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Razzle dazzle: The secret behind the country’s top high school QB mill

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Razzle dazzle: The secret behind the country’s top high school QB mill


AUSTIN, Texas – The game is called “Razzle” at Lake Travis High School. In the micro, it’s a hybrid of Ultimate Frisbee and pick-up football. In the macro, it’s the connective tissue that links the generations who’ve come through the most impressive continuous public-school quarterback pipeline in the country.

Each January, when bowl games have passed and NFL seasons have ended, the Lake Travis quarterbacks from the past decade or so return home. They shoot out a group text and congregate in the school’s massive football practice facility.

It’s not uncommon to find Cleveland Browns quarterback Garrett Gilbert whizzing passes to Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, both of whom starred for the high school. The Brewer brothers – Michael of Virginia Tech/Texas Tech and Charlie of current Baylor fame – usually roll in, along with a wave of former receivers and teammates. “You can guess,” laughs Charlie Brewer, “who talks the most trash.” He unnecessarily adds, “Baker.”

Around here, Lake Travis quarterbacks making noise in college and beyond has become as common as “Keep Austin Weird” bumper stickers.

The last nine starting quarterbacks at Lake Travis High School have earned Division I scholarships, which includes current Texas-bound starter Hudson Card. (Don’t worry, No. 10 is waiting.)

How did Lake Travis end up producing one of the country’s most prolific runs of quarterbacks? “The tradition has spawned this younger generation of grade school and middle school kids to do anything and everything to be the starting quarterback there,” Texas coach Tom Herman said, speaking generally about the school.

The roots of the trend, in a way, are grounded in a coaching philosophy that resembles the uninhibited and free-wheeling games of Razzle. Former Lake Travis coach Chad Morris, now the head coach at Arkansas, showed up in 2008 with a distinct offensive coaching philosophy. “Attack like he’s swinging an ax,” jokes Hank Carter, the current Lake Travis coach.

Baker Mayfield is the most well-known quarterback to come out of Lake Travis, but there are plenty other Division-I QBs from the Austin high school. (Yahoo Sports illustration)
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Baker Mayfield is the most well-known quarterback to come out of Lake Travis, but there are plenty other Division-I QBs from the Austin high school. (Yahoo Sports illustration)

Morris and Carter showed up together in 2008, crashing for three nights at a Super 8 nearly 40 minutes away because of lack of local options. Back then, Lake Travis had 1,700 students enrolled, and the sleepy area had only a McDonald’s and a catfish joint that stayed open past 9 p.m.

More than a decade later, the rise of Lake Travis football, combined with a humming economy, has helped turn the school and area about 20 miles west of downtown Austin into a destination for more than quarterbacks. There are 3,300 students in the school and Carter estimates more than 50 places to eat after dark.

There’s been no magic scheme or X’s and O’s guru through the years, as five different offensive coordinators have been play-callers for the six state titles since 2007. As Carter enters his 12th season at the school and 10th as head coach, the tactics and verbiage have changed multiple times. But the ax swinging hasn’t.

“I’ve got to find reasons to attract our kids in the community to want to play football,” Carter said. “It’s fun to throw and catch the football. It’s not always fun to run the counter trey 43 times. There's more to do in this community than just play football, and we need to be cognizant of that.”

Carter is one of the most successful Texas high school coaches and makes more than $150,000 per year. He’s resisted college opportunities for much the same reason his former quarterbacks come back every January to play Razzle. “Be careful trying to be happier than happy,” he said, repeating some advice from his father. “And we’re pretty happy around here.”

Passing the torch

There are plenty of weighty accomplishments that the Lake Travis Nine have compiled since this run began in 2006. Garrett Gilbert won Gatorade Player of the Year in high school after three state titles. Baker Mayfield emerged as the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft after walking on at two colleges. Charlie Brewer broke the national high school record by completing a stupefying 77.4 percent of his passes.


But the most impressive ax tossed by any of the Cavaliers may go to Todd Reesing, the first quarterback in Lake Travis’ run. Millennials may only have blurry memories of Reesing, but he led Kansas to an Orange Bowl victory during the 2007 season. Consider this: Kansas went 12-1 that season and has won 12 games the past six seasons.

