Bortles, Marrone Should Stay

There will be changes to the Jaguars for 2019; the question is, how many?  There’s a lot of strange stuff that happens early in the offseason, so despite what you might have read or heard, I don’t think any decisions have been made about the Jaguars near future. Every NFL roster turns over about 20 players each year.

Two things in Jacksonville should stay the same:

  1. Doug Marrone should be the Jaguars Head Coach
  2. Blake Bortles should be the Jaguars starting quarterback

I know both of those are wildly unpopular among certain segments of the Jaguars kingdom but based on the landscape of free agency and the draft next year. if they want to contend, both of those need to stay in place.

The Marrone decision should be simple, that is if Shad Khan keeps Tom Coughlin in charge of the football side of things. (I think he will)

There are currently conflicting reports about Marrone’s future, which means nobody really knows.  One suggests that Coughlin is going to come down from his VP spot and coach the team himself next year.  If you know Tom, and you know Doug, that makes no sense.  They have the same values when it comes to football, discipline and how to win in the NFL.

So if Tom’s in charge, Doug stays.

(One side note is if Coughlin, at 73 years old, resumes his coaching career, it’ll delay his eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame for another five years.  He’d be at least 80 before becoming eligible. His two Super Bowl wins with the Giants make him a solid candidate.)

Marrone said this week he hasn’t talked to anybody or even thought about the future.

“I’m just trying to win, I swear to God,” he said. “I’m not looking ahead. I’m not looking in the past. What can we do today? Who are the best players that we have that give us the best chance to win? That is simple and it’s honest.”

Since the Jaguars front office is notoriously tight-lipped about everything, it’s tough to say who made the calls on some of the missteps this season. Often this year Marrone has said, “It starts with me,” when it comes to making this team better.  But certainly Coughlin had plenty of input.

Coughlin has said he’d “put the gloves on” with anybody who disagreed with his offseason moves.  He seemed to shore up some spots, but drafting Taven Bryan hasn’t produced the desired results and not acquiring a true number one receiver is a glaring weakness.

Were they in the game for Amari Cooper?  He seemed like an ideal addition to this Jaguars team even at a steep price.

Why did they wait so long to deal Dante Fowler?  Knowing he was an issue early on should have made that move easy coming out of training camp.

Based on the historic lack of offensive production over the last 3 ½ games, it’s pretty easy to say Blake Bortles is the best quarterback on the Jaguars roster.  Giving him a shot with Scott Milanovich calling the plays seemed like a better option to find an answer.

That’s why the decision to fire the offensive coordinator and bench the starting quarterback on the same day is a still a head-scratcher.  Making those move simultaneously doesn’t answer the ‘Who’s the problem?’ question.

Agreeing with Coughlin that the Jaguars fell prey to “the nature of the game” is easy when looking at the injuries.  You have to be a phenomenal athlete and football player even to be the last guy on any NFL roster, but guys are starters for a reason.

They’re better.

Playing with your fourth string left and right tackles, neither of who were on your roster when the season started would be enough.  But eliminate your starting guard, center, tight end, and projected number one receiver and it becomes obvious you’re in trouble.

“I think it’s tough to argue that we wouldn’t be better without those guys out on the field,” Bortles said on Wednesday.  “That’s why they were starting and were paid and all of that. That’s a realistic part of it.”

Blaming Blake became a sport in itself this year.  No matter what happened, it was his fault.  But with no protection, no running game and with receivers that weren’t open and couldn’t catch, he didn’t have much help.  I keep looking at the Packers 6-8-1 record and thinking even Aaron Rodgers, generally considered one of the top three or four QB’s in the league couldn’t overcome a bad team around him.  It cost Mike McCarthy his job.

“I think it wasn’t so much a huge difference from this year to last year, I think it was pretty small and minute,” Bortles said.  “Things just didn’t go our way. I have no idea what is going to happen next year.”

Last season, Bortles showed an ability to win games with a solid cast around him. Is he great?  No.  But the quarterback doesn’t have to be great the way Coughlin/Marrone want to play the game.

Blake gets into trouble when he tries to do too much.  His decision-making goes a little sideways and even his throwing motion lapses back a couple of years.  He’s tried to win games all on his own, and even Rodgers has shown, that’s not possible.

Acquire a QB in free agency?  Through a trade?  Great!  But who?

Joe Flacco’s not the answer and neither is Teddy Bridgewater.  Nick Foles might be a nice fit but is Philadelphia really going to part with him?

