Boxed In: Best Player from Friday Night Lights - Smash Williams vs. Vince Howard

With clear eyes and full hearts, Mike Oz & Matt Harmon debate which football player on Friday Night Lights flashed the best skill set for the pros. Did Smash Williams do enough at A&M to make it to the NFL? Would Vince Howard have been Lamar Jackson's predecessor? Tune in to find out which Texas athlete Dalton Del Don selects as the best player on everyone's favorite TV show.

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Video Transcript


DALTON DEL DON: Welcome to "Boxed In," Yahoo Sports's debate show. I'm Dalton Del Don, and today I'll be talking some "Friday Night Lights" with Mike Oz and Matt Harmon, debating the best player from the show. This was a great show. It's one of my wife's favorites all time. Season two can probably be skipped because of the writers strike involved, but man, what a great show. They got Explosions in the Sky with the score, Buzz Bissinger and Peter Bird both involved. But it's been a long time since I've last watched it, so I'm mostly going to step aside, let these guys do most of the talking. So with clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, let me see the floor.

MIKE OZ: I will start us off. I am here today representing the case of Smash Williams. I think we start here, right? We are not arguing who is the best character on the show. Let's make that clear. This is not the Matt Saracen award. We are talking about football, and I think if we're talking about football, throughout the show, Smash Williams is regarded and shown as the best player.

Early on, he is shown as-- him and Jason Street are going to take this team, and, you know, they're going to win state. And Jason Street gets hurt. Smash Williams is now the star. End of season one, you know, wins state championship with the last-minute touchdown. You know, there's a lot of ups and downs with Smash's career, but as we go throughout the rest of this show, they don't have to bring him back. But they make a point throughout the show to, you know, show him on TV. The next generation of kids see, oh, Smash just scored a touchdown at Texas A&M.

And I think, to me, that's what makes him the pick here because in that world, you kind of need someone who is like, that's the OG. That's the guy that we're all aspiring to be, and on "Friday Night Lights" it was Smash Williams. He was the guy. Not the best character-- you know, better characters, but in terms of football, he was the guy.

He was recruited by Alabama. He ended up at Texas A&M. We'll get into all this stuff. But if we're just talking about the football, the arc of "Friday Night Lights," as it was, was that Smash was the best.

DALTON DEL DON: All right, Matt, what's your counter?

MATT HARMON: Yeah, my counter is Vince. I mean, look, here's the-- I will also just echo Oz's statement that this is not about the best character of the show because my personal vote for best character of the show is Buddy Garrity. I know that's a controversial opinion, but my sister and I-- my sister and I to this day are still quoting, "I don't even know who you are anymore," like just sending Buddy Garrity gifs to each other in the group chat, all kinds of stuff. So that's just my one little anecdote about how much we like this show.

But my pick is Vince because, I mean, he's a total stud. And I know, Oz, you covered baseball, so you might not be up to date with the most, you know, BS minutia of us debating stupid [BLEEP] in football all the time, but we all know-- and Dalton, you can echo this too-- running backs don't matter. So yeah, sure, Smash might be a great player, but Vince excels at the most important position and also plays the game in a way that is conducive with modern football-- the mobility, the arm strength.

I mean, I don't think it's unfair to compare this guy to Cam Newton, like the peak of Cam Newton's career in 2015-- you know, big, mobile, strong, like just impossible to tackle in the open field, and also has a damn laser. So I think Vince is clearly the pick here not just because of positional value but also just overall impact on the field.

DALTON DEL DON: On to question number two. Who would you consider the most important person to the show? Let's start now with you, Matt.

MATT HARMON: Yeah, I think Vince-- look, I think Vince is clearly more important to the show. I get it. Smash is-- I think you can make an argument that Smash has the better-- you know, is the better high-school football player. I think I can maybe sort of cede that point to Oz here.

But Vince is-- I mean, he's a lovable character. He's a redemption-story character, and that's what this show is all about, you know, especially during this part of the show. When Vince becomes one of the main characters is when the high schools have split. There's-- you know, Coach Taylor is now coaching the East Dillon Panthers, and, you know, it becomes this entire thing, and he's the face of that movement. I don't think that you have the rest of the show without a character like Vince to get everybody on board to be that sort of redemptive arc.

And again, I think that's what this show is all about, you know, taking this underdog group of kids and turning them into a powerhouse. And I think that that's what just makes it-- again, it's what makes the show so lovable, and you fall in love with these characters.

