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Take a look at this $72M high school football stadium in Katy, Texas

A new $72 million high school football stadium is ready for kickoff this season in Katy, Texas.

>> Watch the news report here

The 12,000-seat Legacy Stadium is the most expensive high school football stadium ever built and will be shared by eight local high schools. It boasts a massive video screen, huge locker rooms, restrooms and concession stands.

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The stadium was voted on and paid for by taxpayers in the area, according to NBC News.

“It’s something that this community wanted,” Katy ISD superintendent Lance Hindt told KTRK. “I don’t think the cost was anything that they really looked into.”

The stadium’s first game is slated for Aug. 31.

– Rare.us contributed to this report.

11 members of Cleveland Browns kneel during national anthem

Eleven members of the Browns knelt in protest during the national anthem before Monday night’s NFL preseason game between Cleveland and the New York Giants, the Plain Dealer reported. 

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According to the Plain Dealer, Those who took a knee were tight end Seth DeValve, running backs Duke Johnson Jr. and Terrence Magee, safeties Jabrill Peppers and Calvin Pryor, cornerback Jamar Taylor, wide receivers Kenny Britt and Ricardo Louis, linebackers Chris Kirksey and Jamie Collins, and running back Isaiah Crowell.

DeValve became the first white player to kneel during the national anthem, CBS Sports reported.

Standing with the group were punter Britton Colquitt, who had his hand on his heart; cornerback Jason McCourty; quarterback DeShone Kizer; defensive tackle Trevon Coley; and offensive tackle Shon Coleman, the Plain Dealer reported.

The Browns improved to 2-0 in the preseason with a 10-6 victory in a nationally televised game.

“As an organization, we have a profound respect for our country's national anthem, flag and the servicemen and servicewomen in the United States and abroad," a Browns spokesman said in a statement at halftime. "We feel it's important for our team to join in this great tradition and special moment of recognition, at the same time we also respect the great liberties afforded by our country, including the freedom of personal expression.”

NFL players have continued the national anthem protests made prominent last season by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was with the San Francisco 49ers and knelt during the anthem's performance before games. 

This past week, Browns coach Hue Jackson defended his players’ rights to make a statement, provided it was peaceful and he had advance notice, ESPN reported.

Pat Signal: Marquis Williams commits to Pitt

Pitt lands a three-star corner from Florida

Pat Narduzzi left everyone guessing after tweeting out a “Pat Signal” late last night. It appears the mystery is now over as Marquis Williams committed live over Twitter just moments ago.

#CardinalGibbons HS (FL) 2018 DB Marquis Williams (@Williamsisland4) commits to the #Pittsburgh #Panthers pic.twitter.com/WvUembJEpt— Sleeper Athletes (@SleeperAthletes) August 22, 2017

Marquis Williams is a 5’9” 165 cornerback from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He chose Pitt over two finalists from the Big Ten, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Williams also held offers from Clemson, Ole Miss, Penn State, and Michigan State among others before narrowing his choices.

Williams is graded as a three-star by Rivals and 247Sports. He is ranked as the 35th best cornerback in the country by Rivals. He will play for Cardinal Gibbons High School this season after playing for Coconut Creek last year.

In an article by David Furones of the Sun-Sentinel, the Cardinal Gibbons coach had some high praise for his senior cornerback.

“They’re getting a really fast guy with a lot of speed,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Matt DuBuc said. “And a guy with ball skills because he can play receiver too, special teams guy. A guy that can do a multitude of things.”

The coach also mentioned about why Williams chose Pitt later in the article.

“Charlie Partridge did a great job recruiting him. We’re close with Charlie, and it ended up working out,” DuBuc said. “I think the ACC was better for him than the Big Ten.”

So in all, it seems like a solid commitment for Pitt. They are getting an athletic corner with good offers from a talent-rich program in a talent-rich state. Williams becomes the 13th recruit in the class of 2018. He is also the first commitment from the state of Florida, a bit surprising after Pitt brought in seven guys from the Sunshine State last year.

Here is a closer look at Williams as a player.