And yes, the Jaguars should draft a quarterback in 2019.  Will Grier in the 2nd round might make sense. He’s not as tall as Coughlin likes his quarterbacks, but neither was Mark Brunell.  And Grier will be 24 years old next season, something Tom likes.

But no quarterback drafted next year steps in and starts and makes the Jaguars competitive.

“Earlier in the year, this year wasn’t so different than last year,” Blake said after Marrone named him the starter against the Texans.  “We caught some breaks and some bounces. We were able to do some stuff last year, we had some stuff go our way and this year, it didn’t happen. We didn’t catch those breaks, we didn’t get those bounces and we didn’t help ourselves out.”

Getting the start against Houston isn’t going to change anybody’s mind about Bortles.  And nobody’s said anything to him about his future. But he says he’s approaching it as if he’ll be around.

“I signed a contract here for three years, so I have every reason and purpose in my mind to play here for that amount of time or until they let me go and I will figure that out,” he said.

“I think the toughest part about it is you have no idea,” he added.  “It is not like anyone tells me anything or talks to my agent and tells him what they are going to do with me. It is unknown.”

This Jaguars team doesn’t need a rebuild.  That would delay the process beyond the usefulness of their defense.  Some of those names will change, but I believe what Blake said:

“I think everything you need to be a successful team and win a Super Bowl in this league is in that locker room. So it feels like we are a lot closer to being good than we are having to rebuild.”



A Pro Stop in North Florida Can lead to a Lifetime in Jacksonville

As the Christmas season unfolds, families will gather this week, many of them coming to North Florida for the holidays. A professional stop for Navy veterans and football players in Jacksonville often has led to those two groups staying here, living here and raising families here.

“It starts with the friendship of the people in Jacksonville,” Commodore John Leenhouts (ret) said of Navy vets picking North Florida as their home. A recent job change as the CEO of the annual Sun ‘N Fun Fly-In has taken him to Lakeland but Leehouts calls Jacksonville home. He had several stops with the Navy but said there was never any question he’d live in Jacksonville once his career was over.

“It’s the positive attitude. You start with the friendships that you build. Not just your Navy buddies, but also your neighbors, the people you knew working there. It’s a friendly city, a nice city that has nice southern hospitality.”

That “southern charm” is a common thread among the comments made from those who could have lived anywhere.

“I was 23 years old, newly married, and the whole community adopted us.” Jaguars great Tony Boselli said. Not just football friends but actual friends we just met.”

Boselli grew up in Colorado and played college football in Los Angeles but moved back to Ponte Vedra when he retired.

“First of all, my wife’s from California, so she loves the weather and the beach,” he added. “When we left for Houston I thought I’d never come back, I was mad,” Boselli said of being exposed in the expansion draft to the Texans. “But every time we came back to visit, it felt like home.”

Former Georgia quarterback Matt Robinson grew up in Michigan and Atlanta and had professional football stops in New York, Denver, Buffalo and Portland but his time in Jacksonville convinced him this would be home.

“I liked it here right away when I signed with the USFlLBulls in ’84,” Robinson said. “I liked the small town feel with a bit of the big city. Atlanta before what Atlanta is now.”

It takes a year or so for North Florida to reveal itself to you, but move to town, work hard, get involved with some charity work, stay out of trouble and you’ll fit right in.

”The people are fabulous, it still has some southern charm,” said Boselli. “The weather is not extreme, you can play golf year ‘round. Still slow enough you don’t feel like you’re in a major city but good restaurants and great outdoor life.”

Four of Boselli’s and his wife Angie’s five children were born in Jacksonville and raising children here was noted as a real plus for staying.

“I was raising my daughter and this is a great place to do that,” Robinson, who lives in Mandarin, added. “The people are nice, the lifestyle is great. Plus there were good jobs here. There’s nothing I didn’t like about Jacksonville.”

Growing up in New Orleans, former Jaguars linebacker Lonnie Marts had pro stops in Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Tennessee befor signing with the Jaguars. He and his wife Gionne decided Jacksonville is where they wanted to raise their five children.

“I stayed here because I have this big family,” Lonnie said. The climate isn’t that different from New Orleans where I grew up.” The city is low-key and it’s growing.”

Marts felt a sense of welcome right away, everywhere he went.

“When I walked into the locker room Ben Coleman, Tony Boselli, Mark Brunell and James Stewart said, ‘Great to have you here.’ I went to buy a house and sitting across the table from the seller and she told the agent “I want them to have this house. It would be a joy to have them raise their family in this house.’ I thought, ‘Is that’s what it’s like around here?’ We stayed friends with them, talked all time. The people are great!”

