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Eagles Mikell plays to prove them wrong

Quintin Mikell's rookie NFL season ended in disappointment when his Philadelphia - Eagles lost to Carolina in the NFC championship game. There will be no Super Bowl Sunday for Mikell.

That is the bad news.

The good news is that Mikell, undrafted despite a banner career at Boise State, made the Eagles' roster and played all season as a member of the special teams and as a reserve safety.

The 5-10, 205-pound Mikell, a standout receiver, running back and cornerback at Eugene's Willamette High, was the Western Athletic Conference defensive player of the year as a senior safety in 2002 for the Broncos, but didn't get a sniff during the NFL draft.

'It was rough,' Mikell admits. 'I was in Eugene, watching the draft on TV with my family. By the seventh round, I had a bad feeling in my stomach. When it was all done, I felt inadequate, like something was wrong with me.

'I went out and started shooting baskets outside. My dad came out to console me. I said, 'I'm going to show everybody they were wrong. I can't wait to put on the pads.' '

After signing a free-agent contract with Philadelphia that included a $10,000 bonus, Mikell quickly caught the eye of the Eagles' coaching staff.

'From the first minicamp, I had to set myself apart from everybody else,' Mikell says. 'I ran to the ball wherever it was at. I chased the ball from one side of the field to the other. I think that helped me get noticed.'

Mikell made the team and was a regular on all four special teams during the season. He also saw spot duty in the secondary, making 10 tackles in 16 games.

'The season went pretty well,' Mikell says. 'I didn't mess up a lot. A few rookie mistakes, but that was to be expected. My main thing for next season is, I want to continue to grow as a player. I expect to play special teams again, and hopefully I will get more shots at safety. When I do, I am going to capitalize on them.'

Mikell, who finished second on Boise State's career list in tackles, was pretty much overlooked by Oregon and Oregon State coming out of high school, primarily because of his size.

'Oregon didn't think I was fast enough to play in the Pac-10,' Mikell says. 'I have been dealing with that sort of thing my whole life. People have always written me off. I always go to work with a chip on my shoulder and try to prove everybody wrong.'

• Damon Stoudamire has been through some rough times the past two years. So when the Trail Blazer veteran needs to talk, who does he turn to?

'My old coaches,' Stoudamire says. Specifically, Dick Beachell, his coach at Wilson High, and head coach Lute Olson and associate head coach Jim Rosborough, his mentors at the University of Arizona.

'I get with Beachell (on the phone) a couple of times a week,' Stoudamire says. 'I try to talk with coach (Olson) or Rosborough whenever I can. I can usually catch them between Monday and Wednesday during the season.

'There are not a lot of people who know basketball. You have to ask people who have been in that situation, to get a feel for what they see and maybe get some advice. Everybody needs that from somebody you respect.'

Beachell, who won three state championships at Wilson, including two (1989 and '91) with Stoudamire, is glad he is included in his former player's inner circle. He suffered along during the three marijuana arrests that led to Stoudamire going through rehabilitation last summer, and is proud that he owned up to his problems.

'It is good to know what is going on with Damon, where his head is at,' says Beachell, 67, who retired from coaching in 1991 and still lives in Portland. 'I give him advice if he asks for it. I try not to infringe on his privacy. He is a good person. He got wrapped up in some things he shouldn't have the last couple of years, but he is enough of a man that that part of his life is over.'

nPaul Brown, the head man in Tonya Harding's camp these days, says the wannabe pugilist will return to the ice Feb. 24 to skate a 3 1/2-minute program in Central Park that will air that morning on CBS' 'The Early Show.'

Host Harry Smith's recent interview with Harding will air on 'The Early Show' on Feb. 23, Brown says.

'We've got a couple of fights planned for Tonya in March, too, including one in Canada,' Brown says.

• During the recent snowstorm, Hayden's Lake Front Grill proprietor Charlie Sitton was shoveling the walkway of his Tualatin eatery when a very large figure approached.

'Can I help?' the young man asked in broken English.

'No, that's all right,' Sitton replied.

'No, I insist,' the man said. 'I have time; I will help you.'

So the man Ñ Slavko Vranes, the 7-5 Serbian then with the Blazers on a 10-day contract Ñ took the shovel and helped clear the sidewalk. The Blazers liked the potential of Vranes, 21, but let him go after the contract ended.

'They should know he is a very nice guy,' says Sitton, the 6-8 former Oregon State and NBA player. 'And big. My little boy looked up at him and said, 'Man, Dad, I thought you were tall.''

• Galen Rupp could get a scholarship to run at nearly any college in the country, but the Central Catholic senior will likely forgo the opportunity to stay in Portland and train with Alberto Salazar next year.

'I am learning toward attending Portland State and running independently Ñ entering open races unattached,' says Rupp, who last weekend won the Nike Steve Prefontaine Award as the state's top prep distance runner. 'It is the best fit for me. It allows me to stay in Portland and work with Alberto, who is as good or better than any coach in the country.'

Rupp, two-time state cross country champion and the state's 3,000-meter track champion last year, will double again in the 1,500 and 3,000 at state this spring but hopes to peak for the Adidas Outdoor Championships and U.S. Junior National Championships in June.

nThe site for Oregon's new basketball arena is up in the air. The school had selected Howe Field, in the heart of campus, to build the structure that will replace McArthur Court, but as projected costs rise, officials are now considering whether to build it next to Autzen Stadium. The Ducks hope to open the arena in fall 2006.

nIt's not a done deal, but odds look favorable that Oregon State will open the football season Sept. 4 at Louisiana State. The game would replace a scheduled Beaver home date against Temple. OSU and LSU officials have an agreement in principle but have to work through the contractual details.