Texas football to start season with optimism, revived team culture

Jordan Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor

Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian tried addressing some of Texas football’s looming culture concerns with fall camp this year.

After Monday’s scrimmage, the football team hosted an impromptu karaoke party, complete with a spirited joint performance of Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open” by  senior T’Vondre Sweat and offensive line coach Kyle Flood.

Video of the performance was shared via social media on Monday, showing snippets of the team singing alongside the duo and jumping up and down when Flood took the mic. Where the team fell short in singing the right key, it made up for in contagious energy and camaraderie.

The video stands in stark contrast to the state of the team that played in the Orange and White game in April, when senior Moro Ojomo made headlines in the days before the game for claiming that players in the locker room prioritized NIL deals and partying on Sixth Street over winning football games and building group cohesion. 

In the wake of last season’s 5–7 finish, in which the Longhorns endured a historic six-game losing streak, Sarkisian was eager to quickly develop a winning culture that prioritizes community and resilience following in-game adversity.

“Everyone says, ‘When you’re building a program, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.’ … It takes time to build a culture,” Sarkisian said on Aug. 2. “I’m of the adage “Who says you can’t sprint a marathon?’”

In his first leg of the race to build a winning culture, Sarkisian met with Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay “to try and find a few more touchdowns” for his sophomore campaign as skipper for the Longhorns. 

While his trip to Inglewood provided offensive insight, McVay’s rapport with players struck a chord with Sarkisian, reinforcing his belief that being a “player’s coach” is a valid way to lead a college football team. 

“I’m a relationship-driven guy,” Sarkisian said. “A record can tell you your way doesn’t work anymore. Then you go see the Super Bowl champs and you watch how that head coach interacted with his people in his organization. It just kind of reinforced to me, ‘Hey, my way can work too.’”

Sarkisian actively tries to get to know his team through individual meetings and intentional communication, but also encourages veteran players to find their voice and hold their teammates accountable.

Junior Jordan Whittington said the vibe is different this year because of the vocal leadership shown from within the team and off-field chemistry forged in the previous eight months.

“You want to build more chemistry off the field just so you’re comfortable with the person,” Whittington said on Aug. 9. “When we’re (on the field), it’s just like we’re best friends. I’m going to work hard for (my teammates), and (they’re) gonna do it for me.”

After practicing in pads for the first time that day, Whittington feels there’s a stronger sense of purpose among the team heading into this season, because of the leadership of team captains and vocal motivation from the team’s 35 newcomers.

“It feels like it’s more player-led,” Whittington said. “Everything is more intense from the players.”

Despite the intense practice heat and season-ending injuries for junior Isaiah Neyor and senior Junior Angilau, junior Bijan Robinson claims that this team won’t slow down anytime soon because the expectations are clear.

“We can’t stop because we’re trying to do something great this season,” Robinson said on Aug. 4. “All of the complaining and everything, that has to go out the door.”