The weather, no state income tax, the beach, the people and that southern hospitality all were on everybody’s list as to why they stayed.

“It’s not just one particular thing,” Leenhouts added. “One particular thing wouldn’t keep all those people in one area that’s so diverse.”

After 11 years in the NFL, former Jaguars Center Dave Widell could have gone back home to New England or any of the other three stops in his pro career, but decided Jacksonville was home.

“We didn’t know where we’d end up, but after Atlanta, but I knew I was done with football. We came back for my son’s birthday, went to the beach, put our feet in the sand and said, “Jacksonville is our home.” I had radio opportunities, I had a small business but either way we loved Jacksonville.”

“Jacksonville makes it very easy to choose it,” he added. “The river, the ocean, the weather. There are so many choices and options for people here to stay.”

Boselli summed it up for everybody this way:

“Work might take me away for a period of time, but we’ll always call Jacksonville home. I know I’m from Boulder but I tell people my hometown is Jacksonville.”


Players Know Change is Coming

Like any other group, a football team is made up of a lot of different individuals. Guys come from the city, the suburbs, farms and ranches, from all kinds of different backgrounds. The common thread is that they’re all tremendous athletes and have supreme self-confidence in their athletic skill. They need both to get to the highest level of the game.

That skill is on display every time the ball is snapped. The self-confidence manifests itself a lot of different ways, but most directly in the locker room.

How players react to questions after a loss like the Jaguars suffered against Washington reveals where they see themselves in the big picture.

As a team leader, Calais Campbell never shrinks from that responsibility whether it’s dealing with his teammates, the coaching staff, the media or fans. His assessment of the Jaguars issues starts with the performance on the field.

“This season, we’ve been pressing and pressing, close to making plays, but just not making enough to win,” he said.

“It’s one of those years where things didn’t go well for us. At the end of the day, we have a lot of talent and a lot to play for. If we can get some momentum going into next year, I believe with the people we have here, coaching staff included, and the players, we can be successful going forward.”

Interesting that unprompted, Campbell gave a vote of confidence to the coaching staff, in a de-facto way, noting that he didn’t think they were the issue in 2018.

Calais showed once again that he’s the kind of guy you hope stays in Jacksonville when his career is over. He’s a positive influence no matter what he’s doing.

“Man, I’m worried about everybody here,” team captain Telvin Smith said before leaving. “Today, I dedicated my game to [Barry] Church. You don’t ever want to start a season with somebody and end up losing [them]. At the end of the day, you’re a part of it, you know what I mean? Yeah, it’s his job to go out and do whatever, but it’s family. You start a journey with everybody, you finish it together and then work it out.”

Clearly Smith didn’t think releasing Church last week was the right thing to do. It did seem strange that a veteran player would be cut loose before the season was over. It’s not a money thing, they owe him regardless. And as a solid locker room guy, something more was going on there than just freeing up a roster spot.

Contrast those comments with Jalen Ramsey’s when asked about Doug Marrone’s job after such a disappointing season.

“I ain’t worried about nobody but myself,” he said.

I suppose you could interpret that in a lot of ways, but it’s a bad look from your most talented player even give the impression that it’s all about him.

Ramsey has Hall of Fame talent. If he stays healthy, he could be one of the all-time greats. Great cover skills, high football IQ, and that tackle against Indianapolis to end the game is one of the great-unsung plays of the season. But manufactured celebrity is just that: manufactured. He’s already created a reputation as a great player in the league. Giving himself a nickname and calling attention to himself won’t enhance what fans, sponsors, coaches or teammates think about him.

While injuries have decimated the Jaguars and wrecked their ability on offense, they’ve also gotten their share of bad breaks. Against Washington, a couple of tipped passes went against them and shifted the momentum to the visitors. Add to that a couple of holes on the defensive line on the last drive that weren’t there for Adrian Peterson all day, and the result is a three-point loss.

“I think the whole deal is when you’re losing that’s where it always seems like [that],” said Head Coach Doug Marrone. “I think at the end of the day you’ve got to fight to try to create those breaks that go in your favor.”

Two road games left with perhaps a chance to play the spoiler as their only team motivation. But Abry Jones gave some perspective to how to approach these next two weeks.

“It’s already a bad year team wise and you don’t want to end it on a bad year personally and I think that’s what a lot of guys are doing and I think it’s a good thing.”

The Hammer Podcast, Sam Kouvaris -

Episode 33 – Early Discord Scorched the Jaguars

Lonnie and Tom agree with Sam: Locker room issues were a problem early and never got fixed.

