Houston’s Ed Oliver will try to double-down on the 2018 Outland Trophy

By Gene Duffey

Special to the FWAA  

The University of Houston’s Ed Oliver grew up wanting to be first. So far, so good. He wasn’t the first born in his family, having to settle for being the third of four boys, but he couldn’t help that.

He wanted to be the first one remembered among the string of outstanding defensive linemen to come out of Westfield High School in Houston. Check. He wanted to be the first five-star recruit to play at the University of Houston. Check. He wanted to become the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy. Check.

“I was the first to do a lot of things,” he said. “I was the first recruit this high to come to Houston. I take pride in being the first sophomore to win the Outland. That’s an amazing accomplishment. I could have done it as a freshman. See, I’m kind of hard on myself.”

Ed Oliver’s value system is different from most. Good is never good enough. The best can still be better.

That is why he wants to be the best interior lineman in college football once again this fall. If he claims the 2018 Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Oliver will be only the second player to receive the award twice. Nebraska center Dave Rimington achieved the first double Outland Trophy haul in 1981 and 1982.

“I do things differently,” he said. “I have a different mindset. Sometimes I get down on myself. I just want to work out and get better. The more people tell me I’m good, the more I come down on myself. Nobody could be harder on myself than me.

Ed Oliver of the University of Houston is interviewed by ESPN’s Chris Fowler after receiving the 2017 Outland Trophy at the College Football Awards Show. Photo by Andy Crawford.

“Even though I might sugar coat it in front of people, it’s always in the back of my head what I did wrong. I could have done better on this play. When I watch film, I (look for) what I could have done better, not how good I am.”

Oliver began receiving extra attention from opposing offensive lines when he started on the varsity as a sophomore in high school. Double teams became a way of life.

He continued to prove himself worthy of the extra attention right away as a freshman in college. Oliver started the opening game of the 2016 season against No. 3 Oklahoma, made seven tackles, including two sacks, and helped the Cougars spring a 33-23 upset.

“The biggest thing that surprised me was how fast it happened,” said A.J. Blum, Houston’s defensive line coach who also coached Oliver in high school. “I knew he was capable.”

There was no need to redshirt Oliver. He began dominating from day one. The double teams returned early in the season. They didn’t bother Oliver, or stop him.

“If you keep your pad level low, you can beat them,” he said. “What makes it even sweeter is when you make a tackle out of a double team. It’s so much better. If you put one guy on me, that’s not fair. I’m ready to make a play look too easy.”

Blum, the defensive line coach at Houston, previously worked as Westfield’s defensive coordinator. “(Being double teamed) was inevitable for Ed,” Blum said of Oliver’s days in high school. “It’s just part of playing inside.”

Westfield played a 4-3 defense and the offense focused on Oliver no matter where he lined up. By his senior year he was ranked the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 2 player in the state of Texas.

The double teams followed him to college. “The bodies just get bigger,” he said.

He declared after his sophomore season at Houston, after winning the Outland Trophy, that he would be leaving college following his junior year to play in the NFL. The Cougars were grateful that the NFL doesn’t allow any “one and dones.”

“They’ll probably one-on-one block me in the NFL, because they’re professionals, mano-on-mano,” Oliver said with a smile. The prospect excited him.

Oliver’s exploits in high school received national attention. But he didn’t get carried away with all the attention in recruiting. He took only two official visits, to Houston and Oklahoma.

Naturally, Texas A&M and Texas wanted him. Baylor, too. So did Alabama and Notre Dame. And LSU and Mississippi.

“If I had gone (to visit) some place like LSU or Ole Miss, I would have been more tempted to go there,” said Oliver. “Once I made my decision, I wanted to be true to myself, so I decided to stay home.”

“Ed’s a different guy,” said Blum. “He didn’t want to do the whole (recruiting) process. He always had a cellphone, but it was broken.”

Oklahoma was the first college to offer Oliver a scholarship. Jerry Montgomery, the Sooners’ defensive line coach who went on to join the Green Bay Packers staff, saw Oliver in the spring of Oliver’s freshman year, before he had played a game of varsity football.

“It was something you couldn’t hide,” Blum said of Oliver’s talent. “He’s like a skilled player in a defensive lineman’s body.”

Oliver knew little of the Oklahoma tradition. Or Houston’s. He didn’t pay attention to college football. He liked to play football, not watch it on television.

Blum first spotted Oliver as a seventh grader, running around the gym, hanging on the basketball rim. Oliver played a little basketball and baseball outside of school, but football was always his game.

His father, Ed Sr., who went on to be a construction worker, had played running back at Northwestern State, a I-AA (now FCS) school in Natchitoches, La. His older brother Marcus also played football and Ed just followed along.

“I started because of my brother and I grew to love it,” he said. “Everybody wants to be like your brother. Marcus and me are almost like twins. I ended up playing with his friends, who were two years older than me. That may be why I’m so good now, playing against guys older than me. I was a big kid.”

Houston held a relative edge in recruiting Ed Oliver. Marcus was already at UH. Marcus played in every game on the offensive line as a true freshman and started seven games at offensive tackle as a sophomore. “You can be a big guy here,” Marcus told Ed.

Marcus was not the same caliber player as his younger brother coming out of Westfield. When Houston offered him a scholarship, it was a big deal. Two years later it made Ed’s decision easy.

“Probably the biggest factor was Marcus being here,” Oliver said of choosing Houston. “I trusted my brother. I figured I’d get my two years in here (while Marcus was still on the team), and if I don’t like it, leave. But I like it here.”

Ed and Marcus roomed together for one year in college. But Ed didn’t like the idea of going one-on-one against his older brother in practice. They had faced each other only once in practice in high school.

Marcus moved to guard for his junior year at Houston, which could have lined him up against Ed in practice.

“Marcus is pretty good,” said Ed. “I only beat him a couple of times. He beat me a handful of times. That’s a lot to say right there. He’s got really fast feet. I went to finesse him. He’s (our) most athletic guard.”

Tom Herman, the offensive coordinator of Ohio State’s 2014 national champions, parlayed that into becoming coach at Houston for the 2015 season. He led the Cougars to a 13-1 record in his first season, even without Ed Oliver, climaxed by beating Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl.

Herman continued his success in the offseason by signing Oliver. Houston had built its football reputation by recruiting players that Texas, A&M and other Big 12 schools didn’t want. Texas tried to recruit quarterback Andre Ware, who won the 1989 Heisman Trophy at Houston, as a defensive back. Getting Ed Oliver was a big deal.

