Longhorn Hall of Honor: Major Applewhite
Nov. 9, 2012
Jaclyn Lapenta, Texas Media Relations
Before Major Applewhite was playing among All-Americans in front of a burnt orange crowd exceeding 80,000 fans, his father was the first receiver he was throwing the ball to in his hometown of Baton Rouge, La.
"[My father] would take me to the practice fields when I couldn't drive and stay out there catching pass routes, busting his fingers open to catch the ball for me," Applewhite said. "My dad was instrumental in helping me and giving me the resources that I needed.
"My mother was always very supportive but at the same time very stern. Those two people really helped me get all the way through high school and into college."
As a member of the first Texas Longhorn team under current head coach Mack Brown, Applewhite was thrust into the spotlight early, and was named the starting quarterback in just the third game of his intercollegiate career against No. 5 Kansas State. Applewhite impressed the country his rookie season throwing for 2,453 yards and 18 touchdowns - UT freshman records at the time - which earned him Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors.
"Major was a tough player, smart player - passionate," Brown said. "He was very confident, and that confidence really ran throughout the team."
Applewhite lead the team to an impressive 22-8 record as a starter. He was an invaluable member of Texas teams that went to four straight bowl games including the 1999 and 2000 Cotton Bowls and 2000 and 2001 Holiday Bowls, and he was named captain his senior season.
He was the 1999 co-Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and by the time he finished his stellar collegiate career, he had set UT records for career (8,353) and season (3,357/1999) passing yards, as well as career TD passes (60).
Applewhite is also credited with orchestrating the longest scoring play in UT history when he threw a 97-yard touchdown pass to Wane McGarity in the 1998 Red River Shootout.
"I remember him beating No. 3 Nebraska here," Brown recalled. "He also led a victory up at Nebraska and broke a 47-game home winning streak for them which was really special for us with a late game heroic touchdown to McGarity. Then you go back to the Holiday Bowl where he broke a Holiday Bowl record for passing.
"Major is a star. He's got it written all over him, and we're lucky to have him."
The 2001 Holiday Bowl marked both his best and final outing in a Texas jersey when he threw for a UT-record 473 yards and a Texas-bowl-game-best four passing touchdowns in a 47-43 victory over No. 20 Washington. His exploits earned him Offensive MVP honors and induction into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame.
"The things that I really look back on and take pride in are not necessarily one specific team, but the camaraderie we had as a team," Applewhite said. "It is trying to capture that feeling that you have after a win, overcoming adversity or helping Coach Brown build the program in `98."
Applewhite delved into the coaching profession immediately following his playing days. He started as a graduate assistant at the University of Texas in 2003 before joining former Longhorn defensive coordinator Greg Robinson at Syracuse as a quarterbacks coach in 2005.
Applewhite was named offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach of the Rice Owls in 2006, becoming the youngest coordinator in NCAA Division I football. Under his guidance, the Owls scored the most points (350) and gained the third-most yards (4,486) in school history.
Applewhite continued his success in the 2007 season as the Alabama offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach under Nick Saban. In 2008, Applewhite returned to his alma mater becoming the assistant head coach/running backs coach at Texas before being promoted to co-offensive coordinator in January 2011.
"I have [enjoyed coaching] everywhere I have been," Applewhite said. "But when you get to do it for your university, there is a little extra boost of motivation. Whether you are out on the road recruiting, you are in the office working late hours or you are out there on game day, it is a different feel from the other places I have coached."
Applewhite's insights as a former player at UT have made him the ultimate players' coach. The passion that he brings to work everyday shows his commitment to the program and is easily perceived by the players.
"It helps in so many ways [that Applewhite played here], because they know that he has done what they are doing," Brown said. "It helps the running backs to know that he played with Ricky Williams and he can talk to them about Ricky Williams, and he helped coach Cedric Benson and some of the greatest players that we have ever had."
Applewhite has impressed the tradition of a strong Texas run game to his running back corps. In his first year, he guided the running backs to a combined 1,371 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns, which led to senior RB Chris Ogbonnaya being selected by the St. Louis Rams in the 2009 NFL Draft.
With a stable of talented young running backs entering the program over the last few years, Applewhite coached Malcolm Brown to Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors in 2011 and is on pace to have his group break several team and individual rushing records this season.
"You realize when look back on your life and your career that your parents, your junior high coach, your high school coach, your college coaches and all the people who really are a lot more responsible for [the Hall of Honor induction] than you are because of how they helped you and how they supported you and what they made you become," Applewhite said.
"It is a great honor because of this place and how many great players, coaches and staff members have come through this university. To be put in that same group is a great honor."