, Port Arthur, Texas

September 8, 2012

West column: Southeast Texas' NFL contribution most impressive

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —     Half of the six NFL players with Golden Triangle backgrounds will be in Kansas City today, as Atlanta defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (Lincoln) and Bridge City kicker Matt Bryant take on the Chiefs and their star running back Jamaal Charles (Memorial). Other NFL openers with local ties include Jordan Babineaux (Lincoln) starting at safety for Tennessee against New England, West Orange-Stark’s Earl Thomas starting at safety for Seattle against Arizona and Central’s Anthony Collins in a backup role at offensive tackle for Cincinnati on Monday night against Baltimore.  Stretch the Triangle’s boundaries a few miles to Jasper and there’s a seventh player with area ties — Jasper’s Sean Weatherspoon — who is a rising linebacker star for the Falcons . . . Elsewhere in this section, you can find an updated list of all the players from the immediate area who have ever played in the NFL. If I’ve missed somebody, please let me know. But understand a player had to be on an NFL roster during the regular season to be included. Port Arthur Lincoln, which closed in 2002, continues to be the all-time most prolific in sending players to the NFL with 15. The only school with even a remote possibility of matching or surpassing Lincoln would seem to be West Brook, which has eight NFL alums. Lincoln exes also account for nearly a third of the 16 Super Bowl rings won by Southeast Texans. Tim McKyer won two with the 49ers, while Aaron Brown (Chiefs), Leroy Leopold (49ers) and Joe Washington (Redskins) each have one. The all time area Super Bowl champ, however, is West Orange-Stark’s Kevin Smith, who won three with the Cowboys.

    As part of the buildup to their December induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, Port Arthur’s Jimmy Johnson and Orange’s R.C. Slocum with be honored at the University of Miami and Texas A&M, respectively, with National Football Foundation On-Campus Salutes. JJ, who won a national championship and built the Hurricanes into college football’s most feared team in the mid 1980s, will be honored at Miami’s Nov. 2 game against Virginia Tech. Slocum, who went 123-47-2 at A&M, won four conference championships and finished with the best winning percentage in Southwest Conference history, gets his salute at A&M’s Sept. 22 game against South Carolina State. Wonder how many Aggies wish he’d never been fired ? ? ? It was shocking enough when 34.5 point underdog Texas State, formerly of the Southland Conference, routed the University of Houston, 30-13, last Saturday night. But how about some of the aftermath? UH offensive coordinator Mike Nesbitt got fired after one game. Then R.J. Bell of revealed Texas State was only the seventh underdog of 34 or more points to win outright since 1980. But the capper was word that an unnamed gambler put down $3,000 on 35-1 odds that Texas State would win outright. He made his Uncle Sam happy by walking away with $105,000 . . . Of the three Memorial stars who signed with FBS schools last year, running back Nate Holmes was the first to see action. Holmes returned four punts for 12 yards in Arkansas’ romp over Jacksonville State. If he keeps the job, area fans will get an opportunity to watch him on national TV next week against No. 1 Alabama. Meanwhile, it appears Terrence Singleton and Tre’Von Armstead are going to be red-shirted at Baylor.

    Normally the passing of an NFL owner from a team outside Texas wouldn’t be mentioned in this space, but 87-year-old Art Modell of the Baltimore Ravens merits an exception. Back in 1975, when Modell was owner of the Cleveland Browns, then Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips arranged for paralyzed Lincoln High School player David Hanchett to be part of the coin toss for the season finale between Houston and Cleveland. The Browns, you see, were David’s favorite team. Modell, under NFL rules, had to sign off on the pre-game exception being made for Hanchett. Not only did he give it a thumbs up, he came to midfield with his captains, spoke with Hanchett and arranged for him to receive some Browns’ gear. I’ve been a Modell admirer ever since . . . The Texans are in an almost no-win situation in their opener against Miami this afternoon. With Super Bowl talk swirling — Bill Parcells was the latest to pick them —, and Miami coming to Reliant Stadium as a 12-point underdog starting rookie QB Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, expectations are solidly in place for a blowout. With Wade Phillips’ vaunted defense going up against a QB who spent most of his college career at a wide receiver, and the Texans pretty close to 100 percent healthy, anything less than a decisive  victory is sure to be panned. And a Dolphin upset is unthinkable . . . What a week for Jerry Jones. First, Forbes magazine reveals his Cowboys are the first American sports franchise worth more than $2 billion, and that their overall value is about $1 billion more than the average NFL team. Take a bow Arlington taxpayers, even if you can’t afford to buy game tickets. Following the Forbes proclamation, the Cowboys, led by Tony Romo’s sensational performance, opened with a 24-17 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. Then, of course, Jethro got a transfusion of his lifeblood — national TV interviews discussing the win. His haggard appearance, by the way, suggests it’s time for another facelift.

    The Astros  pitching staff isn’t the only one Beaumonter Jay Bruce has been lighting up in the last month. Struggling with a .243 batting average on Aug. 10, Bruce responded to being given two days off to regroup by going on a tear that produced a .350 batting average, 11 home runs and 26 RBI in the 23 games prior to Houston’s visit to Great America Ballpark on Friday. He entered the Astros series No. 2 in the NL in homers (32), No. 3 in RBI (93) and No. 7 in doubles (34). All of a sudden Lamar baseball coach Jim Gilligan’s 2007 prediction that Bruce would be the best hitter in the National League in five years doesn’t seem quite so far out . . . One thing Astros fans don’t have to sweat is their favorite team setting a record for the most losses in the modern era. The 120 losses by the expansion NY Mets of 1962 is unlikely to ever be topped. Detroit, however, made a run at it in 2003 with by coming up on the short end 119 times. Houston, after dropping 106 games last year, is headed to something in the 110-to-112 range this year. That would be third worst in the modern era. And it’s difficult to be optimistic that things will get much better next year . . . PN-G ex Lew Ford got some nifty national TV exposure this past week when former Lamar and Boston Red Sox star Kevin Millar interviewed him for the MLB network. The interview, which lasted 4 minutes and 30 seconds, includes some really funny stuff, and lots of Beaumont, Lamar and Port Neches references. Among other things, they talked about coming Millar working with then higher schooler Ford at a Lamar baseball camp. The interview is posted at

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen a more daunting schedule than the one Pat Knight’s second Lamar University basketball team must play in November and December. The Cardinals are looking at 11 consecutive road games, including Alabama, Purdue, Baylor and probably Kansas State, plus Charlotte, Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette, before they play their first home game Dec. 29 again LIU-Brooklyn. As if that isn’t enough of a gauntlet, the Southland Conference is sending LU  to Stephen F. Austin and Northwestern State for its first two league gams . . . If you are a devout fan of Texas high school football, former Lamar sports information director Joe Lee Smith has done you a huge favor. Smith, a dedicated numbers buff who has long been the go-to-guy for sports writers and anybody else seeking anything to do with Texas schoolboy football history, recently posted his entire records package on the website You can find team, individual and coaches records for all the state’s public schools through the 2011 season. Thanks from all of us, Joe Lee. . . . The basketball community in Southeast Texas lost a good man when former SFA, Vidor and Orangefield coach Bob Gough passed away last week at age 74. Gough had suffered a major stroke on Easter Sunday, was seemingly on the road to recovery, then suffered another stroke. John DeVillier and I, who get in a daily walk at Central Mall, encountered Bob with regularity and had some really interesting conversations with the Lake Charles native. We’ll miss him.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at