Dallas Super Bowlers vs. Houston Super Bowlers: Kickoff and Punt Return Edition


Here is a list of all-time Super Bowlers who attended a high schools in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas, broken down by position. Make sure to check out my upcoming piece in the Dallas Observer to see how each metro area’s all-time Super Bowlers stack up against each other.

DFW High School Super Bowlin’ Kickoff Returners

Super Bowl W/L SB Year Team Player Kick (Yds) Kick (Rt) Kick (Y/Rt) Kick (TD) City of High School Name of High School
XVIII (18) Loser 1984 Washington Redskins Alvin Garrett 100 5 20 0 Mineral Wells Mineral Wells
XXVIII (28) Winner 1994 Dallas Cowboys Kevin Williams 50 1 50 0 Dallas Franklin D. Roosevelt
XI (11) Winner 1977 Oakland Raiders Carl Garrett 47 2 23.5 0 Denton Fred Moore
XVII (17) Winner 1983 Washington Redskins Mike Nelms 44 2 22 0 Fort Worth O.D. Wyatt
XXX (30) Winner 1996 Dallas Cowboys Kevin Williams 24 2 12 0 Dallas Franklin D. Roosevelt
II (2) Winner 1968 Green Bay Packers Tommy Crutcher 7 1 7 0 McKinney McKinney
II (2) Winner 1968 Green Bay Packers Doug Hart 0 0 0 0 Fort Worth Handley
XXXVII (37) Winner 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Karl Williams 0 0 0 0 Garland Garland

In the Super Bowl punt return category, three Dallas Super Bowlers are in the books. Mike Nelms stands atop this knoll with 52 yards on six returns. Next up is former Buccaneer Karl Williams, of Garland High School, who returned a single punt for 25 yards in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl XXXVII win.

The Cowboys’ Kevin Williams also returned one, for a meager five yards.

Houston Metro Super Bowlin’ Kickoff Returners

Super Bowl W/L SB Year Team Player Kick (Yds) Kick (Rt) Kick (Y/Rt) Kick (TD) City of High School Name of High School
I (1) Loser 1967 Kansas City Chiefs Bert Coan 87 4 21.75 0 Pasadena Pasadena
XLIX (49) Winner 2015 New England Patriots Danny Amendola 44 2 22 0 The Woodlands The Woodlands
XVIII (18) Winner 1984 Los Angeles Raiders Greg Pruitt 17 1 17 0 Houston Elmore

In the punt return department, two Houstonians have done it on the Big Stage. In Super Bowl XVIII, former Raider Greg Pruitt returned one eight yards in Los Angeles’ win over Washington. On the other side of the ball, speedster Darrell Green returned one for 34 yards in the Redskins’ loss. He returned another one four years later for a goose egg in Washington’s XXII win.

Now we go to the folks who so politely provide all those returns:

All-time Super Bowler Kickers & Punters, a la DFW

Super Bowl W/L Team Player XPM XPA FGM FGA City of HS Name of HS
XXXV (35) Winner Baltimore Ravens Matt Stover 4 4 2 3 Dallas Lake Highlands
XLIV (44) Loser Indianapolis Colts Matt Stover 2 2 1 2 Dallas Lake Highlands
XXII (22) Winner Washington Redskins Ali Haji-Sheikh 6 6 0 1 Arlington Arlington
XLIV (44) Winner New Orleans Saints Garrett Hartley 2 2 3 3 Southlake Southlake Carroll
XIX (19) Loser Miami Dolphins Uwe von Schamann 1 1 3 3 Fort Worth Eastern Hills
XVII (17) Loser Miami Dolphins Uwe von Schamann 2 2 1 1 Fort Worth Eastern Hills
XX (20) Loser New England Patriots Tony Franklin 1 1 1 1 Fort Worth Arlington Heights
XV (15) Loser Philadelphia Eagles Tony Franklin 1 1 1 2 Fort Worth Arlington Heights

Dallas’ sole punter representative is Curley Johnson, a Woodrow Wilson alum who kicked it at the University of Houston before heading to the NFL where he played for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. He knocked out four of ’em at nearly 40 yards per pedi-pop.

Oh, and “Greater” Houston? Pssshh. This metro has only produced one Super Bowl field goal kicker. That would be Curt Knight, of Mineral Wells, who missed his only FG attempt for Washington in a losing Super Bowl VII effort.

