Lehigh lineman Rackley taking his best shot

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Lehigh lineman Rackley taking his best shot

Saturday, February 26, 2011
Posted: 11:12 a.m.
By Reuben FrankCSNPhilly.com

INDIANAPOLIS - Lehighs Will Rackley would get down low for leverage, eye up his target, brace himself for the big moment and take his best shot.

And were not even talking about football. Were talking about photography.

Rackley, a senior at Lehigh University, made a name for himself playing football and is one of the top guards available in this years draft, but hes accomplished at a few other things, too.

In fact, if you were driving around Lehighs campus on Bethlehems South Side this past summer heading to Eagles training camp and you saw a 6-foot-4 guy with dreadlocks lying on his stomach in the weeds taking pictures of Bethlehems massive, abandoned steel mill complex, that was Rackley.

The images Rackley took of the old steel mill for his photography class also earned him first place in the My South Side Photography Contest sponsored by the university.

This is no one-dimensional kid.

Photography is something Ive always enjoyed, Rackley said in an interview at Lucas Oil Stadium, where hes participating in the NFL Scouting Combine. Ive always been an artsy-type of guy. Ive always been able to draw and been interested in creative kinds of things. When I needed a subject for my photography class, I thought the steel mill would be perfect.

I wasnt able to get inside, but I got as close as legally possible. Its a pretty important part of Bethlehems history, and I wanted to show it in a way that nobody had ever really seen it before.

If youre getting the idea that Rackley isnt your average jock, youre right. His parents both sing, one of his brothers is a music producer, another is an actor and model, and Rackley was raised in an atmosphere where the arts were just as important as football.

I just come from an artsy family, he said. Ive always been around that kind of thing.

Rackley may have a future as a professional photographer, but first theres a professional football career to get started.

Depending which expert you ask, Rackley is anywhere from the No. 3 to No. 5 interior lineman available in the draft. He was a Division 1-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) All-America and the only four-year offensive line starter Lehigh has had in the last 20 years.

But Rackley wasnt always such a bright prospect. Coming out of Riverdale (Ga.) High School, just south of Atlanta, he was 6-foot-2, 260 pounds with a 3.4 GPA.

He was better-known for academics than his athletics and built more like a fullback than an NFL guard.

I wasnt too highly recruited coming from a triple-option team, but fortunately I had good academics out of high school, Rackley said. I was getting recruited by a lot of Patriot League schools Lehigh, Lafayette, Colgate. Georgia Tech recruited me for a small bit, but it was nothing serious. I took my visit to Lehigh and loved the atmosphere, loved the academic tradition, loved the football tradition, so it was a good fit.

One side benefit of attending Lehigh is that an NFL team happens to hold training camp on your campus. So during summers, Rackley often found himself lifting in the A. Haigh Cundey Varsity House, which also serves as the Eagles locker room during camp.

So long before he was considered an NFL prospect, Rackley had the opportunity to watch actual NFL offensive linemen practicing on his own field.

I used to go out there every morning and watch them, watch the o-linemen practice and coach (Juan) Castillo, he said. I was fortunate enough to get a field pass and after practice got to talk to coach Castillo he just told me to keep at it, reminded me that a lot of the guys he had were small-school guys. It was definitely encouraging hearing that from him. I would look at his guys and size myself up against them. I was like, I can definitely do what those guys are able to do.

Rackley remembers standing out there at practice with Lehigh offensive line coach Brett Sawyer studying Castillo as he ran his guys through specific drills.

A couple weeks later, we were doing those exact same drills, he said with a laugh.

Encouragement came from guys like Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan, who told Rackley to keep working hard and following his dream.

Those were some big guys, he said. They towered over me.

But in the Patriot League, Rackley towered over almost everybody else. He grew to be a dominating player and all-conference lineman by his sophomore year and All-America by his junior year.

Rackleys goal every time he lined up against an overmatched defensive lineman was simple: I went out there to try to embarrass guys.

He embarrassed enough guys that hes now projected as a likely third-round pick in the NFL draft in April. Only one Lehigh player has ever been drafted higher than the fifth round, and that was 37 years ago, when the Falcons took quarterback Kim McQuilken in the third round with the 69th pick overall in the 1974 draft. The only Lehigh player drafted in any round in the last 25 year was defensive lineman Rich Owens, the Redskins fifth-round pick in 1995.

Rackley is out to change all of that.

Im here to prove myself as a player, proving that guys can jump from I-AA to the pros, Rackley said. Playing football is playing football. It doesn't matter where youre from, it matters how you play.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Related: CSNWashington: 'Skins interested in Rackley? Buy Eagles gear

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.