The stadium crew was painting the field and laying down the stripes for the yard lines. On the sound system, the script for Tuesday's bowl extravaganza was tested. The music, ranging from the Marines Hymn to a stirring version of a new song about the "Spirit of America" played over the loud speakers.
And for the Longhorns of Texas, 2003, the "walk through" at the stadium was a trip down memory lane.
Perhaps it is the essence of college football, the cycles of young men who come and play, and then are gone. There are places in life where dreams come true, and memories are captured forever.
And in that space, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego has become a vault of travels through the Longhorns' mind bank.
Major Applewhite remembered. The graduate assistant coach forever etched his place in Longhorn legend here in 2001, when he led his team from a 19-point deficit to a 47-43 victory over Washington.
It was a different memory for Cedric Benson. An injury in a collision with big Mike Williams in the Big 12 Championship game had threatened his career, and as he stood on the sidelines watching that win over Washington, disappointment and uncertainty prevailed.
The trip into the stadium Tuesday was particularly poignant for Ivan Williams, who stepped up when Benson was hurt and powered his way to glory as he scored the winning touchdown in 2001.
Two years later, after missing most of this season because of a freak knee injury in a pick up basketball game last winter, Ivan Williams hopes to play one more time, in this game against Washington State.
The memories were vivid for him Monday.
"I remember that last play," he said. "I remember Antwan Kirk-Hughes and Mike Williams saying 'your going into the end zone and nobody's gonna touch you.' And that's what I did. They opened the hole and I ran through it."
All travelers, they say, remember parts of their lives in pictures. That was Ivan's. And it is interesting that this stadium in San Diego seems to have a strong presence about it in the history of this particular Texas team.
It was here, in 2000, that the seniors first played in a bowl game. There, in the south end zone, Roy Williams and B. J. Johnson, who were then freshmen, left some unfinished business as the 'Horns fell to Oregon and both dropped passes that could have won the game.
A year later, both were significant receivers in the Applewhite-engineered comeback.
As the team returned to the Manchester Grand Hyatt after their brief visit to the stadium, Monte Collier, a tremendously nice guy who had to give up football because of injury but stayed as a student coach as he worked toward his degree, paused for a moment.
"I just realized," he said, "that tomorrow is the last game I will be a part of at Texas."
Roy Williams had told the Holiday Bowl luncheon crowd that he had no regrets in returning for his senior year. It was important, he said, to be with his "guys."
That, I suppose was the greatest message in the walk through Monday. College football is about passages. Players touch each other, and they touch us. About the time you really get used to having a guy around, he moves on. But that is the beauty of the ever-changing landscape.
Each, in his own time, in his own way, will leave a memory. Some of them will teach us, some of them will thrill us. For some, we will cry for happy, for others we will cry for sad.
What we love about the game is never the X's and O's. It may be about a play, but it will also always be about the person who made it. It would be folly to suggest that it isn't about winning. Winning is a whole lot more fun than losing.
But Qualcomm Stadium Monday seemed to have an aura about it. It was, in that moment in time, about people and their memories.
Those are the gifts of the game. They may not be the reason we play it.
But they are the reason we remember it.
And Tuesday, before a packed house and a huge national television audience on ESPN, Texas and Washington State will add to the dreams, the legacy, and the memories.