PG Talk: Johnnie Bird III

Author | Coach | Trainer | Former walk-on point guard at Uconn

Profile: Johnnie Bird III | Age: 27 | Hometown: Fort Bragg, NC/Bridgeport, CT

Website: JohnnieBirdIII.com | Twitter: @JohnnieBirdIII | Instagram: @JohnnieBirdIII

College: University of Connecticut

Achievements: Author of “The Toughest Two” | Founder of Hoops Star Academy | UConn Basketball player | Final Four appearance | State Champion 02-03 (Bridgeport Central)

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PG: When did you first start playing basketball?

JBIII: I first started as young kid. My dad played therefore I played.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played baseball also. The sport grew on me and I ended up doing well in it.

Who was your favorite athlete(s) and favorite sports teams growing up?

My favorite athlete was Michael Jordan. He was the best of the best in my eyes. I used to wear his jersey to school all the time. Of course I loved the Bulls and still do. I am a big Ken Griffey Fan too. I’m also a Yankee Fan

How and why did you pick to go to UConn?

I went to UConn as a last resort. Being from North Carolina Originally I was wanted to go to UNC Chapel Hill but after that didn’t work out my guidance counselor and mother convinced me to give UConn a try. It was supposed to be only for a year, then I would transfer out. But obviously that didn’t happen.

How was your college experience at UConn?

My college experience was terrible in the beginning. I struggled making friends, with school, and finding my identity. In High school I knew who I was and what I was good at. At UConn I didn’t know either.

What was the hardest part about being a walk on at UConn?

The hardest part about being a walk-on was accepting the fact that we weren’t equals in relation to the Scholarship players. I had a hard time accepting that, which is probably why I worked so hard to change it.

Do you regret not going to a college that you could have played at?

Other than possibly getting my college education fully paid for, I don’t regret it. The things I went through at UConn helped mold me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t change that.

Why did you decide to write your book “The Toughest Two”?

I decided to write The Toughest Two because the things that I went through above and beyond just being a walk-on is something that a lot of people go through but many have zero guidance on how to get through. I hope that this book can provide clarity on the subject of walk-ons and hopefully spark a conversation on how they get treated. But above all I hope it  can help people who have gone through a similar situation.

Has anyone criticized you about writing this book because you go into ideas that many don’t know about?

In anything that you do there will be some who disagree. The topic of walk-ons on the local and national stage is taboo. Either because no one really cares about what they go through, or they think that we should just be “happy to be there”. Sure there are perks that come along with being affiliated with a team of UConn’s caliber, but to me the perks weren’t enough.

Do you think other walk ons can relate to your book (regardless of the sport)?

All walk-ons can relate. Even people who don’t play sports can relate to this book. It is more than just basketball, and more than just UConn. I’m positive that there are thousands if not millions of student athletes and people that this book will resonate with.

When’s the book signing?

Book Signings along with all of the other information about the book will be posted on my website JohnnieBirdIII.com

What are you up to now besides being an author?

Aside from writing the book, I have started a basketball development organization called Hoop Stars Academy that helps teach young athletes the fundamentals of basketball and coaches them on handling life outside of the court. I also use my Economics degree by working in Finance.

What do you like to do in your free time besides basketball?

What very little free time I have now a days I like to just relax and hang around friends and family.

How do you feel about UConn basketball’s future?

I feel that UConn basketball is in great hands with Coach Ollie. I love his passion for the game and players.

Where can everyone purchase your book?

You can Purchase the Book on Barnes & Noble’s website BN.com and it is also available for digital download on the Nook, Kindle, and all apple devices.

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PG Talk: Eric Young Jr.

MLB Outfielder for the Atlanta Braves

Profile: Eric Young Jr. | Age: 29 | Hometown: New Brunswick, NJ

Twitter: @EYjr | Instagram: @itsEYjr

College: Chandler-Gilbert Community College | MLB: Atlanta Braves

Achievements: MLB Debut 8/25/09 | Drafted in the 30th round of the 2003 MLB Draft | 2013 National League Stolen Base Champion | 2nd-Generation MLB player

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PG: When did you first start playing baseball?

EY: I started playing baseball at age 7 for a league. I was swinging a bat for as long as I can remember.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played basketball and football growing up.

