UH's Oliver adds to Houston's long, glorious history with Sports Illustrated cover shots

UH's Oliver adds to Houston's long, glorious history with Sports Illustrated cover shots
Who can forget the 2014 SI Cover? Courtesy photo

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There’s a new cover boy in town.

Yes, Houston Cougar junior defensive tackle Ed Oliver, one of the best players in the game and potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, graces one of the four regional Sports Illustrated College Football Preview issues this week. The Big Boss, as the headline says, is the second Cougar in three years to land on the SI preview cover. Greg Ward, Jr., made it in 2016.

All of which got us to thinking. Not about those dreaded cover jinxes. Just about SI covers period.

Specifically, we started pondering Houstonians who have graced the cover of SI’s wide range of imprints over the years. So we dug a little deeper into the subject, casting a wide #HoustonStrong net across the Internet to encompass players, teams, athletes who trained in Houston and Houston natives. We also counted those athletes when they played in college or when they were with other professional teams.

Plus we counted covers from all the SI publications we could find, including SI for Kids, Where Are They Now and other specialty imprints. We also added those covers where someone shared the cover.

What we found on our probably imperfect search might surprise you. At the very least, it will give you a few interesting tidbits to toss around with your friends.

The first cover that came to mind was a no-brainer. SI predicted back in 2014 – with George Springer on the cover – that our Houston Astros would win the 2017 World Series. They did it and wound up not only with a celebration cover, but also one with Series MVP Springer and likely – at the time – AL MVP Jose Altuve on another cover.

It got better a few months later when Altuve shared a #HoustonStrong Sportsperson of the Year cover with Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

But you knew about those.

What you might not know? Here goes. . .

* The Houstonian with the most combined covers? Vince Young with nine. Eight of those covers of the Madison High grad came in a University of Texas uniform; one as a Tennessee Titan.

* No. 2? Nolan Ryan with eight. None of them came in an Astros uniform.

* Boxer George Foreman and Roger Clemens are tied with seven each (only one of Clemens’ covers was in an Astros uniform) and the legendary A.J. Foyt and Carl Lewis were each on covers six times.

* Earl Campbell and Watt come in with five each, followed by Hakeem Olajuwon, James Harden, Justin Verlander, Deshaun Watson and Yao Ming. Altuve has three; Michael Strahan has two.

* Who could forget Mary Lou Retton’s “Only You, Mary Lou” cover from the 1984 Olympic Games? She shared the Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year cover with Edwin Moses later that year. Simone Biles and UH quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware were also on two covers.

* Houston Comets Sheryl Swoopes (three) and Cynthia Cooper (two) were both on covers, too.

* In the summer of 2015, SI did something different, giving each member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team her own cover, including then-Houston Dash stars Carli Lloyd, Meghan Klingenberg and Morgan Brian.

* The first Houston cover we could find was Foyt on June 1, 1964, followed by Oilers QB Don Trull on the August 17, 1964 cover. Yes, Jackie Burke won the Masters in 1956, but the cover that week went to another golfer -- Curtis Cup star Barbara Romack.

* The first Houston Astros cover? Future Hall of Famer/second baseman Joe Morgan and shortstop Sonny Jackson were featured with the headline – “Astros in Orbit” – on the June 5, 1966 cover.

* We can’t forget the January  29, 1968 cover from the Game of the Century where  UH’s Elvin Hayes shoots over UCLA’s Lew Alcindor/ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar  in Houston’s 71-69 win. Headline was “Big EEEE over Big Lew.”

Some other Houston stars with at least one SI cover moment? Clyde Drexler, Fred Couples, Warren Moon, Dan Pastorini (he was being sacked by Pittsburgh’s L.C. Greenwood), Ralph Sampson, Thurman Thomas and David Klingler.

* And, while she’s not a Houston athlete, model Kate Upton is Mrs. Justin Verlander. She has been on three SI swimsuit covers and one regular cover with then-Atlanta Braves B.J. and Justin Upton.

Finally, we leave you with one more tidbit. Just so you know, the top four athletes with the most SI (only) covers are Michael Jordan (50), Muhammad Ali (40), LeBron James (25) and Tiger Woods (24). And if you add the times those four were on the other imprints too? We’ll leave that up to you. We’re out of time – and space.


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