Peace's 'Spirit of '88' had
lasting impact for Bulldogs
By O.K. Davis
Without Joe Raymond Peace and a band of extra dedicated and loyal Bulldogs, no telling what the state of Louisiana Tech University would be as it enters the 2018 football season.
Go back 30 years (yes, 30) to 1988 and the inaugural season of Peace as the Bulldogs' head coach.
Playing as an independent program -- the Bulldogs would continue to do so through 1993 -- Tech had a nightmarish schedule in that first year under Peace.
How about Mississippi State, Wyoming, Florida State, Houston, Texas A&M and Kansas State?
The 'Dogs finished with a 4-7 record before going 5-4-1 in 1989 and then winning eight games each the next two seasons. Florida and Auburn were among the toughies on the Tech slate during that time.
And another highlight for the Peace-guided teams during this time was a 34-34 tie versus Maryland in the 1990 Independence Bowl.
Thus, the stage was created and established for the 'Dogs to make the transition into the "big boy" circles.
Implementing the qualities that helped make "J.R." successful as a linebacker (1964-67) at Tech and then as a coach, the Bulldogs instilled a fiery spirit that continues to burn brightly today.
And also marked by the "Spirit of '88" bronze Bulldog statue that players touch as they come out on to the field for another home game at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Peace's lasting impact on the program is secure, too.
He will be presented with an award for his contributions to amateur football by the National Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame SW McNaughton chapter at the East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport on March 1.
An award certainly worthy for what Joe Raymond Peace has meant to Tech Nation, both in that historic 1988 season and now.
Nick Saban may be boring,
but bottom line is winning
By O.K. Davis
When the Mount Rushmore of the greatest college football coaches in history is created, Nick Saban will be up there.
Just make sure he's smiling, which is as rare for him as Alabama not being favored to win another national championship.
Most of the time, he seems about as exciting as a jilted lover.
He's the worst nightmare for reporters, which is ironic considering equally ho-him Bill Belichick is a good friend.
Saban is its role model.
Like him or loathe him, though, Nicholas Lou Saban, Jr., is a winner, plain and simple.
In his 11 seasons as head coach at Alabama, the Tide has compiled a 127-20 overall record that includes a 72-13 mark versus SEC opponents.
Since going 2-6 in his first year (2007), 'Bama has produced 10 straight winning seasons and seven consecutive campaigns of no more than two defeats.
More than half of his 11 years as the top boss has ended with national titles, the latest being that 11th Hour thriller against Georgia in the BCS Championship game.
His six national crowns equals that of another Alabama coaching legend named Paul "Bear" Bryant.
Visualize this scene: Nick and the "Bear" together on the same podium, ready to talk about their careers that are cloaked in head-turning achievements.
Oh, the stories they could tell.
Saban became the first coach in college football history to win a national title with two different schools since the inception of the Associated Poll in 1936.
And he and Bryant are the only coaches to win an SEC championship at two different schools.
Here's another incredible fact on the Saban bio to digest: including national championships and both conference and league divisions, he's totaled 25 titles.
Saban has earned 13 different Coach of the Year awards, including two national Eddie Robinson Awards.
His usual wearisome demeanor aside, it wouldn't be a stretch to tag him as Jolly St. Nick for delivering Christmas gifts in January for Tide fans.
He might even be smiling and delivering more than his normally trite sound bytes to reporters.
As thrilling as that victory over Georgia was, even more noteworthy was that Saban shouted to an ESPN sideline reporter afterwards, "Wasn't that an incredible game?!"
And all the while with a smile that stretched from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa.
Better get to work on that Mount Rushmore of the greatest college football coaches in history.
Ex-Tech punter Allen praised by Belichick
By O.K. Davis
Ryan Allen wasn't drafted by an NFŁ team following an All-American career at Louisiana Tech University.
But the only two-time winner of the Ray Guy Award was determined to play at the next level.
Allen opted to be a free agent and evaluate several teams interested in his skills and decided to choose the New England Patriots.
It turned out to be the right choice for both sides.
Allen, now in his fifth season, is one of the NFL's consistently best punters and the Patriots... well, they are the Patriots.
They're back in the Super Bowl and seeking another Lombardi Trophy.
Bill Belichick, the normally smug looking head coach of the Pats, smiles when asked about Allen's contributions and worth on the specialty teams.
"Overall, he has done a very good job for us, not just in situational punts but recently when he was backed up and had to hit for distance into the wind, he did a good job of that, too. Ryan works hard and he’s really a guy who pays attention to his job and all the little things we ask him to do. When those situations have come up, he’s done a good job of executing them.”
Allen ranked 30th in the league during thè regular season with a gross average of 43.4 yards, a figure that was influenced by a slow start in September, but also by what the Patriots expect of him: being valuable in situational moments, which is huge in the Belichick Way.
