Football season is upon us again.
Confession: I am not really much of a football fan.
That may be tantamount to heresy in Texas, but it’s true nonetheless.
Both of my parents were UT alumni, and I grew up going to home games in Austin with my family. Our family Thanksgiving tradition was The Game — UT vs. Texas A&M — turkey could come later. OU weekend usually meant a trip to Dallas and visiting our relatives, and sometimes, the state fair.
Game days in Austin meant wandering around the UT campus with my folks and Aunt Marion and Uncle Willie, mom’s sister and brother-in-law, also UT alumni.
Going to games was not just a family affair, though, as we would often stop in the UT Athletic Office where my mom had worked during and after her school years there. I remember meeting a former football player and friend of hers, Peppy Blount.
Later, I ran across a program from the 1949 Orange Bowl between UT and Georgia that Peppy Blount played in — along with the team’s co-captain, a young Tom Landry.
When I discovered this picture in the program, I asked Mom if she’d ever met Tom Landry when he was at UT as a student. “Oh, yes, “she said, “I’d give him his game tickets — skinny fellow.”
My childhood UT football experience coincided with the golden years of coach Darrell K. Royal, including both national championship seasons in 1963 and 1969 — good times for a Longhorn fan.
My interest in football overall started to wane during high school, and I never actually attended a UT game while I was a student at the university.
The last UT game I attended in person was a UT-Rice game sometime in the mid-80s. I went with a friend and a Rice student (his fiancee), and we left before halftime as UT pummeled Rice. By the time we left, Rice was losing by 45 points, and a new cheer had started up among the Rice students, “C-H-E-A-T-, Cheat, Rice, cheat!”
UT football remained a bonding point with my folks, though. Whenever I visited in Houston during the fall, we’d sit down to watch the UT game. Years after my father died, my final season with my mom found us once again watching our beloved Longhorns together.
Mom was dying that fall but she rallied ’round every time her team played.
See, there was an exciting quarterback leading the ‘Horns towards another victorious season. I’d been watching a game with Mom a year earlier when Vince Young first walked on the field and galvanized the team into a winning performance. This season, there seemed to be no stopping him.
She and I watched Vince Young win all but one game that season, losing only to rival Oklahoma.
She didn’t get to see Vince Young win UT’s first ever Rose Bowl appearance that year. Nor was she around for his senior year march back to the Rose Bowl to claim the national championship.
But I’m pretty sure I heard her cheering him on right there at the end as he ran across the goal line for the win.
She’d never miss a good Texas Longhorns game.