PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 22, 2012

West column: Staying retired not easy for Leon Fuller

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR —   

    If Odessa Permian decides it wants to come after Port Neches-Groves football coach Brandon Faircloth, one guy who would give him a ringing endorsement is Leon Fuller. The Nederland ex, who played for Bear Bryant at Alabama, did two stints as a defensive coordinator at Texas and was Wade Phillips’ defensive backfield coach with the Denver Broncos, retired last fall as athletic director in Odessa. Fuller was there when Faircloth was offensive coordinator at Permian from 2006 through 2008 and came away duly impressed. “I recommended Brandon highly to PN-G. I would think he’d be a strong candidate for any job,” said Fuller, who now lives in Austin. Lest PN-G fans start to panic, I don’t think Faircloth is going anywhere. One of several reasons would be that the Permian football isn’t what it used to be. On the other hand, the salary reportedly being offered is in excess of six figures . . . Fuller, by the way, has already grown restless in what is his second stab at retirement — he un-retired the first time to become AD in Odessa — and indicated he’d go back to work if the right opportunity presented itself. Asked if that included coming back as a coach, he said it’s something he’d consider. What an awesome, and probably inexpensive hire he’d be for somebody looking to upgrade their defense. In the meantime, Fuller spends much of his time playing golf with the likes of Spike Dykes, Fred Akers, Rex Norris, Tom Rossley and other coaches who have retired to Horseshoe Bay.

    Maybe the most impressive thing about the Texans’ J.J. Watt is listening to how even his teammates are in awe of his ability to dominate games. Last week, after Watt ravaged the Colts for three sacks, 10 solo tackles and a forced fumble, the Texans PR staff made it a point to get quotes for the media from teammates on both sides of the ball. To the man, they raved about the impact Watt makes on a game. Most significant quote came from defensive lineman Antonio Smith, who made the point that Watt is being judged as a defensive end when he’s mostly a tackle. “He’s not out on the edge free on one guy every time,” Smith said. “He’s inside beating two guys on every play. He might end up with the most tackles ever out of a defensive lineman and the most sacks. That’s unheard of.” . . . There’s a huge slice of irony in the Vikings Adrian Peterson coming to Houston today needing 294 yards in his final two games to break Eric Dickerson’s all-time NFL rushing record of 2,105 yards. Twenty-eight years ago, you see, Dickerson, who was playing for the LA Rams, came to Houston in the season’s 15th game needing 192 yards to break O.J. Simpson’s all-time NFL rushing record of 2,003 yards. With most folks figuring he wouldn’t get the record until the following week, Dickerson shredded Jerry Glanville’s Oilers for 215 yards. He’s held the record ever since . . . For Texans fans who aren’t aware of it, today’s game with the Vikings won’t be televised in Southeast Texas. Because visiting Minnesota is an NFC team, rights to air the game belong to Fox. What that means is Fox 4 had to make a call on airing Cowboys-Saints or Vikings-Texans at noon. It was pretty much a no brainer to show the Dallas game, since the Cowboys air regularly on Fox 4. The station tried to get permission to show Texas-Vikings on tape delay after Cowboys-Saints but was turned down.  

    Kenny Harrison’s soaring stock in coaching circles, as a result of his success at Memorial, has resulted in him being named the Texas team’s offensive coordinator for next June’s Bayou Bowl in Baytown. The selection of Harrison was made by former Nederland and University of Wyoming QB Don Clayton, who will be the team’s head coach. Clayton, incidentally, is coming off another good season at Cinco Ranch. In his 13th season, the Cougars went 8-4. His overall record there is 83-53. Expect Harrison, meanwhile, to have a couple of his Titans on the Texas team, since he gets to select offensive players after studying tape of nominees. He also gets to bring three of his assistants . . . PN-G’s Brandon Faircloth will be working with some of America’s very best schoolboy talent, as offensive coordinator for USA Football in the Fourth Annual International Bowl Feb. 5 in Austin. There will also be a familiar face — Livingston wide receiver Chevroski Collins, who is headed to the University of Texas. Oklahoma State has the most commitments among team USA players with five. Michigan has three, while two have picked Notre Dame. The team’s quarterbacks — Shane Cockerille from Baltimore and Anua Solomon from Las Vegas — will be playing for Maryland and Arizona, respectively. When Faircloth coached in the 2010 game, his QB was Stanford’s current starter Kevin Hogan. One of the running backs was Texas’ Joe Bergeron . . . Heads up to all those who follow schoolboy football. The Port Arthur News’ 41st annual Super Team will be revealed on Tuesday as our usual Christmas treat. All three area TV stations were on hand for our Wednesday photo shoot at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, so be sure to check out their sportscasts for team shots and player interviews Tuesday night. Many thanks from this computer to Tom Halliburton, David Coleman and photographer Morgan Jones for their efforts on the Super Team. Tom gets extra credit for his work in designing the pages for the team’s presentation.

    Being mediocre on the field has not stopped the University of Texas from being the most profitable business endeavor in college football. And make no mistake about it, college football is all about big business. Forbes Magazine, using figures tied to the 2011 season, showed UT becoming the first school to ever generate more than $100 million in revenue, with a total of $104 million. Take a bow, Deloss Dodds. Forbes put a 2011 value on Longhorn football at $133 million, up from $129 million in 2010. You wonder how high the bottom line might soar if Texas could come within three touchdowns of Oklahoma or if Mack Brown could occasionally beat Kansas State ? ? ? No. 2 on the list, by the way, was Michigan at $120 million. Notre Dame was No. 3 at $103 million . . . Here’s how big a joke Big Ten football has become. Seven Big Ten schools are playing in bowl games and all seven of them are underdogs on the betting line by a combined 57 points. Purdue, 17 to Oklahoma State, Minnesota 13 to Texas Tech and Nebraska 10 to Georgia, are all double-dig-dogs. What an embarrassment . . . Why don’t schools write into coaches’ contracts that they can’t leave before a bowl game? Players bust their butts for a coach year round, then he’s gone when a better offer comes along, and the team has to deal with a major distraction. Eight schools, headed by Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Texas Tech in the Meineke Bowl in Houston, are playing without the guy who started this season as head coach. As with everything else in college football, players get short changed.

    For a team that should be desperate for any kind of favorable publicity, the Houston Astros seem to be oblivious to public relations 101. One of the team’s winter staples for years, the late January gala hosted by the Houston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, is in jeopardy because chapter president Bill Hartman can’t get anybody with the Astros to respond to him. The annual dinner, which features various Astro and MLB player award winners selected by the BBWA, awards to Houston area high school players and Astro officials discussing the upcoming season, usually draws between 900 and 1,400 fans. To let that die on the vine would be an unconscionable blunder. Surely new owner Jim Crane, who didn’t bother to show up for last year’s dinner, has better business sense than that . . . It was noted in this space last Sunday that on Memorial ex Jamaal Charles’ 11th carry against Oakland he would supplant Jim Brown as No. 1 in NFL record book for average yards per carry. As most of you now by now, Jamaal got the ball only nine times, as the woeful Chiefs couldn’t even make a first down until there were five minutes left in the third quarter. His big play of the day, a 42-yard run, was called back by a penalty. Charles, who wound up losing the AFC rushing lead to Houston’s Arian Foster, will now move ahead of Brown on his second carry today against Indianapolis. On a related note, Charles wound up fourth among AFC running backs in the fan vote for the Pro Bowl. That doesn’t mean he won’t be selected. Still to be factored in are votes from NFL players and coaches. Pro Bowl selections will be announced Wednesday . . . That’s it for 2012. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all those who faithfully read this column. And even to those who just read now and then.

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