The interstate was busy for a Saturday morning, and the sun rose a solid burnt orange as the people waited for the gates to open for the Longhorns' public scrimmage and the beginning of Fan Appreciation Day.
The various coffee houses should have done a booming business.
Preseason practice -- commonly called "two-a-days" even though the NCAA has limited those considerably in the time running up to the first game of the year -- is a grind. Somebody said it a long time ago: "You have to love the game to play football...you have to be crazy to love two-a-days."
But it is in that window of time, in the heat and in the meeting rooms, that teams come together. And Saturday morning in Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Mack Brown, his staff, and over 10,000 of their closest friends sitting in the stands, got a glimpse of what 2006 might look like for football at The University of Texas.
For the morning, the talent and the enthusiasm, the speed and the attitude, all came together. It wasn't perfect, but it was exactly what the coaching staff needed to see.
The message Mack Brown had hammered to his team was that they were part of a program which last year won the National Championship. But as a team, they are starting over in a quest to win another one. All they can be responsible for is this moment, this year.
"Just do what you do" is their simple theme. Expanded, what that means is, be who you are as a team, and be the best team you can be.
What came out to play Saturday was the joy of Texas football. It wasn't about pressure to repeat, it wasn't about a 20-game winning streak. In the cool of the morning, football was fun. Which is exactly what Brown and his staff wanted it to be.
The fans came in great numbers, and their contribution to the psyche of the team cannot be discounted. There are a lot of reasons that DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium has become one of the hardest places in college football for a visiting team to play. In Brown's eight years, the Horns have lost three home games.
Saturday morning's eye-opening gathering was representative of the home crowd that has been a big part of that.
But the major message Saturday was that this was a team, and a program, that has no intention of living in the past. Part of the excitement of college football is seeing new players assume roles, and veteran players step in to leadership positions. That is the hallmark of great programs, those who live in the neighborhood where National Championships are attained.
It was a guarded practice, as Brown and the coaching staff stuck to the basics. Opponents will find nothing in the practice that wasn't on video from last year. The new stuff will role out behind closed practice gates and when the season begins. But the first offense had two sustained drives for touchdowns, during which it did exactly what you need to do to win -- it got first downs -- and as they say in football, it "moved the chains."
The first defense was equally impressive with its stops. Granted, in a scrimmage you are playing yourself, and after 13 days, you get a pretty good gauge of what to expect. But the fundamentals were unmistakable, and the content was impressive. Most of all, the depth and the speed appeared the main characteristics of a team that arrived from behind the 4,000 new bleacher seats in the south end.
Depth, in fact, may have been as striking a part of the morning as anything. Guys have fun when they get to play, and from the appearance Saturday, there are a lot of guys who are going to have a chance to get on the field.
All of those things are positive.
What will matter most for this team may well have been the moments in the locker room after the scrimmage. Brown and the staff treated the practice as a game, and inside Moncrief-Neuhaus, the team chanted and sang "Texas Fight," just as it does after victories.
They celebrated a day when their fans had come, when they had competed against each other, and they shared some private moments.
In the midst of two-a-days, with still two weeks before the first game, everybody understood that this was a work in progress.
But in the space of that locker room, the Longhorns of 2006 were a family.