Marquis Williams is the second corner in this class, joining Judson Tallandier of Maryland. They appear to be two totally different players with Tallandier being an imposing 6’2” and Williams checking in at 5’8”. Obviously this is an important position for Pitt, and bringing in talent of any size is important for this program.

Sports teams poke fun at eclipse through social media

Several sports teams had some fun with Monday's solar eclipse, taking to social media to put their own spin on the celestial rarity. The Atlanta Hawks gleefully blocked out the Suns, who were only too happy to block them back. And there was a total eclipse of the Hart in Philadelphia.

>> Read more trending news

Let’s start in Atlanta, where the Hawks’ Twitter account noted that “in honor of the sun being blocked today, here are our best blocks against the @Suns over the past few years!”

The Suns were not about to have the Hawks throw any shade on them, so they responded in kind: 

The Philadelphia Eagles had some fun with the 1983 Bonnie Tyler song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” using defensive tackle Tyler Hart as their focal point: 

Was that Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo protecting his eyes during the eclipse? Only the Spartans know for sure.

There was plenty of creativity to go around in the sports world. Now, players have until 2024 to think of something new.

Tennessee Titans players enjoy eclipse after practice

Members of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans were treated to a post-practice eclipse party Monday, and players laid on the field with pairs of glasses to view the celestial wonder, ESPN reported.

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Nashville was in the path of the solar eclipse that raced through the United States on Monday, and Titans players viewed it as Bruce Springsteen songs like “Blinded by the Light” and “Dancing in the Dark,” and Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night” blasted through the speakers.

“That was dope,” linebacker Javon Brown told ESPN. “I was trying so hard not to look at the sun. It was crazy. It felt like a cloud was over the sun the whole day. It was dark. It was a great experience though. That was timeless and priceless.”

“It was one of those moments where everybody can forget the problems that they have going on, come together and have fun,” cornerback Adoree Jackson told ESPN. “That's once-in-a-lifetime. It was special.”Nashville was the largest city in the solar eclipse's totality path,EPSN reported. The sun was completely blocked for just over two minutes. Darkness took over the sky and the temperature dropped.“It was like dawn almost, it was a little eerie with the weather,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said.

Famous Norman Rockwell study drawing of umpires fetches $1.68M at auction

An original study drawing of a famous illustration by Norman Rockwell sold for $1.68 million Sunday night in Heritage Auctions’ Platinum Night Sports auction.

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The 1948 study, or preliminary work, for “Tough Call,” which was used as the April 23, 1949, cover of The Saturday Evening Post, belonged to the family of John “Beans” Reardon, an umpire who was the primary subject of the drawing.

“I need to credit my colleagues in the art division for the assist on this one,” said Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at the Dallas-based auction house. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve been able to draw from other segments of our million-strong bidding clientele to benefit a sports consignor.”

Reardon’s family had believed the original study they owned was merely a signed print, worth only several hundred dollars, Ivy said. It sold to a buyer who wished to remain anonymous, Ivy said.

Sandra Sprinkle, Reardon's granddaughter, inherited the drawing and put it above the mantle of her Dallas home, Reuters reported.

After her death in 2015, her husband, Gene Sprinkle, sold the couple's home and moved to a retirement community. His nephew looked at the drawing and noticed brushstrokes.

"We always thought it was a print, but we hung it over our fireplace because it was signed by Norman Rockwell to Beans Reardon," Gene Sprinkle told Reuters by telephone on Monday.

The drawing is also known as “Game Called Because of Rain,” “Bottom of the Sixth,” and “The Three Umpires.” Rockwell’s finished painting is on display at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

The drawing depicts a game at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, with the Dodgers leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth inning. Reardon and his fellow umpires are looking skyward, debating whether to call the game due to rain.

Gene Sprinkle, 74, said he agreed to let his nephew contact Heritage Auctions, which determined it was an original oil.

"Sandra and her grandfather were very close," Sprinkle told Reuters. "Whenever people came to our house to visit, she was always proud to show it off and tell them about her grandfather."

Sports memorabilia fetched more than $10.7 million during the two-day auction, which ended Sunday, Ivy said.

Paris Ford Eligible for 2017, Practicing with Team

Better late than never for Pitt’s most important 2017 recruit

It came out of nowhere, but Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi revealed that former 4* DB Paris Ford would indeed be eligible for the 2017 season. Narduzzi had Ford come out during his daily Q&A with reporters.

