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Friday Night Rant: LeBron James Syndrome and WNY Football Talent


Lebron James recently won his first championship. I openly hate Lebron James, not because "he controlled his own destiny", not because he was crown King 8 years before he'd win a ring, and not because of "the decision"

The main reason I hate Lebron is because the Rust Belt has a hard enough time attracting and retaining talent. Some criticisms are warranted, but most is just bad PR: Marcellus Wiley is on LA radio and almost daily he speaks about how awful Buffalo was for a young millionaire, (he'd have to drive to Toronto for decent shopping! poor him).

But Wiley a LA native who went to college in New York City, he's used to very big cities. But Lebron, born and raised in Cleveland, if he doesn't love Cleveland, who will?

This made me think of local Buffalo football athletes. Since 2003, 16 athletes stood out, 7 of which came to Buffalo. The first one that came to mind was an athlete who I first became aware of while working for the team.

Mike Williams a talented WR from Riverside high not only committed to Syracuse, he trashed Buffalo (probably inadvertently) while doing it. I thought at the time it would kill our recruiting, as it turns out, I think NOT getting Williams helped us more than it hurt us...but I can only imagine what could have been.

1) Mike Williams WR, Riverside.


"UB was good, but when I went to Syracuse everything just blew up. They have twice what UB has."

Mike Williams

Where he went: Syracuse

Why not UB?: Syracuse has twice what UB has.

How'd he do: Showed promise, but was dismissed from the team twice.

NFL?: Yes 4th round pick, currently starting WR for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If he went to UB: He would have arrived in 2006, turning the Big 3 of Roosevelt, Hamlin and Jackson into an even more potent Big 4. Would being closer to home prevented his 2008 suspension? With less red flags, he could have been drafted in the 1st or 2nd round.

2) Jehuu Caulcrick, RB, Clymer.

Where he went: Michigan State (considered Pitt, Cuse, UMD, Rutgers)

Why not UB?: Noted relationship with Michigan State position coaches were key to his commitment

How'd he do: 2,395 career yards, 39 TDs. 21 TDs his senior year. Over taken by Javon Ringer, never became the #1 back.

NFL?: Yes, Un drafted, on roster for Jets and Bills between 2008 and 2010.

If he went to UB: He would have split time with Dave Dawson and Aaron Leeper in 2003. As injuries ended Leeper's career early, Caulcrick would have been the feature back until graduating as one of the MAC's best in 2006. Legendary MAC RB's Michael Turner and Garrett Wolfe went 5th round (2004) and 3rd round (2007) so you could assume Caulcrick could have been drafted in that 3-5 range in 2006.

3) Dan Gronkowski, QB, Williamsville North


"Maryland is giving me a shot at quarterback, and their business school is ranked 16th in the country. I wasn't going to go anywhere else that I would find as good a coaching staff or a better school, and I wanted to get away a little."

Where he went: Maryland

Why not UB?: UB offered Dan as a QB, but Maryland is ACC with a better Business School

How'd he do: Never got to play QB, switched to tight end, excelled academically.

NFL?: Yes 7th round pick currently with the Cleveland Browns.

If he went to UB: Between 2004 and 2005 we played 7 quarterbacks, before Drew Willy earned the job in 2006. Gronkowski could have been a 4 year starter at QB at Buffalo, graduating in 2007. Drew Willy could have redshirted in 2005, and sat as a Redshirt freshman and Sophomore. Willy would still have two years of eligibility, in 2008 and 2009, and Gronkowski could have played QB.

4) Mark Rubin, WR, Amherst


"Throughout the whole process, Penn State was my top choice," said Rubin. "Growing up I always favored the blue and white of Penn State. Obviously Coach Paterno, the coach with the most wins ever in college football, is someone you keep an eye on and just put on a pedestal as one of the best coaches ever. It definitely makes you want to pinch yourself."

Where he went: Penn State

Why not UB?: We didn't have a legendary coach.

How'd he do: Switched to DB, was an adequate defender with 24 starts.

NFL?: No, signed by the Rams but waived before the season began.

If he went to UB: UB didn't have a impact wide receiver until 2007, Rubin a big target could have been a great target early on, and improved on the already deadly receiving core in 2007 and 2008.

5) Chris Gronkowski, FB, Williamsville North

Where he went: Recruited by Penn, Buffalo, New Hampshire, committed to Penn for the Business school, then decided to play with his brother at Maryland, and later transfered to Arizona.

Why not UB?: We didn't have a Gronk brother? He didn't get much D-1 interest, but still did not choose UB.

How'd he do: Good? he was a fullback.

NFL?: Yes, undrafted, currently with the Broncos.

If he went to UB: Hard to see a fullback having a major impact, however if we got Chris to UB, we might have been able to lure his brother Rob to Buffalo

6) James Starks, QB, Niagara Falls


"The program is changing -- they're doing great things," Starks said of the Bulls, who went 2-9 last year. "I want to go there and help turn things around."

