|Ex-Appalachian State players relish upset win over Michigan|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 06 September 2007 08:52|
``In college, we'd start every season against Appalachian State or some slack Division II team,'' Sandler says. ``Get their confidence up.''
Appalachian State product Dexter Coakley used to be on the receiving end of that kind of ``humor'' in the locker room throughout a 10-year NFL career with Dallas and St. Louis. So Saturday's stunning win over Michigan was extra sweet.
``I always caught grief because guys didn't know where the school was at,'' said the 34-year-old Coakley, who is set to retire after being released by the Rams in the offseason. ``I'm walking around with my chest out and holding my head out a little bit higher.''
Former Mountaineer Dino Hackett, who spent seven seasons in the NFL with Kansas City and Seattle, was constantly correcting his teammates.
``I would have to tell them it's App-ah-LATCH-in State, not App-ah-LAYTCH-in,'' Hackett said. ``I had to explain that to some of my Northern teammates.''
Coakley and Hackett symbolize the type of players that have come through Appalachian State.
Barely 5-foot-10, Coakley was too small for major programs. Hackett, weighing only 185 pounds coming out of high school, was too light.
Coakley overcame his size with tremendous speed, while Hackett was a late bloomer who gained 40 pounds early in college.
The linebackers combined to go to four Pro Bowls.
``A lot of programs get fixated on stereotypical players,'' said Hackett, who retired after the 1993 season. ``If you're going to be an offensive lineman you're going to be 6-3, 290 pounds or you're not playing here. The NFL has proven that that's not necessary anymore.''
Michigan likely wishes it had more of the speed the Mountaineers displayed at the Big House. With quarterback Armanti Edwards eluding tacklers, receiver Dexter Jackson outrunning the Wolverines' secondary and running back Kevin Richardson shifting past big linemen, the Mountaineers were hard to catch.
``The exposure was great because now scouts know that if you want to find great athletes that have the same tools as the big school athletes, you've got to go and look at some of these smaller schools,'' Coakley said.
``Just look at the NFL. You've got Jerry Rice coming from a small school. You've got Michael Strahan coming from a small school, Terrell Owens coming from a small school. These guys all came out of I-AA programs. The athletes are there, you've just got to do your homework.''
Hackett had a hunch his alma mater could hang with Michigan for a while. But he wondered if they could sustain it.
``I remember going to Clemson and seeing 99 guys going down the hill and touching the rock. We literally got off the bus with 45 guys and our uniforms on. We got dressed at the hotel,'' Hackett said. ``We were able to stay with them in the first half, but in the second half they had the numbers and were able to wear us down.
``Against Michigan, we were able to hang in there early, jump out to a lead. So they're leaving their players on the field. They're not playing second teamers. The thing snowballed, our confidence level kept getting bigger and bigger.''
More than two dozen Appalachian State products have played in the NFL. Currently, Baltimore tight end Daniel Wilcox and Green Bay defensive end Jason Hunter represent the school.
``I've realized we aren't just playing for ourselves, we're playing for so many other people that have graduated from here,'' said safety Corey Lynch, who blocked Michigan's potential game-winning field goal attempt on the final play.
And if there's another remake of ``The Longest Yard,'' the Appalachian State line will have to be deleted.
``The handwriting is on the wall now,'' Wilcox said. ``The whole nation is aware of Appalachian State and what we can do. We're a force to be reckoned with.''