Narduzzi went on to say that Ford had actually been practicing the last few days with the team, but had his players keep it quiet.

As for Paris Ford playing in 2017, Narduzzi added it’d be a “miracle” if Ford didn’t redshirt. However, I’m not sure I buy this. Ford is obviously very late for camp, and has a lot of catching up to do in regards to schemes and the defense, but his talent is off the charts. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Ford appeared in a game by mid-October or so.

However, it’s reasonable for Narduzzi to downplay expectations on a young kid who’s just now getting thrust into the college game. If he doesn’t play, then he has a year to add some weight (one of the few concerns about Ford’s game) and get acquainted. Narduzzi is shown he’s not afraid to burn a redshirt if he thinks a player will help.

Welcome to Pitt finally, Paris.

James Conner makes NFL debut with Steelers

Pitt’s No. 2 all-time rusher topped 100 yards Sunday

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t look like themselves on Sunday due to some shaky quarterback play, but they were able to eke out a 17-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason game, thanks in large part to ex-Pitt running back James Conner.

In an impressive debut, Conner, who missed the Steelers’ matchup with the New York Giants last week, racked up a total of 101 yards, including 98 rushing yards on 20 attempts and three yards on one catch. He didn’t find the end zone, but he was instrumental in the drive that ultimately put the Steelers on top, breaking off 17- and 19-yard runs.

After the game, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin seemed pleased with Conner’s performance, per Steelers.com.

“I thought he represented himself well, particularly from a conditioning standpoint,” Tomlin said. “You can’t underscore that element of it. I know that as a professional athlete, generally he’s in shape. But he hadn’t played a lot of football, and to be able to execute the large number of snaps that he did is encouraging.”

Conner also briefly acknowledged his success, but his focus after the game was primarily on the ways he needed to improve moving forward.

“I have a lot of things to do to get better on,” Conner said, per Steelers.com. “I’m definitely gonna get on those JUGS machines after practice and make sure my hands are ready for the next game.”

Drops were Conner’s only notable issue on Sunday. Tomlin mentioned one of them in his postgame press conference, and Conner was reportedly consoled on the sideline by teammate Coty Sensabaugh after his second drop, according to Bryan DeArdo of 247Sports. But that was the lone lowlight of an otherwise exciting day.

By all accounts, Sunday was Conner’s big chance to show Tomlin what he could do, and he did not disappoint. Though he was sidelined for nine days after suffering a shoulder injury in the team’s first padded practice, he was able to make up for lost time against the Falcons and put his best foot forward.

With that said, Conner obviously won’t be ousting star running back Le’Veon Bell from his starting role any time soon, as Bell is reportedly expected to end his holdout before the regular season kicks off, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. But Conner set himself apart from the backups and may have earned himself consideration for a higher spot on the depth chart.

Any such promotion is almost certainly contingent on Conner sustaining this level of play through the remainder of the preseason, but that seems well within the realm of possibility for him. And considering Bell has only played one complete season in his career, a backup role could still lead to significant playing time for Conner.

Tom Savage pulls ahead in Texans quarterback battle

The ex-Panther looks poised to win the starting job

The Houston Texans’ quarterback situation became a bit clearer on Saturday night, as former Pitt signal-caller Tom Savage set himself apart from rookie Deshaun Watson with his second straight impressive performance of the preseason.

He’s only seen limited action, but he’s accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. He also earned himself some praise from Texans head coach Bill O’Brien after the game against the New England Patriots.

“We moved the ball when he was in there,” O’Brien said, according to Drew Dougherty of Texans TV. “He threw the ball accurately. Went to the right people. Like I said all along: He’s got good command of what we’re doing.”

O’Brien, while complimentary, did not sound quite as certain in his assessment of Watson’s performance.

“I thought Deshaun did some good things,” he said, per Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com. “I think they were doing some things defensively that were tough. It wasn’t like a big schematic game, but they were playing a lot of man coverage. Guys had to work hard to get open, and I thought he made some plays.”

