athlete

Associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans has led the team through a challenging season, including the loss of senior forward Nneka Enemkpali.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

In late January, against a highly ranked Baylor team, senior forward Nneka Enemkpali drove to the basket and jumped near the hoop for an offensive rebound. On her way back down, she fell awkwardly, collapsing in excruciating pain as she suffered a serious knee injury. Immediately, associate athletic trainer Lisa Stalans rushed to her on the court.

What came next was the hardest part.

Soon, Stalans had the task of telling Enemkpali her college basketball career was over. 

“It was heartbreaking for me to say that,” Stalans said. 

It was something Stalans had done before and will most likely do again in the future. As an athletic trainer for the women’s basketball team, Stalans is in charge of the health and rehabilitation of the athletes. She evaluates them, tends to them and even delivers heartbreaking news — like she had to do with Enemkpali.

“It’s part of my job,” Stalans said. “I try to keep them calm and say, ‘You know, we’ll see what happens.’ It’s been stressful. When an athlete gets hurt, your biggest thing is getting them back on the court as soon as possible, but they just can’t go out there when they’re 50 percent.”

However, Stalans’ job also gives her the opportunity to deliver the good news when an athlete can return. 

In December, freshman guard Ariel Atkins was out indefinitely after an ankle injury. But on Jan. 16, Stalans announced Atkins could return to the court. This week, Atkins won the Phillips 66 Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor for a third time this season. Stalans said it’s those moments when the athletes’ hard work in rehabilitation pays off that make her love her job. 

“I try to get them back better than they were before the injury,” Stalans said. “That is my challenge to myself — to make an athlete better than they were.”

Currently in her 14th season at Texas, Stalans has been with the women’s basketball team since 2009, longer than current head coach Karen Aston. Before that, Stalans spent nine years with the Texas soccer and women’s tennis teams after she arrived in Austin in 2000.

Texas has kept Stalans busy this season. Nine longhorns have missed at least one game because of injuries. But, fortunately for Texas, the injuries didn’t happen all at once. 

“I do feel like one got hurt, and then I get that person back, and then I’d lose another one the next week,” Stalans said.

Her main concern is getting her athletes ready for their next step, which in most cases is just getting ready for the next game.

“We got back at three this morning from West Virginia, so today was all about ice baths,” Stalans said. “I tell them to think of it like a spa.”

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

This Sunday, 18,000 runners will participate in the 24th annual Austin Marathon — a 26.2-mile footrace around the city — in which some will experience cramps, vomiting and loss of bladder control. 

The unprepared may even suffer more serious consequences.

An injury caused by one half-marathon can put an athlete out for over a year, but these injuries are often preventable. 

“A lot of people have bad notions when it comes to marathons,” said Kyle Higdon, Texas Running Club coach and aerospace engineering graduate student. “Runners will always talk about their injuries, their knees. But, if you train correctly, running is strengthening your muscles and joints.” The benefits of running far outweigh the injuries.”

About half of all runners injure themselves over the course of a year. The knee is the area most at risk for a running injury in all ages and sexes, and the most common knee injury is patellofemoral pain syndrome — sometimes referred to as runner’s knee. 

While runner’s knee is the most common injury, stress fractures are rare and have more serious consequences. Stress fractures are tiny, painful cracks in the bone that account for nearly 15 percent of all running injuries. If an athlete continues to run through the pain, the crack could widen until it becomes a serious fracture in the bone. If this injury happens in the top of the femur — the large bone to which the thigh muscle is attached — a hip replacement may be necessary. 

Robin Merket, a sports medicine doctor at University Health Services, recommends that athletes start training with a run-and-walk program and not increase mileage by more than 10 percent a week.  

“It’s best — especially if you haven’t been a runner — to start very slowly,” Merket said. “I can’t tell you how many college students come in after the marathon and they’ve [only] trained for maybe two weeks.” 

External factors, such as inappropriate running shoes, often lead to greater injury risk. Each foot falls a different way; runners must find shoes that match their gait. Employees at specialty running stores are trained to find the right shoe for every foot.Depending on the quality of the shoe, athletes should switch out their running shoes every 350–500 miles. 

