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May 8, 2017

College Softball Tournaments Around Our State

By bryanflynn

While most NCAA Division I softball conference tournaments around the country are getting started this week, Division II and Division III tournaments are already underway or have crowned their champions.

Belhaven University wasn’t able to reach the postseason as the Blazers continued their transition to Division III, but the Millsaps College Majors, who are also in Division III, made it all the way to the Southern Athletic Association title game.

The Majors won their first two SAA Softball Tournament games before falling 2-1 to Berry College. Millsaps then defeated Hendrix College 7-0 in its next game in the tournament and had to wait a week before playing in the conference title game due to rain. Ultimately, the Majors still couldn’t get past Berry and fell 4-2, which will end the season unless they earn an at-large bid to the Division III tournament.

In Division II, Delta State University failed to reach the Gulf South Conference Softball Tournament, but Mississippi College entered as the third seed. The Choctaws charged through the field and reached the title game, crushing the University of Alabama in Huntsville 18-5 to earn the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

This is Mississippi College’s first-ever GSC title in softball and the first GSC title for the college’s athletic program in general since the 1994-1995 men’s basketball team won a championship in the conference.

The Division I schools in our state will try to repeat the performance of Mississippi College when their tournaments start on Wednesday, May 10.

Alcorn State University is the No. 1 seed out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference East Division and will play Southern University, the No. 4 seed out of the West Division at 6 p.m. In the second round, the Braves will face either the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which is the No. 2 seed out of the West, or the No. 3 seed from the East, Alabama A&M University.

In the other half of the SWAC bracket, Mississippi Valley State University is the No. 4 seed from the East and has to face the No. 1 seed from the West, Texas Southern University, at 3 p.m. The Delta Devils will then face either the No. 2 seed in the East, Alabama State University, or Prairie View A&M University, which is the No. 3 seed in the West, in the second round.

The SWAC Softball Tournament is a double-elimination tournament, with the top four teams from the East and West getting into the event. Jackson State University finished fifth in the East Division and will not participate in the tournament.

Meanwhile, the SEC Softball Tournament will be good news and bad news for Mississippi State University and the University of Mississippi. The Bulldogs and Rebels clash in the first round at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, with the good news being that one of them is guaranteed to reach the second round.

Then comes the ...

May 5, 2017

Possible Late Free-Agent Pickups for the Saints

By bryanflynn

Shopping in the bargain bin isn’t something some people like to talk about, but most of us love to get a good deal when possible. At this point in the NFL offseason, teams are now looking for bargains on veteran players.

There are still some good players left on the market looking for jobs. Some of these athletes could even help a team such as the New Orleans Saints. They might have to do some magic to work some cap space but could look for a free agent to step in as a pass rusher.

One of the better names on the market is Dwight Freeney, who played for the Atlanta Falcons last season. He only posted three sacks last year but still can create pressure on a quarterback. At age 37, he will likely only sign with a team that he believes is a contender for the Super Bowl.

The Saints could go with 32-year-old veteran Mario Williams, who spent last season with the Miami Dolphins. He only recorded 1.5 sacks then, but if healthy and motivated, he could raise that total.

A couple of other names on the market are Jared Odrick and Devin Taylor. Odrick spent last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars and played only six games with one sack. The 29-year-old defensive end might sign cheap on a one-year “prove it” deal. Taylor played with the Detroit Lions last season but recorded just 4.5 sacks in 16 games played.

There are some pass-rushing linebackers still on the market, as well. The Saints are loaded at linebacker right now but need a pass rusher. If any of these players fit the scheme and price, he could be a good fit.

Two names that stand out at linebacker are Elvis Dumervil and Erik Walden. Dumervil has spent his entire career with the Baltimore Ravens, and Walden played for the Lions last season.

Dumervil only played in eight games last season with three sacks. Walden recorded 11 sacks in 16 games but never had more than six sacks before last year. The question is whether last year was a sign of things to come for a few seasons or just a fluke.

Looking at a different position, if the Saints want to add help at wide receiver, there are still a few names out there. Getting most of these players is all about signing at the right price.

Anquan Boldin is about to be 37 years old, but last season, he caught 67 passes for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. He is a proven leader and could help mentor the young receivers in New Orleans.

Injuries robbed former New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz of what he might have been otherwise. In a limited role last season, he caught 39 passes for 586 yards and one touchdown. His celebratory salsa dancing would also seem like a ...

May 4, 2017

Dak Prescott Second on Merchandise Sales List

By bryanflynn

NFL fans can argue whether or not the Dallas Cowboys are “America’s Team,” but they can’t argue that the men with stars on their helmets can move merchandise. Two rookies led Dallas to the playoff last season and led the NFL Players Association’s Top 50 players year-end sale list for March 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017.

Rookie Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott landed in the top spot and is the first rookie to finish the year on top of the sales list. Fellow Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott followed him.

After Dallas drafted Prescott in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, he landed a starting role Dallas after No. 1 quarterback Tony Romo and No. 2 quarterback Kellen Moore got injured. It was a role Prescott excelled at last season, so much that it pushed Romo into retirement.

Dallas finished with three of the spots in the top five, and wide receiver Dez Bryant came in fourth. The young Cowboys core is poised to take over the league on and off the field if they can repeat or better the feat from 2016.

Ageless tight end Jason Witten of Dallas finished 12th on the list, and Romo finished at No. 15 even though he played just a few snaps in the season finale. Dallas was the only team that had five players land in the top 15 of the list.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished in third even though he was suspended for four games at the beginning of last season. The finish was perfect, as he led an epic comeback from 25 points down to win the Super Bowl.

