Sept. 17, 2009
How is it getting back out to practice? Well, I got in town yesterday and I called coach Brown. When I'm here in town I always like to go by practice. I love getting down here whenever I can. I've seen a whole group of different kids go through here. I've been at those practices at the beginning and heard coach Brown talk about you know, at that time, just sitting there to get the spirit up of these kids, we've got to get them some kind of confidence. We're applauding a catch. We're applauding a play without a penalty. We have the whole team going to congratulate anyone who does anything good, because we needed to build their confidence. That was a very basic level when we weren't that good and weren't playing that good and the confidence level was low. Over the years of succeeding, and when you've got a good team, it's a whole different coaching method. "Don't come out here and be good, be great." You're teaching them more like pros that they're expected to make that play. So now, make the next one and the next one and make all of them. There's a lot more confidence.
Some of these guys I already know, some of them, there are like five guys here on the team that were there in '05 on the national championship team. I'm probably going to call them up here in a little bit at the end of practice and revisit a little song we sang that year. What I like about this year, you know every year they get a team motto, and this year it's, "We are Texas." It's simple, what I like about that is for this team to really succeed, which yes they're expected to, and they expect themselves to, they've got to be on a mission. Like coach Brown has told them, after last year especially, "I don't leave it up to the pundits, and the politicians, and the BCS to tell you what you can or can't do, to tell you if you can go to the title game. You win them all and you'll get there."
So I'm anxious to see, and I've been here about 30 minutes. I like trying to see underneath that mentality - how everyone's behaving, with themselves, with their teammates, everything else. What I like, what I'm seeing now, is there's a real good balance of, "Yeah, you've got some looseness of having fun, but at the same time seem to be extremely focused." That part makes me extremely excited. That's what you've got to have. You've got to be on that mission. Yes, it's about Tech this weekend, but you have to have that long view in mind that this is a team coming in trying to stop you from getting your own dream, which is to win them all. You can't do that if you don't take it one game at a time. I always like watching the players off to the side too who aren't necessarily in on the play to see how they're interacting, which has a lot to do with team play, just how they interact. A lot of times on a play or in a game you can get a lot of incentive to do your best because you want to do it for the guy next to you, as well. I've seen a lot of teams, and I've visited a lot of practice facilities, pro and college, that don't have that. They have guys that either don't get along, are holding grudges because they aren't starting, or this or that or the other. I don't see any of that. I didn't expect to, but I don't see any of that and it's good stuff.
On that point, Texas has had a lot of leadership come from players: That's the basic thing. I'm sure Mack would say it all day long. The coaches can do everything to get them prepared, and they can call the right game and they can say the right thing at the right time, but when the whistle blows, it's up to the players. I'm sure you've got leaders that show by their actions that aren't verbal, but you've got someone like Colt who is a quarterback for a reason. As I understand, he's the leader on the offense, if not the team. Like Vince had that thing where when he came in the huddle, like against USC, the huddle knew without him saying it, "We're going to score on this drive." Vince knew it. Does that mean you're going to be perfect every down? No, but when you want the ball to be in your quarterback's hands more than anyone else in the country, it gives you a whole lot of confidence and spit and fire to go out and do the best you can on that play.
The other thing I like about the "We are Texas" thing is that number one, how many other schools can say, "We are so and so?" We are Texas brings in a lot of lineage, a lot of history. It kind of goes along with the commercial that Mack's in right now, the ESPN spot. "We don't freestyle Texas Fight, big boy." It's great, that's true. You don't freestyle that. Now, you come here and you get different players and you have people that do better things than others, and then you work your offense and defense around that, but the base of it, "We are Texas." That's been going on back here since coach Royal. It's great seeing him here. It gives these kids a sense of history and where this University has come from.