There are certain precautions athletes can take to prime their bodies for a smooth running experience. Recent research indicates dynamic, movement-oriented warm-ups, such as lunges, high knee kicks or jogging, are more effective than stretching in place. 

From experienced marathoners to running newbies, proper preparation and technique are the best ways to prevent injuries at Sunday’s marathon.

Senior Myles Onyegbule recently made the switch from tight end to quarterback. Off the field though, Onyegbule was selected to join the Texas Cowboys. He, along with the rest of the all-male spirit organization, helps maintain and operate Smokey, the cannon fired at football games.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

While student-athletes’ schedules tend to leave little time for activities outside of balancing classes and their respective sports, a few athletes every year join campus spirit and service organizations with the intent of giving back to the community and broadening their own experiences.

Miles Onyegbule, who recently switched from tight end to quarterback, was selected to join Texas Cowboys, an all-male spirit and service organization, by fellow teammates who are already members of the organization. The group also maintains and operates Smokey, the cannon that gets fired off at Longhorn football games.

“It’s kind of a getaway from the limelight of football,” Onyegbule said. “You get to travel around the city and campus doing philanthropy and service events where the pressures are greatly minimized.”

Texas Cowboys is the University-recognized spirit organization

Onyegbule chose to accept his invitation to the Cowboys because he believes the positive impact the organization outweighs the negative connotation it often carries, describing the group members as self-motivated and well-respected.

“Usually, in the beginning, people just think of Cowboys as a party organization, where the [bar] tabs and social events are what we’re all about,” Onyegbule said. “But students quickly realize what we stand for, and that’s giving back in any way we can.”

Charlie Moore, a senior on the men’s swimming and diving team and a Cowboy, recently competed in his last swim meet at Texas as he heads into the fifth year of his degree as part of the McCombs Schools of Business’ MPA program. Moore is excited about the opportunity to mentor the younger members next year.

“I’m looking forward to spending more time talking to the [new members] about moving forward to continue to move our organization in the right direction,” Moore said. “To change that perception of who we are and what we do.”

Moore said he sees similarities in being a member in athletics and in service organizations.

“I think athletics is just as much about contribution to the University as it is [about] self achievement,” Moore said.

M.J. McFarland, a sophomore tight end from El Paso, is the only athlete who is a member of Texas Silver Spurs. McFarland said his experience thus far has been bittersweet, as being an athlete makes it difficult for him to be fully committed and attend all mandatory events, especially with football season approaching.

“Bitter because I couldn’t spend as much time with my fellow Spurs due to my athletic responsibilities,” McFarland said. “Yet sweet because, when I do spend time with them and hangout, it is always a good time.”

Silver Spurs is spirit organization responsible for handling all events involving Bevo, the school mascot.

McFarland said the best part of Spurs is being able to interact with people of all different backgrounds. He said stepping out of his comfort zone and joining as the only athlete has paid off.

“I get the best of both worlds,” McFarland said. “The athlete world and the fraternity world.”

Most of all, as an athlete member of Cowboys and Spurs, you are expected to represent your team by participating in volunteering and philanthropic service events on and off campus.

Since joining UT in early January, head football coach Charlie Strong has made the headlines many times over, and rightfully so. He is the University’s first black men’s head coach. He is guaranteed a minimum of $5 million annually for a five-season term, with $100,000 increases per year starting in 2015. He has brought many new faces to the coaching staff. But aside from all of that, he has brought a refreshing sense of discipline and expectation. What remains to be asked is whether these expectations will foster a fervent effort to ensure success for athletes both on and off the field. 

Shawn Izadi, a pre-med senior linebacker from Coppell, defined the term “student-athlete” as “athlete being in bold, all caps, 50 size font while student is written in small, lowercase italicized font.” 

“It should be the reverse,” Izadi said. “But the problem is a degree doesn’t generate $150 million. Football does. But what a degree will do is place an individual in society to make a meaningful impact.”

The degrees that football players earn at Texas are limited by more than financial concerns: More than one-third of UT’s football team studies physical culture and sports, applied learning and development or youth and community studies. While these areas of study may truly suit their interests, it’s important to consider the other factors that may contribute to the players’ choice of major, as a critical part of academic success is pursuing a major in a field of interest.

