Dallas Cowboy's QB Tony Romo. Tony Gutierrez
essential reads

Childhood tennis courts, the part-time bounty hunter and all the week's best sportswriting

Also, the 15-year-old that is the USA’s top-ranked footballer and wrestler for his grade.

1. “There are more registered adult male players in England than in New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and all the Pacific Islands combined, yet England have won just one Six Nations title – and no grand slam – since winning the World Cup in 2003. “In a way our size is our weakness from a playing point of view,” says Beaumont. “There are a lot more choices to make as a coach and selector than in, say, Scotland.”

Guardian writers Robert Kitson and Tom Jenkins report on how English rugby is a sport of confused identities. 

2. “Long before they found their way to the sport’s most hallowed temples, where did the top players first learn to swing a racket? Visit the childhood courts of Novak Djokovic, the Williams sisters, Roger Federer and others.”

Catrin Einhorn, Joe Ward and Josh Williams of the New York Times take us on an audio and visual tour of the childhood courts of tennis’ biggest stars. *This is best viewed on desktop.

3. “Last December, early in the second half of the Dallas-Chicago game, the Cowboys had the ball — first-and-10 on their own 44. Tony Romo took the snap, dropped back about 4 yards, and launched a high arcing bomb down the left side of the field. It was the kind of throw quarterbacks only attempt when they know they have a superb receiver racing under it. The ball descended back to earth around the Bears’ 15-yard line, in the general vicinity of Dez Bryant and two defensive backs. Those defenders never stood a chance.”

Writing for Grantland, Kirk Goldsberry makes the case that football analysis remains overly obsessed with Quarterbacks.

4. “The first time he tagged along to track down bad guys, T.J. Semke threw on jeans, boots and a cut-off T-shirt—the standard outfit for someone living in Lee’s Summit, Mo.—in hopes that his toned frame might intimidate the law-breaker from running.

“It didn’t work.

“When the man he was there to bring in took off upstairs, Semke sprinted after him, corralling him just before the intended target tried to escape through an attic window. And that was day one of bounty hunting, Semke’s part-time gig.”

Lindsay Schnell meets T.J Semke, Kansas defensive linesman and part-time bounty hunter. 

5. “He is 15 years old, 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds of cartoonish muscles on top of muscles. He had six-pack abs when he was 6. Today, he bench-presses one-and-a-half times his body weight and can leap from a standing position to the top of a car. He averages four touchdowns per game and hasn’t lost a wrestling match since 2012, making him the nation’s top-ranked football player and wrestler for his grade. And even though he doesn’t begin high school for another two weeks, he already is one of the most talked about athletes in New Jersey.”

Matthew Stanmyre talks to Josh McKenzie, a 15-year-old with with 10 specialized trainer, and asks whether it’s all worth it. 

Read: Here’s what those hand signals made by NFL referees mean

Read: Connolly there ‘for good part’ of 8-hour DRA hearing that ended early Saturday morning

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