At this point in the preseason, Savage, who last played for Pitt in 2013, has completed 85 percent of his 20 passes and thrown for 167 yards and a touchdown over two games. His score came on a well-placed pass to Jaelen Strong in the back of the end zone Saturday night.

For comparison, Watson has completed 51 percent of his 35 passes and thrown for 281 yards, but he has yet to score with his arm. Instead, he’s put points on the board twice by darting into the end zone himself. His overall completion percentage also doesn’t tell the whole story, as it dipped from a respectable 60 percent on Aug. 9 to a disappointing 30 percent Saturday.

In addition to outplaying Watson as a passer this preseason, Savage has also received a vote of confidence from Houston’s star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

“If anybody should be a judge of quarterbacks, I’ve played with the most quarterbacks in NFL history throughout my first four years,” Hopkins told Dan Graziano of ESPN earlier this month. “So I put the stamp on Savage, and I think that’s all that needs to be said about that.”

Obviously, that wasn’t all that needed to be said about it, as this quarterback competition has raged on, spiraling into one of the most scrutinized position battles in the league. But Hopkins’ opinion is certainly a factor that could weigh in Savage’s favor if Watson is able to step up his play.

And to be sure, the starting job has appeared to be Savage’s for the taking all along, as he entered this preseason with three years of NFL experience and a few starts under his belt. But when a team takes a player like Watson in the first round, fans want to know what they have, and they want to know now.

Because of that, Savage has not only been competing against Watson on the field, but also against the notion that he’s a career backup holding back a franchise cornerstone, which has been peddled by both local and national media outlets.

Mark Maske of The Washington Post even suggested that Watson “would give the Texans a chance to reach elite status, to be a team capable of ousting the Patriots from the playoffs sometime in the next few years.”

While the operative word in that sentence is “years,” the whole idea stands on shaky footing since Watson has done little thus far to warrant suggestions he could catapult the Texans to elite status. And again, the argument leans on the notion that Savage has peaked after two league starts.

For his part, Savage doesn’t seem to think that’s the case.

When he spoke to Sarah Barshop of ESPN during a practice last Monday in which Watson was taking first-team reps, Savage laid out his view of the situation explicitly.

“My mindset is that this is my team. And I’m not going to let anyone take it,” he said.

“It’s a pretty simple equation I think a lot of people overthink, especially in this league. If you go there and you win and you play well, they can’t pull you. And if you go out there and you lose and the offense doesn’t look good, they can pull you. So the goal is to go out there and play well and win games. And that’s all you can really control.”

With that said, Savage has clearly kept this situation well within his control, and if he can close out the preseason playing at this level, the starting job should be his.

Watson, meanwhile, may well be the Texans’ quarterback of the future. In fact, it would be surprising if that wasn’t ultimately the case, based on his talent. But with three weeks to go until Houston kicks off its season, it seems unlikely he’ll make the leap from fledgling talent to serviceable starter in that short amount of time as he continues to struggle with accuracy.

NYPD officers support Colin Kaepernick at rally

Police officers in New York City are throwing their badges behind polarizing figure Colin Kaepernick.

The former football star came under heavy criticism for kneeling during the national anthem last year and remains unsigned by any team.

On Saturday, a group of NYPD officers showed up at an event in support of Kaepernick.

Sgt. Edwin Raymond told the New York Daily News: “What Colin Kaepernick did is try to bring awareness that this nation, unfortunately, has ignored for far too long. ... And that’s the issue of racism in America and policing in America. We decided to gather here today because of the way he’s being railroaded for speaking the obvious truth.”

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Officers wore black shirts with #WeStandWithKap scrawled across their chests. Supporters of the quarterback insist that he’s been blackballed for his behavior.

One said, “The fact that Kaepernick is not in the NFL has nothing to do with stats on the football field.”

Even legendary NYPD officer Frank Serpico returned to his old stomping grounds to attend the rally and show his support for the former 49er. He said, “I am here to support anyone who has the courage to stand up against injustice and oppression anywhere in this country and the world.”

In related news, filmmaker Spike Lee made headlines two weeks ago when he tweeted that would be a rally for Kaepernick in New York City called “United We Stand,” taking place on Aug. 23.

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