Aaron Ross

Former Longhorn track star Sanya Richards-Ross is out to prove she is more than just athletics; she is a jack (or in this case, Jill) of all trades.


“I don’t want to only be known as Sanya the track star,” Richards-Ross states at the very beginning of the first episode of her new reality show. “I want to be a fashionista, business owner...you name it, I want to do it.”
 

The pilot for “Sanya’s Glam and Gold” premiered last week and as one might expect from the title, depicted the expanded life the four-time Olympic gold medal sprinter leads off the track: she is the industrious wife of fellow star athlete and former Longhorn, New York Giants cornerback Aaron Ross and a businesswoman and co-owner of a hair salon located in Austin, Texas.
 

In the first episode, we are introduced to her family and bedrock of her support system, “Team S.R.R.”: her father and manager Archie, her mother, who doubles as her agent, sister and business partner Shari, with whom she co-owns her salon and her cousin, publicist and stylist Yolande.
 

The pilot serves as the neat exposition in which we meet all the characters and start to see how the personalities and relationships make up Richards-Ross’ world. Husband Ross is ready to start a family, but Richards-Ross is more interested in training for the next Games and expanding her business before focusing on the next phase of her life.
 

Shari is Richards-Ross’ headstrong sibling rival and though the two are clearly close, it’s likely that complications in the relationship and differences of opinion in business will be a running plot throughout the show.
 

Viewers will likely become fond of Archie, who often has a sage, Jamaican accented word of advice for his daughter, and of Ross, whose calm disposition clearly helps keep Richards-Ross grounded.

 

Though being fellow professional athletes and obviously considered an equal by one another, the show will probably feature some friendly competitiveness between the two, making for an interesting twist in the husband-and-wife dynamic, who have been together since their freshman year at the University of Texas.
 

The close knit, family bonds portrayed in the show, combined with watching Richards-Ross’ multifaceted, but positive relationship dynamic with her husband will appeal to families, young women and Richards-Ross fans alike.

Professional BMX rider Aaron Ross, who lives in Austin, has ridden in nine X Games and was a commentator at the BMX segment of last
summer’s X Games.

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

Within the state of Texas, sports are a way of life. Home to two MLB teams, two NFL teams, three NBA teams, NBC’s Friday Night Lights and a mob of frenzied fans, Texas is known for its all-American, traditional sports culture.

But the decision by ESPN to bring the summer X Games, a competition featuring events including motocross, rallycross, skateboarding and BMX, to Austin next May has the power to change the culture of extreme, alternative sports here in Central Texas. It also has the power to change the perception of Austin. 

“Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World,” said local skater Colten Perry, an Austinite who was involved with the committee organizing Austin’s bid for the X Games. “But we could be known for extreme sports as well. I think the X Games are going to bring more of that here.” 

Austin was chosen last week by ESPN to host the summer X Games in May 2014. Austin, which is replacing Los Angeles, was one of four finalists. The X Games will take place next month in Los Angeles for the last time.

The city’s new Circuit of the Americas complex in South Austin, which hosts Formula 1, was heavily involved in bringing the X Games to Austin and will host most of the competitions next year. 

Aaron Ross, a professional BMX rider who is from Corpus Christi but currently resides in Austin, has ridden in nine different X Games. Despite not participating in recent games, Ross has stayed involved with ESPN and X Games and was the commentator for last summer’s X Games for the BMX portion of the competitions. 

“For the last 15 years, Austin has been one of the biggest BMX cities in the world,” Ross said.

Because of its outdoor-friendly residents, Ross said, Austin is the prime spot for the X Games and it made sense for ESPN to choose Austin over other options. 

“Austin is such a young city, such an outdoors city, everyone enjoys being outside,” Ross said. “It makes sense. It’s going to open a lot of doors and minds for this sport to what it is and what it can be.” 

With the construction of the Circuit of the Americas facilities and the Formula 1 competitions, Ross said Austin is emerging into the motor sports scene.

In addition, Austin is emerging as a landing point for professional athletes in the extreme sports related to the X Games.

“When someone decides to go pro, they move somewhere like Austin because we have tons of filmers, tons of photographers,” Ross said. “We have media here, we have big contests.”

 

Economic Benefits

While the announcement of the X Games moving to Austin resulted in a lot of excitement for local BMX fans, business owners might have a different reason to be excited.

Just as any national event would, the X Games is expected to bring millions of dollars to the city’s economy. Austin, already home to events including Austin City Limits, South By Southwest and Formula 1, could profit substantially from tourists visiting Austin for the weekend event in May 2014.

