UT Hall of Famer Freddie Solomon Dies

"Fabulous Freddie" Solomon set an NCAA record for quarterback rush yards in a season in 1974. | Courtesy of UT Sports Information | Courtesy of UT Sports Information

University of Tampa Hall of Fame football player and former NFL wide receiver Freddie Solomon died on Monday afternoon at the age of 59. His family said the cause of death was lung and colon cancer.

“We not only lost one of our greatest athletes, but we lost our favorite son,” said UT Athletic Director Larry Marfise. “This is an extremely sad day for the University of Tampa. Freddie was a person who exemplified what a true Spartan was, never forgetting his roots.”

Solomon was drafted out of UT in 1975, selected in the second round by the Miami Dolphins. He played three seasons with Miami before spending his final eight in San Francisco alongside Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, cementing his status as one of the greatest athletes and leaders to play football in the Tampa Bay area.

“Freddie was very influential to me and my career, and taught me about work ethic and professionalism. He inspired me to go out there every day and emulate him,” Hall of Famer Rice said, as quoted in a report by ESPN.

Solomon caught 371 passes during his 11 year NFL career to go along with 5,846 yards and 48 touchdowns. His most famous moment on the football field, though, might be a play he never got to make.

During the 1982 NFL Championship game between the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, Solomon had six catches in the game for 75 yards and a touchdown. During the final drive though, as the Niners were down six with about a minute left, Montana overthrew Solomon on what would have been the winning touchdown.

“Solomon looked like he beat (Dallas DB) Everson Walls,” said Vin Scully during CBS’ broadcast of the game.

Two plays later, Dwight Clark caught what forever will be referred to as “the catch.” He leapt, seemingly miles above the ground and came down with what would send the Niners to the 1982 Super Bowl, where they would defeat the Cincinnati Bengals.

What most fans don’t know is that Clark wasn’t the original option on that 3rd down play-call; the play’s first option was UT alum Freddie Solomon, who slipped in the mud during his route. And Clark knows it.

“If Freddie doesn’t slip,” Clark said, to the Tampa Bay Times, “Freddie is the guy who makes “‘the catch.’”

Solomon is regarded as one of the best players to ever come out of UT’s football program. Although a wide receiver in the NFL, Solomon played quarterback for the Spartans. In his final season, he set an NCAA record with 1,300 rush yards while also compiling 19 touchdowns. “Fabulous Freddie” as he was called, finished his four years at UT with 5,803 total yards and garnered 13 first-place votes in the 1974 Heisman Trophy voting.

“He was the best player in the country,” said Vin Hoover, Solomon’s teammate at UT, to the Tampa Tribune. “Had he played for Oklahoma, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, some place like that, he would’ve won the Heisman. Freddie was a phenomenon.”

After the ‘74 season, Solomon left for the pros and UT disbanded its football program for many reasons, including growing competition from within the Tampa Bay market.

Even with all of his statistical accomplishments, Solomon’s greatest gift wasn’t in his football prowess. It was in his personality and in his passion for the Tampa Bay community and with the University of Tampa in particular.

From Sumter, S.C., Solomon spent the beginning of his life self-conscious and quiet, embarrassed of a speech impediment that troubled him for years. He was scared of people for most of his childhood, except for one day a week.

“Except for Friday night (during high-school football season),” Solomon once said, according to the Tribune. “I wasn’t frightened then.”

Solomon used his success as a football player to overcome his social issues and eventually become a role model for the community where he attended college.

In December, UT held an event called “Freddie and Friends” to raise money for an eventual scholarship in Solomon’s name. Roughly 500 people attended and over $200,000 was raised. During a 10-minute speech, Solomon vowed to fight his illness while also imploring attendees to help others fight as they go through the same battle.

“What I would like to say is that not only pray for me, but pray for all the other cancer victims,” Solomon said then, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “For they need just as much prayer, or even more, than Freddie Solomon do. You’ve given me the will to stand up and fight, and I’m going to fight it with all I’ve got. I’m not afraid. It’s another game. I must prepare myself to take on that challenge.”

Solomon will be remembered for his blazing speed but more importantly, his lasting principle.

“He gives from the heart,” Solomon’s wife, Dee, said at the December event. “And doesn’t expect anything in return. I think he’s touched a lot of lives.”

The wide-out with the sixth-most receiving yards in 49ers’ history, and the mentor to Jerry Rice, has a place in UT’s Hall of Fame. But there is so much more to the story of his life, so much more room for inspiration.

“Your greatest asset and greatest legacy is you’re a teacher,” Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee said in December.

“You’ve taught so many about what it means to have good character.”

This article was originally published in The Minaret.


Super Bowl Ads Range From Good to Awful

Matthew Broderick’s performance in this Super Bowl commerical wasn’t awful, it was just the concept that stunk. Why revive a classic film in a way that eliminates the movie’s true allure? | Screenshot from YouTube.com

I’m not sure exactly what’s happening. I think it might be a mixture of my growing love for football and my curiosity in middle-age sex symbols (Mick Jagger, Madonna, etc.) The point is, not only do I no longer find Super Bowl commercials funny or entertaining, but I don’t even care.

I watched every single one this year and I was so unimpressed that I might just use the mute button next year. I was pretty bored.

Either way, some of The Minaret staff loved them and some of us hated them. Here are a couple opinions of this year’s $3 million attempts at selling stuff.

