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The great Joel Buchsbaum

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  • The great Joel Buchsbaum


    This has always been a very special time of the year at Pro Football Weekly. In January of 1970 — more than 40 years ago — my dad and the Marasco brothers, Carl and Pete, created independent NFL college draft analysis on the pages of Pro Football Weekly. I don't know if it scared or impressed folks around the league, but over the next few years Pete was hired away from us by the New York Jets before going on to be the personnel director in the Canadian Football League, and Carl went to work for the Bears and eventually was named the personnel director of the fledgling USFL in 1983.

    Undaunted, my dad hired Palmer Hughes and ran his player rankings for a few years before discovering an eccentric but brilliant young sports fanatic in Brooklyn, N.Y., in the summer of 1978. Over the next 24-plus years, Joel Buchsbaum would grow from curiosity to cult figure to legendary status amongst NFL insiders, media and devoted football fans.

    Joel's first bylines in PFW were in the late fall and early winter of '78 on some scouting pieces for the 1979 draft, and the last work my dad ever published was the very first Scout's Notebook by Joel Buchsbaum and the editors of PFW. A few weeks later my dad died very suddenly and unexpectedly, and other than my brothers and me, nobody was more devastated than Joel. But on April 2, 1979, Dan Arkush, Neil Warner and I put out the first-ever issue of PFW without my dad's touch, the first issue I ever published and the first issue featuring the rankings and scouting reports of Joel.

    It was about that time that Mel Kiper was making the transition from would-be handicapper to slick TV pitchman for the NFL draft, and over the next two decades he and Joel would define their category before anyone else even joined the fray. And I'm sure even Mel would tell you, when it came to the information and the network from which it was gleaned, nobody could touch Joel.

    Joel also became a member of my and the Pro Football Weekly families, a fourth Arkush brother of sorts. He was often recruited by NFL teams to join their scouting departments for significantly more money than we could offer him, but he never wavered and would always just ask me how we were going to get the next book or paper out. His eccentricities and obsession with the draft grew as fast as his legend, and even though he's been gone more than seven years now, I still miss his regular calls between 2:00 and 5:00 in the morning.

    If you doubt the respect Joel earned in the industry, know that Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Ernie Accorsi and Joel Bussert joined me at his funeral somewhere in Rockaway, N.J., less than 48 hours after the final game of the 2002 season. At a memorial service we held for Joel at the NFL Scouting Combine a month later, dozens of media, owners, scouts and coaches turned out, including Accorsi, Pioli, Jerry Angelo, Al Davis and many more, and Belichick eulogized Joel, calling him "one of his best friends in the business." There was a young PFW editor there that day, too, named Nolan Nawrocki.

    Nolan had already thrown his hat in the ring for the honor and the burden of trying to carry on Joel's work. But as eccentric and obsessed as Joel was in his 100- to 120-hour workweeks, Nolan seemed fairly normal. Unlike the Alfred E. Neumanish Buchsbaum — a picture I paint with the utmost love, respect and honesty — Nolan seemed different. He actually played the game at the University of Illinois under Ron Turner and was already happily married. But something about the look and intensity in Nolan's eyes said, "Let's give it a whirl," and look where we are today.

    Even the haters and our competitors will tell you that in just seven years Nolan Nawrocki has somehow moved into the rarefied air of Buchsbaum's work. That every NFL team receives multiple copies of Nolan's and PFW's draft books, magazines and newsletters — and that almost every day I get a call from one of them to marvel at how they thought we were toast after losing Joel but that somehow Nolan has picked up the ball and run with it so well — tells you everything you need to know.

    Where will Nolan lead us next, and how much higher can we go? We've got a few ideas we're working on for you, and we sure do love this time of the year.

