Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper Archives Jun 7 2015, Page 23

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Winnipeg Free Press (Newspaper) - June 7, 2015, Winnipeg, Manitoba winnipegfreepress. com SPORTS SPECIAL B8 SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 2015 SIDELINE CHATTER BY DWIGHT PERRY Dunking for dollars, anyone? “ Playing NBA basketball for a living is a very, very, very good gig,” Rockets coach Kevin Mc- Hale told the San Francisco Chronicle . “ Everyone should try it.” The average NBA salary this season, according to reports, is $ 5.1 million. Headlines . At SportsPickle. com: “ Riley Curry to start Game 1 of Finals in place of injured Klay Thompson.” . At TheOnion. com: “ Sepp Blatter resigns from FIFA with generous severance bribe.” Header alert Speaking of headlines, what’s the over/ under on the first “ Soccer loses Blatter control” sighting? Onion Scoop Dept. Indicted ex- FIFA official Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago cited a satirical story at TheOnion. com — headlined “ FIFA frantically announces 2015 summer World Cup in the United States” — to question prosecutors’ motives. “ If FIFA is so bad,” he asked, “ why is it the USA wants to keep the FIFA World Cup?” To Warner’s credit, though, he didn’t refer to U. S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch as a coal miner’s daughter. Gnome- run derby The first 25,000 Orioles fans at the June 27 home game will receive a Buck Showalter garden gnome. So what’s the Birds’ next managerial giveaway, Earl Weaver gargoyles? Lots of elbows Sixteen pitchers are already slated to undergo elbow ligament- replacement surgery this year. “ The procedure has become so prevalent,” wrote Ian Hamilton of the Regina Leader- Post , “ it seems like it’s being done on every Tommy John, Dick and Harry.” Zeroing in Dunkin’ Donuts is celebrating National Donut Day by giving away free samples. Big deal. The Mariners’ offence puts up over a half- dozen donuts on the scoreboard most every night. Talking the talk . Atlanta Hawks radio broadcaster Steve Holman, to his listeners during Game 4, when the Cavs’ Dellavedova arrived at the scorer’s table: “ Tonya Harding checking in.” . Blogger Chad Picasner, on the biggest question looming over the upcoming NBA Finals: “ If Riley Curry will bring her dad, Stephen, to her next press conference.” . Brad Dickson of the Omaha ( Neb.) World- Herald , after Reds first baseman Joey Votto drew a three- ball walk: “ Finally, our low math scores are having an impact.” M ONTGOMERY, Ala. — D. J. Fluker had bouts of anger sometimes, wondering how God let him and his family wind up homeless, five people sleeping shoehorned into a car. The challenges of trying to succeed in football and school — and he valued both — became daunting at times, too. But the San Diego Chargers right tackle, pushed by his mother and a series of coaches, managed to parlay a 6- 5, 339- pound frame and abundance of talent into a college degree at Alabama and a promising NFL career. “ God just does things to see how tough you are, and that’s one of those times you had to be tough,” Fluker said in a recent phone interview. “ You had no other choice. That really helped us, being able to pray and go to church. That really helped us a lot. Going through those times, I was like, ‘ I don’t want to have to do that again, ever.’ “ When I did get opportunities to do things that I needed to do, I took full advantage of them.” It’s a message Fluker wants kids to hear. That’s why he’s made regular visits to Kearny Mesa Juvenile Detention Facility in suburban San Diego and visits youth at boxing gyms. It’s also why he hosted his first football camp Friday in Mobile, Ala., in another effort to share his message of hard work, faith and encouragement. Daniel Lee Jesus Fluker has quite a tale to tell of how he came to be a 2013 first- round pick and a 17- game starter as a rookie. Fluker, his mom Annice, and his three younger siblings spent about a month mostly living out of their Ford Escort when he was an already- massive, soon- to- be ninth- grader. Their home in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Normally easygoing and gentle off the field, Fluker remembers a different mindset at times during this trial. “ Being angry, being mad. You always ask God why? Why did this happen to me?” he said. Then, Fluker said, he turned that experience into motivation to succeed. The Flukers headed to nearby Biloxi, Miss., in the storm’s aftermath before landing in Mobile, Ala., where D. J. played defensive line for McGill- Toolen High School for two seasons under coach Steve Savarese. Fluker’s mother ushered him into Savarese’s office, and the coach saw a frightened, timid kid who looked more like a graduate than a freshman and shrank back from an attempted hug. “ He was just a ninth- grader and he was so scared,” Savarese said. “ I’ll never forget as long as I live how scared he was. He was frightened. I didn’t understand at the time, but I could tell he was real nervous. He was shaking in his seat. I’ll never forget it.” Fluker wound up staying often with Savarese. The coach’s wife would do his laundry and his daughter tutored him in English. When Savarese and his son and son- in- law took Fluker to a buffet, he left with three takeout boxes for his siblings. “ He trusted everyone and he loved people,” Savarese said. “ He was a magnet. Everybody loved D. J. because he always had a smile on his face. He treated everyone with respect.” Fluker went back to Biloxi for his junior season before landing at Foley ( Ala.) High School at midyear when the trailer they were staying in burned down. Fluker did have moments of doubts about sticking with football since balancing sport and school is never easy. “ I had a point where I didn’t care sometimes,” he said. “ I was like, ‘ Man, I can’t do it.’ We all get burned out trying to make it somewhere. But they just ( coaches) kept pushing me. It was like, ‘ If you keep going, you’re going to make it.’ ” Fluker graduated from Alabama in 3 ½ years before skipping his senior season to turn pro. He was his family’s first college graduate but, it seems, far from the last. He bought his mother a house after getting his first contract and paid for his sisters to attend private school. Brother Leon just graduated from college and got married and sister Aerial recently finished Mobile Christian and will attend college on a scholarship. Youngest sister Victoria is still in high school. “ They’re all doing pretty well so far,” Fluker said. “ Everybody’s hanging in there.” He wound up being one of the nation’s top recruits after Foley coach Todd Watson suggested he move to offensive line as a senior. Watson, who remembers Fluker as “ a big ol’ teddy bear,” said the player was reluctant to make the move at first. Then he suggested that Fluker watch the NFL draft and compare where left tackles and nose guards were picked. “ He watched that weekend and came back and said, ‘ Coach, I think I’d like to try this left tackle,’ ” Watson said. — The Associated Press The school of HARD KNOCKS Chargers O- lineman D. J. Fluker went from homeless teen to college grad before becoming an NFL starter By John Zenor ‘ I had a point where I didn’t care sometimes. I was like, Man, I can’t do it’ — D. J. Fluker He’s a legs man Scrappy Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova — whose contact knocked the Hawks’ Kyle Korver out of the playoffs — is drawing opponents’ ire for diving at their legs for loose balls. Relax, the dude’s Australian. He tends to be down under. Nice kitty What’s worse than a dogleg left? Four cat legs, right? A golfer filmed a mountain lion that walked onto the Desert Mountain Golf Course in Scottsdale, Ariz., and played with the flagstick on the 18th hole. Want to play through, big fella? Be our guest! — The Seattle Times DENIS POROY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES San Diego Chargers offensive tackle D. J. Fluker graduated from a hardscrabble background to become the San Diego Chargers’ first- round draft pick in 2013. Below, he shows off one of his three NCAA championship ring earned at Alabama.

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