Grant Sirgo, a senior mechanical engineering major and kicker for the UT football team, said this pattern may exist because of the support system already in place for those majors.

“With many of the upperclassmen [football players] majoring in these degree plans it can seem like a comfortable choice with a solid support system already in place,” Sirgo said. “Some enter school already having a passion to teach and coach. For these individuals, the decision is no different than mine to enter engineering.” 

But Izadi also offered a different reason for the skew towards physical culture and sports in the player’s academic lives.

“They come here to play football and their priority is not to get an education or they may not have been introduced to what they like yet,” Izadi said. 

Perhaps there’s social pressure to pursue these particular majors, given that the H.J Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, where most classes in the physical culture and sports major are taught, is conveniently located in the north end of the football stadium. 

Whatever the case may be, it’s important that athletes acquire the best education possible especially since their degrees are all that they’ll have to show for countless hours of dedication to the sport. And by best education, I mean a major that really suits their interests and not what’s socially convenient and easily accessible. 

Strong may not directly address the importance of choosing a major that will provide future opportunities, but his insistence that his team members excel as students first, and then as athletes suggests that the players have free reign when choosing a major. After all, there’s a reason “student” comes before “athlete” in the term “student-athlete.” 

If these athletes are genuinely drawn to their particular majors, their athletic services are being compensated through a free education. But if they are choosing these majors because of social pressures or lack of time to pursue their real interests, the trade-off between their services and their education is heavily lopsided. Though football may be what attracts and binds these football players to UT, it should not be the only thing of value they have once they leave.

Johnson is a journalism junior from DeSoto.

Former Longhorn Connor Brewer relays information to starting quarterback David Ash at the December 2012 Alamo Bowl against Oregon State. Brewer is the most recent athlete to transfer unconditionally from Texas. Football transfers have made headlines due to ambigious restrictions placed on student athletes.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Earlier this month, redshirt freshman Connor Brewer announced that he would seek a transfer from the Longhorn football program after only one season at Texas. Brewer is following in the steps of former Texas quarterbacks Connor Wood and Garrett Gilbert, both of whom transferred to other programs with eligibility remaining. 

“I want to thank everyone at The University of Texas — the coaching staff, the fans and especially my teammates for a great experience here in Austin over the last 18 months,” Brewer said. “I do, however, feel that it is in my best interest as a football player to pursue other options to continue my college career.” 

The Texas football program has had its fair share of transfers, but recently with increasing restrictions by high-profile universities across the country, the rules regarding transfers have been thrust into the spotlight. While Texas has an open policy for its transferring athletes, imposing no additional restrictions beyond the minimum by the NCAA and Big 12, such is not the case for many other football programs. 

In May, Oklahoma State sophomore Wes Lunt elected to transfer but was stuck with stringent stipulations on where he could play next, which brought scrutiny to what restrictions head coaches could place on transferring athletes in addition to the restrictions placed by the NCAA and Big 12. 

According to the NCAA, students are allowed to transfer to any school of their choice but must be released by their current institution from any scholarships. For football and both men’s and women’s basketball, an athlete must sit out for one year before being allowed to compete at a new institution. In the Big 12, an athlete can choose to attend another conference school, but he would lose an additional year of eligibility for those same sports. 

There is no rule, however, against the initial institution placing limitations on which universities are eligible for an athlete to transfer to as part of the student’s initial letter of intent, with the team generally blocking in-conference opponents and schools that will show up on the schedule during the player’s career. 

Lunt’s case made national headlines after Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy significantly limited Lunt’s transfer options. Gundy barred Lunt from transferring to schools in the SEC and Pac-12 conference, Southern Mississippi, where former Cowboy offensive coordinator Todd Monken was named head coach, as well as all in-conference teams and teams that Oklahoma State has currently scheduled, a staggering 37 in all. 

If a player wants to leave for another school but is not granted a release from his letter of intent contract with the original university, the athlete forfeits the opportunity to play for scholarship money while still sitting out the next season. However, as in the case of Gilbert, if a student graduates from his original university, he is not bound by transfer restrictions if he is seeking a new degree. 

