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Vick's rehab leads Daily Press' top 10 sports stories of 2009
No. 1: The rehabilitation of Michael Vick
The former Pro Bowl quarterback and one-time highest-paid NFL player resumes his life after a nearly two-year federal prison sentence for his role in a dogfighting operation. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated him. The Philadelphia Eagles signed him, and he has gradually worked his way into their playing rotation. He continues to deal with bankruptcy issues and periodically speaks about his ordeal to various groups as a cautionary tale.
No. 2: Mike Tomlin's super season
Tomlin, a Denbigh High and William and Mary alum, becomes the youngest coach in NFL history (36) to win a Super Bowl when he leads the Pittsburgh Steelers to the championship last February in just his second season as head coach. The Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 on Santonio Holmes' toe-dragging, 6-yard touchdown catch with 35 seconds remaining.
No. 3: Al Groh's demise, Mike London's ascent
Virginia dismisses Groh following his third losing season in four years and one week later hires London to replace him. London, a Hampton native and Bethel High grad, won the 2008 FCS national championship with the University of Richmond and led the Spiders to an NCAA quarterfinal berth this season.
No. 4: Menchville's national recognition
The Monarchs (26-2) win the state Group AAA baseball championship and are named No. 1 in the nation in USA Today's final prep poll. Longtime coach Phil Forbes is named national Coach of the Year. Menchville does it the hard way, winning three games in a span of 29 hours at the championship festival in Chantilly in June. The Monarchs endure weather delays, postponements and multiple bus rides during the state tournament, relying on team chemistry, superior pitching and clutch hitting.
No. 5: LPGA's last call
Cristie Kerr wins the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill in May, and four months later European brewing giant InBev announces that it is pulling the plug on sponsorship of the annual LPGA tournament. The area's only major-league sporting event became the LPGA Tour's unofficial "fifth major" because of the purse, the course, the setting and the hospitality and professionalism of the staff. The winners' list was top-shelf: Kerr, Annika, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, Suzann Pettersen.
No. 6: Phoebus' new coach, same result
The Phantoms win their third Division 5 state football championship in four years, and do so with new head coach Stan Sexton at the helm. Sexton, right, replaced program architect Bill Dee, who resigned in January and took an assistant's position at Christopher Newport. Sexton was the head coach at Warwick for four years after spending the previous 14 years as an assistant to Dee. Unlike the 2008 season, the Phantoms don't opponents and simply find ways to win, including the title game versus Stone Bridge. It still adds up to 15-0 and the program's fifth state title this decade.
No. 7: William and Mary's run
In Jimmye Laycock's 30th season as head coach at his alma mater, the Tribe ties the school record for wins (11) and comes within two points of a trip to the FCS national championship game. Unlike many of its previous teams, W&M does it with a shutdown defense led by All-America end Adrian Tracy, tackle Sean Lissemore and a stout front seven that led the nation in rushing defense and were second in scoring defense and total defense.
No. 8: Allen Iverson redux
Iverson departs ingloriously from the Detroit Pistons last spring and spends several uncomfortable months without a team. That time includes a return to the Peninsula, during which he awards college scholarship money to two local young men and bares his soul about his passion for helping people and for the game. His brief signing with Memphis ends badly, and he returns to Philadelphia, site of nearly all of his professional triumphs.
No. 9: ODU football's test drive:
The Monarchs' first football season in 69 years is a remarkable success, on and off the field. Old Dominion (9-2) wins more games than any first-year program in NCAA history and finishes fifth in FCS attendance, averaging 19,782 per game at renovated Foreman Field. Granted, the schedule was designed to provide only moderate pushback, but coach Bobby Wilder and his staff assembled a team heavy on local talent, with a sprinkling of junior-college players for competitive seasoning. One more season on training wheels before going full-bore into CAA competition.
No. 10: Poquoson baseball excellence
The Islanders (28-1) win their second Group AA state championship this decade behind the play of underclassmen Kyle Crockett and Chad Pinder, both ACC commitments. Poquoson emerges from one of the state's best AA leagues as district champs, then wins Region I and state titles. The Islanders edge Rustburg 4-3 in the title game behind Pinder's complete game and his teammates' clutch hitting.
— Text by Dave Fairbank