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Longhorns football through the generations

Friday, December 8, 2023
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If you’ve seen me around town this week, whether at Tuesday’s school board meeting or just out and about, you’ve seen the old, white University of Texas at Austin sweatshirt I’ve been pretty much wearing without ceasing the past several days.

That’s because on Sunday, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee announced the four teams that would be advancing to the playoff, with a chance to play for the national championship.

And for the first time in the playoff era, Texas was one of those four teams.

My relationship with University of Texas athletics was forged before I was born, when my father completed pharmacy school there.

The sweatshirt I’ve been wearing all week to show my Longhorn pride was originally his.

Sorry Ruston, but we were Texas folk before I knew what Louisiana Tech was. Even though we moved to Lake Charles in southwest Louisiana when I was just four or five, I grew up claiming that Texas was my real home.

I didn’t know it, but my childhood was a privileged golden age for Longhorn football, featuring iconic quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy.

I was five days away from turning 10 years old when Texas and USC played what is widely considered to be the greatest championship game of the Bowl Championship Series era, and one of the greatest football games of all time.

I remember watching from the living room at a family friend’s house on Jan. 4, 2006, as the “in- Vince- ible” Young took a 4th-down snap from the 9 yard-line and bolted for the right corner of the end zone, putting Texas ahead with just 19 seconds left in the game.

Before I knew it, my dad was hoisting me so high my head brushed the ceiling, but I didn’t care. We had won it all.

That hasn’t happened again since.

On Jan. 7, 2010, Texas returned to the title game, led this time by McCoy. This time, I was there. My dad got tickets for the two of us at $90 apiece. I hear this year’s championship game tickets are going for a minimum of $1,200. Yeesh.

It was a great trip to Pasadena, California. I even got to meet Young and get his autograph before the game, which I still have in my closet.

The game, as college football fans know, wasn’t so great for us Longhorn faithful.

My dad and I, and this one other guy we didn’t know, were practically the only three in burnt orange in a sea of crimson in the Alabama end zone.

It was that end zone toward which McCoy and the offense were driving early in the first quarter when McCoy took a hit to the shoulder on an option play that pinched a nerve and prevented him from being able to throw the football.

“Colt is hurt, Colt is hurt,” came the death knell from Brent Musburger over the TV broadcast, which of course I didn’t hear until later.

But we heard all about it from the drunk Alabama fans surrounding us on every side. And we wouldn’t stop hearing about it all game long, until the final whistle blew and coach Nick Saban won his first national championship with the Crimson Tide.

That game (perhaps even that one fateful play, though Alabama fans would disagree) changed the course of college football. Saban and Alabama would go on to win five more national championships and establish themselves — and with a little help, the SEC — as by far the most dominant force in the sport. LSU fans around here are all too aware of that.

Texas, meanwhile, became mired in a 14-year wasteland of under-achieving and missed opportunities.

That fateful championship game was two days before my 14th birthday.

Now, Texas is one semifinal win away from at last returning to the national championship — the night before I turn 28.

That trip to Pasadena was almost exactly half my life ago. Things have changed a little bit since then.

I have my own son now. I don’t scream and shout at the football games on TV anymore — or at least I try — because my boy’s a little sensitive, and he can’t tell that I’m not yelling at him.

After 14 years we finally took down Alabama earlier in the season. I had to celebrate that momentous exorcism in utter silence while Oliver slumbered in the next room.

I probably won’t be taking my son to a Texas playoff game this year — Lord knows I can’t afford it.

But when he sees that sweatshirt my dad passed down to me, Oliver knows “dat says Texas!” And once he says Texas, he starts talking about football.

And when he talks about football, I see reflected in him the excitement I felt at cheering for a gridiron miracle alongside my father — not truly understanding the weight of what was going on, but somehow feeling it all the same.

Maybe that sweatshirt will make it down to Oliver one day. When it does, it would be pretty cool if I could tell him about the time Texas won the national championship when he was just two years old.

Caleb Daniel is the Ruston Daily Leader’s Digital News Editor. He is a Louisiana Tech University graduate who covers the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and schools.