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Baylor Legends comment on Current Baylor Standouts

Jan. 30, 2014

Their names can be found throughout the Baylor record books and their pictures adorned the murals outside Floyd Casey Stadium. But, they’re also fans--albeit with a perspective and appreciation that’s a little stronger than most. What do Baylor legends think about the current players who man the positions they once played? We asked, and they were more than happy to tell.

Don Trull on Bryce Petty

Three years ago when Bryce was redshirted, I was on campus watching the quarterbacks throw. I didn’t know who he was at that point, but I commented to a couple of teammates of mine, ‘Whoever that kid is, he sure throws well.’

Waiting his turn has really been a good thing for him, and it’s something where I can relate.  I came to Baylor in 1959 and had two quarterbacks who were all-state in Texas ahead of me on the freshman team. I didn’t play much my freshman year and redshirted the next year. That was real tough initially for me to come to the realization that I was going to sit out a year. In retrospect, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s tough to come out of high school after being a star, so to speak, being thrown in with 40 other high school stars. You’ve just got to come to the realization that once you get your chance, you’ve got to be ready. You have to be improving your skills all along so when that time comes along, you can prove you’ve got it takes. I can’t think of anybody right off the top of my head where he’s had a Heisman trophy candidate and then Nick Florence, the guy who broke a lot of Griffin’s records--that’s a lot of pressure. It’s a situation where you’ve got to be ready and make the right decisions--do your homework. He had double the pressure following those guys and he’s been outstanding.

He’s got the size, he’s got the arm, he’s got the mental strength and his speed is good--he can move. That’s a prototype pro quarterback. He’s done a lot already. If he finishes this year on a good note and has another good year next year, I think he’s eventually going to be a first round draft pick in the NFL.

Baylor’s first Heisman finalist and an All-American in 1963, Don Trull (1961-63) was a groundbreaking passer in an era when most teams ran the ball. For his contributions to the game, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on December 10, becoming the 10th Baylor Bear to be so enshrined. Upon his graduation, he enjoyed a six-year career in the NFL with the Houston Oilers and Boston Patriots.

James Francis on Eddie Lackey and Bryce Hager

When I watch the game, I watch those two guys. I like watching my position. They’re the best two linebackers we’ve had in a long time. They believe their eyes--that’s my philosophy. Believe what you see. They make the offense react to them instead of just reacting to the offense.

They have great anticipation. Having a nose for the football is something you can’t teach, whether it’s on the ground, or you see a back carrying it loosely. That’s not something that’s taught. It’s like size. You can’t teach size. You have a knack for being the right place at the right time or you don’t.  And they do--great instincts, great anticipation.

It’s good to see Eddie and Bryce being leaders. I considered myself a guy who would make that play when we needed something--that was my outlook every game I went into. When you think that way, it can happen for you. That’s the way they are. They believe they’re going to make the play.

They’re both athletic and both smart. Eddie is a physical guy. Eddie doesn’t take many false steps. Little wasted moment. That’s what you want in a linebacker. All his energy and movement is positive. Bryce reminds me of (star Houston Texans linebacker) Brian Cushing. He can do everything, he can cover, he can blitz. He has a bright future at the next level.

James Francis (1986-89) ranks in the top 10 in career tackles at Baylor, single-season tackles, and career sacks. An All-American in 1989, he was selected as first round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1990 and spent 10 years in the NFL. His sons, James, Jr., and Chris followed him to Baylor as members of the football team.

Vann McElroy on Ahmad Dixon

He makes people around him better, and he’s so talented that he can play any number of positions. What he’s done this year, switching to a true safety position, has allowed him to utilize all of his strengths. He can go out and cover, he can be instinctive, he’s a good tackler and he can be moved inside. That’s what sets him apart from others.  He’s gotten better as the season has gone on.

Some safeties are strictly safeties--they may have good speed but their cover abilities limit them to being a tackler. What he brings to the table, here and at the next level, is that you can disguise your intentions defensively. He can jump out and cover or run and tackle; you don’t have to bring someone else in and give your plan away.

Ahmad has all of the measurables--he’s got good size, he’s can run, he’s got strength. Now, he has the position down and you can see that confidence. I don’t care how talented you are, that doesn’t happen overnight. I think the safety spot is one of the harder places for that to take place because, if you mess up, it can be six points real quick. I think he’s arrived in a place where he feels at home and you can see it in his play.

Baylor has been begging for good defense for a long time. There are a few things that create a good defense. It’s more than just players, it’s a mentality. And it can be difficult to create that mentality. (Defensive Coordinator) Phil Bennett has instilled that mentality in his players, and Ahmad and his teammates have bought in.

An All-American safety at Baylor, Vann McElroy (1978-81) set the standard at Baylor for safeties, holding the all-time program record with 16 interceptions. He was an integral part of the 1980 Southwest Conference championship team at Baylor, and went on to a pro-bowl NFL career, playing nine seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders and Seattle Seahawks. His son, V.J., also played safety at Baylor.

Ricky Thompson on Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley

They’re critical pieces of this offense. What those guys do is spread the field and make the running game more successful. The way this running game and this receiving game mesh is critical.

For Tevin, Coach Briles said and I think too, he’s probably the fastest receiver in America. We’ve seen instances all year, whether at Kansas State or Kansas in the early games, where he catches a little pass and goes 80 yards or catches a 90 yard touchdown pass. He’s got phenomenal speed. But more than that, he knows that offense so well, and he knows what every other receiver is doing. He knows where they’re going and how that impacts what he’s going to do. 

He’s so fast, but he’s so much more than that. He makes plays that are more than speed moves, they’re plays where you see a veteran receiver with a lot of ability making places. He had almost 900 yards receiving when he went out in just over seven games. He could have almost doubled his numbers, which would have been incredible.

Antwan is probably as unusual of a receiver as I’ve ever seen. He’s 5’10”, he weighs 225 pounds, he’s got brute strength--and he runs right by people. I think he’d be an incredible running back, too. He’s strong, so he can get away from the press and get open. He’s deceiving with his speed.

It’s a different game than when I played. The way these guys move, with an offense that throws the ball and doesn’t huddle, it’s a receiver’s dream. This is an offense where you have to be able to play on the fly. You don’t have time to think, you have to know what to do and react. There’s not much time--just snap your finger and go. These guys can do that, and Bryce can have so much confidence in these guys because they’re not only talented, they’re smart enough to be in the right place quickly. You can’t be a dummy and play in this offense, I can promise you that.

A standout receiver for the Bears and a Baylor Hall-of-Famer, Ricky Thompson (1973-75) played a major role on the 1974 Southwest Conference Championship team and was Baylor’s leading receiver the following season. Drafted in 1976 by the Baltimore Colts, he went on to have a successful NFL career with the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Cardinals.

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