If this were a "letter from home," it should begin with "so much has happened since we last wrote...."
The current news is, the Longhorns officially began their preparations for the Alamo Bowl with a Tuesday practice. They will work in Austin through Dec. 21, and then the team will break for the holidays. They'll gather in San Antonio for a late afternoon workout on Christmas Day.
The game itself is at 3:30 p.m. CST on Saturday, Dec. 30-- a showcase of ESPN's bowl package. It's the Longhorns' first appearance in the game, and folks in San Antonio couldn't be more excited.
The Holiday Bowl in San Diego and the Cotton Bowl in Dallas have each hosted Texas three times over the last eight years, prior to the back-to-back BCS appearances in the Rose Bowl (including last year's championship game). Both are always eager to get the Horns, but this year's trip to the Alamo City has produced electric excitement from Longhorns fans. Tickets to the game sold out in the first 72 hours after the match-up between Texas and Iowa was announced.
While the Alamo Bowl folks were preparing for Texas, Mack Brown attended the annual College Football Hall of Fame dinner in New York. UT Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds received the organization's highest honor accorded an administrator -- the John. L. Toner Award for service to intercollegiate athletics, specifically to college football.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden and former Dallas Cowboy and Florida running back Emmitt Smith were among the inductees to the hall of fame. Brown was also honored at the Waldorf Astoria as one of the 10 national finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award.
As Mack was returning to New York, current players Aaron Ross and Justin Blalock were off to Orlando and the ESPN Home Depot Awards Show, where Aaron won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, and both players earned first-team All-America honors, which would end up boosting Blalock to a unanimous All-American.
Friday morning dawned frigid cold in Austin, but Brown and Dodds braved the chill to visit the north end of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium where demolition of that portion of the stadium began promptly at 9 a.m. With a thrust of a giant claw-like machine that could only remind one of a prehistoric monster, Dodds struck the first blow.
Eighty years is a long time, and for a structure built in 1926, the Grand Old Lady didn't surrender easily. But the wrecking ball and the modern jaws vehicles would win the battle. By nightfall, the northeast corner of the old structure was gone and much of the rest had been pounded into submission for excavation.
Ross and Blalock were still in Orlando taping an All-America show as the Longhorns gathered for their annual team banquet honoring the seniors and hosting recruits. The next morning, the recruits got to take a look at a typical Longhorns practice, as the team went through some basic drills for about an hour.
Just after that practice concluded, Blalock arrived back in Austin at Moncrief-Neuhaus after getting up at 3:15 a.m. CT to catch an early flight from Orlando in order to line up with his classmates for their commencement ceremony in the College of Education. Among those were Selvin Young, Lyle Sendlein, Kasey Studdard and Brett Valdez as they strolled the stage at Bass Concert Hall.
The visits for the recruits continued on Sunday, and they got to join the coaching staff and team hosts as they took a peek on the flat screen televisions in the Players' Lounge at Vince Young when he led the Tennessee Titans to an overtime victory against Houston. It looked like old times when Vince took off on the 39-yard winning TD run. It was also a celebration of former Longhorns Bo Scaife and Ahmard Hall, who also play for the Titans.
Monday included a recruiting trip for Brown, and as Tuesday dawned warm and sunny in Austin, the north end was gone, and the rubble was being cleared in preparation for the first construction of the $176 million project that will feature a lower deck, an upper deck, and a lot of student-friendly food courts and study areas. The lower deck is due to be finished by next season and the rest of the project is slated for completion in 2008.
Now, it's back to business for the Longhorns, who will combine the completion of the academic semester with the pre-bowl practice.
Brown's teams, including his final two years at North Carolina, are the only ones in the country to have at least nine victories in each of the last eleven years. This Texas team is in search of victory No. 10, and if the Horns can get it, the program will mark at least 10 wins for each of the last six years, the best streak in the country.
So there's a lot to look back on, a bunch to enjoy, and good things to look forward to. Which is a pretty cool way to celebrate the upcoming holiday season.