PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 12, 2014

West column: New book is promising inside look at Manziel

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —

    Guess we should have seen this one coming. Due in bookstores next month is “Johnny Football: Johnny Manziel’s Wild Ride From Obscurity to Legend at Texas A&M.” The book, by former Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Morning News writer Mike Shropshire, promises an “inside look at one of Texas’ breakout stars and his influence on college football in Texas and across the nation.” It will be interesting to see how the book deals with the NCAA and the charges that Manziel took money for signing autographs . . . The Manziel draft bandwagon, by the way, continues to load. Latest endorsement came from a pretty fair quarterback named Roger Staubach. Basically echoing Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice’s recent quotes on taking Manziel with the No. 1 pick, Staubach told the NFL network, “ "I think there's something about this kid. I think Manziel's going to be a valuable player in the NFL. (Jadevon) Clowney's also going to be a great player, but you need a quarterback. I'd go for Manziel." . . . One other plus factor for Manziel — something that’s not supposed to be leaked — was his score on the NFL’s Wonderlic intelligence test. Among quarterbacks expected to be drafted, Manziel reportedly had the highest score of 32. How much difference that makes is open to debate. For instance, Peyton Manning’s Wonderlic score was 28. Highest reported QB score was Eli Manning’s 39. Tony Romo and Andrew Luck got 37s, Aaron Rodgers a 35 and Tom Brady a 33.

    New Lamar University basketball coach Tic Price had a productive week at the NCAA tournament. Price, working with a budget of only $250,000 to hire three assistants, found a trio of coaches with high Division 1 experience who needed a job and were willing to come to LU for what he’s able to pay. “I’ve put together a really strong staff that I’m excited about,” said the LU coach, who expects to make a formal announcement soon. “They all have Texas recruiting ties. They are all hungry.”  Also expect Lamar to announce on signing day Tuesday that Hardin-Jefferson’s 6-4 shooting guard Zjori Bosha is going to become a Cardinal. Price can’t comment yet, but Bosha’s mother confirmed it to The News. The three best things about Bosha are that he’s a deadly three-point shooter, he won’t count against Lamar’s scholarship total and he’s strong academically . . .  What was suggested as likely to happen a couple of weeks ago in this space — former Lamar University coach Steve Roccaforte being named to Buzz Williams’ staff at Virginia Tech — is now official. Roccaforte had been in limbo since South Florida fired Stan Heath and his staff three weeks ago. There’s a bit of irony in Roc, a Lamar alumnus, coaching at Virginia Tech while Tic Price calls the shots Lamar. Price, you see, is a Va. Tech alum. Tic, in fact, was the co-captain of the Hokies’ 1979 team that played and lost to Larry Bird and unbeaten Indiana State in the 1979 NCAA tourney . . . Two thumbs up to Nederland’s Colton Weisbrod for being named the state’s 4A Player of the Year by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches. It’s doubtful anybody who saw the kid play would question he’s deserving of the honor. How maddening and totally inexcusable that Pat Knight didn’t bother to recruit him.