Paul Thornton, Circuit of the Americas director of events and entertainment, said events bring tourists with money to spend to Austin, which will result in more jobs, more infrastructure, better restaurants and shops as well as increases in property values.

Circuit of the Americas and the Austin Chamber of Commerce did not have an estimate for how much money the X Games could bring to Austin’s local economy, but both groups cited that the X Games brought Los Angeles more than $50 million in 2010.

“We expect that or more here because we have more capacity to grow,” Thornton said.

Ashley Nicole Hardy, Austin Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman, said the city can expect similar results that Los Angeles received, including 135,000 annual visitors.

Hardy said the X Games will be valuable to Austin because, similar to Formula 1, it brings international attention to the city.

“This is the second year in a row now that we’ve received something like this that wasn’t homegrown,” Hardy said. “Something like this makes Austin hyper-valuable in the global market.”


Tomas Pena performs a trick on his BMX bike at the Austin BMX & Skate Park on Saturday afternoon.

Alternative sports

While Austin may reap economic benefits, fans of the X Games and extreme sports athletes may see their pastime enter the spotlight. 

Perry, who has been skating for 13 years, emphasized how big the skate community and BMX community are in Austin and how much it would help those people. 

“It’s really important to help the skate community thrive and become bigger in the state of Texas,” Perry said. 

Perry is also involved in the Texas Skateboarding Club, an organization committed to promoting alternative sports to youth across Texas. 

“The skate scene here is so close, everyone knows each other and there are more and more people starting to skate,” Perry said. “It seems like families here in Austin are a little more open-minded.”

The presence of the X Games in Austin will also greatly help local businesses. Shane Riley, store manager at Fast Forward, predicts it will help businesses, including his, get more exposure and be able to help more people, especially beginners, ride. 

“The more people that know about Fast Forward and the more people that are excited about skating, the better it is for us,” Riley said. 

While local businesses and skaters are looking forward to how much Austin could grow as a result, some have expressed hesitation. 

“Some of the native Austinites are not as for it because they don’t want Austin to get bigger,” Perry said. “Most people, however, are so open to things here that I think it will be well-received and be a good opportunity for Austin.”

Circuit of the Americas is currently taking email addresses to notify fans when tickets go on sale for the Austin X Games in May 2014. 

 

X Games Definitions

X Games — Sporting event, controlled by ESPN, focusing on extreme, alternative, action sports. Motocross — Motorcycle racing on off-road tracks or circuits. Different types of competition featuring skill and speed.
BMX ­— Bicycle Motocross. Bicycle racing, motocross style, on tracks with obstacles and an inline start. Features trick riders, jumps and precision competition.
Rallycross — Automobile road racing. Closed circuit racing on a variety of courses.
Mountain Bike Slopestyle — Skill and trick riding on a natural course. No head-to- head racing.

Tarell Brown instructs at his football camp in Mesquite, which was free for all participants. A national champ at Texas, Brown started in the Super Bowl last season and is one of many former Texas defensive backs to be drafted recently.

Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

It seems like everyone knows him here.

Tarell Brown shakes dozens of hands and signs hundreds of autographs after running his sixth football and cheerleading camp in Mesquite since beginning his NFL career. He’s joined by former Longhorns teammates Michael Griffin, Michael Huff and Aaron Ross – four of the 13 Longhorns defensive backs that have been drafted since 2002.

“It’s a fraternity,” Huff said. “At Texas, us DBs pride ourselves in being a family and keeping the tradition going. Any time one of our DBs have something going, we’re going to be there.”

After spending an hour signing autographs for the throng of adoring young campers, Brown, Huff, Ross and Griffin proudly put on shirts that proclaimed: “Texas Football is the new DBU.”

Brown has done a fine job upholding that “DBU” legacy but his path to success hasn’t always been a smooth one. He partially tore his ACL after his rookie season and spent his first four years in the NFL as a backup.

But possibly his most painful setback came while he was still playing for Texas, who he helped win its first national championship in more than three decades in 2005.

One of two Heisman Trophy winners for USC, Matt Leinart went into the fourth quarter of that season’s national title game without a touchdown pass.

That changed with 6:42 left, when he threw a dart between Texas safety Michael Griffin and cornerback Tarell Brown. Dwayne Jarrett rose over Brown and Griffin, plucked the ball out of the air as the two defenders collided and his outstretched arm crossed the goal line.

USC took a 38-26 lead over Texas while Griffin and Brown lay limp next to each other at the 5-yard line. Griffin was fine, but Brown, who made a career-high 10 tackles in that game, had suffered a broken right forearm. He was forced to watch Vince Young lead the Longhorns to a scintillating 41-38 victory on the television in the locker room.