In another case this past April, Pittsburgh placed restrictions on running back Rushel Shell who wants to transfer to Arizona State, a team that is in a different conference and is not on Pittsburgh’s future football schedule. Arizona State’s head coach is Todd Graham, a former coach at Pittsburgh.

Texas has had a record of issuing unconditional releases to athletes who elect to transfer, under whatever circumstances, for other opportunities. Texas head coach Mack Brown has even said he is willing to aid transferring athletes in their search for a new program. Even after former Big 12 rival Texas A&M left the conference, Texas did not place restrictions in regards to the Aggies. 

“If a guy comes in and talks to us about, whether it’s being unhappy, needing more playing time, wanting to get closer to home, whatever, it really doesn’t matter,” Brown said. 

Brewer is the third Texas quarterback in three years to choose, and be awarded, an unconditional release from his scholarship in search of new opportunities. It has been suggested that Brewer’s decision to transfer stems from his position on the depth chart. Over the year, Brewer has fallen behind junior starter David Ash, senior backup Case McCoy and true freshman standout Tyrone Swoopes on projected depth charts for the upcoming football season.

“I mean, if they’re not happy here, we want to help them, and we’ve never had a conditional release for anybody,” Brown said. “If we release them, we try to help them. So we’ll call the places they want to go.”

Brewer has not named what school he will be transferring to, but indicated that Alabama, Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA, Louisville, Tennessee and Arizona have expressed interest. 

“Coach Brown was great,” Brewer told ESPN. “He understood the situation and basically said, ‘You’re free to go where you want.’” 

Wood, who was a redshirt freshman when he elected to transfer to the University of Colorado, was tied for third on the depth chart with Ash behind Gilbert and McCoy in 2011. Similarly, Gilbert was allowed an unconditional release to attend SMU after starting the 2012 season and suffering a season-ending shoulder surgery. 

The rules that govern student-athletes are ambiguous and a student cannot do much to change an institution’s ruling on transfer, Austin sports lawyer Pete Reid said. After a student asks for permission to contact other schools, the school has seven days to respond. After that, the student can request a hearing to appeal that must be held within 14 days, but the rules don’t provide for more specific parts of the process.

“The rules allow for the schools to do whatever they want,” Reid said. “It doesn’t say what grounds the school has to have to deny the student, doesn’t even say specific parts of the hearing. There are no standards.” 

The ambiguity of the rules makes it more difficult for student-athletes to do anything to fight against a university if they want to transfer. 

“It’s just not practical for a student to bring a lawsuit against a school,” Reid said. “No one wants to cause trouble against the school. No one wants to be the one who leaves because the coach doesn’t like them and students respect what the schools tell them.” 

As for Texas’ history of unconditional releases, Reid said he thinks it is a good thing. 

“Usually there’s a reason that a student needs to transfer,” Reid said. “I think what Texas does is a very good thing, even when offering to help the students.” 

Many opponents of the current transfer situation claim that the universities and NCAA are treating student-athletes less like the students and teenagers that they are and more like their professional counterparts. A student who seeks a transfer after more than one year at his original institution is putting his playing career in jeopardy thanks to heightened transfer restrictions. 

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops told ESPN that he supported Gundy’s decision to restrict Lunt’s transfer options, stating that he doesn’t believe it is right for a student to be able to do whatever he wants after already committing to play for a university. Other proponents of transfer restrictions say it is needed to help teach athletes to stay the course, mature and work harder to get better. There is also worry that a transferring player could take school playbooks to a rival university. 

According to the NCAA website, in 2012 NCAA President Mark Emmert convened a task force to work on transfer rules with university presidents and NCAA members, reviewing every rule to establish a way of enforcement. New bylaws were expected to be presented to the Division 1 Board of Directors in late 2012 or early 2013, but have not been announced.