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. rounds out the top five. Wall posters of his insane catch against the Cowboys might have led to his lead in the wall-mural sales on Fathead.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is No. 6, Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz came in at No. 7, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reached No. 8, Brady’s teammate tight end Rob Gronkowski reached No. 9—even with missing the Super Bowl to injury—and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton closed out the top 10.

Quarterbacks landed the most spots on the list with 19 single-callers making it. Wide receivers were second with 17 players, and nine defensive players made the list with three running backs and two tight ends.

Dallas wasn’t the only team to land five players on the list, as the Seahawks pulled off the feat as well. Joining Wilson on the list is cornerback Richard Sherman at No. 24, wide receiver Tyler Lockett at No. 43, safety Kam Chancellor at No. 47 and wide receiver Doug Baldwin at No. 49.

Five teams, the Patriots, Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, landed three players each on the list. The Panthers, Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and New York Giants each placed two players on the list. ...

May 3, 2017

Posts and Odds for the 143rd Kentucky Derby

By bryanflynn

The winner of the 143rd Kentucky Derby will need to navigate a full field of 20 this Saturday, May 6. Officially, 22 horses are eligible for the race, with Royal Mo and Master Plan as alternates, but they need two horses to withdraw by early Friday morning to be in the field.

Ben Huffman, Churchill Downs Racing Secretary, and Dan Bork, Churchill Downs Assistant Racing Secretary, pulled the post numbers at the event held at the Churchill Downs. The post-draw and early-line odds for the first leg of the Triple Crown of horse racing this morning, Wednesday, May 3 sets the stage for the one and one-quarter mile race.

Classic Empire drew the No. 14 post, and the horse is the early 4-1 favorite. Only two have won from the No. 14 post, with the last happening in 1961 when Carry Black won.

Good news for Classic Empire is that the betting favorite has won the derby the past four years, which is the longest winning streak for the favorite since the 1970s.

The co-second favorites at 5-1 odds are Always Dreaming, who drew the No. 5 post, and McCraken, who drew the No. 15 post. The last winner from the No. 5 post was California Chrome in 2014, and the last winner from the No. 15 post was Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in 2015.

Irish War Cry will break from the No. 17 post at 6-1 odds. No horse has won the derby from that position. At 6-1, Irish War Cry is the last of the four horses listed with single-digit odds.

No. 7 post Girvin is the first of four horses at 15-1 odds, with Hence next to him in the No. 8 post. Gunnevera out of the No. 10 post and Gormley from the No. 18 post are the other two horses at 15-1 odds.

Six horses are at 20-1 odds, with Lookin At Lee in the No. 1 post. Lookin at Lucky, the sire to Looking At Lee, also drew the No. 1 post in 2010 and was the favorite at 6-1 before the race, but he finished sixth.

Thunder Snow drew the No. 2 post, Irap drew the No. 9 post, J Boys Echo drew the No. 13 post Tapwrit drew the No. 16 post, and Practical Joke round all the horse at 20-1 odds. The rest of the field is full of extremely long shots.

Untrapped in post No. 4, State of Honor in post No. 6, Battle of Midway in post No. 11 and Patch in post No. 20 are at early 30-1 odds. Patch is an interesting horse in this race, as he is missing his left eye.

Fast and Accurate, which Olympic skier Bode Miller partially owns, will break from the No. 3 post. That horse and Sonneteer out of the No. 12 post are listed at 50-1 odds. Sonneteer hasn’t won a race in his career, and if he ...

May 2, 2017

Mississippi’s Undrafted Rookie Signings

By bryanflynn

When the Denver Broncos selected former University of Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly, the draft officially came to an end. However, the work wasn’t done yet for the teams, and players who went undrafted still can live their pro-football dreams.

NFL history is full of players who went undrafted that went on to long careers, such as Kurt Warner, Wes Welker, Tony Romo and Jackson State University’s Coy Bacon among others. Most of the players hope to prove teams wrong for not drafting them.

Things change a little with undrafted rookie free agents. The players can pick their team, if more than one team is vying over their services. That means a player can pick the team offering the most money or the team that will be the best fit.

Undrafted rookies that can do several things, such as playing multiple positions and special teams, have a better chance of making a team. If an offensive lineman can play tackle and guard or center and guard, that player will be tougher for teams to cut later.

I spent the last two days scouring the Internet and watching Twitter to see which players from universities in our state signed with NFL teams. This list is broken down by NFL team with thoughts on some of their signings.

Arizona Cardinals

Javancy Jones, linebacker, Jackson State University

Arizona drafted a linebacker in the first round and signed another rookie free agent. The Cardinals have a solid defense, so it will be tough for most rookies to make the team.

Atlanta Falcons

Will Freeman, offensive line, University of Southern Mississippi

The Falcons are the defending NFC Champions but did have guard Chris Chester retire. That opens a spot, even if the team drafted a guard in the fourth-round and signed four other undrafted rookies.

Baltimore Ravens

Quincy Adebayo, wide receiver, University of Mississippi

Xavian Bingham, cornerback, Jackson State University

Baltimore didn’t draft a wide receiver but did sign three other undrafted rookies. The Ravens drafted a cornerback in the first round and signed an undrafted safety.

Carolina Panthers

Fred Ross, wide receiver, Mississippi State University

Carolina drafted a wide receiver in the second round and signed one undrafted rookie wide receiver, but this team needs receiving help so there is a chance to make the team.

