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News & Notes from Chargers Park
Classy move: Chargers President Dean Spanos recently surprised every member of the Chargers’ staff with a customized “Game Ball” from the team’s AFC West clinching win over Cincinnati on Dec. 20. The ball marks a memorable day for all as Nate Kaeding kicked a 52-yard field goal to win the game, 27-24, and moments later Oakland upset Denver at Invesco Field to officially crown the Bolts as AFC West champs for the fourth-consecutive season and fifth in the last six years.
Classy move II: The locker in the south-east corner of the team’s locker room at Chargers Park has been occupied by a future Hall of Fame running back. Before the team’s equipment staff could assign the locker to a newcomer, Quentin Jammer texted his good friend, LaDainian Tomlinson, to ask his approval to move into his former locker. Tomlinson responded immediately with a message that read: “I couldn’t think of anyone better.” Tomlinson and Jammer, the team’s first-round choices in 2001 and ’02, respectively, are close friends. Both were selected with the fifth-overall choice in the draft; both are Texas natives and even played in the same high school all-star game.
Tying the knot: A couple of Charger offensive linemen recently said “I do.” Both center Scott Mruczkowski and tackle Corey Clark got married on Feb. 20. Mruczkowski married his longtime girlfriend, Kate, in Costa Rica, while Clark wed the former Darla Donaldson in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Several Chargers were in Costa Rica for the Mruczkowski wedding, including center Nick Hardwick, guard Kris Dielman and safety Steve Gregory. Donaldson is from Temecula, Calif., but she and Clark met while attending school at Texas A&M.
Center ice: Hardwick and Dielman were in the stands at the March 21 hockey game between the Anaheim Ducks and the Colorado Avalanche. Turns out that Hardwick played youth hockey with Colorado defenseman John-Michael Liles while they were growing up in Indianapolis. A former goalie and right wing, Hardwick said the team was a traveling squad that played games throughout the United States and Canada. The Ducks ended up winning the game, 5-2.
Pros vs. Joes: Antonio Gates recently took part in a filming of the Spike TV show Pros vs. Joes. It’s a show where amateur athletes do battle against professionals in a chosen sport. For this episode, Gates, Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb, all former college basketball players, took on three former NBA stars. Gates of course played basketball at Kent State, while Owens played football and basketball at Tennessee-Chattanooga and McNabb was a two-sport star at Syracuse. With the NCAA Tournament in full swing, it’s worth noting that Gates took KSU to the “Elite 8” in 2002, Owens’ UTC squad made the tourney in ’95 and McNabb was a reserve on SU’s 1995-96 team that lost to Kentucky in the National Championship game.
On the recruiting trail: Philip Rivers’ younger brother, Stephen, a senior-to-be quarterback at Athens (Ala.) High School, is one of the hottest quarterback prospects in the nation. Already drawing interest from schools like Tennessee, UCLA, Mississippi State and Stanford, Stephen was recently in San Diego to visit his brother during his Spring break. While he was here, the Rivers boys drove up to Los Angeles and made an “unofficial” visit to the Westwood campus since Stephen had never been to UCLA. Some Chargers fans may not remember, but Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel actually played quarterback for the Bolts in three games as a “Re-Charger” replacement player during the 1987 strike-shortened season.
Gone but not forgotten: Rivers is using the Chargers’ 17-14 loss to the Jets in the Divisional Playoffs as his motivation for this season. He is driving around with a decal of the final score from that game on the rear windshield of his truck.
Tolbert re-signs: Exclusive rights free agent fullback Mike Tolbert signed his one-year tender on Thursday, March 25. Tolbert is in his third season in San Diego out of Coastal Carolina.
Staff honors: Director of Community Relations Kimberley Layton was honored recently for her work with youth football. On March 19, she was presented with the Contribution to Amateur Football Award from the Walter J. Zable/San Diego Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. She joins Equipment Manager Bob Wick, who received the Whitey Zimmerman Memorial Award as Equipment Manager of the Year at the recently-concluded equipment manager’s meetings in Dallas, and the athletic training staff of James Collins, Damon Mitchell and Will Rogers was named the 2009 NFL Athletic Training Staff of the Year by the Professional Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS). Read