And I think it also shows-- you know, frankly, it shows a more wider group of, like, a social status than what we saw in the original group of kids. You know, I think it takes on an entirely different personality when Vince becomes sort of that main figurehead in the show, and I think that that is crucial to the show's development beyond just, like, oh, here's a bunch of kids, you know, at a high school in Texas. You know, like, again, you got your boosters, Buddy Garrity, that whole thing. It's an entirely different personality once Vince comes into play.

MIKE OZ: I'll cede this point to Matt, that he's right in the sense, but part of that is just that Michael B. Jordan's a better actor, right?

MATT HARMON: Also true.

MIKE OZ: So Michael B. Jordan is a better actor, does better on the show, has the better relationship with Coach Taylor. You know, I think all of that makes him a-- that makes his character a little more rich, let's say.

But I think-- I think this is important to talk about with Smash. I think that when we're talking about-- if we just look at this as, like, the football side-- there's a whole lot more to this show, but if we just look at the football side, it is very important, I think, in not only high-school sports but high school in general. You know, like, oh, there was this kid who went to high school here four years ago, and, you know, he plays college football at this place. And that is important to, you know, sort of the foundation and the fabric of what is going on in that show.

So I think in that respect-- like, again, Smash, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that he is the most interesting character on a show with a lot of interesting characters. But you need that foundation, I think, to make all the rest of it work because if you don't have him-- I mean, he's almost like Coach Taylor-like in that sense where you need to coach to sort of, you know, have all the kids revolve around. You need somebody like him to show the rest of these kids-- to show Vince Howard like, hey, you could go be like Smash Williams if you listen to Coach Taylor.

So, you know, that's the thing that I think that Smash has in that category. And again, Michael B. Jordan's great. So let's separate Michael B. Jordan from the Vince Howard character.

DALTON DEL DON: Totally fair. That is an advantage to Michael B. Jordan. He's been great. Surprising the Creed movies are totally watchable. Like, for sure there. And I think in this show, didn't Vince just start playing football? Like this was like he had not been playing before, right? So that's an added difficulty factor.

Let's go to a question three, two-part question. Start with Oz. What is your three-word evaluation of the prospect, and how would his career pan out at the next level, you know, college or the pros? What are you thinking?

MIKE OZ: All right, so my three-word eval on Smash, I'm going to go with Saquon Barkley lite. Fast, obviously explosive, can catch the ball. You know, has shown he can run over some people.

But I think the one advantage we have with Smash is that we sort of saw where he could go, right? You know, he got injured towards the end of the show, lost some of his college opportunities. Ends up as a walk-on at Texas A&M. And again, we see him throughout the next season, not him the character, but they just sort of mention him. They talk about him. There's times where he is-- you know, oh, there's Smash on TV. Scored a touchdown at Texas A&M. And, you know, if you just look at it, he lines up with sort of early Johnny Manziel, Ryan Tannehill stuff at Texas A&M.

Not out of the question for me to see that Smash Williams goes to Texas A&M, becomes a guy who can get drafted in the NFL. I'm not looking at him and being like, yeah, this guy's a you know, top-10 pick or anything, but I think he projects to me as someone who could play at the next level.

MATT HARMON: Yeah, I don't disagree with any of the analysis that Oz gave there on Smash. I mean, look, I'm high on Smash, right? I'm high on him as a character. But I think when you look at Vince, the three-word evaluation-- natural, speed, power. And the power is key there because it's not just about what he does as a runner. I think he also-- again, he had a cannon. He was a guy who could throw it, spray it all levels of the field.

And look, I think if Vince goes on to play at the college level, this is a guy we're talking about as a Heisman Trophy winner. And when we're looking at this era of the NFL right now, if Vince is able to play in 2019, 2020-- you know, fingers crossed-- NFL season, then we're looking at someone who is coming in at the perfect time because this is an era where we've got creative offensive coaches. We've got guys like Kyle Shanahan not willing to put players in a box. You know, Lamar Jackson's the MVP last year. Got Patrick Mahomes changing the game. You've got Kyler Murray as the number-one-overall pick. This era of football was made for a player like Vince Howard.

So I will be bold here. I would say he'd be a first-round pick in the NFL. I'd say if he gets with a coaching staff that figures it out, a smart, progressive group of coaches, this is someone that could have a long career in the NFL, a multi-year starter, someone that could win playoff games. I think, again, it's that sort of natural talent.

