Hometown Horns: Plano, Texas
Affectionately referred to by locals as "An All-American City," Plano, Texas is located 20 miles north of downtown Dallas. The town is home to three current student-athletes at The University of Texas: senior football standout , women's basketball newcomer and rowing veteran .
Long-time residents of Plano, the trio developed their love of athletics in the All-American City.
"Being a little kid, the thing to do was go to Clark Stadium during a football game and play tackle football on the side," Blalock said. "There's a little grass area that is sealed off from everything else. A bunch of us would go down and play for hours until the game was over."
"Some of my favorite memories from growing up in Plano are going for bike rides to feed the ducks and playing basketball in the driveway," Nash reminisced. "I also loved going to church with my family on Sundays, baking cookies with my sister and playing Nintendo with my big brother."
"I played tennis in high school," noted Waghray, a lifetime resident and Plano East High School graduate. "I loved spending time at the High Point Tennis Center. It was like my second home."
Also a Plano East graduate, Blalock has started every game at right tackle for the Longhorns over the last four years. During the Longhorns' national championship run in 2005, he was tabbed an Associated Press All-America third-team selection and a consensus first-team All-Big 12 choice, blocking for an offense that ranked first in the nation in scoring offense (50.2 ppg), second in rushing offense (274.9 ypg) and third in total offense (512.1). He helped clear the way as Texas set an NCAA single-season record with 652 points.
Blalock, whose family moved to Plano during his infancy, began his evolution into a dominating offensive lineman at Plano East. As a prep standout, he earned All-America recognition from USA Today and was listed as the nation's 15th-best high school prospect by The Sporting News. He credits much of his success to high school coach Scott Phillips.
"Coach Phillips helped quite a bit," Blalock said. "He coached the offensive line during my junior and senior years, so I got to spend a lot of time with him. He gave me a good sense of what was to come. He coached me harder than some of the other guys because he didn't want me to get a big head or anything like that."
Nash averaged 17.7 points and 10.3 rebounds and helped 5A power Plano West High School to its first-ever state title as a senior. The 6-3 forward is hoping to make an immediate impact for the Longhorns in 2006-07.
Waghray, a senior, earned her first letter as a member of the rowing team in 2005-06. Last season, she served as coxswain for the First Varsity Four. Waghray helped Texas to a 15th-place showing at the 10th annual NCAA South/Central Regional Sprints.
As with any town which boasts more than one high school, a fierce rivalry has emerged between the schools.
"When I was in high school, the biggest rivalry was Plano East and Plano Senior," Blalock said. "When I was there, East won every game. They ran the streak to six or seven, I believe."
The random sampling of UT's Plano athletes shows a common disdain for Plano Senior.
"Plano Senior was the biggest rivalry," Nash said. "Allen High was also a big rivalry. But Plano Senior was who we really wanted to beat."
Although Plano is located closer to the University of Oklahoma in Norman (194 miles) than Austin (214 miles), there is no doubt that the name of the institutions took precedent over the proximity of the schools when Nash selected Texas.
"Even though Norman might be closer," Nash said, "I've always felt closer to Austin."
The always thoughtful Blalock took a little more time to make his decision.
"There were some thoughts (of going to Oklahoma)," Blalock said. "When I was coming out of high school, they were coming off their National Championship season. There was definitely a lot of thought. I really loved the guys I met on the official visit down here. We really hit it off well. The rest is history."
Few people know that Plano was almost named Fillmore. In the 1840s, the area attracted a gathering of settlers and a gristmill, sawmill and general store were established. The town was still without a name when mail service was established in the area in 1852. Various names were bandied about for the town, including naming it after Millard Fillmore, the U.S. President at the time. The area is relatively smooth so various residents suggested Plano -- the Spanish word for "flat." Some claim that Dr. Henry Dye actually suggested the name because he thought it was Spanish for "plain." In any case, the U.S. Postal Service accepted the name and the moniker "Plano" became official.
The Houston and Texas Railroad, completed in 1872, helped the town grow slowly, but the city remained relatively small through the 1970s, and the 1970 census listed the population at 17,872. In the 1980s, Plano began to experience a boom with many companies, including JC Penney's, Frito Lay, Cadbury Schweppes and H. Ross Perot's Electronic Data Systems, establishing headquarters in the city. The 1980 census had the population ballooning to 72,331. Plano surpassed the 100,000 mark in the 1990 U.S. census and steamrollered over the 200,000-person plateau in 2000 with 222,030 inhabitants.
"My mom told me that when we moved to Plano, there were two big farms," Blalock said. "That's all Plano was. Now there's hardly 20 feet of undeveloped land. It's really great for the city to kind of make a name for itself. It's really blowing up and taking off."
Nash shared a positive view of Plano's population surge, but for different reasons.
"It has been great," Nash said. "There are more choices of where to go to see a movie, places to shop and eat. Plano was a great city to grow up in."
Waghray believes the population increase was good initially, but the time for it has passed.
"For awhile it was alright," Waghray said. "They had places where things could be built. Now it's just so overwhelming and the schools are starting to get overcrowded.
The Plano Convention and Visitor's Bureau lays a big emphasis on the town being the Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas and the proximity to the World Famous Ewing Mansion on the Southfork Ranch. The Plano Hot Air Balloon Festival draws more than 200,000 people each September. At Southfork Ranch, fans can take a look at the gun that shot J.R. Ewing, as well as reminisce about some of their favorite "Dallas" episodes.
"I love the balloon festival," Waghray said. "Every year, my family would go to it. It's one of things about Plano I miss when I'm here at school.
Although the Plano Balloon Festival gets the thumbs up, it appears the Southfork Ranch is not a hangout for locals.
"I actually live about five minutes from Southfork," Blalock said. "I would never take a guest or visitor there, though."
Nash offered a similar answer when asked if she feels obligated to take out-of-town visitors to the famed ranch.
"I was young when 'Dallas' was a hit," Nash said. "So it doesn't really excite me or any of the people I grew up with. I usually take people to Stonebriar Mall."
Waghray concurs with Nash on the appeal of Plano's malls.
"The malls are great," she said. "The atmosphere in the malls is so nice and the shopping is good."
Waghray also offered evidence as to why Plano is considered an All-American City.
"It's all of the little things that make Plano nice," she said. "The town has some beautiful parks. It's a nice place to be with family and just do the little things together like having a barbeque or going to the pool at Jack Carter Park."