, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

February 22, 2014

West column: Manziel, McClain put pressure on Texans

PORT ARTHUR —     If the Texans don’t select Johnny Manziel with the No. 1 draft pick, and they won’t, nobody can blame the Houston Chronicle’s long-time NFL writer John McClain. McClain spent a week in San Diego with Manziel, watching him go through his grueling nine-hour per day training routine with QB guru George Whitfield Jr. and was blown away. He wrote a four-part series on Manziel for the Chronicle leading into the NFL combine, and left little doubt he thinks Houston should take the Texas A&M star. My favorite part of the series was this quote that pretty much defines who Manziel is and how strongly he believes in himself. Addressing the possibility of the Texans passing on him, Johnny Football said: “It would be the worst decision they’ve ever made. I’d be in the same division playing against them twice a year. Sorry, but you just turned that chip on my shoulder from a Frito into a Dorito.” . . . As if publicity for the NFL’s draft isn’t already overdone and overhyped, Kevin Costner is starring in a movie called Draft Day that premieres April 11. Costner, who does sports roles better than anybody, plays the GM of the Cleveland Browns and is faced  with a tough decision on who to take with the No. 1 pick. Since the movie has the NFL’s blessing, there’s lots of genuine game footage, as well as scenes from last year’s draft. Texans’ running back Arian Foster adds authenticity in the role of the running back Costner is considering taking. Jennifer Garner is the female lead. With another Costner movie, action thriller 3 Days out this past Friday,  Rotten Tomatoes rated his all-time best-reviewed films. Two of the top five involved sports flicks, with Bull Durham far and away No. 1 and Field of Dreams No. 3. I can’t believe Tin Cup wasn’t in the top 5. Ditto for Bodyguard.

    Two thumbs up to the Beaumont Founders Lions Club for its efforts in keeping alive the Willie Ray Smith Awards. What a special night for high school football in general and the four offensive and defensive finalists in particular. On top of that, it keeps alive the memory of a very special man and great football coach. Any coach or player who attended Wednesday night will tell you the event was first class all the way. I think they would also tell you Jerry LeVias scored a touchdown as the guest speaker. I don’t think I’ve ever seen kids more riveted on a speaker than attendees were during the LeVias video and speech. Finally, congratulations to two very deserving winners — Nederland’s DeShawn Washington and Silsbee’s Patrick Reed. And a special pat on the back to KFDM’s Greg Kerr for working in that there should be a place for LeVias’ name at the BISD’s stadium . . . Given the sickening discrimination he faced, I could not pass up the opportunity to get Jerry’s opinion on how he thinks Missouri’s Michael Sam will be treated in NFL locker rooms as the league’s first openly gay player. “That’s kind of a tough one because of what we have done as a society,” he said. “It’s going to take some time, but I’m hoping they will judge him on his talent. He might get the cold shoulder and be ridiculed until players get to know him. When I first went to SMU, there were a lot of people I dealt with who thought black people had tails. A lot of the questions they asked me were unbelievable. But when they got to know me, attitudes started to change. I hope it happens faster for this kid.”

    Had an interesting call from last week from a college basketball assistant who primarily recruits Texas and had nothing good to say about Pat Knight’s approach to recruiting. “I was told Lamar had only one Texas player.” he said. “Here’s why. They apparently didn’t realize you have to roll up your sleeves and develop some relationships with guys in the Golden Triangle, Houston and Dallas. Recruiting has changed. AAU people dominate it. They don’t care who you are or what your last name is. You have to build relationships. Knight and his staff didn’t do a very good job of that. I’d go to watch that kid at Nederland (Colton Weisbrod). Southland recruiters would be there. Sun Belt recruiters would be there. Lamar was nowhere to be seen. That’s a local kid and he could have helped Lamar. There was nobody over there who could get a player out of Houston or Dallas. That’s why they had to go to places like California and Indiana. It’s inexcusable for Lamar to not be able to sign Texas players.” I couldn’t agree more . . . Until last week, I’d never been able to pin down why key people at Lamar were so hell bent on hiring Knight. Then I was told some of the biggest name coaches in the game came on really strong with recommendations of what a good coach they thought “Bobby’s boy” was. It reminded me of how Lamar almost missed on Pat Foster. LSU’s Dale Brown was pushing hard for one of his assistants named Art Tolis, who turned out to be bad news when New Orleans hired him a few years later. I have to admit after talking to Tolis I was sold. The guy was really slick. Fortunately for Lamar, athletic director J.B. Higgins was a hard core football guy. When Arkansas football legend Frank Broyles told him he needed to hire Foster, one of Eddie Sutton’s Razorback assistants, Hig listened. I shudder to think what would have happened if Lamar had opted for Tolis.