And Dalton mentioned it too. When we meet Vince on the show, he's obviously a wayward youth or whatever, and he's kind of got a choice. Like, figure out your life with this football thing, and he picks it up like that. I mean, there's so much untapped potential with Vince that if he gets it at the college level, then eventually finds a smart coaching staff in the NFL, I think this is a pro starting quarterback for sure.

MIKE OZ: If I may real quick though, I think one thing we have to take into account-- because we never saw-- we never saw Vince play his senior year. You know, we never saw that.


MIKE OZ: And let's think about, you know, sort of the height and weight of Vince. He's not a-- you know, he's not 6' 4", 6' 5". He's 6 feet. Smash about the same size. I feel like-- I feel like those guys, if you're going to pick which one can succeed, you know, Smash is sort of like prototypical running-back size. Vince, you're going to get some of that Kyler Murray stuff.

MATT HARMON: That's a good point, but I think, again, that comes back to the point that, you know, when we're looking at this modern era of the NFL-- and obviously, like, we're not going to line up completely here with the timeline, but I think that because our understanding of positional thresholds is changing-- I mean at both the running back and the quarterback position-- we're seeing guys be thrust into big-time roles.

You know, like 20 years ago, people would never have considered someone like Christian McCaffrey to be a full-time running back. I mean, hell, even when he came out of the draft, people were like, this guy can't run between the tackles. He's, you know, the next Danny Woodhead, all that stuff.

And obviously like you mentioned, Kyler Murray being the number-one-overall pick-- I think because of those sliding thresholds, I think this is the perfect time for-- even if Vince is not that hulking, typical quarterback size, I think he could come in and find a coaching staff to make it work with him.

MIKE OZ: Well, I think we saw in "Black Panther" that he could get-- he could get really big if he needed to.

MATT HARMON: Well, that's another thing too. Like, I am very confident. You mentioned Michael B. Jordan. I don't want to go back to the well there, but since you brought it up, look at that guy in "Creed," in "Black Panther." He's ripped, OK? This guy can survive the pounding in the NFL. We've seen it. We've seen he's got that on his frame.

MIKE OZ: But that's Michael B. Jordan. We're talking about Vince Howard.

MATT HARMON: You brought it up. You brought it up, Oz.

DALTON DEL DON: All right, I'm more-- I'm more curious to hear you guys talk about my the rest of these characters, but decision time. Does that mean I have to give my verdict now? Do I have to declare a winner here between you two?

MIKE OZ: Yeah, this is when you say obviously Smash Williams is the best player, you know, apologies Matt Harmon.

DALTON DEL DON: OK, so Harmon's right about the quarterbacks there, and he has the advantage about Michael B. Jordan the actor. But honestly, I'm a fantasy guy at heart. Possible fantasy-football monster Smash Williams, I'm giving you the victory. Oz, what do you think, man?

MIKE OZ: Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose, man. Texas forever. We are here for it.

But I'll be honest. Like, I-- one, I just love talking about this show. I think Vince is great too. I love Michael B. Jordan, so Matt made some really good arguments.

What I am actually most excited about is, like, I want to talk about more these guys. Like, Matt and I did a little bit of this the other day just when we were preparing, and, like, I want to do more evaluations of who are these people in the future. Are you guys-- you guys down? You think it would be fun?

MATT HARMON: Let's do it. Yes.

MIKE OZ: All right, I will tell you the guy I almost picked-- and I know, Matt, you like him too. I want your-- I want your Luke Cafferty because I think Luke Cafferty, like, also had a lot of-- lot of potential.

MATT HARMON: He was the guy I think both of us kind of picked as maybe our second or third player here. Obviously you've got to go with versatile because he's played both sides of the ball. I think-- I don't want to say-- I hate to use the word sneaky athletic, but I think like, again, it's the rangy ability on the defensive side of the ball. And I think, again, I would go with-- I would go with physicality too because, again, he brings that to both sides of the ball. So versatile, physical, and rangy.

MIKE OZ: OK, you're going adjectives. I'm just going phrases. So mine-- my Luke thing is-- I know he doesn't-- he doesn't go play football. He goes to the army. But to me, like, let's just assume that-- we saw it with Smash, right? Smash was going off to some school. They started the next season. They're like, oh no, wait. He didn't go there.

So let's just assume Luke doesn't go to the army. Goes and plays football somewhere. To me, he's like a DII lottery ticket, man. Like, he's a guy that can go to college, do really well, and you're like, oh, where did this kid come from? Let's draft him, and he turns into something.

