About 10 years ago, Jerry Jeff Walker recorded a song about larger than life heroes entitled, "The Man in the Big Hat is Buying."
Sunday night for the Texas Longhorns, as he has over and over again with matters of the heart regarding The University of Texas, Red McCombs was buying.
The guy, who gave $50 million to the business school and has given over and over again to the school he treasures, invited the Longhorns football team to join he and his wife, Charline, for a dinner on the grounds at their RM Ranch.
It was a surprise trip for the team, which traditionally had gone to an Austin area barbecue place for the Sunday night dinner following Fan Appreciation Day.
This time, the buses travelled U.S. 290 to 281 and Red and Charline and their staff were ready for their twilight arrival. Whatever it is you imagined this trip would be like, guess again.
On the 5,000 acre ranch, half of which is dedicated to raising exotic game for zoos and preserves, the Longhorns did everything from catch fish to swim to play tennis to visit with a camel they quickly named "Earl Camel."
The feast provided included a full compliment of barbecue and trimmings from Rudy's Country Store, as well as a western cookout with two pound strip steaks and fire pit cabrito.
Austin entertainer Doug Moreland performed during the dinner. However, the biggest attraction was the ranch itself. Players drove all-terrain vehicles, took a hay ride through the pastures with antelope, reindeer, giraffes, elk and buffalo and fished in two large ponds where the bass were hungry and accommodating to the readily supplied fishing gear.
In the middle of two-a-day practices, it was a welcome respite after a week of work and a day of signing autographs.
McCombs, who will be honored by the National Collegiate Football Foundation Hall of Fame in December, is a Longhorns treasure. It's not just because his ranch has lots of Longhorn cattle and even more Longhorns symbols everywhere you look.
The native of Spur, Texas, who parlayed a used car dealership in San Antonio into a position as one of the nation's wealthiest men, believes in giving back to the school he attended 50 years ago.
As the evening came and the team gathered on the tennis court to listen to the man whose assets include the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, head coach Mack Brown told them briefly of his story.
"Here's a guy who started with nothing, made a lot of money, lost a lot of money and then made a lot more," said Brown. "So if any of you ever think you start at the top, you're wrong. If you don't think you can make it because your down, just look around you."
McCombs, dressed in a hat, jeans and a white shirt with a Longhorns emblem, closed the evening as he spoke to the team.
"I want to thank all of you for coming," he said in the ultimate statement of humility. "It is indeed a pleasure to have you as guests in our home."
Then, he began to talk football and about The University of Texas.
"I put a sign out there that named you 'world champions' because I look at the big picture. Everybody's going to tell you to take things one game at a time and that's right. But I want you to understand what you mean to all of the people of Texas. It is really, really important that this football team be symbolic of everything their state university stands for.
"I want you to think about your destination. A lot of people have goals. It comes down to what I call the will to win. A lot of people are average and that's okay for them. That's not bad. They get through life just fine. Others are good. A small percentage become the best. They are the ones who take the step to being great. Think of it this way. At the end of the season, somebody's going to win the National Championship."
When it got dark and the lights on the tennis court brightened from the white Texas T-shirts of the players.
"Football is the greatest game in the world," said McCombs. "It allows an individual's ability to be great to fit in with a team, to make the team great."
As the buses rolled home toward Austin, the 2001 Longhorns realized the man in the big hat had a point.