Having finished up the NBA Draft, annually we ask the question within Orange Nation: How does this help Syracuse? With Tyler Ennis going in the lottery to the Phoenix Suns, it represents another first round talent SU has placed in the NBA. Jerami Grant likely thought he was going to be a first round selection as well (or else he wouldn’t have left early), however the forward wasn’t taken until the 39th pick by the Sixers.
Either way, recruits seeing perennial first round picks coming out of the Orange program is a good thing. So many top high school players dream about playing one day in the NBA. It’s easy to imagine those scenarios via a program that is valued like that by NBA scouts, and has professional playing alumni coming back on campus.
This type of question surrounds the Orange when a player of magnitude changes zip codes in free agency as well. Carmelo Anthony having been traded to the Knicks was clearly some type of benefit for the program. The Knicks are in-state, and there are plenty of fans in upstate New York. It’s never a rare occasion to see Melo Knicks jerseys sprinkled throughout the Carrier Dome.
Can it work the same way in the NFL? Certainly Syracuse will applaud its players that land in the league. Open the media guide any season and you’ll see a list of “Orange in the Pros.” But what about its biggest stage? There’s no greater audience than the Super Bowl in American sports.
This year the NFL will play its championship game in Glendale, Arizona and with the event larger than ever there’s already a number of examples of a Super Bowl 2015 fan site. There’s been at least one Syracuse player to suit up in each of the two Super Bowls played in Arizona. In 1996, fullback Darryl “Moose” Johnston won his third championship with the Dallas Cowboys. Twelve years later, wide receiver David Tyree caught one of the most famous passes in NFL history. The “helmet catch” helped extend the game-winning drive for the Giants, who knocked off the undefeated Patriots 17-14. Tyree will forever be beloved by Syracuse fans who are also Giants fans. Before the Pinstripe Bowl one year he showed up at a sports bar near Yankee Stadium and was given an impromptu standing ovation by the SU fans in attendance.
Can those moments on the sports’ biggest stage help the SU program? It can’t hurt. Whether a recruit today is swayed by pros that played more than a decade ago is anyone’s guess, although more recent players that went onto the NBA and NFL definitely can help. If nothing else it gives the program another layer of history, and another line in the media guide.