"I wanted to stay home and be and close to my family,"

Where he went: Buffalo

Why not UB?: He came because it's the hometown team, over offers from Syracuse, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Central Florida.

How'd he do: Switched from QB to DB to RB, became best RB in UB history.

NFL?: Yes, injury prevented him from being a top pick, starting RB for Super Bowl Champion Packers.

7) Naaman Roosevelt, QB, St. Joe's


"My parents and I just thought that UB was the best choice," said Roosevelt, who is headed to a UB program that has won only 10 Division I-A games since 1999. "With [Gill], I see a big change. Helping change UB around would be a great thing to do."

Where he went: Buffalo

Why not UB?: He came because Gill promised to let him compete for the QB spot. His other offers were mostly for top FCS programs.

New Hampshire was leading the race, but he began to consider UB after Gill visited Roosevelt's home shortly after being hired.

"That was very big -- he really showed that he wanted me and wanted me to stay home and go to UB," Roosevelt said. "[Prior to Gill's hiring, UB] probably talked to me twice. They really didn't seem interested in me."

How'd he do: Switched from QB to WR, became best WR in UB history.

NFL?: Yes, plays for the Buffalo Bills.

8) Rob Gronkowski, TE, Williamsville North

Where he went: Arizona

Why not UB?: Highly touted, he had his pick of top FBS programs. His list included: Maryland, Arizona, Clemson, UNC, Ohio State and Syracuse.

How'd he do: 16 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards in two years.

NFL?: Yes 2nd round pick for New England, one of the top Tight Ends in the game.

If he went to UB: He would have arrived in 2007, and competed with Jesse Rack for the starting job. The '07 team would have had talent spilling out everywhere a player like Gronk can make a huge impact in the MAC, Buffalo could have won 3 straight MAC East Divisions with Gronk's skill at TE.

9) Domonic Cook, DB, St. Joe's


"I would go to UB games a lot, and at a young age coaches would ask me if I thought I could play on that field some day," Cook said. "And I'd say yes -- I always thought I could play out there."
"UB was always a place I wanted to go to for sure," Cook said. "People around here can see me play, and at the top level."

Where he went: Buffalo

Why not UB?: He came because of local ties, and relationship with Naaman Roosevelt. Before UB signed him, he was headed to Fordham.

How'd he do: Part of an opportunistic defense that helped earn UB a championship in 2008.

NFL?: No, signed by the Bills but injured in camp.

10) Marcus Rivers, WR, Lackawanna


"I liked how the coaches and players got along. There was a lot of chemistry," Rivers said of his UB visit. "Everyone was comfortable around each other. Of all my choices, I thought UB was the best fit for me."

Where he went: Buffalo

Why not UB?: Rivers committed to Temple, and had an offer from Syracuse, not sure why he switched from Temple to UB.

How'd he do: Rivers showed potential, but was always better against FCS competition.

NFL?: No, was waived by Green Bay.

11) David Fluellen, Lockport

Where he went: Toledo

If he went to UB: The backfield was already crowded in 2010, and Quinn doesn't like to share carries. It's probably for the best Fluellen went elsewhere.

12) Steven Means, Grover Cleveland Commits to Buffalo

13) Alex Neutz, Grand Island, Commits to Buffalo

14) Glenn Gronkowski, Williamsville North


"My only offers were the University of Buffalo and here. I was looking at a lot of Ivy League schools, too. They all wanted me, but there's no scholarship money there."

Where he went: Kansas State

Why not UB?: KSU Offensive Coordinator coached Chris and Rob Gronkowski at Arizona.

How'd he do: Hasn't started yet.

If he went to UB: He might've make a difference at WR, but he doesn't at this point seem to be a game changer. The most positive effect would be the PR win, Gronk would bring a lot of attention based on his brothers in the NFL.

15) Joe Licata, QB, Williamsville South


"I liked the coaching staff, it's a really good place. It was the best fit for me, especially because I'll be able to play in front of my family and friends."

Where he went: Buffalo, over offers from Syracuse and Akron

Why not UB?: Licata choose UB to stay local, and because of Quinn's staff.

16) Chad Kelly, QB, St. Joes

Where he went: Clemson

Why not UB?: UB was in the mix, with Clemson, Syracuse, Alabama, FSU, Michigan State and Purdue.

If he went to UB: There would be a lot of pressure to play him which could be a problem for team chemistry. Kelly would have to fight Zordich and Licata for playing time and before he takes a college snap its hard to imagine what impact he would have.

Each student athlete quote was found in articles of The Buffalo News, which for what they may lack in-depth coverage of UB recruiting, (I really don't think there is a market for that in Buffalo), they make up for in superb coverage of local high school standouts.