Dec. 28, 2012
Jackie LaPenta, Texas Media Relations
The Texas Longhorns will make their 14th bowl game appearance under head coach Mack Brown when they travel to San Antonio to face Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. The short commute from Austin poses the scenario that there will be a largely burnt orange crowd welcoming the Longhorns at the Alamodome.
This game will not only be a homecoming for Texas, but it will hit very close to home for sophomore running back Malcolm Brown and sophomore safety Mykkele Thompson who hail from the Alamo City.
“The fans are crazy down there in San Antonio,” Brown said. “They are real faithful fans, and there are a lot of Longhorns fans over there. Just being in Texas, I know that people from different cities are going to come to San Antonio to watch the game.”
“I do have a lot of family and friends trying to come to the game,” Thompson said. “A lot of people have told me that they are going to the game or that they will be watching it. So it will be a great opportunity to go back home.”
Many natives of San Antonio are actually military transplants since the region is home to four of the largest military bases in the country. For these two Texas athletes, their ties to the city are no exception.
Both Thompson and Brown are part of military families who have each lived in other U.S. cities and several countries abroad.
Thompson was originally born in Naples, Italy, but spent the majority of his life in the United States after moving to San Antonio in the fourth grade. Brown, on the other hand, did not settle in Texas until the seventh grade, which was coincidentally the same time he started playing football.
“My dad was stationed in Washington D.C. before we moved here,” Brown said. “If I were to have grown up in DC, I probably would have tried to be a basketball player. That is what is popular up there, but Texas is a football state. My dad played [football] and he never forced us to do anything, but he always wanted us to play football.”
Thompson and Brown each experienced success playing for Stevens and Cibolo Steele High Schools, respectively. They even crossed paths several times meeting on the gridiron as opponents.
“We played each other in high school,” Brown said. “I knew of him for a little while, and then I finally met him my junior year.”
“They beat us good, but it was expected,” Thompson recalled smiling and shaking his head.
“He is my roommate now so we have gotten really close and our families know each other. It was really good having someone that I knew from my hometown come in the same recruiting class as me, because getting to know new people can be a little challenging at first.”
Now in their sophomore seasons, both athletes have firmly established themselves within the Longhorn family and have developed a network of brothers among their teammates in Austin.
Being selected to play in the Alamo Bowl gives Thompson and Brown the opportunity to showcase their talents to their extended families, and also gives them a week of team-bonding activities and events in the days leading up to the game.
The Texas football squad will experience downtown San Antonio along the famous Riverwalk, in addition to numerous other bowl activities.
“I’ve been able to see a lot of the sites in San Antonio, but I am looking forward to doing them with my team,” Brown said. “We have a couple of out-of-state guys, so it should be really fun.”
Postseason appearances provide additional on-and off-the-field team building experiences, but the main focus for the Longhorns is to beat Oregon State.
Bowl practices give players the chance to hone in on specific techniques and impress the coaches prior to the postseason contest and spring practices. Additionally, it gives coaches the freedom to work players into different schemes in order to find the best chemistry for each position.
“You've got 15 more practices to push them forward,” head coach Mack Brown said. “If you want to play more, practice better, we'll put you out there. But still you want to win, and that's sort of the most important thing. The day that the bowl game is over, I'll come back and take the seniors off the board and start looking at the depth chart for spring practice and move forward.”
Both Thompson and Brown are fully utilizing this opportunity to take advantage of the extra playing time.
Thompson saw action in all 12 games this season with five starts at safety. He notched 47 tackles on the year along with a career-first forced fumble and fumble recovery and a career-high 12 tackles against Oklahoma. He also proved to be a very valuable member of special teams with two blocked punts, tying him for first in the Big 12.
“Blocked kicks are all about field position, and it helps all of us out by putting the offense in a position to score,” Thompson said. “I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to block them, but I am just doing my assignments and what Coach [Duane] Akina says.
“I want the coaches to see during these bowl practices that I have improved over the season and that I have down the mental part of the game," Thompson said. "I want to show that I am getting a little more physical.”
After an explosive freshman campaign where he was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, Brown has averaged 45.1 rushing yards per game and compiled four rushing touchdowns in 2012. He set career-highs per game in all-purpose yards (143), longest run (31), receptions (6) and receiving yards (43).
“I would like to show the coaches that they can be confident enough in me to keep me in,” Brown said. “I am not just a one-down back, but an every-down tailback. They can keep me in on third downs to pass protect and catch the ball.”
The Longhorns will not only be using bowl practices to develop different player formations, but will also be testing the new responsibilities of the offensive coaching staff. Brown, in particular, is very excited to have his former position coach, co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, calling the plays against the Beavers.
“Coach Applewhite is a real smart guy, and he knows positions and schemes in-and-out,” Brown said. “It is going to be real fun, because I know he knows what to do. Everyone has trust in him.”