Detroit Lions

Nick James, defensive tackle, University of Mississippi

The Lions only signed one other undrafted rookie but did draft a couple of defensive ends and signed an undrafted rookie defensive end. There is a chance to make this roster as a defensive tackle.

Green Bay Packers

Johnathan Calvin, linebacker, Mississippi State University

Green Bay took a linebacker in the fourth round and just one undrafted rookie. This is a good team, so it will be tough for rookies to make the roster.

Houston Texans

Daniel Ross, defensive tackle, ...

May 2, 2017

Grading the Saints’ Draft

By bryanflynn

Every NFL team walks away from the NFL Draft telling its fans that the team got better with every pick. That can’t be the case, of course, since some teams are going to clearly be bad next season, and some picks are not going to make it out of training camp.

It is hard not to be optimistic during and after the draft, though. All the picks have the potential to make an NFL roster and help their teams win. Unless a team does something crazy in the draft, it really is hard to be cynical because none of the picks have even had an NFL practice.

But the optimism doesn’t mean the team made the right selections or that the drafted players will help the team in the next season or the years to come.

Now that it is over, let’s take a look at how the New Orleans Saints did in this year’s draft. If you have questions about your favorite team, jump on Twitter and send a tweet to @JFPSports.

Overall, I like what the Saints did in the draft. First-round pick and 11th overall Marshon Lattimore could start at cornerback for New Orleans if he can develop quickly and has left his hamstring problems behind him. He was a one-year starter at Ohio State University due to injuries, but he shined this season when he was finally healthy. Lattimore should make an instant impact.

New Orleans’ other first-round pick, Ryan Ramczky, might have been the best offensive lineman in the draft. Offensive linemen aren’t sexy selections, but ask a team with a bad offensive line how important drafting that position is. Ramczky, who played for the University of Wisconsin, could start this season somewhere on the line. I’m not sure if he can play guard, but he could take over for right tackle Zach Strief, who might move inside.

The Saints continued to work on the defense in the second round with safety Marcus Williams from the University of Utah. A pass rusher in one of three first picks would have been nice, but throwing on New Orleans got a lot harder with this draft. Williams should become a role player right away and is good at forcing turnover, with 10 interceptions over the last three seasons.

Third-round pick Alvin Kamara out of the University of Tennessee is by far my biggest complaint against New Orleans in this draft. Running backs Mark Ingram and recently signed Adrian Peterson will eat up most of the carries next season, and Kamara is a first- or second-round talent in the third round, but was he needed? Plus, the Saints gave up a second-round pick in next year’s draft to select Kamara.

Again, the Saints could have found a pass rusher with this pick instead. Kamara can catch the ball out of the backfield, but will he do well in pass blocking? New Orleans wants to use him in the mold of Reggie Bush or Darren ...

April 28, 2017

Winners and Losers From the First Round

By bryanflynn

Many people like to be a critic, and many people like to make a snap judgment on any number of topics. Many may see a preview for a new movie and instantly know if it will be great or not just from the short clip.

You could apply that same principle to the NFL Draft. We see what a team does and instantly love it or hate it. In reality it could take anywhere from two to five years to see if a team made the right move.

But that isn’t going to stop me from making a snap judgment on the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. These are my three winners and three losers from April 27’s first round.

Let's get critical.

Loser: Teams that traded up for a quarterback

One thing nearly all the analysts agreed on is that this draft featured a weak quarterback class. That didn’t stop the Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans from jumping up in the draft to take one.

Chicago signed Mike Glennon in free agency and traded with the San Francisco 49ers to move up a spot so they could grab Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears gave up two third-round picks (one in 2018) and a fourth-round pick in this draft to move up.

Quick note: First- and second-round picks should end up being starters in year one; third-round ones should contribute significantly early their first year; fourth-round ones should help out at some point in their rookie season, and fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round ones need to develop while playing special teams.

That means the Bears gave up two players who should help a team that has holes all in the roster. Chicago gave up a lot of picks for a guy who made just 13 starts in his college career.

Kansas City traded its third-round pick this year and the first-round pick in the 2018 draft to move up from the 21st pick to the Buffalo Bills’ 10th pick. The Chiefs gave up a starter and a player that should help right away in Patrick Mahomes, who will sit behind Alex Smith.

Fans will wonder why Kansas City moved up if Mahomes isn’t a star. For a playoff team like the Chiefs, the team could have used the picks to make a run at the Super Bowl.

Houston ended up giving up a 2018 first-round pick, moving from 25th to the Cleveland Browns’ 12th spot. This is least of the bad moves from teams who moved up since the Texans were able to draft Deshaun Watson.

The Texans’ defense could make the transition easier, but they did give up a starter in next year’s draft. If Watson doesn’t pay off quickly, it will be another in a recent line of quarterbacks who didn’t work in Houston.

Winner: the Cleveland Browns

Say what you want about the Browns not getting a quarterback, but in ...

April 27, 2017

First-Round Mock Draft

By bryanflynn

Tonight, April 27, will be life-changing for 32 former college-football players. When the 2017 NFL Draft kicks off at 7 p.m., every team with a first-round pick will hope that theirs will become a future Hall of Famer and not end up on a list of the biggest draft busts.

Here are a few things to know before the draft begins: This is a deep defensive draft, as teams are going to be able to stock up on defensive linemen, linebackers and secondary players. Quarterbacks and offensive linemen are lacking, and offensive skill positions are deep as well.

Here is my first round mock draft.

  1. Cleveland Browns—Myles Garrett, defensive end, Texas A&M University

Normally the first pick of the draft is a quarterback, but this quarterback class is weak, and if Garrett will play with a high motor, he could be special. He isn’t perfect, but he’s the best player in this draft.

