Notebook > Sports

Draft dodged

Sports | Heisman Trophy winner Jason White of Oklahoma went overlooked in last week's NFL draft

Issue: "John Bolton: Take cover!," May 7, 2005

On a day when many college players' dreams were fulfilled, the dreams of former Oklahoma quarterback Jason White and Tennessee lineman Michael Munoz came crashing down. Not a single NFL team wanted to exhaust a pick on either player during April's NFL draft. Not that Mr. White didn't have the credentials: He passed for more than 8,000 yards in college and won the Heisman trophy after the 2003 season.

But Mr. White wasn't just ignored. He was embarrassed. Teams wary of Mr. White's shaky knees (he's had reconstructive surgery on both knees) turned to lesser-known quarterbacks in the late rounds. The New England Patriots, rather than taking a chance on Mr. White, selected USC's backup quarterback, Matt Cassel. St. Louis opted for Harvard quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the seventh round.

Meanwhile, Tennessee All-American offensive lineman Michael Munoz, son of Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Munoz, also went undrafted. Like Mr. White, teams apparently worried about Mr. Munoz's past knee injuries. But unlike Mr. White, Mr. Munoz said he was through with football after his draft-day slide. Anthony Munoz said his son will probably now pursue an MBA: "He'll tell you one door was closed and there's four or five other doors being opened at the same time. It's kind of a divine intervention here."

Applying some Heat

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Sportswriters who are fond of calling Miami's Shaquille O'Neal the "Big Aristotle" may need a new nickname: the "Big Limp." With a tender ankle that caused him to miss part of the NBA season, San Antonio forward Tim Duncan could assume the same nickname. So what happens when your team leader enters the playoff season on a bum wheel? For Shaq, the answer is simple: Get better. "I've got some kinks in my engine, but I know a lot of people, I know a lot of doctor mechanics that are going to fix me up and I'll be right there in no time," Mr. O'Neal said following the Heat's Game One victory over New Jersey in the playoffs.

Things aren't so simple for Mr. Duncan. Before San Antonio's seven-game series with Denver began, the All-Star estimated he would play at about 75 percent to 80 percent. That may not have been a problem if the Spurs had played another of the Western Conference's lower seeds. But Denver entered the playoffs on a severe hot streak and took Game One against the hobbled Mr. Duncan. Still, the Spurs remained confident, reasoning that as the series wore on, Mr. Duncan's limp would eventually turn into a run.

Around the Horn

· The hottest slugger in baseball this season looks more like David Eckstein than Barry Bonds. Regardless of his size, Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts put up MVP numbers through the first 20 games of the season, batting .378 with 22 RBIs and nine steals. But it was Mr. Roberts' seven home runs that really shocked opposing teams. Since he came up to the major leagues in 2001, he had hit only 12 until this year.

· After the embarrassment of the Associated Press college football poll withdrawing from its system, BCS officials said they were considering making public the ballots of the coaches' poll. Last season, allegations of impropriety in the coaches' poll arose after a few coaches ranked Auburn and California abnormally low, resulting in worse bowls for both teams. Meanwhile, BCS commissioner Kevin Weiberg says the BCS may replace the AP poll with a different poll or scrap polls entirely and have a selection committee.

· Hockey legend Bobby Orr thinks he knows where the fault lies in the failed NHL labor negotiations. He instructed NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and labor leader Bob Goodenow to "get out of the way," saying the league may need replacement leaders, not replacement players. But apparently the idea of opening the 2005-06 season with replacement players has also been sidetracked. Labor laws in Canada and some northern states make it difficult to hire scrubs during lockouts.

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