Aug. 22, 2009
Caitlin Mangum, Texas Media Relations
Gregory Gym was flooded with burnt orange Saturday as loyal Longhorns supporters came out in masses for the Texas Two Step: The Ultimate August Autograph Outing, which featured the nationally-ranked football and volleyball teams.
This year marks the 12th anniversary of the football team having an autograph day, giving Longhorns devotees a chance to connect with the team and get excited about the upcoming season.
Fans got the chance to meet and get autographs from the senior lettermen of the 2009 Texas Longhorns and head coach Mack Brown, with the last of the approximately 4,500 finishing with Brown nine hours and a half hours after starting. It was the largest crowd in the event's history.
"We have fan appreciation day because it is a way that our seniors and I can truly give back to our fans," Brown said. "It is a feel-good day. It is a great day to see these kids smiling."
The last family through included Melvin and Amey Reams with Garrett and Morgan Keefer, who arrived at about 11 a.m., but described their wait as well worth it.
"We saw the line out on the street, but just decided to give it a chance," Melvin Reams said.
"We just kept thinking, 'What's a couple of more hours?'" Morgan Keefer said. "But it was worth it. It was fun."
Senior QB Colt McCoy finished signing just over eight hours after arriving with many of the other seniors, including Sergio Kindle, Lamarr Houston, Jordan Shipley, Roddrick Muckelroy and Ryan Bailey finishing in about seven hours.
The fans also invested their time as many traveled through the night and from neighboring states for the opportunity to meet Brown and the players. Michael Bohannan and his sons drove the four hours to Austin Friday afternoon to ensure they would be toward the front of the line for the event.
"We're having a blast," Bohannan said. "This is the third year that we have been here. We have been here since 5:30 yesterday evening, and we look forward to this every year just like we look forward to the season."
Some fans even camped overnight outside of Gregory Gym. Although it was their first time on UT's campus, Jeff Youngblood and his son, Jay, displayed they are true Longhorn fans, staying up through the night in anticipation of the event.
"We got into Austin around 7:00 on Friday night and had some dinner," Jeff Youngblood said. "We then drove to Walmart, bought a lawn chair and some Longhorn things to have signed, and we just sat in that chair outside all night long until this morning. It's been worth it. My son has really enjoyed it."
Bohannan added there were close to 100 people camped out before 3 a.m., when, as he said, "It seemed as though everyone showed up to get in line."
With so many fans attending, Brown also recognizes the event's impact to shed light on the accomplishments of the volleyball program.
"Our volleyball staff has done a tremendous job," Brown said. "Now that they have a chance every year, like our football team, to play for a national championship, what we are trying to do is bring more attention to our volleyball team. We would love to see Gregory Gym packed every time they play, just like we are in Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium."
Once inside, fans were able to watch the volleyball team in action, while they waited for their chance to get autographs from players and take a photo with Brown. Brown expressed both his admiration and gratitude for the support the event received, including a line that stretched down 21st Street from Gregory Gym to Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
"It absolutely amazes me," Brown said. "When we drove up on the bus, we could see that it was packed in here, and there were about 1,000 people outside lined up. It just shows you how important Texas football is to our fans and how important it is for us to continue to work hard to make sure that they can be prideful."
Fans can continue to show their pride for the Longhorns when the team opens up the season at home on Sept. 5 against the University of Louisiana-Monroe.