, Port Arthur, Texas

March 29, 2014

West column: Manziel once again embraced his spotlight

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     No surprise here that Johnny Manziel delivered a pro day workout Thursday in College Station that left both critics and believers shaking their heads over his poise, precision, arm strength, accuracy and ability to perform under pressure he purposely amped up to well beyond the average pro day.’s Gil Brandt ranked it in the all-time top two of pro days he’s ever seen from a QB. Veteran QB Michael Vick was so impressed he tweeted that Manziel is going to be a star in the NFL. Norv Turner, who was Troy Aikman’s position coach for the Cowboys, gushed over what he witnessed. Some critics started hedging on earlier comments. Yes, it was throwing passes without anybody rushing, but Manziel has proven he can handle people coming at him. Ask Alabama’s Nick Saban. If he accomplished nothing else at his pro day, Johnny Football insured that Houston fans are going to be in a near mutinous state if the Texans pass on him for Blake Bortles or Teddy Bridgewater with the first pick in the draft . . . One quarterback expert who is clearly a Manziel fan is former Tampa Bay and Oakland head coach and ABC Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden. Manziel was the first guest on the new season of ESPN’s Gruden QB Camp that debuted its fifth season last Thursday. Though critical of some of Manziel’s decisions, as they watched game tape together, Gruden left little doubt he’s pretty much blown away by what Manziel brings, has accomplished and can do in the NFL. He’ll be doing future shows on other quarterbacks in the draft, but it’s doubtful he’ll come away as impressed with any of them as he was with Manziel. For those who missed the show, ESPN will air a 30-minute version Thursday at 8 p.m. and Tuesday, April 22 at 4 p.m. The full one-hour show replays Saturday, April 26 at 3 p.m. on ABC. If you are a fan of Manziel, even if you aren’t, it’s worth programming the VCR.

    New Lamar University basketball coach Tic Price will be a busy guy at the Final Four later this week.  Price is looking for three assistants, after choosing not to retain any of the coaches — Kermit Holmes, Scott Wagers and Sharon Wilkerson — who were on Pat Knight’s staff. Wagers and Wilkerson were Knight’s hires but Holmes came to Lamar back in 2005 when Billy Tubbs was the head coach. Hamstrung by a short-sighted and unfair two-year contract, Price’s best shot figures to be coaches who are out of a job for whatever reason, and hungry enough to work cheap and put in long hours to get back in circulation. One coach who told Price he’s not interested is former LU assistant and head coach Steve Roccaforte. Roc may land with former Marquette coach Buzz Williams at Virginia Tech . . . Talladega College celebrated its best basketball season ever, thanks to former Lamar State College-Port Arthur coach Matt Cross and three local players he took with him to Alabama. Beaumonter Roman Vaughn, who played at LSC-PA, and Memorial exes Jamarqus Jones and Dave Thomas were part of Cross’ Tornadoes team that set a school record of 29 wins. Other milestones were a first-ever ranking in the NAIA poll (No. 6), a first Gulf Coast Athletic Conference championship and a second trip to the NAIA tourney in Kansas City that resulted in the school’s first tourney victory. Vaughn played the biggest role, averaging 12.4 points and shooting 56.9 percent beyond the three-point arc. Jones and Thomas averaged 4.3 and 3.3 points per game, respectively.

