The Marios is not your typical awards show, as the categories below point out. Here at GPP we strive to point out the best of 2007 FIU spring football with these recognitions.
(Disclaimer here: The Marios do not include opinions expressed by FIU's head football coach and all results are tabulated by the accounting firm of: Soley, Maya, Opinion and Dats-it).
Each Marios winner will receive a 1-foot high statue (picture, right) depicting an Italian plumber, because the new era of Golden Panthers football has shown that no player is afraid to get their hands dirty to help the team win.
Before we get to our first category, let's introduce our awards presenter: Cindy Crawford, who filmed her only movie: 1995's Fair Game, right here in Miami. While filming FG, we hear she became a Golden Panthers fan.
Now to the awards....
The first Mario is for Best Individual Representation of FIU's moniker "Sleeping Giant" ...and the Mario goes to: Tight end Moses Hinton. Moses showed this spring the form he had his freshman year. Hinton has the speed to beat defenders downfield and needs 3 or 4 guys to bring him down as the 2005 win over Middle Tennessee showed. Hinton missed most of last year with a foot injury, thus making him a "sleeping giant" this season.
Best Spring Performance by a Player who should have been used more last season...and the Mario goes to: Running back John Ellis. Used primarily as a blocking back last season, Ellis showed what he can do when he gets the ball this spring. Two Ellis plays stood out this spring. In the first scrimmage, he appeared to be tackled for a loss in the backfield, but he broke three tackles to gain 9 yards and a first down while having his helmet pop off. The other play was a 73-yard screen catch and run to the 2-yard line.
Best initial imitation of Keyonvis Bouie...and the Mario goes to: Linebacker Scott Bryant. Although this was against his own offense, Bryant -- like Bouie -- had a knack for finding the ball this spring. Along with recording a couple of sacks, Bryant also had some stops in the backfield.
Best Use of Mario Cristobal's pet phrase "Spring ball is like Monster.com - go out and get yourself a job"...and the Mario goes to: Quarterback Wayne Younger. No, Younger did not win the starting quarterback job, that's still to be settled in August. But Younger did show tremendous improvement over last season where he was relegated to playing receiver on the scout team.
Best coaching drills not seen the last five years at FIU...and the Mario goes to: It's a tie. Offensive coordinator James Coley and Special teams coach Apollo Wright. During individual drills, Coley had Younger and the other quarterbacks throw the football using only their throwing hand to grip the ball. The result was improved accuracy and touch. During special teams drills, Wright had Lionell Singleton and other kick returners catch punts with orange cones under their armpits to help catch the football better.
Best imitation of a wallet...and the Mario goes to: Another tie. Defensive linemen Jonas Murrell and Jonathan Betancourt. Both d-linemen were in the quarterback's pocket for most of the spring. Each player registered multiple sacks during scrimmages.
Best Pipes...and the Mario goes to: Defensive coordinator Phil Galiano. The new D-coordinator's energy and game-calling had the FIU defense looking as strong as last season's unit despite missing the Killer B's. And when good plays were made or bad plays were made, Galiano -- who will never have a job as a librarian -- made sure to let the players know.
Best Reason to actually watch Channel 7...and the Mario goes to: Mario Cristobal. Before we only had a glimpse of the energy and motivational speeches on the football field, but one look inside the Golden Panthers locker room as MC let the Ch. 7 cameras in on for their Sunday night sports show and you saw that the 2007 Golden Panthers will not lack discipline, energy or be underprepared this season.
Best Interpretation of T.D.A.O.S by a reader of GPP...and the Mario goes to: FIU Fanatic. Since we rarely receive real names at GPP, here's what FIU Fanatic's comment posted in the previous blog said: "I think the theme in this particular blog is not necessarily in terms of pure football (where I agree with your post), but the surrounding aspects of the team..of the program. "
Best Spring Phrase...and the Mario goes to: "Those days are over,son!".....or did that go without saying.
Before we wrap up the 1st annual Marios, I'd be remissed if I did not correct a statement I wrote earlier this spring in an article in the Miami Herald. For the record, former FIU defensive back Kevin Timothee IS THE FIRST GOLDEN PANTHER to reach the NFL. Timothee, who will graduate in May from FIU reached the NFL in 2005 with the Tennessee Titans and later the New York Giants.
Also, glad to hear that the GPP has been printed by some and posted around the FIU campus on bulletin boards. Neat to hear there is interest.
Now for Ms. Crawford, I'd like to thank you for checking in on the 1st annual Marios and we'll catch up with you in the next blog.