May 22, 2009
As the calendar turns to mid-May, the end of another academic school year has arrived at Texas and with that comes spring commencement ceremonies.
Although many members of the football team now target December graduation dates, the team was still well represented at the spring ceremonies.
In fact, with the completion of this weekend's events, 19 of the 23 seniors of the 2008 squad that won two BCS bowls, including a National Championship, have graduated, including 13 of 14 scholarship players. The four remaining are all within two semesters of doing so.
On Friday, 12 members and former members of the team received their diplomas, while WR Quan Cosby will take part in a Saturday ceremony.
Under Mack Brown, Texas football has become known for its family atmosphere. That took on new meaning at the college of education ceremonies at Gregory Gym, as senior TE Mac McWhorter walked the stage in front of his family, including associate head coach and offensive line coach Mac McWhorter.
"It's been awesome," the younger McWhorter said. "Growing up, it was hard for him to come out and see my games while he coached in college. Just finally being able to see him every day for the last four years, it's been completely different from previous years, but it's been so awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better college experience than what I've gotten from my dad and The University of Texas."
The senior McWhorter was originally scheduled to be on the road recruiting for the Longhorns on Friday, just one example of the difficulty college football coaches face getting to spend time with their families. However with the team's commitment to family, he was able to adjust his schedule with offensive coordinator Greg Davis in order to be able to attend the ceremony.
"It has been a great situation for us to be together at Texas," the senior McWhorter said. "To see his progress academically and athletically, it's been great, and it comes to a head today with graduation.
"He started with us four years ago and to watch him and be with him on a daily basis as he played at Texas and went to school here and then to see him graduate, it's a great day for the McWhorter family. Our daughter graduated from here in '05, so two of our three children are Texas graduates. It's special."
With one year of eligibility remaining, the younger McWhorter has already been accepted into graduate school at UT in advertising and can serve as an example to younger players.
"I had role models like David Thomas and Neale Tweedie when I was younger and got to see them get degrees," McWhorter said. "Especially Neale, who has gotten his master's since I've been around. It shows you how important of a role academics has."
Also close to the senior McWhorter's heart and two more examples of players who have graduated with eligibility remaining, offensive linemen Chris Hall and Charlie Tanner walked the stage in the college of communications later in the day at the Erwin Center.
"This kind of degree is so helpful for us," Hall said. "Anywhere you go, The University of Texas is so well respected. We're definitely thankful to get to participate today."
While Hall hopes to pursue Christian ministry, Tanner is considering many possibilities for his future and is already close to receiving a second degree in advertising.
"I would love to play professional football, but if that doesn't work out, I could do real estate or public relations or advertising," Tanner said. "I'm about to get a second degree in advertising, so I'm looking forward to that."
Tanner noted the other special part of the day was being able to have his family in attendance, including his father, Dan.
"We are just thrilled," Dan Tanner said. "This is a terrific place. All the student support they give these guys is awesome. Charlie is graduating four years from when he came here, so we're really impressed with how it all worked out."
Hall's family was also present, including his mother, Rona Fello.
"I'm really thankful The University of Texas has invested in Chris, and I'm really proud for him to graduate," Fello said. "It's been a special day."
In addition to the current players, back in the college of education class with McWhorter was former defensive tackle and 2004 first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks Marcus Tubbs. Tubbs' NFL career was cut short by recurring injuries, but obtaining his degree never left his mind while he fulfilled his dream of playing professional football.
"It means a lot, especially coming back and finishing," Tubbs said. "I was focused and it was important to me, so I came back and did it. It was also something I promised my mom I would do. Getting drafted into the NFL was a great honor, but at the same time, I knew I had something else I wanted to complete. Just being able to come back and do it is a good feeling."
Tubbs, who had his wife and father in attendance at graduation, is currently interning in the Texas football operations department, which is a career path he hopes to pursue. Walking through the Texas football building, he now can say he has joined the ranks of those with a T Ring, signifying a letterman who has graduated.
"That's a big thing," Tubbs said. "You see the guys walking around with them and you dream about the day you're able to go get fitted for one and turn in your size. I was able to do that, and it feels great, like a big fraternity."