For Mack Brown, the day was all about family.
For the 18th time as a head coach, he spent Monday on the Texas campus welcoming 26 players as new members of his football team. And with them, their parents and siblings who automatically become part of the extended Longhorn family.
Brown's fourth class at Texas includes 20 scholarship freshmen, junior college transfer Alfio Randall and five invited walk-ons who will participate in workouts starting Tuesday morning.
Check in day is always unique. In the merciless Texas heat, the players and many of their parents timidly pull up behind Jester Center, the athletics dorm, to park their loaded vehicles. Soon, carts and dollies are loaded with everything from computers to stereo equipment to guitars for an elevator ride to a brand new home.
Moms cry and dads try to be strong. Young football players are embarrassed by emotion, even though they are as nervous as their parents.
For the football staff at Texas, the day is a refined activity. Accompanied by the Texas Angels, the support group of coeds who help with recruiting and other football office duties, the staff and coaches gather in the lobby outside the Longhorn dining hall. A welcome basket accompanies the check in and a quick stop for photos ushers in a whole new world of media exposure.
In the late afternoon, Brown gathers with support staff members to introduce them to the parents of the incoming freshmen. This year, after the heat-related deaths of some players nationally, head football trainer Tom McVan was a featured speaker at the meeting. McVan went over for the parents the procedures and the planning that will be used to combat the Texas heat. One mom asked Brown if Texas had changed anything in its practice schedule because of the deaths, and he quickly answered "no."
"We've been concerned about the heat and have planned everything we do with it in mind ever since I came to Texas," Brown said. "We feel like we've been ahead of other places. When I came here, I asked Tom how the players could handled the heat. He said they grew up in it and that I was the one who would be hot. He was right."
McVan demonstrated one of the innovative pieces of equipment used by the 15-person training staff (including student trainers). It is an air-conditioned cape. A big jacket attacked by large vent hoses to a portable refrigerated air-conditioning unit.
Brown talked with the parents about values and character, homesickness and communication He spoke with them about graduation and the high odds of a player succeeding in the NFL - all subjects far removed from the moment, yet very much significant as moms and dads help their youngsters understand the future.
He talked about the four days of fear for the recruits. The first was today, the second will be when the varsity reports, the third will be the first day in pads and the fourth will be two-thirds of the way through two-a-day practices.
His message was to parents to be supportive, to tell them how proud they are of their kids. A young freshman's self-worth needs to come from things like that, because they will be challenged trying to rise to the standards set by the returning varsity players.
When the questions were over, the group all gathered for a picnic-style meal in the Longhorn Dining Hall and the freshmen players got ready for their first meeting together.
The No. 1 message to all of them was, "You made the right choice. Make sure you use it to your advantage."
On Tuesday, the players will hit the practice field for the first time. That's when the staff, with well over 200 years of combined experience, will become teachers. The relationship and bond between a player and the assistant coach will begin to be formed.
For Brown's staff, the experience and maturity is a tremendous plus. They have been here before. They also understand the anxiety and the hopes and dreams. It is the essence of the human quality of the game. It is why they coach. And now it begins.