  1. San Francisco 49ers—Solomon Thomas, defensive end, Stanford University

The 49ers have plenty of holes, and this draft won’t fix everything. San Francisco gets a player who played down the road and will excite fans right away.

  1. Chicago Bears—Forest Lamp, offensive guard, Western Kentucky University

Chicago has plenty of holes to fill and just signed a new quarterback. Giving its new quarterback some protection might be the best start to this drive.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars—O.J. Howard, tight end, University of Alabama

The offense in Jacksonville has struggled, and the Jaguars quarterback needs more weapons. Howard could become his new quarterback’s best friend with his receiving and blocking abilities.

  1. Tennessee Titans—Haason Reddick, linebacker, Temple University

The Titans’ main needs are on defense. A starting linebacker who jumps off the film is a nice beginning.

  1. New York Jets—Reuben Foster, linebacker, University of Alabama

Only the Jets would use a top-10 pick on a player who might have issues down the road. Most of the time, the Jets are gonna Jets.

  1. Los Angeles Chargers—Mike Williams, wide receiver, Clemson University

Williams is one of the best wide receivers in this draft. He is an instant playmaker and will get fans to show up after the Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles.

  1. Carolina Panthers—Leonard Fournette, running back, Louisiana State University

It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Panthers go with a wide receiver here if Williams or Corey Davis is on the board. Fournette’s bruising running style will fit in great in Carolina.

9.Cincinnati Bengals—Jonathan Allen, defensive end, University of Alabama

The Bengals need defensive ends, and Allen isn’t a bad choice at with the ninth pick. Cincinnati could go wide receiver or linebacker with this pick as well.

  1. Buffalo Bills—Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, Ohio State University.

The Bills begin a run on cornerbacks with this pick. Buffalo gets what could be the top cornerback of this draft.


April 26, 2017

The Storms Before the NFL Draft

By bryanflynn

There has been plenty of news before the NFL Draft’s kickoff tomorrow night, Thursday, April 27, that could send players down the draft board. Some is understandable, and some could be considered ridiculous.

Let’s start with the ridiculous and work our way to more serious elements. One thing to remember: the run-up to the draft is one long job interview.

Last week in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, writer Bob McGinn reported the scores of several players who took the Wonderlic intelligence test at the NFL Combine. ESPN’s Darren Rovell pointed out two players who scored an 11 out of 50 on the test and Rovell was roasted on social media. Since then, Rovell took the official test and wrote about taking it and how it changed him.

The leaking of Wonderlic scores has gone on since the NFL began using the test in the 1970s. If you don’t know, the test is 50 questions taken in 12 minutes with just a pencil and scrap paper. The employers use the test to assess the intelligence of prospective employees.

If you follow the NFL Combine, everyone does the same testing. All the players bench-press 225 pounds, run the 40-yard dash, and so forth. Not all the tests really apply to every position, but to get an apples-to-apples comparison, every player does the same tests.

The Wonderlic doesn’t mean a ton for most positions. If any position makes sense, it is the quarterback position, where you have to process a good deal of information and do it quickly.

What other players score on the test really isn’t entirely game-changing but is important. Players have known for years that the NFL gives the test at the combine. Agents have been preparing players for the test for years, as well.

If everything is a test at the combine, the way a player approaches the Wonderlic is a test. Remember, this is a giant job interview. If a player scores low on the test, teams might do more research on the player to find out why.

NFL teams will want to know why a player bombed a test that he knew he had to take. Did the player care enough to even prepare for the test? Is the player bad at taking tests? If the player didn’t care to prepare for the test, teams will wonder if that player will prepare for a NFL career. The test is part of an evolution process and not really about how smart the players are.

No one should be made fun for what he scored on the test. It is simply a way for teams to see whether players are going to put in the work that is needed to be in the NFL.

It also never fails that a player or two will fail the drug test at the NFL Combine. This year, it was University of Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster and University ...

April 26, 2017

Gov. Bryant Sets Special Session for June 5

By adreher

Gov. Phil Bryant called for a special session for lawmakers to finish the fiscal-year 2018 budget. He made the announcement on his Facebook this week. Lawmakers will return to Jackson on June 5 to presumably pass the three budget bills that died during session.

"In the interest of providing proper notice to taxpayers and to members of the Legislature, I am announcing that the special session to complete the budget for fiscal year 2018 will be June 5," Bryant said on Facebook on April 25.

"Although the legislative process will determine the length of the session, I anticipate lawmakers will finish their work as quickly as possible, to minimize costs to taxpayers"

The governor did not give explicit details about what lawmakers could address during the session. The House, led by Speaker Philip Gunn, has pushed for addressing the state's crumbling infrastructure with a funding mechanism in the Department of Transportation budget bills. At the end of the session, Gunn hoped he could work with Senate leaders to work on a plan to get more funding to roads and bridges. Now the timer is set for those discussions. Tick tock.

The Attorney General's budget also died as a result of last-minute tinkering with conference reports, and lawmakers will need to pass a bill to fund that agency too.

April 25, 2017

Saints Sign Peterson

By bryanflynn

New Orleans just did a major solid for ESPN. Breaking news this morning, Tuesday, April 25, is that is the Saints are signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

It just so happens that the Saints travel to Minnesota in week one of the 2017 NFL season. That game will also be the first in a double-header for Monday Night Football on ESPN. The “worldwide leader” network now can hype the hell out of Peterson facing his former team to get eyeballs on a game that starts at 6 p.m.