“When I got here coach Herman told me, ‘We’re going to put you and your brother together,’ ” Ed Oliver said of the practice schedule. “I said I would not do that. That’s my brother. I don’t want to go against my brother for your pleasure or the coaches’ pleasure. I felt like that was messed up. We did end up going against each other some. And I won. I don’t feel as strongly about it now, but it really upset me then.”

After a 9-4 record in Oliver’s freshman year, Herman bolted for Texas. Oliver felt a little betrayed. But the offer was too good for Herman to turn down.

“It did bother me, but my Dad talked to me,” said Oliver. “If a guy is making $30 on a job and someone offers him another job for $60, you would be a fool to stay. I understood what he said 100 percent. You can’t fault anyone for trying to better themselves. If I could stay at UH four years and leave after three, people will be mad at me, but they shouldn’t be.”

Houston didn’t hire A.J. Blum in an attempt to sign Ed Oliver. Blum joined Major Applewhite, Herman’s successor, a year after Ed Oliver arrived. The two had built chemistry during their days at Westfield.

“He’s shown me the ropes,” Oliver credited Blum. “Shown me what to do. I wouldn’t say he’s like a brother, or like a father, but like an uncle.”

Playing for Blum as a sophomore, Oliver only got better.

He made 69 tackles in 2017, including 14 ½ sacks, earning defensive player of the year honors in the American Athletic Conference, chosen by the league coaches. Winning the Outland was next in line.

Oklahoma junior offensive tackle Orlando Brown and Notre Dame senior guard Quenton Nelson were other finalists for the award.

“That was surprising, to be honest,” admitted Blum, not expecting a sophomore to win the Outland. “Those were his goals, to be nationally recognized. We have always talked (about him winning the Outland.) That’s the big dog for defensive linemen.”

At 6-2 and 290 pounds, he is not exceptionally large by today’s defensive line standards. What separates him?

“It’s his quickness and ability to react,” said Blum. “He’s like a wrecking ball out there that turns into a pinball. He can bounce off people and keep his feet.”

Oliver knew he might be special when people mistook him for a senior his freshman year of high school. Wearing a beard his sophomore year in college and with a baritone voice, he could easily pass for 25.

His easy going personality belies the intensity he displays on the field. “He’s a goofball,” said Blum, who gives no special treatment to his best player in practice.

Oliver requested to wear No. 94 at Westfield. But the coaches had something else in mind. They knew Oliver was special. They unretired No. 11 and presented it to Oliver.

A former linebacker named Herman Mitchell had worn No. 11 at Westfield. His junior year Mitchell helped Westfield to a 13-1 record and the regional semifinals. He committed to Oklahoma before his senior season. Then, Aug. 23, 2007, the day of a scrimmage, Mitchell was shot and killed at an apartment complex by a one-time friend.

Ed Oliver learned the legend of Herman Mitchell.

“I guess they felt I could fill the shoes,” said Oliver. “It was an honor. It’s ironic that I took a visit to Oklahoma. When they gave me 11, it gave me a purpose bigger than myself. Every day I competed like I wanted to be the best in the nation.”

Wearing No. 11 proved ideal for Oliver because he occasionally lined up as a fullback in Westfield’s goal line offense. He enjoyed that. No need to change jerseys for offense.

The Ed Oliver bobble-head created by UH to promote his candidacy for 2018 awards.

Wearing No. 10 at Houston made sense. But he didn’t carry the ball until the final game of his sophomore year. Oliver scored the first touchdown in Houston’s bowl game, a one-yard plunge in a 33-27 loss to Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.

Ed Oliver is kind of a Cougar cowboy. He loves to ride, go-karts, motorcycles, horses. He has three horses on his Dad’s farm in Marksville, La.

Before the 2018 season, Houston created a bobble-head as a promotion for Oliver. This one is rather unique: Ed is riding a horse named Oreo, who in real life was maybe the most stubborn horse that Ed had ever ridden since he was 8 years old. Oliver credits riding Oreo for one of the reasons he is the player he is today.

Oliver has promised not to go through the motions his junior year at Houston, even with the NFL awaiting. He played through five games in 2017 with a nagging knee injury, but still impressed enough to claim the Outland Trophy.

“There’s a lot to be accomplished, so you’ve got to watch me,” he said, speaking more like a guy trying to sell tickets than inflate his ego.

“I want to do everything I did, and be healthy the whole year. I want to show people what they missed last year if I hadn’t gotten hurt. They saw a glimpse of Ed Oliver, a sneak peek. I could go forward pretty fast, but couldn’t move side-to-side. That’s what took away from my game.

“I’m not on cruise control, but I am going to enjoy my time. Once I leave, I can’t come back. I can’t put on that red and white and step on that field. The first couple of months I’ll probably miss it and coach Blum’s voice.”

The Cougars will miss him more.

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2018 Best Enterprise: Christopher Walsh, Part 7 of 10

By Christopher Walsh

SEC Country

Seventh of 10 Parts

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — One of the best testimonies to a coach’s prowess is when there’s enough talent among his former players to fill an all-star team without having a significant drop at any position.

Doing so with Nick Saban, though, is different. He’s had so many consensus All-Americans and first-round draft picks that such a compilation would relegate several players to reserve or honorable mention status.

We’ve selected three all-time teams built by Saban.

The Alabama All-Active NFL Team

After Saban’s 10 years at Alabama there could be an NFL team comprised solely of former Crimson Tide players. At the start of training camps, NFL rosters included 53 players who suited up for Saban at Alabama. That’s the number of active players on an NFL roster.

With a little creative thinking, behold the 2017 Lake Burton Beasts, including the starting lineup.

QUARTERBACK | AJ McCarron (Bengals).

It hasn’t worked out that he’s a starter in the NFL yet, but it appears to be a matter of time. With no other Crimson Tide quarterbacks in the league, the problem is behind him. So Blake Sims, who is trying to latch on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a running back, will be the reserve.

RUNNING BACKS | Derrick Henry (Titans), Mark Ingram Jr. (Saints) and Eddie Lacy (Seahawks).

While most NFL teams go three-deep at the position, the Beasts will have a three-headed monster that will punish defenses. They’d get the bulk of the carries, with Kenyan Drake (Dolphins) the third-down back and T.J. Yeldon (Jaguars) doing a little bit of everything.

