Texas-Exes Leave Hoofprints On NFL Opening Weekend

Inside Texas will keep an eye focused each week on Longhorn alums now playing on Sundays.

If you happened to catch Detroit battle Chicago, you might have confused Soldier Field for DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium. On Week One, Chicago was a haven for familiar Texas names. Rookie receiver Roy Williams, the seventh overall pick in the 2004 Draft, was (as expected) a sudden-impact player as he helped lead his Lions to a 20-16 win over (former CB) Nathan Vasher's Bears, 20-16. Williams led the Lions with 4 catches for 69 yards, but really made his presence felt when he tipped a pass from quarterback Joy Harrington to himself, snagging the ball between two Bear defensive backs. The grab was impressive enough to be highlighted on ESPN' s Sportscenter later that night. With the loss of receiver Charles Rogers, who is slated to miss the entire season with a broken collarbone, Detroit will look to rookie Williams to play that role again and again.

Of course, Williams is not the only Longhorn sporting the silver and blue. Two Texas alumnus stand on Detroit' s defensive line, DE Cory Redding and DT Shaun Rogers. Redding, a third-rounder in 2003, recorded two tackles on Sunday. Rogers, a starting lineman in his fourth year, registered four tackles and added a sack against the Bears.

Vasher, a rookie fourth round pick, reportedly started poorly in Chicago' s pre-season practices but has since rebounded and impressed his coaches. Vasher climbed to No. 2 on the depth chart leading up to Sunday' s game. Backing up R.W. McQuarters at cornerback, he saw limited action but recorded two tackles on special teams.

Meanwhile, former Longhorn WR coach Darryl Drake now directs the pass catchers in Chicago while former Longhorn DB Vance Bedford is in charge of the secondary. Vasher started off a little slow, Bedford said in a recent quote, but is now playing with a decisive swagger.

Vasher's reversal of fortunes is reminiscent of Williams' first-impression of the former 2003 Thorpe Award candidate. ("He was very sorry," Williams recalled following the conclusion of the regular season of his senior year. Williams was so unimpressed with Vasher's first practice in a Longhorn uniform that he later commented, "I couldn't believe they gave this guy a scholarship." After four years in a Longhorn uniform, Williams said he was convinced Vasher had emerged as the best CB in college football.)

Kansas City RB Priest Holmes, now in his eighth NFL season, set an NFL single season record for total TDs with 27 in 2003. It is no surprise that the NFL's most dominant rusher racked up 151 yards and three TDs in a losing effort against Denver Sunday night.

Of the trio of receivers that became a staple of Texas' offense last season, only Williams saw action. Former FL B.J. Johnson sits near the bottom of Denver' s depth chart. Meanwhile, former SE Sloan Thomas belongs to the Houston Texans, but currently only as a member of the practice squad after failing to escape the team's final roster cut.

Quarterback Chris Simms is in his second year with Tampa Bay, and leading the Buccaneers' offense could be in the near future. Simms, who backs up aging thrower Brad Johnson for an offensively driven coach, performed well in the pre-season. If Johnson fails to put up numbers and tack on wins, head coach Jon Gruden may not hesitate to give the youngster the nod.

The Bucs started the season off with a 16-10 loss at Washington, largely a result of the dominating Redskin rushing game.

At the front of the Redskins' ground attack is offensive lineman Derrick Dockery. The guard, considered a steal when chosen in the third round of 2003, helped pave the way for RB Clinton Portis' 148 rushing yards. Redskin coach Joe Gibbs recently remarked that Dockery may be the best blocker he has ever seen in all of his professional years (quite a complement from the coach who presided over the renowned Redskin "Hogs" offensive linemen).

DT Marcus Tubbs, the 23rd overall pick in last April' draft, serves at Rashad Moore' s primary backup for Seattle. While the Seahawks added Tubbs to boast their rush defense, Tubbs missed Sunday' s game against New Orleans with a bad hamstring. DT Cedric Woodard, though, played and registered four tackles in Seattle's 21-7 win over New Orleans.

Another former Longhorn DT, Casey Hampton, helped his team to victory with two tackles in Pittsburgh's 24-21 win over Oakland.

With his two field goals and two extra points, Phil Dawson contributed substantially to Cleveland's 20-3 win over rival Baltimore (and hated owner Art Modell).

Quentin Jammer had a successful return to Texas as he notched five tackles in San Diego's 27-20 win over Houston.

Several other Horns played Sunday: Arizona Cardinals starting guard Leonard Davis, rookie Dallas Cowboys LB Kalen Thornton, rookie Minnesota Vikings long snapper Cullen Loeffler, Buffalo Bills OT Mike Williams, Cincinnati Bengals LB Marcus Wilkins and Denver Broncos G Dan Neil.

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