Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham takes one look at J.J. Watt, the NFL's latest Superman, and sees his old training camp roommate, not to mention draft mate, Bill Kollar
"J.J. Watt is a bigger-bodied Bill Kollar,' said Lapham Wednesday as he prepared for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Houston against Watt's Texans.
"He was a workout maniac, a weight-room guy," Lapham recalled. "When I watch J.J. Watt play, that's exactly how Kollar was. He was an off-the charts motor guy, all the time, every day. J.J. Watt's field presence is just what Bill had."
It makes sense. Kollar has been Watt's defensive line coach these four seasons and helped him go from the 11th pick in the draft to the Eighth Wonder of the World.
"I think the highest energy player in the league is being coached by the highest energy coach in the league," Lapham said. "That's the way Bill worked out, the way he practiced. Everything was full speed, full go."
Lapham first became aware of Kollar at the 1974 Senior Bowl, where Montana State's Kollar was named MVP. Two weeks later, Kollar, a 6-3, 255-pound defensive tackle, came to the Bengals with the 23rd pick of the first round. Lapham arrived 38 picks later in the third round from Syracuse and when they got to Wilmington College for training camp, he recognized the blue Dodge Charger convertible that Kollar won for MVP in Mobile.
They ended up going head-to-head in pass rush drills and if the 6-5, 289-pound Watt had his coming out party against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton as a rookie in the 2011 Wild Card Game when he plucked a pass out of thin air at the line of scrimmage and took it 29 yards for a touchdown, then Lapham remembers Kollar going out to Oakland and dominating Raiders Hall-of-Fame guard Gene Upshaw.
"That game opened up people's eyes," Lapham said. "He just couldn't keep his feet healthy and stay on the field."
Kollar played more games for Tampa (72) than the Bengals (37) when foot and leg problems ended his career in Cincinnati after three seasons, a tough break for both. Lapham remembers how the team thought they had another Mike Reid-like tackle that was just too quick to defend.
"A very competitive guy in cards, golf, whatever it was.; He wanted to beat you," Lapham said.
Maybe that puts a little karma on the Bengals side. When he was in Cincinnati, Kollar wore No. 68. That jersey is now worn by right guard Kevin Zeitler, Watt's off-season workout partner and former Wisconsin teammate who is going to be lined up against him more than a few times Sunday.
MCCARRON BACK TO WORK: A.J. McCarron, quarterback of two national titles at Alabama, admitted he was nervous about just one thing before his first NFL practice Wednesday.
"It's the first time I've thrown in shoulder pads since my bowl game, so I'm a little nervous about getting used to that," McCarron said. "I'm just excited to be back playing football."
Shoulder problems have limited McCarron since that Sugar Bowl night his Crimson Tide lost to Oklahoma despite his 387 yards passing as he finished his career at 36-4. The Bengals took him in the fifth round in the May draft with the idea of developing him into a potential No. 2 quarterback by next year.
While that timetable has now been delayed, the Bengals get to see him practice for three weeks before they decide to put him on the roster or put him back on the reserved/non-football injury list.
The Bengals chose to treat McCarron's shoulder with rehab and strengthening and he says he's been ready for weeks, but they went conservative. Finally on Wednesday he was splitting the scout team reps with No. 2 QB Jason Campbell.
A little irony there since the Texans quarterback is Ryan Mallett, a prospect the Bengals mulled in the 2011 draft before they picked Andy Dalton. McCarron is the first quarterback they've taken since they took Dalton.
"Jason has been doing everything and I've been checking with him just so that everything can be in the same rhythm," McCarron said.
McCarron has been joking with the 32-year-old Campbell that "he's getting old and needs a rest," but in reality he says he's learned a lot sitting in meetings with Dalton and Campbell. And he's been learning from Campbell a lot longer than that.
"I grew up watching Jason play,' said McCarron, an Alabama native. "I was in middle school watching him play at Auburn. I wasn't a fan of Alabama or Auburn. I liked the Miami Hurricanes, but I watched them."