    Congratulations to Nederland ex Stefan Huber for his latest academic honor. Baylor’s starting center this past season was one of nine North Texas area players named to the Collegiate Gridiron Club of Dallas’ Scholar-Athletes list. Huber, who was a six-time selection — that’s right six times — to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honors List, became the third Baylor player — QB Nick Florence (2012), LB Joe Pawelek (2010) — chosen. Honorees are selected based on combined achievements as students, athletes and leaders in their communities. Huber, who was part of a line that blocked for the nation’s No. 1 offense, drew interest from a couple of NFL teams but is zeroing on medical school  . . . Huber’s Baylor coach, Art Briles, got quite a salute from Athlon Sports. Long one of the most respected publications where college football is concerned, Athlon recently announced its ranking of 128 Division 1 football coaches. Alabama’s Nick Saban, as  you would expect, was No. 1. Briles, as a result of how he’s transformed the Baylor program, was No. 5. Between he and Saban were No. 2 Urban Meyer of Ohio State, No. 3 Steve Spurrier of South Carolina and No. 4 Bob Stoops of Oklahoma. The guy I’d have made No. 1 — Kansas State’s Bill Snider — was No. 6. Somewhat surprisingly, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin was only No. 24. Obviously, he’s got to prove himself without Manziel. Texas’ Charlie Strong was No. 26 . . . Lamar will get $425,000 to play Texas A&M in Kyle Field in September. The amount was originally set at $375,000 but LU got an extra $50,000 to move the game from the original date that had been agreed upon. As good as that payoff sounds, consider what Ohio State is shelling out to a couple of in-state rivals to take a beating in Columbus. Cincinnati’s athletic department will collect $888,246 for a Sept. 27 visit, while Ken State will be paid $850,000 for its Sept. 13 game at Ohio Stadium. And you thought this stuff wasn’t big business?

    Making fun of what losers the Dallas Cowboys are on Jerry Jones’ watch is becoming something of a national pastime that has now crossed sports lines into the entertainment industry. Consider the zinger delivered by Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan at the Academy of Country Music Awards last Sunday in Las Vegas. The CMA show is moving to JerryWorld next year, a fact which led to Shelton saying, “You don’t see many awards shows in Cowboys Stadium.”  Bryan, with Jones in attendance, replied, “You don’t see any playoff games there either.” Jones, I’m told, looked a little stunned, then managed to laugh . . . Here’s a classic example of what a money grab the NCAA tournament is. Zach Bohannan, a backup forward for Wisconsin, was stopped by security personnel on his way to a Badgers’ shootaround at Jerryworld. Why? Because he was drinking a bottle of Nestle’s Pure Life Water. Since the official drinks of the NCAA are Coca-Cola and Powerade, no other labels that could be picked up by cameras were permitted. Bohannan was not allowed to join his team until he’d removed the Nestle’s label. The NCAA, by the way, also had an officially licensed ladder for cutting down the nets and official scissors for doing the cutting . . . Saddest story in sports last week was Hank Aaron, on the 50th anniversary of breaking Babe Ruth’s career home-run record, talking about the bigotry he had to deal with as he closed in on 714. Aaron received so many death threats that several newspapers had obits ready to go in the event he was killed. The Braves slugger said he couldn’t enjoy what he was about to accomplish, and still doesn’t think much about it, because of the accompanying pain. Guess that must be a moral victory for the haters.

    One of the all-time good guys is about to make his exit from the sports scene. Joe Dumars, the former McNeese State great from Natchitoches,  is reportedly set to announce his resignation after a remarkable 28-year run as player and GM for the Detroit Pistons. Dumars stands out in my mind because of his great battles with Pat Foster’s Lamar teams in the early-and-mid 1980s, including one in which he beat the Cardinals with a 25-foot prayer at the buzzer. In Detroit, he played on two NBA championship teams, was the MVP of the 1989 finals, made the All-Star team six times and built a reputation as a guard who wouldn’t back down against Michael Jordan. Later, as a GM, he was NBA Executive of the Year in 2003, put together the 2004 NBA champs and had the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals six consecutive years . . . Thanks to golfer John Daly’s lap-band surgery, Diet Coke has taken a hit. Daly, as he always does during Masters week, camped out at a Hooters restaurant near Augusta National Golf Club. During an interview between signing autographs, he said the 2009 surgery to help lose weight forced a cutback in his Diet Coke consumption from 26-to-28 cans per day to a mere 10 or 12, and then only if he drinks it with ice and  not out of a can. Daly also noted that he still smokes about 40 cigarettes a day. It shouldn’t be hard to understand why Daly, who was also a heavy duty whiskey drinker dating back to a young age,  will go down as one of the tragic figures in sports because of his lack of discipline. From a sheer talent standpoint, he may have been in the top 10 percent of those who ever played the game . . .

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net