AUSTIN, Texas -- It started as an informal lunch. Mack Brown and reporters munching on some Mexican in a conference room, talking spring practice.
|Vince Young just might add some larger hardware than the Rose Bowl MVP. (Getty Images)|
And he's wanting to chat.
Guess who's Heisman campaign had just been unofficially kicked off?
OK, so it was only March, and there was as much storytellin' as interviewin' that day, but it was convenient that Texas' quarterback was there. It's never too early for these types of things, and Young is the heart of the most important Texas season in years.
For one, the 'Horns figure to be favored to win the Big 12 (and, by extension, the Oklahoma game). They'll almost certainly start in the preseason top five in the polls.
That's what happens when your quarterback has a breakthrough year, running through a slack-jawed Michigan defense in the Rose Bowl. Young almost single-handedly (and footedly) befuddled the Wolverines with 372 yards in total offense and five touchdowns in the one-point victory. His life is changing so quickly he can barely keep track. Young now suspects his girlfriend of four years was recently approached by an agent's runner. A group of fans wanted to throw him a birthday party -- at which the quarterback would sign autographs for them.
"You'll be walking with friends or at a restaurant and people will come over and want to take a picture," Young said. "The Rose Bowl is over, but it's still like it's yesterday. During spring break in Miami, a lot of folks noticed me down there."
Of course, Orangebloods can't get enough. Their next viewing of actual competition is Saturday in the spring game. From there it's a short jump to September, when Young is one of 17 Texas starters trying to improve on last year's 11-1 record and No. 5 finish.
Credit Young, who finally got it in 2004. There were some admitted struggles with Brown and offensive coordinator Greg Davis trying to fit Young, a redshirt junior, into a drop-back box. At some point, all three agreed that it was best to let Young do what he does best.
"When I worked for Coach Switzer, he said, 'Don't ever have a guy in the game if he touches the ball, he can't score with it,'" Brown said. "Vince can take a third-and-7, scramble and throw, or he can run 60 yards."
Michigan never did figure that out. Lloyd Carr chose to concentrate on All-Big 12 running back Cedric Benson. Not a bad strategy, but the Wolverines ignored -- or couldn't account for -- Young, a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder who rushed for a Texas single-game quarterback record 192 yards and four touchdowns. Add a passing touchdown, and Young assembled one of the biggest days ever for a Texas quarterback.
"You know he can run, and you want to help his passing, so subconsciously you're saying, 'This is a known, let's leave it alone,'" Brown said. "But you get to a point where you work so much on the other side (passing) that you take away from the other great gift."