Webster tells us that a constellation is "any of 88 groups of stars forming patterns."
UT head coach Mack Brown would tell you that number should be 89 and the newest group of stars just arrived on The University of Texas campus.
The first wave of Texas Football 2002 — the incoming freshman class — checked in Monday with a wave of meetings, greetings and physical examinations. The message to the group picked as the nation's top recruiting class was clear — check your egos at the door because It's all about team.
Brown's 19th season as a head coach, and his fifth at Texas, followed the pattern of people-friendly exposure that has made the Longhorns mentor so popular with his players and their parents. Starting with an early afternoon check-in and including a parents-only meeting, a picnic for the players, their parents and the staff, the day was a get-to-know-you hug fest. And the hugs went both ways. There were hugs of hello and there were hugs of good-bye.
Whether you are a football player or a concert violinist, the first day on a college campus as a freshman is, in fact, the classic cliché of "the first day of the rest of your life." It's about a new beginning.
That was part of Brown's message as he talked with the parents of his new Longhorns and it was a clear message to the recruits as well. Whatever had occurred in a young man's life to this point, this was a new chance. Brown and his wife, Sally, who have four children in their 20s, could speak from first-hand experience to the parents. They, too, had left kids at school, and Mack wanted to assure the parents that he would hold to his promise and take care of their sons.
For the large percentage of the Class of 2002, that new beginning means a chance to add to an already outstanding resume of success. This class, with its All-Americans and all-stars, was described by Brown as "potentially the most outstanding college of talent to come to the Texas campus in years."
However, the operative word was potentially. Even though Brown's good friend and mentor Darrell Royal would tell you, "potential just means you ain't done it yet," clearly the talent is there. Now begins the process of bonding them together.
That was the theme of the evening as the players, having said good-bye to their parents after the picnic, finally gathered with Brown and his staff. It was no longer about ego for those oft-honored youngsters who were stars in high school. Now, it was about coming together as a team.
Classes are remembered for their legacy, long after the day they arrived on campus and the core of a team is formed in the togetherness and the pride of a each season's newcomers. Looking back, for example, the great moments of UT football are not about just a season. The class that enrolled in fall 1960 posted a three-year varsity record (freshmen were not eligible for the varsity then) of 30-2-1 from 1961-63. That record was equaled by the remarkable run from 1968-70, when the outstanding freshman class of '67 won 30 consecutive games.
That is what Brown and his staff are building toward at Texas and those are the kinds of dreams that are held by this class. When Brown talked openly of the desire to win a National Championship, the parents of his new rookies burst out in applause. However, they also listened appreciatively as he talked about graduation and the importance of being accountable. Brown told the parents and the players that he had only one rule: act right. Pretty simple, and there was Assistant AD for Strength & Conditioning Jeff "Mad Dog" Madden standing there as an example of what happened if you didn't.
All in all, it was a busy day filled with the emotion of bidding good-bye to family and hello to dreams.
When the evening of meetings ended, it was with anticipation, and a little trepidation, that the players headed off to their dorm with their new friends. Tuesday is the first of four practices, meetings and testing for the newcomers.
Whatever the players remembered about Monday, there was one major point that came through to them as they unlocked the door to their rooms in Jester Center — someone would knock on their door at six in the morning and breakfast was at 6:15 on the first day of practice of their collegiate careers.
From there, they will begin to determine what pattern their constellation will take, and though clearly a work in progress, how they remember and will be remembered in the long story of Texas football.