All posts by talbottaylor

Covering local news in a time of unparalleled access

By Tolly Taylor

A Medill Newsmakers Report

Like the events they cover, local news websites are constantly changing. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat–regardless of how consumers access the information, sites such as DNAinfo and Chicago Magazine strive to cover stories that matter. In this edition of Medill Newsmakers, we talk to local journalists about how they have adapted to evolving local news coverage.

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Bay Watch: Northwestern’s Vitale heads to Bucs, Lowry to Packers

By Tolly Taylor

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t just draft Danny Vitale in the sixth round Saturday.

They drafted Danny Vitale, Superback.

“It sounds like they want to play me as their fullback and as a second tight end as well,” said Vitale, a hybrid “superback” at Northwestern. “That’s what I did in college, so I think they’ll utilize my skill set the way that’ll be a big advantage to them.” Continue reading

Dick Butkus: Did Bears need to trade up for Leonard Floyd?

By Tolly Taylor

When Dick Butkus heard his former team had drafted the Dick Butkus Award winner, the Bears great said he liked the pick.

Just not trading up to get college football’s best linebacker, Georgia’s Leonard Floyd.

“I’m just wondering why they got the inkling he wouldn’t be there just two picks later,” the Hall of Fame linebacker said at the team’s Soldier Field draft party.

The Bears traded the 11th overall pick and a fourth-rounder to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the ninth overall selection Thursday. It was the first time Chicago had traded up in the first round since 1996.

“I was surprised that they traded up,” said Floyd at a press conference streamed online at “I was very excited they came up to get me. That means they see something in me.”

The Bears continue to rebuild their linebacking corps. They signed free agent Danny Trevathan away from the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos earlier in the offseason.

Floyd actually models his game after a different Bronco.

“Always wanted to be a DeMarcus Ware type of player,” he said. “I want to dominate the game for a long time.”

The Bears also hit linebacker during free agency last season, signing Pernell McPhee. On Thursday night, McPhee joined Butkus and other current and former Bears at the draft party and said he thought the team would draft Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.

Not that he’s complaining. Hardly.

“It’s a great move for the city overall; we really needed an edge rusher,” McPhee said. “I’ll come in with the power, and he’ll just run right around and hit the quarterback.”

In three years at Georgia, Floyd totaled 182 tackles, including 26.5 for a loss and 17 sacks.

But Butkus wonders whether there was a better choice at No. 9.

“Maybe a quarterback,” Butkus said. “Put (Memphis’ Paxton Lynch) in the back, for a couple years, because if something happens to (Jay) Cutler, we’re really screwed, I think. So we get a guy like that, he gets a year or two under his belt, and there we go.”

When asked whether he agreed with Butkus about the Memphis quarterback, Bears offensive guard Kyle Long played dumb.

“Paxton Lynch? Who’s he?” Long joked, then turned serious. “We don’t need a quarterback. (Pick the) best player available, by need.”

Photo at top: Dick Butkus speaks with media at the Bears’ draft party Thursday night. (Caley Chelios/Medill)

Northwestern’s Bob Christian: From 12th round to NFL’s best fullback

By Tolly Taylor

Bob Christian and his parents were huddled in his Sargent Hall dorm room at Northwestern when he finally got the call. The Atlanta Falcons had picked the fullback in the 12th and final round of the 1991 NFL Draft.

“My day wasn’t what I thought it would be,” said Christian, who had been projected by draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. to go in the middle rounds. “Late in the day, I started to lose hope.”

Twenty-five years later, as the NFL prepares for this year’s draft Thursday through Saturday in Chicago, Christian says he is proud of his career. The only Falcon drafted that year who lasted longer in the league was a second-round pick named Brett Favre, who took the Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one. Continue reading

NFL Draft: Carson Wentz ‘the best servant-leader I’ve ever been around’

By Tolly Taylor

North Dakota State offensive coordinator Tim Polasek directed a unit that averaged 432 yards per game as the school won its fourth straight FCS national championship last year. It helped to have Carson Wentz. The quarterback was limited to seven games because of a broken wrist, but threw for 1,651 yards and 17 touchdowns. Medill Reports spoke to Polasek by phone Tuesday about his time with Wentz, who is considered the possible No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft in Chicago. Following are excerpts from that interview. Continue reading

Northwestern’s Vitale a ‘superback’ suited for many positions in NFL, too

By Tolly Taylor

To work on his route running, Dan Vitale catches passes from Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian. To improve his blocking explosiveness, Vitale uses specific band and barbell exercises. Everything he does is to make him stronger, faster and better at a variety of positions for the NFL.

Everything he can do makes him more valuable for the NFL Draft.

Northwestern University’s former “superback” would line up at fullback, running back, tight end or slot receiver in college. At 6 feet 1, 243 pounds, he is listed as a fullback, but his ability to play all over the offense and special teams could make him more attractive to the NFL, which holds its draft Thursday through Saturday in Chicago. Continue reading

Head case: Concussion collaboration tries to reduce brain trauma in college athletes

By Tolly Taylor

Geoff Mogus walked to the sideline after a blow to the head sent a “tingling, burning sensation” from his head to his toes.

A concerned trainer told him, “You’ve got to let me know if you’re not feeling well. It’s not worth it.”

Still, the Northwestern University left guard reentered the November game for the final two drives of the half.

“I took it upon myself to keep playing,” said Mogus, who didn’t want to let his teammates down.

In the locker room at halftime, he threw up. The team doctor said he was done. He would later learn he had suffered his fifth concussion in five years, his final college game a 23-21 win over Penn State.

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Bowling and ‘League of Legends’ pay high school senior’s college ticket

By Tolly Taylor

Steve Balachowski threw another strike, turned around and continued his explanation of “League of Legends.” His coach looked confused. He had never heard of it. The senior finished his description and then finished bowling a 217.

“I went home and looked it up to see what it’s all about,” said Mike Paskvan, Balachowski’s bowling coach at Notre Dame College Prep.

That the popular video game is now the source of scholarships to five colleges nationally, including Chicago’s Robert Morris University, caught Paskvan by surprise. But along with a bowling scholarship, it will pay for most of Balachowski’s college tuition.

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