If you want a reflection of how good the Texas football program has gotten, all you have to do is take a look at the NFL Draft. As Cedric Benson waits in New York and Derrick Johnson hangs by the phone at his home in Waco, Longhorn football continues to enjoy immense success on draft day.
In the 69 year history of the NFL Draft dating back to 1936, Texas has had 34 first round selections. Six of them have come in the last four years, including two each in 2001, 2002 and 2004. Not only that, the excellence has been balanced. The Horns have had an offensive and a defensive player selected in the first round in three of the last four years.
If both Benson and Johnson are taken in the first round, as most observers believe will happen, it will run the total in the Mack Brown era at Texas to nine first round picks in seven seasons. The string began, of course, with Ricky Williams in the 1999 draft.
When it comes to developing talent which the pros believe are "can't miss" at the highest level of football, Texas is in elite company. The Longhorns are the only Big 12 school to have as many as four first round draft choices over the last four years, and that includes a shutout in the draft of 2003. That season, Cory Redding, Derrick Dockery and Chris Simms, all went in the third round as the highest ranked Horns in the draft.
Nationally over the past four years, Miami has had an astounding 19 first round picks, followed by Texas and Georgia with six each, Ohio State with five, and Arizona State, Florida, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin with four each.
During that same window of time, Texas has recorded 11-win seasons three of the four yearsthe only school among the group to translate such individual excellence to such team success.
As far as Top 10 picks are concerned, Texas and Miami lead the list with four each over the last four seasons, with the Longhorns edging the Hurricanes with three Top Five choices to two for Miami.
The offense-defense breakdown began in 2001, when offensive tackle Leonard Davis and defensive tackle Casey Hampton were chosen. In 2002, it was offensive tackle Mike Williams and cornerback Quentin Jammer, and last year, wide receiver Roy Williams and defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs were chosen.
Benson and Johnson are unique in that they mark the first Longhorn duo to win national awards on both sides of the ball since Earl Campbell won the Heisman Trophy and Brad Shearer was the Outland Trophy winner in 1977. In the NFL Draft of 1978, however, Campbell was a first round pick of Houston, but Shearer wasn't taken until the third round by Chicago.
Before Brown came to Texas, the Longhorns had had at least two first-round choices only four times. If Benson and Johnson make it, Texas will have had four in the last five years.
Legendary quarterback Bobby Layne and receiver Max Bumgardner were the first two, both of them picked by the Chicago Bears, although Layne's pro career would find him starring at Detroit and Pittsburgh. In 1953, end Tom Stolhanske was picked by San Francisco, and lineman Harley Sewell went to Detroit.
When Darrell Royal elected to quit coaching after the 1976 season, he knew he was leaving a wealth of talent to his successor, Fred Akers. That was reflected in the draft of 1980, when a record three Longhorns were chosen in the first round. Receiver Johnny "Lam" Jones went to the New York Jets, defensive back Johnnie Johnson to the Los Angeles Rams, and defensive back Derrick Hatchett to the Baltimore Colts.
The final duo picked in the first round came after David McWilliams' 1990 club put together their "Shock The Nation" tour, finishing No. 3 in the country at the end of the regular season. Safety Stanley Richard was picked in the first round of the 1991 draft by San Diego, and offensive tackle Stan Thomas was chosen by the Chicago Bears.
The recent success began after the 2000 season, when the 2001 draft found Davis going to the Arizona Cardinals and Hampton being chosen by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Following the 2001 season, the 2002 draft featured two top picks when Mike Williams went to Buffalo and Jammer was picked by San Diego. Last season, Roy Williams went to Detroit and Tubbs went to Seattle.
With an NCAA limit of 85 scholarship players, and with excellent retention rates growing in the program, recruiting classes are generally much smaller than they were 10 years ago. But the credit to the players, and to the staff, comes in the growth and development that has made Longhorns an attractive commodity.
With tight end Bo Scaife, defensive back Phillip Geiggar and fullback Will Matthews all in the draft pool and several others candidates to sign as free agents, Texas has a chance to have its best representation in the pro draft since six players were drafted following the 1996 season.
It is not a definitive definition of success, but it is another solid indication of it.