A familiar refrain has rung out among the Longhorn faithful in the wake of Tom Herman’s acceptance of Texas’ reported five-year deal worth more than $25 million: He’s coming home.
It may seem odd that a man from the Buckeye State is “coming home” to Texas, but consider the context of the former UT graduate assistant’s short stint in Austin. The most widely shared image of Herman over the past few days has been one of the former UH coach atop a victory parade float in 1999 after Texas beat Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl to finish 9-3. Herman’s assignment that day? Sit next to the ever-grinning, recently crowned Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams.
That season was a bounce-back from mediocrity, following a 4-7 finish the year prior and the firing of embattled sixth-year coach John Mackovic. It was also the first season for a former North Carolina coach named Mack Brown, who inherited an all-time talent in Williams after he convinced the once-Heisman finalist to return for his senior season. Sound familiar?
It’s almost poetic, then, that Herman’s first challenge at Texas is to convince the nation’s leading rusher, D’Onta Foreman, to return for his senior season to make a run at the Heisman and qualify for a bowl game. Or that Brown made a rare Texas appearance at Herman’s Sunday night introductory press conference. Or that UH’s offensive coordinator under Herman was Major Applewhite, a quarterback at Texas during Herman’s tenure and potentially the next OC at Texas, despite a 2013 lawsuit against the university in which he was named.
On Sunday night, Herman thanked UT-Austin President Greg Fenves and AD Mike Perrin, as well as their counterparts at UH before jumping right into it:
“Now we are home, and I can’t wait to get started. The University of Texas is a place, a special place, that deservedly holds a seat among college football elite. We will win championships. We will build men of character. We will graduate our players, and we will do it all with integrity and with class. As we do it all together, this is not about one coach. This is not about one season or one team. This is about honoring all of those who have worn the burnt orange and white and who support this great university.”
Herman also acknowledged the important role of Texas high school coaches, the bread and butter of Longhorn recruiting, and incidentally, a group that it was alleged by some writers his predecessor Charlie Strong neglected.
“I also want the high school coaches of the great state of Texas to know that this is their football program. We’re the flagship university of the best high school football playing state in America. And I want to continue to do a great job of recruiting our fine student-athletes produced by Texas high school football coaches.”
Finally, Herman thanked the triumvirate of Texas royalty in Brown, former AD DeLoss Dodds, and Edith Royal, representing five decades of Longhorn football before him. ESPN’s Jake Trotter said the presser was good enough to earn Texas a playoff bid in 2017.
After Herman graduated from UT with his master’s degree in kinesiology in 2000, he was gone from Austin for the better part of two decades, working down the road at Sam Houston State, Texas State, and Rice, before eventually returning to Houston after detours at Iowa State and Ohio State. In the interim, the man he worked for, the silver-haired Longhorn hero who showed up for his introductory press conference, won a national championship, played in two title games, and coached Texas in 13 other bowl games on his way to college football immortality. Herman now has history, Longhorn legends, and a solid foundation of young talent on his side. If he plays his cards right, he could be right back on top of that parade float in no time.
Photo courtesy Texas Athletics
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