Bill little commentary: The bridge
Dec. 28, 2011
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
SAN DIEGO, CALIF. -- Manny Diaz had said it, and the symbolism couldn't have been more perfect. When you look from the Longhorns' hotel in San Diego, toward the setting sun beyond where the Bay joins the waters of the Pacific Ocean, the cars seem like toys as they move back and forth across the bridge to Coronado Island.
"A bowl game," he had said, "is a bridge. For the seniors, it is the final game of their college career, and it is the bridge to whatever comes next. For the players who will return, it is a bridge to next season."
And there, in the distance stands the expansive bridge that takes people to the edge of the earth on the North American continent. Marines and sailors cross that bridge every day, some returning from war, and others headed to wars yet to be. Hopes and dreams span the distance over sailboats and warships that make their path on one of this country's most important waterways.
All of that was relevant when the Longhorns' defensive coordinator put Wednesday's Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl game into perspective. The closing days of the bowl week had given the team a different look as the players and staff joined the California team for the annual Navy and Marine Corps luncheon aboard the USS Boxer. Following that, a number of the Longhorn players took advantage of an opportunity to visit the Navy Seal training facility on Coronado Island.
The Longhorn band and cheerleaders had arrived Monday, and were featured in a battle of the bands both at the Naval Base San Diego and a luncheon on Tuesday. The luncheon at the San Diego Convention Center was the last official activity for the team before it headed into pre-game mode with a walk-through at the stadium and meetings on Tuesday night.
In its own way, the luncheon was a perfect part of Manny's bridge. The music from the Longhorn band, and a video that featured great moments from the season set the stage for emotion. In a season which carried the rebuilding theme of "brick by brick," the highlights brought back all of the good things that happened in a season that, though it wasn't what the players or the coaches wanted, did provide stepping stones and moments to remember.
Through the magic of video, Fozzy Whittaker was well again and returning kickoffs for 100 yards, and the defense was hammering opponents and returning interceptions for touchdowns. It is fitting that you never lose a highlight film, because they are parts of the bridge. There was Case McCoy, scrambling again for 25 yards to set up Justin Tucker's game winning field goal against Texas A&M, and David Ash was making runs and completing passes. Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron were all healthy, and Blaine Irby and D. J. Grant were miracle men who had overcome injury to shine.
In the press conference before the luncheon, Mack Brown had talked about a game where the offense doesn't turn the ball over and the defense gains turnovers, and where the kicking game is paramount. And there on the screen, Longhorn announcer Craig Way was offering a call for the ages as Justin Tucker kicked the winning field goal in history's final meeting between rivals Texas and Texas A&M.
Mack Brown was there, along with players, laying bricks in a wall -- the symbolism of the "brick by brick" theme.
As evening came on another perfect day in this City by the Sea, the players headed into their meetings. The sun eased into the ocean, and the bridge loomed as a distant sentinel where the bay meets the open waters.
And what you come to realize is that all season long, Texas had concentrated on "brick by brick" as if it were rebuilding a house, and in truth, that was its intention. But you can build different things with bricks. We have heard of brick buildings and brick roads, but maybe what this season is all about is building a bridge.
When the clock hits zero on Wednesday night, it will culminate a celebration of Holiday -- a remembrance of family, a tribute to the ever-present symbol of America's military here in this city, and the close of a season of reconstruction. And Manny Diaz will have nailed it. Life is, after all, about bridges, and tomorrows. The message of this trip has been about finding happiness, and of using what is given you to reach for something new and something greater.
And there is no better way to do that than to build a bridge -- for yourself, and for those who will follow.