Who was your favorite athlete(s) and favorite sports teams growing up?

My father was my favorite athlete. Whatever team he was on, was the team I cheered for.

How and why did you end up at Chandler-Gilbert Community College?

I needed to go somewhere to work on my game all year long. AZ provided summer, fall, and spring ball.

What was your experience getting drafted to the MLB?

It was a blessing. The first step to my dream was taking place.

What was your reaction when you got called up to the Colorado Rockies?

Dream come true. The day was finally here and it was reality.

What was in like playing in your first MLB game on August 25, 2009?

Nervousness, excitement, and fantasy all mixed in one. Unforgettable day.

What was in like to play for the same team your father did? (Rockies)

It was awesome. As a little kid, you cheer for them, imagine your name on the locker, and it came true.

How was your time in the Big Apple with the New York Mets?

Great experience. Learned a lot on and off the field. I got to play near my home state of NJ.

Were you upset the New York Mets didn’t re-sign you?

No. Everything happens for a reason. Stay positive and optimistic in every situation. Keep moving forward and progressing.

Recently you signed with the Atlanta Braves what are your expectations for the season?

I want to continue progressing as a person and player, and ultimately help this team win ball games.

Have far do you think the Braves can go this season?

You step on the field to compete and win. If you have any other expectation for the team besides winning, you’re playing for the wrong reasons.

Which MLB pitcher do you love to hit against?

That just depends how I’m feeling at the plate.

You were the stolen base champion in 2013, do you think you can do it again?

I definitely believe in myself and my god-given abilities.

Do you think you are the fastest man in the MLB?

I feel I am, but being fast is not the same as being smart on the bases.

Any favorite teammates or a player you want to play with?

I’m excited every year to play with various talented players across the country.

What do you like to do in your free time/offseason?

Try to spend and invest time in my family, since I’m away during the season.

What’s your favorite thing about PG Sports?

I enjoy the products and the logo.

 

Billy Turner x PG Sports

Billy Turner attended North Dakota State University and was a 4 year starter (2010-2013) for the Bison.  The North Dakota State football program was a powerhouse at the division 2 level and in 2004 they moved up to division 1 level (FCS).  They have now become a powerhouse in the FCS, winning three straight national championships (2011, 2012, 2013).  Billy was a two-time All-American at NDSU as a left tackle (allowing 0 sacks in the 2013 season). He was one of the top small-school prospects of the 2014 NFL Draft.  This past May Turner was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 3th round, becoming one of the highest pick out of NDSU. Welcome to the #PGSportsTeam Billy! #FinUpsBilly Turner

PG Talk: Dom Leone

MLB Relief Pitcher for the Seattle Mariners 

Profile: Dominic Leone | Age: 22 | Hometown: Norwich, Connecticut

Twitter: @DLeone52 | Instagram: @DLeone12

High School: Norwich Free Academy | College: Clemson University | MLB: Seattle Mariners

Achievements: MLB Debut 4/6/14 | Drafted in the 16th rounded of the 2012 MLB Draft | Captain at Clemson | #81 prospect in the Cape Cod League by Perfect Game | 2010 College World Series Appearance | 2010 ACC Atlantic Division Champions | #1 high school prospect in Connecticut | 2x All-State selection in Connecticut 

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Seattle Mariners’ manager Lloyd McClendon said had great things to say about Leone “He’s a talented young man, capable of multiple innings. I can tell you this. I will not be afraid to put him in impactful situations because he’s that good and we feel that good about him. I think he adds a lot to this bullpen.” 

PG: When did you first start playing baseball?

DL: I first started playing when I was 4.

Did you play any other sports growing up?

I played baseball, basketball, soccer growing up. I played football my freshman year in high school and basketball for 2 years in high school.  I also love to play golf. Growing up I would try and play whenever I could. 

Who was your favorite athlete(s) and favorite sports teams growing up?

My favorite player was Nomar Garciaparra. My favorite pitcher was Pedro Martinez. Needless to say I was a huge Boston Red Sox fan. I used to impersonate Nomar’s batting stance playing wiffleball in my backyard.

How and why did you pick to go to Clemson?

I went to a few showcases for baseball my junior year in high school and was lucky enough to get interest from a couple big name schools. Clemson was one of them and I took an official visit my senior year in September. The campus was beautiful, the facilities were top of the line, and the people and staff were really welcoming and determined. That sense of pride in their university and determination to win at the highest level really drew me in. 