Wrong Tone Early Sinks Jaguars

Again this week, Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone was asked if he was “coaching for his job.” It’s the kind of question that’s asked with some regularity when your team is suffering though a disappointing year.

“Every day. Same as last year,” Marrone answered with an unusually clipped response.

Any different than last year?

“I approach every day that you are always coaching for [your job],” he said.

That exchange would have been unthinkable after last year’s team finished the regular season with ten wins, a division championship and a halftime lead on the road in the AFC Championship game.

But Marrone seems prescient at this point when he said in his post-game press conference last year after the loss to New England, “You can’t just pick up where you left off. Every year you have to build it again.”

I don’t know if Doug was calling on previous experience or if knew something was brewing within this team that wasn’t right. I said in this column at the beginning of the year that Marrone was the right guy at the right time to coach this team. His no nonsense, pragmatic style is what a veteran-laden, experienced team needed. The problem is that despite the talent and accolades this team had going into 2018, they didn’t have the maturity to handle lofty expectations.

Pointing fingers is something players refer to when a team isn’t playing well, and you can’t point a finger at one situation or one individual and note what went wrong with the Jaguars. It would take a couple of hands to try and pinpoint what went awry and who’s responsible.

When Jalen Ramsey had a lot to say in the offseason about himself and opponents, some wrote it off to youthful exuberance. In the locker room, guys shrugged it off. But it wasn’t the tone this team, with only one post-season run in recent memory under their belt, needed to set.

When Ramsey’s first child was born at the beginning of training camp, a landmark in any father’s life, Ramsey stayed out of camp for a week. Nobody’s going to criticize a teammate for anything they do regarding family, but as the camp days wore on with no word when he might return, there were a lot of shrugged shoulders when asked about his absence. Other guys have missed time to be there for life’s big events. But this had a whole different feel. Again, not the tone a talented team with lofty expectations would set.

As a rookie, Ramsey didn’t accept the normal hazing handed out by the veteran players. Didn’t participate in the normal team building and bonding exercises, simple stuff, and he let the vets know it right away. So he’s always seen himself as a bit separate from the other ten guys out there.

He reiterated that this week when asked if he would vote for himself for the Pro Bowl.

“I would. I don’t vote, though,” he said. “Some people get it confused because we are losing right now on the team, but if you look at what I do out here, I’m still performing at a high level. I’m still having productive games, doing well, doing my job for the team.”

He went on to outline his individual performance against the top receivers, quoting stats, despite those performances coming in losses.

“A.B [Antonio Brown], I did my thing that game,” he said of his performance in the loss to the Steelers where he had two highlight-reel interceptions. “He still got off, he still had his, but I wasn’t covering him right then.”

Awfully quick to note that Brown’s big catches were somebody else’s responsibility.

When that fight happened in training camp between Dante Fowler and Yannick Ngakoue, some eyebrows were raised about what was going on in the Jaguars locker room. An offensive and defensive player going at it after beating on each other in the heat for a couple weeks? Understandable. Two defensive players? Not good.

And its obvious Fowler was the problem, and they didn’t solve it quickly enough. They eventually sent him to the Rams, but it wasn’t for a lack of production or that he brought a big payoff. They knew he needed to go and it was the right thing to get rid of him. They just waited too long to get it done.

Even the players knew something wasn’t right. Despite a 3-1 record, they called two “players only” meetings in the first four weeks trying to straighten things out.

When the media was allowed in the locker room after the normal 12-minute “cooling off” period following the loss to Houston at home, there was plenty of shouting still going on. They pushed the media back out into the hall and got it worked out but again, not the tone a team wants to set.

A locker room doesn’t have to have an axe and a butcher block to bring it together. And taking the Ping-Pong table out doesn’t mean there’s better focus. It’s something totally different and intangible.

“Any winning team has to have an intense affection for one another,” Tom Coughlin once told me.

That was clearly missing here this year.

Something Magical About High School Football

This season both Mandarin and Raines made it to their state high school football championship games. While this weekend’s appearance in Orlando is a crowning achievement for those teams, it also marks a swift and sudden end to many players’ football careers.

“I know how special it is,” Mandarin Head Coach Bobby Ramsey said this week. “I tell my players, for almost all of you, this is the only time you’ll play 11-on-11 tackle football.”

