Tarleton State head football coach Cary Fowler talks with his team all the time about winning a national championship.
For seven of the newest Texans, the message is a lot more than just a pep talk.
Blinn College won the 2009 National Junior College Athletic Association championship, its second in four years. Seven players from that team are now at Tarleton, where Fowler hopes their championship magic will rub off on the rest of the Texans.
“It’s easy to see why those guys won a national championship together,” Fowler said. “They’re all great football players, but they’re even better men. There’s a big difference in wanting to win and expecting to win. Those guys expect to win. They expect to be champions.”
Defensive end Logan Johnson says winning the junior college championship was one of the most exciting times of his life.
“It was ecstatic,” he said. “We played (the championship) in Pittsburg, Kansas, and it was freezing, but we didn’t care. It was great.”
Blinn defeated Fort Scott Community College 31-26 in the championship game, and when the final buzzer sounded, Henry says the emotion was overwhelming.
“It was indescribable really,” he said. “At Blinn, we were just a collection of athletes at first. But once we came together as a team we were like a family on and off the field. When you win a championship with your family there’s a lot of emotion involved.”
Johnson and Henry were two of the transfers who committed to Tarleton in time to be on campus throughout the spring semester and in spring ball.
“I handpicked Terrence to be our weak-side safety, what we call our ‘whip,’” Fowler said. “When I was at Midwestern we always had an all-conference player at that position, and we haven’t had that since I’ve been here at Tarleton. Terrence should be that guy. He’s a coach’s dream. He doesn’t talk, he listens. He’s like a sponge, soaking up everything you teach him.
“Terrence has what I call ‘it,’” Fowler continued. “I told him that once. I told him ‘You have ‘it,’ and I don’t know what ‘it is, but if I ever figure it out we’re going to win a lot of national championships here.’”
Henry doesn’t know what ‘it’ is either, but he thinks he understands what Fowler means.
“I just think it’s my character,” Henry said. “I’m not a person who talks much on the field. I feel like I’m a leader, but not a vocal leader. I try to lead more by my actions. I try to always do the right thing, even if nobody is watching.”
Fowler is just as complimentary of Johnson.
“Logan is the hardest working, most determined kid in our program,” Fowler said. “He only weighs about 205 pounds, but he’s exceptionally fast and explodes off the ball. He’s a phenomenal athlete and he has a lot of determination. That’s a good combination.”
Johnson doesn’t mind being undersized by college defensive end standards. He uses it as motivation.
“I have little-man syndrome,” he said. “I love when people say, ‘Look at that little guy at defensive end. He isn’t going to do anything.’ By the end of the game, those same people are shaking my hand telling me how good I played.”
Johnson’s stat totals from 2009 are controversial. The NJCAA Web site, which publishes stats submitted from coaches, says he had 14 sacks. Johnson, however, says he had 17.5. Either way, he had a lot, and Fowler believes he can have the same type of production in Division II.
“He could easily get 14 or more sacks,” he said. “He’s a warrior.”
Henry and Johnson committing early was significant not only because Fowler couldn’t wait to get them on the field, but because they helped to recruit some of their Blinn teammates.
“We don’t really have an inside connection at Blinn, but we had Terrence and Logan,” Fowler said. “As soon as we had those two guys here and they bought into everything we’re teaching and doing, they started trying to get their old teammates to come.”
And one-by-one, Blinn players began to show interest in Tarleton. By summer’s end, the Texans were sporting five defensive and two offensive players off the juco championship team.
Anthony Gonzales played end opposite of Johnson and was a first-team All-American after making 39 tackles including 14 behind the line and 7.5 sacks. Defensive tackle Brian Ford, who was impressive in Monday morning’s practice for the Texans, made 29 tackles including three for loss last fall.
In the secondary, Henry, who also won a 5A high school championship at Katy, made 42 tackles and is joined by Cassius Bradley, who made 56 stops including 4.5 behind the line.
“Cassius is going to be our utility guy on defense,” Fowler said. “He’ll play a lot of positions for us - corner, safety and rover. His best spot might be at rover. He could be as good as ‘Dee Wee’ (two-time Lone Star Conference South Defensive Back of the Year Ranardrick Phillips) was when he was here.”
Offensively, Fowler expects immediate contributions from lineman Shawn Wyatt and receiver Bola Omisanya.
Wyatt stands 6-5 and tips the scale at 315, and Fowler says he has already proven his toughness in training camp.
“He was horsing around with some guys, just having fun, and somehow he busted his head open,” Fowler said. “He got it stapeled together, and then in practice the staples didn’t hold so he just started bleeding, but he wouldn’t stop. He just kept practicing. That’s the mentality you’re looking for from an offensive lineman.”
Omisanya hasn’t suited up in practice yet, but Fowler says he already knows what the receiver is capable of.
“He’s 6-1, 205 and runs a 4.4,” Fowler said. “He’s so physically gifted, and he can really catch the ball. We can’t wait to get him in pads.”
Henry says it’s comforting to have old teammates blending in with new ones.
“It’s about knowing you have somebody there who already has your back and who already knows what it takes to win a championship,” Henry said.
Johnson is just glad somebody is there to help him wake up each morning for early meetings or practices.
“It’s nice to have somebody you know will get you up at 6 a.m.,” he said with a laugh.
The Blinn players couldn’t be happier to be back together, and Fowler couldn’t be happier to have their championship aura spreading throughout the Tarleton program.
“I wear my championship ring all the time. Sometimes I even take it off and let some of the other guys wear it, because I want them to know what it’s like,” Johnson said.
Henry says the ring is a symbol of what it takes to win a national title.
“The ring shows how much hard work we put in to get there,” he said. “It reminds me how much hard work we have to do here to get there again.”
Fowler likes to talk about national titles, and he doesn’t mind a bit that his players are talking about winning championships, too.
For the seven new Texans from Blinn, the talk is of winning a second championship together.
“We talk about it all the time,” Johnson said. “We have to win another one.”