I'VE NEVER BEEN AS KNOWLEDGEABLE about football as my friend Anita. At UT Longhorn games, she would always hash out a call or play with the folks sitting around us, because she knew I wouldn't really understand what she was talking about. Not that I was ignorant when it came to the game of football; I knew enough to get by. I understood the basics: touchdowns, interceptions, downs, and field goals. But when people would start talking about offsides and safeties, things would get a bit foggy for me. So when Anita asked me to go with her to the Mack Brown Women's Clinic, I had to think about it for a while. Would I be completely lost and bored or would it be a learning experience? I decided I would go and find out for myself. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Not only did I learn about football but I also had a wonderful time. We arrived at the Alumni Center a little late but nevertheless registered (paid a $25 fee) and picked up our bag of goodies—koozies, a gimme cap, notepads, and a rose. Once past the registration desk, we walked into a zoo. Women were lined up to get Mack Brown's autograph and buzzing around getting their photos taken with Cory Redding, Major Applewhite, and Chris Simms. We immediately purchased drink tickets and grabbed a beer and glass of wine and then planted ourselves in line. No way were we leaving without an autograph. Luckily, we made it through the line before Coach Brown was escorted away; it was time for the clinic to begin.
We took our seats with about two hundred other ladies—did I mention that no men were allowed—and listened to Mack Brown talk about the team, spirit, values, manners, and football. It became clear why Coach Brown is considered a top recruiter—the man has charisma. He had the whole crowd going; we were hanging on his every word, nodding in agreement, and cheering him on. Brown told us that the impetus behind the clinic, which began in 1998, was his wife, Sally. She felt that women should be included in the program because they are huge fans and supporters too. We agreed.
Many speakers came to the front to inform us about the football program at the University of Texas, including the academic counselor and the equipment manager. Ah, equipment. At this point, two players strutted to the front to model the equipment. The crowd was in hysterics. We learned all about shoulder pads and helmets in addition to how the uniforms get cleaned. We also heard from the offensive coordinator, Greg Davis, and the defensive coordinator, Carl Reese. But one of the most interesting tidbits we learned came from a question: If a player is capable of playing both offense and defensive, how do you know what position to play him? Simple: If you open his locker and everything falls out, then he's defense, like Cory Redding. If you open his locker and his socks are all neatly folded in a pile, then he's offense, like Major Applewhite. The difference in personality was all too telling when the two men got to the microphone to introduce themselves. Applewhite was a bit red in the face and sluggishly said, "Hi, I'm Major Applewhite." Then Cory Redding sauntered to the mike and said, "Hello ladies, I'm Cory Redding." We went wild.
Of course, the camp wasn't all fun and games. We learned about offensive and defensive strategy. We found out that each player is required to study for a certain number of hours a week with a tutor. We discovered these kids work hard—and play hard. Some women asked tough questions that were indeed over my head—and the coaches were impressed. Heck, I was impressed with the whole evening. Cell phones started ringing during the last tutorial—defense—but we were told to pay no mind. Our significant others certainly didn't when we were looking for them. After a raffle, everyone filtered out of the center. Anita and I were amazed to discover it was eleven o'clock. We had been there since 6:45, and not once did I look at my watch and think about going home. We had a blast.
That was two years ago. Anita and I went to the clinic last year too—only it was at the University of Texas Club. Things were a bit more organized this time around: a table with gear that you could purchase (to have autographed, of course) and a table where Coach Brown and some of the players were signing autographs and taking photos. Even though I knew what to expect this time around, we still had just as much fun as the year before. What was the first question directed toward Mack Brown? It was a doozy: Why is Chris Simms going to be the starting quarterback when he did such a horrible job last season? Brown answered it tactfully, as usual, telling us every decision is made for the team. Somehow he managed to turn a rocky start into a screaming success (when he finished his answer, the crowd was clapping in applause and laughing). By this time, Anita and I were season ticket holders (we got tired of waiting for our husbands to buy the tickets so we purchased them ourselves), and I felt like I knew more about football (but still not as much as Anita). We were part of the Longhorn community, which is just how Sally and Mack Brown wanted us to feel. This year's clinic is scheduled for August 22. And, yes, Anita and I plan on attending, wearing burnt orange and white.