UMass still has NFL ties

Sunday, Sept. 06

Two out of three ain't bad. Meat Loaf sang it, and the University of Massachusetts might be humming along.

The Minutemen played at Kansas State on Saturday night in their annual paycheck game. They'll be playing next year against Michigan at the Big House. That, however, is not the big news of this weekend.

What is big news for UMass fans, students and alumni is that the school still has two former Minutemen in the National Football League.

UMass did lose wide receiver Brandon London, who was one of the final cuts of the Miami Dolphins. However, James Ihedigbo made the 53-man New York Jets roster and Matt Lawrence stuck with the Baltimore Ravens.

London, whose father Mike is the head coach at the University of Richmond, caught three passes for 28 yards in the preseason for the Dolphins, after catching three for 30 in 2008. But at 6-foot-4, London could catch on with another team.

One of those teams might be the Jets, where his former UMass teammate Ihedigbo survived Rex Ryan's first camp to become a second-team cornerback.

Ihedigbo has always been a come-from-behind kind of guy. He was a walk-on for former UMass coach Don Brown and worked his way up to become a three-year starter and a Division I-FCS All-American.

Ihedigbo was added to the Jets' active roster after signing on Nov. 1, 2008.

Lawrence sticking with the Ravens was probably the most surprising news among the three former Minutemen.

The running back was with his third team in the past 12 months since graduating from UMass. He originally signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2008 and was quickly cut.

From Chicago, Lawrence signed with the Seattle Seahawks for the practice squad, but finished 2008 on Baltimore's practice squad.

Lawrence was re-signed in January and he must have showed Ravens head coach John Harbaugh enough so when the Ravens open the season next week, Lawrence will be wearing black and purple.

He carried the ball 20 times for 46 yards in the preseason.

After two years at Connecticut, Lawrence rushed for more than 2,000 yards in Amherst and 21 touchdowns.

Now, if first-year coach Kevin Morris was able to shock Kansas State on Saturday night, it would make for quite a weekend.


In preparing for the pages that help make up The Eagle's annual NFL preview, I get a chance to talk with many of the top football analysts in the business.

On a conference call with CBS, the network of the AFC, legendary broadcaster and Hall of Fame coach John Madden was asked his opinion of the AFC East. He didn't even have to think about it.

"New England is really the class of that division. Bill Belichick and his program, I have so much respect for what he does. If they get Tom Brady Back, shoot, you hate to say it, but I don't know if anyone is better coached," said Madden. "Then you go to Miami ... and they're really solid. A lot of teams don't have the fundamentals and do all the proper things, but the Dolphins look like one of those teams that do.

"The Jets and the Bills, I think, will struggle."

Speaking with Fox TV analysts, former Giants linebacker (and sitcom star) Michael Strahan said the Giants have a weakness at receiver. He said that before the Giants cut Super Bowl hero David Tyree on Saturday.

"Eli needs that No. 1 receiver because right now he doesn't have confidence in anybody. That's why I was a little surprised they didn't at least bring Amani Toomer back," said Strahan. "I think leadership at the receiver position is the one thing the Giants need."

Are you ready for some football?

To reach Howard Herman:,
(413) 496-6253.


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