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James Mungro Memorial Award: A look ahead to 2014

Never forget the legend

Never forget the legend

The James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by All Pro Science had a record year in 2013. After going 0-for-2 in 2012, all three of our former winners and our one current winner saw time in their respective highest leagues and more importantly, every one of them has concrete plans for 2014 (or at least it seems that way).

This a monumental for a few, unequal reasons. Sure, it provides these people security and there’s the whole dreams coming true/beating the odds thing, but the biggest impact the developments have had is that my ego is now roughly the size of Jabba the Hutt. I’m one find away from starting my own secret amateur scouting service, charging colleges for my services and then funneling that money to the players. My scandal will be bigger the SMU and Miami combined.

Until that gets off the ground you’ll probably want to keep track of the four diamonds we’ve already dug out of the mines.

The original JMMA winner (besides James Mungro), the Champ, the All Pro Science spokesman/spokesmodel, Christopher Brandon Bootcheck, has already been covered. He’s headed to Phillies minor league spring training. He’ll be sent to the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, where he’ll scorch the earth of the International League for a third straight year, have stories written about him, make the triple-A All-Star team, have more stories written about him (“look at this guy! He’s old for a minor leaguer!”), finish the season, make it seem like he’ll retire, then somehow find another team to play for in 2015. My money is on a reunion with the Angels, the team that drafted him.

His baseball counterpart, Jose Alvarez, has more of an opaque path. He’s on the Tigers’ 40-man roster but it doesn’t look like he’ll make the major league club out of spring training. Dave Dombrowski has said that Alvarez will likely be the team’s No. 1 call up if and when the Tigers need starting pitching, but it’s won’t be the same as last year. Teams know about the near no-hitter. They’ll see him coming.

There’s also internal competition. Kyle Lobstein is expected to be in contention for a call up, as in Robbie Ray, one of the two pitchers the Tigers got in the Doug Fister trade. A couple poor performances in Toledo to start the year and the International Pitcher of Mystery might be jumped. If he is — or the Tigers’ starting pitching stays healthy — there might still be some good news. Toledo and Lehigh Valley start their first series on May 22. We might get the Bootcheck-Alvarez matchup that never materialized last year.

On the football side, Jacques McClendon is pushing Alvarez as the greatest JMMA winner ever. He debuted in Week 15 after Mike Brewster went down to an injury and played 60 of the team’s 77 offensive snaps. Then he started the Jaguars’ final two games of the season. While it didn’t go great — he was single out for sucking on one the Jaguars’ five key plays against the Titans in Week 16 — that’s two more starts than he’s had in the first three years of his career and he’s under contract for one more year with the Jaguars.

The Florida Times-Union said he was a sleeper candidate to replace center Brad Meester. That prediction isn’t out of thin air. Take this from Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell via the Times-Union again:

Looking at the existing roster, Caldwell and Bradley acknowledged their entire wish list can’t be checked off in one swoop so in-house players will get a chance.

“Who do we have right now that can fill our needs?” Caldwell said.

That means right tackle Austin Pasztor, offensive linemen Mike Brewster and Jacques McClendon (both can play left guard and center) and maybe LaRoy Reynolds at an outside linebacker spot.

Translation: “We suck. We can’t replace everybody. Somebody is going to have to play on that line.”

Big Jacques will get his first legitimate NFL opportunity starting next year.

Current JMMA winner Rodney Austin, might be a year behind McClendon, but he’s in a better position with the Lions than Big Jacques ever was.

Young Bull a.k.a the former Mr. Butterworth a.k.a the Elon University Legend made his debut with the Lions in Week 17. Before you start building the parade float, Austin got only three snaps. All on special teams.

He’s still got another year remaining on his contract with the Lions, though. They wouldn’t have prevented the Titans from snatching him earlier in the season and got him into the Viking games if they didn’t have a plan for him, right? RIGHT?

Austin’s opportunity will come. Whether that’s in 2014 or 2015 is yet to be determined though.

Either way, it’s about to be one hell of a year for the James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by All Pro Science, no matter what happens who the 2014 winners are.

(Side note: The Lions signed 2013 JMMA runner up Jimmy Saddler-McQueen to a futures contract, so he’ll be back. Also former JMMA candidate Ogemdi Nwagbuo has reemerged just in time for the playoffs. The Bengals signed him this week.)

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