This is the fourth post in a week-long series sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
We continue exploring the contours of our Longhorns fandom with a discussion of all-time favorite Longhorns. Along with the obvious guys who inspired us all and can be identified by their first name alone -- Vince, Earl, Ricky, and the like -- we've all got our favorites who especially stand out in our minds years later.
Casey Hampton & Lamarr Houston -- I'm grouping these two together because I love them both equally, and for similar reasons. Big Snack was arguably the finest defensive tackle ever to play at Texas, and he's been just as good in the pros with Pittsburgh, where he's been a five-time Pro Bowler and won two Super Bowls. Houston, of course, was a late convert to DT who built on a solid junior campaign to anchor the nation's stingiest rush defense as a senior. For reasons I can't fully explain, I love nothing more than watching a great defensive tackle do his thing -- even when his job is just to eat blockers. There's something aesthetically awesome about a 300 pound man successfully bypassing another 300 pound man with a swim move -- makes me grin ear-to-ear, every time. Of course, so does discarding a 300 pound man with your left arm alone.
James Brown -- We mostly talk about the failures of the Mackovic era, but it wasn't all bad, and James Brown represents the best of it. One of the unlikeliest heroes in program history, everything about the position Brown was thrust into was difficult, and though he was far from the most talented QB to grace the 40 Acres, he generally made the most of it. In fact, you might say that he was Major Applewhite before it became cool. Just the second African American to start a game at quarterback for Texas, Brown was a fearless gamer who took an unexpected starting role and found ways to make plays. It wasn't always pretty, but especially before he got worn down by injuries, he found ways to get it done.
Tony Brackens and Bryant Westbrook -- While the next generation of Longhorns bloggers will one day write about growing up losing their minds over defensive wunderkinds like Brian Orakpo and Michael Huff, for those who were kids with me, it was Tony Brackens and Bryant Westbrook. And no single play better encapsulates why then this one:
Kasey Studdard -- I'm not sure I would have realized just how much I loved a guy like Kasey Studdard if our offensive line play hadn't fallen off a cliff in recent years, but here we are, and... well, yeah. I appreciate him. A lot. Studdard would rather bite off whole the ankle of a rusher than let him have a hit on his quarterback, and though he wasn't even one of the top 50 most talented linemen to don the burnt orange, few gave as much, as hard, for as long as Studdard. Football at the college and professional levels is so extraordinarily physical a game as to generally limit who can play and contribute, but it also takes something more to be special. A lot of hyper-talented guys don't have it, and a few barely talented enough guys are so saturated with it that they excel nonetheless. Studdard represents the latter breed as much as anyone. I miss that kind of ferocity, fearlessness, and pride.
Vince and Ricky -- I don't need to say anything about these two. But neither can I faithfully publish this post without a tip of the cap to my two favorite Longhorns of all time. The absolute best of the best.
And now it's your turn. Who are your favorite Longhorns of all-time?