WIDE RECEIVERS | Julio Jones (Falcons) and Amari Cooper (Raiders).

It would be tempting to have those two take every snap, plus Kevin Norwood (Giants) would be an excellent possession option and rookie ArDarius Stewart (Jets) a nice fourth contributor. The reserves would be Gehrig Dieter (Chiefs) and Richard Mullaney (Browns). DeAndrew White (Texans) is a recent training camp addition, as well.

TIGHT END | O.J. Howard (Buccaneers).

This is spot that will require a little cheating. Jalston Fowler (Titans) will help out as a half fullback and half second tight end, plus a reserve offensive lineman will be utilized in goal-line situations.

OFFENSIVE LINE | Cam Robinson (Jaguars), Chance Warmack (Eagles), Ryan Kelly (Colts), James Carpenter (Jets), D.J. Fluker (Giants).

If there was training camp, Robinson and Fluker would have to hold off Cyrus Kournadjio (Lions ) and Andre Smith (Bengals) for the starting tackle jobs, with Smith a strong sixth-man possibility. Anthony Steen (Dolphins) is the backup center, with Austin Shepherd (Vikings), Arie Kouandjio (Redskins) and Korren Kirven (Chiefs) the other reserves.

DEFENSIVE LINE |  Jonathan Allen (Redskins), Marcell Dareus (Bills), Jarran Reed (Seahawks)/ A’Shawn Robinson (Lions)

Most Alabama defensive linemen end up playing in the interior in the NFL, but this group could play in a 4-3 or 3-4 by going with the hot hand between Reed and Robinson. Regardless, the unit will have a heavy rotation including Quinton Dial (49ers), Wallace Gilberry (Bengals), Damion Square (Chargers), Ed Stinson (Cardinals), Dalvin Tomlinson (Giants) and Courtney Upshaw (Falcons). Good luck running against that group.

LINEBACKERS | C.J. Mosley (Ravens), Dont’a Hightower (Patriots)/Reuben Foster (49ers), Mark Barron (Rams)/Ryan Anderson (Redskins).

This group is so talented and versatile it could excel in any defensive system, with Foster lining up either in the interior or outside as necessary. Reggie Ragland (Bills) is the primary reserve in the interior. Barron and Anderson could rotate, with Barron used more in passing situations and Anderson at the “Jack” hybrid end/linebacker spot that Saban helped make popular. Tim Williams (Ravens) contributes as a pass-rushing specialist.

DEFENSIVE BACKS | Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Packers), Landon Collins (Giants), Dre Kirkpatrick (Bengals), Kareem Jackson (Texans).

Rookies Marlon Humphrey (Ravens) and Eddie Jackson (Bears) are the two inserted for nickel and dime packages when extra defensive backs are needed, so they’d essentially be starters as well. Cyrus Jones (Patriots), Vinnie Sunseri (49ers) and Bradley Sylve (Bills) provide depth and play a lot of special teams.

SPECIAL TEAMS | Carson Tinker (Jaguars), Cyrus Jones (Patriots) and Eddie Jackson (Bears).

Tinker is set at long snapper, Jones and Jackson return punts, with Drake in the mix on kick returns. At kicker/punter there are three options:

  1. Take a page from the All-Madden Team from years ago and never punt.
  2. Find a way for JK Scott to be used as an intern.
  3. Use Steen, who kicked in high school. “I haven’t kicked in years,” he said in 2013.

The All-Decade Team (2007-16)

While it seems logical an all-Alabama NFL team would be similar to an All-Decade Team for Saban, the latter is more difficult to pick due to some key players no longer playing and the overall depth of talent he’s had with the Crimson Tide.

In this case, selections were primarily determined by accolades, and by what a player accomplished at the collegiate level.

Also, the positions are more rigid than the NFL team, per Saban’s preferred schemes. Thus, there are nickel and dime selections in the secondary, but no other defining within a position. For example, offensive tackles are not split into left tackle and right tackle, and the linebackers are not designated by Mike (middle), Sam (strong), Will (weak) and Jack (hybrid end).

QUARTERBACK | AJ McCarron.

The three-year starter was the only quarterback during the BCS era to win back-to-back national titles. He led the nation in passer efficiency in 2012, won Alabama’s first Maxwell Award for most outstanding player and finished second in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting. Second team: Greg McElroy. Honorable mention: Jalen Hurts.

RUNNNING BACKS | Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram.

You really can’t do better than two Heisman Trophy winners. Second team: Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy. Honorable mention: Glen Coffee and T.J. Yeldon. Fullback: Jalston Fowler.

WIDE RECEIVERS | Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley.

Jones was better than his numbers indicate, with 179 receptions for 2,653 yards, 15 touchdowns and 3,084 all-purpose yards. Cooper won Alabama’s first Biletnikoff Award. Second team: DJ Hall, Kevin Norwood and ArDarius Stewart. Honorable mention: Marquis Maze, Matt Caddell, DeAndrew White and Darius Hanks.

TIGHT END | O.J. Howard.

The 2017 first-round draft pick will be remembered for his 208 receiving yards in the 2015 national championship game against Clemson. Second team: Mike Williams and Brad Smelley. Honorable mention: Colin Peek and Nick Walker.

TACKLES |  Andre Smith and Cam Robinson.

Both won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman. Second team: Cyrus Kouandjio and D.J. Fluker. Honorable mention: James Carpenter and Austin Shephard.

GUARDS | Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones.

Warmack was a unanimous All-American as a senior and selected 10th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Jones won the 2011 Outland Trophy, the 2012 Campbell Trophy (academic Heisman) and Rimington Trophy (best center). Second team: Mike Johnson and Anthony Steen. Honorable mention: Arie Kouandjio.

CENTER | Ryan Kelly.

He won the 2015 Rimington Trophy and was subsequently selected in the first round of the NFL draft despite his position. Second team: Antoine Caldwell. Honorable mention: William Vlachos.

DEFENSIVE LINE | Jonathan Allen, Marcell Dareus and Terrence Cody.

Allen was Alabama’s first player to win the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards as the nation’s best defensive player. Dareus was the third pick in the 2011 draft and Cody was a two-time consensus All-American. Second team: Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson and Dalvin Tomlinson. Honorable mention: Wallace Gilberry, Josh Chapman and Da’Ron Payne.

LINEBACKERS | Rolando McClain, C.J. Mosley, Reuben Foster and Dont’a Hightower.