“I was going for the ball and I just got hit. That’s all I really remember,” Brown said. “I remember breaking my forearm and my whole right side going numb. I knew something was broken. We did a great job finishing the game off.”

Eight years later, Brown had a much different championship experience. After earning a starting spot at cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers before the 2011 season, Brown had helped them reach their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.

Brown, who the 49ers drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL Draft, was part of a secondary that boasted the fourth-best pass defense in the league. But Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco had picked it apart to the tune of three first-half touchdown passes.

The 49ers picked apart at a 28-6 Ravens lead in the second half and got as close as 28-23 after Brown forced a Ray Rice fumble, which led to a David Akers field goal. But San Francisco was never able to break through, falling to Baltimore, 34-31, in Super Bowl XLVII this February.

“There’s nothing like playing in the Super Bowl,” Brown said. “It’s all about winning. I remember the national championship a lot more because we won. The Super Bowl was great, getting the opportunity to represent your team, yourself and your family. We had a great run. We just couldn’t finish it at the end.”

Brown has come a long way since since starring at North Mesquite High School, where he rushed for more than 3,000 yards in his last two years and established himself as one of the top cornerback prospects in the country.

He returned to Mesquite last weekend for his camp, which he doesn’t charge for because he couldn’t afford to go to such camps as a child.

“I always thought it was something important for my community,” Brown said. “This was always big for me, always something I wanted to do, just to give something back to the kids.”

Maybe next year, he’ll come to the camp wearing a Super Bowl ring.

Seniors Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor will have an opportunity to further impress NFL scouts during the Texas Pro Day.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Over the past two decades, Texas has established itself as a perennial producer of NFL talent. In fact, it has gotten to the point where not seeing a Longhorn name near the top of the draft board is downright strange. However, Texas has not had a player taken in the first round since the Seahawks took Earl Thomas 14th overall in 2010, its longest drought in 19 years. The last time Texas did not have a player drafted in the first round two years in a row was 1993-1994. 

With the hope of reversing this trend, several Longhorns will participate in Texas’ Pro Day today, including former top-five pick Vince Young. Despite the buzz Young has created around the 40 Acres with his comeback effort, the two names that stick out most are seniors Kenny Vaccaro and Alex Okafor. Both are considered to be among the top prospects at their respective positions. There are several other players who will be working out, including Olympic long jumper and renowned speedster Marquise Goodwin, who turned heads with his lightning-quick 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine last month. Here is a rundown of Texas’ upcoming draft class and how it stacks up against years past: 

44: The number of Longhorns currently in the NFL, five of whom made the Pro Bowl last year. Those players are: Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton and kicker Phil Dawson, who recently joined the 49ers.  

14: Texas players drafted in the first round since 2000. Some notable names in that group are running back Cedric Benson, defensive end Brian Orakpo and Young. The years 2000, 2008, 2011 and 2012 mark the only times in that span in which a Longhorn has not been a first-round draft pick. Both Vaccaro and Okafor have a chance to become first round picks in the 2013 draft.  

5: The number of Texas defensive backs taken in the first round since 2000, including Michael Griffin and Aaron Ross, who were drafted with consecutive picks in 2007. Scouts like Vaccaro because of his coverage skills and and instinctual style of play, making him one of the top safety prospects. If he can impress at Texas’ Pro Day, he has a good chance to go in the first round like Griffin and Ross did.  

4.5: The number of sacks Okafor had in Texas’ Alamo Bowl victory over Oregon State, a performance that put an exclamation point on his impressive Longhorn career. Okafor finished 2012 with 12.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, earning him the reputation of an agile, tenacious pass-rusher. Look for Okafor to contribute immediately wherever he lands.  

4.27: The time it took Marquise Goodwin to run his 40-yard dash at the NFL combine last month, the second-fastest time ever recorded there. Goodwin’s time is second only to the 4.24 Tennessee Titans’ running back Chris Johnson ran in 2008.

Carrington Byndom (23) tackles Texas Tech wide receiver Austin Zouzalik in the Longhorns' recent 52—20 victory over the Red Raiders. Byndom has quickly become one of the Longhorns' best defensive backs this season.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Carrington Byndom isn’t much of a talker. But the cornerback sure knows how to listen.

Of course, it helps to be around people who know what they’re talking about.

Byndom’s postion coach, Duane Akina, has sent dozens of defensive backs to the NFL, with 10 currently in the league.

“He hangs on to every word that Akina tells him,” said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “He’s not brash and boisterous but at the same time he exudes a quiet confidence.”

