Sam Gordon is a bit of a football celebrity, which is odd, since she's a sixth-grade girl. But after her father posted YouTube videos showing her dominating her male teammates in youth football games -- the pinnacle coming when one of the videos earned 5 million hits in one day -- Gordon drew the attention of big-time NFL names. She met Roger Goodell and was invited to attend Super Bowl XLVII.

She maintained her presence as a YouTube sensation and later starred in an NFL Play 60 campaign. This past winter, she got the change to meet Aaron Rodgers. But her latest achievement might be the most impressive: The young girl has helped launched the country's first tackle football league for girls.

The Utah Girls Tackle Football League is the first of its kind, and it's drawn enough participation that the league has fielded multiple teams. Gordon is one of its players and one of its advocates, too. This week marked the first day of practice for the teams, which will play their first games this weekend.


Practice for the first ever all girls tackle football league! We get our pads today- let the hitting begin!

A photo posted by Sam Gordon (@sam_gordon6) on

According to USA Today's FTW, Gordon helped spark the league to life when she asked an assembly at her school how many of the girls would like to play tackle football. Almost all of the girls raised their hand.

"It just made me think, if there's this many girls in just this one school that want to play football, imagine how many girls out there want to play football," Gordon told FTW.

She went home and told her father, Brent Gordon, who in turn connected with Crystal Sacco, a former offensive lineman for Utah's semi-pro women's football team. The idea continued to gain steam, and 50 young girls were ultimately recruited to the league.


This year, the league plans to feature four teams that will play a three-game season. But there's hope that the league will expand next season, adding more teams and a longer schedule.

Gordon says that so far, the experience of playing with girls is mostly the same as playing with boys -- except for one difference.

"The boys, I feel like it's super strict," she says. "But with the girls, we're all just so excited to be here and it's so fun."

At the 2016 Summer Olympics, golf will end its 100-year hiatus and return to the largest sporting stage.

Only, in the world of golf, the Olympics aren't held in quite so high of a regard.

PGA star Adam Scott is among the golfers who has responded to the Olympic opportunity with little more than a shrug.

Scott would be a heavy favorite to qualify as a representative of Australia, his home country. But the golfer told Reuters that the Olympics is little more than an afterthought to him.

"I'm planning my schedule around playing majors the best I can. If I can fit going to the Olympics into that, it might be a bit of fun, then lucky me if I qualify," Scott told Reuters. "But if not, I'm not going to miss it, that's for sure, and I'll enjoy watching."

Scott, who won the Masters in 2013, goes on to explain that the Olympics have never been a goal of his, and the inclusion of golf does little to change his career priorities.

He remains focused on the four major tournaments on the PGA Tour, and wants to maintain a schedule that will best position him to compete at those events.

"To go and play an exhibition event down there [at the 2016 Olympics] to meet some athletes (in other sports) in the middle of the major season, I don't think any other athletes in their sport would do that," Scott said.

It was a hard-fought battle for golf to regain status as an Olympic sport, but apparently the golf community isn't all that enamored with the opportunity.

It seemed like Karl Schmitz wouldn't be more than a YouTube star. His videos of drilling field goals from 70 yards, and of blasting kickoffs 80 yards with ease, garnered tens of thousands of views online.

But Schmitz never got the reward he really wanted: A shot at the NFL. At 28, he hasn't played in a competitive football game since 2008. As Denver's ABC7 reports, his friends had been teasing him that maybe it was time to abandon the NFL dream -- and Schmitz had decided if nothing happened this year, he'd hang up his kicking cleats.

He traveled down to Arizona to participate in a kicking combine, where he impressed many in attendance. By the time he arrived back home from the trip, he had a phone call from the Broncos' special teams coach.

The team wanted to give him a tryout. He needed to head back to the airport immediately.

Schmitz was on the football field by 9:30 a.m., with several members of the Broncos in attendance. As he warmed up to kick, he recognized one of the faces watching him.

"And out the corner of my eye, I see, I mean, it's pretty easy to recognize who John Elway is," Schmitz told ABC7. "So, I catch that punt, I stop the Jugs machine, I run over, introduce myself, shake their hands, say 'Thank you for the opportunity.'"

After that, Schmitz went to work. He went through a kicking routine, then went to the team locker room for a shower. He found the team cafeteria for a quick breakfast, and while there someone called to him from across the room.

It was Elway. Schmitz walked over to the team president and got good news: Elway wanted to offer him a contract.

Schmitz signed as quickly as he could. If he makes the team, he'll earn $435,000 in the 2015 season. Schmitz has to beat out veteran punters and kickers that are already on the team, but if his YouTube videos are any indication, he has the leg strength to hang with NFL kickers and possibly secure a spot on the team.