I love the-- I love the heart. I love the athleticism. Great character, great player, I thought.

DALTON DEL DON: I don't have the phrases for you guys, but I do like that actor too. Another underrated show, an MMA show called "Kingdom," he was on that as well.

I want to hear your other-- your other-- your other three word evals. What, we've got Coach Taylor, Riggins, Jason Street? Come on. We still have more to cover. I want to hear you guys.

MIKE OZ: My Tim Riggins is-- I think out of all of them, he's the best future coach, right? Like, he had sort of the makeup, I think. Didn't really, like, have his life together, but he's a guy who I can envision, you know, coaching the team.

If they were doing a reboot, let's say-- if they were rebooting the show, you know, Tim Riggins is the coach. So my three words are future Coach Taylor.

MATT HARMON: I like that a lot because, look, we talked about this, Oz. Like, talk about the most overrated player on the show. This guy does not belong in the modern NFL or even-- I don't even know if he has a fit in college football, Tim Riggins. But I could totally see him-- I don't know if he's the future Coach Taylor, but I could see him being that, like, ornery special-teams coach that you see on "Hard Knocks," like the guy that kind of steals the show because, you think, oh cool. Going into it, like, you know, I might be totally in on the head coach or whatever, but then this, like, wack-ass special-teams coach comes in there just, you know, railing on guys and being a total, you know, monster the bottom third of the roster. I can see Riggins being that guy.

And also, since we talked about Michael B. Jordan, shout out to Taylor Kitsch too. I think underrated as an actor. I don't know if either of you guys or anyone out there listening or watching has watched "Waco" on Netflix. He's, like, great in that. We watched it here, and I was like, I cannot believe how-- I can't believe that this is Tim Riggins, and now he's this ultra-convincing cult leader. Great. So shoutout to Taylor Kitsch.

MIKE OZ: Well, it goes all to football coaching, right? If you can be a cult leader, you can probably be a football coach too.

MATT HARMON: Nailed it. Yeah, exactly.

MIKE OZ: I thought-- I thought he was going to be the star that came out of this though. Like, I thought-- you know, Michael B. Jordan, obviously-- you know, I wasn't at the time I was thinking he was going to be the star, but I remember thinking, oh, Tim Riggins, that guy's just going to go on to be-- you know, all this stuff.

And he did that-- what, the John Carter movie or whatever? He did the "Battleship" movie. And you're just like, man.

MATT HARMON: And he did "True Detective" season two, which was terrible.

MIKE OZ: All right, so I'm going to throw out one based on what they did afterwards is, again, not a great football player but one of the good characters in the show, Landry Clarke. And my three words are better cooking meth. He's a better meth cook than he is a--

DALTON DEL DON: Well done.

MIKE OZ: --a football player.

DALTON DEL DON: Coach Taylor, is he the number-one pick over all this though? By the way, I know he gets criticized for some of his usage of the clock, but is he the true number one? Is he the Belichick, the true number-one pick here?

MATT HARMON: I don't know that he's-- I don't know that he's Belichick. Way too much, like, charisma. You know, I think you could look at him as-- he's much more feisty, I think, than Belichick. So I he definitely think though-- maybe not quite as crazy as Jim Harbaugh, but maybe like John Harbaugh-type energy. You know, great coach--

MIKE OZ: Is he like a Pete Carroll?

MATT HARMON: Yeah. Well, Pete-- I don't know. Pete's, like, just totally off the wall, so that's a tough one. But I think-- I think John Harbaugh because, again, you know, we've seen Coach Taylor thrive in two different type of situations, and I think the Ravens have obviously-- like, he's had that sort of career awakening, you know, middle of his career as a head coach, like a guy who was kind of on the ropes. Went from a Flacco-led, defensive-heavy team to now they've got Lamar. I think that's a pretty good analogy and I think a guy who's a top-three head coach in the NFL right now.

MIKE OZ: We have to do-- people are going to get mad if we don't do Matt Saracen, so we've got to do Matt Saracen. I'm going Texas Tim Tebow, right? Like he sort of wins the big games. Not really that good, and you're like, oh man. Yeah, Matt Saracen.

DALTON DEL DON: Well done, guys. Congratulations, Oz, on your huge victory talking "Friday Night Lights."

Thanks for watching "Boxed In." Catch new episodes on Yahoo Sports every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please rate and review us wherever you listen to podcasts. And, yeah, thanks again, guys. Good times.