Southern’s Houston blocks out time for his team

Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern offensive lineman Dwayne Houston Dwayne Houston blocks Texas Southern's D.J. McCellion as quarterrback J.P. Douglas passes last season in Nashville.
Advocate file photo by RICHARD ALAN HANNON -- Southern offensive lineman Dwayne Houston Dwayne Houston blocks Texas Southern's D.J. McCellion as quarterrback J.P. Douglas passes last season in Nashville.

Within an hour of finishing the Southwestern Athletic Conference track and field meet last spring, Dwayne Houston said he began receiving text messages from his teammates on the Southern football team.

There was a common theme.

The teammates first wanted to congratulate Houston on being named the Most Outstanding Field Performer at the meet and for winning conference championships in the hammer throw and shot put.

But they also wanted to remind him it was time to turn his full attention to the sport he plays in the fall.

“They told me, ‘Good job,’” Houston recalled.

“‘Now get ready to focus entirely on football.’”

Houston, who also dominated the SWAC’s indoor meet, already has his share of conference hardware. His aim now is to help make sure his teammates in football get some as well.

Back for a third year on the Southern offensive line, Houston will likely line up at left guard this year after starting at right guard and right tackle earlier in his college career.

His coaches said Houston’s exploits in track and field have not deterred his development as as football player.

In fact, they said being a dual-sport athlete can have its advantages.

“I think anytime you’re an athlete, regardless of what sport you’re playing, I think you can draw similarities from the mental aspect of it,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said.

Offensive line coach Chennis Berry said the attributes that allow Houston to throw a shot put 15 meters are similar to the ones he uses to push around opposing defensive linemen.

“As a thrower, you have to have hips, technique and explosiveness,” Berry said. “He’s done the same thing as an offensive linemen, playing with hips, explosion and technique.”

Many athletes of Houston’s size (6-foot-4, 310 pounds) are recruited to the field events after first starring in football. Houston said he played only one year of football at Northside High in Lafayette.

Meanwhile, he competed in track and field for four, helping lead the Vikings to the Class 4A state championship in 2009.

That’s not to say his first sport is his favorite.

Houston said he likes football because it is a team sport rather than an individual one. He likes knowing that how well he performs his job will affect the results of an entire unit.

“It’s just me when I’m throwing,” Houston said. “When I’m here with the offensive line and I make a mistake, my teammates can be watching me and tell me what it was that was wrong. We can help each other.”

After struggling to help produce a consistent ground game last year, the Southern offensive line is shaping up to be a strength this season.

The Jaguars have four returning starters up front, and LSU transfer Corey White is expected to start immediately at right guard.

The group can turn to Houston for a competitive edge, given his success in track and field.

Houston won the SWAC outdoor championship in the hammer throw with a mark of 50.45 meters and the shot put with a throw of 15.86 meters. He was also third in the discus.

He hopes the good times he had in the spring continue with the football team this fall.

“We’ve got a lot of people who have a year, or two years, experience being on the starting line,” Houston said. “I think everybody’s working together. We’re all learning together.”