That’s three Butkus Award winners and a player who has won two national titles and two Super Bowls. Second team: Courtney Upshaw, Ryan Anderson, Reggie Ragland and Tim Williams. Honorable mention: Nico Johnson and Trey DePriest.

CORNERBACKS | Dee Milliner and Dre Kirkpatrick.

Both All-Americans were first-round draft picks. Second team: Kareem Jackson and Marlon Humphrey. Honorable mention: DeQuan Menzie and Ramzee Robinson.

SAFETIES | Mark Barron and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

Barron was a three-year starter, twice named a team captain and finished his career with 237 tackles, 5 sacks and 12 interceptions. Both he and Clinton-Dix were first-round draft picks. Second team: Rashad Johnson and Eddie Jackson. Honorable mention: Vinnie Sunseri and Robert Lester.

STAR/MONEY (NICKEL/DIME) | Minkah Fitzpatrick and Landon Collins.

Both were consensus All-Americans and too good not to have significant roles. Second team: Cyrus Jones and Javier Arenas. Honorable mention: Simeon Castille and Marquis Johnson.

RETURN SPECIALIST | Javier Arenas.

Arenas finished 10 yards short of setting the NCAA record for career punt-return yards, and his 3,918 total return yards also ranked second all-time. Second team: Christion Jones. Honorable mention: Marquis Maze.

KICKER | Leigh Tiffin.

He’s Alabama’s all-time leading scorer. Second team: Jeremy Shelley. Honorable mention: Adam Griffith.

PUNTER | JK Scott.

He was named an All-American in 2014. Second team: Cody Mandell. Honorable mention: P.J. Fitzgerald.

The All-Saban Team

Saban coached at other places before arriving at Alabama in 2007, so an All-Saban Team would feature numerous Alabama players, but also include some from Toledo (1990), Michigan State (1995-99) and LSU (2000-04).

The criteria for consideration had to be tweaked due to how players might have developed after the coach departed. For our purposes, one had to be all-conference, All-American, drafted by an NFL team or won a major award when Saban was his coach. The time element was factored in with any achievement a year or more later.

QUARTERBACK | AJ McCarron (Alabama).

He was Saban’s first quarterback to be named an All-American (but was not a consensus selection). Second team: Greg McElroy. Notable players from other schools include Tony Banks (Michigan State), Josh Booty (LSU), Rohan Davey (LSU), Matt Mauck (LSU) and Russell (LSU).

RUNNING BACKS | Derrick Henry and Mark Ingram (Alabama).

There’s nothing better than two Heisman winners. Second team: Trent Richardson and T.J. Duckett (Michigan State). Notable others include Joseph Addai (LSU), Scott Greene (Michigan State), Sedrick Irvin (Michigan State), LaBrandon Toefield (LSU), Justin Vincent (LSU) and Domanick Williams (LSU).

WIDE RECEIVERS | Josh Reed (LSU), Julio Jones (Alabama) and Plaxico Burress (Michigan State).

Reed caught 94 passes for 1,740 yards in his junior season to win the Biletnikoff. Burress only played two seasons with the Spartans, but had 131 receptions, 2,155 yards and 20 touchdowns before being the eighth-overall selection in the 2000 draft. Second team: Michael Clayton (LSU) and Amari Cooper. Notable others include Dwayne Bowe (LSU), Bennie Brazell (LSU), Nigea Carter (Michigan State), Craig Davis (LSU), Skyler Green (LSU), Herb Haygood (Michigan State), Dervey Henderson (LSU), Rick Isiah (Toledo), Derrick Mason (Michigan State), Muhsin Muhammad (Michigan State) and Gari Scott (Michigan State).

TIGHT ENDS | O.J. Howard (Alabama) and Chris Baker (Michigan State).

Baker made 47 consecutive starts and had a string of 24 consecutive games with at least 1 reception. He set the school record for tight ends with 133 catches, 1,705 yards and 13 touchdowns, and was selected in the third round of the 2002 draft. Second team: Michael Williams and Robert Royal (LSU). Notable others include Jerry Evans (Toledo), Josh Keur (Michigan State) and Vince Marrow (Toledo).

TACKLES | Andre Smith (Alabama) and Flozell Adams (Michigan State).

Nicknamed “The Hotel,” Adams was a three-year starter for the Spartans, two at right tackle and one at left, and named both an All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. Second team: Cam Robinson and Cyrus Kouandjio. Notable others include Craig Kuligowski (Toledo), Greg Randall (Michigan State), Andrew Whitworth (LSU) and Brandon Winey (LSU).

GUARDS | Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones (Alabama).

Warmack might have been the best blocker Saban has had and Jones won the most awards. Second team: Mike Johnson and Stephen Peterman (LSU). Notable others include Herman Johnson (LSU), Tupe Peko (Michigan State) and Scott Shaw (Michigan State).

CENTER | Ryan Kelly (Alabama).

He was the third Rimington winner that Saban has coached. Second team: Ben Wilkerson (LSU). Notable others include Rudy Niswanger (LSU), Jason Strayorn (Michigan State) and Louis Williams (LSU).

DEFENSIVE LINE | Jonathan Allen (Alabama), Chad Lavalais (LSU) and Glenn Dorsey (LSU).

Lavalais was the SEC defensive player of the year in 2008 and Dorsey won the Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi and Lott (defensive impact) awards during his senior season. Second team: Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus and Marcus Spears (LSU). Notable others include Howard Green (LSU), Jarvis Green (LSU), Marquise Hill (LSU), Melvin Oliver (LSU), Chase Pittman (LSU), Josh Shaw (Michigan State), Robaire Smith (Michigan State), Dimitrius Underwood (Michigan State), Dan Williams (Toledo), Kyle Williams (LSU) and Claude Wroten (LSU).

LINEBACKERS | Rolando McClain, C.J. Mosley, Reuben Foster (Alabama) and Julian Peterson (Michigan State).

During his two years with the Spartans, Peterson recorded 140 tackles and 25 sacks in only 23 games before being a first-round draft pick. Second team: Dant’a Hightower, Bradie James (LSU), Ike Reese (Michigan State) and Courtney Upshaw. Notable others include Matt Eberflus (Toledo), Trev Faulk (LSU), Ali Highsmith (LSU), Josh Thornhill (Michigan State), T.J. Turner (Michigan State) and Lionel Turner (LSU).

CORNERBACKS | Corey Webster (LSU) and Dee Milliner (Alabama).