You were talking to coach Royal earlier, how was that? We were catching up. We hadn't seen each other in a year or so. As everyone who runs into coach Royal, you always get some little quip of wisdom that you can walk away with. I said, "How's your neck?" Which was hurting him last time I saw him, and he said, "It's there." Little things like that. "Yeah it is, isn't it?" He said, "I'm 85. I'm not going through another surgery on it." We were talking about different ways of going about coaching. I've been to a lot of different schools and seen the full on, rah-rah, militant, scream all day, and noticed that some of the kids never had time to think or actually had time to have a little bit of silence or were actually taught what they were doing wrong or could do better. I've actually been to some universities and some pro programs that it's all loosey goosey and missing out on the fundamentals because they don't have the focus on the fundamentals. The mix of those here is a balance that I like. They get both. "We are Texas," this is how it's going to run. Enjoy yourself. I like the combination we seem to have going on here.
You know both coach Royal and coach Brown, what are the common traits in them? As a coach, they both have a real long view. They understand that every career is going to have ebbs and flows. Mind you, Texas' ebbs and flows especially in the last seven seasons have been at a high level. Even when it's ebbed it hasn't ebbed that much. They both understand that you're here; you're here for a reason. National Championships are what this community and The University expect. It just is. It's the privilege and the hard part about being here. Neither one of them tries to be everything to everybody. You can't, you're still the head coach. If you listen, you're going to have every idea that every single alumni or other coach had about what you should do with the team, you'd run in circles and end up losing every year. They both have a tremendous amount of patience. They both listen to what the people they trust have to say, then they go make their decision about how they're going to run it.
Coach Royal was also talking about how things have changed, not just the size and speed, but this bubble. He was talking about how much you can come in here and learn, where you can't learn as much out there where kids are fighting fatigue after an hour and a half. You don't have as much of a chance to learn how to do something better or learn from your mistakes. That's a positive about this bubble that I never thought of. You're still playing hard, it's not as hot, but you're able to focus a little more and do the job right. Where out there, if you're fighting fatigue and it's 105 degrees, and you've been doing it for a month, your brain can turn into a little bit of mush because you're trying to catch your wind to go up the next play. That's just some stuff we've talked about, different coaching philosophies.
The other thing is this, the stress on the constant focus on how these 18 to 22-year-old kids handle themselves off the field. School is real important, because the facts are the facts - the amount of kids who think they're going to play in the NFL is a lot bigger than the amount of kids that actually are going to play. The next fact is the average NFL career is 3.4 years. So the ones that do go play at the average amount of time they play football, you're coming up on your 25th, 26th birthday and you're done. As a kid at 18, 19 you're not thinking about that, but that's fact, and you've got to be prepared for the other things in life too. Whether it's an education, whether it's how you handle yourself off the field. That's something coach Brown is so good at.
You got to breakdown the team huddle after practice and had them all jumping around you with the song you gave them, how did that feel? Coach Brown had to come put in perspective about where the song came from and what it did for '05. I think they've got it. That's kids having fun right there. Anything you can do in unison like that where the kids are having fun, now they've got a little jingle, anything to keep them a little loose. Obviously they're working hard. Sometimes you want to give them something to loosen them up. Other times they need something a little bit harder. It was good for them today. They need a little something to have some fun with that they can all sing. Plus it's something that worked in 2005. That's a good-looking group of kids - big, smart. I was banging around in there. I was ready to tackle and bang around in there.
As you head to the game on Saturday, the stadium has had new renovations, what do you think? Now that we're over 100,000, which you know we in Texas want to be the biggest, so I'm sure we'll keep adding on to that son of a gun. I could tell the difference last year, the noise. I could tell the difference. I'm excited about Saturday to see the difference in the noise level there. Hopefully the fans are going to be there loud from the first whistle blow to the end. It's the finest facility in the nation. It's a lot finer than a lot of pro facilities, and I've been to a lot of pro facilities, not only the stadium, the athletic department, and not only the boxes, but the field and the stands. It's just nicer than a lot of the pro stuff, and it's the nicest in college football.
Finally, how are things with you personally? Things are great. I'm starting family, been working on a house, and I'm going to work in January, and I'll do two movies at the beginning of next year.