The Longhorns received a little extra encouragement during training camp recently from 12-year-old Dallas Parker. Dallas, a Texas native who lives for Longhorn football, was born deaf. Texas head coach Mack Brown invited Dallas out to practice after receiving a letter from his father, David Parker.
"I wrote a letter to Mack Brown because (Dallas) lives and breathes Texas football," said David Parker. "A lot of coaches probably wouldn't have responded, but Coach Brown did."
"All three (of my sons) like football because they used to watch me coach (at Vista Ridge High School)," said David. "But Dallas loves football, especially UT football."
Accompanied by his father and his two brothers, Tyler and Jackson, Dallas, who has been eagerly awaiting this day for months, finally got to experience Texas football practice up close.
"He's been asking about (attending practice) every day since we heard from Coach Brown," said 13-year-old Tyler. "He bleeds burnt orange."
The experience was also particularly meaningful for the Longhorns, such as Coach Brown who was reminded of former Longhorn Brad Hermes. Hermes is also deaf, but like Dallas, he has not let that hold him back.
"When Dallas came out to practice today I felt like Brad was back out on the practice field with us," Brown said. "He had a great smile and a tremendous attitude, and I thought it was great for a lot of our players to get to meet Dallas and spend time with him because he's a special young man."
For Dallas, who volunteers with the football team at Vista Ridge High School in Leander, Texas, being able to attend practice was been a dream come true.
"The team has been just unbelievable," said David. "Dallas got to break them down (in the huddle before practice), and a few of the players came over and were able to sign with him. He's just in heaven."
One of the players that was able to connect with Dallas was senior LB Robert Killebrew. Killebrew has taken ASL (sign language) at UT and understands the importance of being able to communicate with the deaf.
"I don't think people realize how big of a (deaf) community there is, or how important it is for them to have people that they can talk and connect with," said Killebrew.
"My girlfriend's mom is deaf, and so my girlfriend, who is fluent in sign language, always teaches me so that I'm able to converse with her mom when I see her," added Killebrew. "I'm really happy that I could communicate with (Dallas)."
Texas head trainer Kenny Boyd also really enjoyed meeting Dallas, especially with the two already having a common acquaintance, Vista Ridge trainer Michael Henry.
"One of the joys of the job is to be able to have a kid like that with the dream of his to come out and be a part of this, and to be able to see the smile on his face and how it makes him light up makes my job worthwhile," said Boyd.
"It makes all the hours and work that we put in seem a lot easier, and it was really nice to have him out here," added Boyd.