I didn't realize we were in the midst of "Babin Mania." Apparently Kalamazoo thinks so.....
»from the Kalamazoo Gazette
Babin-mania cookin' in Texas Texans, fans have high hopes for Paw Paw product
Sunday, August 1, 2004
By Scott Jungman
Maybe it's the tattoos. Or that big, fat, six-year, $8 million contract.
There's got to be some reason why Paw Paw native and former Western Michigan University defensive end Jason Babin has already become the toast of Houston -- before the Texans' camp even began Saturday in Houston.
The 27th overall pick in this year's National Football League Draft has suddenly been swept up in Babin-mania. His rookie bubble-gum card, which currently retails for around $30, sold like sirloin steaks in Texas, prompting the card maker to snatch the final 30 available for Babin to sign.
Out in public, Babin's life has become even more surreal.
Babin-mania cookin' in Texas
"Every time I go out, no matter where it is, people always ask me for my autograph, or a picture, or something," Babin said. "It's kind of funny, though. It's just like, 'Hey, I haven't played a down yet, you know? I could wind up being a nobody.'
"But, for some reason, the people here seem to gravitate to me."
Perhaps it's because WMU's all-time leader in quarterback sacks (38) is expected to be one of the saviors of a Texans defense -- ranked the second worst in the NFL last season -- that made Houston football fans cringe. They are the same fans from that football-crazed state who yearn for a true superstar to finally emerge from their third-year expansion team.
"Whether everybody's watching, or nobody's watching, I'd still be doing the same thing," Babin said. "I don't feel any added pressure from the attention."
The Texans organization sure seems confident Babin can be that superstar. They traded away three lower draft picks to move up and snag the two-time Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year in the first round. He was instantly named a starter -- at the unfamiliar position of outside linebacker, no less.
"The one thing (Babin) did show to us in college was his outside pass-rush ability, which is key to that position for us," said Vic Fangio, the Texans' defensive coordinator and Babin's position coach. "I thought he had the ability to stand on his feet and play like a linebacker. I thought he had enough athletic ability to be a guy in pass coverage. I like his intensity, the attitude, the passion he plays the game for."
Houston wasted no time and signed Babin on for five years, with an optional sixth, and threw him a $2.2 million signing bonus -- which helped supply the NFL rookie and his fiance a big house in Texas' biggest town.
That money alone was enough to keep Babin busy this summer.
"I don't think I've had enough time to really even think about getting homesick," Babin said. "When we first got down here, I had practice and all that stuff. Now that we've got the house, we've been running around like crazy, trying to pick out furniture, drapes, silverware, yard people, getting the phones in our name, everything. It's been non-stop every day."
Babin said he was a little nervous the first day around his new defensive tutor, Fangio, who has 10 seasons of experience as an NFL defensive coordinator. But the two quickly developed a good relationship.
"My coach is the coordinator, so there would obviously be a lot of scrutiny on him and on myself," Babin said. "But he's a guy that talks to you all the time. He'll pull you aside and really explain the details of what's going on. He definitely knows what he's doing and he was real patient with me and the transition."
"He may not be ready today, but at the end of the camp I think he will be," Fangio said.
For Babin, training camp will be nothing shocking. He's already participated in 24 team practices since being drafted last spring and showed off the same hard-work, lunch-pail attitude he showed for five years in Kalamazoo.
"I saw Jason last weekend and asked him if he was getting excited with training camp coming up and all that," said Jim Babin, Jason's dad. "And he says, 'Naw, I'm just getting ready to go to work.' "
"I like the way (Babin) plays the game and approaches the game," Fangio said. "He has a passion that, to me, is part of a quality of only some guys in this league. Some guys have it and some guys don't. I think as he gets more comfortable, that will maybe even be infectious to other players on our team."