Allen ranked No. 5 in the league after putting 41.4 percent of his punts inside the 20-yard line.
“Punting is such a situational play; it’s not just standing there and kicking it as far as you can,” Belichick said. “It’s making the right kick in the right situation."
Allen was outstanding in a regular season 26-6 win over the New York Jets in bitterly cold and windy conditions in Foxboro.
Allen placed five of his eight punts inside the Jets' 20, including balls at the 4, 4 and 3. He had an impressive net average of 41.8 yards.
“There’s a lot of gray area in punting, but situationally we were all on the same page and we got good coverage,” Allen said about his performance.. “We were all firing on one cylinder and when we do that, we usually get the outcome that we want as a unit. So everyone was doing their job and it was fun.”
Allen zoomed a 52-yarder into the wind at the end of the first quarter to flip the field from the New England 33 to the New York 14.
An interesting side note to the Allen-Belichick connection:
Allen is a left-footed punter, Every punter Belichick has had during his 18 years in New England has been left-footed.
Of the unusual trend,Belichick simply calls it “a coincidence.”
But it's no coincidence that Ryan Alłen has developed into one of the NFL's best punters.
The last two MLB world champions have been two franchises not exactly known for consistent success through the years).
Astros, Cubs defy odds as world champions
By O.K. Davis...
Moose can sing, goldfish can fly and there's hope for the ugliest boy and girl in class.
Next thing we know, the Cleveland Browns will be hosting.time management classes.
Yes, after the past two World Series, anything is possible.
Did you ever, in your most extreme day dreaming, figure on the back-to-back world champions for MLB to be two franchises batting-cage deep in historical mediocrity?
Come on, man.
You don't mean....?
Yes, I do.
Two years ago, it was the Chicago Cubs, who had been title-flag starved since 1908.
Then, this year, the Houston Astros gave their long suffering faithful their first-ever championship.
The lovable Cubbies and the once tagged Colt 45's.
And you thought the solar eclipse was a big deal.
Pinch me to make sure I am not making all of this up.
Or start putting your money next year on the San Diego Padres.
Checked on Buddy late this afternoon and he said he is resting comfortably. He's sleeping a lot and undergoing post-surgery procedures. We're not sure when he'll get back to the Jack Lambert Suite at PP, but we'll keep you posted.
Ex-Tech javelin ace Allen
named to USA Pan Am team
By O.K. Davis
John Allen's outstanding career as a javelin thrower just won't end.
The former all-Conference performer for the Bulldogs has been name to the 2017 United States Track and Field Association (USTFA) Team Masters' squad that will compete in the North and Central America and Caribbean Games. Those games will be held in Toronto, Can. in August; he will throw on Aug. 13.
"I am very proud to have been invited to be member of Team USATF Masters and looking forward to the competition in Canada."
Allen, who prepped at West Monroe High School, earned his berth on the international club by capturing a silver medal at the recent USATF Masters' national championships held at LSU's Bernie Moore Track Stadium in Baton Rouge.
The former director of Tech's Alumni Association threw 151.831 (46.28 meters).
"That was probably the best competition I've been in since becoming involved with Senior Games and Masters' track and field. There were at least six guys with a shot to win.
"Buzz Gagne from New Hampshire won with a distance of 156.758 (47.78 meters. His throaw was the best of the year in the U.S. for 2017 at second in the world. Even with my best of the year in Baton Rouge, I dropped from third to fourth in the world rankings."
The owner of Pipeline Constructors, LLC, gained his four all-league laurels under Tech track and field coaching legend, the late Jim Mize, in the Southland and Gulf States Conference.
When he graduated, Allen was ranked the program's Top Five for best career throw.
OK good people (see what I did there?) ... Wednesday is the birthday of our favorite legend, but it's also the day he spends every week going to the doctor ... so he's asking everyone to wait until Thursday to come out to the Jack Lambert Suite to wish him the best and help celebrate the big occasion. He's looking forward to seeing you all on Thursday.
Buddy received an official baseball, ticket and press pass neck chain from the recent College World Series held in Omaha, Neb. The souvenirs were given to Davis by former Grambling State University head baseball coach/athletics' director Wilbert Ellis, a College Baseball Hall of Famer who worked his 30th CWS in June.
Mother's Day should be draped from sunup to sundown with an an appreciative smile and hug reserved only for that special, everlasting woman in our lives. Earlier this year, O.K. (Buddy) Davis devoted one of his O.K.'s Corral columns to his mom, Mildred Lea Davis, who passed away in February of 1998. With another Mother's Day on Sunday, it's an appropriate time for a reprint in Facebook Nation).