There’s something different, almost magical that happens for high school boys playing football when they’re out there on the field. Just eleven guys, no coaches, no girlfriends, no parents, just those eleven players. The same thing happens for high school girls playing volleyball. There’s something about the rhythm of both games, the stop and go nature of the competition that breeds a closeness that doesn’t happen too often in other sports.

While high school boys become men and go onto other things, oftentimes they’re forever identified by their high school football careers. Especially if their team was successful. I occasionally get back to suburban DC where I went to high school and although I’ve been gone from there more than four decades I still get asked, “Are you the Sam Kouvaris who quarterbacked that ’73 Magruder team?”

Teaching and coaching blocking and tackling might be what the definition of the job of a “high school coach” entails, but that’s only part of the responsibility.

“I think if that’s not a big part of your belief system, you probably shouldn’t be doing it at this level,” Ramsey said about his responsibility as a high school coach.
“I have players from Yulee and First Coast who are friends of mine now. It’s nice when guys go away to college and you can tell what you taught them has helped them.”

“It’s about the relationships,” Deran Wiley, the Raines Head Coach said before the Vikings left for Orlando. “I had a player put his arms around me this week and say ‘Thanks Coach’ and I knew what he meant. It wasn’t about getting him to the State Championship game, it was about who he is.”

Both Wiley and Ramsey are proven, successful teachers of the game, but both admit if that’s the only reason you’re coaching high school football, you’re at the wrong level.

Wiley came to that realization after spending four years at Raines then two at Mandarin as an assistant before returning to the Vikings. He says it’s a staple of his decade-long head-coaching career.

“When I went to Mandarin, guys were calling me from the year before at Raines asking, ‘Hey Coach, what about this and that,” Wiley explained. “That’s when I realized they needed me for more than just football.”

“The personal development of it with the individuals is the thing you take the most satisfaction in,” Ramsey added. “These kids need you to help them. Something going on at home, how to shake somebody’s hand, how to walk into a room, the recruiting process, all of it.”

Jaguars’ players didn’t hesitate to explain what role their high school coaches played in their development, not just as football players, but also as people.

“My coach, Coach Crawford, he taught me a lot,” said Abry Jones who went to Northside High in Warner Robins, Georgia.

“I didn’t want to play football. I was cutting grass and doing yard work for my dad before going to eight grade in Warner-Robins and our neighbor came over and said, ‘You’re son’s kind of big, does he play football?’”
“I wasn’t interested but it was the hottest summer on record at the time in Georgia. My dad said, ‘If you go play football, I’ll never ask you to cut the grass again. So I went.” Little did I know we’d be standing on a field in the heat running and stuff at football practice.”

Jones says without his coach in both middle school and high school, he’s not sure he’d have continued to play and have the success he’s achieved.

“More of a mentor-mentee relationship,” Abry added. “He did everything for me. He’s the only reason I got recruited.”

Malik Jackson was eager to talk about his coach at Birmingham High in Los Angeles.

“A huge impact,” he said. “My high school coach is the one who got me to start drinking water when I get up. Helps with digestion. Taught me all kinds of things. Gave me a ride from practice, really took an interest in me as a person and encouraged me.”

“I’ve bought in more and more into developing self-confidence, self respect, self esteem,” Ramsey said of his growth as an assistant for three years and now eleven a head coach. “’Look big picture down the road,’ I started to think. ‘What can you do to help with that, who these kids become?’ Maybe we can help make a better generation of young men.”

“My Coach, Butch Goncroff taught me a lot about organization and discipline.,” Myles Jack said of his time at Bellevue High in Bellevue, Washington. “The way he ran practice, the way he conducted himself. When I got to college, I was ahead of a lot of guys because of Coach. He set me up to be successful.”

“I don’t know, my coach saw something in me I didn’t see.” Patrick Omameh said of his time at St. Francis DeSales in Columbus, Ohio. (Yes, he went to Michigan) “I was like second string JV and he promoted me to a starter on varsity. I thought it was crazy but he saw something. I’ve always been tall, but he really worked with me and helped me a lot.”

While the stereotype of a football coach remains the hard-nosed, gruff taskmaster, Wiley and Ramsey say the reality now is quite the opposite. Football is a hard game and you have to want to be there, but the two coaches who got their teams to the state championship this year know it’s more than just blocking and tackling, x’s and o’s.

“It’s really gratifying when you see these kids grow up and make something of themselves,” Wiley said.

“We talk about accountability, perseverance and responsibility,” added Ramsey. “You never know what’s going on. Players might be dealing with a lot of negativity in their lives. You have to step up and be available.”