All-Time SB Houston Metro Punters

Super Bowl W/L Team Player Yds/Punt Punts Yds City of HS Name of HS
XXIII (23) Loser Cincinnati Bengals Lee Johnson 44.2 5 221 The Woodlands McCullough
XXXVII (37) Loser Oakland Raiders Shane Lechler 39 5 195 Sealy East Bernard
XLIV (44) Winner New Orleans Saints Thomas Morstead 44 2 88 Pearland Pearland

For more DFW vs. Houston rankings, check out my BestOArkansasSports.com* post where I rank both areas’ all-time Super Bowler rushers and receivers.

If you really dig this kind of thing, make sure to sign up for my Texas sports stats email newsletter below. You’ll get all my future Texas-related posts. Sign up now and in your first blast I’ll send you something very similar to the above, except it will include all-time Super Bowl Texans regardless of native city.


 *OK, so I ventured a little out of state topically. So soooie me.

Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

I recently wrote a piece for OnlyInArk.com supporting the theory that my hometown of Little Rock is the “tight end capital of the world” (in football, not fitness). My theory is supported by four* great college and/or NFL players: Keith Jackson, D.J. Williams, Hunter Henry and Charles Clay. I realize Williams is technically a Fort Worth, Texas native, but for the purposes of this piece he should be considered a Little Rocker — especially since he still lives there.

Little Rock has a population of about 200,000. That means one out of every 50,000 of its native sons is a world-class tight end!

Not just wanting to rely on blind hometown pride, I decided to drop a little research my theory’s way. Thanks to sports-reference.com, I gathered the hometowns of the best NFL tight ends in history — first-team All-Americans since the late 1970s and winners of the John Mckey Award for the nation’s best collegiate tight end (those winners are asterisked below).

The spreadsheet helps Little Rock’s case** by showing how the town produces so much more on a per capita basis than anywhere else. A few places vie for second place. Torrance, Calif. for instance, produced the greatest TE of all, Tony Gonzalez, and a great collegian in Daniel Graham.

St. Louis doesn’t go quietly into the positional night, either, not with Hall-of-Famer Kellen Winslow and three-time Pro Bowler Paul Coffman to its name. But according to the list, at least, these towns don’t have more than two great tight ends. Sure, it’s possible someone moved into the town as a child or young teen (like D.J. Williams did with Little Rock), but I will need to see those cases first before I admit the slightest of doubts that my theory could be wrong.

Continue reading Nothing Posterior About Little Rock’s National Standing In Tight End Production

Emmitt Smith, Marshawn Lynch & the Demise of the Superstar Running Back


In 1996 the stars aligned for Emmitt Smith. Then 27 years old and among the NFL’s best running backs, Smith had just led the Dallas Cowboys to their second straight Super Bowl title and in return inked a record-setting eight-year deal. The package, worth a total of $63 million, converts to nearly $12 million a year in today’s dollars.

  Like Smith then, Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is among the top two or three at his position heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl. Like Smith, the 28-year-old is on the brink of leading his franchise to a second straight championship and has accumulated a career total of 2033 rushing attempts – 26 more than Smith had after winning the 1996 Super Bowl.

  But don’t expect Lynch, who earned $6.5 million this season, to benefit from a similar windfall whether Seattle wins or loses the Super Bowl to slightly favored New England, according to betting odds in William Hill. Despite Lynch’s once in a generation talent, and despite his marketability skyrocketing through the surly, rogue attitude he’s adopted with the media, he’s on the wrong side of history.

At every level of football, teams rely on a lead running back far less to provide yards than even 15 years ago.  While the NFL’s very best teams still boast potent ground games, they have increasingly divvied their carries between dual-threat quarterbacks and a host of younger, cheaper running backs. In terms of yard production, Super Bowl teams’ top running backs have played progressively smaller roles within their teams’ seasons since the late 1990s. The trend has played out in the big game itself, where a running back hasn’t won Super Bowl MVP since 1998.

Inline image 3

  NB – Total offensive yards from each of the past 70 Super Bowl teams’ entire seasons, not just their Super Bowl games. “Top” running back defined by the tailback or fullback with the most rushing yards during the season.  

