Obscure Athletes

Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End

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Wishing the obscure athlete-reading community a belated happy holiday

Like my colleague Mr. Boss eloquently stated, I hope all of the readers we’ve been lucky enough to have gathered over the past six months or so, have had a happy and safe holiday. We’re back next week, the last of 2010, with an Obscure Year in Review as well as a few all-new Obscure Spotlights.

PS- good to see Mike Singletary on the sidelines with his religious icons in plain view, but c’mon, man! No just God would let any team win the NFC West.


Obscure Polling Time

Hey, believe it or not, I’m kind of making up all of this shit as I go. We need guidance, vote in our poll, and help me help you!

I think I figured out how not to have a lockout in my sleep last night.

Let me tell you about the dream I had last night. First off, as most of us are aware, the future of the NFL’s labor situation is unclear.

This guy doesn't fuck around.

 The threat of a lockout looms over next season, and leaguewide sources say the Players’ Association and owners are far apart in negotiations. We’re investigative journalists here at Obscure Athletes, which is why we’re  following Roger Goodell on Twitter. Shit, that’s just like being at the bargaining table! Although, after a bit of searching, I couldn’t find a DeMaurice Smith Twitter account. C’mon DeMo, get with the program, it’s 2010. How can you be the head of the NFLPA and not even have a Twitter account? That just says to me that the man isn’t a professional. But I digress.

The point is, I had a dream last night. One of the key sticking points in these ongoing negotiations is the treatment of former players–that is, their pension, health insurance, ya know, old people shit. In my dream, I was on a sub way train in Boston, headed toward Fenway Park, and I saw a well-dressed Roger Goodell sitting across from me on a more or less empty train. I looked over and said “You’re Roger Goodell.” He made a shushing motion at me, and nodded yes, almost cracking a smile. I lowered my voice, and nearly whispering, said “Dude, you’re rich, why would you use public transportation?” to which he simply responded “I dunno, I guess I just like the way the light changes so abruptly when you enter and exit tunnels.” I nodded in understanding, and handed him an Obscure Athletes business card.

A few minutes later my phone went off, with a message saying that Roger Goodell is now following Obscure Athletes on Twitter. The Players’ Association, touched by what they see as an olive branch from Goodell, in supporting obscure, retired NFL players, comes back to the bargaining table with an offer that both sides are happy to agree to, and the mega happy ending ensues. Lockout prevented, and it’s all because of us. You can thank me later, when it happens, or now if ya want.

ROGER GOODELL: if you read this, you should Follow Obscure Athletes. And you should even if you’re not Roger Goodell. But especially if you are. Glad we could solve your labor issue. We’re just your friendly neighborhood Spider Ma-   Obscure Athletes.

Obscure Spotlight: Todd Zeile

Todd Zeile's patented war face.

Well, folks. It’s been 50 posts here at Obscure Athletes. We’ve covered a good many athletes, we’ve had more than a few editorials, and we’ve recruited a handful of readers and added a hockey writer. I guess it’s all downhill from here, all that’s left to do now is sit back and wait until we’re the greatest Deadspin/Barstool hybrid ripoff ever and millions in advertising revenue is just pouring in. Leave a comment on the site,  tell your friends about Obscure Athletes, and send any and all site suggestions to obscureathletes@gmail.com. And as always, Subscribe to the RSS feed to the right of your screen, Follow Us on Twitter, and Join our page on Facebook!

Given that this is our 50th post, I wanted to make sure that it was dedicated to someone who really helped shape my socialization into the world of Obscure Athletes. As a kid I remember seeing a marginally talented third baseman named Todd Zeile; A player who was always alright, so he stuck around for a good while, but never with the same team for too long. After Zeile left the Mets in 2001, I thought he was finally gone, only to see him resurface in Colorado the following season.

Zeile’s pro baseball journey began in 1986 when he was picked in the second round by the Cardinals out of UCLA. In August of 1989 he made his Major League début as a 23-year old catcher. The following season Zeile was moved to third base and in his first full season in the Bigs he hit 15 homers and drove in 57, finishing 6th in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

Todd Zeile played sixteen seasons in the majors, gathering over 100 RBI just once, in 1993 for St. Louis. He hit 31 home runs for the Dodgers in 1997, his highest total as a Major Leaguer. Zeile never played in an all-star game. He also led the league in errors by a third baseman four times in his lengthy career–one in which he played on 11 teams, and switched between the American and National leagues seven times.

Oft-forgotten about Zeile, however, is what a beast he was for the O’s during the 1996 ALCS.

Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura? Yeah, they'll give the 2000 Yankees a real series for sure...