John Chiles has always been a tremendous athlete. The New Orleans Saints thought highly enough of Chiles to sign him as an undrafted free agent in 2011, as did the St. Louis Rams after signing him to become a part of their practice squad later in the season before he was cut. Chiles worked out with this year’s crop of NFL prospects at Texas’ Pro Day on Tuesday, in hopes of being added to another professional roster. In the two years since his departure from the Texas football program, Chiles has had a cup of tea in the NFL and has also played for the Jacksonville Sharks of the Arena Football League. Given Chiles’ experience as a backup quarterback and wide receiver at Texas and his training with the U.S. Track and Field Olympic team, he has another good case for NFL teams to give him a shot. For Chiles and his family, that’s all they can hope for at this point.

“The NFL is moving more toward John’s style of play,” John Chiles Sr. said while watching his son catch passes from Vince Young. “The training he has done with the Olympic team and sprinter Darvis Patton has really helped his speed. John is still light on his feet.”

 

Monroe, Hills share shoes, hopes of NFL career

D.J. Monroe and Jeremy Hills may have had a minimal impact during their time at Texas, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hungry to get a piece of the NFL pie as well. Monroe and Hills even shared a pair of shoes while clocking their 40-yard dash times during Pro Day. After Hills’ second go at the dash, Monroe congratulated his teammate on his run but requested he take off the socks he was wearing as they belonged to Monroe. Hills couldn’t find his socks but he didn’t need them as he posted one of the faster times of the day in the dash. Both Hills and Monroe offer speed and agility for teams in the market for shifty players that can take off in an instant.

 

Young talks to “Ashley” before throwing

Vince Young didn’t speak with the media but his newfound friend David “Ashley” Ash was on hand to see what the former Texas great had to show everyone inside the Longhorns’ practice bubble Tuesday afternoon. The two exchanged a few words before Young took to the field to distribute passes to the likes of Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Grant.

 

“DBU” out in full force

Texas defensive backs coach Duane Akina had a veritable family reunion as more than a few of his former defensive backs showed up in support of the draft-ready Longhorns. Aaron Williams, Cedric Griffin, Michael Huff, Blake Gideon, Chykie Brown and Earl Thomas were all seen reminiscing with Akina and his staff throughout the day. After Marquise Goodwin exploded from a stand still to tally a 42-inch vertical, Williams’ father Anthony quickly reminded those standing around him that Aaron himself reached the upper portion of the vertical measurement tool during his Pro Day back in 2011.

 

Kye Allums, a transgender man, speaks about his transition from a woman to a man and experience as a former NCAA athlete during the Gender & Sexuality Center Speaker Series Thursday in Gregory Gym. 

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Former NCAA athlete Kye Allums may have received support from his coaches and teammates when he came out as a transgender man, but his journey in finding himself did not always attract positive attention.

Allums presented “The Transition Tour” through the Gender & Sexuality Center Speaker Series Thursday in Gregory Gym in an effort to fight ignorance and discrimination associated with transgenders by discussing the differences between gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation. Allums discussed his transition from a woman to a man.

“Sex is what you have, gender is how you feel,” Allums said. “No one else should tell you how to express your gender. It is not a choice. It is a feeling.”

Allums attended Centennial High School in Circle Pines, Minn. At this time he was known by his original name, Kay-Kay. His mother raised him as a Jehovah’s witness. When he told her he was gay, Allums said she quoted Bible scriptures at him.

“The next day I woke up, and she took me to the hospital to get a drug test,” Allums said. “She then took me to a church and made me sign a contract afterward promising to pray more. Our relationship was never the same.”

Allums attended George Washington University after graduation to play women’s basketball. Allums received support from his coaches and teammates after coming out as a transgender man.

He said just a few months later the NCAA approved transgender policies for athletes.

According to NCAA policy, a student athlete may participate in sex-separated sports if they do not use hormone therapy. After a year of treatment, a female-to-male athlete receiving testosterone will not be eligible to compete on a women’s team and a male-to-female athlete receiving testosterone suppression will not be eligible to compete on a men’s team. Allums chose not to receive testosterone or undergo surgeries while playing for George Washington University.

“I wanted to continue to play with my team,” Allums said. “I wanted to finish playing when my teammates finished playing. I did not want to undergo hormones and be forced to play for a different team. If you cannot beat me, then it’s because you suck, not because of any hormones.”

Electrical engineering sophomore Joshua Bryant attended the lecture. He said being a student is stressful enough without fear of discrimination.

