David Baker’s big Hall of Fame project to be completed in 2020

© Pro Football Hall of Fame

By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com

In its early days, journeying through the Pro Football Hall of Fame was more like taking a stroll.

Enter through the front doors of the circular main building, walk up the rotunda ramp around a statue of Jim Thorpe, view a collection of football artifacts, walk through a few more modest rooms filled with busts and exhibits, and that was pretty much it.

These days, a fan needs almost an entire day to get through the meat and potatoes of the Hall’s exhibits. Soon enough, it’ll be a week.

Professional football’s most hallowed ground has long stood as a monument to the game in the city where it started, but it didn’t offer much more. Under the direction of president David Baker, it’s slowly transforming into football’s Disneyland. Continue reading

David Baker runs the Pro Football Hall of Fame his way

By Nick Shook
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David Baker is a man you cannot miss — and surely cannot forget.

Baker — once called the “New Tower of Power” by Sports Business Journal — lumbers down a hotel hallway in Houston on a Saturday in February with a message and camera crew in tow. The message doesn’t come on a scroll or written memo, but through a knock on a door.

Much has been made of Baker’s knock, delivered with a forcefulness that fits the man creating the sound — Jason Taylor has likened it to getting a knock from the FBI. But it does not herald bad news. Instead, it summons football immortality.

As his knock this afternoon is answered, the room, brimming with nearly 20 of those closest to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, erupts in cheers. The video shows tears flowing and the people inside embracing as Baker informs Jones of his impending enshrinement into football’s most hallowed club.

Baker is the president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The 64-year-old’s frame — all 6-foot-9 and nearly 400 pounds of it — looms over almost anyone. His suit size is a 64. When Baker is approached for a handshake, the hand that isn’t his is guaranteed to disappear within his massive paw. Continue reading

Charley Casserly’s Redskins named best team of last 30 years

By Nick Shook
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In the pantheon of great football teams of the last half-century, some memorable organizations immediately come to mind.

Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. Jimmy Johnson’s (and later, Barry Switzer’s) Dallas Cowboys. Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers. Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins. Bill Walsh’s San Francisco 49ers.

But what about Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins? Continue reading

Oklahoma Drill: Jamal Adams

Jamal Adams

Safety, LSU
Born: Oct. 17, 1995
Experience: 2017 NFL Draft prospect

Jamal Adams comes from a family with great expectations and greater bloodlines. His father, George, was a first-round pick by the New York Giants in the 1985 NFL Draft, but Jamal has believed since he was 10 that he can surpass his dad. A month before potentially realizing his dream as a top-10 pick, the All-American safety talked about his innate ability to lead, his penchant for getting kicked out of youth football leagues and a draft bet he made with a fellow prospect way back in high school.

Interview by Nick Shook • March 27, 2017
Read full interview on NFL.com

NFL Media’s Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense — just football experiences directly from the source.

I get the assumption that my father (former first-round pick and Giants/Patriots running back George Adams) kind of forced me to play football, but it wasn’t like that. I was thrown in the game and I ran with it. I fell in love with the game right around age 6, 7, just saying that this is what I wanted to do. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be in the NFL, and now it’s here. I was never forced, but I was always supposed to be, I was raised to be on a high level. Never cut yourself short. Always give 110 percent and just do your best. Continue reading

Oklahoma Drill: David Njoku

David Njoku

Tight end, Miami
Born: July 10, 1996
Experience: 2017 NFL Draft prospect
David Njoku went from the scout team to the national scene in just three seasons at the University of Miami, and he is slated to be the first Hurricane off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former high school high-jump champion discusses why he doesn’t fear blocking, the most unique question he was asked during the NFL Scouting Combine and that thrilling (and controversial) end to a contest against Duke during his college days.
Interview by Nick ShookMarch 21, 2017

Continue reading

‘Undrafted’ star Mariel Cooper awaits next NFL call

By Nick Shook
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Throughout his life, Mariel Cooper has frequently had to call an audible.

When his father became ill and his mother had to pick up the slack, Cooper had to grow up quicker than most. When he was cut from his high school football team as a sophomore, he had to instead spend the season as a team manager, because it was as close to the game as he could get. When he was injured and his test scores didn’t qualify to get him into Clemson, the school to which he committed, he had to change his choice to Division I-FCS South Carolina State.

That’s enough major adjustments for anyone’s first 25 to 30 years of life. Cooper faced another after he wasn’t selected by an NFL team in the 2016 draft, a journey chronicled in NFL Network’s Undrafted, airing on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET. Continue reading

Oklahoma Drill: Jeremiah Allison

Interview by Nick Shook
Sept. 27, 2016
Read full feature on NFL.com

The former Washington State linebacker is one of the featured players in Season 3 of NFL Network’s “Undrafted”, which airs every Tuesday through Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network. Allison discusses the eight-episode series, his late mother’s influence and his experience at the Minneapolis regional combine.

NFL Media’s Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense — just football experiences directly from the source.

I’ve been playing chess since I was 3. My goal is always to be three moves ahead, and I have to know when I move this pawn or I move this knight. What are the consequences that can happen when I move this piece? Because my whole thing is, you can apply the game of chess to life. You have to be very strategic in what you do, because that can determine the entire fate of the game.

My first offer came from UCLA. It felt really good when I knew that my mom wouldn’t have to pay for me to go to college. And that I knew I was going to college and [scholarship offers] just start coming in. It feels good, but you’re put in another category, because you can’t do certain things that your friends can do [because of NCAA rules] who aren’t getting recruited because you have a lot riding on what you’re doing.

My biggest fear already happened to me, and that was losing my mom. I was scared to death. But when that happened, it kind of opened things up for me a bit. It relaxed me a little bit. Continue reading

Estonian politics enters an uncertain era

By Nick Shook
Read full story on Dateline Baltics

It takes a mere 60 seconds inside the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union headquarters to realize that times are changing.

Members of the conservative political party scurry across the main office in downtown Tallinn, Estonia, walking quickly with a clear need to be somewhere. Audio from America’s first-ever political attack advertisement can be heard from a nearby room — a potential preview of the party’s approach in the near future. Continue reading