, Port Arthur, Texas

March 2, 2013

West column: NFL personnel guru Gil Brandt high on Christine Michael

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — NFL personnel guru

Gil Brandt high on

Christine Michael

    West Brook ex Christine Michael, the only Southeast Texas running back in the last 30 years I’d put anywhere near the Jamaal Charles level, made a great impression at last week’s NFL draft combine, then followed it up with a negative one. Michael was so impressive at 5-11, 220, in posting the best time, lift or leap among running backs in four of seven “measureables”, including the best ever vertical jump at the combine, and a 4.54 in the 40, that’s Gil Brandt labeled him a “rockstar.” Then Michael tarnished the vibe by oversleeping and missing meetings with two teams, a faux pas that feeds into a bit of a negative image he had coming out of a troubled senior season at Texas A&M. “He has as much talent as any player in the draft, regardless of position,” said Brandt, the long-time personnel guru under Tom Landry with the Dallas Cowboys. “If it were not for the problems in his background, he’d be the first or second back taken. Those problems, however, will cause him to drop. Some team has a chance to get a real bargain.” . . . Michael wasn’t the only area player to get Brandt’s attention in Indianapolis. Rice’s Vance McDonald, who is about to become the first East Chambers player ever drafted, came out of the combine with a huge buzz. “I think he’ll be the steal of the draft,” Brandt said. “He surprised a lot of people with his showing,  but I had him ranked the 55th best player overall going into the combine. He’s just come out of nowhere.” Brandt meant that literally as well as figuratively, as he said it took him a while to locate McDonald’s hometown . . .

    Thumbs up to the Southland Conference for doing a terrific job with its coach and player of the decade selections during its 50th anniversary celebration. At least from a Lamar standpoint, not a single deserving individual has been left off on the all-decade teams of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. With LU’s first three coaches — Jack Martin, Billy Tubbs and Pat Foster — having been singled out, and seven of the players on the 20-man team of the 1980s having worn Cardinal uniforms, it’s been a nice history lesson for those not old enough to know LU basketball hasn’t always been as downtrodden as most of the past 25 years would indicate . . . For those of us in the media who have trumpeted the cause of mid majors in college basketball since Lamar was making waves in the 1980s, it’s going to be extra special to see Gonzaga ranked No. 1 in both the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls when they come out next week. When it happens, the Zags will accomplish something out of the reach of perennial powers like Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky. Gonzaga will not only be No. 1 in the big-boy poll, they will also be No. 1 in the Mid Major poll for which only the little guys are eligible. Gonzaga’s poll achievement, however, takes a back seat to Butler reaching the NCAA championship game in back-to-back years . . . Saturday night’s Lamar-Oral Roberts basketball game was the first time I can ever remember going to a sporting event strictly to watch the halftime ceremonies. It took something extra special like seeing outgoing president Jimmy Simmons saluted for all the great things he’s done for Lamar to make sitting through another half of Cardinal basketball tolerable. And one half was all I could stand. You’d have a hard time convincing me there’s another Division 1 team worse than what Pat Knight sends out night after night. What a nightmare ! ! !

    Bloomberg Businessweek authored a story recently that reinforces what a fleecing taxpayers take to help fat-cat NFL owners like Jerry Jones and Bob McNair pad their bottom line. Quoting Bloomberg, “taxpayers have committed $18.6 billion since 1992 to subsidies for the NFL’s 32 teams, counting the expense of building stadiums, forgone real estate taxes, land and infrastructure improvements and interest cost on public bonds.” Bloomberg makes clear that the $18.6 billion handout doesn’t include other sports leagues, just the NFL. In a related story, David Sirota of Salon pointed out that the city of New Orleans paid the NFL $5 million to host the Super Bowl. Stuff like that is why I always side with players against owners, especially on money matters . . . What a jackass University of Texas athletic director Deloss Dodds is. Attempting to put a favorable spin on the Longhorns recent football woes, Dodds decided to kick sand in the face of a Missouri football program with maybe half the resources that UT has. “We’re going to have good years again,” Dodds told Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman. “Our bad years are not that bad. Take a school like Missouri. Our bad years are better than their good years. But we’ve created a standard.” Missouri, of course, joined Texas A&M in leaving the Big 12 for the SEC because it was tired of the “Texas factor”, starting with Dodds being the conference’s defacto commissioner. That departure no doubt prompted his cheap shot.  Missouri, incidentally, wasn’t very good in posting an 8-5 record its final Big 12 season. One of the wins, however, was 17-5 over Texas .

    A prior commitment to be in a friend’s wedding kept Jamaal Charles from hanging out with the likes of Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson Saturday night in Kansas City. For the third time in four years, Jamaal was named the recipient of the Chiefs Derrick Thomas Award that goes to the team’s MVP. It’s presented at Kansas City’s prestigious 101 Awards Dinner that also honors the NFL’s Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year and Coach of the Year in the AFC and NFC. Charles became the first three-time Chiefs’ MVP in the 34-year history of the award. Jamaal, meanwhile, wasn’t the only high profile no-show. The Texans’ J.J. Watt also had a conflict, so defensive coordinator Wade Phillips picked up the Defensive Player of the Year Award for him . . . Aggie QB Johnny Manziel is keeping the NCAA on its toes. With Manziel’s recently-formed corporation suing over copyright infringement of the nickname Johnny Football, the NCAA was forced to break new ground where a college athlete was concerned, and rule he could keep any money won in the lawsuit. Then, showing it understands the slimy way big-time boosters think and work, the NCAA warned that it would be watching for bogus lawsuits as a way for a willing booster  to get himself sued in order to funnel money to a player . . .  To the pile of over-the-top recruiting gimmicks, add Alabama’s Nick Saban offering a scholarship to Baton Rouge eighth-grade running back Dylan Moses.  On the same recent “Junior Day” that he offered West Orange-Stark sophomore DB Deionte Thompson the first scholarship for the Class of 2015, Saban told the 6-1, 215 pound Moses he’s going to be the best player in the class of 2017 and Alabama wants him. LSU’s Les Miles,  by the way, offered the kid after his seventh-grade year.

    Projections that they will be baseball’s worst team, and are likely to lose over 100 games for a third-consecutive season, have not stopped Astros management from pursuing what they are calling “dynamic pricing” on tickets for games against their most attractive opponents. Starting with the home opener against Texas, dugout and club level 1 seats normally priced at $56 and $58 will sell for $130. Crawford box tickets jump from $37 to $100, while field boxes soar from $41 to $90 and terrace tickets zoom from $23 to $52. At the very least, that kind of pricing should eliminate ticket scalpers. It was also drive away fans who don’t have deep pockets . . . If you think you’ve heard it all as far as weird injuries that can get players scratched from a lineup, you really haven’t. Just ask Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington. Washington had to change his lineup card this week for what the team listed as “sensitivity in left arm” of shortstop Elvis Andrus. Elvis, it seems, was having an adverse reaction from an arm-length tattoo tribute to his dad that took nine hours over two days to get done. He later vowed that it would be his last tattoo . . . Great to see Chris Stroud having a solid tournament in the Honda Classic, after the way he struggled on the West Coast portion of the PGA Tour. Though he slipped to a two-over-par 72 Saturday, Stroud only dropped from  T24 to T26 because scores went up across the board under tough playing conditions. A good final round  will allow him to pick up his first sizable check of the year and to gain a much-needed boost in confidence.   

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at