Givens lawsuit proves an ugly point


After talking with Shane Walton last night, I was reminded how quickly an NFL career can turn. Walton went from being a consensus All-American cornerback, one of the rarest breeds in college and professional football, to an NFL player whose career only lasted four games.

The news of former Irish wide receiver David Givens’ $25 million lawsuit against the Tennessee Titans shocked me. I’d been trying to get in touch with David for weeks about a potential “catching up” column, and had been unsuccessful. His agent, Brad Blank, steered me to an email address, but like many of his former teammates have told me, Givens was impossible to track down since his knee injury.

David Givens and Shane Walton seemingly have nothing in common. Givens hails from Humble Texas while Walton is from seaside San Diego. Givens walked onto campus at Notre Dame looking like he was chiseled from granite. Walton walked on to campus wearing soccer shorts and shin pads, his body admittedly nowhere close to being ready for the rigors of college football.

Both Givens and Walton were late round selections in the NFL draft, each for very different reasons. Givens’ body of work at Notre Dame was far from impressive. He struggled to find a position in the Irish offense, while failing to put up numbers that were befitting of fans’ expectations. Walton, as he himself mentioned, failed to fit into the prototype that NFL scouts and coaches want from a defensive back.

Back in March of 2006, Peter King wrote an excellent profile of David Givens’ roller-coaster weekend that kicked-off free agency. Givens had a difficult decision to make: Stay with New England, where he was assured to play for a winner, or look at all of his options, and go where the money made the most sense.

King later spoke to Givens about the decision to sign with Tennessee during one of his MMQB columns, where Givens fessed up to making a decision based on money. But Givens’ rationale was solid. He came into the league as a late round pick, never signed the large contract that many first-round draft picks signed, and knew this could be his only opportunity to make the type of money that could support him and his family for a long time.

The five-year, $24 million contract that Givens signed was his last as an NFL player. Just 10 weeks into his first season with the Titans, he was carted off the field with a knee injury.

“His knee just exploded on him. He’s had multiple surgeries, and it can’t be fixed so that he can play football again,” Givens’ lawyer Dan Warlick told WTVF-TV in Nashville.

Reading the stories on Givens’ lawsuit, and hearing Shane Walton pass the NFL credo along of “You can’t make the club in the tub,” gives you a real look inside the lives of late-round NFL draft pick. For Givens, he was lucky to have signed his contact that guaranteed him a $6 million signing bonus. For a player like Walton, who only lasted four games in the NFL, he never had the chance to sign a big contract.

The more I think about David Givens and Shane Walton, the more I realize just how much they have in common. 

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley

Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.


Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson

Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.