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Archive : January 2009

January 28, 2009

MOUNT RUSHMORE OF TEXAS ATHLETICS

I had an interesting discussion with some friends of mine recently. It revolved around this question: If Texas were to create a Mount Rushmore of its most influential and greatest sports figures, whose face would be carved into the mountain?

We decided that since Texas was so big we could have five faces instead of four. And the criteria are athletes who had their greatest impact on the sports world while they performed in Texas. It also helps to have made significant waves in the national or international "waters."

Here's who I think should be on the mountain: Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Earl Campbell, Lance Armstrong and Nolan Ryan.

Tom Landry because he was born in Mission, Texas. Played college football in Texas. Served his country as a pilot in WWII. He was the first coach of the Dallas Cowboys and took an expansion team of old and unmotivated players and created one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time. He is also credited with creating the Flex defense and teaching defensive players to play assignment football rather than just running to the ball...a revolutionary technique that is used by every football team at every level in the country. People all over the world know who Tom Landry is. He was a willing and powerful representative and speaker with the FCA for many, many years. He is the Dallas Cowboys.

Roger Staubach because he won the Heisman Trophy at Navy in 1963. He lost the Cotton Bowl to Texas in Dallas, which is where his legacy in Texas began. He was drafted by the Cowboys in 1964 but didn't actually suit up for America's Team until 1967 because he was serving his country. He took the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl win. They won two and lost three with him as the signal-caller. Rodger the Dodger was the All-American quarterback who vaulted the Cowboys to "America's Team" status.

Earl Campbell because he was born in Tyler and led John Tyler high school to a state championship in 1973. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 as a running back for the Texas Longhorns while leading the nation in rushing. He was named rookie of the year and league MVP in his first season with the Houston Oilers in 1978. He is ranked #12 on ESPN's Top 25 Players in College Football History. 

Lance Armstrong because he was born in Plano. He single-handedly made cycling a relevant sport with his unprecedented 7-straight Tour de France titles from 1999-2005. He's also turned a fledgling non-profit organization into a money-raising powerhouse for cancer research. He is a cancer survivor with an amazing story of dedication and perseverance.

Nolan Ryan because he was born in Refugio, Texas and is the current president of the Texas Rangers. He played the last 14 seasons of his incredible 28 year career in Houston and with the Texas Rangers. His 5,714 career strikeouts is first all-time and is a record which will never be broken. His seven career no-hitters are first all-time...second place is four. He is tied for first with 12 1-hitters and threw 18 2-hitters.

Now these are extremely brief descriptions of each of my five Rushmore "heads," but I think it's a good enough synopsis.

Other names that came up and you could make a good argument for were Byron Nelson,  Sammy Baugh, Michael Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Davey O'Brien, Doak Walker, Bobby Morrow and Flozell Adams (just kidding).

Am I wrong? Who've I forgotten about? Let's argue. Who are the five greatest sports figures in Texas history?


January 23, 2009

SIGNING DAY IS 12 DAYS AWAY

National signing day is February 4, 2009. We are 12 days away from all those "verbal commitments" becoming reality.

Every college coach in the country is traveling the nation right now making last minute house calls and firming up some iffy deals.

I know Mike Leach is hitting the trail hard. Tech has what could be the best O-lineman in school history on a verbal commitment, but he's been wavering lately and could go somewhere else.

That's why Leach was at his house with his parents earlier this week.

The Texas Longhorns have another stellar class in waiting, but they have three out-of-state blue chippers that have yet to make a decision.

Those are kinds of decisions that could mean the difference in a national championship and the Holiday Bowl. But there are few coaches in the nation better at recruiting than Mack Brown.

Les Miles is one of the best. Nick Saban is great. Pete Carroll, Joe Paterno, Jim Tressell, Bob Stoops and, of course, Urban Meyer.

All those coaches are known for their excellent recruiting skills...and do we see a common denominator?

Texas, LSU, Alabama, USC, Penn State, Ohio State, Oklahoma...the teams with the best recruiters are the best teams in the country...no doubt about it.

And Texas' defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, has landed some big-time names this year all by himself.

That speaks well to the future of the Longhorn program.

Enough about the coaches...we'll keep you posted on the recruiting scene if anything crazy happens. Just 12 more days.

  • mark rogers
  • January 23, 2009 2:01 PM

COWBOYS CULTURE CHANGE

The Dallas Cowboys are in the midst of the kind of storm never experienced in the 49 year history of the franchise.

We've never gone this long without at least advancing to the NFC Championship or NFL Title game. We've never gone this long without winning a playoff game. We've never been this good yet so bad.

13 teams have played in the NFC Championship since Dallas was last there in 1995. That was the year Eddie George won the Heisman. That was a long time ago.

Questions are swirling around the coaching staff. The defensive coordinator and special teams coach were fired already this offseason.

The offensive coordinator is interviewing for every job available - including a shelf stocker at Wal-Mart (hey it worked for Kurt Warner).

