Sebastien Le Toux -- The Perfect Major League Soccer Player

Sebastien Le Toux -- The Perfect Major League Soccer Player

Sebastien Le Toux has a strong connection to Philadelphia Union fans. (AP Photo)

Before being selected by the Union in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft, Sebastien Le Toux was an MLS also-ran. His biggest claim to fame at the point was that he was the first-ever player signed by the Seattle Sounders.

Now, he's a fan favorite, an integral part of a team on an upward path, and the only player on the Union roster who played in the team's inaugural game just over three years ago (even that includes a year away). (Edit: As a commenter pointed out, Roger Torres played in that game too. But it's hard to remember he's still on the team now)

Sebastien Le Toux is all of those things. He's also the ideal Major League Soccer player.

MLS is in a strange sort of limbo when it comes to the soccer world as a whole. In nearly 20 years of existence, it has certainly graduated from the novelty league it once was. But if you asked every player under the age of 30 -- and could guarantee an honest answer -- nearly every one of them pictures MLS as a stepping stone to Europe.

And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Now, I'm not saying Sebastien Le Toux doesn't dream bigger than PPL Park. Of course he does. If he didn't, I'd be concerned. He even spent a week training with then-English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers in January, 2012, (something that didn't seem to sit well with manager and professional dream-killer Peter Nowak and led to his being traded a month later).

But, from all accounts, Le Toux is exceedingly happy in Philadelphia. He never wanted to leave, always pined to return, and -- according to an article just after his departure in 2012 by Chris Vito of the Delco Times -- was ready to sign any contract the team placed in front of him. He doesn't have an agent and even said it was the Union who pushed him to try out at Bolton, presumably because they were hoping for a big transfer pay-day.

It had gotten to the point where I said to them, to Nick, to Peter, to everyone, ‘Just give me a contract and I will sign it,’” said Le Toux, who spoke exclusively with the Daily Times. “I wanted to stay in Philly. I didn’t care about the money."

With Nowak gone, the bad blood seems to be in the past. When John Hackworth worked to bring Le Toux back from New York, it was a move I whole-heartedly agreed with (strangely, it was also a move that was met with LOTS of resistance among the Union's vocal online fanbase). In my eyes, even if Le Toux did nothing but provide an occasional bench spark this season, bringing him back was a good-will nod toward the fans from a team that was struggling with its image post-Peter.

Needless to say, Le Toux has done far more than provide an occasional bench spark.

When he returned, many wondered where he'd fit in with the team going all-in with Jack McInerney up front. That was because Le Toux was a forward in his first two years here. Period. End story. Any time he tried to play wider, or play as an attacking midfielder, you only knew he was still on the field because of his pink shoes.

For some reason, that has changed drastically in 2013. Maybe it's his 29-year-old veteran coming out. Maybe it's having McInerney and Conor Casey up front instead of Danny Mwanga and Alejandro Moreno (all due respect, Ale). Maybe it's Hackworth's system. Maybe it's actually playing with the same players every week -- something that never happened under Nowak.

Le Toux leads the league with 12 assists, and is the biggest reason McInerney is having a breakout/All-Star/national-team call-up season while Casey is a leading candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

None of that in and of itself is why Le Toux is the ideal MLS player. But in combination, it's why the Union would be silly to let him go, even if his on-field skills diminish in the year's to come.

He's not dreaming of greener pastures. He's not trying to copyright his goal celebrations. And he legitimately seems to enjoy serving in the perfect pass more than scoring a goal -- like this one, this one, this one, and ESPECIALLY this one:

[nbcsports_video src=http://p.mlssoccer.com/SAu5a/video/1724382/mls_2013-05-11-153322.640hq.mp4 service=mlssoccer width=590 height=332]

Those who have met him -- and there are many ( I have heard countless "I saw Le Toux last night" stories) -- vouch that he is a genuine, down-to-earth man who loves his adopted city and shares a laugh if you mimic his thick French accent.

He sits behind the now-invisible Kleberson and Jeff Parke as the third-highest-paid Union player at $200,000 (fourth-highest if you count Carlos Valdes). It would be a bargain at twice the price (maybe three times, considering Kleberson makes half a million bucks to ride the pine).

Sebastien Le Toux was the first player to ever sign a Union contract. In a perfect world, he should never again have to beg for one from the the blue and gold.

LATER THIS WEEK: The English Premier League kicks off Saturday. We'll have a handy way for any Philly sports fan to pick a team to follow. Horrible neck tattoos encouraged, but not required.

Kulp’s one-and-only Eagles 2017 seven-round NFL mock draft

Kulp’s one-and-only Eagles 2017 seven-round NFL mock draft

This Eagles mock draft -- like every mock draft -- is inaccurate and strictly for entertainment purposes only.

For the past 24 hours, I debated releasing a mock draft altogether, even though I had been working on one for several days. It’s a senseless exercise to begin with, as the odds of being right about any of these choices is slim. In the 2017 NFL Draft, the probability is lower than ever.

We’re just hours away from the draft, and we’re still not sure who’s going to the Cleveland Browns with the first-overall pick. There’s also little consensus on how to rank the prospects beyond Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, and by the time the Eagles are on the clock at No. 14, it’s anybody’s guess where these players will go.