Related Topics


  • Goldenfleece
    It's All Adding Up for Sidbury
    by Goldenfleece
    It's All Adding Up for Sidbury
    University of Richmond Defensive End's NFL Draft Stock Is Rising

    RICHMOND -- It wasn't long before the new math tutor at John Marshall High School started attracting attention. And not because he was bigger than the teachers or that he carried around a gallon of water or that on occasion, when things got slow, he dropped to his stomach and began doing push-ups.
    This Story

    Neither did Lawrence Sidbury Jr. let anyone know he was a football player at the University of Richmond and that it was likely he would play in the NFL. It would take some time for those facts to emerge. He never was much of one for talking about himself.

    Instead, math teacher Priscilla Wright remembered something else entirely.

    "He was really smart," she said. "Really, really smart."

    Not a lot was expected of the defensive end from Cheltenham, who was hired two years ago to assist teachers in some of the more challenging classes and to provide individual support to students needing to pass the state's annual Standards of Learning exam. He was a college student, after all, going into some of the city's toughest classrooms. But something amazing happened: It turned out the giant man who did push-ups had a gift for making students listen. His explanations made sense. Their grades improved.

    "As a teacher you try to find a way to reach all the kids," Wright said. "He comes in and says, 'You need to do this, this and this,' and they are like, 'Oh, okay,' and they get it. He just has a great rapport with the kids."

    Ask Sidbury about his work with the school, and he smiles and mumbles something about how he never wants to be a teacher. He sits in a chain steakhouse on the west side of town, scouring a menu, mentally calculating the calories in the pile of bread put before him, making sure it will not violate the strict diet he has set for himself for football.

    Sidbury is one of the biggest surprises in this weekend's NFL draft. Three months ago he might have been a sixth-round pick. Then came the Senior Bowl and a week of practice in which he dazzled NFL coaches and found himself predicted to go in the second round.

    And yet, he does not speak with wonder. He has been disappointed before, as a senior at Oxon Hill, when few division I-A colleges showed interest in him, leaving him to Richmond in division I-AA.

    "You can say I have had a chip on my shoulder," he said, scanning the menu.

    "He's got a huge chip on his shoulder," Richmond Coach Mike London said.

    But this is the most emotion Sidbury will show. Instead he talks pleasantly, but flatly, about the NFL and the fact he has become a highly sought-after prospect seemingly overnight. This was the lesson of his father Lawrence Sr., a religious...
    -04-22-2009, 05:55 PM
  • MauiRam
    Possible sleeper in the late rds??
    by MauiRam
    School of hard knocks
    Injuries, adversity have made Ducks' Colvin stronger
    Posted: Friday March 14, 2008 9:35AM; Updated: Friday March 14, 2008 3:00PM

    Speedy receiver Cameron Colvin showed flashes of brilliance in his career at Oregon and hopes to impress NFL types at the Ducks' Pro Day next week.
    Icon SMI

    By Stewart Mandel,

    Like a lot of college seniors, Oregon's Cameron Colvin has a job interview next Thursday. In fact, he'll be auditioning for multiple employers on the same day. Like most of those peers, Colvin would really like to ace his interview. In fact, he's spent the past several months preparing for it. Unlike the typical college senior, however, Colvin has to ace this interview. It may be his one and only chance to enter the profession of his choosing.

    If things had worked out as planned for the former Ducks receiver, there would not be so much riding on this singular performance at his school's 2008 Pro Day, where he will run, lift, catch passes and perform other assorted drills in front of the watchful eyes of NFL personnel men. Like a Chris Long or Darren McFadden the audition would barely affect his draft status.

    Colvin, however, was not even among the 330-plus players invited to last month's NFL Scouting Combine. The Web site lists him 61st among receiver prospects. TFY Draft analyst (and contributor) Tony Pauline puts it bluntly: "He's not going to get drafted."

    Oh, and did we mention Colvin is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered last October?

    If any of this has dissuaded the cheery, soft-spoken 22-year-old Pittsburg, Calif., native from pursuing his NFL dreams, he hasn't shown it. If so, he would not have spent the past two months shuttling back and forth between Eugene, where he is in the midst of completing a degree in political science, and Florida, where he trains with a former Olympic gold-medalist.