Now that the season is over, stories are emerging about the absolute and complete lack of discipline and accountability in the locker room.

On more than one occasion the team bus was late for a game because players were late.

The bus was more than an hour late to the final game in Philly.

The Cowboys do not have their minds right, and it's going to take a complete culture shock to turn things around.

I think Wade Phillips needs to go. Bring in Mike Shanahan. It's perfect. Shanahan replaced Phillips in Denver many years ago and took the Broncos to two Super Bowls.

Why can't the same thing happen in Dallas?

With the amount of talent Jerry Jones has assembled, it would be a catastrophic waste to not at least win one Super Bowl in the next two or three years.

But the window is closing, and it's closing fast.

Look at the Mavericks. They were six minutes away from taking a 3-0 series lead in the NBA Championship, lost the game, the series and have been a laughing stock in the post-season ever since.

Not to compare the NFL with the NBA, but that just shows how important it is to "strike while the iron's hot."

Don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings and ruining anyone's career.

The fans pay the bills, and we don't care who gets in the way...we deserve to win. Period.

People have questioned Tony Romo...he's not the problem. He's as gifted physically as any QB in the league. He just needs to get his mind right.

Terrell Owens is another story. He didn't do much to cause controversy this year, but he's held true to form that no team with him on it will ever make it to the Super Bowl.

He needs to go.

And we're also toying with the idea of bringing in Ray Lewis from Baltimore. Sure, he's a great player, but that would just be the same kind of profile player we'd bring in that we wouldn't need.

Enough of the drama queens and divas. We need some leaders. We need some accountability. We need some important wins.

We need a new coach. We need a new culture. We need the 2009 season to hurry up and get here before anyone else shoots himself in the leg.

And if I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: the Cowboys sure are terrible and in a huge mess, but they sure are interesting.


January 14, 2009

WHAT DO WE DO NOW???

Here is a list of things you can do now that college football season is over...not that you'd want to do any of them:

You could watch The Bachelor.

You could see how many times you can dribble a basketball on your back porch without stopping.

You could learn to sew.

You could play touch football with a bunch of friends and try not to pull your hamstring.

You could run a marathon.

You could buy a dog and see if you could have it potty trained before two-a-days.

You could memorize all the American Presidents and have your friends quiz you.

You could memorize all the Heisman Trophy winners.

You could try to guess the names of the Heisman Trophy winners from the years 2015-2035.

You could walk around town and try to find someone to save...something Batman would do.

You could try to catch a bird with your bare hands.

You could try to catch a squirrel with your bare hands.

You could try to set the world record for number of dominoes stacked in a line.

You could try to set the world record for being the world's largest human by eating so much that your weight balloons to over 1,400 pounds.

You could drive to Amarillo and try to eat that huge steak.

You could find the smallest car you could find and video yourself trying to lift it.

You could post that video on YouTube and see how many views you could get.

You could learn to work a vacuum.

You could put the dishes up for once.

You could stop being such an inconsiderate jerk and notice me once in a while.

(Sorry the last three were things I heard during college football season)

The list is never ending...I need college football season to start, and I need it to start...NOW.


COACH JACKSON WILL BE MISSED

I was not surprised at all to hear the Sweetwater coach Kent Jackson had taken another job in a bigger city.

To tell you the truth, I was surprised it took so long.

Coach Jackson is the epitome of a Texas high school football coach - passionate, witty, tough, an infectious personality, leadership, motivational skills, and on and on and on.

When I was part of the news media, Coach Jackson was always one of my favorite coaches to go see or call.

He was on my "media friendly" list.

I remember one morning, I believe it was 2006, I went to Sweetwater practice at 7 AM. It was two-a-days.

I came walking up to the field with my camera and tripod, Coach Jackson stopped what he was doing walked over and yelled at me from about forty yards away, "Hey Mark! Bet you didn't know there were two 7 o'clocks in a day!!!"

He always went out of his way to make me feel welcome and in just the few minutes I spent on the field each time I visited I could tell his players loved him.

Absolutely loved him.

And that's why Sweetwater was so good, year after year after year. Because those players would run through a fire for their coach.

Frisco Heritage will be a good program in just a few years. Coach Jackson has no choice - he's a winner, no matter where he ends up.

And to use a phrase that he used nearly everytime I spoke to him...those Frisco players should be thrilled they get to play for a man like that, because someone with such a pedigree of high school football in their blood is sure to "get your GREASE HOT!!!"

  • mark rogers
  • January 14, 2009 7:44 PM

January 8, 2009

COLT BREAKS THROUGH ANOTHER LEVEL OF GREATNESS

When Colt McCoy was a junior in high school, his Jim Ned Indians played for a state championship. They played it in Ennis on Graham Harrell's high school field, and Colt did not have his best game.

In a season which Colt dominated opposing defenses and looked untouchable. He threw some interceptions and did not look like himself. Jim Ned lost. They were so close.

