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Our 2nd Annual All Old School Team!
We love real football at GoLongTD.com. These are the players who remind us of the sport we fell in love with long ago.
Like so many Western New Yorkers, I’ve lost my mind managing the snow blower this winter season. When those 80+ inches of snow fell a few weeks ago, we all pushed our machines 10 feet before the wet, hard snow clogged up the blades.
It was in that moment — as a few F-bombs filled the air — that I thought of our All Old School Team at Go Long. What NFL players out there would enjoy turning that blower off, rolling up the sleeves, digging out that snow and spraying some WD-40 before pushing it all over again?
Yes, we love throwback football at GoLongTD.com.
A year ago, we introduced our first All Old School Team so we decided to run it back. These are the players that remind us of the football we all fell in love with long ago, the players who bring a snarl to Sundays.
Once again, I’m joined by Hall-of-Famer sports writer Bob McGinn and longtime NFL scout Jim Monos.
Your 2023 winners…
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MATT MILANO, LB, BUFFALO
No linebacker in the game navigates the NFL’s ridiculous legislation like Milano. His hits are devastating. He knocked out New York Jets quarterback Mike White. And, yet, he’s no one-trick pony. Milano has been the most valuable player on Buffalo’s defense because he’s so versatile — he covers athletic tight ends, he chases around Lamar Jackson, he always seems to make the play the Bills need. Losing Von Miller isn’t a knockout punch because Milano has ascended into an All Pro talent.
JAMAAL WILLIAMS, RB, DETROIT
The Detroit Lions running back is such a joy to watch. For countless reasons. His play style brings us all back to another era — Williams is a battering ram with a nose for the end zone. His 14 rushing touchdowns lead the NFL. It always takes two, three, four defenders to bring him down. But his unbridled passion for the game brings us all back to our own Pop Warner roots. It sincerely looks like Williams is having the time of his life on the field. He smiles. He dances. He has the time of his life with those Lions offensive linemen in the end zone. His attitude is everything the downtrodden Lions have needed… and he recognizes that. Icymi, we chatted with Williams at length ahead of the 2022 season.
MIKE HILTON, CB, CINCINNATI
Pound for pound, good luck finding a tougher son of a gun than the Bengals’ nickel corner. He backs down from no one. Hilton is the direct product of being overlooked his entire life and a major reason why these Bengals haven’t been afraid of anyone as they ascend to the AFC’s elite. Sidelined with a knee injury at the moment, Hilton will be needed come playoff time. This is a 5-foot-9 corner unafraid to tattoo the likes of Tennessee’s Derrick Henry and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb.
ADAM THIELEN, WR, MINNESOTA
One of the NFL’s ultimate underdog stories. Thielen was all set to accept a job selling dental equipment when the Vikings offered him a tryout opportunity in 2013. He stuck on the practice squad that season, used the money to pay off student loans and has not looked back. Few athletes in the history of Minnesota sports are this beloved, and for good reason. Thielen remains a reliable target for Kirk Cousins with 66 receptions for 686 yards and 10 touchdowns. There will come a time this postseason the Vikings need to convert a crucial third down and the opposition does everything in its power to eliminate Justin Jefferson. Expect Thielen to make the play that wins the game.
BRIAN BURNS, DE, CAROLINA
One of the best players in the NFL that gets a fraction of the attention he deserves. Burns is a throwback to menacing edge rushers of the 1990s. It typically doesn’t matter what an offense tries to do — Burns get to the quarterback. He’s up to 10.5 sacks this season. Watch Burns bend around the edge, smash the quarterback and there’s a very good chance your mind will race back to Greg Lloyd and Derrick Thomas.
JAMES CONNER, RB, ARIZONA
In 2015, his third of four seasons at Pitt, Conner suffered a season-ending MCL injury in the opener before being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma two months later. After watching Conner return in 2016 to post a 1,000-yard season, one scout said, “You obviously know the story, of which I am incredibly sympathetic. Old-school bruising back … like to have him.” During his four seasons with the Steelers and now two with the Cardinals, Conner runs like a back that has known trauma and isn’t going to be short-changed with the gift of good health. Few players hammer defenses like Conner.
