews, there is usually one way to tell a story.

The numbers never lie and in life that's the common denominator.

My wife and I were back in Metro Detroit for a few days in early December of 2017.

We were extremely busy the entire trip as I always am when I return to Michigan.

Unfortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to come back home in recent years therefore, to pile what I need to in three days, I'd need 48 hour days to put a dent in what I'm attempting to accomplish.

With family, friends and my media commitments, my schedule fills up real quick, thus there is an extremely tight window to fit things in my itinerary.

I spend days planning the trip writing things down and calling the people to make plans as every minute counts to come up with a comprehensive calendar. Those that stay in touch the most get high priority when I return home.

Those that don't stay in touch get bypassed. It's easy to stay in touch these days with text messages, phone calls, e-mail and Facebook.

On December 7, 2017, this was an Incredibly Unique Day.

My wife and I contacted My Mother to wish her a happy birthday.

It would have been great if she was in Michigan to celebrate, but because of our vacation time, timing didn't work out.

Nonetheless, it was great to hear her voice and she was in outstanding spirits. The tone in her voice was evident that she appreciated the call.

Ironically, this day brings back other special memories.

My wife and I went on our first date.

Thankfully, this was the last first date I ever went on and I am forever grateful as to how things have turned out.

The day started out with seeing some long time close family friends, Max and Nancy Spector, who had the opportunity to meet my wife for the first time. They were kind enough to meet us at the hotel and we spent about 90 minutes with them.

We took a group photo with them.

From there, the Victory Tour continued as Candy and I made a 40 minute trek to Bloomfield Hills, MI, to see the First Ageless Wonder, My Aunt Mary Must.

Aunt Mary is 98-years old and after spending about an hour with her, anyone who couldn't recognize that this woman is as sharp as she is needs to invest into a dunce cap.

Her family owned a successful dairy business and recently sold it.

She worked there and this gave her a sense of purpose.

When an individual can keep their mind active at any but especially a later age, that's an extremely healthy situation!

We had a great time getting caught up with Aunt Mary and she loved Candy!

Then again, everybody loves Candy!

Thankfully, Aunt Mary's sons Alan and Joel Must, along with her daughter-in-law Suretta keep tabs on her. They take her to the doctor and make sure that all of her shopping, etc... is handled.

This day was tough for Aunt Mary as her late daughter Madelon Seligman died recently at the age of 74 because of Cancer. She was born the same day as my mother in 1941. Aunt Mary's walker has a photo of Medelon on it.

I don't know of an existing family member that has ever lived to be 100-years old and I hope Aunt Mary becomes the first.

Despite Madelon's birthday, she was smiling that we were there and when we come to town in the future, there will always be time for this remarkable woman!

The Second Ageless Wonder is 85-yard old Gene Ryeson.

Here is another person who looks in fantastic shape.

He is the former owner of the Highland House in Highland, MI.

He turned over his ownership to his son Rob.

Despite relinquishing ownership, Ryeson is a silent partner of this 42-year old Iconic Restaurant located 30 miles away from Pontiac, MI. He shows up on a regular basis to greet customers and always monitors the books.

Gene Ryeson is another example that an active mind keeps him impressively on the road to the glorified century mark.

There is no doubt that Gene still feels a void since the loss of his late wife Diane, who was one of the nicest people you can meet.

There aren't enough words in Webster's Dictionary that can define how genuine Diane was. I truly loved Diane!

Thankfully, Ryeson is around his family, the loyal customers, plus new ones, and his smile is as bright as the Florida Sun.

I worked at the Highland House when I was in High School from 1978-81, and when I returned home during the holidays from college, I would work a couple days to have extra spending money.

In late 1986, I returned to the Highland House and took an interim position in a managerial capacity to straighten out issues in the kitchen.

Ryeson trusted me to turn things around and gave me all the tools and support I needed to get things done. We would work until late at night and I gave him updates.

He knew that I would leave in January to take a baseball job as the Director of Public Relations in Gastonia, NC as I worked for the Texas Rangers Class A affiliate which ultimately produced 12 major league players and coaches.

He made sure I earned enough money to take a trip to Hollywood, FL, so I can get this job in Sports Administration.

Once again, my adopted uncle had an opportunity to spend time with my new beautiful significant other as he would tell her stories of our incredible history together.

From late 1987-1999, I worked with Ryeson as a consultant.

He always picked my brain when dealing with employees, customers and I was proud to use my Media, Sales, Psychology and BA Degree in Communication from the University of South Florida to brain storm on how to handle situations.

We also enjoyed talking about life and when I needed advice, he was there to provide it. A one-in-a-million person and we need more like Gene!

