Texas Football: Legacy Coaches Key to Reviving Longhorns' Tradition

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2014

The Texas team runs onto the field before the start of an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma State, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
Michael Thomas/Associated Press

When Texas head coach Charlie Strong hired his new coaching staff, he expressed the importance of his staff having ties in the state of Texas. But two of his assistant coaches' ties are much deeper than the others.

Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and wide receiver coach Les Koenning have a significant understanding of what it takes to be a football player at the University of Texas.

They understand how it feels to run onto the field at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. They understand the history and tradition of Texas football. They know what it takes to win games and conference championships at Texas and what is expected of the team when it takes the field.

"There is a reason to say 'The' University of Texas because it represents the state of Texas," Koenning said in a Q&A with Texassports.com. "And getting a chance to come back, you should set your ceilings high with goals and winning championships. That's what it is about."

But what they may not have expected was the chance to ever return to their alma mater as a football coach.

"Les Koenning and I both came here in 1977. We were freshmen together and were both captains in 1980," Bedford said. "We've talked over the years and felt like for us to have a chance to work together wouldn't happen. For us to have a chance to come back and work at the University of Texas, it wasn't going to happen. But it has happened."

And it happened in a familiar fashion.

When Bedford and Koenning arrived in Austin in 1977, the Texas football program was undergoing a major change in its foundation. Legendary coach Darrell Royal had just retired after his 20th season as the Texas head coach, and the Longhorns hired Fred Akers—who had only been the head coach at one university—as his replacement. 

Sounds familiar, right?

Bedford and Koenning's personal understanding of what it's like to not only be a football player, but to also go through a major change in the Texas football program as a student-athlete makes them very relatable to the team.

One goal Bedford has is to help his players realize the importance of what it means to be a football player at the University of Texas. 

"Sometimes young people today don't really understand who they are or where they came from," Bedford said. "Time goes by too fast and they aren't enjoying the moment. You have got to enjoy the ride sometimes. And that's part of my job to help those guys understand that."

Bedford and Koenning's experience as players at Texas included playing among many Longhorn legends who played a significant role in building the tradition of Texas football. And that tradition can be seen in the halls of the football facilities.

"I look at the pictures on the walls and I can say, 'I played with Earl Campbell. I played with Russell Erxleben. I played with Jerry Gray.' And the list goes on and on," Bedford said. "It gets me excited thinking about it. Those guys are a part of some of the history of the University of Texas."

Now it's time for the current Longhorns to make history of their own. Bedford, who also coaches the secondary, was a part of the Texas tradition of great defensive backs, otherwise known as "DBU." But he expects more than just continued success from the defensive backs and wants to further expand the tradition to other position groups.

"DBU started with Raymond Clayborn, Johnnie Johnson, William Graham, Derrick Hatchet, Glenn Blackwood, Ricky Churchman, that's where it started," Bedford said. "Mack Brown kept it going and we want to keep those things going. But not just DBU. We're going to make LinebackerU, D-LineU, whatever it takes to get the best players in the state of Texas to come here and get this program back to the top where it belongs."


Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.

Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's featured columnist covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.