Originally a wide receiver, Webster became LSU’s first two-time All-American since 1987 (Wendell Davis). Second team: Dre Kirkpatrick and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Notable others include Darren Anderson (Toledo), Amp Campbell (Michigan State), Travis Daniels (LSU), Chevis Johnson (LSU) and Renaldo Hill (Michigan State).

SAFETIES | LaRon Landry (LSU) and Mark Barron (Alabama).

The No. 6-overall draft pick in 2007, Landry was a four-year starter who broke up 40 passes and made 12 interceptions. Second team: Landon Collins and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Notable others include: Norman LeJeune (LSU), Aric Morris (Michigan State) and Craig Steltz (LSU).

RETURN SPECIALIST | Javier Arenas (Alabama).

Second team: Derrick Mason (Michigan State). Notable others include Domanick Davis (LSU), Skyler Green (LSU), Herb Haygood (Michigan State).

KICKER | Paul Edinger (Michigan State).

He was an All-American and a sixth-round draft pick. Second team: Leigh Tiffin.

PUNTER | JK Scott (Alabama).

He was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award in 2014. Second team: Craig Jarrett (Michigan State). 

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8  Part 9  Part 10

 

Ohio State’s Cousineau will receive 2018 Bronko Nagurski Legends Award

 Charlotte, N.C. — The Charlotte Touchdown Club in conjunction with the Football Writers Association of America proudly announces Ohio State University great Tom Cousineau as the recipient of the 2018 Bronko Nagurski Legends Award, which recognizes outstanding defensive football players from the past 40 years.  The award will be presented formally during the annual Bronko Nagurski Trophy Awards Banquet presented by ACN on December 3, 2018.

College Football Hall of Fame member Tom Cousineau.

“It’s so humbling all these years later to be remembered this way  I would never had imagined football would still be pouring incredible blessings into my life like they have the last couple years and I’m just so humbled,” commented Cousineau.

Cousineau joins a growing list of prestigious Bronko Nagurski Legends Award recipients including: Alan Page, Bubba Smith, Ted Hendricks, Roger Wehrli, Mike McCoy, Jack Youngblood, Larry Jacobson, Randy Rhino, Randy White, Randy Gradishar, Chet Moeller, and Ross Browner.  Tom Cousineau was one of the most dominant linebackers in Big Ten history. He played under legendary OSU coach, Woody Hayes, from 1975 to 1978.  During that span, Ohio State had an overall record of 36-10-2 and 28-4 in the Big Ten. They also went on to win three Big Ten championships, and compete in the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Gator Bowl.  Cousinaeu was recognized as the 1977 Orange Bowl MVP after defeating the University of Colorado Buffaloes.

Cousineau’s 569 career tackles is second all-time in Ohio State history.  He still holds six school records, setting marks for single-season tackles and solo tackles during his senior campaign when he was named team MVP.  The 1978 team captain led Ohio State to three Big Ten championships, three top 12 finishes and four bowl berths, earning MVP honors after a win in the 1977 Orange Bowl.  A three-time All-Big Ten honoree, Cousineau owns six of the top 10 single-game tackling performances in school history, and he helped the Buckeyes lead the conference in total defense in 1977.  Following his senior season, he was invited to play in the Hula Bowl, where he earned Defensive MVP honors.

Cousineau became Ohio State University’s first number one overall pick in the NFL Draft when he was selected in 1979 by the Buffalo Bills.  He chose to play for Montreal of the Canadian Football League from 1979-82, earning the league’s Grey Cup MVP honor in 1979.  He would later return to the NFL, playing for the Cleveland Browns from 1982-85 and the San Francisco 49ers from 1986-87.

A 1995 Ohio State Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Cousineau was the recipient of the Silver Anniversary Butkus Award in 2003.  Cousineau was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

About ACN, Inc.
Founded in 1993, ACN is the world’s largest direct seller of telecommunications and essential services for residential and business customers.  ACN provides the services people need and use every day including Home Phone Service, High Speed Internet, Wireless, Television, Home Security & Automation, Computer Support and Natural Gas and Electricity. ACN operates in 25 countries with offices located throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific.  For more information, visit myacn.com

About The Independence Fund
The Independence Fund is a nonprofit organization that empowers our nation’s severely wounded veterans and the caregivers who support them to take control of their lives.  Through its dedicated mobility and treatment programs, the Fund assists veterans in transforming their lives toward a better future.  The Independence Fund believes we owe it to our veterans to provide the resources they need to move forward and build a strong foundation toward lasting emotional and physical healing in order to reestablish their independence.  To learn more, visit www.independencefund.org.

The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, North Carolina region.  Since its inception, the club has grown as well as diversified boasting a sponsor team of more than (80) companies.  The Club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding Citizenship, Scholarship, Sportsmanship, and Leadership of area athletes and coaches.  Through individual and corporate support, more than $2,000,000 has been raised to benefit the Touchdown Club’s scholarship efforts.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of the men and women across North America who cover college football for a living.  The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game day operations, major awards and an All-America team.  Through its website, the FWAA works to improve communication among all those who work within the game. The FWAA also sponsors scholarships for aspiring writers and an annual writing contest.  Behind the leadership of President David Jones and Executive Director Steve Richardson and a board of veteran journalists, the FWAA continues grow and work to help college football prosper at all levels. There are now over 1,000 members.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which was founded in 1997 as a coalition of the major collegiate football awards to protect, preserve and enhance the integrity, influence and prestige of the game’s predominant awards.  The NCFAA encourages professionalism and the highest standards for the administration of its member awards and the selection of their candidates and recipients  For more information, visit the association’s official website, www.NCFAA.org.

The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is presented annually by the Charlotte Touchdown Club and the Football Writers Association of America to the nation’s most outstanding NCAA defensive football player at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet in Charlotte, N.C.  All proceeds benefit the Charlotte Touchdown Club Scholarship Fund.  For more information call 704-347-2918 or www.touchdownclubcom.

Fan Plan Championship Index for Oct. 31

DALLAS It was another wild weekend in college football with so many highly-ranked teams facing stiff competition. Week 9 delivered one of the most anticipated matchups of the season and it did not disappoint, as the Ohio State Buckeyes won a thriller in Columbus to take the driver’s seat in the Big Ten and move up to the No. 1 spot in the Fan Plan Championship Index.