After years of kicking with no prospects on the horizon, Schmitz has a legitimate shot at the NFL.

Back in February, 24 of the NBA's best played in the All-Star Game in New York City. The rosters featured one-time high school prodigies, sons of former NBA players and No. 1 overall picks.

Only one player played on a junior college roster. Only one player spent part of his high school life homeless. Only one player came from Tomball, Texas, population 11,124.

The 2014-15 season was Jimmy Butler's time to tell his underdog story, and his acceptance of the NBA's Most Improved Player Award on Thursday was the freshest chapter.

"I feel like I've come a long, long, long way from Tomball, Texas, and couldn't be more proud," Butler said at the start of speech at Chicago's United Center. "I feel like the Bulls are just as proud of me."

Butler's father, Jimmy, left Butler's childhood before it began in Tomball, which is approximately 40 miles from Houston. When he was 13, Butler's mother, Londa, kicked him out of his house. In 2011, Butler told ESPN.com she put him on the streets because "she didn't like the look of him."

Butler moved in with a friend, Jermaine Thomas, whose father spent most of his time on the road as a truck driver. Before his senior year of high school, Butler met Jordan Leslie, a freshman, at a basketball camp. Leslie, who was born to a white mother and African-American father, previously lost his father in a car accident. Before his senior year at Tomball High School, 16-year-old Butler and Thomas moved in with Leslie, his three siblings, and his mother, Michelle Lambert. Lambert is the woman Butler calls, "Mommy."

Although Butler found a mother figure, his basketball game still needed work. He lacked college offers and resorted to stay close to home below the NCAA level.

"You look back at Jimmy's story and it really is amazing that we're here today," Bulls General Manager Gar Forman said. "You go back to high school where Jimmy was basically a non-recruited player, he goes to Tyler Junior College. Jimmy swears that it's the garden spot of Texas, but I've been there 3-4 times and I don't know."

Butler averaged 18.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in his one season at Tyler. That was enough to catch the eye of then-Marquette coach Buzz Williams. Williams brought Butler to Milwaukee to play behind such Golden Eagles stars Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward. He did not start a game in his sophomore season. Getting minutes was Butler's goal, not making the NBA.

"Buzz brought me to Marquette and he taught me your confidence, it only comes from your work," Butler said. "This summer, I put in a lot of work to get to where I am today. Without Buzz constantly challenging me and pushing me to be great, I don’t think I'd be standing here."

Butler progressed at Marquette. After averaging 5.6 points his sophomore year, Butler bumped those figures to 14.7 and 15.7 points in his junior and season seasons. His visible and statistical improvements at Marquette put him on NBA radars. Forman grabbed him with the Bulls' first-round pick (30th overall).

In Butler's rookie year, the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, he only played in 42 games with no starts. Butler averaged 8.5 minutes and just 2.6 points.

Butler attributes Luol Deng and Adrian Griffin as two of the individuals who helped him push through a frustrating rookie season. "Luol had a lot do it to tell you the truth, teaching me to be a professional and teaching me the ropes," he says of the former Bull, whose role as the team's go-to swingman was essentially handed to Butler.

Griffin, the Bulls assistant coach, worked on Butler's isolation play. "I beat him one-on-one a lot my rookie year and he can't beat me to this day," Butler says of the Bulls assistant who he says absorbed Butler's "unbearable" complaints for more playing time.

Butler had his coming-out party in 2012-13 when a Deng injury allowed the second-year player more playing time. He averaged 8.6 points in 82 games (20 starts) and 26 minutes a game. As time has passed, Butler's role has widened. He started all 132 regular-season games he played in from 2013-14 to 2014-15. Butler averaged 13.1 points in 2013-14 and 20.0 points (and 5.8 rebounds) in his All-Star 2014-15 campaign.

"He comes to the Bulls and he continues with the same focus, the same energy" Forman says of drafting Butler in 2011. "[He] goes from being a role player initially to becoming a starter to becoming today, the most improved player in the NBA and an NBA All-Star."

When Butler was drafted, the Bulls were rich with talent. Derrick Rose had won the MVP award the previous season. Deng and Carlos Boozer were still there, and Joakim Noah was continuing to develop. Butler was not supposed to be the guy. Four years ago, imagining Butler being the leading-scorer on a Bulls team with a shot at an NBA title would have been ludicrous.

But rapid progression is a recurring theme in Butler's basketball life.

