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Recounting Texas QB Shane Buechele’s improbable journey to Austin

The Buechele family’s youngest was a medical miracle who grew up with Sooner siblings.

Buechele and Texas legend Colt McCoy
IG: bgshanebuechele

Outsiders cannot understand the complicated feud that is the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry. Words like ‘despise’ or ‘hatred’ don’t reflect its true nature. Instead, it’s the scarring memories that seem to provoke the resentment that actually boils underneath both fan bases. Sometimes it’s just the names of men — Akers, Switzer, Bosworth, or Gardere. Other times it’s a score — 65-13, 45-12, or 15-15.

I know those words, and more importantly those scores, sent some of you into a keyboard-banging rage, and that perfectly exemplifies what Texas-Oklahoma is about. It’s about the cocky players, intolerable behavior of fans, or coaches who embody what’s wrong in the world.

The relationship transcends proximity or annual meetings; there’s more passion and hatred than that.

Recruiting flares these tempers even more. If you live in Texas or are a legacy of the University of Texas, not only do you go to the University of Texas, but also you will never, under any circumstances, consider Oklahoma. The same goes for Oklahomans or the legacies of those who walked the grounds at the University of Oklahoma.

To spurn your school for their most bitter rival would be treason equivalent to burning an American flag. Good luck convincing the fan base it wasn’t personal — it sure as hell was.

With everything in mind, consider the improbable journey to Austin of one of the most important Longhorns in the 2016 recruiting class — quarterback Shane Buechele. The brother of four Sooner siblings, the Arlington Lamar prospect was surrounded by the lore of the crimson and cream from a young age.

While his dad played baseball at Stanford and his mother attended college in California, Shane’s siblings pushed all things Oklahoma his way.

Imagine how shocked the family was when Shane committed to the Texas Longhorns shortly after a visit to Austin during the spring of his junior year. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, his sister, Jordan, admitted it shocked the family and even “let down” some of her friends at Oklahoma.

"It just kind of shocked everyone," she told the Morning News. "It shocked me. It shocked my family."

Even the Texas coaches were surprised at his commitment.

So, how exactly did the Longhorns’ most important recruit switch his allegiance from a bitter rival to Charlie Strong?

It started with his relationship with the coaching staff, specifically the often-criticized former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson. While Watson certainly had his flaws as a play caller in Austin, his personal recruitment of Buechele helped land the Longhorns’ newest quarterback.

“He seems very real and to me, that's the big thing,” the four star prospect said to 247 Sports during the recruiting process. “Recruiting is a big deal and they might just be talking jibber-jabber and telling me what I want to hear. Coach Watson's for real and tells me the truth. I really enjoy that.”

shane buechele the opening
Shane Buechele could be Texas most impactful recruit from the 2016 class.
Student Sports

Sealing the recruitment with Buechele may be Watson’s greatest legacy from his time in Austin when you consider the Longhorns didn’t receive considerable interest from the eleven other quarterbacks it offered in 2016.

From heavy-hitters like Shea Patterson to long shot dual-threat quarterbacks like Xavier Gaines, the Longhorns never had a strong chance with its other options. That’s why Buechele’s commitment to Texas, where a cloudy quarterback situation still looms, was vitally important.

When head coach Charlie Strong fired Watson shortly after the 2015 season, there was concern Buechele’s valuable commitment might waver, especially when the quarterback arrived in Austin for his December official visit in the midst of Tulsa co-offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert turning down the job after seemingly accepting it the night before.

"I was a little impatient about what was going on with the coaching stuff," he said in an interview to ESPN.

Instability dominated Strong’s staff as schools flocked to recruit the highly-regarded quarterback. Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Oklahoma all contacted him during Texas’ coaching transition, but Buechele maintained his commitment to Strong’s vision.

During his weekend visit to Austin, Texas announced they hired a new offensive coordinator, Sterlin Gilbert, after president Greg Fenves, athletic director Mike Perrin, and tight ends coach Jeff Traylor all accompanied Strong on a last-ditch mission to Oklahoma to land Gilbert and his longtime offensive line coach and friend, Matt Mattox.

Disaster averted.

Buechele had the chance to meet his new coach, and he finally eased the young prospect’s worries about the new offensive direction.

"From what I’ve seen when I look up stuff, he does a lot of run-pass option stuff. We did a lot of that at my high school.” he told ESPN. “It’s pretty similar. The tempo is the big thing. We’re gonna be going fast."

We won’t see Gilbert’s true vision until the Longhorns step on the field against Notre Dame, but Buechele’s comfort in the system was already apparent in the Orange-White game. In that game — in one half, in fact — he excited the fan base with an impressive performance, completing 22 of 41 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. This offseason, coaches have raved about his performance in the weight room, practice, and even in ping-pong.

Shane Buechele in the Orange-White game
Dan Bender (247Sports)

Whether it’s a few drives against Notre Dame next Sunday or controlling the offense by year’s end, his development represents the future for the quarterback position at the University of Texas.

With Westlake standout Sam Ehlinger also in the fold for 2017, that future seems to be a lot brighter because the combination of Buechele and Ehlinger may finally bring peace of mind to fans who worry about the Texas quarterback situation.

As the season opener rapidly approaches, it seems more likely Tyrone Swoopes will get the nod over the freshman, but there’s little doubt Buechele will see time on the field with Charlie Strong repeatedly saying he wants both quarterbacks to receive snaps. More importantly, the freshman quarterback appears to have the strongest case to start the 2017 season, which may hold massive implications for Texas’ return to national prominence.

Since he hasn’t been named the starter before Notre Dame, people have began to doubt Buechele. Reporters and analysts say allowing a true freshman quarterback to start will make major success improbable, but Shane Buechele is an improbable kid.

From committing to Texas to a miraculous conception to almost winning the Elite 11 competition, he has defied expectations most of his young life. Maybe, just maybe, Texas’ new gunslinger will continue that trend when he dons the orange and white for the first time next weekend.