He was the best hitter Baltimore had to offer, hitting .364 in the series, with three home runs and a 1.189 OPS–a series the Orioles lost in five to the eventual World Series champion Yankees.

Zeile finished his career with a .265 average, .346 on-base percentage, and a final home run count of 253. He played his last game on October 3, 2004, hitting number 253 in his last ever at-bat. Todd Zeile: known for very little, but always around. One of the foremost obscure athletes of the 1990s. We love ya, Todd!

Obscure Spotlight: Shea Hillenbrand

When you share the name of one of sport’s worst venues, you can only expect so much out of your career. I guess somebody forgot to tell this to Shea Hillenbrand. Shea Matthew Hillenbrand was born on July 27th 1975 in Mesa, Arizona; and the world would never be the same thereafter. The

Hillenbrand in All-Star form. "I'll be back," he snickers.

prodigy they called Shea was drafted in the 10th round of the 1996 Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox.

After floating around in the Red Sox minor league system at various positions for nearly five years, big Shea got his big break. Boggs, Petrocelli, Hobson, Hillenbrand? Not so much. Shea proved to be not only one of the worst defensive third basemen in all of baseball, but he also lacked any ability to sustain a respectable on base percentage (.291) and also sported a poor batting average (.263) Nonetheless, Hillenbrand came back strong for the 2002 season and was named the starting third baseman for the American League in the All-Star game. He rose his OPS to a respectable .789, but of course he led the league in errors by a third baseman with 23. Feeling threatened by the Red Sox’ signing of veteran Bill Mueller in 2003, Hillenbrand did his best to run himself out of Boston. His labor would be rewarded when he was hand picked by the great Bob Brenly to be his middle of the order thumper in Arizona; in exchange for rising star closer Byung-Hyung Kim. We can of course recall that this would cause Shea Hillenbrand to compare himself to the Red Sox trading Jeff Bagwell before he erupted into a star. Boy, leaning a little far off first, Shea?

Hillenbrand would soon be on the move again after the 2004 season, a season in which was arguably his best (.310/.348/.464). After leading the league in errors at first base (13), he was sent off to the Toronto Blue Jays. In his first year with Toronto, he was a utility player, showcasing himself at 1B/3B/DH. Unhappy with being a regular at one position, Hillenbrand began a feud with then manager John Gibbons. Going as far as to deface the team’s billboard, Shea again was in a position where he ran himself out of a perfectly good situation. He was then traded to the Giants for fellow obscure athlete Jeremy Accardo, and in the following off season signed a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With rising stars Reggie Willits and Casey Kotchman knocking at Shea Hillenbrand’s door, Shea found himself designated for assignment in June of 2007; after requesting the Angels show him “respect” and trade him away.

Shea Hillenbrand then signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres in July of 2007 before failing miserably with their triple a affiliate, and was released on August 8th. On August 10th, he signed a minor league deal with the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers; undoubtedly to show the Padres what they were missing. After having absolutely no effect whatsoever on the season’s outcome, he was not retained by Los Angeles for 2008, and found himself with the York Revolution of the Independent League; only to have his season cut short by an injury. Tough break. So for a man with an unwarranted chip on his shoulder, who turned out to be quite mediocre; we salute you Shea Hillenbrand.

The great QB saga in Detroit: Rodney Peete

This year in Detroit, 09 first overall draft pick Matthew Stafford figures to be the starting quarterback. Now believe me, I’d love to see Stafford succeed just as much as every Lions fan out there who doesn’t go to any of their goddamn games. So for just a moment, we’ll pretend for just a moment that Stafford becomes a solid NFL quarterback for the forseeable future, avoiding injuries. With that in mind, it’s time for an Obscure Athletes series in which we explore the revolving door of starting quarterbacks in Detroit. And the first such QB on this list is Mr. Rodney Peete.

Rodney Peete doing what he did best: Giving the ball to Barry Sanders

In 1989, the Lions used their sixth-round draft pick, 141st overall, to choose USC standout quarterback and Johnny Unitas award winner Rodney Peete, who quickly won the starting job right out of camp his rookie year. Peete, however would miss the start of the season with a sprained knee he suffered in a preseason game; injuries would be a trend throughout Peete’s career.

In his rookie season, Rodney Peete started 8 games and threw just five touchdowns and nine interceptions, while leading Detroit to a 3-5 record and completing only 52.8 percent of his passes. Peete would have a mediocre next four seasons in Detroit, before bouncing around the NFC East for a while.

After a brief stint in Oakland, Peete had a final resurgence to his career, when he once again claimed the starting role, this time in Carolina in 2002. Playing in 14 games for the Panthers, Peete led the team to a 7-7 mark, before losing his job to future Super Bowl QB Jake Delhomme. 

