ESPN's Ted Miller put out some comments in a mailbag regarding his exclusion of Jordan Zumwalt from his All-Pac-12 Bowl Team. an extremely mild honor, though national recognition is always a plus for a player entering the draft process. What is usually an extremely bad thing for a player in the NFL draft process is being degraded on a large public forum like ESPN.
Miller says; "And that last part, at the risk of making defensive Bruins fans mad at me, played a role in Zumwalt not making my team. I don't give Zumwalt extra points for knocking the opposing QB out of the game. And, yes, I think it was a dirty hit, even though many believe otherwise. Did it play a part in my thinking that Zumwalt has a reputation as a dirty player? Maybe. Probably.
To those who insist it wasn't a dirty hit, including CBS color man Gary Danielson, I would simply counter with two questions: 1. Has any coach in the history of football taught a player to tackle like Zumwalt hit Thomas? 2. Would you feel the hit was clean if Virginia Tech defensive tackle Luther Maddy had knocked Hundley out of the game in the second quarter with the same technique -- and then Hundley a week later cited injury concerns as his reason for entering the NFL draft?"
Now, I don't necessarily disagree with the assessment of the hit on Thomas. In the game thread, I was pretty open about that being a play that definitely gets Zumwalt fined a large sum of money and/or suspended for a game in the NFL. It was borderline targeting. We can hash out that argument in the comments, it's a debatable thing. This isn't about that hit, it's about an ESPN "journalist" using a national platform to bash on a college athlete who is trying to make a career for himself.
Where Miller is at fault is not in his disallowance of giving Zumwalt credit for the play, he is at fault for not analyzing the full body of Zumwalt's work in the game (he gets no stat outside of a roughing the passer penalty for that hit on Thomas). Zumwalt warranted enough praise from his performance to make ESPN's All-Bowl Team that included players from every conference and bowl game.
Where he is even more at fault is going out of his way to even answer this question and bash on Zumwalt, which he has no responsibility to do. If you peruse the ESPN Pac-12 blog (which you shouldn't because they just give links to other people's hard work, including this website from time to time, and either take credit for it or repurpose into their own mediocre columns), then you probably know that Miller is a bit of an Oregon apologist. That's relevant because Zumwalt's previous high profile game was where he was flinging DeAnthony Thomas around the field (and had another borderline targeting penalty that would have gotten him fined at the next level).
We've all been watching Jordan play football for the better part of four years. The first word that pops into people's heads when thinking about Zumwalt are usually something along the lines of "wild", "crazy", "passionate" or something of that nature". He's aggressive and explosive on the field and has a tendency to lose his form while playing to make big plays or hits.
What he is not is "dirty". Dirty players are people who will stomp on an opponent's face (Albert Haynesworth), cut block a defenseless player below the knees 10 yards behind an interception return (Ndomukang Suh), spit in the faces of opponents (Bill Romanowski), assaulting teammates and breaking their cheekbones during practice (Stanley Havili at Southern Cal) or the Texas player who did this:
That is what a "dirty" player is. Show me a play where Zumwalt actively attempts to injure someone with malice and I'll drop this argument immediately. But you won't be able to.
A person who gets paid to cover college sports has no incentive to call a player "dirty" outside of generating attention to his page. It's cheap and extremely unprofessional. Zumwalt is a college player who is likely going to be a late round pick or undrafted free agent. He has no platform to defend himself. So now NFL front offices have this narrative to work with when they evaluate Jordan. It's a negative checkmark on his name that is totally baseless if you watch film on Zumwalt. This kind of press hurts Zumwalt's draft stock, even if it is not intended to do so.
Just another reason to keep your eyes away from the tWWL.