The Buckeyes now have a 79.09% chance to make it to the national championship game, according to the FPCI. Ohio State moved up from its No. 5 spot a week ago after its come-from-behind win over previously No. 2 Penn State. The Nittany Lions dropped to No. 7 in this week’s ratings with a 2.68% chance to make the championship game.

Georgia, despite its dominant win over rival Florida in Jacksonville, FL, moved down one spot to make room for the Buckeyes. The No. 2 Bulldogs sport a 42.22% chance to play in the national championship game, followed by fellow SEC member Alabama, which comes in at No. 3 with a 34.78% chance to play in the national championship game.

The remainder of this week’s FPCI Top 10 includes No. 4 Clemson (13.52), No. 5 Oklahoma (13.33%) No. 6 Wisconsin (10.94%). No. 7 Penn State (2.68%), No. 8 Notre Dame (0.97%), No. 9 Miami (0.88%), and No. 10 Virginia Tech (0.73%).

WK 10 RANK TEAM OVERALL RECORD % TO MAKE CHAMPIONSHIP % TO WIN CONFERENCE FAN PLAN PRICE
1 Ohio State 7-1 79.09% 23.23% $454.77
2 Georgia 8-0 42.22% 21.16% $242.77
3 Alabama 8-0 34.78% 21.02% $217.38
4 Clemson 7-1 13.52% 19.30% $126.75
5 Oklahoma 7-1 13.33% 20.82% $149.96
6 Wisconsin 8-0 10.94% 22.21% $123.08
7 Penn State 7-1 2.68% 20.98% $50.25
8 Notre Dame 7-1 0.97% N/A $166.22
9 Miami (FL) 7-0 0.88% 20.23% $20.00
10 Virginia Tech 7-1 0.73% 16.29% $20.00
11 Auburn 6-2 0.63% 13.11% $20.00
12 UCF 7-0 0.24% 25.39% $20.00

Compiled weekly during the season, the FPCI is a proprietary analytical look at the current state of the chase for college football’s national championship. As opposed to traditional polls and rankings which purport to rank the best teams at a particular point in the season, the FPCI aims to rate college football teams by their real-time percent chance to make the national championship game — a dynamic metric that no other poll or ranking system measures.

The FPCI also includes the cost of a Fan Plan for each team. A Fan Plan is a one-of-a-kind indemnity product fans can purchase for their favorite team. If that team goes to the national championship game, Fan Plan pays for the fan’s game tickets and travel costs, up to the total coverage value of the Fan Plan. Each Fan Plan has a $1,000 coverage value and fans can buy additional coverage in $1,000 increments, up to $10,000 in total coverage. Fan Plan costs are dynamic and change based on each team’s real-time odds of making the championship game. The FPCI and Fan Plan pricing are based on season simulations that take into account a team’s wins and losses, opponents results, suspensions, weather, SOS, and other data points and projections.

FAN PLAN CHAMPIONSHIP INDEX NEWS & NOTES

ONE DOMINO FALLS: The first big domino in the chase for the playoffs fell last weekend when Ohio State took control of the Big Ten with a 39-35 win over Penn State. Despite Penn State’s No. 2 ranking entering the game, the FPCI proved correct as it predicted a close Ohio State win by the score of 31-26. Ohio State is now clearly in the driver’s seat in the conference, especially in the Big Ten’s East Division. The Buckeyes avoided a potentially-hairy night game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, as the schedule makers chose for a 3:30 pm kickoff instead of a primetime affair. Ohio State then closes out the regular season with home games against Michigan State, a loser to Northwester a week ago, and Illinois before the season finale at Michigan. According to the FPCI, the Buckeyes should breeze through those final four games, as their lowest projected win percentage is 85% against both Iowa and Michigan. The FPCI gives OSU a greater than 90% chance to win the other home games.

Should Ohio State run the table the rest of the way, there is no way Penn State can catch them. Ohio State’s lone loss came in a non-conference game against Oklahoma. Ohio State’s remaining schedule makes it difficult to see where the Buckeyes might slip up, so Penn State’s best chances to get into the playoffs likely come with a Wisconsin win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game. That would force the committee to decide whether to take an undefeated Wisconsin squad that won the conference championship or a one-loss Penn State team that dominated the regular season save for the final two minutes in Columbus. Last year the committee opted not to take the winner of the championship game, which happened to be Penn State. Would they do the same this season under a similar scenario and take the Nittany Lions?

That’s a discussion for another day, because the odds-on favorite now to win the Big Ten is Ohio State. The FPCI projects a 32-19 win for the Buckeyes over Wisconsin in a potential match-up in the conference championship game, leaving a one-loss Ohio State team as a conference champion to add to the mix for the selection committee.

OTHER DOMINOS TO FALL THIS WEEKEND: When looking at the schedule, there are a number of enticing matchups that will have playoff implications, with two conferences in particular – the ACC and the Big 12 — that will begin to sort things out in ultimately determining who will make the case to represent those conferences in the playoff field.

In the ACC, two contenders will see their national championship dreams fade away as the top two teams in the Atlantic Division go against each other and the top two teams in the Coastal Division also face off. These games will essentially serve as divisional championship games, with the winners very likely battling in the ACC Championship Game in December.

The first matchup of the day occurs in Raleigh where the No. 4 Clemson Tigers travel to face the North Carolina State Wolfpack in a matchup for control of the Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack were a FPCI Top 10 team last week before falling at Notre Dame. However, they still have conference championship aspirations, but will have to take down the Tigers in order for those hopes to continue on. The FPCI gives the Tigers a 73% chance to win. Then later Saturday night the Coastal Division is up for grabs when No. 10 Virginia Tech heads to Coral Gables to face No. 9 Miami. Miami remains undefeated on the season, one of just five such teams, but Virginia Tech has been solid throughout, losing only to Clemson. The FPCI believes in the Hokies, despite being on the road, and gives them a 63% chance to win the game, with a projected final score of 25-19.

In the Big 12, the league’s attention turns to Stillwater as Oklahoma travels to Oklahoma State. The No. 5 Sooners got a huge boost with the Ohio State win over Penn State, moving up from No. 9 a week ago. Oklahoma currently has a 13.33% chance to make the national championship game according to the FPCI. If both Oklahoma and Ohio State can run the table and finish the season as one-loss conference champions, it will be difficult not to take the Sooners over the Buckeyes after Oklahoma’s dominant 31-16 win in Columbus earlier in the season. But don’t count the Cowboys out. Oklahoma’s defense has been porous at times, and even though the Cowboys have also had their offensive struggles at certain points in games this year, they just hung 50 at West Virginia. And don’t look now, but the FPCI is actually calling for the Oklahoma State win, giving the Cowboys a 56% chance to win the game and projecting a final score of 42-39. Following TCU’s loss last weekend to fall from the ranks of the undefeated, an Oklahoma loss this weekend would further water down the conference’s quest for a playoff birth.