Adding to the mystery are a collection of potential top-15 talents who are next to impossible to rank due to character concerns or injuries. Ohio State’s Gareon Conley, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, Alabama’s Reuben Foster, Washington’s Sidney Jones or Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon all could’ve been options for the Eagles at 14 in alternate universe, and two or three still are -- now, who knows?

Those could be some of the options, as are Tennessee’s Derek Barnett, Central Florida’s Corey Davis, Alabama’s O.J. Howard, Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, Washington’s John Ross and LSU’s Tra’Davious White, to name a few. Frankly, we don’t even know when the run on quarterbacks will begin, which could drastically alter how the board looks when it’s the Eagles’ turn.

Even as we get into the later rounds, where there seems to be a tad more consensus in the rankings, there are some 300-plus prospect to choose from altogether. The Eagles currently have eight picks, which gives me roughly a 2.5 percent chance of nailing just one, presuming they don’t trade some away.

So long story short, don’t expect me to get this right. I certainly don’t, and anybody who tells who differently is kidding themselves -- this year more than most.

 

14. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

White isn’t necessarily graded as the best player or even cornerback available at this point, but that might be an oversight. Not many defensive prospects come along with four years starting experience at an SEC program, plus return punts, too. Don’t take my word for it, though. This is Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas talking about White at the Senior Bowl, via Turron Davenport for USA Today.

“He’s a leader. He’s been ultra-productive. He’s tough as nails. He plays nickel, he plays outside, he has ball skills. You can stack his level of production up against any corner in this draft.”

http://theeagleswire.usatoday.com/2017/01/27/joe-douglas-raves-about-lsu-cb-tredavious-white/

There is a chance the Eagles could land White or a similarly graded corner in round two, but I don’t think he lasts that long or they find a better fit. This fills a need, does so with somebody the Eagles are comfortable with, and a case could be made White is the best defensive player available here, rankings be damned. There’s probably 10 different directions they could go here -- including a trade down -- but either way, this choice makes a lot of sense.

 

43. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

No, I’m not willing to bet $500 on it, but I do buy into the buzz that Foster is sliding as the draft approaches. He may be a top-10 talent on the football field and hands down the best linebacker in the draft, but there is a host of other issues teams should be worried about.

That being said, the Eagles recently sent somebody to Tuscaloosa to see Foster, so their interest seems legitimate. The Baltimore Ravens had a history of drafting linebackers and Alabama products while Douglas was a member of the front office as well. Every year, at least one prospect falls much farther than expected. If Foster somehow lasts this long, he’ll be well worth the risk for the Eagles.

 

99. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo

Hunt rushed for 4,945 yards -- 25th in FBS history -- and 44 touchdowns in four seasons for the Rockets, but it was the strides he made as a receiver out of the backfield his senior year that should make him attractive to the Eagles. With 41 receptions for 403 yards and a touchdown in 2016, Hunt showed the kind of dual-threat ability vital to coach Doug Pederson’s west coast offense.

 

118. Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic

Hendrickson recorded 30.0 tackles for loss and 23.0 sacks over his junior and senior seasons. No, it wasn’t again top competition, but timed at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, he has the speed defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is looking for off the edge.

 

138. Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia

Gibson was supposed to run one of the fastest 40-yard dashes at the NFL Scouting Combine. Instead, the clock started fast, and he was timed at 4.5 seconds. That may cause him to drop a round or two in the draft, but the stats tell a different tale. Gibson averaged 22.6 yards per reception in three seasons at WVU and can flat out fly. He returns kickoffs, too.

 

155. Damontae Kazee, CB, San Diego State

Undersized at 5-foot-10 and not the greatest athlete, Kazee makes up for it with tremendous instinct and a nose for the football. Recorded 15 interceptions and 3 forced fumbles over his junior and senior seasons, while being aggressively natured in run support, too, racking up 8.5 tackles for loss. He’ll compete, which Schwartz loves in a corner.

 

194. Connor Harris, LB, Lindenwood

The NCAA All-Division record holder with 633 tackles, Harris is short at 5-foot-11 and not especially explosive, he simply knows how to play football. Had an offer from an FBS school and likely would have excelled, but was already committed to Lindenwood. Has the potential to become an outstanding special-teams contributor.

 

230. Nate Hairston, CB, Temple

Hairston is an extremely raw prospect who is nowhere near ready to play cornerback in the NFL, but the Eagles could stash him on the practice squad for a year or two while he learns. He’s a local prospect, so what the hell, throw him on here. If I got one of these right, I’ll be popping open the champagne on Saturday night.

Ex-Penn State officials to be sentenced in June over Sandusky

apjerrysandusky.jpg
AP Images

Ex-Penn State officials to be sentenced in June over Sandusky

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Sentencing has been scheduled for three former top officials at Penn State University who were convicted of child endangerment in the Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal.

Former university president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley will be sentenced June 2 in Harrisburg.

Curley and Schultz pleaded guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment. Spanier went to trial and was convicted in March. His lawyer said he will appeal.

The convictions stem from their handling of a 2001 complaint about Sandusky apparently molesting a boy in a school shower.

The administrators didn't report the encounter involving the ex-assistant football coach to police or child-welfare authorities.

Sandusky was arrested a decade later. He is serving up to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing 10 boys but is appealing.