(Blake Bortles photo courtesy of Jacksonville Jaguars)
Talk of Fame Network
Quarterbacks have always been central to achieving success in the NFL, but the importance of their roles has never been higher than it is today. With that in mind, the Talk of Fame Network spoke this week with Blake Bortles, one of the NFL’s brightest young quarterback prospects.
Two years ago the Jacksonville Jaguars made Central Florida’s Bortles the draft’s No. 3 pick, a controversial decision because he hadn’t played in one of college football's five power conferences. After struggling as a rookie to adapt to the complexities of NFL defenses, Bortles stormed back last year, passing for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdowns.
How did he up his production so drastically?
“Letting the game come to me rather than trying to do some extraordinary things,’’ Bortles explained. “It takes time to get used to (the speed of the opposition). I remember throwing interceptions (as a rookie) and thinking ‘There’s no way.’ I’d never seen a guy make that play before.’’
This year North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz finds himself in a similar situation, coming into an NFL hotspot as the draft’s No. 2 pick and the presumptive favorite to lead the Eagles. What’s Bortles’ advice?
“The biggest thing is to believe in yourself,’’ Bortles said. “There will be all kinds of people doubting you because you didn’t come from a Power Five conference. I was never one for trying to prove people wrong. I wanted to prove the people who gave me a chance were right.’’
Speaking of someone given a chance, Tennessee Titans’ head coach Mike Mularkey certainly got an unexpected one when he replaced Ken Whisenhunt midway through last season. It is Mularkey’s third shot as an NFL head coach and one he thought might never come after he abruptly resigned in 2005 after two seasons with Buffalo.
“We were concerned I might not get hired even as a position coach,’’ Mularkey said. “We had a plan to go to Florida where we had family. I was going to teach and coach high-school football. I had no idea how people would look at me, but we knew it was the right decision.’’
Another belief he holds just as fervently is the importance of the running game. Today’s NFL is so heavily weighted toward passing that running backs have become an afterthought in many offenses. Not so with Mularkey, who made clear his reliance on the run by signing former leading rusher DeMarco Murray and drafting Heisman-Trophy winner Derrick Henry.
“I don’t plan to split up the work at all with those two,’’ Mularkey said. “DeMarco Murray is our guy. We’re going to run DeMarco until he needs a blow…(DeMarco’s) known it since five minutes after we drafted Derrick.’’
One thing Talk of Fame Network’s Ron Borges knows is former Titans’ owner Bud Adams belongs in the Hall of Fame. He states the case for the co-founder of the American Football League and argues you can’t write the history of the NFL without him and his Houston Oilers, winners of the first two AFL titles and in the championship game four times in 10 years.
In homage to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ron and co-host Rick Gosselin talk all things Cleveland but had to go back 52 years to find the town’s last title team. That was the 1964 Cleveland Browns. The guys recall Jim Brown’s emotional halftime speech that sparked a 27-point second half followed by five decades of heartbreak for Cleveland.
They also talk to Steve Hatchell, CEO of the College Football Hall of Fame, who stops by to explain how it cuts the vast field of college players to a list of around a dozen inductees, a process that began this week.
To hear all that and much more tune in on 80 radio stations around the country, by downloading the iTune podcast, going to the TuneIn app or to talkoffamenetwork.com and clicking the microphone icon.