How was your college experience at Clemson?

My college experience was awesome. Top level competition, facilities and coaches made it well worth it. The friends I made while there made it that much better. Those guys on the team are like brothers to me and we all keep in contact still.  

When did you know were going to be a professional baseball player?

I knew I was going to play professional baseball when I first started playing baseball. That was always my goal. I wanted to be a professional athlete so I made it my life goal to do whatever it took to get there. 

 
What was your experience getting drafted to the MLB?

Draft day was pretty crazy. The first 15 rounds were long and strenuous. You’re so anxious to hear your name called and that dream fulfilled so those days and hours before I got drafted were tough. I always knew I could return to school and finish my last year but this was my opportunity to get to the professional level. Finally the third day of the draft, the first round of that day (16th round) the Seattle Mariners called me and told me they had selected me and from that moment on it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Such a surreal feeling. All my family and friends were calling and it was such an amazing feeling to know how much love and support you have in a moment like that.  

What was it like joining your first minor league team?

There were butterflies for sure. But those faded quickly. I knew I had taken a step in the right direction but I knew the job wasn’t finished. I wanted to now get to the big leagues and compete with the best of the best. The guys I grew up watching on T.V., I wanted to play with and against. I made more friends and learned a lot from everyone I played with which helped me rise through the levels.  

How did you move up the Mariners system so fast?

I was fortunate enough to stay healthy (knock on wood), and just produce. I worked hard, was a good teammate, and really improved in some areas that I desperately needed to improve. I think all these things helped me get noticed by the people in the front office and help me get moved up.  

What was your reaction when you got called up to the Seattle Mariners?

The phone call was short, quick, but again surreal. This was the call I was waiting for since I started playing teeball. I honestly can’t put my feelings into words during that moment. I’m just so fortunate and blessed to have been given that opportunity.  

 
How is MLB life so far?

MLB life is good so far. It’s a lot of work, and you have to stay focused and really work on your craft everyday. Whether it’s watching video on hitters, or doing PFP’s and working out, You are always doing something.  

 
What was in like pitching in your first MLB game April 6, 2014?

Butterflies. So much adrenaline. Yet a lot of fun. This is where I wanted to be so it was awesome to finally be there. I was ready to show the baseball world that I’m here and that I wanna stick around for a while.  

 
What adjustments did you have to make coming out of Clemson, pitching versus professional hitters?

Luckily for me pitching at Clemson helped me prepare for professional baseball.  We played great competition each and every game and I actually played against a handful of the same guys my first year in the minors. You always have stuff to work on however, so in my case I had to improve my consistency with throwing strikes and my overall command of all my pitches. Being able to throw any pitch in any count. 

Which MLB player do you want to pitch against the most?

Well since this is his last year, I would love to pitch against Derek Jeter.  Growing up watching him play, despite him being a Yankee (haha) I gained so much respect for how he handled himself on the field and off the field.  You never heard a negative report about him.  On the field he is a class act and is an absolute gamer. 

What do you like to do in your free time/offseason?

I love to golf in my free time. It is nice to stay competitive in something else other than baseball.  I also love to watch movies and play video games.  Besides those things I make sure I follow my workout schedule and prepare myself for the upcoming season as best I can. 

Whats your favorite place to eat in Connecticut?

There are way too many good places to eat in Connecticut for me to pick just one.  The entire state and even entire region (New England) has the best food around.   

Do you think Connecticut is becoming a baseball state now with about 15 players in the MLB including Matt Harvey, Mike Olt, Evan Scribner, Craig Breslow, Josh Zeid ect.

I think Connecticut is starting to get recognized more in terms of being a baseball state.  It is tough for us because we don’t get to play all year round.  We get buried under snow for a few months which makes it really difficult for players to stay sharp.  But in the end of the day its not what you came from, its what you did with your opportunity.  All those guys you listed above have proven they can work through the elements, earn opportunities to get on a bigger stage and then continue to prove to people that the Northeast shouldn’t be forgotten in terms of searching for baseball talent.

Whats your favorite thing about PG Sports?

