Best Rookies 2010 | Vontae Davis and Sean Smith | Sports & Recreation | South Florida
We cheated a little bit on this one and put two names up there, but these guys are Dolphin cornerbacks who we hope will be playing together for years to come. Both had big moments in their rookie year, and both possess something you can't teach. With Davis, it's an incredible instinct for the big play (and big hit). With Smith, it's a set of hands that most defensive backs would kill for (his one-handed end-zone interception in the preseason against the Saints was an all-time catch). They had their down times (as all rookies do), and were beaten for touchdowns a little more than you'd like, but both of them, from the moment they entered training camp, were obviously destined to start in the NFL — and both might have All-Pro years ahead of them. But don't take it from us: No less an authority than Pro Bowl receiver Muhsin Muhammad recently opined that Davis and Smith are the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Not bad for a couple of rookies.
When she was 5, Sachia Vickery plucked a cheap tennis racket off the shelf of a Miramar shop and told her mother that she'd be the next Venus Williams. A decade has passed and Vickery, now 15, is on track to make good on that improbable promise. The former top-ranked 12-year-old in the nation, Vickery rarely plays against an opponent her own age. Last year at 14, she won a major international tournament in the Czech Republic, then turned pro. This year, she made a dazzling debut at New York City's Madison Square Garden, knocking off an older player in an exhibition match. It will be a long climb from her current world ranking (975), but Vickery's got time on her side, as well as a mother who worked two jobs to pay for expensive tennis lessons, like the ones Vickery's getting now at an academy in France. It won't be long now before that investment begins paying handsome dividends.
It comes in at a measly 1.6 acres, but that's all Stranahan Park needs. Because the park's beauty doesn't only lie with its rare cypress trees — its beauty is also seen in how downtown Fort Lauderdale molds to it. Eateries, businesses, and the Broward County Main Library swarm the wilderness area, making it the perfect meeting grounds for lunch. It comes with picnic benches, a turf of grass in which to loiter from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, and a gazebo for weddings (note: Wedding receptions aren't allowed). It's home to the Fort Lauderdale Woman's Club. It's also prime distance to the main bus terminal. There's just this one other thing: The park's also renowned among the homeless.
You've probably never heard of David Lee — but you've seen his work. You've seen it in exotic formations and in the play of several quarterbacks. You've also seen the results in the Dolphins win column. Lee is a longtime Arkansas Razorback and a Parcells guy. He was an assistant in Dallas during the Tuna's reign. When he came to Miami in 2008, he brought with him a little offensive gimmick play he called the "Wildcat." It was unorthodox — a running back in motion, another back lined up behind center, and a quarterback lined up out wide. Defenses, including the mighty Patriots', had no answers. The Dolphins ran the Wildcat all the way to a playoff spot, a division title, and a tie for the best single-season turnaround in league history. Lost in the Wildcat chatter was the fact that Lee was also the man behind the resurgence of a washed-up Chad Pennington. (That year, Pennington won his second Comeback Player of the Year award.) But Lee wasn't done. When Pennington went down last year, Lee made Chad Henne look like the closest thing Miami's seen to a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino. Lee may be the single most underappreciated coach in professional sports.
A good football player can take hits, go long, and emerge victorious. A great football player will switch positions to benefit the team, lead his conference in rushing yards, and practically require a herd of elephants to take him down. For FAU, that player is Alfred Morris. The 2009 season was the sophomore's first as a starter. Last year, he was a fullback but converted to a running back after a series of injuries suffered by his teammates. This was the year fans saw him flourish. Not only did he lead the Sun Belt Conference in rushing with 1,392 yards but opponents found out Morris is harder to tackle than a gazelle. And his team found out they can use him for more than just running: He's proven himself capable of completing big plays as well. Morris is a rock star in the Sun Belt Conference, and here at home, he was given the Team MVP award at FAU's 2010 Football Banquet. He currently remains the proverbial love of Coach Howard Schnellenberger's life after becoming just the second player in the coach's 50-year career to rush for 1,000 yards.
It's Friday night. It's dark but for the disco ball and the neon flicker of glowsticks and the shimmer of booze on the lips of everyone in the room. A mix of old and new pop music blasts through the thunderous sound system. An MC encourages a handful of players to "shake dat ass!" as he calls out letter-number combinations. This damned sure isn't your grandma's bingo game. Here, ten bucks gets you a stiff drink and five games of fast-paced bingo. One warning, though: You'd better hope you don't scream "Bingo!" at the same time as a fellow competitor. If you do, you'll be ushered to the front of the room to compete in that most fearsome of tiebreakers: the dance-off. With $100 at stake, this often involves a lot of gyration and clothing removal. Cosmic Bingo is like nothing else on Earth.
Before he even shot his first jumper as a member of the Miami Heat, the silky six-foot-ten Beasley was in trouble. While at an NBA rookie camp, he was busted in a hotel room that police said smelled strongly of marijuana. How did the police find out about it? A fire alarm. Which begs the question: Just how much were those guys smoking? Last year, he posted a photo of himself on Twitter, an infamously foolish move, since observers noticed the fixings for a weed high in the background. Then came rehab in Houston. Beasley's behavior is at times erratic, and on the court, he's been inconsistent, showing his unique talents at times but too often disappearing into the woodwork. In this year's playoffs, he was pretty much dominated by Kevin Garnett in the Heat's series loss to the Celtics. So, after two years, what do you do with the guy? Here's what you do: You keep him. Sure it's a gamble, because Beasley is a project (and yes, like millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans, he has been known to smoke some ganja). Projects, by definition, take time. Why should the Heat deal Beasley off to another team after having suffered through his growing pains? Through all that smoke, there is some fire. Might as well let it burn in Miami next season.
Jozy Altidore was born to play soccer. When a coach spotted an 8-year-old Jozy playing in a park, he guaranteed Jozy's parents that the boy would play for the national team in a few years. Jozy didn't have a childhood like the rest of us. Boca Raton was home, but he grew up in soccer camps all over the country, playing morning, noon, and night. At 16, long before he graduated from high school, Jozy was drafted into Major League Soccer, where he immediately proved himself a goal-scoring machine. When he was 18, he signed a $10 million contract to play in Spain — the largest sum ever paid for any MLS player. Now, just as that coach promised his parents a decade ago, Jozy is hands-down the most exciting player on one of the best American national teams in history.
A bowling alley is only as good as the party it contains, and Diamond Strike Lanes, AKA Pompano Bowl, does plenty to literally get the ball rolling. Under blacklights on weekend evenings or the amid the warm glow of a quick game after work, all 32 lanes are fertile for camaraderie, budding love, and family togetherness. Beyond the mystical powers of ten frames, look to convenience: All of the house bowling balls are stored by color and weight, the scoring equipment looks like it's younger than Justin Bieber, and comfy leather benches and barstools make the entire experience more inviting. When everyone's arms get good and sore, slide over to the sizable adjoining sports bar lounge and tip back a few more beverages. No need to let the party end just yet.
Only three years ago, the Dolphins used the ninth overall pick in the draft to take Ted Ginn Jr. He was a fast playmaker from a powerhouse program, but even then, it seemed like a huge reach. It was. In three years, he's had five touchdown receptions. Three of the five players drafted right after him have already gone to Pro Bowls. Remember that '90s movie Necessary Roughness? Remember that wide receiver they called Stone Hands? Well, that's pretty much been Ginn's entire professional career. As far as fans are concerned, his nickname might was well be "Don't Throw It To" Ginn. He's had some highlights in the return game, but most of those came in a single game. Mercifully, he was traded to the 49ers this year for a fifth-round pick. Now he can drop passes in another team's uniform.

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