“Problem… We Have A Houston”

Justin Houston may have smoked the most expensive joint of all time.

“Problem… we have a Houston.” I may have gotten that backwards but, I guess that’s what happens when you’ve been riding the cannibus a little too long. Dang, I bet I spelled that wrong too. Not a good way to start a new post. This piece is about Justin Houston but, not just Justin. He dun did a no-no and most reports either skim over that fact or turn it into something it is not. Either way I haven’t seen the real issues dealt with appropriately yet.

When a top level athlete coming out of college decides to smoke dope at the same time he is about to interview for a multi-million dollar job then, issues are involved.


Issues at Point

At the University of Georgia, Justin Houston was suspended for multiple games in 2009 for the use of marijuana. That was the first time he tested positive. Justin tested positive again in late February at the NFL Combine. Anytime there is a problem and then there is the pattern of a problem, then the seriousness of the problem becomes… well, a bigger problem.

Is Justin Houston a regular user? Is he still a user? Has he been using since his first suspension and never stopped? Are there other drugs involved that we don’t know about?

Answering these questions is the job of any employer who may be considering hiring a known substance abuser.  These are also questions Justin Houston will likely deal with in public on an ongoing basis and the same questions Scott Pioli had to answer prior to drafting him in April. Mr. Pioli is probably more conservative than I am and I’m betting he got these questions answered to his satisfaction or he wouldn’t have drafted Justin Houston.

Earlier in February I wrote in favor of the K.C. Chiefs selecting Justin Houston with the 21st pick in the draft. That was before the NFL Combine took place so, I was disappointed when he tested positive but, then felt glad when the Chiefs selected him and conflicted at the same time.


A Personal Perspective

I was once employed for a job that required handling thousands of dollars a day. Naturally, the corporation made it mandatory that each applicant take a lie-detector test from an independent source prior to securing employment. I passed with flying colors but, in the exit interview the tester asked me why I had lied on one of the questions. I asked, “What question?” He said, “You lied when you said you never tried marijuana.” I asked him if the machine had said I lied and he said no but, that he’d given that test to over 5800 applicants and every single person had said, “yes” they had at least tried marijuana. I told him again that I hadn’t and he said, “You’re lying because I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t at least tried it”

This is not to say that since “everyone is doing it” we should go easy on Justin Houston. However, I have met very few people who haven’t at least tried marijuana. Perhaps many people want to be at least perceived as having tried it because so many people have. Social acceptance can be a powerfully motivating force in people’s actions. We can assume that it was for Justin Houston.

So, “I understand” it. I’m not condoning the infringement of law but, I recognize the influences of college customs and the ease within the college climate. There, you can be a pariah for non-participation.

This is not a referendum on legalizing marijuana. I’m not even going to state my opinion on that. However, I think it would be difficult to sort out the ways we deal with having Justin Houston in the K.C. Chiefs’ locker room without first taking a look at what it means within the framework of our current American culture.

I’m glad the Chiefs drafted Justin Houston and I’m thrilled he’s being given a chance to continue his dream in red, white and gold. Nevertheless, I’m all too aware of how one bad decision can lead to another for our youth and then destroy and devastate lives. My best buddy, and neighbor, in middle school, someone who I played ball with and made the all-city team with, later lost his life before the age of 20, to a drug overdose. So, I’m not only concerned for Justin Houston but, for the Kansas City kids he will soon have an influence upon as he grows in his career as a Chief.

“Marijuana is the most frequently used illegal drug in the United States. Nearly 98 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried marijuana at least once.” ~National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

About 32% of the 311 million people living in the United States have tried, or use, marijuana (over age 12). Does this excuse Justin Houston? No, but it should allow for some level of appreciation for the repeated challenges our youth face when attempting to “Just Say No.” I have personally witnessed the “Just Say No” approach leaving those attempting to leave that life with just no tools to do so.

There are flaws in our system and we are the product of that flawed system.


The Flaw in the Character Flaw Label

Some have said that smoking pot shows Justin Houston has a character flaw. A character flaw is a limitation, a personal deficiency or a phobia of some kind like a gambling addiction, a violent temper or a frightening shyness. I’m not sure that smoking marijuana falls into any of these categories. The saga that is Justin Houston’s life is far from being finalized. While Justin’s story is not flawless, hopefully we can appreciate that he is in the process of writing his own middle and ending. In literature, as in life, it is not the failing flaw but the humbling awe of overcoming that makes for a compelling tale worth listening to or reading about again and again.

Many are ready to write Justin Houston off for his lapse or error in judgment. Many people did just that on draft day. As I said before I would have been happy for the Chiefs to take Houston at number 21 but, he fell to number 70. That’s a quite a fall from grace.

Perhaps Houston’s error was in being caught or that his timing was horrendous. I would agree… to a degree. Do you want to put 98 million people in jail? The law is not for the faint of heart:

“Possession of marijuana can be treated as either a Class A misdemeanor or as a Class C felony, depending on the person’s prior criminal history and whether or not the marijuana appears to be for other than personal use. If a person already has a conviction for Marijuana, Second Degree (misdemeanor offense), then any further arrests for marijuana will be charged as Marijuana First Degree, a felony. The penalty for possession of marijuana as a misdemeanor can result in a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The possession of marijuana as a felony can result in a penalty of a prison sentence of one year and a day to ten years and a maximum fine of $5,000.”

~ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)


There is a great collision in our cultural between what many in the vocal public perceive as being socially acceptable and what the law allows as lawful. Justin is caught in the cross hairs of that collision.

