Dec. 31, 2008
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Every now and then, there comes that moment in time when what you have done in your life, and who you have become, align. It doesn't happen very often. Usually, life marches through days that span work and play, with the end result coming in a reflection of what we affectionately call "a body of work."
Mack Brown knew all about "a body of work," when it came to coaching football. He had learned it from his granddad, Eddie "Jelly" Watson. Mack had watched him work from the time he was a little boy, riding a yellow school bus wearing his tiny letter jacket. Cookeville Central High, which later would become Putnam County High when Mack was helping lead the team to the state championship in 1967, was the laboratory where Jelly Watson mixed team after team of success.
His teams posted a 106-51-13 record during his later years at Cookeville, with three undefeated seasons. The Tennessee General Assembly honored him for his "legendary contributions as a teacher, coach and superintendent," in 1989. They named the high school stadium for him in 1995.
"To know him was to love him," they said in the school yearbook in the mid-1950s. "Not only was he responsible for outstanding football, but his efforts at Central High produced many fine young men and women."
And one of them would be his grandson, William Mack Brown.
When Watson was coaching high school football in the mid-1950s in Tennessee, he had occasion to cross paths with some of the legendary college coaches of the day. And one of the men he respected the most was Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech. Jelly Watson liked Bobby Dodd because of what he stood for. As young Mack Brown grew up, he would come to learn about others such as Wally Butts of Georgia, Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama, and a young coach at Texas named Darrell Royal. All would be put on a pedestal as men to admire, because of what they meant to the game.
That is why, with a deep feeling of emotion, Mack Brown was humbled to learn that Wednesday night he had been named as the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year for 2008. For Mack, that moment wasn't about him; it was about Jelly Watson and the rest of Mack's family, about Coach Royal, and about all of the young people who have played the game and the men who have coached with him.
Because, you see, the Dodd Foundation gives its award "to honor the Bowl Championship Series college football coach whose programs represent quality on and off the field." And it is based on three things: "scholarship, leadership and integrity."
In winning the award, Brown joins a distinguished list of some of the greatest coaches in the game who have won the award since its creation in 1976. Joe Paterno has won it twice, most recently when he edged Mack out in 2005. Other winners include Vince Dooley, Bobby Bowden, the late Bo Schembechler, the late Eddie Robinson, and Tom Osborne. Michigan's Loyd Carr, who retired last year, was the 2007 winner.
As the Longhorns continue their preparations for the 2009 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on January 5, Brown and his staff can look back on one of the most successful years in the history of any college football program.
The 11-1 season was one second away from being an unbeaten year, and the opening of the renovated Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium gave the Longhorns a capacity crowd of almost 100,000 -- the largest of any facility in the southwestern United States.
At the close of the 2007 season, the Longhorns posted a graduation rate of 70 per cent, and the current team includes 40 players who posted at least a 3.0 GPA. Every senior on the 2008 team except three earned their degrees in December, and the other three are on track to get theirs in May. This fall, the Longhorns had 22 players on the first and second teams of the academic all-Big 12, and for the fourth straight year the Longhorns led the league in the APR graduation rate of the NCAA.
Construction has already begun on a new 9,000 square foot academic center for football that will include further expansion of seats in the south end zone.
That covers scholarship, and when it comes to leadership, Brown's teams on the field have posted the best record in the country in the first decade of the 21st Century.
The final piece of the equation is integrity.
In May, Brown agreed to lend his name to a chair in the LBJ School of Public Affairs on global leadership. In September, he and his wife, Sally, were named the winners of the Harvey Penick Outstanding Citizen award for their charity work in Austin.
When Bill Curry, a successful college coach and television commentator, called Mack to tell him about the award, he talked about his memories of Bobby Dodd, whom Curry played for and Brown admired. And he thought a lot about Jelly Watson.
In 2001, when Mack agreed to be a co-author of "One Heartbeat: A Philosophy of Teamwork, Life and Leadership," he did so because he hoped it would honor his dad and granddad, both of whom had coached, and he wanted to help young coaches.
He has never forgotten those roots, nor has he forsaken those who have honored the game, and the profession.
Once in a while, it is, after all about who you are, and what you have done-and most of all, it is about remembering where you came from.
After the Longhorns finished their final practice in Austin before breaking for Christmas and gathering on December 29 in Phoenix to begin preparations for their game with Ohio State, Mack and Sally Brown had a rare holiday break. Usually, with January 1 bowl games, they are traveling on Christmas Day.
So instead of boarding an airplane for a flight to a special bowl game, Mack and Sally knew what they wanted to do this Christmas.
With Sally's hand still in a cast from the fall she took in Colorado, the two of them headed to downtown Austin.
There, they joined with other volunteers, giving their Christmas Day to help serve food to the homeless.
The Dodd Trophy is significant in that it is not a popularity contest or an on-line poll. It is chosen by a 16-member panel of respected television announcers, former coaches, and leaders in college athletics.
And somewhere beyond the skies, Bobby Dodd and Jelly Watson would be pleased to know that the 2008 selection was unanimous-based on three things: scholarship, leadership, and integrity. All of which, when they align, reflect who you are, and what you have done.