They are already idols in the hearts of Longhorns fans everywhere, but now they can call themselves true American Idols.
The Texas volleyball team got a surprise visit from a production crew from the hit Fox television show "American Idol" on Thursday afternoon. At approximately 4 p.m., just as the team was getting ready for its final practice of its final double-day workout of the preseason the production crew walked into Gregory Gym.
In town at the Erwin Center for auditions for the upcoming season, the producer, Texas-Ex Ron DeShay, wanted to add a touch of the 40 Acres to the Austin try-out show. He called an old friend -- UT volleyball head coach Jerritt Elliott -- and asked about swinging by practice on Thursday.
Elliott, who has several guest appearances on popular television shows to his credit (including The West Wing and Fresh Prince of Bel Aire) from his time in the Los Angeles area, wanted to give his players the same experience if possible.
And after a few calls and e-mails to the athletic department's compliance office for the go-ahead to bring the crew in, Elliott was able to give his players a surprise they'll remember for a long time ... and a welcome respite from practice.
As soon as the team calmed down from the excitement of potentially being on "American Idol," the camera crews filmed the team as they ran through some common drills. However, there was a twist.
Elliott and assistant coach Tonya Johnson issued an on-camera warning to Idol host Simon Cowell and tossed a ball up to setter Michelle Moriarty, who ran a play for outside hitter Jen Christian near the camera. Christian slammed the ball to the far court to prove a point to the curmudgeonly star about "not messing with Texas."
After a few more minutes of practice, the Longhorns got their chance to strut their vocal stylings for the picky American Idol producers. A few groups formed and tried -- tried being the key word -- to give performances worthy of Simon, Paula and Randy's applause. They were only slightly successful.
Jennifer Todd, Brandy Magee and Leticia Armstrong stepped up first and had a group effort with Mariah Carey's "Always Be My Baby," which generated more laughter than applause.
Next up, the large pack of Moriarty, Christian, Jenny Andrew, Heather Schreiber, Lauren Paolini, Kiley Hall and Alyson Jennings took on The Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup." With the timely choreography and comedy worked in, they also generated more laughs than acclaim.
With only two players not participating to that point, Magee, Todd and Armstrong convinced Dariam Acevedo and RuthAnn Feist to join in the fun, but no one really knew the words to the song they sang, so the effort fizzled on camera while the rest of the team got a chuckle.
After the team had their fun in groups, the whole team performed an impromptu version of "The Eyes of Texas" that was fit for the Top 40 charts, complete with an underlying beat and choreography.
With four songs on tape, a warning about taking on Texas issued to Simon, and the players' hopes of making it on American Idol satisfied, attention turned back to practice ... for the final time before the team's scrimmage against UT-San Antonio on Friday.