Ryeson will continue to be on the Victory Tour when I return home.

The Third Ageless Wonder is My Uncle Albert Kroll, who is 90-years old.

The last time I saw Uncle Al was at his Sisters and My Grandmother Sophie's funeral in 2000.

With the cooperation of My father and Aunt Judy, he was more than willing to let me do the eulogy of my grandmother.

And, I was determined to give her a sendoff to heaven for the ages! My Grandma Sophie and I were as close as any two people can be!

I'm forever grateful that my family allowed me to be the only speaker to do the eulogy.

On this night, Uncle Al, Aunt Barbara, My Cousin Ron and his wife Helene met Candy at Buddy's Pizza in Farmington Hills, MI. They gravitated to Candy!

In my opinion, Buddy's serves the best pizza in Michigan! There is nothing close!

You want to talk about a sharp individual, Albert is it.

He founded Kroll Construction in 1961 and I went to their website.

It's extremely impressive.

He's definitely adapted to the times understanding how the industry has changed in many ways through advanced technology. The methods of doing business is much different these days as sales are more consultative and less high pressure.

Yet, this family business is as strong as ever and continues to be one of the longest home improvement companies in Metro Detroit. The potential shelf life seems limitless.

Uncle Al told me he works out at 5:30 am and then goes to work everyday. While he's not listed as an officer anymore, his involvement is definitely evident. He's another example of an incredibly active mind at a later age.

He remembered a time when he bought me a winter coat and I forgot all about that.

We talked about many other things plus these people had the opportunity to meet the newest member of the family.

You guessed it, Candy.

Future visits will include cousins Todd, his wife Jennifer, Brian and perhaps others.

I expect there to many more great times with these individuals so Candy can get to spend time with family members that were unable to attend our wedding on January 1, 2017.

In horse racing, a legacy is defined by the animal's ability to win the Triple Crown.

Winning The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes are what can turn regular horses into icons.

The combined ages of these Three Ageless Wonders is 273. 

This is the most important number of this story with the remarkable longevity attached to these individuals.

It's hard to imagine or believe that Gene Ryeson is the youngest of the group at 85, but he is nonetheless.

Yet if you look at the photos in this story, they all look absolutely fantastic!

Unfortunately, the past 15 years has not been very kind to me with the numerous operations and hospital stays I've had.

It's been documented before and I'll say it again that in 2017, I was in the hospital five times, yet with Candy's help, I survived and feel pretty good to date.

On this unique date of Pearl Harbor Day of December 7, 2017, the opportunity to spend time with all of These Iconic Group Of Individuals certainly made this an Incredible Trip!

I expect more Replays In The Future!

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Mount. St. Jacksonville

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

The last time I saw a post-season game at EverBank Field was on February 6, 2005 when the New England Patriots edged the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 on a chilly clear 59 degree night in front of 78,125 to win Super Bowl XXXIX.

While I've covered my fair share of games in this venue since then, this post-season contest pitting the Buffalo Bills (9-7) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (10-6) is one with no shortage of story lines.

As I mentioned in the last story, Jaguars Coach Doug Marrone served as the Bills head coach from 2013-14. During the week, my media colleagues have touted this game as "The Doug Marrone Bowl."

During the season, the Jaguars bolstered their run defense by acquiring defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from the Buffalo Bills. To demonstrate their thanks to Buffalo, Jacksonville inserted Dareus into the starting lineup.

Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette bought his offensive line Rolex Watches as he eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark by amassing 1,040 yards in 13 games with nine rushing touchdowns.

CBS sent their top broadcasting team of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, Tracy Wolfson and Jay Feeley to cover the game. Wolfson and Feeley are both Michigan Wolverine alumnus and were assigned to report from the sidelines.

But the big story lines with these franchises was their long playoff droughts.

Buffalo owned the longest drought in the NFL by sitting on the sidelines since 1999, 17 years.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars won their first division title in franchise history and had a 10-year playoff hiatus.

Between the two squads, you're looking at 27 years of no playoff football.

The one thing that I've enjoyed over the past 13 months is how the Jaguars have made a nice turnaround, coming off a 3-13 mark.

During the past two stories, I've talked about what's transpired with this team.

The word sellout hasn't been used much while the team has struggled since they appeared in the post-season in 2007.

But that word sellout has reappeared at the end of the 2017 season to the tune of three straight and this is just the beginning.

With a competitive team, I've always believed that this town would Erupt which is behind the name, Mount. St. Jacksonville.

In My Sports Writing career, I've seen a lot of different Sports Towns.

