Jan. 7, 2010
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
PASADENA, Calif. -- It was as if they had been waiting there, frolicking in the Arroyo Seco, waiting for some old friends from a distant memory. The ghosts hover in the canyon, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, just above college football's greatest shrine.
The young man wandered alone near the northeast corner of the Rose Bowl - alone with his thoughts and his dreams. The last time Colt McCoy had stood on this field, Vince Young was getting ready to go back into the arena and straight into college football history. It had been fourth-and-five at the Southern Cal 8-yard line.
Colt McCoy was a redshirt freshman, a kid with a clipboard and a cap turned backwards as he listened to conversations between Young and his coaches. And before he went back onto the field, Young had looked at his young friend and said, "remember this moment, because one day, you will be in this place."
And so it would be that McCoy would return with six of his teammates who were on that 2005 National Championship team.
Wednesday, as the buses rolled down into the canyon and the Rose Bowl emblem seemed to rise larger than life itself from the historic stadium tucked into the floor of the arroyo, they came back to Pasadena for a pre-game walkthrough in the place where history will be made on Thursday.
The walkthrough comes on the eve of the BCS National Championship Game, hosted by the Rose Bowl, matching Texas and Alabama. It came after a week of practice, events, food and fun that were all the predecessors of the Main Event, which will come on Thursday.
The two teams have stayed an hour or so away from the bowl and the city of Pasadena, headquartering in Newport Beach. There, the Longhorns have set up shop using the practice facility at UC-Irvine and through every event have seemed to be taking the experience in stride and having fun.
Mack Brown has said as much in every media appearance he has had since arriving. Several years ago, when the Longhorns seemed to be smitten a bit with an attitude of "entitlement," Brown remembered something that Coach Darrell Royal had told him early in his Texas career.
"You should not hire a coach, or recruit a player, who has not earned the right to be at Texas," he had said. Thus, "Earn The Right" became a motto. As the season has wound down in California, the memories of the campaign have come back. It's easy to remember when Mean Joe Greene told them that to win, they had to all go "All In." A young boy who was injured in a freak accident on a high school playing field gave them the slogan of "Find A Way," when he talked about his drive and desire to get up out of his wheelchair and walk.
Lt. Col. Greg Gadson told them about the fact that you don't control your circumstances; your job is to deal with them when they come. And finally a minister at the chapel service before the Big 12 Championship game talked to them about the fact that always in life you are challenged because there is always "One More." One more game, one more moment, one more chance.
When Colt McCoy and Vince Young had that conversation what seems a lifetime ago, no one could have known that he was being so prophetic. He couldn't have known that four years later, Colt would walk on the same field, review the same spots, see in his mind the same plays. Vince Young and a lot of former Longhorns who are now in the NFL will be in the Rose Bowl Thursday, standing in support of these young guys who now play. Same place, same time. Who would have thought it?
Greg Davis certainly didn't. He remembers the time that next spring when a skinny kid from Tuscola, Texas, would sit across the desk from him.
"He said, `I want to be the best quarterback you ever coached,'" Davis remembers.
And then Davis added, "And he just might have been right."
The "rock star" celebrity that has grown for McCoy has carried through the week of preparation. Autograph seekers have had to be restrained at Disneyland; well-wishers at the elite Lawry's Beef Bowl have had to be politely escorted away so he could even eat a bite of the house specialty Prime Rib. That has become the life of one who has become larger than life.
But in that moment near the end of the walkthrough at the famous stadium, he somehow found a moment to be alone. The next day, more than 100,000 people and a television audience of millions will be there, watching.
The parallels between the trip in 2005 have been interesting, especially in the way the Longhorns have been relegated to a contender's role, rather than the favorite's. Most of the media covering the event is picking Alabama, just as they did Southern Cal in 2005. That is what brought Mack Brown to the final words of his morning press conference.
In 1963, when Texas played Navy in the Cotton Bowl after a perfect season and its first ever National Championship, the members of the media gave the Longhorns little respect. So much so that the head coach of Navy, Wayne Harden, issued a challenge, hoping the reluctant pollsters would reconsider their choice. In front of a national television audience in a statement broadcast live in the stadium, he basically said if Navy won, there should be a new champion. When the microphone was turned to Darrell Royal, he simply uttered a phrase that would become "Royalesc" in is nature: "We're ready," is all that he said.
Wednesday morning as Brown wrapped up his comments, he said, "What you are going to see is two really good football teams. Alabama has lost two games in the last two years and we have lost one. Alabama is an outstanding team, and they the No. 1 team in the nation."
And then he added with every bit of Texas swagger: "But we have a good team, too." For, you see, it isn't only about Colt McCoy and his teammates who have fought so gamely to be in this position. It is about those who will follow, who will one day walk in the sunshine, in the foothills of the San Gabriels.
The crowd, the TV audience, the whole country, and the Ghosts in the Arroyo Seco will be watching.