Sunday, February 7, 2010

Little Giants

Well now that the Superbowl is far behind us and we are stuck for the next few months listening to the "brilliant draft insight" from Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay I figured I would take a slight break from football for right now and focus on a new side of sports for this article. As most of you know I am pretty short so I appreciate seeing guys in sports who are undersized and are still a BIG force in their respective sports, and don't lie you like it to. Everybody loves an underdog and if you are small for your sport than you automatically qualify as such, especially when you see "draft experts" say that these guys can't play simply because they were shorted a of couple inches. So here is my list of the best current little guys in each of the major American leagues.

NFL - Maurice Jones-Drew
Maurice Jones-Drew is not your typical little guy, anyone who has watched him play since his college days at UCLA could tell you that. He has become one of the league's best all around backs, he does it all including being a very good blocking back, if you don't believe me maybe you should ask Shawn Merriman Jones stands at a mere 5'7" but weighs in at a stout 208lbs, unlike most little guys he plays much bigger than his frame would lead you to believe. He hits the hole hard on every single run, he is one of the hardest backs to bring down in the open field and he has the lower body strength to push piles and grind out short yardage situations, he's like a mini Jerome Bettis. Jones-Drew is one of my favorite players because of the way he plays and the chip he carries on his broad shoulders, he changed his number to 32 in the NFL because all 32 NFL teams passed on him at least once, most twice. His height has always been looked at as a negative, which to me doesn't make any sense since two of the greatest running backs of all time in Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders only stood at 5'9" and 5'8" respectively. Jones-Drew uses his size as motivation and is quickly becoming one of the most feared backs in the league. He was just named to his first Pro Bowl after ranking 4th in the league in rushing yards and 2nd in rushing TD's and total TD's. This little guy is doing big things in an over sized league and that is what makes him the NFL's greatest little giant.

Honorable Mention: Ray Rice, Steve Smith, Darren Sproles

NBA - Nate Robinson
This one might have been the most difficult one to choose simply because true little guys are in short supply in the NBA. I thought about guys like Allen Iverson and Chris Paul but I had a hard time choosing anybody 6 foot or taller so by default it fell to Nate Robinson, but that doesn't mean he isn't deserving. Listed at a very generous 5'9" Nate Robinson has just recently become the league's first ever 3-Time Dunk Champion. I know that this last contest was one of the weakest of all time Nate still pulled it out and you've got to give credit where credit is due. Also, despite having a disappointing season people often forget that Robinson is a very gifted scorer, last year he was a finalist for 6th man of the year and is still one of the most feared guards coming off the bench in the league. Nate can really help his reputation if he can help spark a second half push for the Celtics and get them back to Championship form. Regardless of how you might feel about Nate Robinson there is no denying that when he is on his game he is one of the most fun players to watch and you just can't help but to cheer for him.

Honorable Mention: Chris Paul, Allen Iverson, Earl Boykins

MLB - Dustin Pedroia
This one is a complete no brainer, Pedroia has won AL Rookie of the Year honors, Silver Slugger Award, an AL MVP and a World Series in his brief pro career. Pedroia is listed at 5'9" currently but in college he was listed at 5'8" and several sources claim that he isn't a hair over 5'7" which makes all his accomplishments that much more incredible. One thing that I always admired about Pedroia is that he never seems shaken or rattled. If somebody who didn't know baseball was watching the 2007 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Colorado Rockies they would never have guessed that Pedroia was only a rookie. Pedroia led off the series with a home run on the first pitch he saw and Boston never looked back after that, and neither has the resilient second basemen. I know Red Sox doesn't necessarily want to hear this but Dustin Pedroia reminds me a lot of a young and fun sized Derek Jeter with his hitting skills, defensive play making abilities and leadership. Pedroia is also the ultimate team player, you hear sometimes of players taking salary cuts so that there is more money for more talent but have you ever heard of a player forfeiting his college scholarship to recruit better pitching? Pedroia is that kind of guy and granted he isn't hurting for money right now but that kind of team thinking is what has allowed him to become the type of player and teammate he is today.

Honorable Mention: Rafael Furcal, David Ekstein, Adam Kennedy

NHL - Martin St. Louis
Because of players like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin hogging the NHL spotlight and the fact that he is closer to the end of his career than the prime of it, people have forgotten about one of hockey's greatest ambassadors of the last decade in Martin St. Louis. St. Louis embodies everything you want in a hockey player: talent, heart, grit, leadership and willingness to sacrifice his body, everything that is except for his actual body. I don't know why but 5'9" seems to be the default height for most little guys but general consensus on St. Louis is that he is really only 5'7". Tampa Bay, for most of their existence, has been an NHL laughing stock. They had early success but were constantly a bottom feeder for their first few years and then again after the mid 90's. St. Louis came to the Lightning in 2000 and after a couple of years helped lead the team to a division title and then in 2004 had an absolutely amazing year. He led the league in points with 94 in route to his first Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. He didn't stop there though he led the Tampa Bay Lighting on a magical playoff run and the Stanley Cup was brought to Tampa for the first time ever behind the scoring punch of St. Louis. He became the first player since Wayne Gretzky to win the Art Ross Trophy (awarded to the league's leading scorer), the Stanley Cup and the Hart Memorial Trophy all in the same season, he also scored the game winning OT goal in game 6 of the finals to win the Cup. St. Louis continues to be one of the league's better scorers (currently 6th in points) and a true inspiration to little guys everywhere for his amazing success in the world's toughest sport

Honorable Mention: Michael Cammalleri, Derek Roy, Brian Gionta

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