“We need to make every student feel safer in the learning environment,” Bryant said. “There does not need to be any added pressure.”

Ixchel Rosal, director of the Division of Diversity & Community Engagement, said UT has made great strides to help with the overall comfort of transgender students.

“Gender identity and gender expression have been included in the anti-discrimination policy, which is huge,” Rosal said. “There has also been an effort to create more gender-neutral restrooms on campus as well as the preferred name policy, which allows students to establish a preferred name in the classroom.”

Students can access more information about transgenderism at the Gender and Sexuality Center.

Printed on Friday, October 19, 2012 as: Ex-athlete tackles gender issues

Jungmann keeps delivering

There’s a lot to think about on a two-hour drive home from College Station in the dead of night. Making the return trip, I thought a little about the surprisingly good cup of coffee I had bought from Chevron, thought a lot about my falling GPA -- not the Mendoza Line but definitely won’t be confused with Ted Williams’ 1941 batting average -- and I thought too much about how dark, creepy and deserted Highway 21 was and how I hoped I wouldn’t meet the fate Justin Long did in Jeepers Creepers.

But I spent the most time thinking about what I had seen from Taylor Jungmann in Texas’ 4-2 win over the Aggies. His stat line speaks for itself -- nine innings pitched, 12 strikeouts, two earned runs and 121 pitches thrown – but it’s becoming obvious that box scores can no longer tell the whole story when you’re talking about Jungmann.

I think that Jungmann is the best athlete to wear a Longhorn uniform since Vince Young. I think this because of not only the impressive numbers that he puts up, but also because of what he means to his team and the way in which he plays the game. But I mostly think this because of Jungmann’s ability to match and even exceed any expectations we ultimately set for him.

Think about Vince for a second, specifically the 2006 National Championship. Going into it, we knew that Texas’ only chance to win would be to match and eventually outscore USC’s historic offense. And we knew that responsibility would fall to Vince Young. We also knew that Vince would probably be great, because he was all year, but if he wasn’t then there was absolutely no shot. Not only did Vince meet the “greatness” requirement, he surpassed it. There are really no words to describe the 267/200 stat line he posted, and there is no way to overstate the importance of his performance. If Vince doesn’t do exactly what he did, the Longhorns lose. Like, if he throws for 267 yards but rushes for 190, there is most likely no burnt orange celebration. It was a one-man show, a fantastic performance. But it was just enough to ensure a win. We expected “great.” Somehow, Vince gave us better than that.

Taylor Jungmann’s career reminds me of that. The two sports are completely different, and the spotlight isn’t on Jungmann like it was always on Vince. But consider what Jungmann has done in his three years.

He has 33 wins, with six losses. He is 12-0 this year and undefeated at home. Currently, he has the nation’s second-longest win streak. Twice, he has been sent out in postseason do-or-die situations and come through. In his freshman year, 2009, Texas had to win the second game of the CWS Finals against LSU to stay alive. The Longhorns throw the 19-year-old Jungmann out there in the biggest pressure-cooker of his life, and does this: 9 ip, five hits, one run (unearned), nine strikeouts.

Last year, Texas had dropped game one against TCU in the Super Regional. Once again, the Longhorns were in a must-win situation. Jungmann gets the draw, and does this: 8.1 ip, six hits, one earned run, and nine strikeouts.

In those two crucial games, Jungmann allowed one earned run total. He struck out eighteen total, allowed eleven hits, and needed just .2 innings of relief help. This all on a national stage and with a gargantuan weight on his back.

We knew going into Thursday’s game against A&M and its ace John Stilson that Texas was not going to score many runs. With that knowledge, it was pretty much an accepted fact that Jungmann had to be great or else the Aggies would probably win and then take control of a very important Big 12 Conference race. The Longhorns ended up scoring four, though one was unearned and all came in a rather weird fashion, but they didn’t plate a run until seventh inning. It was clear that Stilson didn’t have his best stuff – far from it – but he still got out of any jam he got himself into. In the third inning, the Longhorns left the bases loaded. In the fourth, they left two on. That’s two consecutive innings with the final out being recorded with two runners in scoring position in each situation. And they just kept coming up with nothing to show for it, choking away potential scoring opportunities in the biggest game of the season. As a relatively unbiased spectator, I was frustrated. I’m sure Jungmann, from the dugout, was incredibly frustrated -- though he’d never tell you that. He was doing his best to keep the Aggies quiet, but he would eventually need some offensive support.

