They say history, in some form, has a way of repeating itself, and as Texas football fans prepare to begin the new season, here's a classic.
Situation: A highly successful quarterback has finished his eligibility with rousing success in the Cotton Bowl. As the new season approaches, there are two likely contenders for the job. One is a junior, who has spent time in apprenticeship, but little time as a starter, and had little experience when the game was on the line. The other is a talented newcomer, and media and fans are just waiting for him to seize the moment and take over the job.
"There is no question who will be No. 1," says the coach at the time. "His biggest advantage right now is that he's got two years training. He's got a lot of work under his belt."
If you think this sounds familiar, you are right. It could be about Chance Mock, Vince Young and Matt Nordgren, but it's not.
The coach was Emory Bellard, the offensive backfield coach of the Wishbone era, and the season was 1970. And the quarterback with the experience was Eddie Phillips, who could be a Chance Mock look alike. Phillips even followed a similar path to Mock, taking what then was an unusual "red-shirt" year in 1968. In a day when freshmen weren't eligible for the varsity, that meant that Phillips had two years (as a red-shirt and as a sophomore) to study Darrell Royal's Wishbone offense as an understudy to a relatively successful quarterback named James Street, who started and won 20 games in a row from 1968 through the Cotton Bowl win over Notre Dame at the end of the National Championship 1969 season.
When Phillips took the field to start the California game in the season opener of 1970 ahead of Gary Keithley and Donnie Wigginton, the band might as well have played a popular song of the time entitled, "Hey, Look Me Over."
The media had been skeptical, and the fans uncertain, as the fall had approached. They had seen Phillips only in mop-up roles during the 1969 season, but he hadn't seen the field in the two most important wins of the year, the Game of The Century Shootout with Arkansas or the victory over the Fighting Irish that sealed the championship.
It was a time before radio talk shows and Internet gossip chat boards, but even so, the questions of his ability to run the team had obviously reached Phillips' ears.
But when Phillips led Texas to a 56-15 thrashing of California, and threw a touchdown pass in the final seconds to beat UCLA, all questions were answered.
"I just think it was blown out of proportion," said Eddie. "Maybe they were overrating the quarterback. He's just one of 11 guys. If I do my job right, fine, but I don't think it's fair to the other 10 guys to put so much emphasis on the quarterback."
Thirty-three years later, that's Mack Brown's theme for 2003. After five years of Major Applewhite and Chris Simms, Texas for the first time in the Brown era will be looking at some exciting new talent at the quarterback position.
"It's wonderful that Major is now working as a graduate assistant and Chris is in the midst of a great beginning as a pro with Tampa Bay," said Brown. "But after so much media hype about the quarterbacks, it's good that the emphasis is on our team, rather than one position."
What Eddie Phillips had going for him in 1970 was not only his talent, but that of a supporting cast that included All-American running backs, linemen and a receiver. He was able to parlay that into an unbeaten regular season, extending the Longhorns' winning streak to 30 games and claiming a couple of National Championships before finally losing in a rematch Cotton Bowl to Notre Dame.
And for the multi-talented Phillips, who combined a great running ability with a nice passing touch (for as much as they threw in the Wishbone), the 1970 season would turn out to be his shining moment. In the loss to Notre Dame, he was named the game's Most Outstanding Offensive Player, rushing for 164 yards and throwing for 199 as he set a Bowl record with 363 yards total offense despite being knocked out halfway through the fourth quarter.
Injuries plagued Phillips in 1971, but Donnie Wigginton proved an able back-up, starting six games as the Longhorns claimed the fourth of their six straight Southwest Conference titles. Phillips was able to recover from hamstring and turf toe injuries late in the season, and started the Cotton Bowl against Penn State in the final game of his career.
So if you can be choosy in what part of history you want to repeat itself, just look at the similarities of the situation, and of the two players. Eddie Phillips was an extremely talented quarterback who had a linebacker's mentality, excellent speed and passing ability, and most of all, was able to become a field general who led his team to touchdowns and a National Championship. The dimension he brought to the Texas offense, and that separated him from the highly successful Street, was his ability to make yards with his feet, a talent best reflected in the installation of the sprint out option - a play that will also make a difference for Texas 33 years later.
The two guys, Eddie and Chance, remind old-timers of each other physically, and in their make-up and personality.
What Darrell Royal did in 1970 was play the back-up quarterback, who turned out to be Wigginton, enough so that when Phillips went down in 1971, Wigginton became a capable field general. That's Mack Brown's plan for his quarterbacks as he enters the fall.
Chance will start and Vince and Matt will watch and learn, and they'll all have perhaps the most talented guys around them that Texas has had since - well, since Texas had All-American linemen, running backs and a receiver back in the seasons of 1970 and 1977.
It is the best example yet of the building of depth that Mack Brown and his staff have produced at Texas. For the first time since those glory years, quality depth is an asset, rather than a goal. And the quarterback position has once again become a place where the future is nurtured rather than hurried.