"I felt like at any level I was at, whether it be junior college or Marquette, I didn't think I was supposed to be there," Butler said. "Being from Tomball, and somehow, in some way, with the people in my corner, I found a way to get there. Now that I'm here, I'm just as confident as when I was in junior College or when I was at Marquette. As long as I continue to work, I'll continue to stay and I'll continue to get better."

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau thinks Butler can get better too. "I don't want to put a lid on it," he says. "I don't think any of us do. We don't know where it's going. All I know is if you study his career, every year he's gotten a lot better."

Thibs himself is a bit of an underdog. After 21 years as an NBA assistant under coaches such as Jerry Tarkanian, Jeff Van Gundy and Doc Rivers, Thibodeau finally got his head-coaching shot in Chicago in 2010. His first season, was highlighted by Rose's MVP, an NBA-high 62 wins and the Coach of the Year Award for Thibs, But the past four years have been a challenge. Rose, Noah and Deng all suffered injuries that hurt Bulls' playoff chances. Boozer fizzled out and the Bulls shipped off Deng. Remarkably, Thibodeau still has an overall win percentage of .647.

"We wouldn't be in the position that we are today without him," Thibodeau says. "Whatever we've asked him to do, he's excelled in that role. He came in primarily as a defensive player, a great effort guy, and he's made himself into a great scorer, and most importantly, a winning player. He's very, very unselfish and very, very efficient. He scores in a lot of different ways and he'll guard anybody and he's a fierce competitor."

Beyond physical appearance -- they both look more like NFL linebackers than basketball coaches -- Williams and Thibodeau share the ability to inspire Butler. Butler attributes both of them for pushing him beyond his talent love. The coaches have led Butler to focus on the mental aspects of the game just as much as the physical aspects.

Last summer, Butler turned off all Internet and cable services in his home in Houston. He shut out the non-basketball aspects of his life–something he had done so well already despite the hardships life has given him–and worked day-in, day-out with trainer Chris Johnson.

"He was the first one who said I'll make you an All-Star," Butler said. "Of course, I didn't believe it."

Butler's summer focused worked. From day one of the 2014-15 season, Butler has been among the top players in the league. It is what got him an All-Star nod and has made him the Bulls' No. 1offensive (and defensive) option.

"I believe he's one of the best two-way players in the league today," Thibodeau says. "It hasn't happened by accident. The way he's worked, it's a testament to his character and who he is as a person. Obviously, to get where he is today, you have to have a lot of talent, which he does have, but when you combine that with his intelligence and his drive, you get something special."

Forman adds that Butler's presence on the court is far from his only positive. He works similarly as hard off the court.

"Jimmy is a very special person," Forman says. "Anybody who's been around him knows he goes out of his way each and every day to interact with everybody that he's around. He's always willing to give himself before others, which is really a great trait."

These are kind words from a general manager who lost a lot of money with Butler this past fall. In October, Forman tried to finalize a four-year, $40 million contract. Butler chose to bet on himself. Now, he is in the running for $70 million over four years. As a restricted free agent, the Bulls can match any offer sheet Butler signs, which Forman and Bulls' VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson have insisted the team will do.

"Do I feel like I won the bet?" Butler asked Thursday. "I think it's a tie. I think we both won. I did my job and what I'm supposed to do and I think they are happy with where I am right now."

This is a diplomatic answer, but it is false. Butler's humble confidence earned him an All-Star season in a contract year. It also propelled the Bulls into a title run, although it will cost the team financially, come this summer.

While it is not all in Butler's hands, the Texas native suggests he wants to stay in Chicago. Asked about his future as a Bull, Butler smiled and gave a straight response.

"To be a Bull [next year], I think so," he said. "I think this is a place for me. I love playing with the guys that we have. They continue to bring in great high character guys that fit the team role. I love it here and I'm happy to be here."

He'll be even happier with the Larry O'Brien trophy.

"I want to help this team win," he said. "I want to get antoher trophy and I want to win a championship. That's the final goal."

Randy Gregory walked into his press conference Friday after the Cowboys made him the 60th overall pick in the NFL draft.

"Are you aware that approximately 17 minutes ago you were the No. 2 Twitter trend in the world?" a reporter asked before Gregory could even sit down.

"In the world?" Gregory responded.

"Not kidding you, in the world."

"That's nice," Gregory said. "I think I've been on Twitter, probably trending a lot lately. I'm glad it's for something good now. What better team to be with than the Dallas Cowboys?"

It was just a month ago Gregory revealed he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in February (one of multiple failed tests in his collegiate career). The outside linebacker/defensive end said it is a drug he has used to relieve anxiety in the past, but acknowledged he was wrong to have had it in his system at the combine.

