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Ashley Jackson, Community Ambassador and Beat Writer
Banner Image by J.R. Lawless

After returning from Cornerback Island, I stopped by Simulation Football League headquarters to receive another assignment from commissioner Cameron Irvine. This place is always busy with the hustle and bustle of the season being in full swing. Cam, on the phone, saw me and motioned me over to his office. He pointed to a file sitting on his desk, which I opened and read that this time, my travels would be taking me to Osaka, Japan. Osaka is a large port city and commercial center on the Japanese island of Honshu. It’s known for its modern architecture, nightlife and hearty street food. I was looking forward to seeing this place and experiencing the culture.

The SFL G6 touched down in Osaka around 9:30pm, local time. I exited the jet and made my way to my motorcycle. Once again, I hopped on my black and blue Ecosse ES1 superbike and headed off to visit the tight end prospects. I was told some of the best tight ends were currently in Japan, so I found my self riding the streets of Osaka in search of my three prospects: Tulsa’s Mr. Anthony Mosley, Baltimore’s Mr. Lloyd Graham, and Mexico’s Mr. Mike Daggs. I was supposed to meet them at one of the hottest night club Japan, PURE. Once I got there, the club was packed. Around the side of the building was a secret entrance to an exclusive lounge in the club. I got off my bike and was waved in by security. I saw Anthony and Lloyd as soon as I walked inside sitting at the bar drinking and laughing away. They noticed me and waved me over. I approached and took a seat in between the both of them. Mr. Daggs was off refreshing the drinks.

Mike Daggs takes it across Hollywood Boulevard!

“What’s up fellas! Looks like we are having a great time already!!” I said with a smile.

“Hey! You didn’t miss much Striker.” replied Anthony.

“We’re even getting you a round to catch up!” said Lloyd, as Mike Daggs approached and offered a handshake and a drink.

“Very nice! A Dewar’s on the rocks at that – you know my taste! Thank you, gentlemen! Lets get started with our interview!”

“OK sure! Fire away!” Lloyd responded, and with that, we were off!

Lloyd Graham Jr. makes one of his famous one-handed receptions against the San Francisco Sharks.

AJ: Why did you decide to be a tight end?
LG: I was originally going to go for fullback, but when Baltimore told me they had an opportunity to be a tight end, I just gave it a shot.
AM: I like catching passes. To also help the run game by blocking seemed like a major plus.
MD: I wanted to pick a position that I thought I would have like to play in real life. I always could see myself as a tight end or as a linebacker, so when I started seeking out teams I was asking for those positions. Erik Barkley of Queen City said they were looking for a tight end – and his team is based an hour down the road from me in Buffalo, NY, so it seemed like a natural fit.

AJ: What’s the difference between a tight end and wide receivers?
MD: Tight ends are critical to a passing attack – just like a wide receiver – but they’re even more important to the running game. Wide receivers do indeed throw blocks against corners and safeties, but tight ends are expected to play side-by-side with offensive lineman to help block big defensive lineman and linebackers. The extra size and strength that many tight ends have is key to being able to successfully block those large players.
LG: Wide receivers are more finesse. Tight ends are smashmouth but also have major hands.
AM: As a tight end, being able to help with the run game is crucial.

Anthony Mosley outpacing a Seattle Tyrants defender

AJ:When building your player, what are the most important aspects for a tight end?
AM:For me its catching. Being able to secure the ball, make catches and be the safety blanket for the quarterback.
MD: Size matters most – regardless of what people may say about that topic. As I mentioned you need to be big enough to put up blocks against big defensive lineman and linebackers – but you also need to be a good passing target. It certainly helps out a quarterback when you have a man the size of an oak tree running down field that can haul in high passes. Speed is great, but it’s secondary to size when it comes to a tight end.
LG: Hands, speed, blocking, you know. Whatever I need to get the job done!

AJ:Who would you say you model your player after in the NFL?
LG: Shannon Sharpe, or Tony Gonzalez.
AM:Honestly Tony Gonzales. One of the best to ever do it and some of the surest hands.
MD: I modeled my player after Jimmy Graham specifically. He’s 6’7″ and 265lbs – the exact measurements of my player. Graham has always been a great dual threat tight end, being able to block when needed and excelling in the passing game. I think he’s got the perfect combination of height and weight – not too small where he can’t block, not too big where he can’t run. That’s exactly what I was looking for in my player.