Seattle’s Super Bowl opponent has become an industry leader in the “running back by committee” approach. The New England Patriots in recent years have eschewed investing in a single running back in favor of giving big money to the likes of quarterback Tom Brady and defensive back Darrelle Revis. The Patriots have fielded three Super Bowl teams since 2004 and none of those teams has featured a running back with more than 840 yards on the year. This season, the Patriots have deployed a rotation of four running backs with none going over 412 rushing yards. The highest-paid Patriot running back, Shane Vereen, checks in around No. 30 on a team salary ranking.

Marshawn Lynch, of course, is an outlier in many ways. So far he’s bucked almost all trends involving declining productivity with marquee backs in their late 20s. Still, even through his success, we see seeds of another reason for the position’s demise.

Lynch has thrived, along with Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, in a zone-read system  that pressures opposing defenses to make split-second decisions on which gifted runner to target. The system has also been used with success at lower levels, and has been a factor in no running backs being taken in the last two NFL Draft first rounds. Some college coaches have been exploiting the surplus of college-ready passers and pass-catchers at the high school ranks to find athletes whom they can convert into tailbacks, then installing zone-read options or zone running games that often require “less-varied skillset from running backs and only average speed,” SI.com’s Robert Klemko wrote. “The NFL consequence? When teams look at running backs, they don’t know what they’re getting.”

“The devaluing of running backs has something to do with some of the offenses that are being run in college,” Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told Klemko. “There’s a big group that are part of the zone-read world, where maybe they’re not getting the ball in the backfield and handing it off to a guy and saying, ‘Watch what this dude can do.’ ”

“Beast Mode” proves these words still apply to today’s NFL every time the surly running back blasts down the sideline, ricocheting off defenders like the Millennium Falcon in an asteroid belt. But it happens far less frequently than it did in a time not so long ago.
                                        Not Yoda, ya’ll. (Via SportsOnEarth.com)

The Civil War Andrew Luck Portrait to End All Civil War Andrew Luck Portraits

Ok – I lied…

If only Arizonan Ryan Fitzpatrick hadn’t attended a Yankee school like Harvard, this concept would really fly.

NFL Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal to be Auctioned Alongside 50 Units of Botox

Life's not quite a breeze for Lorenzo, but it's close.
Life’s not quite a breeze for Lorenzo, but it’s close.

Few professional athletes have had as much success jumping from one franchise to the next as four-time Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal. For 11 consecutive years, playing for the likes of Tennessee, San Diego, New York, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, he blocked for a 1,000-yard running back. He might have been the greatest journeyman in NFL history.

While Neal’s career accomplishments put him in rarefied air, the diversity and number of his activities since retiring after the 2008 season place him in a class all his own. On Saturday night, thanks to the Clovis North High School Bronco Foundation’s fundraiser, he takes the next step in a five-year journey that grows more fantastic by the day.

Neal, as well as the San Diego Chargers [12-1 favorites to win the 2015 Super Bowl], are item No. 7 on a list of live auction items that have been lassoed up by the foundation and donors for Clovis North’s annual Stampede:

“7 Priceless Football Weekend for 4 with Lorenzo Neal and the San Diego Chargers: watch Saturday’s pre-game practice, tour the locker room. and take pictures with your favorite Chargers. Receive executive parking pass for Sunday, attend the Chargers’ executive tailgate with Lorenzo Neal, and then go into the game –November 23 vs. the Rams.”

The list of potential prizes for supporters of this central Californian school doesn’t end with the chance to chill with Neal, the opportunity the feel the fire of fantasy football stud and MVP candidate Phillip Rivers from but feet away, get half a side of Organic beef butchered to one’s specifications or a beer Kegerator. Thanks to generous sponsors such as California Industrial Rubber Company, Inc. and Fresno dermatologist Kathleen Behr, silent auction items like botox are on the table too. Dr. Behr has provided 50 units of the cosmetic toxin for the evening’s festivities.

So, how exactly did Neal find himself here? Was it divine providence, or mere caprice, that led him from paving paths for Adrian Murrell, Warrick Dunn, Eddie George and Corey Dillon to being sold at the Panoche Creek River Ranch off North Highway 41?

The power to unravel this koan is beyond me.

