When you're a fan of the Texas Longhorns, you hear the phrase Lifetime Longhorn used frequently to describe members of Longhorn Nation. A lifetime Longhorn is someone who attended, graduated from, and continues to contribute to the university in some way, shape or form.
Many lifetime Longhorns were student-athletes, and because student-athletes spend more time in the spotlight than your average student, I've often wondered how they reflect back on their time at the University of Texas. I decided to ask, and I had the privilege of asking a few questions to Brian Robison, a former linebacker for the Longhorns who now plays Defensive End for the Minnesota Vikings.
Like most other college football fans, I check Rivals.com to see who the top high school players in the country are, and how the major schools are doing on the recruiting trail. According to Rivals.com, Brian was ranked as a three star recruit coming out of high school, and I asked Brian if he felt this was accurate.
"I definitely felt I could've been ranked higher than that. I kind of felt a little snubbed because I came from a small school, but I also was doing things as far as athleticism that other linebackers ranked ahead of me couldn't do. Not to mention that I was bigger than all of them. [I] also felt like I showed I belonged near the top by my play."
During Brian's recruitment, he was heavily recruited by five different schools, of which four offered him scholarships. I asked Brian if there were any schools other than Texas that he considered committing to.
"Yes, In fact, to be honest Texas wasn't my first choice, but after visiting the schools that I did Texas was far above and beyond any of the others and it was the right fit for me. I loved everything from the city of Austin to the fans I saw every Saturday."
The training staff at The University of Texas is renowned for their ability to transform student-athletes into superstars. The training facilities have been voted some of the best in the country by numerous different outlets, and when I saw the facilities for myself, I stood in awe at all the different equipment that was at each student-athlete's disposal.
Coming into his freshman year, Robison was listed at 6'3" and just under 250 pounds. Because he was so large already when he enrolled, I asked him if he felt that there was a particular year during his time in Austin that the strength and conditioning staff had the biggest effect on his development.
"I really feel that between [trainer] Jeff "Mad Dog" Madden, his staff, and Tre Zepeda and the track staff (in addition to playing football, Robison competed in the Shot Put during his time at Texas) that between my sophomore and junior year was the biggest jumps I made in the weight room. I was able to get really strong and fast with Mad Dog and then when I went to track,Tre Zepeda seemed to help me build on that base and I became stronger than I ever thought I could be. They did a great job of working together to help me become the best athlete I could be."
Texas is known for living, breathing, and sleeping football. Some fans have been known to wait outside the field house after games to meet their favorite players and get autographs, and I've even seen a young man who had purchased a replica helmet wait for every single player after a game so that they could each sign it.
I attended a game a few years ago when running back Selvin Young was injured and hadn't dressed for the game. After the game was over, Young sat on a column outside the field house with cast on his leg, Longhorn faithful stopping to shake his hand and ask him questions. I recall one question that made Young more than a little uncomfortable.
"So," the man asked, "are you going to be a Longhorn we can all be proud of, or are you going to pull a Ricky Williams?"
I was very impressed by the poise of Mr. Young. He looked the gentleman right in the eye, and said,
"I'm just trying to be the best player I can be. I want to get my degree and hopefully be blessed enough to go to the next level."
All the gentleman could do is nod with approval and continue on to his car. Based on that story, I had to ask Robison if he had ever had a strange, crazy, or just plain weird moment with any fans during his time at Texas.
"I'm not sure I ever really had a weird moment."
I've been privileged enough to take a tour of the athletic facilities at The University of Texas. I know that for me personally, stepping out onto the football field at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium was by far the most impressive part of that tour. I've sat in those seats for numerous games and thought about how impressive the stadium was, but walking out on that field, even with no one in the seats, took my breath away.
As I stepped onto the field, my first thought was of was walking on the field that so many legends of the game had walked out on during the program's illustrious past. I was literally frozen in place, standing in the south end zone. I could only imagine what it must feel like walking into that stadium for the first time with the stands full of screaming fans. Knowing how I felt on that tour, I asked Brian what memory first comes to mind when he thinks about his time at Texas.
"The first time I saw the Inside of Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium and realized that's where I would be playing ball for the next 4 years. Was a big difference from Splendora's [Texas, Robison's high school] stadium."
Of all the great games and plays I've seen as a Longhorns fan, I couldn't help but wonder what plays a Lifetime Longhorn remembers. For my next question, I asked Robison what play stands out the most when he looks back on his Texas career.
"The [Rhett] Bomar sack at the Red River Rivalry, or the 4th and 2 in the National Championship game."
I know that for the most part, every student athlete wants to collect awards that show their accomplishments at the collegiate level. We all like having something to show for all the hard work that we've put into something. Of all the awards and hardware that Robison collected, I asked him which stood out to him the most.
"My National championship ring, my school record, and Big 12 Championship in the shot put. The first is obvious. The second because only myself, my coaches, and the people closest to me know how hard I had to work to accomplish that goal."
I've seen a lot of interviews with players about to leave the University of Texas, and almost every single one wishes that they could stay just one more year. When asked why they felt that way, there are quite a few different answers, but two almost always come up. The first is that Texas has given them another family, and the second is that they hate that they won't be able to see Coach Mack Brown as often as they used to. I asked Robison if he still keeps in touch with Coach Brown, and if so what topics come up.
"I've talked to him a few times. The topics [are] mostly about life with a bit of football thrown in."
Thinking of all the great players that Robison played with during his time at Texas, I had to ask who the player was that he kept in touch with the most.
"Probably Tim Crowder. We have that special bond as the DE tandem."
Because of how special it is to be considered a Lifetime Longhorn, I asked Brian what that title meant to him, and how it felt to know that he'd always be considered one.
"Simple: once a Longhorn, always a Longhorn. It's a family thing."
Many bonds are created during life, and I believe few are as strong as those built on blood, sweat, and tears. I'll never know what it feels like to be a Lifetime Longhorn, but I hope I've given everyone a glimpse of what it might be like.
Brian Robison has taken his success from the field at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium (where he racked up 181 tackles, 106 solo and 15 sacks) to the NFL. Robison just recently signed a three-year contract extension with the Minnesota Vikings, and is looking to make an impact as soon as the season is underway. For all you Longhorn fans that don't know, Mr. Robison runs his own Facebook page and his own Twitter. With more than 4,500 followers and counting, Mr. Robison was still happy to answer every question I asked. Robison is grateful and respects every single one of his fans, and in return, every one of his fans appreciates him back. I encourage anyone that reads this to go and find Mr. Robison on Facebook and Twitter and show him the love he deserves.
I look forward to bringing you conversations with other Lifetime Longhorns that I've lined up, and I hope that you've enjoyed a look into the thoughts on one of my favorite Longhorns, as well a truly amazing person.
Mr. Robison, thank you for taking the time to help a small fry like me. I can't thank you enough, and I hope to have the privilege of meeting you face to face someday. Stay real, keep grinding, and most importantly.....HOOK'EM!!