Byndom spent his summer working out in Austin with Akina’s pupils, including Michael Huff, Aaron Ross, Cedric Griffin and Michael Griffin. He picked their brains and soaked it all in.

So far, it’s paid off. The sophomore has started all eight games and leads the Longhorns with 11 pass breakups.

“You’re around them and around their presence and they teach you their little secrets to improve your game,” Byndom said. “That was another key for me. They just give you their insight because they’ve been through this. They’re helping us prepare our game and get that much better for the future.”

His future certainly is bright. Give Byndom another year in Akina’s system, and he’ll be lining up at corner on Sundays.

The defensive backs room at the football complex is home to the “Money Wall,” homage to the former Longhorns who have gone on to the NFL. It’s also a constant reminder of the high expectations that come with being Akina’s latest pupil.

“Every DB wants to be on the money wall when they leave here,” Byndom said. “That’s another goal, another milestone for us, to have you picture up there on the wall so every DB who comes after knows he made the money wall.

“I definitely aspire to be like one of those guys that came through our defensive back room. Being like them is a goal for me, maybe even going beyond that.”

Byndom’s certainly gone above and beyond expectations in his first year as a starter.

“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Akina said. “I knew he was going to be a good player, but he’s really ahead of schedule, much more physical. He’s really just seeing the game. He’s an outstanding athlete and now the game is really beginning to slow down. All those reps are starting to catch up."

Byndom routinely draws the assignment of covering the opponent’s best receiver and has done well in that role. He held his ground against Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and shut down Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon.

“He’s now one of the best corners in this conference, and his goal is to become national,”
Akina said.

Byndom may not be a big talker, but he let’s his game speak for him. And while his 6-foot, 180-pound frame might not be all that imposing, he’s not afraid to mix it up and hit somebody.

“He’s just a class act, much like Aaron Ross, Michael Huff and yet, on the field, very competitive,” Akina said. “Don’t let that demeanor fool you a little bit. He’s a physical, tough guy.”

On Saturday against Missouri’s 37th-ranked pass offense, Akina will need to make adjustments on the fly and shout instructions between plays. You can be sure that Byndom will be listening.
 

Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy goes back to pass against the Green Bay Packers in his first preseason game of the year.

As the University prepares for its first chance to step onto the field after the 5-7 debacle, many of its alumni are already making plays at the next level. Possibly the most notable of which is second year quarterback Colt McCoy for the Cleveland Browns. Through the first two preseason games, McCoy has the highest quarterback rating in the NFL, and is nearing his college numbers with a 67.9 completion percentage. He tossed three touchdowns in last week’s loss to the Lions and has quickly adapted to the West Coast office under the offseason tutelage of Brett Favre. He did have a poor showing Thursday against the Eagles, completing just half his passes and an interception.

Cleveland will begin the season at home against the woeful Cincinnati Bengals, then head to Indianapolis to square-off against a possibly Manning-less Colts team. They then play at home against a Miami Dolphins team trying to find an identity. It is not out of the question that McCoy could lead a rising Cleveland team to a surprise 3-0 start.

Injury plagued cornerback gets giant second chance

In only the second preseason game, the New York Giants already find themselves with an injury problem. Starting Cornerback Terrell Thomas went down with a torn ACL, and will miss the entire season. The injury bug has forced Aaron Ross into a much more prominent position in the Giants defensive backfield. He has 140 career tackles and six interceptions, and the former Thorpe Award winner should see those numbers increase as he enters his fifth year in the NFL, and will again be a starter at cornerback for the Giants. Ross has been fighting injuries himself for the last couple of seasons, which slid him out of the starting lineup, and into the nickel package with Thomas going inside. Ross saw extended play against the Chicago Bears on Monday night, where he often went against fellow Texas alum Roy Williams.

Jermichael Finley recovered, ready for comeback

In Green Bay, Tight End Jermichael Finley was on his way to a career season before an injury shortened his season. Finley was the Packers leading receiver through the first four games of last season, and had already posted two 100 yard receiving games. But he injured his knee early in the fifth game of the season against Washington trying to make a tackle. He was forced to the sideline and had to watch as his team marched to a Super Bowl victory. Finley, though says that he is in shape and “a little slimmer, faster and stronger.” While he hasn’t been able to work out while rehabbing his knee, he has been studying film of other tight ends like the Chargers Antonio Gates, and the Falcons Tony Gonzalez in order to help his game as he prepares for upcoming season which is sure to cement his position as an elite tight end in the NFL. For Green Bay, he will be one of many players coming off injury that will have to reincorporated into a championship team.