Sports

Pro football historian Horrigan to write anniversary book

Joe Horrigan might be the premier pro football historian in America. Soon, he will be telling tales of the sport in a book.

Rodale Books will publish "The NFL Century" by Horrigan, executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, with a release date of the fall of 2019 to coincide with the kickoff of the NFL's 100th season. The league was created in an automobile showroom in downtown Canton, Ohio in 1920.

"This a narrative, a look at the stories of football from a different perspective," says Horrigan, who has been with the hall for 40 years. He's served on several NFL and team groups, including the NFL's 75th Anniversary committee. "I don't want to tell the same stories. I want to tell the stories for which maybe I have a different insight into. And tell some of the ones I think are important but not as well known.

"As an example, as a ball boy in 1969 when the Bills and Jets were playing, Jack Kemp, the great Bills quarterback, on that date he was benched for a rookie quarterback named James Harris. It was the home opener that was really remembered for two other things: the debut of a rookie running back named O.J. Simpson, and the benching of Jack Kemp.

"O.J's debut certainly was memorable, but the most significant event was the one that has been the least known: Harris was the first African-American quarterback to start a season as a starting quarterback."

Horrigan has thousands of similar stories to tell. His biggest worry seems to be fitting most of them into the book.

One of those stories focuses on the 1958 NFL title game between the Colts and Giants, the first overtime game in league history. He notes that while the championship contest was dubbed "the greatest game ever played," it actually was only the ending that was special.

"The players thought it would end in a tie and there would be co-champions," Horrigan notes. "A lot of people probably turned their televisions off because overtime was not something they experienced before."

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STAY AWAY: Through five weeks of the season, NFL road teams have gone 38-39, including 10-4 last weekend. That's an overall .493 winning percentage, which would be the best in league history.

So far in 2017, host teams have had only two winning weeks. In a sport supposedly renowned for the difficulty of playing in Foxborough or Pittsburgh or Oakland or the Meadowlands, all of those clubs already have tasted defeat at home. Well, not quite: the Giants are 0-2 in New Jersey but the Jets are 2-0.

Yes, the Seahawks and Packers and Chiefs are unbeaten in their friendly (for them) confines. But the Patriots, Lions and Cowboys are 1-2 at home.

For some reason no one likely can explain — not with weather a nonfactor and not a whole lot of disparity among opponents so early in the schedule — Week 5 recently has been a good one for visitors. Since 2012, they are 41-44.

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MILITARY VISIT: A group of Arizona Cardinals spent time at the Arizona Air National Guard Base this week. On hand to meet and speak with servicemen and tour the facilities were defensive linemen Frostee Rucker, Josh Mauro and Xavier Williams, linebacker Kareem Martin, guard Earl Watford and the team's cheerleaders in a visit arranged by USAA, the military appreciation partner of the Cardinals.

Each player met with members of the 161st Air Refuelling Wing, got to tour a KC-135 Stratotanker air refuelling aircraft, operated a midair refuelling simulator, and saw the security force's equipment.

Some members of this National Guard unit were deployed to help with recent hurricane relief efforts.

"Well, they're our heroes," said Rucker, whose father served in the military. "So, any chance you get to talk to a serviceman or woman, it's always an honour . And they look to us like we're some type of celebrities, but again, they're like the celebs in our eyes. They protect us and make sure that we're free today."

Mauro was impressed by the knowledge of football the guardsmen and women displayed.

"It's awesome," he said. "A lot of them are very informed, and they know a lot about football, our team and what's going on. So they're very appreciative of us being here.

"But I just can't thank them enough for what they do in the service, especially the people that just got back or are about to be deployed."

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HELMET GRANTS: Peyton Manning has delivered personalized videos directly to this year's 10 winners in Riddell's Smarter Football grants program.

The program rewards teams for their commitment to advancing the sport. More than 700 football programs ranging from youth to college levels applied.

"It was a great honour to have an opportunity to help select this year's winners," Manning said. "The entries shared so many incredible stories of determination, teamwork and unwavering commitment to the sport. And while it was a challenge to select the final winners, it's rewarding to know that the future of football is in good hands with the next generation of players and coaches."

This year's winners span the United States from Alaska to Florida. They included three high schools, one club organization, two middle schools and three youth programs. The teams will receive a collective $100,000 in equipment grants from Riddell to provide a new level of protection for their players.

Recipients are: Stanton College Prep Blue Devils of Jacksonville, Florida; Cheektowaga High School Warriors of Cheektowaga, New York; East Anchorage High School Thunderbirds of Anchorage, Alaska; Prairie High School Mustangs of New Raymer, Colorado; Van Cortlandt Titans of New York City; Springfield Middle School Bulldogs of Springfield, Louisiana; Seneca-Wauzeka Steuben Cooperative Middle School Bluegolds of Wauzeka, Wisconsin; Downtown Ministries Falcons of Athens, Georgia; Lyman Cowboys of Gulfport, Mississippi; and Monument Blizzard of Monument, Colorado.

"Protecting athletes is an important part of today's game," Manning added. "It's rewarding to hear how teams across the country are taking a more active approach to player safety both on and off the field, and to be able to give new equipment to some of those programs that are committed to making the sport better for its players and communities."

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SABAN'S MENTORING: After dealing with the abrupt departure of troubled offensive line coach Chris Foerster, Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase said he learned a lot about crisis management from Nick Saban.

Gase worked on Saban's staffs at Michigan State and Louisiana State.

"Some of it is just watching Saban over a seven-year period — just kind of watching how he always handled things where he dealt with the situation and then had to get back to work, had to move on to the next thing," Gase said.

Foerster resigned Monday and said he was seeking medical help after a video on social media appeared to show him snorting three lines of white powder at a desk.

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AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Sports Writers Steven Wine and John Wawrow contributed.

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL ___

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