Old Friends

"Just so you know I have a soft spot in my heart for San Diego for a couple of reasons. One is because; one of my all time favorite players was Tim Dwight. I had a chance to coach Tim at Iowa and he is a great human being. I have always been pleased to follow Tim's progress as an NFL player and then from a Bowl standpoint I went to three different Holiday Bowls and had a great experience every time, won two and tied one."

"They are the best games anywhere," I say.

"They really are so I have a soft spot in my heart for San Diego and I wish you guys well this upcoming season. I don't think the Chargers have any plans to trade Tim Dwight or Mike Scifres," said Western Illinois Head Coach Don Patterson.

Sometimes sports are about reuniting two friends. Over time, words are not spoken as often as life just continually gets in the way. Then something happens and you find yourself in a position to make a difference. This is one such occasion.

"Tim has a great opportunity to step into the number two role but faces stiff competition from some younger players, most notably Reche Caldwell and Eric Parker," I say.

"Well it is a little frustrating for me. I know he has returned a number of different times in his career. He has returned kicks and punts. He returned a kick in the Super Bowl one year for Atlanta. I know that is a tough decision because you weigh – he is not very big of course. You have to weigh out, do you have anybody who is also good at returning kicks and punts."

"Exactly, where he is most valuable," I retort. "Right now he is the most valuable punt returner we have. There is nobody else that we have. Kick returners it looks like we have a few players, some from the undrafted ranks perhap that will help us out. Brian Sump and Nick Maddox are the early frontrunners but I can't see them playing in the punt return role as that is a little harder."

"Was Tim your number one punt returner last year?"

"Actually we had Tamarick Vanover originally slated at that spot and he didn't perform well," I said. "Dwight took over about the middle of the season and averaged around 11 or 12 yards per return."

"I remember one game in particular, starts Coach Patterson. "We were playing at Michigan the year Michigan won the National Title. I was screaming for the coaches to call a timeout with one play left in the half so we did and I was just thinking punt block really because they were backed up. Before Dwight left the bench he told me, ‘Coach this one is going back'. And he ran through the entire Michigan team and scored on the last play of the half.

"It was one of the better plays you will ever see. If you want to get Tim's pulse rate up a little bit ask him about that last play at the end of the half versus Michigan because it was a great play on his part. He made a lot of great plays for us and he is just a great human being. I am glad you guys have him and if you talk to him anytime soon tell him Coach P says hi."

When I talked to Tim Dwight, I told him Coach Patterson says "hi" and he asked me when I talked with him. I told him just days before Mini Camp and as I recalled the play Coach Patterson spoke of, Tim's Eyes lit up as he looked into my eyes.

"That was a great play and a great half of football in the Big House."

As we continued the conversation, he was appreciative to hear Coach Patterson was still thinking about him. He went on to say what a great Coach he was and how much he respected him.

Keeping the lines of communication open I told Coach Patterson what Tim said.

Coach Patterson promptly replied, "Thanks for the update on Tim. He really is a great football player...and an equally good person! Tim was one of the most COACHABLE players that I ever had. He took great pride in being a COMPLETE player...and I know that he enjoyed a GREAT block just as much as a great catch! I am honored with his comments about me...and when you see him again, please give him my best!

"On another subject, what is the latest on Mike Scifres? I trust that Mike is doing well...and I would appreciate any update that you could give me. When you next see Mike, please tell him that I asked about him."

I replied, "Basically Mike has the kickoff job wrapped up securely. The question is if he can also win the punting duties. He made a big step holding snaps since Darren Bennett is our regular holder. On punting he has been doing his well. I have not seen many actual punt returning drills at this point so it is hard to say who will win out there.

"Bennett has a year left on his contract and they may keep him for the year to groom Mike for the role. Rest assured Mike has a spot on this team now and for a long time into the future. I will tell Mike you said hello as well.

"Mike has been booming kicks. 50-70 yards each time out today! Amazing, I dare say!" At the time of this printing I have not talked to Mike about his former Coach, but it is nice to see the banter still exists between player and coach. And if I am the outlet through which communication is forwarded, that is fine by me.

With Ronnie Harmon joining Coach Patterson's ranks, it is not hard to see that Coach cares about his ex-players. How can I not put him back in touch with the people that mean so much to the humble Coach Patterson.

Quick Notes

Tomorrow night we will have notes from both practices and pictures of the Oklahoma Drill in action, as well as who got the best of who.

Funniest sight of the day was players wearing red caps while running special teams drills. You would have thought it was Christmas, and for all of us, it is.

Terry Charles did well in practice today and is more confident after a so-so spring.

The defensive backs continued their improvement and Hanik Milligan has benefited the most from his time away. He is clearly surer in his movements out on the field and is becoming a field general making plays with his vision and hard work.

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Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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