The Ags pushed a run across in the third and then another in the fifth. But Jungmann remained calm, trusted that somehow, someway, run support would come, and focused on his job. He blocked out a very loud Olsen Field crowd. He fought through a sticky humidity. He pitched from behind. And, most demoralizing to any Aggie, he got better as the game went on.

A rhythm was developed during the sixth inning, and the junior pitcher never looked back. In the last four innings, Texas A&M didn’t get a legal hit (fielder’s choice). In that span, Jungmann struck out seven batters. For comparison, Stilson struck out three all game.

In the postgame interviews, Jungmann prefers a low word count. If you pitch him a yes or no question, he’ll simply respond “yes” or “no.” He doesn’t concede emotion or any signs of vulnerability. This persona will soon serve him well in the big leagues: the less you know a guy, the less you see him smile or laugh or grimace or frown, the more intimidating he is on the mound. Jungmann knows this.

No, you’ll never get a great sound byte out of him. But an interview with Jungmann is always interesting because there is more to learn from his preferred silence than there is from another player’s exuberance.

I’ve learned two things about him. First, he’s not intimidated by anybody. A few weeks ago against Oklahoma, Jungmann was in a bases-loaded jam. At the plate was Garrett Buechele, who happens to be hitting .339 with 55 RBI and 7 home runs this year. Jungmann got Buechele to fly out. When asked about the clash between the ace pitcher and the accomplished slugger, Jungmann said he didn’t even think about who was standing sixty feet away from him at home. Didn't even notice it. It’s this mentality that makes him the great pitcher he is, because he has the confidence to throw his best stuff regardless of the situation or the batter.

The second thing I’ve learned about Jungmann is that he shrinks the situation. College World Series? Okay. Elimination game? Alright. Biggest game of the year? I guess. He doesn’t make the mistake of getting over-amped for anything. The constant downplaying of every pivotal at-bat and game is Jungmann’s unique way of battling the mass of expectations a greedy fan base puts on him.

Most players aren’t like this. The other day I asked Texas’ best hitter Erich Weiss what it was like to be relied on so heavily. He admitted that there was a lot of pressure with his responsibility. There's nothing at all wrong with that, but I am fairly certain Jungmann would ever admit any sort of pressure or acknowledge any standard set for him. I’m not sure the P word is even in his vocabulary -- and that’s how he manages to deliver no matter the situation or the expectation.

As you may know, the Longhorns have an incredibly inconsistent offense. Yes, it’s an offense that usually finds a way to cobble together just enough runs, but it’s an offense that leaves a lot of runners in scoring position and takes about half a game to heat up. Because of this, Texas has relied on its pitching staff more than ever this year. That starts with Jungmann, the Friday starter. He sets the tone for each and every weekend series. The Longhorns’ best (and sometimes only) chance at a successful weekend rests on his right arm. And each time he takes the mound, he wins.

As his career has grown, Jungmann has been branded as a sure thing. What’s most amazing is that, no matter the circumstance, he keeps meeting -- and exceeding -- that expectation.
 

Former Texas Volleyball standout Destinee Hooker has been nominated to represent the United States on the national team, pending approval by the United States Olympic Committee.

Hooker, a San Antonio native, spent four years at UT under Coach Jerritt Elliott where she won multiple awards including Big 12 Female Athlete of the Year in 2009 and All-American honors in 2008 and 2009. In the same year, she and Coach Elliott led the team to the 2009 NCAA national championship match, where they lost to Penn State 3-2.

Even after 3 years, Elliott still enjoys the success of those he has coached.

“I’m fired up for her,” Elliott said. “She’s put a lot of work into this and I’m excited to see her have this opportunity to represent her country, as well as the University of Texas. I know all of her teammates and support staff will be cheering her on. It says a lot about what kind of athlete she is in becoming one of the best volleyball players in the world.”

