Jim Nantz's Case Keenum Love
Jim Nantz annoys Phil Simms with his Case Keenum love: Behind the scenes in the CBS Sports TV booth
Phil Simms heard about the University of Houston quarterback week after week after week. Jim Nantz just wouldn't let it go.
This was during the 2011 college football season when Case Keenum took advantage of a sixth year of eligibility to shatter the NCAA record book. Simms received enthusiastic weekly updates on Keenum from Nantz — whether he wanted to or not.
"I'd tell him how Case was 38 of 45," Nantz laughs.
"No, it was more like 48 of 53 every week," Simms breaks in, noting Keenum's often obscenely good numbers with the Cougars. "So I ask Jim, 'How tall is this Keenum?' And he's like, '6-4, 6-5.' I don't think so."
"I was just trying to pump up the hometown guy a little bit," Nantz says.
It almost sounds like Nantz is getting Simms to come around on Keenum. This is what happens when your belief is absolute.
Keenum, of course, actually measures in at around 6-feet. His lack of "quarterback height" helped guarantee that every NFL team would stubbornly, stupidly pass on him in the 2012 Draft. Now that Keenum's made an NFL start — with Simms and Nantz calling the game for CBS in Kansas City — no one's really focusing on how tall the Houston Texans' new quarterback stands. Not with Keenum completing six passes of more than 25 yards and nearly leading the 2-5 Texans to a road upset of the NFL's only undefeated team.
"He plays like he's 6-5," Nantz says.
This earns another eye roll from Simms. When you're part of a broadcast team, you spend a lot of time together. The former New York Giants quarterback and the TV pro's pro travel to the city of their Sunday game assignment on Friday and work in close quarters for much of the next three days. That includes plenty of Saturday production meetings that are often taken over by college football happenings.
And specifically, Nantz's University of Houston love.
The 54-year-old Nantz is as proud of a UH graduate as you'll ever find. Simms has spent years hearing about the Cougars. That became more than apparent during CultureMap's visit to the CBS broadcast booth in Kansas City.
"Did you tell him how crazy you got during the BYU game?" Simms asks, referencing Houston's 47-46 loss to Brigham Young University last Saturday, one that had Nantz twisting in his seat.
Nantz calls it "fortuitous" that he happened to call Keenum's first NFL game. Simms might use another word. After years of hearing about Keenum — and somewhat scoffing — there the quarterback was walking into a production meeting with CBS's No. 1 NFL TV team.
"How impressive was he?" Nantz asks Simms of the meeting, which saw a relaxed Keenum easily command the attention of grizzled TV vets — producers and production people who've seen it all.
"You could tell he'd done it before in college," Simms shoots back. "It's not his first rodeo. He comes across as confident though. I'll give you that."
Nantz calls it "fortuitous" that he happened to call Keenum's first NFL game. Simms might use another word.
It almost sounds like Nantz is getting Simms to come around on Keenum. This is what happens when your belief is absolute. And the evidence follows. Before Keenum threw his first pass in the NFL, Nantz saw him as a legitimate option. Like many UH devotees who actually watched Keenum play in college, Nantz knew the quarterback was anything but a smaller conference myth — which is largely the tack a resolutely doubting Houston media took.
"Case Keenum is a leader," Nantz says. "If you spend any kind of time around him, it doesn't take long to see that.
"Other players want to play with a guy like that."
Jim Nantz has been preaching about Case Keenum for years, annoying Phil Simms all the way. Only now, his TV partner almost sounds like he's seeing the light. The traditional 6-foot-3 quarterback tall Simms nearly gives it up for the short guy.
"Case is more impressive than I probably thought he would be," Simms says.
Give Jim Nantz — and Keenum — a few more weeks. Who knows? Phil Simms may even be visiting the University of Houston in his next Bayou City visit.