New Orleans ends up with a future Hall of Fame running back on a team-friendly two-year deal. Peterson disclosed the details of the deal, which will pay him just $3.5 million this season between a $1-million salary and $2.5 million signing bonus. The whole $3.5 million is guaranteed for this season at signing.

The second year of the contract is also for $3.5 million, but none of it is guaranteed for the 2018 season. If Peterson is with the Saints, he will make $2.4 million in a roster bonus that includes $750,000 guaranteed on the third day of free agency plus $1.65 million per game, $1.05 million in salary and a $50,000 workout bonus.

Before signing with the Saints, some media sources suggested that Peterson wanted $8 million a year, which the running back debunked, and other reports said the running back wanted $4 million to $6 million per year or $5 million to play this season.

New Orleans got the 32 year old for less than any of the reports that were out in March. Peterson is the 22nd-highest-paid running back behind 33-year-old Indianapolis Colt Frank Gore, who is making $4 million this season. Peterson is also making less than the Saints’ No. 1 running back, Mark Ingram.

Peterson went on the market after the Vikings decided not to pick up an $18-million team option on the running back. It took Peterson two months to find a new team, and with the upcoming draft featuring a strong class of running backs, it seemed like he might not find a new home until after the draft.

Peterson is second on the active list of running backs with 11,747 yards for 16th on the all-time rushing list, again behind Gore, who has amassed 13,065 yards and is 8th on the all-time rushing list.

Peterson missed most of last season with injuries, and in 2014, he missed time due to a suspension. However, he has proven his value on a few times in recent years. He rushed for 2,097 yards in 2012, earning the MVP Award for that season, and he rushed for 1,485 yards to lead the league during the 2015 season, as he has fought back Father Time.

This won’t be the first time Peterson has played with a Hall of Fame-worthy quarterback. While in Minnesota, he teamed with quarterback ...

Food Blog

April 20, 2017

Art and Tacos

By amber_helsel

Story by Alex Thiel

During the festivities of Museum After Hours each month at the Mississippi Museum of Art, Executive Chef and Culinary Curator Nick Wallace gets in on the action with his monthly ‘sipp Sourced pop-up menu.

As the name implies, the pop-ups are based around the idea of finding the best and freshest locally sourced ingredients and crafting a menu in the same creative spirit that the museum embodies.

“(Nick) has southern roots, French technique and an insatiable curiosity,” the museum’s director of marketing, Julian Rankin, told the Jackson Free Press. “That’s why he feels so at home at the museum—because he’s inspired by the bold, creative energy of the artists on the walls.”

April’s pop-up menu, which begins tonight, April 20, at 5:30 p.m., is called “Art of the Taco.” The menu includes dishes such as the El Camino, which is a taco and sandwich hybrid that has Gulf shrimp, tomatoes, Swiss cheese, spinach, cilantro, a citrus aioli, a crust made of cheese and flatbread crunch. Other dishes on the menu include all-American cheeseburger tacos with Swiss chard, spring onions, beef, mustard aioli, tomatoes and cheddar cheese in flour tortillas; and art tacos, which is a taco trio that has one with Brussels sprouts, almonds, queso, salsa and cilantro; one with thick-cut bacon, lettuce, green tomatoes and green salsa; and one with brisket, pickled cabbage and mustard-seed salsa.

‘sipp Sourced is just one aspect of Museum After Hours. As the main exhibit this month, the museum will have a collaborative body-painting and photography exhibit from artist Eli Childers and photographer Imani Khayyam, who is the staff photographer at the Jackson Free Press. For the exhibit, which is called “Myth Made Real,” Childers transformed models into mythical creatures using body paint, and Khayyam photographed them.

The High Note Jam concert series is outside from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and features local band Empty Atlas. Starting at 6:30 p.m., the Mississippi Improv Alliance will perform in the Trustmark Grand Hall at the museum. Finally, at dusk, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” will screen in the museum’s Art Garden for Screen on the Green. “Myth Made Real” will also have a cash bar.

Museum After Hours is tonight at the Mississippi Museum of Art (380 S. Lamar St., 601-960-1515) from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. The pop-up menu will also be available on April 21 and 22 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, find the Museum After Hours event on Facebook.

April 19, 2017

The Dark Side of Sports

By bryanflynn

Two former college-football stars ended up dead just over a year apart. Both former players ended up hanging themselves in their jail cells.

Former University of Nebraska star running back Lawrence Phillips didn’t have the best childhood, as he grew up in group homes in his youth. Football was a way for Phillips to escape his past and build a future.

The running back might have been able to outrun defenders on the football field, but he couldn’t outrun his anger off the field. He dragged a former girlfriend down a couple of flights of stairs while playing for Nebraska.

Then-Cornhuskers head coach Tom Osborne kicked Phillips off the team for just six games before reinstating him, saying he needed the structure of football in his life. Phillips helped Nebraska win back-to-back national championships.

Life in the NFL was not as great for the former college star. The St. Louis Rams drafted him sixth overall but cut him due to him showing up drunk for work and his inability to stay out of trouble.

Phillips spent time with the Miami Dolphins, NFL Europe, the San Francisco 49ers and the Canadian Football League. The running back ended up being released at nearly every stop for fighting with coaches, getting into legal trouble or failing to do the necessary work to be successful at the pro level.

After football, Phillips stayed in trouble and ended up in jail after running over three teenagers with car and nearly choking his girlfriend to death. He was no longer a football star and on Jan. 13, 2016, the former star hung himself.