In the days before Justin Houston had decided to leave college he did a lot of soul searching and praying about his decision to turn pro. Once he made his decision he said, “We’ll soon see if I made the right decision.” His indecisiveness about returning for his senior year at Georgia or turning pro is more disconcerting for me than his dabbling with pot. Indecision can temporarily immobilize a person. Continued indecision can render one paralyzed and virtually useless.

Where Justin Houston is at in regards to his decision now is unknown. I’ve heard a lot more passion and excitement from our other drafted players like Jon Baldwin, Rodney Hudson and even 7th round pick Shane Bannon. However, I have great hopes for Justin Houston. In January when he decided to leave he also said:

“It was a very hard decision to make, but in the end, I had to do what’s best for my family and me,” Thanks to all of the fans who were behind us the whole time I was in Athens. I want to thank the University of Georgia and the coaches for giving me the chance to come to UGA. Without Coach Mark Richt, I would not be where I am today. He has helped me grow from a boy to a grown man during my four years.” ~DogBytesOnline


Monetary Hara-Kari

Justin Houston may have smoked the most expensive joint of all time.

Had Justin Houston been drafted with the 27th pick (not to say he would have been), by 2010 standards he would have gotten a five year contract worth 10 million and 13.2 maximum with more than 7 million guaranteed. In 2010 Devin McCourty, drafted by the Patriots, was signed for 5-years, $10M/$13.2 max; $7.825M guaranteed. The 70th pick last season was TE Ed Dickson of the Ravens who made nothing (for whatever reason) so, we’ll go by Jon Asamoah with the 68th pick who made $320,000 last season and is expected to make $405,000 in 2011. That works out to less than 1/20th of what Houston could have made. The total dollar amount? To quote the dear departed Carl Sagan, “Billions and billions,” well maybe just millions and millions but, that’s quite a hit, if you know what I mean.

Personally, I think that’s waaaay more than enough judicial retribution.

Let me restate that: Justin Houston has been punished enough. I’m quite certain he knows how much that’s cost him too.


Justin Houston on Grass (the Football Field)

What stands out to me about Justin Houston is that he is an already well-rounded OLB who can rush the passer and cover receivers and doesn’t have to be converted or developed to contribute. He’s someone who brings it every play and has a super high motor. Some have said he takes plays off but, I haven’t witnessed that. Plus, fans feed off of his high energy.

When watching game tape of Justin Houston you’ll see that he’s always the first guy off the ball. Every single time. It’s freaky. Houston has run 4.58 40 yard dash time but plays faster than that IMO and with a lot of quickness. I’m not saying he’s the quickest player I’ve ever seen. Not McCluster quickness but, I think Houston is quicker than Tamba Hali.

Houston played for Georgia in the toughest conference this year. The SEC has probably been the toughest conference for the past 5 years in college football.

Houston’s tackles for the past 3 years (in reverse) are: 56, 35, and 19. Sacks: 10, 7, and 2. He had one INT. I don’t know why the stat sheets don’t show any forced fumbles for Justin because his game tapes clearly show he’s done that more than once. I have also seen Justin Houston pressure many quarterbacks and cause INTs. The Brandons are going to love him.

After watching hours of game tape the images I have of Justin Houston are strong:

  • Justin Houston gets around the LT and the RT with ease and doesn’t get tangled up with them.
  • Justin Houston backpedals smoothly and moves laterally well.
  • Justin Houston gets to the QB and attempts to strip the ball (he nearly always goes for the ball).
  • Justin Houston brings a ton of energy and teammates feed off of his energy too.
  • Justin Houston looks comfortable in space covering TEs and backs out of the backfield.
  • Justin Houston reads and sniffs out the play and is always coming forward to make the play at or behind the LOS (he had 18.5 tackles for loss last year… BTW… that’s a lot).
  • Justin Houston looks great pursuing RBs up the middle and doesn’t hesitate to mix it up there inside.
  • Justin Houston fights his way through blockers on running plays and is willing to take them on and doesn’t back away from contact.
  • Justin Houston is strong in the lower part of his body and uses that, and good leverage, to maneuver around larger Tackles.
  • Justin Houston’s torso is perhaps his strongest physical asset and he’s able to go against players bigger than him as a result.

With a tiny little more speed Justin Houston would have been favorably compared to Von Miller in this draft but, I like Houston more because he’s stronger in his core.

Grading players like Houston is not easy because many players they go up against in college are not NFL quality. One example is when Justin Houston and the Georgia Bulldogs went up against the Kentucky Wildcats and the RT was 6-4, 321lb Brad Durham. Now, Durham may have been a senior but, he was listed as about the 75th best OT available in this year’s draft. However, there were so many times it looks like Durham is standing still but, you can see he’s not. Then again, Houston makes a lot of OTs look that way on the right and the left. Which is another quality I like about Houston, he goes both ways. And, in this case, that’s a dangood thing.

In all likelihood the K.C. Chiefs got three top 40 values in their first three picks (Baldwin #26, Hudson #55 and Houston #70).

Justin Houston Videos

  • One sweet sack.
  • Here’s a really sweet aerial view of Houston. In the last half of this video he’s backpedaling as he intercepts a pass while settling into a zone coverage.
  • A Justin Houston post game interview talking about being part of a great defense.
  • A short Justin Houston interview and he’s talking about working on “technique” in summer workouts.


The Last Drag

Welcome to Kansas City Justin. I hope you learn to love it as so many of us do.  The barbeque and Jazz are greatness but, don’t forget to check out Stroud’s Chicken. It’s unbeatable! But, it still doesn’t beat the Chiefs. My real hope for you is that we can all set this aside and everyone will allow you to get on with your burgeoning football life.

And to think this all could have been avoided with a prescription.


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