I do know this: “Low Daddy” has become an entrepreneurial Krakatoa whose powers may just be unfathomable. He has spewed more revenue-generating and philanthropic lava, in more directions, than most minds can grasp.

Poppycock, you say?

The 43-year-old’s unofficial c.v. since retiring says otherwise. In it, we get some standard retired-player coaches’ clinic type stuff here, and a lot of NFL broadcast and radio color commentary there, but it gets pretty non-predictable in a hurry.

In the last five years, Lorenzo has also been:

– Hanging with comedian Adam Corolla, talking door hinges, flipping properties and why serving time sometimes isn’t all that bad.

– Taking care of his 1971 and ’72 Cutlass Supremes

– Headlining an apparently short-lived reality TV show project called “2nd Shot at Glory,” packaged as “American Idol” meets “The Biggest Loser” meets America’s most beloved pastime… football.” The show was to involve Neal and at least three other former NFL players supervising the efforts of pro football prospects.

2nd shot at Glory

“Participants can be from every position in the NFL. Can you imagine a kicker winning? – the outrage, the pandemonium!,” we read on the show’s Web site. “Finally, you can have your 2nd Shot at Glory by competing against other men from all across America for money, glory and most importantly, the opportunity for a spot on an NFL roster.”

“The winner receives $500,000 cash prize and a guaranteed contract with a professional agent to negotiate their first contract.”

– Overseeing another apparently short-lived project called Fan Foods Inc., a grocery store with a not-sizzling Facebook presence.

– Getting the word out on breast cancer

– Providing for his children, including a daughter who has suffered seizures and speech delay

Helping Native and aboriginal youth stay active

– Running a non-profit called Worldwide Athletes, LLC. Purpose = All about getting kids access to higher education.

Helping students at Fresno High School set and achieve goals through his “Changing a Generation Foundation.”

– Charging up to $2,000 per hour – with occasional half-off discounts – to speak to kids in a motivational manner.

Hawking a workout device called The Body Stretcher

– Wearing  a CrossFit T-shirt at a CrossFit gym grand opening

– Endorsing the StreetStrider, said to be the world’s first indoor/outdoor elliptical cross trainer


– Being a professor at Football University

– Helping run an anti drunk-driving service called Safe Ride Solutions. “Basically, it’s like having a AAA card for partying,” Neal told Yahoo Sports. “You call an 800 number, and an off-duty police officer comes to you and drives you home in your own car, no questions asked. It’s totally confidential. When we pitched it to the NFL, they gave us their approval and told us it was OK to shop it to teams.”

– Crashing his truck into a pole after getting drunk on the Fourth of July. Nobody was hurt. “[He] just ran off the road, struck a pole,” officer Axel Reyes told KFSN-TV. “Nothing real major about it.”

Continue reading NFL Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal to be Auctioned Alongside 50 Units of Botox

NFL Fullback Extraordinaire Lorenzo Neal Fought a Sumo Champion

It’s not any old NFL legend who has traveled to Japan and intentionally walked into the path of a human Mack truck, but Lorenzo Neal – in case you didn’t know – isn’t just any NFL legend.

During his career at Fresno State in the early 1990s, he was an All-Big West running back as well as an All-American wrestler. At one point he ranked No. 3 in the nation.

Naturally then, the sport of sumo wrestling intrigued Neal as collegian during a trip to Japan for a now-defunct football bowl. He wondered how his skills stacked up against those who outweighed him by 100-200 pounds. And then Neal went beyond wondering, as he recounted to Fox Sports journalist LaDainian Tomlinson:

I was wrapped in a fabric thong and spun around. (It was pretty interesting!) I was given a nice tug (on the loin cloth) before stepping into the ring and thought to myself, “OK, I don’t know if I want to be out here (for very) long.”

I went through three wrestlers and then faced the big boy, Akebono. (Akebono was the sumo champion at the time.) It wasn’t fun and it didn’t go well. Akebono hit me a couple of times in the throat, so I quickly jumped out of the ring and stated that I would stick to playing football.

Not a bad decision. After focusing on football and establishing himself as a premier fullback in his 17-year NFL career, Neal no longer competitively wrestles. But although he doesn’t hit the mat like he did back in the day, he still sometimes finds himself in unique positions.

