Lamarr Houston has been in the NFL for six years, but he still can't get one Texas Longhorns game out of his head in spite of all the time that has passed.
Unfortunately, that game is the 'Horns 37-21 loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2010 BCS National Title Game. In a piece for Pro Football Weekly, he recounts the game and the events surrounding it in vivid detail. No. 1 Bama and No. 2 Texas both came into the contest at 13-0.
"It was about a level of preparation, just going to another level. I was really excited to get to play on national TV in front of everybody in the last game of the year. As the month went on, the more and more excited I got to be in the game.
"It was sweet. I had won our conference championship. I have one of those under my belt similarly, but to go to the national championship is the ultimate game you want to be in, and as a senior in an undefeated season, it was unbelievable. It really makes you really, really fall in love with winning. There was nothing like it."
After being cheated out of the championship game the year before, Houston and the rest of the team felt validated by making it following the 2009 season. Incredibly, he sacked Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy on his very first drop-back.
"I already knew coming into this game that [the Crimson Tide] did a good job of play-action and their guards during the play-action, if you kept on your feet, you could beat them and get a sack. I'd seen that it was going to be play-action and could tell and read it right on time and was able to just give a good pass move and get a sack on the quarterback.
"It was an offensive guard. I just bull-rushed him, pretty much.
"Oh man, from that point on, I was just on. I was already excited and then I made a big play and it just feeds off of it."
Houston, now 28, has spent his time in the NFL with the Raiders and Bears, but he still may not have played a better game than he did that night. Houston finished with 10 tackles, two for a loss, and one sack. As we all know, it wasn't enough, especially with Colt McCoy out for essentially the entire contest.
The 'Horns did shut down Bama's passing game by holding McElroy to 58 yard through the air (with a player by the name of Julio Jones at wide receiver). The Mark Ingram-led ground attack managed four touchdowns in spite of being held to 4 yards per carry.
It was the beginning of an era for Alabama, who has since won three more national titles, and the end of one for Texas.
"It was a tough pill to swallow. It was real tough. Eventually, I kind of had to get over it because the next year, I was actually on a [Raiders] team with [former Alabama linebacker] Rolando McClain. Obviously, he was nonstop reminding me about it. But that was a tough pill to swallow because we made a lot of sacrifices to get to that game and we weren't able to finish it, especially when our boy, our quarterback, went down."
Houston has yet to reach the postseason as an NFL player, perhaps explaining why the game remains front of mind.