A little over a year later, the Jim Ned basketball team met state-ranked Kountze in the state championship game.

They fell behind early but rallied late and had a chance to win. Colt had a costly turnover late in that game and the Indians lost a heartbreaker. The game was played in Austin and there were rumblings of the incoming freshman QB and how he performed in big games.

Obviously premature and not comparable...but rumblings still the same.

Now, I'm not saying those losses were all Colt's fault. No way was that the case.

All I'm saying is that at the season's end when Colt was on the biggest stages of his high school career, he didn't have his best games.

And Colt hadn't been in that position since high school...until Monday night.

Wins over Iowa and Arizona State in the Alamo and Holiday Bowls don't count because those games really meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.

And big wins over OU and OSU this year don't count either because they were mid-season when anything could still happen...the pressure wasn't on completely.

On Monday against Ohio State in a BCS Bowl, the Fiest Bowl, Colt broke through the final barrier of what might be the greatest career for a QB in Texas history.

He drove his team the length of the field in under two minutes against one of the best defenses in all of college football and won a game that could possibly earn the Horns a share of the national title - although not likely.

And he made it look easy.

I'll have to admit...I was a little worried before that drive. I reminded my wife about the high school games and told her that this was his chance to shine on a big stage.

And it doesn't get much bigger than a BCS game, on national TV, in prime time and winning the Bowl MVP trophy.

Colt is 3-0 in bowl games and (if he comes back next year, which he probably will) will go down in history with every QB team-record you can come up with.

He has proven his greatness on this level. Something many college QBs never get a chance to do.

I'm glad I found that little plastic football that Colt signed for me when he was a senior at Jim Ned. Next to his name and number he wrote..."hook 'em."

  • mark rogers
  • January 8, 2009 5:15 PM

January 3, 2009

BIG 12 SOUTH EXPOSED IN FIRST TWO BOWL GAMES

Oregon plays in the Pac-10 - an overrated conference.

Ole Miss is the Iowa State of the SEC - not very good.

At least that was the belief before those two teams took on two of the powerhouses of the best division in college football, the Big 12 South.

Oregon - 42, Oklahoma State - 31.

Ole Miss - 47, Texas Tech 34.

Yikes.

The Big 12 South is in big trouble halfway through its bowl season. The Pac-10 and SEC made OSU and Tech look pedestrian and average.

It's up to Texas and Oklahoma to salvage any positive perception the South created this year. Naysayers said that the division was just really good offenses and bad defenses.

After the Holiday and Cotton Bowls, it looks like they were 50% right. The division must have bad defenses and not very good offenses.

Let's hope the division's top two teams can right the ship before the national media turns the division into a laughing stock.

 


January 1, 2009

TEXAS TECH RECRUITING

This is the time of year when football programs around the country start getting a firm grasp on the 2009 recruiting season. Signing day is February 4 and with the Cotton Bowl right around the corner, it's a good time to start looking the Red Raiders' class.

As of today the Raiders have 18 verbal commitments and several more they're waiting on to make final decisions.

The jewels of the class (i.e. names you'll need to know in a year or two) are RB Eric Stephens, WR Emory Blake and OL Kyle Clark. I'll put Cooper Safety Will Ford about a half-inch below those guys on the ranking rungs.

Stephens is from Mansfield and fits the mold of typical Tech runners at 5-8 and 177 pounds. He's shifty, fast and hard to bring down.

Blake played QB at Stephen F. Austin but will play WR at Tech. He's in the Michael Crabtree mold at 6-1, 200 pounds and runs a 4.6 40. He can absolutely blaze and is phenomenal with the ball in his hands. The only question will be how good his hands are, and I bet they're pretty solid.

Clark is a bohemoth from Denton. He played at Guyer and is 6-5, 270 but the strength coach is sure to have him topping 300 in a matter of months.

Most of us know about Ford. If you watched any Cooper games this year you know that he can take over a game with his athleticism. I think he'll have a great career in Lubbock.

Included in those that Tech is still waiting to hear from are WR Kris Lott and SS Darius Slay.

Lott played at my alma mater, Plano, and his older brother was a great running back at Rice a few years ago. His dad played QB at OU.  He'll probably make a decision right before signing day.

Slay is the younger brother of former Tech safety Dwayne Slay. Dwayne set the Big 12 record for forced fumbles in a season (8) and was one of the biggest hitters I've ever seen.

The Slays are from Georgia and Darius played RB as well. If he's anything like his brother, it would be a good thing if he signed with Tech...obviously.

Slay is also just a great name for a safety and speaking of great defensive names, the Raiders are still hoping to nab a commitment from Terrance Bullitt. 

Bullitt is a 6-2, 180 pounder from Garland.

Texas Tech doesn't have any commitments playing the All-American game this weekend. Their class is ranked 39th by Rivals.com.

Tech plays Ole Miss tomorrow morning in the Cotton Bowl...I'll be rooting for the red and black.

  • mark rogers
  • January 1, 2009 2:05 PM