I often rely on three important life lessons that I’ve unfortunately learned the hard way.
Don’t be a prisoner of the moment.
Don’t let your emotions control the narrative.
Don’t romanticize a situation, relationship, or event and build it up to be more than what it truly was.
Those sound like dating tips, but they’re actually words to live by for the avid sports fan.
As spring practice picks up steam and the 2019 season begins to emerge on the horizon, Texas fans especially should keep those reminders handy. I know I will. But not because I’m trying to stop myself from being a prisoner of the moment or disallow my emotions to control the narrative or romanticize a situation or event for more than what it is.
I’m keeping those three reminders handy to makes sure I’m covering all my bases every time I toy with a prediction or theory that I feel is well on the way to coming to fruition. Do you want to know what it is?
Sam Ehlinger is going to leave Texas as the most beloved Longhorn of all-time.
This, I promise you, is not a hot take.
I pondered this before the 2018 Red River Shootout, I thought about it following the loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, and I used most of my time driving back to Indianapolis from New Orleans following Ehlinger’s Sugar Bowl performance considering why this thought may very well be a reality we will all come to terms with over the next two years.
On Monday, when the Texas Football Twitter account teased All-Access with a clip of Ehlinger mic’d up at practice, I was sold.
QB1. Mic'd Up. @sehlinger3 @LonghornNetwork#ThisIsTexas #HookEm pic.twitter.com/v7XIOQiH3H— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) March 26, 2019
During practice, Texas coach Tom Herman walks up to Ehlinger after QB1 shares a moment with living immortal legend Colt McCoy, who, for many, is the most beloved Texas player of all-time.
Herman: “Were you a big Colt fan growing up?”
Ehlinger: “Oh yeah. Oh yeah.”
Herman: “Was that pretty cool, being able to meet?”
Ehlinger: “Yeah, it’s super cool. But it’s just different. Because, like, now, obviously, being here just being friends with him, it’s not like a stardom (thing) anymore. He’s just a super cool dude.”
This interaction had nothing to do with my determining Ehlinger is on his way to his own immortality. I just saw McCoy and I once again asked myself the question as to where Sam will end up in our memory when his time on the Forty Acres has passed. It occurred to me at that time that I am right in my belief about Ehlinger (lol but when have I ever been wrong, ya know?).
For the record, I know who immortal legend Vince Young is and I am aware he is right there in lockstep with McCoy. But McCoy started for four years and Longhorns fans got to watch him grow into one of, if not the best quarterback in the nation. McCoy is arguably the most deserving runner-up for both a Heisman and a national championship in the history of college football. People love the underdog story. For some reason, I’ve always felt people admired McCoy a little bit more than Young, no matter how many times the Longhorn Network tries to shove the 2006 Rose Bowl game down our throats.
McCoy was also roommates with Jordan Shipley. Shipley and McCoy were lifelong friends because their dads…
Dads, dad, ah yes. Your first thought is probably that there is a soft spot in my heart for Ehlinger because he lost his father at a young age.
You are correct.
But didn’t we also have a soft spot in our heart because the McCoy and Shipley story was just too good to be true (until the story was run into the ground by every single broadcast crew)?
That is also correct. We did.
But the soft spots in our heart isn’t why we are here right now, stirring conversation about my theory that Sam will become the most beloved Longhorn in Texas football history.
It’s actually rather simple, my “why.”
I don’t have time to dive into statistics and starts and numbers and percentages (I rarely do). I know you all probably do, so have at it.
But I’m speaking on this from a much more broad scale. You can tackle the finite details that prove this right one way or another. I’ll stick with my gut feeling, a conclusion I came to after I was certain of three things:
I am not a prisoner of the moment.
My emotions are not in control of the narrative.
I am not romanticizing this situation, building it up to be more than what it truly is.
Sam has, for all intents and purposes, also started since his freshman year, albeit not in every game. But we saw him enough his freshman year and then watched him emerge out of the gates during his sophomore year to know that his trajectory is one that is ascending and doing so at a rapid pace.
If not for a Sam Darnold jump pass on third down, Ehlinger would have been remembered as a freshman who marched down the field with less than three minutes and brought Texas back to beat No. 4 USC at The Coliseum. If not for a Baker Mayfield doing what a Heisman-winning QB should do, throwing a game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, Ehlinger would have also had a win over top 5 OU his freshman year, as well.
Sure, he had a lot of bonehead throws that season that lost games for Texas, but I would argue the good outweighs the bad from his freshman season.
The 2018 season speaks for itself. After throwing an interception in Week 1 against Maryland, the greatest football program of all-time, Ehlinger didn’t throw another interception until the Longhorns visited Kansas to cap the regular season, setting the Big 12 record for most attempts without an interception along the way.
Then he almost led Texas to a Big 12 championship against OU. But, once again, that whole Heisman-winning QB thing happened for the Sooners.
The Sugar Bowl. Enough said, am I right?
And so now for the first time since David Ash, but probably more so for the first time since McCoy, Longhorns fans know who their quarterback is and will head into the fall with a feeling of security and confidence that feels like your favorite blanket on a cold evening.
With Sam, you get the hype that VY had built up for himself entering his junior year with the expectations Colt had as far as his tenure was concerned.
Ehlinger enters his junior year coming off a stellar sophomore campaign that was capped with a New Years Six bowl victory in which he shined on one of college football’s biggest stages, a la Vince Young at the Rose Bowl. But he will do so with the expectations Colt carried into his junior year — you can all but guarantee that this guy is going to play two more seasons here.
By the time Ehlinger leaves Texas, what I’m about to tell you could very well be a reality, and with that, I have to ask you to ask yourself where he will rank in the hearts and minds of you and every other Texas fan.
Sam Ehlinger, on the day that he leaves the Forty Acres, could very well be near, if not at the top of many statistical columns and this could very well be his resume:
- 3-2 against OU
- Never lost to Texas A&M
- Never lost a bowl game
- Appeared in 3 straight New Years Six bowl games
- Appeared in 3 straight Big 12 Championship games
- Two-time Big 12 champion
- Heisman Trophy finalist (winner?)
- Davey O’Brien Award finalist (winner?)
- One/two College Football Playoff appearances
- Pulled Texas from the depths of college football Hell
- Never lost to Kansas
- Multiple-time All-Conference
- Multiple-time All-American
- Your child’s Longhorn hero
- Your Longhorn hero
- Everyone’s hero
Some of those are just hypothetical, like the fact he may never lose a bowl game.
But the undeniable truth to everything you have just read and all the debating you’re going to do over the next two years is that Ehlinger can walk away from Texas as the single-most decorated quarterback in the history of Longhorns football.
And the fact that he isn’t yet that, the single most decorated quarterback in the history of Longhorns football, and yet Texas fans already adore this kid so much, it’s hard to argue against the thought that when No. 11 leaves his cleats on the field at DKR just like Dillon, Texas’ Tim Riggins did, he’s going to do so as the most beloved Longhorn of all-time.
I have no doubt in my mind.