"I made a real dumb decision," Gregory said. "It's probably been the most embarrassing art of my life up to this point and I'm ready to fix it. The best way I now how to do that is go out there on the football field and make plays and carry myself the way I was brought up by my parents."

Gregory's support system has pushed him to mature in recent months. He calls his father, Kenneth, a former linebacker and defensive lineman at Northwestern in the early 1980s, "a great guy" who he models himself after. But he calls his mother, Mary, the stricter parent.

"She's tough love," he said. "Me and her, we've butted heads a lot throughout this whole process."

Gregory entered the draft at No. 18 in Scouts Inc.'s Top 32. He barely clawed his way into the second round.

Along with the marijuana test, Gregory has admitted to missing draft and meetings. Reports suggest Gregory's mental state is a potential flaw in his pro game. The off-the-field problems overshadowed some of Gregory's accomplishments at Nebraska, such as his 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss in 24 career games.

"Oh, I know it did," he says of his mistakes knocking him down draft boards. "I know for a fact it hurt me with a few teams. Like I said, the main thing is I knew I was going to get picked. I knew I was. I just didn't know when. For me, it was really about the team I was getting picked by, the staff, whether I work well with them, whether they work well with me, and Dallas is one of those teams I really felt like we connected."

Enter Jerry Jones. Perhaps seeing an opportunity to steal top talent in a later round, Jones took the time to understand Gregory's situation based on his anxiety and marijuana use.

"I sat down with Jerry Jones, and we had a heart-to-heart," Gregory said. "We talked for about 40 minutes. I think we were on the same page. I met with Coach [Jason] Garrett, Coach [Rod] Marinelli, and I think we've got a good idea of what we need to do."

Gregory has also spent time with former NFL head coach Herman Edwards about his maturity.

Seeing Jones deal with the behavioral problems of Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant is also encouraging for Gregory.

"He's probably the perfect guy for that," Gregory says. Gregory and Jones had their 40-minute discussion during a top-30 visit a couple weeks prior to the draft. "We talked about working together. I'm sure him and Dez have obviously talked before and they have a great relationship and that's why you see some of the success that he has with the team and I expect the same and I think they expect the same."

Gregory expressed relief at the press conference, after being the last prospect in the green room. TV cameras were glued to Gregory during the second round.

Missouri defensive lineman Shane Ray received a citation for marijuana earlier this week, which pushed him down below his projection, but he still went in the first round to Denver at No. 23 overall.

"I think Shane is kind of like me," Gregory said. He made a bad choice."

On Thursday, Ray said he hoped to prove every team that passed on his wrong. Gregory has a similar attitude, but after building an early relationship with Jones, Garrett and Marinelli, Gregory feels like it's not just him against everyone else.

"[I'm] somebody that's going to prove a lot of people wrong, basically 31 other teams wrong," he says. "And a lot of other people are looking at me and doubting me, us and the Cowboys. We are going to prove those doubters are. We really are."

Gregory had rooms for laughs on Friday. When asked how he will deal with the stresses of the NFL without marijuana, he chuckled.

"Hopefully this whole ride, being in the NFL, will be fun enough so I won't have to go down that road and there won't be anxiety," Gregory said. "I understand every day everyone deals with anxiety."

For the most part though, Gregory was serious Friday. Like Ray a day earlier, it is Gregory's time to mature. He made a mistake, but he made it early. Gregory is on an NFL roster and has a whole career to find his maturity.

"I did a lot of self-talk," he said. "I didn't get any sleep last night and I try not to be emotional up here, but this really hit me hard, hit my family hard. I'm trying to turn it into a positive."

One thing is for certain. If Gregory can produce on the field and stay out of trouble for the Cowboys, the fans in Dallas will embrace him. And with Greg Hardy already suspended for the first 10 games of the regular season due to domestic abuse charges, Gregory made get his chance on the field, on the Cowboys' edge, right away.

Donovan Smith stood atop the football recruit world. Coming out of Owings Mills High School in Maryland, Smith was a four-star offensive tackle recruit on Rivals.com, played in the 2011 U.S. Army All-American Bowl and committed to Penn State.

But then, while redshirting in 2011, Smith watched the Jerry Sandusky scandal unfold around him. Coach Joe Paterno was fired and passed away shortly after. Bill O'Brien was hired, coached two bowl-ineligible seasons, then bolted for the Houston Texans. James Franklin came in for Smith's final season.

Asked what his unique Penn State experience taught him, Smith had to chuckle.

"Oh, man, a lot," he said "How to deal with adversity. Not a lot of people other than the guys in the locker room can say they have been through what we have been through. It groomed us into the men we are today. It teaches us about integrity and loyalty, because you know, we could have jumped ship without any penalty, but we wanted to stay committed to the university and the fans."

