Of the 35 Fresno State players selected in the NFL draft during Bulldogs coach Jim Sweeney tenure, receiver Henry Ellard arguably might have had the most prosperous pro career.
And Ellard, who ranks 10th in career receiving yards in NFL history, said he owes much of his success from lessons he while playing for Sweeney.
So when Ellard learned of Sweeney’s passing at 83 years old last week and of the ceremony scheduled at 1 p.m. today at Bulldog Stadium, he made sure to rearrange his schedule to attend the event.
“He always knew how to get the best of his players,” said Ellard, who played at Fresno State from 1979-1982 and is currently the receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints. “Coach Sweeney had great knowledge of the game. He was great at teaching you the little things. It stuck with me.”
Ellard recalled during one summer training camp of having difficult catching zipping passes from his quarterbacks.
“They were fastballs – I mean fast balls!” Ellard said. “I couldn’t catch them.”
Sweeney pulled Ellard aside and reminded him how fast-thrown footballs, like in fastballs in baseball, tend to rise. So Ellard adjusted his hands and always anticipated footballs sailing higher than expected.
“Just teaching you what seems like little things but it’s the little things that can go a long ways,” Ellard said. “Coach Sweeney, he was great at identifying the problems and helping fix them.”
Ellard went on to set almost every Fresno State receiving record in 1982 and led the nation with 1,510 receiving yards and became a second-team All-American.
Ellard then got drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Rams and spent 15 years in the NFL. When Ellard retired 1998, the three-time Pro Bowler ranked third in career receiving yards. Ellard, who is not in the Hall of Fame, was known for using his jumping ability to reel in high passes, along with superior skills as a route runner.
Sweeney, who passed away at 83 years old on Friday, coached Fresno State for 19 seasons and amassed 144 wins along with eight conference championships.
Sweeney coached 32 years in all and finished with 200 wins, which ranks 19th all-time in collegiate victories. He was inducted into the Fresno Sports Hall of Fame in 1992.
Former players and coaches are expected to share their memories of Sweeney.
Feb. 11 update: The memorial will start at 1 p.m. Feb. 16, Fresno State announced today.
Fresno State is considering going with an old-school look and change up its football uniforms.
It wouldn’t be a permanent switch, and talks of introducing new uniforms are still preliminary.
But coach Tim DeRuyter and a few of Fresno State’s athletic staff are exploring a few helmet, jersey and pants combinations that would be used on special occasions.
Like maybe for a whiteout, or a redout. Or perhaps a blackout?
Among the looks Fresno State is considering is an all-white helmet with the Bulldogs logo. Another look is an all-red helmet with the word “Bulldogs” written in cursive, the logo the Bulldogs wore during the late ’90s and earlier.
Fresno State just went through a major uniform change during the summer of 2011, so the school isn’t about to get rid of the current look. The biggest change during that uniform overhaul was the introduction of a blue stripe down the red helmet.
Some fans — and players — were disappointed back then when Fresno State wasn’t able to introduce an all-black uniform. After all, even Spiderman occasionally broke out his all-black costume (after he found the alien suit).
More than likely, though, Fresno State will stick to its traditional colors of red and white and sometimes blue.
Again, the new look/looks — if they come to fruition — will be used as alternate jerseys and only come out for special events, so I’ve been told.
With a 69-65 win against New Mexico on Saturday, the Fresno State women’s basketball team won its third straight game, stayed undefeated at home and moved to 2-0 in Mountain West Conference play.
But not all was good for the Bulldogs as their lack of an aggressive, physical play down low almost cost them.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 17 points and owned a double-digit lead for roughly half of the game, yet nearly squandered the lead by allowing the Lobos to hang around with second-chance opportunities.
New Mexico outrebounded Fresno State 42-25 and owned a 20-10 advantage on offensive rebounds. The Lobos finished with 15 points on second-chance possessions compared to the Bulldogs’ 10 second-chance points.
A repeat performance against other teams in the Mountain West could ruin Fresno State’s flawless conference record and quest to win the conference title in the Bulldogs’ first year in the league. Teams in the Mountain West are bigger and more physical than competition from the Western Athletic Conference (Fresno State’s previous conference) typically offered in past seasons.
The problem for the Bulldogs, though, if that they’re young inside and get pushed around rather easily.
But the good news for Fresno State is that the majority of the players seem to be adapting quite well to the new system of late, and the coaching staff apparently made some adjustments to better utilize its inherited talent. Specifically: getting the ball to their shooters when they’re not pressured.
Fresno State, after all, always was a team that launched 3-pointers at will, and the roster came equipped with long-distance shooters like Rosie Moult and Ki-Ki Moore.
So it makes sense that the Bulldogs’ recent string of success is because their outside shooters have gotten the ball in better position and better spacing to fire away.