Football. Texas. You can’t have one without the other. Sure, it’s played in other places. But not like here. Friday Night Lights. BEAR BRYANT. DARRELL ROYAL, JOHN HEISMAN. (He was at Rice. Really.) EARL CAMPBELL. ERIC DICKERSON. ROGER STAUBACH.
I am a diehard Texans fan. Have been since Day One. A true Houstonian though is still Luv Ya Blue through and through. CAMPBELL, PASTORINI, BUM PHILLIPS, the Dome. When the Oilers moved to Tennessee, they took a huge part of Houston with them. I love my Texans; I miss the Oilers.
Because Houston hosted Super Bowl LI, many of the Oiler greats came out for events and interview opportunities. Through the Alzheimer’s Association Gala, I had the privilege of sitting down with several legends: MIKE ROZIER, WEBSTER SLAUGHTER, HAYWOOD JEFFIRES. Rozier reminisced about how a South Jersey boy ended up winning a Heisman at Nebraska. Jeffires explained that much of his success came because every defense had to respect Earl Campbell. On every play. Webster Slaughter gave me insight into free agency. It didn’t exist until Slaughter and three other players sued the NFL in 1991. Great players who told great stories of camaraderie, family and football.
My night would have been complete if that had been it. Instead, I met a true Oiler legend: COACH ED BILES, who was with the Oilers from 1969 until 1983. He was the man responsible for drafting BRUCE MATTHEWS and MIKE MUNCHAK, arguably two of the best linemen in NFL history. He succeeded Bum Phillips as head coach. Coach Biles was also instrumental in breaking the color barrier for black quarterbacks. Not once but twice. In the early 60s, Coach Biles recruited one of the first black quarterbacks to start for an NCAA team. As Head Coach of Xavier, he traveled to Tennessee-Chattanooga, walking arm and arm with Carroll Williams past 150 members of the KKK to get to the field. A winning field goal was called no good by the officials, but that didn’t deter Coach Biles. He didn’t care about color, just ability.
When ED BILES brought WARREN MOON out from the Edmonton cold, he changed the NFL forever. While there had been a few others before him, Moon was the first superstar. Warren Moon went completely undrafted out of the University of Washington. Like most black quarterbacks, Moon went to the CFL. Biles had wanted to draft him, and he never gave up. When Biles became the Head Coach in 1981, he made it a mission to sign Moon. He brought Warren down to Houston to see you didn’t have to freeze to play. After only a few days, Moon was sold. Moon joined the Oilers in 1984. 49,000 passing yards, nine Pro Bowls, one MVP later, Warren Moon was responsible for some of the best football memories Houston would ever have. Because of Warren Moon, NFL QBs can be judged on the content of their character and ability, not the color of their skin.
History in the making.
If you get to talk to Coach Biles, he will tell you all of it.