Flash-forward to today, April 19, when former University of Florida and New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez was found dead from hanging in his jail cell. Hernandez was a high school star at Bristol, Conn., before he committed to play at Florida.

While at Florida, the coaches were worried about the people Hernandez was spending time with off the field. The coaches even tried to keep him in Gainesville, Fla., when school was out for breaks.

Some of the issues Hernandez dealt with while in college was a fight at a Florida bar, a double-shooting and rumors of spending time with the wrong people. There were also rumors of failed drug tests while playing for the Gators.

Those issues ended up dropping Hernandez to the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The New England Patriots gambled that the tight end would leave his past behind him and even rewarded him with a contract extension in 2012.

Hernandez didn’t leave his past behind and was still associated with the wrong people. He was convicted in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd and given a life sentence in 2015.

Last week the former NFL player was acquitted of double murder charges in Boston, Mass. He was still suspected of other crimes at the time of ...

April 18, 2017

JSU, USM and MSU Playing for Conference Titles

By bryanflynn

As April comes to an end, there are three Division I baseball teams in our state that are chasing division or conference titles: Mississippi State University in the SEC, the University of Southern Mississippi in Conference USA and Jackson State University in the SWAC.

JSU and USM are leading their respective conferences, and MSU is a game behind its division and conference leader, the University of Arkansas. Both the Bulldogs and the Golden Eagles are ranked in multiple baseball top-25 polls.

MSU is 25-13 overall and 10-5 in SEC play, but the Bulldogs are tied with the Auburn University and the University of Kentucky for second place in the conference. The Bulldogs and the Auburn Tigers are also tied for second place in the SEC West.

MSU still has five three-game conference series left to play. The Bulldogs host the last-place University of Alabama this weekend before hosting Auburn in the next weekend. They end the season on the road against Texas A&M University, on the road at the University of Georgia, and at home against Louisiana State University. Georgia is in last place in the SEC East, and Texas A&M and LSU are within striking distance in the SEC West.

Back in March, Arkansas swept the Bulldogs in a three-game series that could come back to haunt them if they finish in second place. It is within reason to believe that MSU could win two of the three games in every series left.

MSU is still in play to win both the SEC West and the SEC regular-season titles. The Bulldogs will need to keep winning and get some help from others if they are going to take either the division or conference crown.

Southern Miss is currently leading C-USA by a full game over Florida Atlantic University. The Golden Eagles are 28-9 overall and 12-3 in conference play, and they have five more three-game series in conference play.

Southern Miss hosts Old Dominion University this weekend and travels to Middle Tennessee State University in the next weekend. Then, the Golden Eagles host Florida Atlantic, stay at home against the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and finally, hit the road to finish the season at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

Old Dominion is third in the C-USA standings, and the Florida Atlantic series could decide the regular-season championship. Middle Tennessee, UAB and UTSA are in the middle to bottom of the conference standings.

Southern Miss is in great shape to take the regular-season title. The Golden Eagles get to host the second- and third-place teams to end the season, and if they can win the series against Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic, they will be in the driver’s seat for their last two series.

Jackson State currently has a two-game lead over Alabama State University in the SWAC East division. The Tigers are five games ahead of Texas Southern University, who leads the SWAC West. ...

April 17, 2017

First Woman Kicker Gets Scholarship

By bryanflynn

Several women have played football at the college level for years now. Most of these young women were walk-on players, or players with no scholarship.

In 1997, Liz Heaston became the first woman to ever play and score in a college football game when she scored in a game for Willamette University, in Oregon, a then-NAIA-level university, in a 27-0 win over Linfield College, in Oregon. Heaston kicked two extra points, and her jersey hangs in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Two years later, Katie Hnida became the first woman to suit up for a NCAA Division I (now called the Football Bowl Subdivision) school at the University of Colorado. In 2003, she became the first woman to score in a Division I game at New Mexico State University. She became the first woman to try an extra point in a bowl game the year before, but an opposing player blocked it.

Before Hnida, Ashley Martin became the first woman to kick an extra point at the NCAA Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision) level for Jacksonville State University. She made three extra points without a miss in a 71-10 win over Cumberland University.

Former University of West Alabama kicker Tonya Butler became the first woman to kick a field goal in 2003 when she kicked a 27-yard field goal in a 24-17 win over Stillman College.

Other women have been kickers at nearly every level of college football. Some did get a chance to kick for their teams, and others were never called upon.

It hasn’t always been easy for women playing college football. Hnida alleged that she had been sexually assaulted while at Colorado. She didn’t press charges, but the incident became a major scandal at the schools, as other women spoke out about being sexually harassed and assaulted by members of the football team.

In 2014, Shelby Osborne became the first woman to play a position besides kicker when she became the first college defensive back at NAIA school Campbellsville University, in Kentucky. NAIA schools don’t hand out athletic scholarships.

Last week, April 14, 2017, Becca Longo became the first women to sign a national letter of intent to play college football. Longo will kick for NCAA Division II Adams State University, which is located in Colorado.

She is the first woman at Division II or higher to play college football on scholarship. The other kickers and players who made history didn’t receive a scholarship.

Each year, it is becoming more common for young women to play football at the high-school level.

As it becomes normal for them to play football in high school, it will become more common to see them at the college level. One day, a young woman might quarterback a college football team at the NAIA or NCAA Division III level of college football.

April 14, 2017

The First Tee of Central Mississippi

By bryanflynn

Sports are a great way to teach kids about life lessons such as winning and losing, hard work, dealing with adversity and more.

