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|When Bruce Irvin got a multimillion dollar signing bonus after being a first-round draft pick in 2012 Richard Sherman Jersey , the idea of getting his college degree was the last thing on his mind.
A former high school dropout who spent time in jail and dealing drugs while growing up in Atlanta, Irvin later decided to set an example for his 5-year-old son Brayden and show that he is more than just a professional athlete.
”When kids come up to him, they can say that his dad was a good football player and he can stop them and say he was a good football player but he also got his associate’s degree, got his bachelor’s degree,” Irvin said. ”He wasn’t only a football player. He put education up there right along with his job. It was bigger than me. It was for my son and his kids and generations after me.”
From the troublesome childhood that he detailed last year in a Player’s Tribune article titled ”The Things I’ve Done ,” Irvin has developed into a leader on the Raiders and in the community, earning a nomination for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
He will have made more than $36 million playing football at the end of this season, winning one Super Bowl with Seattle and earning plenty of other accolades. But walking on stage to get his degree back in May goes right near the top of his accomplishments.
”The odds were stacked up against me to get my bachelor’s degree. It was a surreal moment,” he said. ”I kind of put it up there with the Super Bowl, neck and neck. Super Bowl probably would have been better if we’d won two in a row. It was a great moment, not only for me but for my son and my family. I’m glad I got to experience it.”
Irvin was one of several NFL players who earned college degrees this offseason, taking advantage of a program negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement that provides tuition reimbursement for players seeking to continue their education.
Players can earn up to $60,000 in tuition reimbursement based on their time in the league. Arthur McAfee James Develin Jersey , the senior vice president of NFL Player Engagement, said about two dozen players each year earn their degrees through the program. He added that the increased time off under the current collective bargaining agreement has made the process easier for players interested in getting their degrees.
”We try to find the appropriate balance between the players having opportunity to go back as well as manage their offseason schedule,” McAfee said. ”The current format of the offseason schedule provides us with ample opportunity for players to find that time to work toward their degree.”
The most high-profile case this offseason was Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who became the first active NFL player to get his medical degree when he earned his from McGill University in Montreal just over a year after signing a $41.25 million, five-year contract.
”When I got drafted in 2014 it was a promise that I made to myself that I was going to keep grinding and keep pushing to combine my two passions at the highest level and show people it was possible,” Duvernay-Tardif said.
Duvernay-Tardif, a sixth-round pick in 2014, did most of his graduate work in the offseason, taking advantage of the increased time off for players provided in the current CBA.
Duvernay-Tardif did take one orthopedic exam during a bye week in 2015, spending a flight back from London studying while his teammates celebrated. While some teams were wary of his desire to become a doctor, Duvernay-Tardif said Chiefs coach Andy Reid has always been extremely supportive.
”Coach Reid it was the total opposite. It was like `If you’re here and you still have medicine as a plan B it’s because you really love to play football and I’m going to help you to the best of my ability,”’ Duvernay-Tardif said. ”That’s what he’s been doing for the past four years. Every season at the end of the season during our exit meeting he’s been asking me `what’s next for you doc?’ and we’ve been talking about different clinical rotations and stuff. And his mother actually went to McGill University and was one of the first women to graduate in medicine, so there was a little bit of a connection and I really think that he helped me through the process. I don’t think it would have been possible if it was not for him.”
The Raiders have also been extremely supportive of players pursuing their degrees in the offseason and got to watch four players don their caps and gowns over two weekends this offseason. Star receiver Amari Cooper (Alabama) Patrick DiMarco Jersey , starting right guard Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State) and backup tackle Jylan Ware (Alabama State) all graduated this offseason thanks to the tuition assistance and guidance from the team.
Annelie Schmittel, who works on the Raiders player engagement staff, has been heavily involved in helping the players do what they need to graduate and even went to West Virginia for Irvin’s ceremony earlier this offseason. She hopes the recent graduates serve as role models for young players just entering the league.
”That’s something no one can take away from them,” Schmittel said. ”It’s great having guys like Amari, Bruce, Gabe, starters on this team, veterans who have played in this league a long time and don’t really need a degree but wanted to go back and finish what they started. That’s incredible to see and for us to see because we’re seeing the hard work that they put in. … It’s a really proud moment. We’re really involved in it because it’s such a huge accomplishment for us.”
