Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Of All the Stadium Possibilities What’s Best for Our Aztecs?

Day after day it seems there is another article or commentary about a new stadium solution. There is a wide range of viewpoints. One letter to the San Diego Union-Tribune from an “Aztec fan” said he was dumping our Aztecs because they won’t support the SoccerCity plan. Ridiculous! 

Without delving into all the political aspects, who’s stealing from whom and the other accusations, let me tell you how I feel. 

First of all, I love Aztec Football, am very pleased with the progress we’ve made under Rocky Long. Being ranked #25 in both major polls at the end of the 2016 season is proof of that progress. And I am convinced the best is yet to come, IF… 

If the Aztecs have a suitable stadium for their games. While Qualcomm has been good for us in many ways, it really is too big. Now one of the options is a soccer stadium seating only 30,000. Too small. The average home crowd for Aztec home games last year was 37,000+, with three games drawing more than 40,000. With this year's schedule and Aztec success, it should increase. 

There are other factors. An expanded campus versus housing and a shopping center? How much money invested and by whom? But I will leave that to others. 

My viewpoint may be simplistic, but as a rabid Aztec Football fan, I just know we need a bigger stadium than a soccer stadium to succeed. For successful recruiting. For revenue. Maybe it's 45,000 – 50,000, but not soccer size. And the bigger stadium is a must for the long-successful Holiday Bowl. 

From a San Diego sports standpoint, Aztec Football must have an appropriate stadium, just as the Aztec Basketball program has accomplished in our on–campus arena. 

30,000 is not enough (photo by Ernie Anderson)

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

25th-Ranked Aztecs Prove Quality; Send 8 Players to NFL

The 2017 NFL draft was a great weekend for Aztec Football. Eight Aztecs – one-third of the senior class – will be in NFL camps this summer. Nico Siragusa (Ravens, #122), DJ Pumphrey (Eagles, #132) and Damontae Kazee (Falcons, #149) were selected in the draft, and five other Aztecs signed free agent contracts: Calvin Munson (Giants), Malik Smith (Texans), Alex Barrett (Lions), Daniel Brunskill (Falcons) and Kwayde Miller (Ravens). 

DJ Pumphrey, Nico Siragusa, Damontae Kazee (Ernie Anderson)

Three draftees was the most of any Mountain West team, and only 22 schools had more players selected. As AD John David Wicker Tweeted, that’s more than 38 Power 5 schools. And that’s more than Stanford, Arizona and Oregon combined.

A testament to the great program Rocky Long and staff have built. 

The 2017 draft reminded of another great draft, one that seems like just a couple of years ago, but was actually 50 years ago.

The 1967 draft was the first common draft by the NFL and AFL (prior to ’67, each league held their own draft). Eight Aztecs from the College Division National Champs were drafted that year, including QB Don Horn, who was the first Aztec to be selected in the first round (#25), by the Packers. 

Four Aztecs were taken in the second round: DE Leo Carroll (Falcons, #31), RB Don Shy (Steelers, #35), DB Bobby Jones (Bears, #36) and DB Bobby Howard (Chargers, #48).  WR Nate Johns was taken in the sixth round by the Chargers (#147), DB John Williams by the Eagles in the seventh (#174) and WR Craig Scoggins by the Chargers in the 15th (#381).  Eight draftees in one year is still the Aztec record, 50 years later.

There were only 26 pro teams back then. Leo Carroll was the 31st pick; that’s a first round pick in in 2017. Several of those Aztecs had long NFL careers, including Bobby Howard’s 13 seasons (Chargers, Patriots, Eagles), Don Horn’s eight (Packers, Broncos, Chargers) and Don Shy’s seven (Steelers, Saints, Bears, Cardinals).

Don Horn, Leo Carroll, Don Shy, Bobby Howard
The 1966 Aztecs were Don Coryell’s first great team: 11-0 National Champs with a high-powered offense (the original Air Coryell/West Coast Offense), stifling defense (four shutouts; six others scored 18 or less); and two future NFL Hall of Fame coaches on the staff (John Madden, Joe Gibbs). That great team laid the foundation for the Aztecs move to Division 1 three years later.

Congratulations to the 2017 Aztecs in the NFL, and congratulations to the 1966 Aztecs!