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The story behind Najee Harris’ hurdles at Alabama began in high school

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The story behind Najee Harris' hurdles at Alabama began in high school

College football fans who don’t follow Alabama or running back Najee Harris were treated to a seldom-seen sight during the Crimson Tide’s 31-14 romp over Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl.

Harris, all 6-2, 230 pounds of him, leapt clear over Notre Dame’s 6-foot defensive back Nick McCloud en route to a 53-yard gain. That McCloud attempted to tackle Harris high instead of low only makes the feat all the more impressive:

For those who do watch the Crimson Tide, however, Harris’ hurdle was merely the latest in a long line at Alabama; he has been known to clear defenders ever since his freshman campaign. Said teammate DeVonta Smith after the game: “That’s what he do on the regular. That’s just something that we see normally.”

MORE: Will Jaylen Waddlereturn to play in CFP championship?

Prior to his hurdle over McCloud, Harris’ signature move might have come against South Carolina the year prior, when he caught a pass out of the backfield from Tua Tagovailoa, stiff-armed a defender, hurdled another and broke one final tackle en route to a 42-yard touchdown reception.

Indeed, it’s a move Harris has made use of since his days at Antioch (Calif.) High School, where he was the No. 2 player in the class of 2017.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, for his part, has done his best to keep Harris from such highlight reel plays, as he revealed after the Notre Dame game:

“I actually try to teach him not to do it,” Saban said, “but it didn’t work.”

Unlike Harris’ hurdles, there’s nothing fantastic about how and why he started the practice. When asked about it ahead of the CFP title game, the Alabama running back said it was merely a way to avoid painful tackles.

“I mean, it’s cool. I don’t really remember the first hurdle really,” Harris told reporters during a Wednesday Zoom call. “But I mean, it was just a way — so I got tired of getting chopped in the legs, man, in the ankles. It hurts. I guess I just started hurdling. I don’t really remember the first hurdle, though.”

So, there you have it: a mundane origin to an otherwise highlight reel-worthy move. Whether Harris can go airborne once more in college remains to be seen. We’ll find out when No. 1 Alabama takes on No. 3 Ohio State at 8 p.m. ET in the College Football Playoff championship game on Monday.

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Masahiro Tanaka free agency: Right-hander returns to Japan after seven years with Yankees

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Masahiro Tanaka free agency: Right-hander returns to Japan after seven years with Yankees

Masahiro Tanaka is back pitching in Japan after completing a mostly successful tenure with the Yankees.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles announced Thursday that Tanaka had returned to his original club, which posted him in late 2013 so he could play stateside. Terms were not disclosed. Reports on Wednesday said the sides were close to an agreement.

Tanaka, 32, became an MLB free agent in the offseason after his seven-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees expired. He was solid during his time in the Bronx, posting a 3.74 ERA in the regular season and a 3.33 mark in the postseason. 

Tanaka put up those numbers despite pitching almost his entire Yankees career with a partial elbow ligament tear. He was hurt during the 2014 season but opted to rehab and treat the injury rather than have surgery.

MORE: Why did the Yankees trade Adam Ottavino?

Last year, he started his season a week late after suffering a concussion during summer camp. He was struck in the head by a Giancarlo Stanton line drive during live batting practice at Yankee Stadium.

He publicly opened the door to a return to Japan around New Year’s when he said in a radio interview that he would consider signing with the Golden Eagles or the Yomiuri Giants. Before then, his focus reportedly was on re-signing with the Yankees.

While Tanaka stayed on the market, New York traded for Jameson Taillon and signed free agent Corey Kluber. They join a rotation that has multiple question marks after Gerrit Cole.

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Glazers in? Divisive family on verge of success with Manchester United, Buccaneers

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Glazers in? Divisive family on verge of success with Manchester United, Buccaneers

Glazers out.

Many times over the last 15 years these words have been seen scrawled on a banner or posted on social media.

The Glazer family famously owns world soccer powerhouse Manchester United and the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Its leadership of both organizations isn’t really associated with success, with the Red Devils and Bucs both going through extensive periods without much glory.

MORE: Man Utd loss to Sheffield United had been coming | Brady leads Bucs to NFC title

But in recent times, the two clubs have turned it around on the field: The Bucs have made it to Super Bowl 55 and Manchester United is a realistic title contender for the first time in nearly eight years.

American businessman Malcolm Glazer and his six children purchased the Bucs franchise for a then-record $192 million in January 1995. The team hadn’t reached the playoffs since 1982 and had won just 87 games in 19 seasons prior to the purchase. The franchise picked up in the years after.

Following four visits to the playoffs in five seasons, Tampa Bay won its only Super Bowl title in 2003 against the then-Oakland Raiders, in Jon Gruden’s first campaign as the team’s head coach.

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The Bucs struggled to replicate the success in following seasons, and the Glazers eventually fired the long-serving Gruden in 2008. That began a spiral that wouldn’t see the team qualify for the playoffs until 2020.

Between 2008 and 2019, the Glazers hired and fired four coaches as the franchise managed just two winning seasons. Current coach Bruce Arians was hired in 2019 and then legendary quarterback Tom Brady arrived in March last year. Their leadership has driven the Bucs to the Super Bowl.

The Glazers’ purchase of Manchester United in 2005 has seen the English Premier League giants embark on an eerily similar path as the Bucs despite the vast differences in their historical success.

