It was the day after the Texas Longhorns' appearance at the Big 12 Media Day in Houston, and Joe Jamail Field glistened in the morning dew as the sun crept over the edge of the turret at the north end of the east side stands at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
Mack Brown and several Longhorn players had spent Thursday doing double duty in the Bayou City (which will be the site of the Big 12 Championship game in December), visiting with over 300 media members from print, radio and television in the morning, and then attending the Houston Touchdown Club's "Texas Day" banquet at noon.
They arrived back in Austin at mid-afternoon, in time for three of the players to attend class at 6 p. m.
As the season highlight video filled the ballroom for the 500 or so orange-clad Texas fans at the luncheon, it marked one last look back at a special moment in Texas football history. Vince Young still made the fourth and 18 against Kansas, and Dusty Mangum's field goal still cleared the goal post by the distance between the two fingers of the "Hook'em Horns" sign.
The Mayor of Houston proclaimed the day "Mack Brown Day", and Vince Young, Rod Wright, Jonathan Scott, Michael Huff, Aaron Harris and David Thomas signed autographs. Darrell Royal and David McWilliams were there, so was Longhorn legend Steve Worster. Even Slater Martin, the only Longhorn basketball player ever inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, was in the audience. One more time, Mack Brown told the story of how Darrell Royal had called him late in the night after the Rose Bowl victory over Michigan, and told him it was a game like the 1969 Game of the Century win over Arkansas -- a game that would be remembered for ever.
Throughout the meeting with the media, and the luncheon, there was an air of confidence…certainly not "cockiness"…but self-assuredness that only success can bring.
Even when the subject of "pressure" of the five-game winning streak Oklahoma has over the Horns came up, nobody flinched. Streaks are funny. As Baylor found out after beating Texas four straight times before meeting UT in the CWS, sometimes, there is more pressure on the winners to keep it going than there is on the other guys to break it. But that is a story for another day. Thursday was about putting away cherished things, and getting ready to embark on something new.
All summer, many of the Longhorn players have worked every day (and sometimes twice a day) to prepare for the 2005 season. Brown told the story at the luncheon that one day early in the summer, Vince Young put a sign on the board in the locker room.
"Anybody who wants to beat Ohio State…be at the practice field at 8 o'clock tonight." And everybody came. The six Longhorns who went to Houston for the media day and the luncheon reflected a team committed to continue, and extend, the success of 2004. As good as the win in the Rose Bowl felt, there was significant unfinished business. At the Big 12 Media Day, the Longhorns were picked to win the league championship in the game that will be played in Reliant Stadium in December.
"That's nice," said Brown. "It's like Coach Royal once said, 'pre-season polls are like a beauty contest…if somebody's gonna enter you, you'd like to finish first.' But what is important is that we'd like to be No. 1 at the end of the season, not just at the start of it."
There is no question that the 2004-2005 school year will long be remembered by Longhorn fans. When the Texas baseball team finished its sterling run in Omaha with a College World Series championship, it capped a splendid time in Texas athletics. And history is important to celebrate, to learn from it, and to grow from it.
The media attending the Big 12 Media Day heard a dozen coaches and their players talk about their hopes and dreams. For some, it was about "getting closer" to Texas and Oklahoma. For others, it was about believing that against whatever odds there are, the human spirit can prevail.
As I thought about the year and prepared to write this commentary, I looked on the web for the phrase "A Time to Remember." There are over 80 million references to those words. That puts a lot of things into perspective. What you did is important, but until you, as Darrell Royal once said, "set your bucket down" at the end of the day, the most important day of your life is the next.
I got an e-mail from a friend who is a stock broker with a quote from the legendary baseball pitcher Bob Feller which pretty well wrapped up all of this as we look forward with great anticipation to the football season of 2005.
"Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day," he said.
Sunday, Mack Brown and his staff will head to the Texas High School Coaches Association meeting to join 14,000 high school coaches in San Antonio. They'll go from there on their staff retreat to finalize plans for the season.
The players will take a brief break to concentrate on wrapping up summer school, and get ready to report officially on August 7.
By mid-morning, the dew was gone from the stadium, and the sun rose high and hot in the Texas summer. The only glisten remaining for the day was the sterling silver Rose Bowl trophy, proudly displayed with the other Longhorn memorabilia in the Mike Campbell-Bobby Moses Trophy Room in the Moncrief-Neuhaus football offices.
The trophy is on a rotating platform, slowly turning within its protective case. In a moment, it looks back, and then forward.
Which is the way it should be.