To wit, the below email sent from California’s central valley, where so many Arkies and Okies migrated looking for a land of plenty amid the ravages of the Great Depression. Even today, parts of that land are still as fertile as any in the world. From it flows forth a cornucopia of fine foods, wines, services, cabo timeshares, Botox units and muscular former Chargers.

Item No. 7 below is proof:

September 29, 2014

Bronco Buster News:
Stampede Promises
Great Time, Ya’ll!

It’s a Stampede!

The Bronco Stampede is stompin’ through this Saturday night (starting at 5:30pm) and have we got a round up of great items in store for you!

From a gorgeous Dessert Sale to a Silent Auction with one-of-a-kind items, this is the best bronco bustin’ event the Stampede has ever seen: don’t miss dancing, dining and drinks under the stars at beautiful Panoche Creek River Ranch.

If you haven’t purchased your tickets, there’s still time. They are $40 until today at midnight, but prices go up to $45 through Saturday. Click here for all the info and to buy them now.

Lasso a Dream – 
Preview Live Auction Items Now!

The Bronco Foundation and our generous donors have lassoed up fun and unique items for the Live Auction! Starting at 7:30pm, bid high to benefit our Broncos and win these fabulous donated items:

1   One CIF Sports Pass: includes entry for two into any high school sporting event in California through June 2015 (excluding play-off games).

2    California Wine Locker with beautiful wine barrel Lazy Susan

3    Beer Bash in Your Backyard: A beer Kegerator and Keg of Tioga Sequoia craft beer

4    Steak Lover’s Dream: Half a Side of Organic Beef – butchered to your specifications

5    Stunning Square Shaped Diamond Earrings: 1.0 carat weight of diamonds

6    Exclusive CNEC 2015 Graduation Package: Reserved front row seating for 8 with 2 reserved parking spots

7    Priceless Football Weekend for 4 with Lorenzo Neal and the San Diego Chargers: watch Saturday’s pre-game practice, tour the locker room. and take pictures with your favorite Chargers.  Receive executive parking pass for Sunday, attend the Chargers’ executive tailgate with Lorenzo Neal, and then go into the game –November 23 vs. the Rams.

8    9′ by 12′ All-Steel Shed: features roll-up door and fiberglass skylights with free delivery (within reason) on October 6, 2014

9    Private Plane One-Day Adventure for up to 6 people

10    Shopping Spree Weekend: Two nights at the San Francisco Fairmont Heritage Place and a $500 Visa gift card

Please visit our Foundation webpage for more details about each item.

If you can’t make it to the event but still want to bid, we can provide you with a proxy bidder.  Contact us at broncofoundation@gmail.com to make arrangements. 

Thanks to all our Sponsors!


Automated Office Systems

Kathleen L. Behr, M.D.

Boman & Associates Insurance Agency

Borga Steel Buildings & Components

Caglia Environmental

California Industrial Rubber Company, Inc./The Brust Family

Catalyst Marketing Company

Central Valley Labels

Donaghy Sales

LinkUs Corporation

Panoche Creek Packing

Sam’s Italian Deli and Market

SunPower by Quality Home Services

Silent Auction

Don’t miss our many spectacular silent auction items!  Some highlights:
*  Eat Street Bistro foodtruck catered dinner for 40   
*  Hell’s Kitchen:  VIP seating for 4 to a Hell’s Kitchen dinner service taping and VIP lounge access
*  Lasik Surgery: 
performed at Eye-Q

*  Oahu, Hawaii Timeshare Week:  2 bedroom, 14th floor penthouse beach villa at Ko Olina Villas Resort

* Cabo Timeshare Week:  Luxury suite at Pueblo Bonito Rose Resort and Spa
*  24 Harris Ranch Tri-tip roasts

*  Weekend stay at a cabin in Shaver

*  UFC Fight Tickets
*  50 units of Botox: from Dr. Kathleen Behr
*  Weekend stay at a condo in San Simeon, CA
*  Fine wines:  an unbelievable collection at our wine auction

Tying Brandon Allen, Chris Weinke & Zack Greinke to the Big Funny

weinke 1weinke2

Click on 53:44 mark of below podcast now. Ask questions later.