The ones which have intrigued me the most are those that are "The Only Game In Town."

Some of the teams and towns that have stood out over the years include: The Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vancouver Canucks and of course the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Other towns and teams that had one major sports team before they ultimately gained expansion franchises include: The Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Toronto Maple Leafs. These are the places I've seen.

There are others which I'm not mentioning at the moment because they're on my bucket list down the road.

What amazes me about the Jacksonville situation is they get seven regular season home games in addition to the pair of pre-season games.

Jaguars Owner Shad Khan has a home game in London, England, which is also on my bucket list and Jacksonville makes a lot of money playing across the pond. Jacksonville recently extended its deal to continue playing a game in the UK.

With this team being in the playoffs, Khan will reap the benefits of his team being a Cash Cow as revenues figure to increase as a result of continued fan support along with merchandise sales both locally and in London.

I spoke with a writer from the Toronto Star and he said Khan markets the Jaguars in Canada.

Prior to the Buffalo Game, Khan gave away 1,000 free tickets to Puerto Ricans, who were displaced from Hurricane Maria.

You want to talk about a hot ticket, the Jaguars vs Bills was just that.

Tickets for this game were going for $300 for standing room, while the other AFC Wild Card Game in Kansas City pitting the Chiefs against the Tennessee Titans was $38 per ticket.

Regardless of how much the Jaguars fans paid for this game, the "White Towels" were waving at full force.

The Titans defeated the Chiefs 22-21 so the financial hit for those fans wasn't high, but the loss stung nonetheless.

Before the game, I spoke for a couple minutes with NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock and asked him what type of game that he expected to see.

Mayock was doing the color analysis for Westwood One National Radio Broadcast with play-by-play partner Ian Eagle.

He told me that he expected a hard fought and low scoring affair.

While neither of us predicted a team, I did tell him that a 17-14 or 21-17 score is what I thought would occur and he seemed to like those scores.

That's how evenly matched these teams were.

They have QB's in Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor and Jacksonville's Blake Bortles, who were making their playoff debuts.

Plus, running backs LeSean McCoy of Buffalo and Fournette are game breakers.

How do you impress your fan base and regional following?

You win and the Jaguars sent 69,442 people home real happy with a 10-3 win on a clear 53 degree day.

Going into the game, Jacksonville was an 8.5 point favorite and the Over/Under was 40.

The prognosticators and the gamblers were definitely off base with these numbers.

Here are some interesting numbers that stood out in this contest.

Buffalo out gained Jacksonville in net yards, 263-230.

Time of possession favored the Bills as well leading by a 32:37-27:23 margin.

McCoy performed better than Fournette. McCoy had 75 yards rushing and 44 yards receiving. Fournette rushed for 57 yards and added another 21 in the air.

On the depth chart, Blake Bortles is listed as a QB, but put on a Halloween Costume as a running back. I can't remember the last time that a signal caller rushed for more yards than he threw for. But that's exactly what happened.

Bortles rushed for 88 yards and passed for 87, although he did throw a touchdown pass and didn't throw an interception.

For this story, I've decided to use what I consider key adjectives and use definitions to describe what I saw.

1. Ugly--If you were looking for a shootout, this wasn't the game.
2. Stingy Defenses--Both teams combined for 493 net yards.
3. Energy--The crowd noise could even be heard in the press box through the windows.
4. Rodney Dangerfield--Blake Bortles gets no respect from the National Media but got a win.
5. Emotional--Sellout crowd with Flag On The Field during National Anthem in this Military Town.
6. Challenging--For radio announcers calling such a low scoring contest.
7. Full--The Press Box. I met a columnist from the Toronto Sun.
8. Cooler Temperatures--Than Super Bowl XXXIX (39).
9. Painful--To watch Bills QB Tyrod Taylor getting tackled and head thrown into ground leading to a concussion.
10. Vindication--Marrone and Dareus defeat former team.
11. Dramatic--Hometown kid Nathan Peterman enters game after Taylor leaves via a concussion.
12. Gordie Howe Hat Trick, Peterman throws an interception, runs for a first down, intentional grounding penalty.
13. Chris Webber--Buffalo had no timeouts resulting in two 10 second clock runoffs, with Peterman intentional grounding and Taylor's injury.
14. Clutch--Bortles picking up a first down off a botched play, fumbled snap scrambling for a first down with under five minutes left in regulation time.
15. Smash-mouth--If there was ever a physical football game, this was it.

There were some very happy Jaguars and here is what some of them had to say.

Dareus had four tackles, three solo and one for a loss. When I approached him, he remembered me from our last conversation and he had a smile that went from Jacksonville to the North Pole.

