Sept. 30, 2011
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
AMES, IA - It will not surprise you to learn that Chuck Swindoll, the noted preacher whose radio messages are heard on two thousand radio stations in fifteen different languages, is a Marine. The operative word being "is." I learned some time ago from my son, who became a lieutenant colonel after serving as a Marine reservist in Iraq, that there are no "ex-Marines."
And it will also not surprise you that a Marine would be the first to tell you about the importance of "attitude."
"The longer I live," says Chuck Swindoll, "the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
"Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.
"The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
"And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."
It is not surprising, therefore, that when Mack Brown spoke highly of "attitude" when he was talking to Bob Cole during his weekly Thursday morning appearance on the Longhorns' flagship radio station of KVET in Austin.
It was in reference to why Mack was having so much fun coaching this young 2011 version of the Texas Longhorn football team. It was all about "attitude."
Attitude can make you believe in yourself, and the display of it can make others believe that you are a force to be reckoned with. Other pieces fit - check your ego at the door, be willing to put team above self, be "all in", and, yes, have confidence and show a little swagger. But the umbrella under which they all live is attitude.
"It's not bragging," Darrell Royal once said, "if you can do it."
All of this is critical to the mission Texas undertakes Saturday as they visit the Iowa State Cyclones at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames at 6 p.m. for their Big 12 opener. The game will match two unbeaten teams, and for maybe the first time ever, both teams think they can win. Until last year, Iowa State had never beaten Texas. But with a 28-21 victory in Austin, the Cyclones changed the dynamic of a series that had been decidedly (like, 7-0 decidedly) on the Longhorns side of the won-loss chart.
With that loss fresh in their memories, and a healthy respect for what Iowa State has accomplished already this year, Texas goes on the road for a second straight time. This, they know, will be a challenge - and so far, it is that part about attitude which this young team seems to relish the most.
Texas has used its open date to continue learning as the `Horns have studied and practiced the evolving offense of co-coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite and their fellow offensive coaches as well as the defensive schemes of coordinator Manny Diaz and his group. Practice with this crowd has been an effective blend of stern corrections and pat-on-the-back "attaboys." They have been about one more rep, one more kick coverage, just in time to catch the bus back from the practice field to the dressing room.
Win or lose Saturday, each day this team is growing up.
Mack is happy with his staff, and pleased with the talent of the players. Most of all, however, he is buoyed by their attitude. It has been a time of hard work, physical practices, hollering and hugs. And you get really good when both are happening. You can, as the Texas head man has said, coach a team harder after a win than you can after a loss, and this team is 3-0.
The lucky fans have been those whose cable providers have chosen to add The Longhorn Network to their television lineup. They have seen behind the scenes looks, including live practice coverage. What they have seen most of all, is an effort, and a willingness, to learn.
Paramount in the atmosphere, for the players, the opponents, and the fans, is the open-your-Christmas-package intrigue of the element of surprise. The defense has had linemen dropping in pass coverage, and the offense has made runners out of backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks and quarterbacks out of ends and running backs. You hang around just to see what is going to happen next.
Make no mistake, however. This is a work in progress. Texas' history with innovations reflects that there can be early struggles. The new looks on offense and defense mark the most dramatic changes the Longhorn program has seen in many years. It is like when Darrell Royal and his staff invented the "flip-flop" offense (where the offensive linemen actually switched sides from right to left depending on the blocking required) in 1961, and the college-game changing innovation of "The Wishbone" in 1968. The Wishbone started 0-1-1, before taking off on a 30-game winning streak.
This is not a prediction that similar success will happen, but it is a stone-cold statement that it can happen.
And that, you see, is the secret to attitude. Most of all, it is about believing that you can.
In the book, One Heartbeat II, we tell the story of Denise, a large bus driver with Technicolor hair, who was charged with driving the Longhorn basketball team back from a game in Houston against Rice in the 1980s.
Rice students, known for their innovative pranks, had blocked the bus with two sleek new cars, one in front, and one in back, making it impossible for the bus to get out. As they gleefully watched the Texas coaches and players become frustrated, Denise stepped off the bus.
She took one look at the cars, and another at the young wizards who thought they had foiled her.
"My name is Heavy D," she said, her dark eyes sparkling.
And then she added: "Now, I am going to move my bus. I can get another bus. Can you get another car?
That, my friends, is attitude. Commit to something, keep working, be willing to learn, be willing to risk, and be willing to do.