CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The University of Charleston is holding a symposium on football, specifically the NFL, and some of the health risks involved.
Sounds deep, right?
It is. But one of the scheduled speakers, ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, is able to quickly break down some of that.
For instance, as you probably know, Peyton Manning is playing with the Denver Broncos despite multiple neck injuries. Would Schlereth?
"Absolutely," he said in a phone interview. "That's what I did. I've had 29 surgeries. I'm that stupid. Football players play football. You've got to be half nuts to do that anyway."
Schlereth, though, is anything but stupid. That's why he and fellow ESPN analyst Merril Hoge have been invited to UC's Speaker Series on Jan. 21. (There will be an autograph signing from 4:30-6 p.m. at Riggleman Hall and the symposium at the Geary Auditorium from 6:30-8 p.m. Admission is free.) That's also why Schlereth is one of the most respected NFL analysts on "NFL Live," "Sportscenter" and his national "Sedano & Stink" radio show. (His nickname of "Stink" traces back to growing up in Alaska, where he tells the story of his sister cutting heads off "stinkhead" fish, considered a delicacy.) He won three Super Bowl rings and was an All-Pro offensive guard with the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos.
Just don't ask him about Charleston's contaminated water situation.
"I'm always so knee deep in football and watching film, the sky could be falling and I'd never know," he said.
Football, though, he knows. Ditto television.
Let's start with this weekend's NFL playoff games. And the NFC championship.
"I think San Francisco is probably playing better now than Seattle," Schlereth said. "[The 49ers' offense is] clicking better. Seattle is home, but that will be my upset pick.
"To beat Seattle in Seattle you have to have a big, physical team to counter the crowd noise. I think [the 49ers] have that. [Seahawks quarterback] Russell Wilson has been average lately. I just think San Francisco has the formula to beat Seattle: a throwback, old-school football team."
He doesn't have the same conviction with his AFC pick.
"It'll be interesting," Schlereth said. "You have two of the greatest quarterbacks ever [Manning and Tom Brady]. New England has a power running game. [New England coach] Bill Belichick always finds a way to shut down your most lethal weapon.
"The question is, how does the Bronco defense play? In the second half [against San Diego], it was exposed when [cornerback] Chris Harris was hurt and Quentin Jammer came in. If the Bronco defense shows up and controls the line of scrimmage, I think they'll score enough points and win. If they can't, New England can win."
Which college player should be the next No. 1 NFL draft pick?
"Nobody," Schlereth said. "I'm not a college football guy right now. Come April I'll start breaking down film on that. But from the outside looking in, there are none I'd spend a lot of money on."