You guys are awesome.  Your products are new and innovative and you’re a CT brand.  Plus, just like the rest of us you are following a dream of yours.  You’ve made the necessary steps towards fulfilling your life goals and dreams so for me, its an honor to help support that and show off your hard work and your vision in such a simple way.

PG Talk: Renee Montgomery

WNBA All-Star of the Connecticut Sun

Profile: Renee Montgomery | Age: 27 | Home State: West Virginia

Twitter: @Da20one | Facebook: Renee Montgomery | Website: http://www.r21m.com/

College: University of Connecticut | WNBA team: Connecticut Sun | Overseas team: Vologda Chevakata

Achievements: WNBA All-Star | WNBA 6th Woman of the Year | WNBA All-Rookie Team | NCAA National Champion | NCAA All-American | McDonald’s All-American | West Virginia Player of the Year | Spokeswoman for the Pajama Program

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PG: When did you first start playing basketball?
RM: I first started playing basketball around 10 years old. My older sisters were playing and me being the youngest, I wanted to do everything like them.
Did you play any other sports growing up?
I ran track when I was younger and picked up soccer in high school. I had a small stint with cheerleading but that wasn’t really a good fit for me.
Who was your favorite athlete or athletes growing up?
Didn’t really have one. But Tonya Cardoza became my favorite and also was my coach at UConn.
How and why did you pick UConn if your from West Virginia?
Choosing UConn was a tough decision believe it or not. A lot of coaches were talking about the impact I could have on their program and Coach A had a whole different approach. He told me they just signed a point guard the year before, that there were no guarantees and I would have to earn everything. I liked that, so I chose Uconn
How was your college experience at UConn?
My college experience at Uconn was both challenging and fulfilling. I went into college not really knowing what to expect. Being from WV things were more on a small town level and when I got to Uconn everything was on the big stage. I learned and grew a lot and finally my senior year I was able to go undefeated and win a championship. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
When did you know were going to be a professional basketball player?
I never knew I was going to be a professional basketball player until I was actually drafted and heard my name called. Sport professions are never guaranteed because you can get hurt at any time. I’ve always wanted to play professionally and I was also happy to be able to achieve that goal because of all the sacrifices my parents and sisters made for me.
What was your experience getting drafted to the WNBA?
My experience getting drafted was a whirl wind. The draft occurred 48 hours after I won the national championship so needless to say I was exhausted. No matter how tired I was the experience was something I will always cherish. To have my parents and college coach there to watch me take the next step in my career was unforgettable.
What are your goals that you want to reach in the WNBA?
If you ask any athlete, the individual goals are great but we all want the same thing, a championship. I have won a championship at every level in my career and want to top it off with a WNBA one.
What is it like to play overseas in the WNBA offseason? Did you have to learn a new language?
It’s an experience like no other to be submerged in a culture that’s not your own. I did not learn the language but I try to pick up on as much as I can in the 6 months that I live there. Usually there are teammates and a coach that speak English so it’s not very hard to communicate. It’s tough being away from family and friends for such a long amount of time but it’s also a unique experience to be able to see life outside of America.
What do you want to do after your professional basketball career?
After my basketball career is over I would like to do some type of sportscasting. Sounds crazy but since I was little I’ve always wanted to act so maybe I would try that out as well.
Whats your favorite thing about PG Sports?
I love how PG Sports is everywhere and anywhere because athletes will workout and perform everywhere and anywhere so I can relate.

Connecticut Magazine x PG Sports

Douglas P. Clement of the Connecticut Magazine wrote an awesome article about PG Sports and myself. Check it out here: http://www.connecticutmag.com/Blog/Style-Shopping/March-2014/Pro-Athletes-Rockin-Sports-Apparel-Line-of-Connecticut-College-Senior/

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Brandon Phillips x PG Sports