    "I'm one of the most motivated people on the planet," said Colvin. "A lot of people go through their whole lives not knowing what they want to do. I've always known I was born to be an NFL receiver."

    When you've endured as many personal tragedies and setbacks as Colvin, the thought of disproving an entire league full of skeptics probably seems like a walk in the park.


    Over the past decade, football fans have become increasingly obsessed with two rituals that take place away from the gridiron: National Signing Day and the NFL Draft. Colvin's once-certain rise to stardom dovetailed somewhere between the former and the latter.

    Four years ago, the De La Salle (Calif.) receiver was such a hot commodity that his Signing-Day press conference was broadcast live on SportsCenter. With his godfather and mentor, Jay Lightner, by his side, Colvin...
    -03-15-2008, 02:47 PM
  • OldRamsfan
    Another tid bit of NFL history
    by OldRamsfan
    I Know most of you know this ... This for those who dont or have never seen it before ... Please enjoy , Its just another tid bit of history...
    The date was November 12, 1892, a day that would forever be etched in sports history, although no one involved that day could possibly have recognized the importance of the occasion. It was the day that the Allegheny Athletic Association football team defeated the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The game in itself was not a momentous event. But one of the circumstances of the game did make it a never-to-be-forgotten moment in sports history – one of the AAA players, William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, was openly paid $500 to play the game. Thus pro football made its debut more than 100 years ago in comparatively obscure surroundings that could not possibly have provided the slightest clue to the world-wide popularity the sport would be destined to enjoy, particularly in the waning decades of pro football's first century.

    William (Pudge) Heffelfinger, the first professional football player
    While the PAC had suspected something illegal was afoot, there was no immediate evidence to back up its belief that the AAA had abandoned the standard practices of the day by actually paying someone to play football. Absolute verification, in fact, did not become public for almost 80 years until the Pro Football Hall of Fame received and displayed a document – an expense accounting sheet of the Allegheny Athletic Association that clearly shows a "game performance bonus to W. Heffelfinger for playing (cash) $500. While it is possible that others were paid to play before 1892, the AAA expense sheet provides the first irrefutable evidence of an out-and-out cash payment. It is appropriately referred to today as "pro football's birth certificate."

    The sport of American football itself was relatively new in 1892. Its roots stemmed from two sports, soccer and rugby, which had enjoyed long-time popularity in many nations of the world. On November 6, 1869, Rutgers and Princeton played what was billed as the first college football game. However, it wasn't until the 1880s that a great rugby player from Yale, Walter Camp, pioneered rules changes that slowly transformed rugby into the new game of American Football.

    Meanwhile, athletic clubs that sponsored a great variety of sports teams became a popular phenomenon in the United States in the years immediately after the Civil War. One of the sports the athletic club embraced was football.

    By the 1880s, most athletic clubs had a football team. Competition was heated and each club vowed to stock its teams with the best players available. Toward this end, some clubs obtained jobs for star players. Others "awarded" expensive trophies or watches to their players, who would in turn pawn their awards, only to receive them again and again after each game they played. A popular practice was...
    -06-07-2006, 09:10 AM
  • MauiRam
    Ziggy's Rising with the Rams ...
    by MauiRam
    More _ much more _ from Mizzou’s Pro Day
    By Jim Thomas
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    COLUMBIA, MO. _ I covered University of Missouri football from 1985-1990 for the Post-Dispatch, an inglorious stretch of gridiron play in which the Tigers were 18-47-1 under Woody Widenhofer, and then Bob Stull. The best the Tigers could muster during that six-season span was a 5-6 mark. Usually it was worse. Much, much worse.

    Thursday marked my first visit to the Devine Pavilion, Mizzou’s spacious indoor practice facility, and my first time to meet Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel. As I gazed at the banners hanging in the building _ each one designating a bowl appearance or conference title _ I pointed to the l-a-r-g-e gap between the 1983 Holiday Bowl and the 1997 Holiday Bowl. Those were the dark ages of modern Mizzou football.

    “See that gap between those two banners?” I told Pinkel. “That’s when I covered the team.”

