New Texas football coach Charlie Strong said he is putting the T back into Texas — building his program with “Toughness, Togetherness, Trust and Team.”
That was what a sea of burnt orange Longhorn alums and fans wanted to hear as the Texas Comin’ on Strong Tour made a stop in the Rose City on Thursday at Holiday Inn on South Broadway.
The sold-out event was the fifth stop on a statewide tour.
Previous stops were Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston. Next up is San Antonio (Monday), Corpus Christi (Tuesday), Rio Grande Valley (Wednesday), El Paso (May 12), Midland/Odessa (May 13), Amarillo (May 14) and Beaumont (May 19).
“The tour has been great,” said Strong, who took over for Mack Brown. “Every day the crowds get larger and larger. Last night, in Houston, we had a really nice crowd. It is fun to see the emotion and passion of our fans.”
Strong said it was exciting to feel the energy and meet the fans.
He also added East Texas is a prime recruiting area that the Longhorns needed to hit harder. Offensive line coach Joe Wickline recruits East Texas, the same area he was responsible for while at Oklahoma State.
“This is an unbelievable region,” Strong said. “The thing you like when you get here to this region is how (the players) are going to work. … We have Dalton (Santos, linebacker, Van) now and (Steve) Edmond (linebacker, Daingerfield) now. This is a region we need to get into more — there are outstanding players and outstanding coaches here. It is an area we need to dip into and dip into a little better.”
Strong said he knows what to expect from an East Texas player — “You want a smart, tough and dependable athlete; and that is what you are going to get here.”
Strong took time to sign autographs and pose for photos for the excited fan base.
Earlier this week, Strong told Longhorn fans at Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth, “We have everything available, and I don’t know why we can’t be successful. There’s no reason for us not to be. Now, I can’t tell you how soon it’s going to be. Don’t hold me to that. Don’t say, ‘Ooh, coach said next year we’ll be in the national …’ We will not be in the national championship game.”
That quote made many newspapers and websites in America, as well as SportsCenter.
Strong did not repeat the quote, but did say, “We had only 15 days (of spring practice) and I needed 15 more. It’s April. It’s April. We haven’t gone through the summer or preseason drills. I am concerned with getting a competitive team ready to begin the season.”
Strong was impressed with the large gathering of fans, and in turn the fans were impressed with the former Louisville coach.
John Lewis, whose son Sam is a swimmer at Texas, said, “I take my impressions from what I heard from family members at UT, and what they’ve said he is making a difference.”
UT alum Dick Stone, of Jacksonville, said there is a lot of excitement for Strong.
“This shows how excited UT fans are to get a chance to see the new coach, hear him speak and see him in person,” Stone said.
He said Strong’s statement of not being in the national championship game could serve as a motivational tool for the players.
“We have a lot of question marks — quarterback, offensive line, linebacker …” Stone said. “I would expect seven to eight wins. … I love Mack (Brown, former UT coach). He did a great job, but I think it was time (for a change). Mack didn’t leave the cupboard bare, but he didn’t leave it fully stocked either.”
Dr. Paul Latta, local dentist and 1982 UT grad, said “Everyone supported Mack, but I think it was time. Today, (the large crowd) shows we are backing Strong.
“I think coach Strong has the skills and the staff to get it done.”
NOTES: Former UT and John Tyler standout Tim Crowder was in attendance, as well as Bishop Gorman graduate and former Tyler Morning Telegraph sports writer Cedric Golden, who is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman. … Gilmer head football coach Jeff Traylor was on hand. … Texas opens its season Aug. 30 against North Texas in Austin.