Many of the prospects that went through drills and interviews at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis won’t play one down in the pros.
But for the ones who are fortunate enough to get there, there are several good role models out there who are great examples of how to conduct your business on the field and off.
One of them, Derrick Johnson, was a star at Texas, winning the 2004 Butkus and Nagurski awards and a Rose Bowl before playing 13 seasons with Kansas City. The Chiefs have parted ways with the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, who leaves as the franchise’s career leader in tackles. While he is a shoo-in to join fellow Texas ex Priest Holmes in the team’s Hall of Fame, Johnson told me he isn’t finished playing.
“I’m thinking I can play three or four more seasons, but it’s football,” Johnson said. “You have to go year by year. With some good luck, I can play as long as I want. I still have the fire to play in this league. It could be one team team that calls or six teams. I’m new to free agency. I really don’t know what to expect.”
Johnson, 35, was as important in the Kansas City community as he was in Arrowhead Stadium. His many charitable endeavors include his Defend the Dream Foundation, which has a goal of impacting the lives of 100,000 inner-city youth in the city by 2019 through back-to-school programs, reading initiatives, etc. Football gave him the platform to help others and he did so with the sort of class that should serve as a blueprint for others entering the pros.
Johnson — who should become the second Longhorns linebacker to have his number retired at Texas, joining the legendary Tommy Nobis — is meeting with his agent to determine his next move. The romantic in me would love to see him retire and finish with the team that drafted him. Many of us remember how strange it was to see Emmitt Smith in an Arizona Cardinals uniform or Earl Campbell wearing New Orleans Saints gear back in the day.
“It’s not about holding on,” Johnson said on the possibility of retirement. “When you get to a certain age, you still have to contribute. Even as an older player you can still make plays. It’s where I am now.”
Hey Cowboys, are you listening?
Had Texas not beaten West Virginia in the regular-season finale, nothing the Horns would have done, outside of winning the Big 12 tournament, would have mattered.
It may not show up for the remainder of the season, but the Horns played with a focused aggressiveness against West Virginia’s pressure and made shots when shots needed to be made.
It was the type of poised, professional effort that can carry over into next season. Shaka Smart’s job is to try and figure out how to get that type of effort on a consistent basis.
Too many times this season, the Horns stepped onto the court rubbing their eyes as if they had just woken from a 10-hour slumber. Bad starts to the halves became the norm and not the exception. The consistency they displayed against the Mountaineers gave cause for hope in 2019 even if it’s a foregone conclusion that big man Mo Bamba won’t be part of the mix.
The good news is Jericho Sims has shown over the last few games that his best basketball is ahead of him. Not to get too far ahead of things, but it will also be interesting to see if Kerwin Roach II, who has turned in his best season, will follow former teammate Isaiah Taylor’s lead and leave for the pros.
Taylor went undrafted but eventually caught on with the Atlanta Hawks, where he’s averaging 5.2 points and 2.4 assists. Roach is listed as a second-round pick, 34th overall, in the latest nbadraft.net mock draft.
He’s really turned a corner his junior year. He has the look of a player who could really thrive with another year of college.
Baylor’s 77-69 win over Texas in the the Big 12 women’s tournament final proved that even a coach who has been teaching the game for nearly 25 years can learn a lesson.
Texas’ Karen Aston was whistled for a technical foul after she used some colorful language to an official late in a tight game. It helped spur a Baylor run and Texas’ 18th loss in its last 19 games against the Lady Bears.
If anything, it just shows how bad Aston wants to reverse her program’s fortunes against her former boss Kim Mulkey. It’s possible the Horns could see BU again but it would only be in a Final Four matchup if both schools are awarded No. 2 seeds as expected.
I love Aston’s fire. She just needs to make sure it doesn’t extinguish her team’s chances of winning in the next close game.