DFW heat index: 10 buzzworthy sports figures to put the sizzle in summer

Posted Sunday, Jul. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Honorable mention Derek Holland, LHP, Texas Rangers Mitch Moreland, 1B, Texas Rangers Morris Claiborne, DB, Dallas Cowboys Sean Lee, LB, Dallas Cowboys Cody Eakin, W, Dallas Stars Mark Cuban, owner, Dallas Mavericks Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

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For the first time in recent memory we are enjoying a summer that is not so depressingly hot that it is possible to enjoy an evening without sweating off 10 pounds. Normally, this is the time of year when the insects seek shade, water evaporates at night and the sand melts. *  And in an attempt to build a transition sentence out of Texas heat and sports . . . here goes — the Dallas-Fort Worth area is loaded with the classic “hot” athletes. *  Here are the hottest athletes in the area. *  This person must be talented, good and relevant ... even for the wrong reasons. *  Feel free to disagree with this list, but you’re wrong.

10Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks

UFC

He may not be a Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones or Spider Silva, but the former Oklahoma State wrestler, who is from Midlothian, is going to soon get his shot at the title. This is the best UFC fighter you’ve never heard of.

Bigg Rigg is 15-1, scored a major KO against Martin Kampmann in 2012 and had a career-defining decision against Carlos Condit in March.

Hendricks, 29, has done everything he can do to position himself for a shot at UFC’s welterweight title. On Nov. 16 in Las Vegas, he will fight title holder Georges St-Pierre in what should be one of the biggest fights of the year.

Bigg Rigg doesn’t have GSP’s star power or ability to generate an audience, but a win against the king would put him on top.

With a cool nickname and a potentially giant beard, he is on the cusp of becoming a household UFC name.

9Jamie Benn

Forward, Dallas Stars

It’s sad hockey is such a non-needle mover in the Metroplex these days, because this forward is one of the best young players in the NHL.

He is the closest thing to a Mike Modano replacement the Stars’ franchise has had, but Benn is not Mike Modano, because no one is.

Benn is, however, one of the top two-way players in the game and a guy who should not only be the captain of this team but also become the most prominent face on a team loaded with quality young players.

He will turn 24 on July 18, and he’s already been in the NHL for four years.

At the top end, he can average around a point a game. Expect those numbers to increase when the team makes him a full-time winger rather than a center.

What is missing from Benn’s résumé is winning — the Stars haven’t made the playoffs since he entered the league. The postseason defines NHL players, and once Benn makes it there, he will become one of the league’s biggest names.

8Casey Pachall

QB, TCU

It may not be for the right reasons, but few jocks in this area have created the type of emotions as this guy. With a combination of talent, production and a heavy dose of youthful ignorance, the TCU passer is hard not to watch.

The replacement for the angelic Andy Dalton, the tatted-Pachall began his career with a series of unflattering pictures of him partying — but on the field made throws few college quarterbacks have in years in these parts.

In his first career start in 2011, Pachall threw for 251 yards and four touchdowns in a two-point loss against Baylor and Robert Griffin III.

Later that season, he passed for 473 yards with five touchdowns in a one-point win at Boise State.

Then the off-season happened, complete with a failed drug test, a DWI and leaving the team just as the heart of TCU’s first Big 12 schedule was beginning.

Pachall, 22, went through rehab, and is now back with a team projected by some to finish one or two in the Big 12 this fall.

Those projections are based largely on Pachall’s ability to throw the ball.

His first game back will be against LSU, and everybody will be watching.

7Kenny Cooper

Forward, FC Dallas

For those who don’t follow Major League Soccer, FC Dallas is good. Like top-of-the-league good.

For those who don’t know who Kenny Cooper is, he is arguably the best home-grown player on this team.

He graduated from Jesuit in Dallas and was scheduled to attend SMU but pursued a pro soccer career in England. When he didn’t make the big club, he came back to the U.S. where he has developed into one of the league’s better forwards.

Cooper played the first four years of his MLS career with FC Dallas before spending ’11 in Portland and ’12 in New York.

The 28-year-old came back to FC Dallas via trade for the ’13 season, and is now one of the key figures for this talented team.

6Jerry Jones

Owner, Dallas Cowboys

This does not require a lot of explanation. No owner in sports knows how to keep his product relevant without winning any better than Jerry. He is the face of the Dallas Cowboys.

Few people in the history of sport can take a punch better than Jerry and do it with a smile. He remains one of the biggest risk-takers in sports, and puts himself out there in a way few men in his position ever have.

As a result, he has made the Dallas Cowboys (with their state-of-the-art digs) one of the most lucrative sports franchises in the world.

5Dirk Nowitzki

F, Dallas Mavericks

His best years are behind him, but for a couple more seasons, Dirk should be one of the top forwards in the NBA. The Mavs are still Dirk’s team, and he is still one of the most difficult covers for NBA defenses.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Fortunate 50, which ranks the wealthiest athletes by calculating salaries and endorsements, Dirk is No. 35 and the only jock from the Metroplex on this list.

For the time being, Dirk, 35, is relevant and “hot,” but a cooldown is inevitable.

4Elvis Andrus

SS, Texas Rangers

Andrus does not compile the offensive numbers of second baseman Ian Kinsler, but his slick fielding keeps him in the discussion as one of the top young infielders in baseball.

As a shortstop on a team that wins largely because of solid defense, Andrus is on his way to becoming one of the better all-around shortstops in baseball — and may be the face of this team. The drag, right now, is that his batting average and offensive production have been way off throughout the first half of the season. He is better than this.

He’ll be 25 in August, and already he has been a starter for five major league seasons. He recently signed an eight-year, $120 million deal.

The way he is developing, Andrus should eventually be a .300 hitter who drives in around 75 runs.

3Tony Romo

QB, Dallas Cowboys

There may not be a more polarizing football player in the nation than Mr. Romo. He is 55-38 as the starting QB of America’s Team, but his 1-3 playoff record is a killer. Plus, he has not led the Cowboys to the playoffs in the past two seasons.

Regardless, this off-season the Cowboys gave him a six-year, $108 million contract that included $55 million in guarantees. That is the second-most guaranteed money in NFL history behind Tom Brady.

There may not be a team that expects more from its QB than the Cowboys do of Romo, who despite any number of perfectly acceptable excuses, always has his team close to being, well, close.

He turned 33 in April, and still has plenty of time to change the perception that his lasting impact on the Cowboys was that he compiled some impressive stats, made a lot of money and never did much more than that.

2Yu Darvish

P, Texas Rangers

The only Metroplex jock who is huge on two continents.

The last time the Rangers had a “hot” starting pitcher like this it was Nolan Ryan near the end of his career in 1989-91.

In his one-plus season with the Rangers, Yu has been worth the $50 mil posting fee the team paid his Japanese-league team.

In his second season in America, Yu is showing signs that he will become the ace this team hasn’t had on this level since Ryan in ’89-91 and Ferguson Jenkins in the ’70s.

Yu turns 27 in August, can throw five different pitches for strikes and is showing the same type of stuff as an in-his-prime Pedro Martinez.

1Dez Bryant

WR, Dallas Cowboys

This is an off-beat pick, but Dez has just enough talent, production, personality and crazy that could make him the hottest player in the NFL in 2013.

It is impossible not to watch this man play.

Last season, his third in the NFL, Dez caught 92 passes for 1,382 yards with 12 touchdowns.

He is only 24, and it does appear he has figured out how to play within an NFL offensive structure — and behave like an adult.

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