Mom meant well,
but still miss my
1956 Topps cards
(O.K. (Buddy) Davis covered the college basketball career of Lanky Wells at Louisiana Tech University from 1973-1997. Davis wrote a tribute to Wells in his regular O.K.'s Corral in the Ruston Daily Leader on Sunday).
Just so tough
Lanky is gone
I keep wanting to call or text Lanky Wells.
I just know he's going to answer.
No matter how busy he was or what he had on his non-stop schedule.
He always did, whatever the occasion.
New Year's Eve (''Have a great New Year, brother.'')
Christmas Eve (''Love you brother and a Merry Christmas to you.'')
Any time, any occasion (''We gotta beat them (Arkansas) Razorbacks. Love you, man.'')
Sports or otherwise, it didn't matter to Lanky.
If Louisiana Tech University's name was next to it, that's all that mattered.
Basketball, football, baseball, academics. He was supporting his alma mater, regardless.
How much did he love Tech?
Many a time, he would drive in from Arkansas for a basketball game at the Thomas Assembly Center, then return immediately afterwards.
I would be watching the game and next thing I knew, there would be Lanky accompanied by loyal friends Victor King and Rickie Richards.
And then we would all have a great time kidding each other and the camaraderie ending with Lanky's infectious laughter and smile that could charge a city's electric plant.
The last time I saw Lanky was at the funeral services for former Tech track head coach Jim Mize last September.
I was in my wheelchair waiting to file outside when Lanky walked up, gave us a big hug and asked if he could help in any way.
''Lanky, did you happen to see Ricky Stubbs and Wendell Woods in there?'', I asked about two of the Bulldogs' former track stars.
He said he had and before I knew it, he had gone inside, located Ricky and Wendell and brought them out to visit us.
That's the type of person he was, anything for a friend.
And arguably his dearest, best friend ever was Mike McConathy, the Northwestern State University head men's basketball coach and former Bulldogs' All-American guard.
Their love and respect for each other conjures up memories of ''Brian's Song'', that award-winning movie about ex-Chicago Bears' teammates Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo.
McConathy brought Lanky on to his Demons' staff to help serve as a strategist, mentor to young players and an opportunity to complete his degree.
It was an arrangement perfectly scripted in the highest hopes that so many would benefit from their unique bond.
Right now, I want to go to the keypad on my iPhone and call or text Lanky.
Yes, his number is still in my address book.
Just like Tommy Spinks, Billy Laird, Scotty Robertson, Eddie Robinson, Chick Childress, Jim Shaw and other athletes and coaches who I covered and became friends with through the years.
For one reason or another, I have never deleted them.
Probably because I want to believe they're still here.
And why, in an emotional moment, I might try and call Lanky.
By O.K. Davis
There will be a double dose of W's from the I-20 prep football country going to the Pro Bowl.
Former Ruston High School star Kyle Williams of the Buffalo Bills and ex-West Monroe High standout Andrew Whitworth of the Cincinnati Bengals have been selected for the NFL's postseason all-star game to be held in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 29.
It will mark the fifth such appearance for Williams, a defensive lineman, and third for offensive lineman Whitworth.
Williams, who progressed up through the Ruston Junior High, prep and youth sports' ranks to be one of Lincoln Parish's most successful athletes ever, has now tied a Bills' franchise record for most Pro Bowl berths.
Williams’ 40.5 career sacks are the most by a defensive tackle in Bills' history, an impressive factoid considering Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith is among the team's legendary players.
In 2016, the former Bearcats' All-American totaled 64 tackles, five sacks, 15 quarterback hits and 11 tackles for loss.
He accomplished those numbers despite dealing with a back injury.
Whitworth, an All-American for the Rebels, started 15 games at left tackle and one at left guard for the Bengals in 2016.
The husband of former Miss Louisiana Melissa Clark of Ruston was the second-rated left tackle by Pro Football Focus with a 91.3 grade.
Both Williams and Whitworth were All-Americans and All-SEC performers at LSU.
Previously, they had appeared in the Pro Bowl when it was held in Hawaii.
Now, they're off to the land of Mickey Mouse.
"My kids are more excited to see Mickey than watch me play but that's fine by me,'' Whitworth said.
And the feeling is mutual for Williams and his children.
As this day nears an end and we remember the deeds of (fittingly) Brooklyn native Sanford (Sandy) Koufax on his 81st birthday, digest these factoids: 165-87 record, 2.76 ERA, 2396 K's, 7-x All-Star, 4-x World Series champ, 3-x Cy Young winner, 4-x MLB K king, 4 no-hitters, a perfect game.
And this is just the base camp of Mt. Koufax and how he set the peak of perfection in a career that was capped off by being a first ballot Baseball Hall of Fame with a voting percentage a fastball South of 87 percent (about 13 percent apparently had trouble reading his bio sheet).