TCU football player lost ’17 season with injury from Sixth Street punch


Cole Novak said he was punched outside of the Concrete Cowboy while defusing a fight involving his brother.

Defendant Humberto Barrera pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault Tuesday at the start of his trial.

Texas Christian University football player Cole Novak said he never saw the man who, with a sucker punch, broke his jaw outside of a West Sixth Street bar last summer and wiped out what should have been his senior season with the Horned Frogs.

Novak, a Georgetown High graduate who plays tight end at TCU, testified Tuesday in Travis County state District Court he was trying to defuse an argument between his brother and another man when he was hit from the side so hard he thought the attack might have been with a baseball bat.

Several witnesses said the man who struck Novak in the early morning hours of June 17, 2017, was 25-year-old defendant Humberto Barrera, who pleaded not guilty to second-degree felony aggravated assault at the beginning of his trial. Barrera, who has no felony convictions on his record, faces two to 20 years in prison if the jury convicts him. He is eligible for probation.

Family members and associates who were with Novak that day took the witness stand and gave their testimony about the events that led to the punch.

Novak’s brother, 24-year-old Cade Novak, said he had exited the upstairs bathroom at the Concrete Cowboy when he saw a man speaking with his girlfriend and punched him. Security escorted the men outside of the bar where the confrontation cooled down and turned verbal.

The man requested an explanation for why Cade Novak had hit him. He told the man he should not have been speaking with his girlfriend, prompting the man to laugh.

“Nothing was getting heated,” Cade Novak said.

Cole Novak said he walked up and asked the man why he was laughing at his brother. Multiple witnesses said Barrera, who was with the man at a bachelor party, came running from behind, wound up and blindsided Cole with a punch to the left side of his face. Blood poured down Cole’s blue shirt and his hat fell off his head. He said he was dazed, but did not immediately appreciate the extent of his injuries.

Barrera flexed and talked aggressively, indicating he wanted the fight to continue, several witnesses said.

“I think he just kind of wanted to fight,” the Novaks’ cousin, Judy McVean, said.

“It’s burned into my head — the punch and the sound of my brother’s jaw,” Cade Novak said.

Cole Novak said he was not looking for a fight when he approached the man. “I had no intention of hurting anybody or going after anybody,” he said.

Prosecutor Jeremy Sylestine told the jury the punch was not a lawful reaction to the confrontation.

“You have to be reasonable in your assessment of threat,” he said.

Barrera’s lawyer, Allison Heathman, declined to make an opening statement Tuesday, leaving open the possibility she is saving her comments for Wednesday when the defense presents its case.

Barrera of Del Rio is 5-foot-9 and weighs 168 pounds, according to court documents. Police say they identified him through social media photos taken on the night of the incident.

Surgery was required to place screws and plates in Cole Novak’s jaw area, and he could not open his mouth to speak clearly for three weeks. He said he still experiences pain in his mouth and that two teeth on the bottom row of his mouth are dead. Novak, who is 6-foot-6, was on a liquid and soft food diet and lost 25 pounds — dropping well below the 260 pounds his coaches at TCU said he needed to weigh to get playing time.

“I don’t think I’ll ever eat another piece of salmon again,” he cracked.

Novak’s father, Jeff Novak, a former NFL player with the Jacksonville Jaguars and member of Texas State University’s athletic hall of honor, told the American-Statesman the family will pursue a lawsuit against Barrera after the completion of the criminal case.

His son, a reserve player for TCU, was recently granted an additional season of eligibility and is participating in the team’s preseason practices.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

FORECAST: Overcast, slight chance of rain, high of 86
FORECAST: Overcast, slight chance of rain, high of 86

Monday forecast for Austin: Mostly cloudy skies will greet Central Texas as temperatures are forecast to reach the upper 80s, which is normal for this time of year, the National Weather Service said. Austin temperatures are expected to peak at 86 degrees with a 20 percent chance of rain, forecasters said. Temperatures should drop to a mild 72 degrees...
UPDATE: Parmer Lane in Northeast Austin reopened after crash cleared
UPDATE: Parmer Lane in Northeast Austin reopened after crash cleared

6:50 p.m. update: Parmer Lane has been cleared after rescue crews extricated a person trapped in a two-car collision, medics said. Parmer Lane had been shut down near the Harris Ridge Boulevard intersection for approximately 30 minutes while crews worked to free the crash victim. No one was taken to the hospital. Earlier: One person is entrapped in...
After Saturday’s ‘rain bomb,’ more showers might be in sight this week
After Saturday’s ‘rain bomb,’ more showers might be in sight this week

The rainwater that engorged the San Gabriel River above 24 feet Saturday left as quickly as it came. By the afternoon, the floodwaters that displaced several families from an RV park and trapped dozens of people at a wedding venue near Liberty Hill had receded. “It really and truly is a wave of water that goes through” the river, said Jarred...
LEANDER: Police searching for driver involved in fatal hit-and-run
LEANDER: Police searching for driver involved in fatal hit-and-run

Leander police are looking for the driver of a pickup truck that they say was involved in a fatal hit-and-run late Saturday. Police said they received a call about a crash involving a motorcycle and pickup truck at the intersection of Palmera Ridge Boulevard and Ronald W. Reagan Boulevard in Leander just before midnight Saturday. According to a witness...
3D-printed gun maker Cody Wilson back in the U.S. after Taiwan arrest
3D-printed gun maker Cody Wilson back in the U.S. after Taiwan arrest

Cody Wilson, the Austin man who created designs for an untraceable 3D-printed gun and has fought the federal government in court for years to publish the instructions online, was brought back to the U.S. and was expected to return to Austin on Sunday evening after being arrested in Taiwan on sexual assault charges. Wilson, 30, was booked into the Harris...
More Stories