Mike Smith, Daniel Kilgore and James Casey are still alive in their quest for a Super Bowl ring as the three locals in the pros have all qualified for the NFL playoffs with their respective teams.
The winningest head coach in Atlanta Falcons history – a gleaming 56-24 record over five seasons – Smith is still searching for his first postseason victory. The former East Tennessee State University linebacker’s squad lost in the playoffs to the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, Green Bay Packers in 2010 and New York Giants in 2011.
Atlanta opens the playoffs on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 1 p.m.
Kilgore, a former Dobyns-Bennett High School star, is a second-year offensive lineman for San Francisco and has played in all 16 of the 49ers’ games this season. San Francisco opens the playoffs on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m.
While not from the area – he’s a native Texan that plays tight end/fullback for the Houston Texans – Casey did spend the summers of 2003 and 2004 in Bristol as a pitcher for the Appalachian League’s Bristol White Sox.
He gave up baseball to pursue football and is now in his fourth pro season. A versatile player, Casey has caught 34 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns this season, while also supplying 6 rushing yards and making four tackles. Houston hosts Cincinnati on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in an opening-round AFC clash.
Final Roll Call
The following is a look at how local players who did not qualify for the postseason fared during the 2012 National Football League season:
—- A dream season ended in nightmarish fashion for Heath Miller.
The former Honaker High School star was selected to the Pro Bowl and was picked as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ team MVP, but that was overshadowed by the fact he injured three ligaments in his right knee in the fourth quarter of a game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 23.
Miller underwent surgery on Thursday, Dec. 27 to repair the damage.
Miller finished his eighth pro season with 71 catches for 816 yards and eight touchdowns – all career-highs
“He’s a very unselfish player,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “You can count on him almost all the time to do what he’s supposed to do and make plays when you need him.”
—- For the second time in his six-year career, New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw (Graham) eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark.
Bradshaw finished the 2012 season with 1,015 yards on 221 carries, despite missing two games with injury issues. Bradshaw reached the milestone thanks to a 16-carry, 107-yard performance against the Philadelphia Eagles in the regular-season finale.
Bradshaw also caught 23 passes for 245 yards.
—- All Elizabethton High School graduate Jason Witten did this year was have one of the greatest seasons by a tight end in league history.
Witten caught 110 passes for 1,039 yards and scored three touchdowns for the Dallas Cowboys en route to garnering yet another Pro Bowl selection.
—- San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Aubrayo Franklin (Science Hill) battled injuries for much of the season and finished with 20 tackles in 12 games.
—- Former Dobyns-Bennett High School standout Gerald Sensabaugh finished with 58 total tackles from his safety position for the Dallas Cowboys.
—- Defensive back Coty Sensabaugh (Dobyns-Bennett) notched 31 tackles and three pass deflections in his rookie season for the Tennessee Titans.
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