Sept. 16, 2009
What are your feelings about the Texas program? I love Austin, Texas. It is my home. It will always be my home. I bleed burnt orange. I’m a graduate of the University of Houston, so I bleed a little red and blue too, and they’re doing really well and I’m proud of them and I root for them every week, but my Longhorns have a very special place in my heart. Mack and Sally Brown are wonderful people. I think he’s done an absolutely fabulous job with our football team, not just as players. I have been to many of their practice sessions and I respect Mack Brown not only as a football coach, but the way he mentors those young men. I’ll never forget, three or four years ago, I was out at a practice and he had Vince Young come over to me and say hello. Vince Young didn’t know Larry Gatlin. Vince Young wasn’t a country music fan. I was a star back when his mamma was probably in the second grade, so you know he had no idea. Coach Mack said, “Vince, come over here and meet my friend,” and Vince jogged over there, took his helmet off, and stuck his handout and said, “Hello sir, how are you? I’m glad to meet you.” He looked me right in the eye and that’s the way Mack has done with those young people, so I appreciate the way they do that – mentor those young men and also the way they play hard on the football field.
So how will you feel to be able to sing the National Anthem before the Texas Tech game? Hopefully, a bunch of my personal friends will be there in those suites and they mean a lot to me and they’re good friends to me. But let me tell you what, the 100,000 people out there in the stands, a lot of those UT football friends, good Texans, have come to Gatlin Brothers’ concerts and they’ve bought records, so the friends and neighbors that pay to get in, I’m pretty partial to them too. I like my personal friends, but the friends and neighbors out there in the stands, they’re pretty special to me too. To sing our national anthem about the greatest country on the earth, to those friends and neighbors for a UT football game, it’s a pretty good deal and after that, I’m going to go home and grab my two granddaughters and take them in the swimming pool, and we’re going to have a big ole time, so I’m going to have a great day. I mean, how could you beat that?
How did you become a Longhorns fan? Well when I was a kid, you know Darrell Royal, coach Royal, was already on his way to becoming a Texas legend and an icon. Growing up, I wanted to go to The University of Texas and play for the Longhorns. Well, it didn’t work out exactly that way and I’m very grateful for my friendship with coach Yeoman, he’s still a dear friend and then I got my education at the University of Houston. I’m proud of my alma mater, but you know, kids in Texas, most of them grow up wanting to be Aggies or Longhorns. That’s just how the paradigm was back then and it never dawned on me that someday Darrell Royal and I would be dear friends and he would be kind of like a second daddy to me and we’d play golf together and sing music together, and he would be literally one of my 10 or 15 closest friends on the face of the Earth. So, my life has been absolutely wonderful. Getting to know him and get involved in that Texas football program, I mean, man, I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth. So, I love the Horns, root for them, get chill bumps; I’m only going to get to see two games this year – this game and the OU game in a couple of weeks because of my schedule of concerts with the brothers. We still work for a living like our 82-year-old daddy, he taught us to work, and like I tell people, people will say, “Why are you still out there working? Why didn’t you retire?” I say, “Well, I got very accustomed to eating three meals a day and sleeping indoors.”
How is it to now to be so close to both coach Royal and coach Brown? Let me tell you when I knew I was going to be a friend with Mack Brown. When he came to this school, when he came to the University of Texas and got that job, he went to my friend Darrell Royal and said, “Now that I’ve got the job, what do I do?” He asked for the counsel, the good counsel, of the man who had built that program. He didn’t come in here and say we’re going to do it my way, everybody else get out of the way. He honored and respected my friend Darrell Royal, who had built that football program into what it was. He took Darrell’s advice, he honored him, he paid him respect, he brought him to the sidelines, he brought him to the practices and first thing Darrell says is get rid of those shiny orange jerseys and get back to burnt orange. Buddy, I loved that. And he respected and loved my friend, and I knew right then that I was going to love and respect Mack Brown. We met, we became buddies, my wife and his wife, Sally, are dear friends. Actually Sally and Mack met my son-in-law, Scott Spencer, totally unrelated to the fact that he’s my son-in-law, it had zero to do with that, they met at one of those wonderful, serendipity accidents. They got to talking football, and a few years later, Scott came back and is part of that staff and like I say, it was totally unrelated to the fact that I’m Larry Gatlin, medium-sized country start. Scott’s on that staff, I believe he’s doing a great job. He loves it. So, it’s been a real blessing in our lives for our son-in-law and daughter to be back in Austin with our granddaughters and I’m very proud of him. He did it on his own. It wasn’t because he was Larry Gatlin’s son-in-law, it was because he and Mack struck up a relationship totally, 100 percent non-related to me, and that brings a respect level to the whole situation and I’m very proud of that and thankful for that.
As a fan how have you seen coach Brown build the program? Well, he has been classy all the way through. The situation that happened last year where they got knocked out of the championship game, I can only imagine what was going through Mack Brown’s mind because I know how he loves those kids and how he wanted to be in that game, and he vented just a little bit, but not really vented, he just expressed an opinion, but he did it with style and with grace, and I love the way he puts the kids first. He puts the young men first. He takes those kids under his wing and loves on them and coaches them. I like what he teaches them, two things: knock your opponent out on the field and shake their hands after it’s over and move on. I like that and respect that very much.