Rodney Peete retired with a 45-42 record as a starter in the NFL, and an unremarkable 73.3 passer rating. Peete’s work recently has included his co-hosting gig on Best Damn Sports Show Period. Remember when that show was cool?

Nawn-Factors: JP Losman

Losman scans the field, looking for He Hate Me or some other UFL player with his color uniform

By Andrew Nawn

Andrew Nawn attends Framingham State College and his weekly column on Obscure Athletes discusses solid college football players who just couldn’t cut the mustard in the NFL

Going into the 2004 draft the Buffalo Bills thought they saw a future starting quarterback in the making, coming from Tulane University. JP Losman was going to the quarterback of the future for the Buffalo Bills. Given that the Bills hadn’t taken a quarterback in the first round since Jim Kelly, Losman was expected to fill the spot and put the Bills on the right road to victory, something former Patriot Drew Bledsoe couldn’t do for the Bills.

Losman’s college career was impressive. Losman played only played two

JP Losman jersey, also available in Locomotive silver

years however, because one time Nawn-Factor Patrick Ramsey was the starter at Tulane for the first two years of Losman’s career. Before coming to Tulane Losman played at UCLA but demanded to be the starting quarterback. Upon finding out he wouldn’t be the starting quarterback he transferred to Tulane. In his two years as starting quarterback Losman led his team to one bowl appearance and an overall unimpressive record of 13-12. Losman threw for 60 touchdowns and 27 interceptions, and 6.754 yards. He was also a ground threat, running for 10 touchdowns and 241 yards in his two year starter. After completing his career at Tulane, Losman entered the 2004 draft with quarterbacks Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. Losman was selected with the 22nd pick by the Buffalo Bills.

        Losman must have thought he was doomed because of the freak accident that left him with a broken leg in the first day of training camp, by one time Philadelphia Eagle great Troy Vincent. In the 2005 season Losman was rewarded to the starting quarterback job, and led the Bills to a 22-7 season opening win over the Houston Texans. Accuracy haunted Losman during the 2005 season, however, as he was eventually benched for back up quarterback Kelly Holcomb. After an injury during the season, Losman returned to the starting quarterback role and led the Bills to another victory this time against the Kansas City Chiefs 14-13, in which Losman threw two touchdown strikes to then-rookie Lee Evans.

   In 2006 Losman had his best season in the NFL, throwing for 3,051 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.  Losman had a 62.5 completion percentage for the season, a record for Buffalo Bill quarterbacks in a full 16-game season. He was rated the 11th best passer in the NFL, with an 84.9 passer rating. The 2007 season was one Losman would like to forget as Trent Edwards was drafted, adding to the pressure Losman had  to perform. He promptly folded under such pressure, as injuries and accuracy problems came back and Trent Edwards entered the spotlight. Losman demanded to be traded during the ’08 season, a demand the Bills ignored, and following the season the team made no effort to re-sign Losman, instead committing to backup QB and Harvard standout Ryan Fitzpatrick.

       With no teams showing interest in Losman, he decided to go to the UFL where he was drafted by the Las Vegas Locomotives. As the starting quarterback of the Locomotives, Losman led them to the inaugural championship. In 8 games Losman threw for 1,193, 9 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. After the impressive season in the UFL, the Oakland Raiders signed him for the remainder of the 2010 NFL season where he appeared in one game, where he was hurt on his first play upon entering the game. This upcoming season Losman will compete for the backup job for the Seattle Seahawks. With such an impressive list of credentials, it is safe to say, JP Losman has been an NFL Nawn-Factor!

Hey, Do You Guys Remember…

In the realm of professional athletics, a select few are lucky enough to be the superstars–the perennial all-stars, making memorable play after memorable play, enjoying statistically brilliant careers, and perhaps even beeing immortalized in their respective major sports’ Halls of Fame.

This site is  not dedicated to those athletes.

Obscure athlete Enrique Wilson... remember that guy? I sure do.

Instead, the vast majorityof major sporting athletes fall into another category. Some call them “Role Players,” and many end up with fairly long careers, and become fixtures in their respective leagues. But no matter what we call them, eventually they all end up riding off into the sunset without a hero’s praise, without the fanfare received by the few, and their noteriety wanes until their names fade into obscurity. Until now. These are the players we love so much. The somewhat obscure  players that were in the background of all of our sporting memories.

I bet on more than one occasion, you’ve been hanging out with your friends and one of you said something to the effect of ”Dude, remember Enrique Wilson?” And all of your friends enjoyed a hearty laugh and a brief moment of nostalgia. Chris Smith and Mike Boss do this every day. We eat, breathe, and sleep mediocre athletes. And we know there are more of us out there. Somwhere.

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