Do all of Graham Jr.’s receptions look this easy?

AJ: Who would you have as the best hands in the SFL and NFL, and why?
MD: Hands down Jamaal Wooding, tight end for Atlanta. You didn’t expect me to pick a wide receiver here, did you? Wooding is leading all tight ends in receiving yards and touchdowns. He’s keeping up with many of the top receivers in the league and is ahead of a majority of them. He’s also top 5 in yards per reception. The dude just makes plays! When in doubt, just #ThrowItToTheTE and Wooding will come down with that ball and make plays.
LG: Of course my boy [Bishop] Warfield as a wide receiver, and me as tight end! Don’t really keep up with NFL.
AM: Optimus Cline from the Alaska Storm, in my opinion, seems like he catches everything thrown his way. NFL? I think Nuk Hopkins of the Texans has the best hands.
[The Hands brothers from London didn’t even get a pun mention? My dad heart bleeds – Ed.]

AJ: Why is foot speed and balance so important?
LG: It’s everything! With good foot speed, you are able to blow past opponents. But balance keeps you balanced!
AM: They are important to create space. To get in and out off cut-on routes, keep them sharp and beat the defensive backs, or linebackers in my case sometimes.
MD: I still maintain size is the most important for a tight end, but speed can’t be overlooked either. You need to be able to outrun the person covering you – and generally that is a linebacker. Not always the most difficult thing as linebackers aren’t known for their speed, but sometimes you’ve got a safety to deal with too, and they’re a touch faster. You don’t want to be out in the open field and get chased down from behind. Balance is key too, because if you’re jumping up for a pass, you need to be able to come down with it and stay on your feet. Yards after catch are impossible if you’re constantly falling to the turf.

The ATM escapes pressure from the Sioux Falls Sparrows.

AJ: Why is tight end position so important?
LG: It’s a extra pair of hands on the field but also a extra blocker in the end for the running back.
MD: It enhances your entire offense. The tight end is an extra receiver when you need to pass. They’re an extra offensive lineman when you need to run. They’re the Swiss Army knife of football players on offense. Running backs run. Receivers receive. Quarterbacks throw. Tight ends fill multiple roles and can change the entire balance of your offensive attack.
AM: It’s a dual bladed weapon. Big receiver in the passing game and an extra blocker in the run game.

AJ:What is your favorite play that you made so far?
LG: My famous one handed catches that I make almost every game!
AM: That would have to be my first catch in the SFL! Felt good after all the hard work and to get drafted and finally be able to make plays.
MD: Season 11, opening night. My first game on the Mexico City Aztecs. The game was lost, it was garbage time, but with a minute to go Matt dropped back and launched a bomb deep down the center of the field to me. I caught it and ran it in for a 62 yard touchdown. The play was meaningless to so many – but for me, to watch my life long best friend Matt Willson throw a touchdown pass to me, and hear it called out live at the convention while I sat beside him, it was a dream come true – something that because of his disability neither of us thought we’d ever be able to experience. Because of the SFL, we did experience it. And that would be the first Willson – Daggs touchdown combination of many, many to come.

Lloyd Graham Jr. doing what he does best – stuntin’ on opponents.

“Those catches are quite impressive, friends. See, it’s that first catch, and hearing your name called that draws you in and makes you stay! I can totally relate! I want to thank you all for your time. I really enjoyed meeting you guys and now, I have a better understanding of the tight end position.” I stood up from the lounge and gathered my thing to go.

“Glad we can help, Striker!” said Anthony

“Anytime you need us, you know where we are.” said Lloyd.

“And you know how reliable we are!” added Daggs.

“I will remember that! I will see you all around, gentlemen.” I exited the lounge, got on my bike, and punched in coordinates for my next adventure. It’s time to speed off into the darkness andsolve the mystery of what is next to come.

Disclaimer: The Simulation Football League would love to send Community Ambassador Ashley Jackson globe-trotting on assignment; unfortunately, due to the apparently multi-million dollar cost in airfare, pilots, etc., bookend stories are embellished.

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