    Wade Phillips says attending the Bum Phillips All American Opera last week in New York proved to be emotional for him, wife Laurie and former Houston Oiler QB Dan Pastorini. “We were all crying at the end,” he said, explaining that one of the final scenes dealt with Bum dying, then being in heaven singing. “I don’t know much about opera, so I can’t give you much of a review,” he added. “It was obvious that Luke Leonard and his people had done their research and put in a lot of hard work. I think it might be difficult for anybody who didn’t know about Bum to understand what’s happening during the opera. It was good for us because we had lived much of it. I hope they are able to bring it to Texas.” . . . Who’s the most financially successful former Dallas Cowboy? Forbes Magazine says it’s Roger Staubach, who directed the Cowboys to two of their five Super Bowl victories. Forbes, in fact, said Staubach made more money than any retired NFL player last year, with $12 million in earnings from his real estate business. He was however, nowhere close to being No. 1 on the retired athlete list. Michael Jordan occupied that spot with a cool $90 million in 2013 income. Magic Johnson was a distant second at $22 million . . . What advice does Bo Jackson, who was an All-Star in both the NFL and MLB, have for potential two-sport stars like Seattle QB Russell Wilson and Florida State QB Jameis Winston? “Stick to what got you in the headlines, not baseball.” Jackson says a much deeper talent pool in both football and baseball  than in his day makes it unlikely anybody could excel in two professional sports.” Then, again, neither Wilson nor Winston is anywhere close to the talent Bo Jackson was.

    Opening the 2014 season with three night games against the NY Yankees guarantees the Astros an early attendance bump. It also spotlights the gaping difference between baseball’s haves and have nots. While the Yankees have dropped to No. 2 for the game’s biggest payroll behind the Dodgers, their $202.8 million in salaries dwarfs Houston’s $44.5 million. The Astros, though their payroll has jumped significantly  thanks to $12 million doled out to free agent pitcher Scott Feldman and $7.5 million being paid to outfielder Dexter Fowler, remain dead last in the dollar standings . . . One money category where the Astros aren’t anywhere near last is in operating income. Matter of fact, only the St. Louis Cardinals posted a higher operating income than Houston in 2013. The Cardinals, because they don’t overspend and are blessed with young talent, were No. 1 with $65.2 million. Houston, because it shed so much payroll the previous two years, and spent less than $30 million in salaries, was No. 2 at $55.9 million. So where did the Yankees fall in operating income? They lost $9.1 million? And the Dodgers? They were a staggering $80.9 million in the  red . . . Southeast Texas’ highest two MLB stars will be collecting sizable paychecks is 2014. The salary of Beaumonter Jay Bruce, whose star continues to rise as an outfielder for Cincinnati, is listed at $10,041.667. Lumberton’s Clay Buchholz will get $7.95 million to throw strikes for the World Champion Boston Red Sox.

    Since  NFL greed is a persistent theme in this space, the comments last week of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban about the NFL’s non-stop money grab were interesting. Cuban, in particular, targeted the league’s ever-increasing push to expand TV coverage to more nights of the week. “They’re trying to take over every night of TV,” he said. “And, initially, it’ll be the biggest rating thing there is. Then, if they get Saturday, now they’re impacting college. And then if they go to Wednesday, at some point people get sick of it.” Cuban’s conclusion was that the NFL is 10 years from imploding . . . Cowboy fans have to be retching after  reading Jerry Jones’ remarks about Jason Garrett last week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. Jethro, who has apparently forgotten what it’s like for his team to be a post-season factor, said Garrett doesn’t have to make the playoffs to keep his job. “He’s more capable today than he was when he took over as head coach,” Jones said of the coach with the 29-27 record and three consecutive 8-8 seasons. “If that arrow is gong up, it just makes sense to have our future with Jason.” Sweet music to the ears of Cowboys haters everywhere . . . For those who are into ghost stories, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs have a good one. Before their game last week against Golden State, the Spurs stayed at the Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkley, Calif. Spurs center David Ayres couldn’t get into his room because the key wouldn’t work, but he heard sounds from inside like a baby would make. Ayres went to the front desk to get another key and told the person on duty about the noise in his room. The clerk phoned the room but there was no answer. Ayres was given another key that worked. Later, he was telling Duncan about what happened. Duncan, who had the adjoining room, said he also heard the baby sounds.  The next day they were told that a young girl who allegedly died in the hotel sometimes returns to haunt it. “There was a baby in there, absolutely,” Duncan said. “I heard about the history of the place and I’d rather not stay there again.”

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at