How I met Brandon Phillips

The summer of 2012 I got in contact with Reds 2nd baseman Brandon Phillips and he said he’d love to support PG Sports. I sent him the gear and he didn’t follow me [on Twitter] so I couldn’t direct message him to ask to tweet a picture. Then in September 2012 Brandon Phillips (@DatDudeBP) tweeted a picture to Topps Cards that he just signed cards and he was wearing a PG Sports hat. A couple weeks later a fan tweeted a picture and he saw Brandon at the mall and he wearing it again. Then in May 2013 I just got done with my junior year of college and I was [talking] to one of my friends and he said he was going the Mets game vs the Reds. Two days before one of the games I got two front row seats … . My friend Mike and I went early to see batting practice and hoping to meet Brandon Phillips. I didn’t know the tickets were going to be right in the front … but they were. So were watching them practice and … I see Brandon on the field. Then I lost where he went and I turn around and he’s standing next to seats near me. I waited until he was done talking to his friend. I turn to my friend and say, ‘Whould I say Brandon or Mr Phillips.’ He said Mr Phillips. So I say, ‘Hey Mr Phillips,’ and he turns around and I hand him a ball to sign. Then he does a double-take and said, ‘I have a hat just like that,’ and I said, ‘I know I sent it to you.’ And [he says], ‘Ohh, what’s up man. I’m Brandon, nice to meet … I appreciate the gear.’ Then I took a picture with him and he tweeted it out.

Jason Grilli x PG Sports

Jason Grilli aka Grill Cheese has had a interesting journey to the major leagues.  He got drafted in 1994 by the New York Yankees in the 24th round out of high school, but opted to go to Seton Hall University.  After dominating at Seton Hall for three years he enter the MLB drafted and was the 4th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants.  In 1999 he was trade to the Florida Marlins for Livan Hernandez.  In 2000 at the young age of 23 Grilli made his MLB debut as a starting pitcher for the Marlins and got his first win despite giving up 4 earned runs in 6 and 2/3 innings.  His second season as a Marlin wasn’t successful he started 5 games and had a 6.08 era going 2-2.  Grilli was sent down and would not get back to the MLB until 2004 when he got drafted to the Chicago White Sox in the rule 5 draft.  He was a starter again and it wasn’t working out so he converted to a reliever.  After several trades, a rule 5 draft, free agent signings, and an injury that caused him to be out the whole 2010 season the journeyman Grilli finally found a home with the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The first two seasons with the Pirates Grilli was a solid reliever for them.  Last season (2013) was his break out season at the ripe age of 36.  Jason Grilli is now an All-Star closer in the MLB, racking up 33 saves with a 2.70 era and 74 Ks in just 50 innings pitched. Below is Grilli wearing a PG Sports hat.

Grilli

 

Chris Herren x PG Sports

Massachusetts native Chris Herran was a superstar in high school.  Being named to the McDonald’s All-American Team his senior season he was a top recruit.  He turned down top programs such as University of Kentucky and Duke University to play at near home at Boston College.  He was doing well his freshman year at Boston College and then he got injured.  He life would never be the same, he started doing drugs.  He failed several drug tests and was kicked out of school. A year later he transfer to Fresno State University.  He did great for a year and then relapsed and enter rehab.  After his senior year he enter the basketball drafted and was drafted in the 2nd round by the Denver Nuggets. He played for the Nuggets for one season and was trade to his hometown Boston Celtics.  He drug use would continue and he never lived up to his NBA potential. Since 2008 Chris Herran has been drug free.  He has been touring the country and telling his story for the past couple year.  “In 2011, ESPN aired a documentary, Unguarded, directed by Jonathan Hock, based upon Herren’s basketball career and drug related issues. “On March 20, 2012 it was announced that Unguarded had been nominated for two Emmys: Outstanding Sports Documentary and Outstanding Editing.”  I had the pleasure of meeting him at Sacred Heart University this year.  He’s a great guy and he trying to help anyone with drug problems.

Chris Herren

 

 

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Vontaze Burfict x PG Sports

Vontaze Burfict was an undrafted Linebacker out of Arizona State University.  Even though he was undrafted the Cincinnati Bengals gave him a chance and it has paid off.  He made an immediate impact for the Bengals as rookie playing in all 16 games and having 127 tackles and 1 sack.  He followed up his great rookie year with a fantastic sophomore year playing in all 16 games, having 171 tackles (most in the 2013 NFL season), 3 sacks, 1 Int, and was named a Pro Bowler & 2nd team All-Pro.  Well deserving “Vontaze Burfict’s performance-based pay tops $615000 in two years“.  This past pre-season the Bengals were featured on HBO’s HardKnocks and Vontaze was spotted wearing a “I AM PG Sports” tee. (Shown below)

Vontaze