On Saturday, Brandon Allen completed 18 of 31 attempts for 175 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. In helping  his unranked Hogs hang with No. 6 Auburn through the third quarter, the Arkansas quarterback played an even stronger game his numbers indicate. His receivers dropped a few easy ones, including a touchdown, and the interception came after his arm was hit as a  result of a breakdown in protection, not bad decision making.

Overall, despite the Razorbacks’ defensive breakdowns in the second half of a 45-21 road loss, Hog fans can be excited about the progress Allen has shown bouncing back from an injury-riddled stretch in the middle of last season. His confidence was at an all-time high, his footwork and accuracy demonstrably improved.

Some of the credit here can go to Chris Weinke, the 2000 Heisman Trophy award winner who tutored Allen over the course of a few days earlier this summer in Florida. “I had a lot of problems with my balance in the pocket,” Allen told Razorback Nation. “Making a lot of off balanced throws and things that were hurting my accuracy. So we did a lot of balance work. A lot of bag work. A lot of foot drills.”

Weinke should also receive some credit for his name’s part in the one of the funniest sports skits you will hear in the latter part of this summer. The aural glory starts below, at the 53:19 mark of Slate’s Hang Up and Listen podcast. The skit’s premise exhibits solid humor fundamentals by matching the normally humdrum world of sports award show introductions with an unexpectedly Seussian-cum-Clockwork-Orange type twist.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164747668″ params=”color=ff5500″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

The outcome: the most imaginative concatenations of the names “Mookie Wilson,” “Melky Cabrera,” ” “Zack Greinke, “Mark Lemke,” and “Pokey Reese” I’ve heard.

But the “key” to making the conceit really work was balance. It was too baseball-heavy, and needed a well-known name from America’s most popular sport injected into this particular Greinke/Mookie/Melky/Lemke/Pokey milieu to push it to the next level.

So, thank you, Chris Weinke. From lovers of Hog football and comedic consonance everywhere.

(You’re pretty cool, too, Dokie Williams)

A History of the N Word that isn’t Black and White


This pioneer's life deserves a closer look
This pioneer’s life deserves a closer look

Next week, we’ll learn whether the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s proposal to ban the N word in the NFL passed. The rule, which would cost teams 15 yards per violation, will be taken under further review by NFL owners at their annual meeting in Florida starting Monday.

The name “Fritz Pollard” has been leveraged by a non-profit organization to push for a change that Fritz Pollard himself might have not supported.But there’s some evidence Pollard, who in the 1920s became the first black NFL quarterback and coach (as well as the first black to play in the Rose Bowl), was O.K. with the word when it was used in non-hateful ways or in artistic endeavors. This runs counter to the beliefs of current leaders of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, who believe the word should be banned regardless where and how it’s used in the NFL work place. “We want this word to be policed from the parking lot to the equipment room to the locker room,” chairman John Wooten told CBS Sports.  “Secretaries, PR people, whoever, we want it eliminated completely and want it policed everywhere.”

Harry Carson, another Fritz Pollard Alliance leader, told SI.com that those who use the n-word as a sign of solidarity have “have no sense of history.” He added: “I find it very disheartening that in our society today we’re having a debate about the n-words being used as a term of endearment.”

Carson isn’t altogether accurate here. That’s why a closer look at the world in which Fritz Pollard lived is merited.

Nearly a century ago, a black Yale student used the N word in way that evokes how it’s used among many blacks today. The student, William Ashby, attended a Brown game at Yale to watch the much hyped Fritz Pollard play for the visiting Brown team. As the game got underway, Pollard – as usual – was pelted with racist taunts by the home side’s white fans. N words rained down on him. Opponents tried to maim him. But also, like usual, Pollard started dominating – and then a curious thing happened during one of his punt returns, according to Pollard’s biography. While Pollard ran, Yale students yelled “Catch that nigger. Kill that nigger” while Ashby – who was sitting with other African-Americans on the Brown side –  jumped up and yelled “Run, nigger, run. Go, Fritz, go.”

This appears to be evidence – which I will bear out – that the word was not always used in a derogatory way at the beginning of the 20th century. It appears blacks sometimes used the word in a positive way among themselves, as happens now. I don’t have direct evidence of Pollard using the N word himself but have found a few facts that make it less likely he was troubled by blacks who used it. In 1933, he played a significant role in a movie as controversial in large segments of black culture then as Wooten’s proposal is now. The movie was “Emperor Jones,” a story about an ambitious Pullman porter based on a Eugene O’Neill play. It starred former NFL player Paul Robeson, a college friend of Pollard’s whom he served as a personal assistant and trainer. Pollard played a bit part on screen as a pianist.

