You might call it the pass heard ’round Arlington.
Early in the first quarter of the Peach Bowl, TCU wide receiver Kolby Listenbee, who played quarterback at Arlington Bowie, took a lateral and then connected with running back Aaron Green for a 31-yard touchdown pass.
It was just one of many big plays former Arlington school district stars have made for TCU in recent years.
“Just to see him be on TV and make such a big play, it was awesome,” Bowie coach Danny DeArman said. “It was awesome for our school. All of our kids, they watch the game and they try to connect with Kolby.”
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No player might connect more than Tony James, who enters TCU after playing quarterback for two years at Bowie — just as Listenbee did.
Listenbee was the first person James met when he joined the Bowie football program his freshman year. He said their one year together was filled with countless races and competitions.
While trying to beat the senior quarterback in those little feats of skill, James was also watching Listenbee’s every move so he could put himself in a position to play FBS football as well.
“I’ve always looked up to him like a big brother,” James said. “To be able to watch him and watch the things that he did, I’ve always looked up to him and I always thought I favored him with my speed.”
James is one of three Arlington school district players who have committed to sign with TCU on Feb. 4. He joins teammate Niko Small, a defensive back, and Darrion Flowers, a wide receiver from Sam Houston.
Their arrival will give the Horned Frogs eight players from the school district, more than any other district on the TCU roster.
For as much as Listenbee did to develop James in his early years, Small pushed him to new heights later in his high school career, James said.
“We started getting closer when I started realizing that he was headed in the same direction I wanted to go in,” James said. “We had the same goals in life, and we both worked hard. He worked really hard. That’s what pushed me and motivated me on most the stuff I do now.”
While they played for opposing programs, James said Flowers had a role in his success, pushing him on the track as they competed in the 100-meter dash. Flowers won the 5A state championship in the event last season in 10.39 seconds.
Their bond grew into a friendship after the two realized that they were both headed to Fort Worth after high school.
James knew he would play wide receiver in college but made the most of his opportunity at quarterback, working meticulously on his passing in the summer before his senior year.
The result was 1,784 yards and 22 touchdowns through the air.
Little did he know he was improving his chances of playing time under TCU’s co-offensive coordinators, who love using former quarterbacks in trick plays.
“Trick plays are really the fun part of the game,” James said. “I talked to coach [Sonny] Cumbie here and there and he always tells me that they’re going to put me in at wildcat and quarterback.”
James hopes one day it will be him completing a double-pass touchdown in a big game and there will be kid from Bowie, dreaming of coming to TCU, who will send him a friendly trash-talking text after his big play.
“I didn’t know you still had it,” James said he joked with Listenbee after the Peach Bowl. “You weren’t able to throw like that at Bowie. You didn’t have an arm.”
Arlington to TCU
ATH Tony James (5-9, 160, Bowie): Threw for 1,784 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for 610 yards and five touchdowns as Bowie’s quarterback his senior season.
S Niko Small (5-11, 170, Bowie): Recorded six interceptions, three defensive touchdowns and 120 tackles his senior season. State Class 6A Defensive Player of the Year.
WR Darrion Flowers (5-10, 175, Sam Houston): Caught 41 passes for 663 yards and six touchdowns his senior season. Won 100 meters in 10.39 at last year’s 5A meet.
National signing day