AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 15: Safety Kenny Vaccaro #4 of the Texas Longhorns breaks up a pass in the third quarter intended for wide receiver Tracy Moore #87 of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys on October 15, 2011 at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. Oklahoma State beat Texas 38-26. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)
Okay, so to be clear -- Texas Longhorn senior safety Kenny Vaccaro didn't actually refer to he, senior defensive end Alex Okafor, and senior Barrett Matthews as the "pizza trio" or refer to his actions as "idiocy," as far I can tell from reconstructing his media availability from a million different sources. I'm paraphrasing in the headline.
Earlier in the day, prior to the players meeting with the press, head coachcalled the actions "foolish" and spoke about the general need to respect authority figures, in whatever guise they make take.
To the credit of Okafor and Vaccaro, they both said the right things when they had their first opportunity to speak publicly since it happened, with the former calling the experience "humbling" and Vaccaro going a step further:
What happened was a big eye-opener for me. I've got a lot at stake. My whole family is on my back, so I can't take anything for granted.
With a roughly eight-month-old child, the stakes are certainly high for Vaccaro entering this season. Add in the fact that he lost his father as a kid, and he's not exaggerating when he says that his family is truly on his back.
Considering some of the stories that I've heard about Okafor and Vaccaro out downtown, something was bound to happen, so when the senior safety likely wasn't exaggerating when he called it "eye-opening" either.
The other buzzword here is maturity, something that Vaccaro admitted he didn't have quite enough of back in May:
I don't think I was mature enough. I don't think I'm ready for the NFL. You saw what happened. That can't happen in the NFL...I need to grow as a man. I wasn't ready. I don't think I was ready to have that kind of money and to be free. And I want to do more at Texas.
Candid thoughts, no doubt, from a kid who is known for speaking his mind. From the sound of it, the necessary maturation is still an ongoing process -- the bolded quote says a lot about where he is, and probably partly still is to some extent.
Even so, it sounds like Vaccaro did what he had to do from an academic and football standpoint to put himself in position for the monster senior season that everyone expects of him:
I learned from what happened. I told the guys I was more embarrassed for them than me. I want to represent this program as well as I can. I took summer by storm. This was my best summer by far. Guys don't really say anything about it to me anymore.
Vaccaro mentioned a couple of things that he thinks he's doing better to maximize his abilities on the field:
I treated my body differently. I'm hydrating and getting my treatments every day. I've matured in how I approach the game.
I translate hydrating better as not going out on Sixth Street and getting a good buzz on, but maybe that's just me.
Just as importantly, though, Vaccaro talked about how much more comfortable he feels entering the second year under defensive coordinator Manny Diaz:
The first six games last year I wasn't comfortable in the defense yet. The sack at the bowl game was my moment. That's what I'm going to bring every play this coming year. Coach [Manny] Diaz talked to me and said I was being a robot. He told me to roam free. I said OK. I can be a lot more relentless. With guys like Alex [Okafor] and [Jackson] Jeffcoat coming off the edge, balls have to be in the air quickly. With athletic and versatile linebackers, I don't necessarily have to worry about making a mistake because I know another person will be there for me.I want to bring leadership each day. I want to mold this defense and put the cream on the top. I want to be the backbone.
A lot of stuff there, but Vaccaro also added that he feels more comfortable overall. Based on what Jordan Hicks said at Big 12 Media Days, the entire defense likely feels that way. Combine the talent and experience there with the confidence to play quickly? That's enough to send a shiver down the spine of every offensive coordinator on the Texas schedule this year. And that's not hyperbole.
In terms of leadership, there probably isn't a lot to worry about on that side of the ball with Jordan Hicks stepping up and Demarco Cobbs setting a tone for how the team rolls from his confrontation with Darius White, even if Vaccaro only ends up leading by example, something he should be able to effectively this season, if nothing else.
One quote from Vaccaro seems like it could be nothing other than the final statement about where things are heading into the fall:
As far as work ethic goes in the summer, we worked like a national championship team.
The odds are high that Texas isn't a national championship, but as Mack Brown said in one of his most memorable quotes of the day, "This thing is headed in the right direction and I'm excited about the challenge."