TT: Did you ever see Earl Campbell play as a Longhorn? If so, what can you recollect? Any other thoughts on the Tyler Rose?
Absolutely— my very first game in Memorial Stadium was in 1975 against Utah State. Campbell played fullback at the time and scored on a long touchdown run in a rout. I was eight years old. He didn’t become “EARL CAMPBELL” until 1977 and his remarkable Heisman season. You could argue he was even better as a pro. He was one of the most dominant running backs the NFL had ever seen, even today. Thinking of Earl is bittersweet in Austin these days. He is physically limited and has paid dearly for his excellence on the football field. I shared a table with him at the University Co-op a couple of years ago—I was signing books (short line, no waiting); he was signing memorabilia (huge line all the way out to the parking lot!). He is a gracious and kind soul…and his hands are enormous.
TT: Bo Scaife spent played two seasons with Vince Young and spent six years on the 40 acres (he missed the 2000 and 2002 seasons due to injury). How good was Scaife at Texas? Also, I know you think highly of another tight end who was a teammate of Young’s.
Scaife is a better pro than he was a collegian, similar to Arian Foster, for example. He was a big time recruit—a tight end who returned kicks for his high school team, are you kidding me?—but, as you note, injuries took their toll. Scaife came up huge in the 2004 season as a reliable target for VY. He scored the momentum-turning TD just before the half in the comeback against Oklahoma State and had a great Rose Bowl against Michigan. But I get the sense that we are just now seeing his potential as a player in the NFL. Good for him, reaching your potential on the biggest stage is not easy.
The other tight end you mention is of course David Thomas, simply one of the best college players I have ever seen. He turned the 2006 national championship game into a personal highlight reel for the scouts. He is a good player for the Saints, but, honestly, I really expected him to break out and be a bigger star. Scaife has been the better pro.
For starters, he let Michael Huff get away with whatever he wanted. Huff moved all over the field for the Horns that year on his way to the Thorpe Award. He was the most important player on the defense. A huge reason for the flexibility Huff was afforded is because of fantastic safety play from Griffin. It didn’t hurt to have Cedric Griffin manning one corner, Tarell Brown on the other and Aaron Ross as the nickel back, of all things. Five NFL players at the five secondary spots. Not bad.
But back to Michael Griffin. He was physically gifted with great closing speed—just rewind the interception of Matt Leinart in the Rose Bowl. Leinart had Steve Smith in the clear for an easy TD; I don’t think he was prepared for Griffin to come across the field, intercept and get a foot down on his way out of the end zone. One of the great DB plays in Texas history, considering the stakes. Griffin was also one of the best special teams players Texas ever saw. His NFL success is fun to watch.
TT: A program not known for its pro quarterback prospects has recently produced two good ones: Young and Colt McCoy. I’m sure you’re not surprised that McCoy is making the most of his opportunity to play for the Browns. Can you give insight on why Browns fans should remain hopeful?
Surprised? I am actually shocked that Colt McCoy is a competent NFL quarterback. Maybe I shouldn’t be. McCoy’s achievement drive is off the charts. What’s funny is that every upside mentioned about his during the draft, some of which was damning with faint praise (“He’s a better athlete than you think…high football IQ…coach’s kid…arm’s not terrible…same height as Drew Brees”), is coming true. He may be a 12-year NFL player. Is he Drew Brees? Of course not—not yet. But he is at least a serviceable NFL starter. Who would you take? Mark Sanchez or Colt McCoy? That I can even ask the question with a straight face tells you something.
TT: Last but not least: what happened to the 2010 Texas Longhorns football team?
My opinion, and that’s all it is, is that Mack Brown never intended to coach this team. I think he built Texas to win the 2009 national title and is still resentful that it didn’t end that way. After the game, the program lost focus and the Will Muschamp succession plan became a negative—leading to infighting and dissension—rather than a positive: creating program stability. I don’t think Mack can right this ship, which I wrote about extensively here: http://barkingcarnival.fantake.com/2010/10/25/a-remembrance-of-things-past-and-a-reminder-that-things-dont-last/
Adam’s book, Rose Bowl Dreams, is available for sale at a discount on Amazon.com. If you’re willing to pay postage, Adam will autograph it for you. If you’re in the Austin area, Adam is available to speak at businesses, book clubs, and other gatherings. Contact Adam at rosebowldreams [at] mac [dot] com.