UNBEATEN NO MORE: The pool of undefeated teams was nearly cut in half last weekend, severely damaging the playoff hopes of a couple of those now one-loss teams and officially eliminating another that never really stood a chance. Let’s get to that one first, as USF suffered a late loss against Houston. That officially put an end to their quest for an undefeated season and officially eliminated them as a playoff contender, though the Bulls were never really on the radar. There is now only one undefeated non-Power 5 team still standing, and that is UCF.

Aside from USF, the other losses, however, really hurt. Penn State was a lock for the playoffs if it could run the table, and for the first 58 minutes of its game at Ohio State, those playoff aspirations seemed to be right on track. But a failure to stop JT Barrett in the fourth quarter, and the Nittany Lions’ own inability to move the football late in the game, dashed any thoughts of an undefeated season. Now they will likely have to count on getting a bid without being a conference champion or even a divisional champion. The way this season is playing out, that is appearing less and less of an option.

And finally in Ames, Kenny Hill made some crucial turnovers and never could get the TCU offense going as the Horned Frogs became the final Big 12 team to lose a game this season. That’s huge, because it markedly lowers the Big 12’s chance of a playoff spot. Oklahoma now seems like the conference’s only chance, as it sports a huge win at Ohio State. Had TCU run the table and won the conference as an undefeated team, there’s no doubt it would have been in the playoffs. However, with so many one-loss teams across the country and the fact that the Big 12 is currently ranked No. 6 among conferences by the FPCI, it’s difficult to imagine a Big 12 team not named Oklahoma getting into the field this season, and the Sooners still have games against Oklahoma State and TCU, then a conference championship game that will likely be a rematch against one of those two foes or Iowa State. That’s a tough task for a conference that knows how it feels to be left out in December.

CAN THE UNBEATENS REMAIN THAT WAY?: This week we enter the schedule of games with five undefeated teams left. As we did above, we can get rid of one of them from the conversation, as the UCF Golden Knights, no matter what they do, will not have enough clout, or an impressive enough resume, to warrant playoff consideration with so many quality one-loss teams that should be in the mix. So that brings us to four teams – Georgia and Alabama from the SEC, Miami, and Wisconsin. Undoubtedly Wisconsin has the easiest trek through the regular season. The Badgers are significant favorites against all remaining regular season foes – Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota. Even if Wisconsin were to lose one of those games, the Badgers would still play in the Big Ten Championship Game. Their true test will come there, where a win to become an undefeated conference champion will certainly get them into the playoff field.

As previously stated, Miami is on alert for their first loss of the season this weekend. The FPCI has Virginia Tech traveling to south Florida and coming away with a win. If that happens, Miami can forget about any potential playoff chances. The Hurricanes also still have a regular-season game against Notre Dame, a game in which the FPCI also projects the Hurricanes to lose. And, if somehow they got past Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, the FPCI still projects the Hurricanes to lose potential ACC Championship Game matchups against either Clemson (by two touchdowns) or North Carolina State (by one point).

The other two undefeated teams reside in the SEC. Both Alabama and Georgia, ranked Nos. 2 and 3 respectively in this week’s FPCI rantings, appear to be on a collision course for the SEC Championship Game. The key is whether both will arrive in Atlanta undefeated. Alabama has a bit tougher road, starting with LSU at home this weekend, then followed by games at Mississippi State, vs Mercer, and at Auburn to end the regular season. The Crimson Tide is favored in every game, with the closest FPCI projection a 26-17 win over Auburn. Georgia also plays at Auburn, where the Bulldogs are projected to win 22-18 in a close contest. Their other remaining regular opponents are against South Carolina and Kentucky and at Georgia Tech to close the regular season, so if they can get past the border rival against Auburn, Georgia’s path to perfection seems pretty clear.

TWO FOR THE SHOW: Should both Alabama and Georgia both advance to the SEC Championship Game undefeated and each have a good showing there (i.e. neither gets blown out), it will be difficult to leave either out of the playoff field. If Alabama wins the SEC Championship Game, Georgia will have had a quality out-of-conference win on the road at Notre Dame, plus wins over Auburn, Mississippi State, and the rest of its SEC foes, and will likely be one of only three Power 5 teams to go undefeated in the regular season (assuming Miami loses along the way and Wisconsin wins out). This year, with the remaining field to choose from, that probably gets it done, unless the Selection Committee simply insists that all participants be conference champions no matter what.

Similar to Georgia, Alabama would likely be in the playoff field if it can run the table in the regular season. Barring a huge loss in the SEC Championship Game, many of the arguments for the Bulldogs can also be made for the Crimson Tide. Alabama beat Florida State when the Seminoles had all of their starters in place, and that game was never really in doubt even when Deondre Francois was healthy and running the FSU offense. The Crimson Tide will also have been at or near the top of every poll and power ranking formula there is throughout the entirety of the regular season.

Under this scenario, the undefeated SEC champion definitely gets in as the No. 1 overall seed. The question then becomes does the losing team that finished with an undefeated regular season record also get into the playoff field? If that loser is Alabama, it’s probably pretty automatic, given the Crimson Tide’s dominance throughout the season and its recent history. If it’s Georgia, you would have to put the Bulldogs in over an 11-1 Notre Dame team, given they gave Notre Dame that one loss. Georgia would go in ahead of the Pac-12 champion, which may well have two losses. Now you’re left with the Big Ten and Big 12 champs. We will assume Ohio State will be the Big Ten champion with just one loss. If the Big 12 champion is a one-loss Oklahoma team, the Bulldogs may well be left out, as arguments could be made that Oklahoma must go in ahead of Ohio State because of the head-to-head win and the overall power of the Big Ten deserves to get its conference champion into the playoff field. However, if the champion of the Big 12 is any team other than a one-loss Oklahoma squad, it will very likely happen that the SEC becomes the first conference to get two teams into the playoff field should both Alabama and Georgia win out and arrive at the SEC Championship Game undefeated.

 

O.K. “Buddy” Davis honored with FWAA Lifetime Achievement Award

Editor’s Note: Buddy already has his football, but he will be honored long-distance during the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast om Jan. 9 in Tampa.