"It was nice defeating my old team and I wanted to give whatever information to the coaches," Dareus said. "Whatever they wanted to use, it was up to them.

"It's nice to continue playing and the energy in this stadium was tremendous. To feed off the fans the way we did was great. It's something to play in front of a small market where you're the only team in town and watch the community get behind this team. I was just hovering over the whole atmosphere and trying to live in the moment.

"I've really enjoyed my time here and I'm glad the season isn't over. We have more work to do and I'm looking forward to the next game."

Marrone knows how far this team has come in the past year. But for a guy that's pretty even keeled and downplayed the revenge Buffalo match-up during the week, it wasn't hard to tell that he's pleased that there won't be any exit interviews this week.

"Like I told our team, it was a hard fought game on both sides, both teams. Credit, obviously, to Buffalo. They did a heck of a job today. They played their butts off. I thought we played hard too and at the end of the day we were just able to make a couple of plays.

"Playoff football is about you just going out there to win. No one was trying to win a beauty contest. The teams that are playing, it's going to be all out, everything is all out on the football field. Like I said, I'd be remiss not to give credit to Buffalo. They left it all out there, and I thought our guys were leaving it all out there. Each week it's a different story, you know what I'm saying, in what you want to do.

"Each week is going to be geared toward doing the best job you can, but it still goes back to the same thing we've been talking about all year. It's going to be your performance on that day, and what you're able to do, so obviously we're going to have to do some better things going forward."

Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue was asked if this felt like a game that one play could make a difference.

"Yeah, definitely. I just felt like from the start the defense came out and we did what we were supposed to do. All 11 guys flying to the ball, had a little bit of mistakes, but that's part of football. You're not going to be perfect. Overall, I feel like the effort and I feel like the energy was there."

Cornerback Aaron Colvin described his first playoff experience.

"The atmosphere was incredible. The fans, they were rocking from start to finish, and I've just got to say thank you to all the fans that were out there that supported us today and have been around with us all year. It's a cool feeling, but at the same time, we've got bigger goals."

Offensive lineman Cam Robinson talked about what it's like when Bortles breaks out for big runs.

"He's an athlete, that's what it tells me. He's going out there and do whatever it takes for us to win. That's all you can ask from a quarterback is to go out there and lay it on the line every time and he does a great job of doing that every week."

Linebacker Telvin Smith described his thoughts on finally getting a playoff win.

"I'm telling you it feels great. I know that's simple, but it is what it is. It's simple in the formula that we did. If you put that hard work in from the front office to the players and to the coaches, you put in that hard work and you're going to get results, so that's all you see. Right here, are the results of hard work."

Cornerback A.J. Bouye talked about how Bortles handled himself.

"Everything is not perfect. He finds a way to keep fighting through. He blocks out all the noise. It shows you how tough he is especially that one third-down where the ball came down. He picked it up and ran off. Things weren't perfect but he keeps fighting. He has grit. Coach Tom Coughlin talks about that a lot."

Defensive end Calais Campbell was asked why this season is different than previous seasons for the Jaguars.

"I don't have that answer for you, I wish I did. All I know is that this season, everybody's focused and having fun and enjoying the game, and we put the work in. This is the hardest I've ever worked in my whole career. Coach Marrone really demanded a lot out of us and the guys responded. This team is incredible and we have so many playmakers, different guys who love this game and play the right way."

Wide receiver Allen Hurns had nothing but praise for his underrated signal caller Blake Bortles.

"It shows who Blake is. No matter what happens he finds a way. No matter what happens during the course of a game, he has that belief that he can go down and lead us on any given drive. He wasn't able to get it done in the passing game, but that's on all of us. He made a lot of plays with his legs to continue drives."

Last but not least, there is Blake Bortles. This guy won't win any Olympic Gold Medals in running events, but he probably doesn't even care.

A Vince Lombardi Trophy would suit him fine.

On this chilly afternoon in Northern Florida, he was asked if he ever thought he would rush for more yards than he would pass.

"No, that's usually not ideal for a quarterback but it is what it is. I said earlier I kind of felt like last week I didn't run a whole lot. I don't think I ran at all so it felt like we lost and got beat with emptying all of our bullets, so I wanted to make sure that whatever happened today, if we were going to get beat or something bad was going to happen, it was going to be with us going down swinging, using every option we could. I think the wind was a factor a little bit going one way but I thought we did a good job up front and they did a good job of getting back and getting under routes, so it kind of allowed me to run a little bit."

Bortles was asked if the overall experience lived up to his expectation.

