Last year’s Longhorn team would not have come back to beat BYU the way this year’s team did. Those are Mack Brown’s words, not mine.
After Texas’ grinding come-from-behind win against the Cougars, it was apparent how much this team has changed in one year. I’m not talking about this from a skill standpoint, but from a cultural one.
For the past 10 years, Texas’ football program has been predicated on the one-time successful formula of big time recruits coming in and building upon the foundation set by the big-name recruits before them. And it was extremely successful. The formula brought in the likes of Ricky Williams and Vince Young, whose individual talent lifted the Longhorns into an elite strata of the college football world. Mack Brown, being the top recruiter in the business, was able to thrive on this and so were his teams.
However, last year, for whatever reason, that formula didn’t work. After 10 years, the players felt entitled for playing time, they simply expected to win, and their egos got in the way of team-building, which is something former Longhorn greats were able to accomplish. Things broke down, and they needed a major fixing.
So instead of retooling, which is what the team normally does and has the power to do, Texas rebuilt. It not only rebuilt with new personnel, but with a new attitude. The coaches and players ditched last year’s self-agrandizing motto of “Texas Swagger” for the more humble, “brick-by-brick.”
The players know each brick is important regardless of age or experience. Brown said that last year, players would have been hurt or offended if a freshman stud took their spot, but not anymore.
“This is a whole new team,” head coach Mack Brown said Monday. “The older guys know we need the younger guys to win.”
This shift in Texas football culture, this transition from standing on top of a pedestal built by the Colt McCoys, Brian Orakpos, and Cedric Bensons of the program, to humbly accepting the idea that winning comes as a team at whatever cost (including playing time) is something of a renaissance idea.
Perhaps this idea was most apparent when the boo’s echoed throughout Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after Garrett Gilbert tossed his second pick. He went to the sidelines, put his head phones on and tried to learn from his mistakes.
“He [Gilbert] was the biggest cheerleader,” Brown said of the former starter. “What Garrett will do now is compete again like he has throughout this competition to go back and try to get his job back. And while he’s doing that, I’m sure he’ll be pulling for the other guys. That’s the type of young man he is.”
Now, that is support. That is commitment to team. And this is the new Texas.