An Encounter with President George H.W. Bush

Sitting in the men’s locker room in the early ‘90’s at Marsh Landing Country Club, there was a steady stream of guys coming through as usual or a weekday afternoon. I knew most of them and we exchanged the normal pleasantries as they passed through. It’s not unusual to see guys in all levels of dress, suits coming from work, casual clothes headed to lunch, golf togs for the course and even gym clothes with the fitness center nearby.

As I said, I knew most of the guys and having been on television in Jacksonville for more than a decade at the time, most of the guys knew me and greeted me by name (back when people watched TV!) So it wasn’t strange to me each time the locker room door opened for the person entering to look up and say, “Hi Sam!” It also wasn’t strange for the locker room to be empty, mid-day, mid-week, so I was the only person sitting there.

I looked up each time the door opened and said hi, changing my shoes, looking at the newspaper as I was getting ready to go hit some balls.

When the door opened for the umpteenth time I instinctively looked up ready to say hi, but much to my surprise the man coming through the door was the President of the United States, George H.W. Bush.

Just as instinctively, I stood up as he walked across the locker room, alone, and headed straight for me. In retrospect, it was somewhat surreal, since you always see the President with an entourage, that it was just the two of us standing there.

“Hi, I’m George Bush,” the President said as he stood next to me and extended his hand.
“Yes sir Mr. President, I’m Sam Kouvaris,” I said receiving his firm handshake.

“Am I in your way,” he said, glancing toward the lockers in front of us.

“No sir,” I said as I looked a the nameplate above my locker that had been replaced with one that said, “President George Bush.”

He sat down and motioned for me to do the same as he began to untie his shoes. Conservatively dressed in a blue Ban-Lon shirt, blue slacks and white basketball socks, he was getting ready to go to lunch in the main dining room at Marsh Landing.

“Did you play fast?” I asked, knowing a little bit about his penchant for getting through 18 holes quickly.

“Fast? We played in an hour twenty eight,” he said with a big smile. “Played through about five groups, even had time to walk over and shake hands with some guys on what, 13? Aren’t they building a house there?”

“Yes sir,” I answered with a laugh. “How’d you play?”

His answer was perfect. A blend of “guy talk” and humility.

“Actually pretty good, for me,” he said with a wry smile, a raised eyebrow and a mock look over his shoulder to see if anybody else was listening.

As he stood up, he reached in his locker and pulled a navy blue sport coat on, ready to head out the door.

“I’ve got to go this lunch with my host in the dining room,” he said as we walked toward the door, still just the two of us in the locker room. “I’d invite you, love for you to come, but it’s not my thing, you know?” he said in the most gracious way.

“Not a problem Mr. President I absolutely understand,” I said.

The locker room door opened behind us and the famed author Dan Jenkins walked through. Jenkins had invited the President to play golf that day and was a member at Marsh Landing.

“Sam, did you meet my friend George,” Dan said shaking hands with both of us and purposefully saying it backwards.

“I have,” I said with a laugh.

“He’s a fine young man,” the President said, motioning to me as he shook Dan’s hand.

The President noticed that I was looking at his shoulder with a mix of anxiousness and restraint.

“What,” he said, looking down at his shoulder.

“Fix your collar Mr. President?” I asked. As he had put the sport coat on, the collar rolled under as it often does.

He laughed and motioned that it was OK, so I reached over, and unrolled the collar and patted it down.

“Thanks,” he said as we shook hands again.

“I didn’t want to reach out and do that earlier Mr. President for fear one of those guys would come out of a locker after me,” I said.

He looked around, conspiratorially, and said, “You know, they would!” with a huge laugh. And off he and Jenkins went to lunch.

I found out later that the flow of guys through the locker room were members of the President’s Secret Service detail, sweeping the room. The President has his own traveling detail and the local agents augment his security wherever he goes. Maybe Dan Jenkins had set it up, but the local guys knew me and let me stay in the locker room, knowing the President was headed there momentarily. I appreciate that.

Recently I was speaking at a charity golf event at Timiquana when one of the players came up to me and said “You were hanging out with my friend George Bush at Marsh Landing a while back weren’t you?”

“That’s one of the favorite moments of my career and my favorite stories,” I answered.

“He came out to lunch and said, ‘I met this Sam Kouvaris in the locker room. Who is that guy? Everybody knows him,’ and I told him you were on TV and we had a pretty good chuckle. You made an impression.”

I hope it was a good one. I know that encounter had a big impact on me, seeing how one of the most famous and powerful people on the planet could have a common touch.

CAVU, fair winds and following seas Mr. President.