JUSTIN FIELDS, QB, CHICAGO
No one can be certain where Fields’ career is headed. If I was a Bears fan, I’d be extremely interested to find out. With possibly the league’s poorest supporting cast and the Bears going nowhere, Fields has been appointment viewing. Largely because of Fields’ wheels and will, the Bears have come oh so close so many times during a brutal season. At times, he has been irrepressible. Mush rushes, a spy, lane integrity … forget it. When Fields climbs the pocket and takes off the impossible becomes possible. Remember, he ran 4.46 out of Ohio State. Cam Newton lasted for a decade playing that way and led a team to the Super Bowl. Who’s to say Fields can’t do the same?
WILLIE GAY, LB, KANSAS CITY
The Chiefs took a second-round gamble on Gay coming out of Mississippi State in 2020. He blew out the combine, running 4.47 at 243 pounds, but scouts had concerns. In 2019, he sat out eight games for academic fraud, and in the leadup to the Music City Bowl he punched a teammate so hard in the face that the victim couldn’t play in the game. Early this season, he was suspended four games for personal-conduct policy violations. Gay has played his best ball post-suspension. Last week, he returned an interception for 47 yards and a touchdown against Denver. On Sunday, he dug under bodies in overtime against Houston, recovered a fumble by Davis Mills and the Chiefs won on the next play. He has a big hitter’s mentality and the athletic ability to make that second-round choice look good.
BRANDON GRAHAM, DE, PHILADELPHIA
Before the dawn of unfettered free agency 30 years ago, top players often spent their entire career with one team. Isn’t that a quaint idea? Graham is that rare modern-day player who figures to be an Eagle forever. Some thought Graham might be finished a year ago when he tore an Achilles in the second game and missed the year. But here he is back again for a 13th season in Philly. He’s averaging about 25 snaps per outing on a deep D-line, already has 8 ½ sacks and is eyeing another Super Bowl ring. Don’t bet against him.
MALCOLM RODRIGUEZ, LB, DETROIT
A decorated three-year starter at Oklahoma State, Rodriguez lasted until the sixth round in April. It was a good year for linebackers, and at 5-11 Rodriguez and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, who crashed to the third round, were the shortest of the top 25 prospects. Then the Lions put on the pads. Almost immediately, he passed veterans like Derrick Barnes and Jarrad Davis. He has held a starting job opposite Alex Anzalone all season. With his speed (4.52), remarkable instincts and command of the defense, the Lions might have a 10-year starter on their hands.
NICK CHUBB, RB, CLEVELAND
Not the fastest, not the biggest but championship tough and plays behind a solid offensive line. Sounds just like Emmitt Smith to me. Biggest difference? Smith was on a Super Bowl contender while Chubb plays with backup quarterbacks.
JUSTIN FIELDS, QB, CHICAGO
It was not too long ago the Carolina Panthers had a quarterback who was bigger than defensive ends, faster than linebackers and could make any throw on the field. Cam Newton was drafted to carry the Panthers offense and that is exactly what the Bears are doing with Fields. He is sacrificing his body and talent on every play to create positive yards. Fields will have to find a way to stay healthy for Chicago to have sustained success.
TARIQ WOOLEN, CB, SEATTLE
He is barely retired, but watching Woolen use his rare length, ball skills and natural instincts instantly remind me of Richard Sherman. What they do not have in common is speed. Woolen is natural with the ball in his hands and could keep up with Deion Sanders in a race. Jets rookie corner Sauce Gardner is receiving a lot of press and deservedly so, but the rookie Woolen is a big part in Seattle fighting for a playoff berth.
JAQUAN BRISKER, S, CHICAGO
Almost every Bears game, I see a flash on path looking for a collision and it is almost always No. 9, Brisker. That same natural intensity led me right to former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. Can impact the game blitzing and in coverage.
CJ MOSLEY, LB, NEW YORK JETS
If it was not for injuries we would all see the impact and production that Mosley possesses much like former Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly. Can shed blocks in the box, chase down ball carriers and run with tight ends down the field just like Kuechly. Leadership and toughness is what really set Kuechly a part and Mosley has those same traits and is a major reason why the Jets defense is playoff caliber.