If approved, this would not be Hooker’s first time representing the United States in international competition. In 2011, she was named Most Valuable Player of the FIVB World Grand Prix held in China. She led the US to its second gold medal in a row at the event after beating Brazil handily in the final match, 3-0.

Column

For the better part of nine weeks, Roger Clemens was on the hook for what would have been the biggest loss of his career.

In the ongoing war that MLB and Congress have decided to wage against performance-enhancing drugs, Clemens was the most recent player to have his association with PEDs called into question. Clemens had become a veritable scapegoat that for all intents and purposes, was meant to shoulder the blame for years of rampant drug use in MLB by a myriad of players not named Clemens.

But like he had done so many times before in his storied 24-year MLB career, he came away unscathed and his team walked away with a win. Only this time Clemens, playing for himself and family, won back his reputation and perhaps a future induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Monday evening Clemens was acquitted on all six counts of lying to Congress about his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The verdict brings to an end another tax dollar-draining investigation of performance-enhancing drugs in sport, and at its conclusion we’re left wondering what the hell a PED even is.

The fact is, Congress and MLB don’t know either.

OK, that’s not entirely true. They have a general idea about what should and shouldn’t be put into an athlete’s body so as to not create an unfair advantage, but they’re doing a terrible job of enforcing the ban on PEDs.

To say this is just a problem that exists solely in MLB would be naive, if not completely false.

As long as one player a year in any sport is suspended for using PEDs, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of others doing the exact same thing. The only difference is they’re either masking the drugs incredibly well or they are taking something that is yet to show up on mandatory, albeit random drug tests.

The first thing that comes to mind when PEDs are mentioned are steroids, but they only constitute a small percentage of the drugs athletes around the world use to get a leg, or arm, up on their competition.

Drugs like stimulants, painkillers, sedatives and diuretics are used, and may even pose a bigger threat to the athletes that use them. While steroids facilitate faster muscle growth and decrease healing time between injuries, painkillers can increase an athlete’s pain threshold beyond normal limits and stimulants can drastically improve a player’s focus and intensity.

Used in moderation, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with athlete’s taking legal painkillers to ease back pain or any other nagging injury. It’s when these drugs are abused that they become performance-enhancers.

The more we delve into the “benefits” athlete’s receive from taking these drugs, the line between what is serving as a performance-enhancer and what is being used as part of a normal supplemental regimen begins to blur.

Clemens had already admitted to using the anti-inflammatory drug Vioxx before it was taken off the market in 2004 amid concerns that it may cause adverse cardiovascular effects in long-term users. Like any other drug on the market, Vioxx was approved by the FDA, but its long-term effects had not yet been documented.

This raises the question of what PEDs do to an athlete’s body over time. Will there be a population of aging, once-great athletes that can’t walk by the age of 70 due to the harming effects these drugs have on one’s body? The reality is that no one knows.

But various studies have shown them to have significant degenerative effects on an athlete’s body and mind. Cases of hypertension, immune system and liver damage and increased cholesterol levels have all been linked to prolonged abuse of PEDs by athletes.

There’s no easy way to enforce an outright ban against any and all drugs in sports. Athletes, like normal people, have issues with their bodies that may require clinical aid, and what’s legal to ingest or inject one day could be deemed illegal the next.

Looking ahead, it may be best to approach this whole situation with a more laissez-faire attitude.

Players within MLB, the NFL or any other major sporting body have already reached the pinnacle of their respective sports, so why not let them do what they want to their bodies? And isn’t the entire point of sports to provide entertainment to the masses? If entertainment is what we want, then why not have the biggest, baddest and possibly unhealthiest athletes performing to the absolute fullest of their potential?

These aren’t questions easily answered, but they do provide us with the opportunity to discuss these issues and find ways to promote healthier lifestyles in all levels of sport.

We may never know exactly what drugs Clemens took, if any, or how his ex-trainer Brian McNamee plays into the case, but if Clemens is as innocent as he claims, it could be in his best interest to speak out against drug use in sports and take action to abolish it all together.

If successful, it could be his crowning achievement, and would dispel any rumors of him not making it to Cooperstown with the rest of baseball’s all-time greats.