Fillerup: Is this the year it pays off?

Football is a many splendored thing -- the hitting, tackling and blocking are both entertaining and painful to watch at times. Those things aside, the strategy, accuracy and skill required cannot be overlooked. At the end of the day, it's a business.

Samantha Fillerup has covered the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers for She specializes in draft coverage, with prominent interviewees including former first-round picks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Larry English. Fillerup, a long-time USC fan, shares her thoughts on the game as this year's draft approaches.

Money is involved, careers, the livelihoods of the players, coaches, GMs and those unmentioned members of the staff. And it is not just the NFL; college football is more of a business than anyone cares to admit.

Last season is in the past, the draft is on the brink and the next season is looming. Players are seeking new deals and draftees hoping their names will be called.

Looking back at the end of a season, a stint with a team or a career, the stats can tell one story -- productivity -- that can be measured with numbers. But a player's tenacity, heart and fight are not calculable and are often unteachable.

The other story tells what is learned and regretted; the successes and failures; ups and downs. They are compounded one on top of another and filed away for later.

QB Peyton Manning
The Indianapolis Colts came so close to winning the Super Bowl, but didn't. Does Peyton Manning have regrets? Does he remember the games they won in the regular season and the playoffs and feel maybe they were overly optimistic?

Does former USC coach and current Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll look back at his nine-year tenure with the Trojans and feel pride and accomplishment or regret?

Florida quarterback Tim Tebow finished his college career with trophies and awards galore and hits the draft looking to secure a job as a professional player. Was all the time, effort, pain, work and blood worth it? Will he be able to fill as prominent a role with a pro team as he did with Florida?

LaDainian Tomlinson played for the Chargers for years -- since he was drafted in 2001 -- and now has been released to play for another team. After so many seasons of dominating the competition, what is it like going forward and starting over at 30?

At the end of the day, looking back on a person's accomplishments and failures, what is remembered the most?

It's reminiscent of a college football game I watched several years ago. The season had been memorable. The cast of players was top quality and had everything it took to get the job done. They had always been able to turn a game around and win, no matter what.

The National Championship came and they were favored to win. The game was closer than I wanted. Every time my team scored, the other team did as well. It came down to the final minutes. My team drove down the field, one completion after another, first down followed by first down. We were elated. Then, with seconds left, inside the red zone, there was no stopping them. The quarterback had always been able to succeed. This time, the final play came, pass thrown, and it fell to the ground, incomplete. My heart fell and the game ended.

I have never felt the same about that season or watched that game again. My memories are tainted by that one loss. All the success, a Heisman trophy, win after win, they seemed unstoppable until the final game -- it ruined the season for me.

I have often wondered if others feel this same way -- fans, players and coaches alike. Am I naive in thinking my team can have it all every year?

Am I overly optimistic of their chances? Do I put too much stock in every positive aspect of their team? Perhaps. But that doesn't stop me from hoping next season will be better.

I represent my team; wear my colors shamelessly each game day. Win or lose, I wear them proudly the next day as well. I guess that's what sports are about, maybe not just football, but it does seem that football, more than others, can be a cruel, cruel friend.

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