    ESPN’s Adam Schefter had some good news for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys last week. According to Schefter, the NFL’s salary cap is going to jump more than the expected $3 million bump to $126.3 million. Word now is that it will be in the $130 million range. Since few manage the cap worse than the Cowboys, who are currently sitting on a 2014 cap number of $148.7 million, which includes $11.8 million in dead money, every little bit helps. But Jethro still has some serious trimming to do . . . Speaking of Jones, Brad Gagnon of Yahoo Sports recently did a piece rating the 32 NFL owners based on their public image. Care to guess  where old Jethro landed on the list? If you said anything other than No. 32, grab a  dunce cap and stand in the corner for about six months. “He treats his team like a circus act,” wrote Gagnon. Houston’s Bob McNair was  slightly above the middle of the pack at No. 13, a number that should drop if he lets his coach and GM pass on Manziel. Pittsburgh’s Dan Rooney was No 1 . . .  LeBron James, who seems to be a lighting rod for criticism, dispensed some advice to an NFL player with the same problem Tuesday night in Dallas. Tony  Romo was courtside for the Mavericks game with the Heat, and spoke with James about how he deals with harsh opinions. “Just don’t care what anybody thinks,” the NBA’s best player told him. “Don’t watch ESPN and all these so-called ‘everyone knows what to do that ain’t never put on a uniform, trying to tell you what to do’ shows. If you gave  it everything you had and you laid it on the line for your teammates,  you can sleep at night.” James was immediately bashed by ESPN’s Bob Ley over going to that network for his infamous “Decision” when leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    You can almost feel the angst at Texas over what’s going on with Texas A&M. After ridiculing the Aggies for bolting to the SEC, the Longhorns have been left in the dust as A&M’s soared past them in on-field success and football profile. Then A&M announced a Kyle Field seating expansion to 102,500 that will make it the largest stadium in Texas. And, just last week, it was revealed that the 47x163 video board being installed at Kyle Field will be the largest in all of college sports. Your move, UT . . . You probably recall the story about Houston furniture icon Jim McInvale, aka Mattress Mack, losing $7 million over his promise to refund all Super Bowl week purchases  if Seattle won. Apparently he started something. Now along comes Houston jeweler Johnny Dang, also known as TV Johnny and the Hip Hop Jeweler. Dang promised any customer who had purchased a certain high-dollar watch a full refund if the East won the NBA All-Star game. It did. Dang was quoted on as saying he expected to refund the price of 37 watches totaling $200,000. An advertising executive,  by the way, estimated Mattress Mack got around $100 million worth of free publicity off his $7 million payout. The guy is dumb like a fox . . . So who saw this one coming? Final TV ratings on the Super Bowl show the city with the  highest percentage of TV households looking on was Kansas City. Not Seattle or  Denver, but Kansas  City. KC had a 58.1 rating to No. 2 Seattle at 56.7. Rounding out the top five were Tulsa (52.9), Las Vegas (52.5) and Portland (52.4). Denver was a lowly 8th at 51.4. Somebody needs to pass along to Jamaal Charles that he’s playing in a football hotbed, although I suspect he knows that . . .  Thanks to Jamaal, by the way, for his thoughtful answers in a Black History Month piece running on the front page of today’s paper.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at

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