By Teddy Allen

RUSTON, La. — On the fake turf in Louisiana Tech’s otherwise empty Aillet Stadium, his wheelchair toed the goalline on this mid-morning Monday. O.K. “Buddy” Davis,  recipient of the 2016 FWAA Lifetime Achievement Award, was about to illustrate yet again his determination and spirit.

He cocked his head toward a friend and said, “Time me.”

And then he eyed his goal, inhaled, paused, hit the forward button and leaned into it. Forty yards and a cloud of rubber pellets later, he’d clocked an 18.79 — not much slower than he’d have run it before the summer of 2014 and the stroke and the fancy wheelchair.

O.K. "Buddy" Davis received a commemorative football in recognition of the 2016 FWAA Lifetime Achievement Award. (Photo by .onny J Crowe),Copyright:Louisiana Tech University.All Rights Reserved.(dcrowe@latech.edu) 318-257-4854 Buddy Davis,

O.K. “Buddy” Davis received a commemorative football in recognition of the 2016 FWAA Lifetime Achievement Award. (Photo by Donny Crowe, head of photographic services, Louisiana Tech University)

So he’s slowed down. But not much.

The sports editor of the Ruston Daily Leader since pre-Watergate — 50 years and an estimated 43,000 bylines — Buddy has been a one-man show in an athletic community that’s long drawn a spotlight. A quarter of the members of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame — Buddy was honored with its Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism in 2009 — have Lincoln Parish ties.

In 2010, this year’s FWAA honoree was even named Mr. Louisiana Basketball, even though he’s taller than 5-foot-7 only if he stands on his typewriter.

“He plays like he’s 7-3,” said Northwestern State basketball coach Mike McConathy, one of the many All-Americans Buddy has covered in his role as a one-man sports staff, photographer and athletic almanac.

Although there are occasional get-togethers in the house he grew up in and owns, Buddy’s main residence since the stroke is a Ruston assisted living center, Room 58. His friends refer to it as “The Jack Lambert Suite,” a nod to one of the greats on the Pittsburgh teams quarterbacked by Louisiana Tech’s Blond Bomber, Terry Bradshaw.

Although he’s now limited to the use of his right arm and hand, Buddy still cranks out his weekly “O.K.’s Corral” Sunday column and 1,,500-word blog, still tweets and “Facebooks” and goes to as many Tech, Grambling State University, high school games and events as he can.

If anything, the physical setback only has elevated his status as rock star. Before the stroke, the bachelor and hometown lifer had admirers like Fort Knox has gold bars. But now …

“If we could have Buddy daily at the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame Museum, he would be our best and most popular interactive exhibit,” said Doug Ireland, chairman of the Hall and its Foundation’s executive director. “Autograph hounds around Ruston would be smart to sit in the hallway outside the Lambert Suite to catch the sports celebs who drop by to visit our hero, because he’s not only a great journalist, he’s an even better human.”

In the months immediately after the stroke, friends took turns going by daily to check his phone and give him his messages. One day, the first three messages were from Bradshaw, Archie Manning and former Grambling All-American/Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, who sounded like a child explaining why the DVDs he’d promised to deliver hadn’t been dropped off yet. (They were in Buddy’s room the next day.)

“He’s a north Louisiana guy, but he loves all of Louisiana,” Manning said. “He’s a dear friend, such a good man, a sweet man. Louisiana is blessed – we’re all blessed — to have him.”

“In a business full of egos and abrasiveness and cynicism and sarcasm, Buddy fits none of those categories,” said his former Tech colleague and longtime sportswriter and editor Nico Van Thyn. “He’s pretty much the same as he was at Ruston High and Tech in the 1960s — dedicated and hard-working and likeable, almost naïve-like in his approach to life. If he had tough stories to report, he did it, but without making enemies, without tearing down someone or some institution.”

For years, Buddy has kept this note on his bedside table, a reminder of what he felt his daily duty has been: “Positive Uplifting Inspirational Messages.”

“In many ways he represents a throwback to a time when more of us wanted to see the best in others,” said sportscaster Tim Brando, who lives an hour from Ruston in Shreveport and joins Bradshaw, Bert Jones, Kim Mulkey, Willie Roaf, Karl Malone, Willis Reed and dozens of others who’ve visited The Lambert Suite. “Hopefully, we’ll see a rebirth to Buddy’s way of covering the game, not just here but around the country. His approach was to say, ‘It’s OK to love not just the game, but the people who play it, coach it, and pay to see it.’ ”

The late legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson was quoted in Sports Illustrated saying Buddy “was like a son to me.” Bert Jones still has the clippings Buddy wrote about the six consecutive no-hitters Bert threw one long-ago summer for the Atlas Construction team in Dixie Baseball, before Buddy had nicknamed him “The Ruston Rifle.”

And when the Smithsonian’s “Hometown Heroes” exhibit was in town this fall, one night was set aside to honor a local athletic legend. But which one? Several attended, including Bert and his father (Cleveland Browns receiver great Dub Jones), former Braves-Mets pitcher George Stone, basketball stars Aaron James and Willis Reed among them. Unsurprisingly, they were there to take part in “The Buddy Davis Story.”

Speaking for the crowd, Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Leon Barmore told Buddy that night, “We can all learn from you.”

“Buddy has always been known for his humble nature and passion for good journalism,” said Ruston Daily Leader publisher Rick Hohlt. “But more importantly, Buddy has loved the opportunities throughout his 52 years at the Ruston Daily Leader to help athletes succeed and thrive in their careers. His work ethic and love of the game is beyond reproach.”

”As long as I can remember, back during my days as a young sports scribe coming out of Tech’s journalism department, I’ve been sending in my FWAA dues, reading the Fifth Down, voting on All-American teams, looking forward to receiving my directory and keeping up with my fellow members,” Buddy said. ”Hard to believe that the years since I mailed in my first membership dues have sprinted by faster than Lamar Jackson making it to the end zone again.

”But may I extend a heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the FWAA and all who were responsible for making this honor possible.”

Buddy is the one who made it most possible. He has been the perfect person in the perfect place at the perfect time.

“Buddy has the ability to deal with both the biggest stars in the game and junior varsity with equal enthusiasm,” said fellow Louisiana Distinguished Service in Sports Journalism honoree Ted Lewis. “That is why he has the most appropriate name in the world – Buddy.”