Bill Little commentary: A chance meeting
In a way, there was immense irony that the focal point of the nice family which happened to be in the Bob Moses-Mike Campbell Trophy Room in the Moncrief-Neuhaus building Thursday morning was a little boy whose name was Chance.
He was wearing a burnt orange tee shirt with the words "Longhorn Fan" on it, and as the 2007 Longhorn football season's fall practice moved through its first week, his name captured the spirit of the moment.
In short, this Texas team has a chance.
Throughout the 2007 campaign, we will be reminded of history, while living in potential. It marks Mack Brown's 10th season at Texas. It has been 50 years since Darrell Royal coached his first football team here in 1957. The 1977 team, Fred Akers' first and the vehicle through which Earl Campbell ran to the school's first Heisman Trophy, will hold a 30-year reunion on September 29.
We will all have a chance to remember.
It is the first season in the ever-changing new look of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, with construction crews working around the clock to get the lower deck of the north end ready.
It will give us all a chance to be a part of a special moment in history.
But what the little boy and his family could not have known is that as he walked the halls outside the Longhorn locker room, in his name he carried a very special definition.
While working on the book, "What It Means to Be A Longhorn," which has just been published by Triumph Books in Chicago and contains the personal accounts of 70 or so former Texas players, the book title was a key question to them all. And it was also the question to the men who wrote forewords to the book, Mack Brown and Darrell Royal.
This season, one of the themes of the Longhorns will be "Earn the right." Earn the right to put on the orange jersey. Earn the right to be a part of a small fraternity of men who have played for Texas. It doesn't say success will be given to you; it says you have a chance to earn it. Fall practice is the beginning of a journey. At each workout at Denius Fields, a sign counts down the days to the opening football game. It started at "26 days" until the season opener. By the end of this week, the opener will be three weeks away, and that number soon will be fewer than 20 days.
For Mack Brown, this will be his 23rd season as a head coach and his 34th in the coaching profession. In his 10 years at Texas, he has evolved into one of the leading spokesmen for his profession. He has transitioned from knowledge (which he had when he came) to wisdom (which reflects learned years and the ultimate success of a National Championship).
Yet for Brown and his staff, each season is, well, a chance. When you win all the games once, you have a thirst to do it again.
In college football, there is no greater season than your senior year. Leaders emerge. It is their time. Veterans step up. But it is also the chance for the young-the bright stars who are the new kids in town. Now is the time for all of them, when individual accountability has a chance (there's that word again) to translate into team success.
Over the next days, the drill is simple. Players are up in the mornings in meetings, which basically last most of the day. In the evenings, players are on the bus by the six o'clock hour, and practice will last until after nine o'clock. By 10:30 p.m., on a good night they are headed for bed, to start it all again the next day.
The time of the "two-a-days" on most college campuses has ended. Teams, even though they cannot meet with or be supervised by their coaches, have basically been working out under senior leadership all summer.
As the little boy named Chance and his family toured the building, they ran into players headed into position meetings at mid-morning. That is when this all seemed to come together.
In that book which we just finished, I asked Coach Royal the question, "What does it mean to be a Longhorn?"
And this is what he said.
"When I think of what it means to be a Longhorn, I would define it in three words: 'It's a chance.'
"It's an honor to be a Longhorn, but to me, it has always stood for a chance. If we make the right moves, we've got a chance to be with the people at the top. The University of Texas certainly provides that chance...."
So what's in a name?
The young men in the meeting rooms understand the deal, for many of them have seen the top Royal talks about. They have told the stories, recounted the dreams, to the new guys.
And the little boy who looked up to them can hope that one day, he too, would sit in their chairs.
At least he has a chance.