Jeremy Birmingham/Land of 10
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott's replica jersey is being worn by many fans.

Ezekiel Elliott items lead NFL merchandise sales, Ohio State basketball alums shoot for $2 million and more

Ryan Ginn

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Today is Thursday, May 4, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.


Zeke is the king of NFL merchandise

Former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott had one heck of a rookie season in the NFL, both on and off the field.

In addition to leading a resurrection of the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott became the NFL’s most marketable star. Each year the NFL Players Association puts together a list of top sales from officially licensed merchandise — in this case, from March 1, 2016, to Feb. 28, 2017. Elliott became the first rookie to finish No. 1 on that list.

As a bonus for the former Buckeyes running back, he knocked former Michigan quarterback Tom Brady from the top spot. The Cowboys, who finished 13-3 in the regular season, had three players in the top four slots on the list. Quarterback Dak Prescott was second, and wide receiver Dez Bryant finished fourth behind Brady, who was third.

“It’s pretty humbling,” Elliott said. “When you’re a rookie, you’re just looking to put your head down, help the team, and learn the ropes. To accomplish this level of success off the field shows just how passionate football fans are in Dallas, Ohio, my home state of Missouri and all around the world. And to be up there with Dak and Dez, alongside great players like Tom Brady and Odell Beckham, is very special to me.”

Elliott was the only former Ohio State player to make the top 50 in sales in the NFL during the period. It’s probably only a matter of time before he’s joined by Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for 2016.

Did Joey Bosa get snubbed? His teammates say yes

Speaking of Bosa, the former Ohio State defensive end made his own headlines on Thursday.

The NFL Network is unveiling its list of the top 100 players in the NFL, which was which is compiled by votes from current NFL players. Bosa made the list as a rookie, an impressive feat by any standard, but was listed in the 100th and final spot of the rankings. So far, the network has revealed players who finished in spots 81 to 100 on the list.

Despite missing his first four games, Bosa finished the season with 10.5 sacks. He added 19 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Those numbers over 12 games are incredible for any player, more so for a rookie. As such, his No. 100 ranking was seen as a bit of a slight by his teammates.

Here’s what a pair of his fellow Chargers think, as posted on the Chargers website:

Defensive tackle Damion Square: “To me, I think that’s a little disrespectful. I really do. I’ve been playing football my whole life, and when you see someone who is different, you know it. Joey is different. He’s one of those guys. I’m glad they put him on the list because he’s extremely deserving, and I know he’s excited about it. But, 100?  Really?! It’s disrespectful. When I saw it I felt like they know they had to put him on there, but it’s too soon to put him higher. Like, he is a rookie and has to [earn his dues]. I felt like that couldn’t respect that.”

Cornerback Jason Varrett: “I’m happy for him that he is on the list. He balled out and was obviously the rookie of the year. I think he should have been higher, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to be more motivated. But he’s a rookie. Not many rookies get that kind of [respect] to be on the list at all. I salute him. I have much respect for him.”

As my co-worker Jeremy Birmingham wryly noted last fall, the speculation that Bosa’s teammates resented him for holding out for a fair contract were always comical. Their defensive reaction to what they perceived as a slight is just the latest example of how respected he is in that locker room.

Ohio State team sets eyes on $2 million prize

The Basketball Tournament is one of the best ideas in sports, in my opinion. It’s a 64-team tournament comprised of teams that can include anyone — even current NBA players. Most of the teams gain entry through a fan vote, but there are also at-large bids and automatic spots for the previous year’s semifinalists.

The winning team gets $2 million to divide among players and coaches and the general manager, however they so desire. The second-place team gets nothing. Pretty simple, right?

Ohio State fans might have a rooting interest this year. The first edition in 2014 was won by a group of former Notre Dame players. A group of former Buckeyes have decided to try to emulate that model. Scoonie Penn, who led Ohio State to a Final Four in 1999, is serving as the general manager and putting together a team. He also will coach the team.

According to Cleveland.com, Aaron Craft, Evan Ravenel and Dallas Lauderdale are confirmed. Penn said he believes he can convince former No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden to play.

“We want the state of Ohio supporting us,” Penn told Cleveland.com. “It’s an Ohio thing. A lot of the guys on this team are Ohio guys. We’re gonna be called Scarlet and Gray, but it’s a representation of the whole state.”

You can vote for Scarlet and Gray to be in the tournament here.

The Basketball Tournament is in its fourth year. It is scheduled to begin in July with regional competition that will lead to the semifinals and finals in Baltimore Aug. 1-3.

B1G happenings

• Sure, why not? Joe Namath is a Christian Hackenberg fan.

• One year after winning eight games, Richard Pitino gets extended through 2022.

• Nike releases Fab Five shoes.

• Why one recruit turned down Michigan to stay with Iowa.

• Jake Butt shares a letter he wrote in sixth grade saying he wanted to play pro football.

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