"It was incredible. Talking to guys on the sidelines there's not a lot of people outside of Marcedes (Lewis) that have ever seen the stadium like that. I think for us to run out of the tunnel and see all of those people out there and for the first time since I've been here to see the tarps taken off of the upper deck in the corners was real special. It was cool to be able to do this in front of our home crowd in Jacksonville, our stadium. Everyone knows it hasn't been done in a long time so it was really special to be able to do that."

While Jacksonville didn't win a beauty contest against Buffalo, the Jaguars did against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pennsylvania, Sunday, 45-42.

This was Jacksonville's second win over Pittsburgh in the Steelers building this season.

I've maintained all-season that I feel the Jaguars are playing on "House Money." I still believe that way so it was easy for them to prepare for a rematch with the Steelers as an underdog.

Especially since the Steelers (13-3) entered the game overconfident and appeared to be looking forward to facing the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game Sunday.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh fans, that match-up never materialized.

When your Super Bowl winning signal caller Ben Roethlisberger throws for 469 yards and five touchdowns, one would think this should be a victory.

But he threw for one interception and Jacksonville's defense sacked Ben seven times and the Steelers had two turnovers.

If you want lots of yards, this game had it as Pittsburgh out gained Jacksonville 545-378 totaling 923 for both squads.

Bortles numbers were a bit better than against Buffalo as he amassed 214 yards passing and one touchdown, plus 35 yards rushing. Bortles did an exceptional job managing the football game by not self destructing and beating himself.

But Steelers nemesis Fournette was at it again as he scored three touchdowns and gained 109 yards.

Jacksonville will now face the New England Patriots Sunday in Massachusetts in the AFC Championship Game.

This is the Jaguars third appearance in this game, but the first since 1999.

When you consider the magnitude of the Jacksonville run this season, here are some things to consider.

First, former Coach Mike Mularkey was fired by the Tennessee Titans this week even though his team won a playoff game.

Second, the Cincinnati Bengals are 0-7 in the playoffs since Marvin Lewis has been the head coach.

Third, the Detroit Lions haven't won a playoff game since the 1991 season, their only campaign where they advanced to their lone NFC Championship Game.

Fourth, Jim McMahon (Chicago Bears), Doug Williams (Washington Redskins), Jeff Hostetler (New York Giants), Mark Rypien (Washington Redskins), Trent Dilfer (Baltimore Ravens) and Brad Johnson (Tampa Bay Bucs), Jim Plunkett (Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders) proved a QB doesn't have to be a Hall of Famer to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Despite winning two Super Bowls, Plunkett's statistics are definitely not worth bragging about.

He amassed 25,882 yards, with 164 touchdown passes and 198 interceptions with a passer rating of 67.5.

Since his arrival to Jacksonville in 2014, Bortles has thrown for 14,928 yards, 90 touchdowns, 64 interceptions and has a passer rating of 80.8.

Romo, who called the game for CBS had a 78-49 record for the Dallas Cowboys and amassed 34,183 yards.

But for all of these yards, when it came to the playoffs, Romo's record of 2-4 and no Super Bowl appearance would ultimately define his career.

Bortles is already 2-0 in the playoffs and has his squad one victory away from the Super Bowl.

When the Jaguars returned home from Pittsburgh there was a Small Rally at EverBank Field celebrating their win.

At the moment, we're getting just a Snap Shot of what Jacksonville will look like with some post-season success.

I can only imagine what this town will be like should the team get to the Super Bowl, let alone win it.

There is one Jaguar player who will have some hardware heading to his trophy case.

Calais Campbell has been named Defensive Player Of The Year By The Football Writers Of America.

Campbell, who was acquired by the team as an unrestricted free agent on March 10, 2017, started all 16 games for the third consecutive season and totaled 67 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 14 tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles, three passes defensed and one fumble recovery, which he returned 10 yards for a touchdown.

Campbell set the Jaguars single season franchise record with a career-high and AFC-leading 14.5 sacks.

As outsiders try to think they know the answers as to whether Bortles can lead this team to the Lombardi Trophy searching to find his replacement, the team is becoming more confident he's their QB of the present and future.

The attitude in Jacksonville is Us Vs The World. The Jaguars will have it no other way.

The amount of players featured in this story really paints a good picture of what's going on in This Military Town.

If there is an advantage of being in a smaller market with less media and blue collar fans, this is it.

What I've seen over the past year and a half is truly incredible.

I'll say this, whenever the Sun Sets on the season whether it be this weekend, or perhaps after the Super Bowl, Mount St. Jacksonville is about to Erupt and the Lava is starting to come out in an area which is the "Only Game In Town." 

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com and is a member of Detroit Sports Media.

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