OUT OF BOUNDS: Don’t buy the hype; Towns better with a bat

Kyle Hightower

The other day while I was cruising through Smith Stadium for spring football workouts, a thought leveled me with the same force a 250-pound lineman hitting a stationary tackling dummy does.

Just by glancing, I could see the hungry eyes of a team trying desperately to cling to the fire that blazed them to Western’s first national championship last December.

I began to think not about the group in front of me that day but about the group I saw 360-something days before in the spring of 2001.

That was the group up to their knees in uncertainty. It was the group that had minimal outside expectations but was top-heavy with its own. And in time they would show their own FINISHing touch.

Then I heard the crack of a baseball bat.

Western’s baseball team was playing next door at Denes Field, taking on Lipscomb University.

As I turned my attention back to shoulder pads and helmets for a second, I couldn’t quite get my mind off bats and curve balls. Then I figured out why.

Of all the holes that new football head coach David Elson and his staff must fill this spring and upcoming fall, the biggest is that of quarterback and team leader Jason Michael.

Their options are between former back up Perez Smith and former wide receiver Casey Rooney.

Each have had their struggles and successes thus far this spring, but as my thoughts teeter-tottered back and forth from football to baseball, I soon discovered the missing link – Antone Towns.

Towns, who came to Western as a two-sport phenom, was supposed to be Michael’s successor, before he decided to pursue baseball full-time.

The impact of his decision wasn’t felt immediately, if at all, last year. That was partly because, while he was ripping up the baseball diamond as a freshman outfielder, he was highly underdeveloped as a quarterback.

Topper football coaches, including the since-departed Jack Harbaugh, still saw him as a future Willie Taggart or Donte Pimpleton-caliber athlete, but his decision to pursue baseball quickly halted that.

But as quickly as I pondered the ideal position Western football might be in today had Towns kept up the two-sport masquerade, I just as soon dismissed the idea.

And if you were thinking the same thing, so should you.

Go by Denes Field sometime. This kid is a baseball stud. Probably one of the most skilled young hitters that head coach Joel Murrie has had in the past few seasons. He had talent on the football field, sure.

But he is just a darn good athlete in general.

He’d probably be good at soccer if he tried, you know?

Just like I’m pretty sure that “Big Jelly” Nigel Dixon would make a good defensive lineman.

With the red and white game less than two days away, just as I had fleeting thoughts about what might have been, so should you.

Then again, if you find yourself, like me, wondering what if, don’t.

We should let sleeping dogs lie. Every dog has his day. It might have been swell if Towns decided to play double-dutch. But he didn’t go with that original plan.

First he threw us all a curve ball, and now he’s hitting them.

Go figure.

Kyle Hightower is a sports columnist and sports editor for the Herald. He can be reached at [email protected]