The Best of the Best – By John Hilsenroth Jr., Asst. Sports Editor

Although I thought it was a down year for commercials, there were still some gems. No one was able to match the aforementioned Volkswagen Darth Vader kid, not even Volkswagen them self.  Their rendition of the dog losing weight was pretty awesome, if they had cut it right there.  The next 30 seconds were beyond ridiculous.  John Stamos getting head-butted and the stripping M & M get honorable mentions, but this years top commercial was from one of the most unlikeliest of brands.

That’s right, Sketchers’ moon-walking dog was the best commercial of Super Bowl XLVI.  Mr. Quiggly sure could run!  His bright red sneakers and glamorous smile stole my heart away.  What capped it off was Mark Cuban negotiating a contract with him. I’ll still never be caught dead in a pair of Sketchers, but that was one creative commercial.

The Worst of the Worst – By Miles Parks, Sports Editor

Wow. Matthew Broderick is getting a little chunky, huh? Honda’s attempt at remaking one of the greatest high school flicks of all-time failed miserably. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off  is centered on the concept of seizing the day. What would you do if you had a beautiful girlfriend, a gorgeous car and 12 hours to roam the city?

This CRV commercial features a 50-something Broderick hitting the town BY HIMSELF. This is my biggest issue with the ad. When advertising an SUV, why wouldn’t you play up the enjoyment you can have with others?
Broderick goes to the fair, jumps into an Asian festival performance and heads out to dinner alone. I just don’t get it and it doesn’t make me laugh. It just makes me uncomfortable. If I were a Honda exec, I would go back to the drawing board. Think back to the Darth Vader kid. Polishing up a concept from 30 years ago doesn’t make for a great commercial; an original creative idea does.

Read the rest of this article here, where it was originally published in The Minaret.

Star Wars: Episode I and its Two-Sided Lightsaber

So I admit it, when I was assigned to write a review of Star Wars: Episode I, I did a half-cringe half-giggle. I was anxious to relive a bit of my childhood, while also realizing just how stupid this money machine really is and was. I sat at my computer, turned down my fluorescent dorm-room lights, made a bag of popcorn and prepared myself for a feast of poorly conceived creatures and even more poorly conceived plot twists.

Five minutes in, there was some exposition about taxing and federations that actually kind of made sense. Thirty minutes in, I’ve been introduced to some sort of silly swamp creature with an endearing one-liner (“How rude!”), a couple Jedis played by some action movie studs (Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor) and a princess who wears just enough weird looking make-up to almost hide how hot Natalie Portman is.

Here’s the kicker. Almost two hours into The Phantom Menace, and I was legitimately struggling to find a reason people hate this movie. I understand the Godfather 3 effect, but come on. I hate to break it to you 30-somethings who’ve made your livings in high-brow coffee shops talking about which is drawn out more; the pod-racer scene in Episode I or Jake Lloyd’s entire career (little Anakin managed to make enough money to quit acting before puberty, starring in Jingle All The Way as well as a few episodes of ER to go along with hisStar Wars fame.) But guess what? This movie isn’t that bad

In fact, there is at least a 68 percent chance I’ll go see it in 3-D when it’s released on Feb. 10. Call me nostalgic or stupid or even someone with poor taste in movies. (Side note: I have great taste in movies.) I don’t care. This film takes me back to a day when I was eight-years-old and the world was still buzzing in anticipation for George Lucas’ next masterpiece. That’s what this movie really represented – a buzz. People focus too much on how that buzz maybe didn’t live up to any of the expectations, but I was too young to realize the flaws. Pod-racers looked so damn cool. And is that a TWO-SIDED LIGHTSABER?!

This movie brought me back to a time when my parents had me watchEpisodes IV, V and VI to prepare for a couple hours in a movie theatre crowded with Skywalker lookalikes.

Let’s not focus on how stupid Darth Maul looks or the fact that they chose to base the title and movie’s poster around a character that speaks less than 10 words. Normally, I hate money machines. Really, I do. And I tried my hardest not to love this movie, but it did something for me.

There is a scientific formula for Star Wars movies that just makes it all click. It looks something like this: When L= Lightsaber fight, Eb = Epic Battle, SwY = Scenes with Yoda, D= Droid humor, P= poignant moments

(4SwY + L)(15D+2P)= a solid Lucas flick. (All values are approximate.)

There’s a funny mixture of mind and heart that comes into play here too. Although I love the brute force and battle scenes, the logic and critical accuracy that every piece of a successful prequel must fulfill is satisfying. There are plenty of “ohhhh, so that’s why he/she does that in the next movie” moments, my favorite being the entire senate sequence that results in Senator Palpatine becoming Chancellor Palpatine which will eventually result in his role as Emperor Palpatine. His scheming is under the radar for most of the film, but Ian McDiarmid does an admirable job showing us flashes of evil.

There are plenty of negatives to focus on in this movie. Do any of the creatures shown to us in Episode I really compare to the Ewoks? The answer is no. There was a bit of magic lost in the 20 years between the trilogies, but it’s a moot point to zero in on this, especially 11 years after the release of Episode I. Why can’t we just be content with what this movie is, go see it in 3D, fatten George Lucas’ pockets a bit and relive our childhoods as the “Second Star Wars” generation?

Save your insults for Episode II, people. No matter how you look at this installment, it’s undeniable: THERE IS A TWO-SIDED LIGHT-SABER. And what could be wrong with that?

This article was originally published in The Minaret.