The movie was controversial among many whites because it starred a black man. But it was divisive among many writers in black newspaper circles because it made extensive use of the N word, quoting verbatim from the O’Neill play. Black columnists encouraged readers to boycott the movie. If Pollard despised the casual use of the N word in entertainment, as Wooten does, I don’t think Pollard would have been involved with the project.

The University of Arkansas Professor who Created a Sports Dystopia

roller ball

More than 40 years ago, around the time public outcry was peaking about brutality in football, a University of Arkansas English professor attended a basketball game at Barnhill Arena*. There, with the Razorbacks trailing, a fight broke out. It was, apparently, quite a vicious squabble, so much so it inspired the Hogs to roar back for a win.

It also inspired the professor, William Harrison, to wonder just how violent sports in the future may become. He was moved to pen “a little experimental story.”

That story, “Roller Ball Murder,” published in Esquire and inspired the screenplays for two movies. The story centers on a highly popular futuristic sport involving balls and big, strong men flying at each other at increasingly high velocities. Rules are changed to make the game more violent and drive up ratings. The result: higher rates of in-game injuries, and frequent death. Crowd noise for the first movie, released in 1975, was actually recorded during a live game at Barnhill Arena.

The NFL, of course, is currently changing its rules to make the game ostensibly more safe in light of the concussion debate. Yet while it focuses on concussions, the rate of musculoskeletal injuries keeps rising as players get bigger, stronger and faster.
William Harrison passed away last year, but his vision of a dark sports future should not be forgotten. He raised an important question in the 1970s that is just as perinent now: Where are American sports – in particular, football – headed? If its players keep getting bigger and faster, it cannot help but get more dangerous – no matter how much fancy equipment is stuffed into their lockers.
This is a topic I explore in my piece below for the Daily Beast:

Long before studies of former NFL players’ brain tissue shook America’s football-industrial complex to its stem, the sport had undergone other crises involving player safety. In the 1970s, no microscope was needed to see neck and spine injuries among players of all levels were escalating fast. One main culprit was the hard-shell helmet that had essentially become a spearing weapon. Too many coaches were teaching players a head-first form of tackling that left a path of mangled bodies in its wake, sending insurance premiums through the roof.Rollerball, a movie about a dystopian society fixated with an ultra-violent sport, became an international hit in 1975 and triggered more debate on brutality in sports within the general public. A former Penn State University president became so worried about the direction football was headed he made a plea in the form of a prediction to Joe Paterno, the former Nittany Lions head coach. “Joe, if football doesn’t do something about the injuries, soccer will be our national sport in 10 years.”

This didn’t happen, of course.

It is Manning, not Messi, Sherman, not Suarez, who dominate the headlines before Sunday’s massively anticipated Super Bowl. Denver’s greatest passing offense of all time is on a collision course with Seattle and its most fearsome pass defense in recent history. This here is tectonic heat, a contrast hitting at the heart of why we love sport in the first place. The NFL has most of me in its grasp for this one.

And yet, there is unease. Questions of whether the game’s brutality has gone too far persist. In terms of quantity and severity, there are signs we are on the cusp of the most violent Super Bowl yet.

The violence and danger of football extends far past professional stadiums.

Start with the increasing size, strength, and speed of players at almost all positions that has contributed to a rise in overall injuries over the last decade—from 2,623 in 2004 to 3,126 in 2012. Kam Chancellor, Seattle’s all-league safety, stands 6’3”, 232 pounds—specs that in the 1950s could have belonged to a defensive tackle. Nobody mixes mass, acceleration, and aggression quite like Chancellor, who appears to have the perfect mindset for somebody paid to do stuff like this:


“When I go out there, all of these hard hits and laying dudes out, that’s just my passion for the game,” he told the Seattle Times. “That’s just showing how much I love this game.”

*I haven’t been able to find an original interview source in which Harrison cites Barnhill as the site of the basketball game, but I have found secondary sources like this. Plus, it just makes sense. Very few English and creative writing professors bother to follow a team on the road.