Mean in Green?

Few of us thought Marcus Houston had much of a case when he and CSU took his case for an extra year of eligibility and a waiver of the transfer rule to the NCAA.

The NCAA is not an organization known for it's overwhelming generosity. Many a legal case has come before the great rulers of college athletics, only to be dismissed without explanation. And those were the good ones.

Now take the case of Marcus Houston, who transferred from Colorado to Colorado State with but a single year of NCAA football eligibility remaining. He had already received a medical red-shirt season while in Boulder, and had played parts of three seasons for the Buffs before deciding to leave after the 2002 campaign. It appeared he would sit out the 2003 season as (almost) all transfers are required to do.

Few of us thought Houston had much of a case when he and CSU took his case for an extra year of eligibility and a waiver of the transfer rule to the NCAA. It actually appeared on the outside to be a pretty weak one. Recently, Marcus had not been injured or missed playing time for any other reason than that others playing in front of him were performing better than he was. As far as most of us knew, he had not had any ‘circumstances' to deal with more difficult than a bad relationship with his position coach.

Or so we thought.

Obviously, when Marcus and the CSU people presented their case, they did it very, very well. (Those that have predicted a stellar post-playing legal career for Houston are looking pretty sharp right about now...) Not only did Houston receive the waiver - making him eligible to play next season - but he was also granted an extra year of eligibility to ‘haul the rock' for the Rams.

In a nutshell, Marcus got a nice gift from the NCAA.

Few will argue that "it couldn't happen to a nicer guy." Houston is renowned as one of the best people to ever wear a football uniform. His tremendous football ability and seemingly limitless potential on the field are matched only by his overwhelming persona and limitless potential off of it. There truly may not be a better guy than Marcus Houston.

Which may actually be the problem. Maybe Marcus is TOO nice to be a football player.

All great running backs have a mean streak. Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson (um, sorry, bad example) and the rest of the best all had that internal, mental nastiness needed to deliver a blow to a defender, rather than take one. They also possess a ‘singleness of purpose' that allows them to focus all of their energies on what's needed to win on the football field that day - including what they need to do during the week to prepare.

People who follow CU will tell you that Marcus Houston, with all his wonderful community service endeavors, has had too many distractions and too much else going on in his life to become the great running back everyone expects him to be. They say he did not spend enough time in the weight room or on the practice field in Boulder. They say he was "distracted" (but always in a nice way.)

Are they right? Time will tell. Now that the NCAA had given Marcus a gift, we'll find out in a few months. If Marcus is to achieve the football greatness forecast for him, he will need to put the other stuff, the speaking tours, the foundation work and the like, on the back-burner for the next two years - and just be a running back. (A Mean Green Running Machine, as it were...)

By doing that, Marcus can give a gift back to the region's football fans by finally using his tremendous physical gifts to their fullest potential. The irony here is that if Houston focuses solely on football and his class work for the rest of his days at CSU, he will no doubt graduate early while turning himself back into a prime NFL prospect. Just think of the good things the "Just Say Know" program could do if it's founder was starring in the NFL? It would prove once again that it's best to give after you have received.

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