Desperation turns to jubilation in the NHL playoffs when a trailing team manages to score the tying goal late in regulation to force overtime. That sudden change of emotions would figure to fuel a team’s momentum in overtime. But that’s not always the case, as evidenced the past three nights when a team that squandered a late lead managed to bounce back in overtime and earn a win.
Vegas and San Jose each experienced both sides of that roller coaster the past two games, with the Golden Knights responding with William Karlsson’s goal in overtime in Game 3 at the Shark Tank.
That came two nights after San Jose saw Nate Schmidt tie Game 2 with 6:32 left only to end up on the winning side on Logan Couture’s power-play goal in the second overtime.
”You just move on,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. ”It’s playoff hockey. We were disappointed when they scored with roughly two minutes left in the hockey game. … We regrouped in the overtime session between periods and said let’s go out there and get this game.”
This postseason has featured four games in all that went to overtime after one team tied it with less than five minutes to play. The team that blew the lead has come out on top in three of those games, with Nashville doing it to Winnipeg in Game 2 of their second-round series on Sunday night and Columbus doing it to Washington in Game 2 of their first-round series.
The Blue Jackets are the only team this postseason to force overtime with a goal in the final five minutes and win, having done it in Game 1 against the Capitals.
For all the talk of late-game momentum Jermon Bushrod Jersey , teams scoring those late goals are just 7-8 in overtime the past two postseasons.
”We weren’t too happy with this as a team,” said Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who made Karlsson’s winner possible by robbing Couture earlier in the OT. ”But everyone was relaxed between periods. We talked and we knew what we had to do.”
Momentum can be very fleeting in the playoffs whether in a game or a series. In the first five days of the second round, no team has won consecutive games in a series.
The Sharks will try to put the Game 3 loss in the past and continue that pattern to tie their series at two games apiece when they take the ice for Game 4 on Wednesday night (10 p.m. EDT, NBCSN).
”It’s easy,” Couture said. ”The schedule-makers did a good job of playing games every other day so it’s easy to forget about a game when you’ve got another one (coming). … We’re down 2-1. It doesn’t matter how you got there or what the score was in any of the games, we’re down 2-1 and we’ve got a big game.”
The Bruins will look to do the same when their second-round series against Tampa Bay shifts to Boston for Game 3 on Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. EDT, NBCSN).
Boston won the opener handily 6-2 before falling in Game 2 in Tampa Bay 4-2 on Monday night.
”I think that feel good from winning, you take that emotion into the next game,” Lightning forward Chris Kunitz said. ”But each game has its own identity, you can’t rest on what you did last game and just hope they walk away.”
STAY OUT OF THE BOX
The Sharks were one of the best teams in the regular season at avoiding penalties, going short-handed just 2.7 times per game for the fourth-lowest mark in the league. That discipline has been missing this round as Vegas has gotten 18 power plays in three games. The Golden Knights converted five of them, including two during a three-goal barrage in a span of less than five minutes of the second period in Game 2.
San Jose also went short-handed twice in overtime for having too many men on the ice and for delay of game.
”Obviously their two power play goals swing the momentum in the second period Kyle Juszczyk Jersey , but I didn’t think our discipline or penalties were a problem, just one of those nights,” coach Peter DeBoer said.
LIGHT THE LAMP
Brayden Point is just the latest player with a big-scoring night these playoffs. He had one goal and three assists for Tampa Bay in the Game 2 win over Boston, marking the 11th time a player has posted four points in a game in this postseason. This is just the second time in the last 20 years that there have been at least 11 four-point performances in the first 52 games of the playoffs.
”He’s a special player, and when big games come about, special players take over and he did that,” teammate Tyler Johnson said. ”I can’t say enough about the guy.”
ALL TIED UP
Even though Vegas now has taken a 2-1 series lead over San Jose, all four second-round series stood tied after two games. This is just the fourth time since 1975 that teams split the first two games in all four series in the second round. It also happened in 1991, 1986 and 1984.
AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Florida, contributed to this report
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