Smith, who leaves Penn State with one year of eligibility on the table, said he got all he wanted to out of college football and felt he was ready for the jump for the pros. He was selected 34th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night.

Smith also got everything he could out of his undergrad life at Penn State, academically. Following the original guidance Paterno provided to him, Smith has a Penn State degree.

"One thing the late Joe Paterno told me was to graduate in three and a half years," Smith said. "That would be the best thing you could do. So going in, that's what I did. I pushed. I was taking four courses, 18 credits -- more than the 12-credit minimum. I definitely wanted to graduate in three and a half years and that's what I did. I got my degree in criminology and felt like I accomplished everything at Penn State and wanted to move on."

Smith stayed in touch with O'Brien as much as NCAA and NFL regulations would allow.

"We talked a little bit," Smith said. "I spoke with him down at the Combine and briefly text with him, but other than that, it was pretty much, you can't do that. I understood where he was coming from. He knew where I was coming from, and you know, it was just one of those deals."

The Texans host the Buccaneers schedule in Week 3 this season. While they may be on good professional terms, Smith is not afraid to start trash-talking.

"We are going to go in there and get the W," Smith says. "But it's definitely going to be good seeing some of the old coaches at Penn State and Bill O'Brien. It's definitely going to be an exciting game."

Smith's experiences dealing with distractions at Penn State could help him in Tampa, where media attention is expected to be heavy with the arrival of quarterback Jameis Winston, the top overalll pick. He won a national championship and went 27-1 at Florida State, but he also faced a sexual assault allegation and a civil citation for shoplifting. That is not to mention Winston was suspended for a game last season for yelling an sexually explicit phrase from a tabletop at the student union.

Smith is intrigued by the prospect of starting his career blocking for a Heisman Trophy winner.

"He knows how to win and definitely we are going to put the pieces together and be able to make me look good," Smith said. "I'm going to do my job to make sure he looks good and let us win and lead us to win. I just got to take pride in that."

From the Sandusky scandal to being fellow rookies with Jameis Winston, Donovan Smith has already traveled quite the football road.

It's one thing to have the tangible skills needed to perform at the NFL level. Based on his measurables, Terrell Watson has what it takes. But his running backs coach at Azusa Pacific says the Division II star also has the intangibles. His head coach, meanwhile, is hopeful Watson makes the NFL not just to fulfill a lifelong dream, but also because his strong character could use the platform of professional sports to make a broader positive impact on the world.

Part 2 of Terrell Watson's story in Football Diaries follows his efforts to impress scouts, stack up against Division I talent, and earn himself a spot in this week's NFL draft. (UPDATE: Watson was not drafted, but the Cincinnati Bengals signed him as a free agent.)

Click here for Part 1

During his junior season, Miami Hurricanes receiver Phillip Dorsett went down with a knee injury against North Carolina. He suffered a partially torn MCL and missed five games, but initially the fears were that the injury was more severe.

"When I was walking off the field, I'd seen my mom crying," Dorsett says. "As soon as I see my mom cry, I had a panic attack. I went into the shower. I couldn't breathe. I was trying to breathe, but it was a real shortness of breath. I never had that feeling before. That was the worst day of my life."

One of the best days of his life is expected to be this week. Dorsett, known for his speed, is projected to be a first-round pick in the NFL draft. (UPDATE: The Indianapolis Colts selected Dorsett with the 29th overall pick Thursday.) Here is his story of how he became an elite prospect, in his own words:

Travelle Gaines is perhaps best known in the athletic training community for his work with NFL stars, including LeSean McCoy, Andrew Luck, Antonio Brown and Marshawn Lynch. But he also works with Manny Pacquiao on strength and conditioning. As Pacquiao prepares to face Floyd Mayweather on May 2, Gaines has put an emphasis on Manny's footwork. Here's an overview from Gaines on what it takes to train for a fight of this magnitude:

Manny Pacquiao is a huge basketball fan, and when it comes to dedication to preparation, he finds inspiration in Kobe Bryant.

"Players who want to try and be like him and make a name for themselves in basketball, or whatever sport they play, then they have to do the hard work in training," Pacquiao says.

Part of Pacquiao's training for his May 2 mega-bout against Floyd Mayweather is hitting the basketball court.

"Cross training with sports like basketball and its cutting moves help your strength and balance in your body," Pacquaio says.

But whatever the activity, focus is essential, and that's the angle emphasized as Pacquiao stars in the latest episode of Nike Training's new documentary series.

Previous segments were devoted to Marcus Mariota and Rory McIlroy.

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