Texas players remember sideline in 2006
By JAIME ARON
AP Sports Writer
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — They are the Texas 10, seven scholarship guys and three walk-ons who remember exactly where they stood on the Longhorns sideline at the Rose Bowl the night Vince Young bolted into the end zone and won a national championship.
Wearing jeans and jerseys, they joined their teammates in the wild on-field celebration. They received championship rings.
And now, four years later — having gone from wide-eyed redshirts to senior leaders — they are back, getting ready for their final college game in the same stadium, for the same stakes, only this time they will be right in the thick of things when the No. 2 Longhorns take on No. 1 Alabama on Thursday night.
“I take great pride in my ring because I did what I had to do on the scout team,” linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy said Tuesday. “But to actually be here and play in the game, it’s going to be different. I get to go on the field and do the dirty work.”
Colt McCoy might’ve been the most keen observer that night, watching Young rally the Longhorns from a 12-point deficit against Southern Cal late in the fourth quarter of the 2006 Rose Bowl. Before the winning drive, Young went to his fellow quarterback and told him to soak it all in because one day he’d have his chance to win a championship.
After an NCAA-record 45 wins, McCoy is finally getting his chance.
“To be able to be a part of something like that your first year of school and kind of get a taste of it ... that’s what you work for,” McCoy said. “There’s thousands of college football players who never get this experience. We’re very grateful, but at the same time we know how hard we’ve worked to get here. Now we’re living the dream.”’
Jordan Shipley is part of an even more exclusive group of Longhorns: Those who were on the sideline for the ‘06 Rose Bowl and the ‘05 Rose Bowl, when Young pulled off another great finish to beat Michigan.
Actually, it’s no group at all. It’s just Shipley, who missed both those years with injuries, earning him a medical exemption for a sixth season.
Now he’ll be a vital part of the game plan as McCoy’s favorite target and the primary punt returner.
“To be back here and be healthy, finally, to be a part of this deal has been a lot of fun,” Shipley said.
Other ‘06 Rose alums joining McCoy, Shipley and Muckelroy in the starting lineup will be center Chris Hall, left tackle Adam Ulatoski and right guard Charlie Tanner. Will Harvey will get on the field as the deep snapper on punts. Rounding out the crew are kicker Ryan Bailey, punter Trevor Gerland and tight end Mac McWhorter.
While every player at every school thinks about winning a national championship, the sensation is different for these 10 guys. They’ve seen it and felt it from up close, yet really weren’t part of it.
“I wore my ring for a week, then I decided, ‘You know what? This really isn’t my ring. So I’m going to put this away and try to get my own,”’ Tanner said.
Being along for the ride was great. Being a reason why the team has gotten back to this point is even better.
“It kind of gave us a little extra motivation — we can do this,” Ulatoski said. “We’ve seen it happen. We were right there. We want to go do this for ourselves.”
Longhorns coach Mack Brown said the importance of this game to these 10 guys has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team.
“They’re not happy just to be here because they’ve already won, they’ve already seen the influence to our school and our state, and they’ve seen that it’s something that’s a memory for the rest of your life,” he said. “It’s made our whole team feel like we should be here, and we understand being here and we expect Texas to be here.”
Many of the memories and stories from four years ago will spill out Wednesday, when the Longhorns return to the stadium for the first time since that magical night. Technically, it’ll be for a walkthrough practice, but it’ll really be about more.
For veterans, it’ll be a chance to get nostalgic. For everyone else, it’ll be a chance to set foot on a field they’ve seen, heard and read so much about. Brown said he even called former USC coach John Robinson for advice before his first visit for the ‘05 Rose Bowl.
“Every time I see the Rose Bowl, I picture Vince Young holding the ball across the goal line, running it in there, and the crowd going crazy,” Tanner said. “I’ll definitely be going in there and saying, ‘Hey, younger guys, that’s where it happened, right there.’ It’ll be fun.”
Hall expects to remember the roar of the crowd following Young’s winning TD, a celebration wilder and louder than anything he’d ever seen or heard.
He’s also hoping to repeat another part of the ‘06 experience — a post-walkthrough visit by the In-N-Out Burger’s cookout trailer.
“That was kind of a special treat, especially for a big guy; us offensive linemen like to eat,” Hall said, laughing. “I looked at the schedule, and I think we’re going to get it.”