It Ain't Where You From
“I come correct and I won't look back, 'Cause it ain't where you're from, it's where you're at.”
Song: In the Ghetto by Eric B & Rakim
I can imagine that if Houston Texans 2019 first round draft pick, Tytus Howard ever heard those two lines in that song he could relate. The rookie offensive lineman out of Alabama State has been criticized on social media and various Houston sports talk shows because he attended a Historically Black College and not a Power 5 school like the offensive lineman that was drafted ahead of him, Andre Dillard. The 22nd pick in the draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, Dillard made First-team All-Conference in the PAC-12 for the Washington State Cougars.
Howard also made First-team All-Conference at his position as well in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). So instead of having the conversation about two great young talents coming into the league, we are debating the competition in which each played against as well as the size of the football programs, school enrollments, etc. It’s a debate most Howard defenders find themselves in constantly.
But what if I told you I have seen a group of linemen assembled that have gone undrafted or drafted in later rounds from smaller schools to become recognized as some of greatest to ever play the game. Would you believe me? Does the names Larry Allen, Nate Newton, and Erik Williams ring a bell? When you hear them do they automatically take you back to the “Glory Days” of the Dallas Cowboys?
Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson, who had won a national Championship with the University of Miami two years prior to joining Dallas didn’t care where the talent went to college. He just wanted players who were willing to play hard every down and give their all.
Stephen Jones, Cowboys COO and son of owner and GM Jerry Jones, remembers hearing a conversation between Johnson and his offensive line coach, Tony Wise, that he reflected on many years after the Cowboys dynasty. He told the story to reporter Mike Fisher from 247sports.com
"Just give me the five best blockers, make sure one of 'em can put the ball through his legs, and let's line 'em up!'' Said Wise.
If we take a look at three of those five, maybe some of the critics will back off of Howard for a moment and actually allow him to play his rookie season.
Allen attended Butte Community College in Oroville, California due to academic issues stemming from his time in high school. After becoming a junior college All-American for two consecutive years, he sat out a year before enrolling in Sonoma State University (Division II) that was located north of San Francisco. Allen would achieve All-American status during his tenure there as well before becoming eligible for the 1994 NFL Draft.
Allen received the highest honors that could be given to an offensive lineman during his junior college and Division II playing days but slipped in the draft due to the size of school he had attended. He was taken in the second round by the Cowboys and started in games his rookie season that led to him getting all-rookie honors and the rest is a career most lineman would love to have.
The 11-time Pro Bowl selection would win a Super Bowl (XXX) with the Cowboys on his way to seven 1st Team All-Pro selections and being named to the NFL All-Decade Team in the 1990’s and 2000’s. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2013.
Just like Allen, Williams was hampered by poor grades which prevented him from going to a major Division 1 college or university. He ended up attending Central State University (HBCU) in Ohio where he would obtain NAIA All-American status. Williams was selected by the Cowboys in the third-round of the 1991 NFL Draft. Dallas didn’t know what they had until 1992 when they made him the right starting tackle.
Williams would win three Super Bowls while becoming a four-time Pro Bowl and three-time 1st Team All-Pro selection in 10 seasons with Dallas.
Unlike Newton’s teammates (Allen & Williams), he actually qualified to receive a Division 1 scholarship and was being highly recruited, but he decided to attend Florida A&M University (HBCU) to stay close to home. Newton earned All-MEAC honors his senior year after playing on the offensive line exclusively after his sophomore year.
After going undrafted in 1983, Newton was invited to the Washington Redskins training camp where he ended up being cut before camp ended. He landed on his feet with the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL for two years before the league folded. The Dallas Cowboys signed him before the 1986 NFL season as a free agent.
Newton was a three-time Super Bowl winner, along with six Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro selections.
I could add Mark Tunei, an undrafted player who was also a part of two Super Bowl victories for the Cowboys to the list as well.
Howard definitely does not need to be judged off of the college he attended, but his level of play as a Houston Texans offensive lineman. In this day and age of everyone wanting to go viral with the hottest take for the hour on social media, fans have lost their patience and inability to give some of these players a chance. Let’s revisit how good Tytus is in three years and go from there.