With sons Joel and Avram by his side, Malcolm Glazer controversially took control of the Red Devils while they were in the midst of a glorious era under Sir Alex Ferguson and with players of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs in the squad.

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The club’s supporters weren’t happy with the American family buying the club because the deal saddled the financial powerhouse with debt of around $900 million as the Glazers used a leveraged buyout plan financed by loans for the purchase.

On the field, the situation wasn’t much better. Chelsea, under master coach Jose Mourinho, won the Premier League title in 2004-05 and 2005-06 during the early stages of the Glazer ownership at Old Trafford.

A stroke and illness to patriarch Malcolm Glazer in 2006 led to sons Joel and Avram assuming leadership of the Red Devils. The elder Glazer died in 2014.

Protests were regularly seen inside and outside Old Trafford, with “Glazers out” emblazoned on banners at nearly every match.

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Just like with the Bucs, Manchester United was building in the early days of the Glazer leadership, before a sustained period of success in which the Red Devils won the next three Premier League titles and five of the next seven.

This was achieved under the leadership Joel and Avram Glazer, with Malcolm taking a back seat after his stroke.

However, the retirement of the legendary Ferguson as Man Utd coach at the end of 2013 saw the Red Devils experience a decline similar to what occurred with the Bucs.

Just like with the coaching turnover with the Bucs, the Glazers couldn’t settle on a manager at the Theatre of Dreams. David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and Mourinho were all hired and fired without really getting close to a league title.

Suddenly, almost surprisingly, both the Bucs and Manchester United are contenders to win their domestic titles in 2020.

The Bucs have been rewarded by sticking with Arians after a 7-9 campaign last season. The signing of Brady, who many thought was well past his best at 43, now looks inspired.

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At Manchester United, the Glazers installed club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a coach with a modest record in the profession but a personality who understood the culture at Old Trafford through his playing years at the club.

Despite Solskjaer’s struggles at times, the Glazers and club’s hierarchy have stuck with the novice Norwegian and it seems as if they are being rewarded. The Red Devils are in Premier League title contention and among the favorites to win the FA Cup.

It seems both Man United and the Bucs have enjoyed a meteoric rise at least partly because of the stability installed in the club by the Glazers after years of tumult and short-term fixes.

Even though the Glazers have been in charge for a long time, it seems a method for success in their ownership may have finally been found.

Glazers in?

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Who is David Culley? Texans bringing in veteran NFL assistant as head coach

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Who is David Culley? Texans bringing in veteran NFL assistant as head coach

David Culley is finally getting his opportunity to lead an NFL team after working for more than a quarter-century as a pro assistant. He is about to become the Texans’ new head coach, replacing Bill O’Brien and interim coach Romeo Crennel, according to multiple reports Wednesday night.

Culley, 65, is joining Houston by way of Baltimore, where he worked the past two seasons as the Ravens’ assistant head coach, passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. That means he’s moving from Lamar Jackson to, for the moment, Deshaun Watson. Whether Watson will be behind center for the Texans in Week 1 remains to be seen.

MORE: The hunt to find Deshaun Watson jersey-swapped onto every NFL team

If Watson does stay, then he will be playing for a respected NFL coaching vet whose history is on the offensive side of the ball.

A quick SN sketch of Culley, who inherits a 4-12 team that may be in transition in the offseason:

Culley is the newest branch on the Andy Reid coaching tree

Culley was a part of Reid’s staff in Philadelphia and Kansas City for a combined 18 seasons (1999-2016) before moving to the Bills (and ex-Reid assistant Sean McDermott) in 2017 and then the Ravens (and ex-Reid assistant John Harbaugh) in 2019. He was Reid’s wide receivers coach in both places, adding assistant HC duties along the way.

Reid, who is preparing the Chiefs for Super Bowl 55, pointed out some of Culley’s top personal traits.

Positive energy and people skills will be needed after the Texans’ poor season, which left star pass-rusher J.J. Watt frustrated.  

Personal qualities aside, Culley is a first-time head coach with no experience as a full-time coordinator, but the Houston Chronicle reported that new Texans general manager Nick Caserio told Culley in their second interview that Caserio had no issues with that lack of experience.

Culley had a long college coaching career before the NFL

He began in the college ranks in 1978 with Austin Peay. Stops at Vanderbilt, Middle Tennessee State, Chattanooga, Southwestern Louisiana, UTEP and Texas A&M followed before he was hired by the Buccaneers in 1994.

Former Aggies coach R.C. Slocum lauded his ex-assistant for his character.

“He’ll do a great job. He is the kind of guy in the clubhouse that players want to play for. He’ll rally the guys around him,” Slocum told the Chronicle after learning that the Texans were about to hire Culley.

He edged out former NFL head coaches for the Texans job

The Chronicle reported that the Texans also interviewed Leslie Frazier, Jim Caldwell and Marvin Lewis for the job, as well as assistants Matt Eberflus, Brandon Staley (who became the Chargers’ head coach) and Joe Brady.

WATSON TRADE TRACKER: Timeline of rumors, dysfunction

Per the Chronicle, they also interviewed Eric Bieniemy, Reid’s current offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Watson reportedly became upset when the Texans initially did not follow his suggestion to talk to Bieniemy. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes reportedly gave Bieniemy a strong recommendation in a conversation with Watson. 

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