The First Tee Central of Mississippi is a way for kids to learn lessons using the program’s “Nine Core Values” of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility and perseverance. Golf is a unique sport in that players are supposed to call penalties on themselves, fix the field of play, including replacing divots of grass that the club cuts out of the ground, follow a certain etiquette on the course, keep score and more.

The First Tee national program started in 1997 with a partnership between the LPGA, the PGA of America, the PGA Tour, the USGA and the Masters Tournament to get more kids playing golf by starting affordable junior golf programs.

With a need to grow the game and get kids interested in golf, those partners came up with The First Tee program. The organization blended learning the rules of the game with life lessons from its Nine Core Values.

In June 2008, The First Tee of The Pine Belt was established after a four-year quest to bring the national program to Mississippi. The journey of The First Tee of Central Mississippi started in June 2015. It became an official The First Tee program on March 30, 2017.

The First Tee of Central Mississippi held a press conference at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum on April 13, to make the formal announcement of First Tee becoming an official program in central Mississippi.

This program will serve Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties. Four golf courses, The Refuge Golf Course, LeFleur’s Bluff Golf Course, Grove Park Golf Course and Sonny Guy Municipal Golf Course are the first courses to join the program.

Now that the program is a part of The First Tee organization, the program is hitting the ground running. On June 1, a nine-week summer program is starting at the four golf courses, and will have information on signing up.

The First Tee of Central Mississippi is open to kids from ages 7 to 18. The program is going to partner up with physical-education teachers in the area to begin teaching kids about the game of golf and work with local afterschool programs such as the YMCA to help teach.

Lisa Hill, who is the program director, explained at the press conference that volunteers, equipment, donations and giving time are needed to help the program be successful. The First Tee of Central Mississippi is a nonprofit program.

For more information, visit the website, The program is on Facebook (The First Tee of Central Mississippi), Instagram (@TheFirstTeeCentalMS), Snapchat (@TheFirstTeeMS) and Twitter (@TheFirstTeeCentralMS).

April 14, 2017

49ers Release Former Belhaven Star

By bryanflynn

One of the feel-good stories of the 2010 NFL offseason has come to an ugly end seven years later. The San Francisco 49ers signed undrafted free agent Tramaine Brock out of tiny Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss.

On April 6, 2017, Brock was arrested in Santa Clara, Calif., for suspicion of felony domestic violence against his girlfriend. He made bail the next day, and shortly afterwards, San Francisco released him.

Brock’s arrest happens to be the first major off-the-field incident for the new regime of General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. It is the third new coach in San Francisco in the last three years. They wasted no time in releasing the player.

Before Brock, no player in the history of Belhaven football had played in the NFL, and his road wasn’t the typical path.

He played at Long Beach High School in Gulfport, Miss., and then at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He signed with the University of Minnesota after two years at MGCCC but left Minnesota after being suspended for academic ineligibility. He went from Big Ten-conference school Minnesota to tiny NAIA Belhaven.

Brock played his senior year with the Blazers but went undrafted in the 2010. He ended up signing with the 49ers and landed on the practice squad after training camp. In his rookie NFL season, Brock appeared in three games and made just three tackles.

The former Belhaven star played in 11 games in the following year and recorded his first career interception. He would play in all 16 games in the 2012 season and forced his first career fumble that season. The 49ers also reached Super Bowl XLVII that year but ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens.

Brock had his best season as a professional thus far in 2013, with five interceptions, 13 defended passes and a touchdown. He played in all 16 games and started in seven during the season, which is also the first time that he started in the NFL.

Injuries derailed the Gulfport native’s 2014 season as he played in just three games with only two starts. Brock bounced back in 2015 with 15 starts in 15 games played with three interceptions.

Brock started all 16 games for the first time in his career last season as he set a career high in tackles with 49 total stops. He made one interception and forced this second career fumble.

The 49ers have a recent history of players, such as Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith, with off-the-field issues. The release of Brock was a message to the rest of the team on how things will now be done in San Francisco, even if Shanahan says it wasn’t message. When the team was winning earlier this decade, it overlooked bad behavior by some players.

Recently, San Francisco hasn’t been winning games, and that means the hammer comes down faster. Brock wasn’t a star for the ...

April 12, 2017

U.S., Mexico and Canada to Bid for 2026 World Cup

By bryanflynn

Only once in the history of the FIFA World Cup has more than one nation hosted the tournament. That was the 2002 World Cup, which had joint hosts South Korea and Japan.

That could change with the 2026 World Cup if the joint bid to host from the United States, Mexico and Canada wins. If the bid is successful, this will be the first World Cup that any of these three countries has hosted since the U.S. in 1994.

Mexico hosted the event in 1970 and 1986, with the 1970 tournament still holding fourth place for highest average attendance per match. Canada has never hosted a men’s World Cup but did host the 2015 Women’s World cup.

When the U.S. hosted the event, it set records for the highest average attendance per match and highest total attendance. The U.S.’s tournament only had 24 teams since the current format of 32 teams started with the 1998 World Cup.

Even as the tournament has added more teams and more matches, the U.S.-hosted tournament still is the standard for attendance. Soccer grew leaps and bounds when the U.S. last hosted, and the sport could grow even more if the nation gets another turn at the reins.

However, the 2026 World Cup could end up setting records no matter which country hosts it. The number of teams will jump from 32 to 48, and the number of matches will jump from 60 to 80. It makes sense for more than one country to host a super-sized tournament.

Lone host nations could become harder to find with the amount of teams that will be participating. That’s a bonus for this bid because there are numerous stadiums in all three countries that can hold matches.