    “It must have been fascinating,” Pinkel deadpanned.

    (I’d heard he had an underrated sense of humor; and there it was.)

    No, what’s fascinating is what’s going on now with the program. The Tigers had six players at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis. As someone who has covered the NFL since 1991, entire DECADES have passed where the Tigers wouldn’t have six players at the Combine.

    And this year, the Tigers very well could have four players drafted in the first two rounds: wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, defensive tackle Ziggy Hood, safety William Moore, and tight end Chase Coffman.

    The Rams, for instance, like Maclin and Hood a lot. If Hood is still available early in the second round, it looks like he will be one of the players in consideration for St. Louis at No. 35 overall.

    But the Rams had plenty of company at Mizzou’s pro day. A majority of NFL teams sent representatives to Columbia for Thursday’s proceedings, including Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, the New York Giants, New York Jets and Tennessee.

    “I’m excited about that,” Pinkel said of Mizzou’s sudden draft presence. “I get excited, too, when all these scouts and all these coaches that are here talk to me about what great kids they are.

    “I keep hearing that. And that really makes me feel good. Because I know they’re good football players, but they’re also good people. Most of them are on-line to graduate or have already graduated.

    “And also, the reason why we have so many guys that very possibly are going to get drafted is we won 30 games the last three years. So there’s a strong correlation with having great players and winning.”

    Several Tigers set personal bests during Thursday’s drills, not only a tribute to their work ethic but also to how they are prepared by the Tigers’ coaching staff, particularly strength and...
    -03-20-2009, 10:30 AM
  • Goldenfleece
    Due diligence blurs line of ethical behavior
    by Goldenfleece
    Due diligence blurs line of ethical behavior
    By Charles Robinson, Yahoo! Sports
    Apr 23, 12:28 pm EDT

    One year later, Tavares Gooden remembers the empty rooms, the trips where he went to meet with NFL executives, but at some point in the process, ended up sitting alone with a team’s psychologist.

    They were the kinds of meetings where everything was on the table: his life, his relationships, how he felt about his parents, and telling questions about authority, money and women.

    “I guess it was just to make sure you’re all there,” the former Miami Hurricanes linebacker said, recalling sessions with psychologists for the San Francisco ***** and the team that eventually drafted him, the Baltimore Ravens. “I don’t blame anybody for doing it.”

    In the wider scope of the NFL draft process, the league’s nitpicking into a prospect’s subconscious is hardly the most Orwellian tactic employed. Indeed, as guaranteed money continues to rocket upward and personal conduct remains a primary focus by commissioner Roger Goodell, the probing nature of the NFL has seemed to intensify – if not push the boundaries of ethical behavior.

    Earlier this year, executives of three NFL teams admitted to Yahoo! Sports that they had used fake information to gain access to the personal pages of draft prospects on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Meanwhile, the use of psychologists gained more attention after former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford met with the ***** and took exception to some prying questions about his parents’ divorce.

    All of this comes only two years after one of the most eye-opening allegations in draft history. JaMarcus Russell, the 2007 No. 1 overall pick of the Oakland Raiders, claimed he was tailed for at least two weeks by a man he believed was doing work for an NFL team. Russell said his uncle had gotten a tip that the former LSU quarterback had been followed for a sustained period of time, including from a trip from Baton Rouge, La., to his hometown of Mobile, Ala., and back again. At first, Russell said he had a hard time believing it, but then the source described places Russell had been and the frequency.

    “What the guy said sure did happen that way,” Russell said. “… I have to admit, it was a little strange, but it’s OK.”

    But if that story is indeed true – and it has never been revealed which team might have employed that tactic – is it acceptable? Some, like former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf and Super Bowl winning coach Dick Vermeil, have a hard time believing it could get to the level of deception that is alleged to be taking place.

    “I can’t imagine they’re [tailing draft picks],” Wolf said. “I think that’s too far. I can’t imagine a team tailing a guy.”

    Added Vermeil, “No question...
    -04-24-2009, 10:14 AM