Even before these three countries announced their bid, the U.S. seemed to be the frontrunner to host the 2026 tournament. The U.S. lost the 2022 tournament to Qatar under dubious circumstances that ended up changing the way that FIFA votes on World Cups bids.

Under the old format, which started after 1982, an executive committee of about 48 members voted on bids to host the World Cup. The new voting format is actually the old one, which the organization used before 1982, where every member of FIFA votes for a bid.

There are 211 members with the votes allocated as follows: Europe has 55 votes, Africa has 54 votes, Asia has 46 votes, CONCACAF has 35 votes, Oceania has 11 votes, and South America has 10 votes. The idea behind this bid is that the 35 votes of CONCACAF would pull together to host the tournament.

No team from CONCACAF has hosted the tournament since 1994. The other major confederations each have held at least one World Cup since then.

As Russia is hosting the 2018 World Cup and Qatar is hosting the 2022 tournament, neither Europe nor Asia can bid on 2026 due to FIFA rules on hosting. ...

April 11, 2017

Saints’ and Cowboys’ Preseason Schedules

By bryanflynn

As the NFL Draft inches closer, the league gave fans a treat on Monday, April 10, releasing the preseason scheduled for every team and the dates of the eight nationally televised games. Times and dates of the other games are not set at this point.

Only one of the national games could end up being a big deal in our state: the Hall of Fame Game, which has the Dallas Cowboys and the Arizona Cardinals kicking off the preseason on Thursday, Aug. 3, at 7 p.m. on NBC. The first full week of preseason games will be held from Aug. 10 to Aug. 14, with all 32 teams in action.

There will be plenty of fans who will want to see if Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott avoids a second-year slump. If he plays in the Hall of Fame Game, it won’t be for long, but fans will still want to see the young star.

This newly released schedule gives us a chance to look ahead at the matchups for both the Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints.

Dallas will be in Los Angeles against the Rams for the first full week of the preseason. This game will feature two young quarterbacks—Prescott, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2016, and Jared Goff, who was the first overall pick of the same draft.

New Orleans will travel to Cleveland in week one to face the Browns. If both teams use their current draft power, this game could feature four first-round picks, with both teams having two in the upcoming draft. It could also feature the number-one overall pick if the Browns don’t trade that spot before or during the draft.

Week two of the preseason, which takes place from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21, will see the Saints heading out to Los Angeles to play the Chargers, who are no longer in San Diego. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees will face his former team but not in the same city where he played.

Dallas will head home in week two to host the Indianapolis Colts. For the second week in a row, the Cowboys will face a quarterback who was the first overall pick in the draft. This time, it is Andrew Luck, who was the top pick in 2012.

The third week of the NFL preseason is normally the week that the starters see the most playing time. These games will be held from Aug. 24 to Aug. 27 as teams try to get in a dress rehearsal before the season starts.

New Orleans will get its first home game of the preseason as the team hosts the Houston Texans. The Saints will try to keep a returning J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney away from Brees when the starters are on the field.

Dallas will at home for the second week in a row, as the team hosts the Oakland Raiders. Prescott against the Raiders’ Derek Carr is ...

April 10, 2017

MSU’s Rooker is the Best Player in the State

By bryanflynn

Another month is left until the finalists for the 2017 C Spire Ferriss Trophy is announced, but the race might as well be called right now. If this was a heavyweight fight, the official would need to call it for a technical knockout.

Mississippi State University outfielder Brent Rooker is putting up unreal numbers. He is having the type of season that will be remembered for years in the rich MSU baseball lore.

Make no mistake: Four-year universities and colleges in our state have plenty of great baseball players.

One example is Jackson State University Tigers third baseman Lamar Briggs, who leads the SWAC in hits (53), doubles (11), and total bases (70). He is fifth in batting average, third in runs batted in and fourth in runs scored.

In a normal year, Briggs would be a great candidate for the Ferriss Trophy. His play is one of the reasons that JSU is 26-11 overall and 12-3 in SWAC play, just behind Alabama State University in the conference standings.

The University of Southern Mississippi is leading C-USA with a 10-2 mark in conference and 26-7 record overall. But the Golden Eagles lead just four statistical categories in the conference in hitting.

USM outfielder Matt Wallner leads C-USA in slugging percentage (.699) and home runs (11). He is fourth in on-base percentage and eighth in RBI in the conference. Teammate Dylan Burdeaux is having a strong season for the Golden Eagles as well.

But Rooker’s numbers blow everyone away. He is leading the SEC in batting average (.448), hits (56), RBI (56), doubles (19), home runs (15), total bases (126), stolen bases (14), stolen base attempts (18), slugging percentage (1.008) and on-base percentage (.548).

Last week the baseball must have looked like a beach ball to Rooker. He went 10 for 16 at the plate with a .625 batting average and drove in 13 RBI, scored nine runs, and hit six home runs, earned five walks, one double, and a pitch hit him three times in five games.

Rooker’s efforts landed him SEC Player of the Week honors for the second time in a row. This is the first time a player has won the award in back-to-back weeks since University of Georgia player Gordon Beckham in 2008, and Rooker is the first MSU player to accomplish the feat since Rex Buckner in 1992.

This is the third time this season Rooker has been named SEC Player of the Week. With the season he is having, it almost seems like he is a shoe-in for SEC Player of the Year.

In the preseason, MSU was picked to finish fourth in the Western Division and seventh in the conference. Right now the Bulldogs are tied for first in the division and the conference with an 8-4 mark.

The University of Kentucky, Auburn University and the University of Arkansas are tied for ...