If Kansas in the Top 10 sounds like a tall tale, it happened in part because Reesing – 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds – emerged as Lake Travis’ first undersized and under-recruited quarterback.

“Around here they say he was Baker before Baker,” Carter said. “He had a lot of the same moxie, the same type of leadership style.”

One of the fascinating things about the run of quarterbacks at Lake Travis is the different sizes, systems and trajectories they’ve gone on. Some didn’t pan out. Collin LaGasse from the class of 2012 ended up as a receiver at SMU. Dominic DeLira from 2015 ended up transferring out of Iowa State. Gilbert fizzled at Texas before reviving his career at SMU and carving out a six-year career as an NFL backup.

The most parallels come from Reesing and Mayfield, who both ended up dominating college football for long stretches. Reesing finished his Kansas career with 90 touchdown passes and completing nearly 64 percent of his passes. He carried around a copy of “The Economist” in his backpack during college, a sign he knew that the NFL wouldn’t come calling. (After getting cut from the CFL, he’s worked in finance.)

Fellow Lake Travis High School alums and Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (6) and Garrett Gilbert (3) talk during training camp. (USA Today)
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Fellow Lake Travis High School alums and Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (6) and Garrett Gilbert (3) talk during training camp. (USA Today)

Mayfield’s overlooked recruiting story is well told, but it’s predicated on his unflappable belief in himself that was fostered by seeing what his predecessors accomplished. With schools like Army and Air Force and Rice and FAU begging to take him, Mayfield maintained to Carter that he wanted to “play big-time ball.” He wasn’t being dismissive of other schools, just ambitious and confident.

Carter recalls Oregon State coming in right before signing day to watch him throw. They loved him, but didn’t offer. Mayfield had thrown for 45 touchdowns and just five interceptions as a senior at Lake Travis. Mike Leach offered him at Washington State, but he’d offered another quarterback simultaneously and rescinded after that quarterback committed.

A visit to Texas Tech and a strong connection with former Tech OC Eric Morris helped Mayfield end up walking on in Lubbock, before he transferred to Oklahoma. Mayfield bloomed so late that Carter doesn’t fault schools like Texas, who typically get a quarterback commitment early in the process, for missing on him. “When all of a sudden the guy 20 minutes down the road becomes a freak,” he said, “well the timing didn't work out for you.”

Mayfield, of course, went on to win the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma in 2017 and become the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. While his ascent from walk-on to NFL starter has helped usher him into the mainstream, his loyalty to Lake Travis may best shine through in his insistence on perpetuating the rivalry with Austin Westlake. That school, of course, has an impressive quarterback lineage in its own right, producing Drew Brees, Nick Foles and current UT star Sam Ehlinger. Mayfield lobbed a Sooner-to-Longhorn bomb earlier this year that doubled as a high-school rivalry shot: “He couldn’t even beat Lake Travis,” Mayfield said of Ehlinger, still throwing axes for the Cavaliers.

How they built a tradition

The ethos of all this quarterback success in Austin can be traced, in many ways, back to Eustace High School in the summer of 1994. Before Hank Carter’s senior year of high school in a wisp of a town between Dallas and Tyler, he met the new assistant coach fresh from graduation at Texas A&M. Chad Morris showed up rocking the high-cut Nike-branded coaching shorts that were popular in that day. They were gold.

Morris coached the quarterbacks and the running backs, demanding immediately that both positions be on the field 15 minutes before practice started. Morris also moonlighted as basketball coach, with his breakneck 94-32 philosophy demanding Eustace players guard 94 feet for 32 minutes.

It was all quaint back then, as Morris’ now wife, Paula, substitute taught in Carter’s typing class. Carter played quarterback and shooting guard, and he recalls his hoops team went from three wins the previous year to 17 under Morris.

“He has an unquenchable thirst for getting better and learning and making sure that what he's doing is at the cutting edge,” Carter said. “That rubs off on the kids, where they feel like they’re doing things that no one else has done. He’s got a way of making you feel special.”

By the time Morris arrived at Lake Travis in 2008, with Carter riding shotgun as his defensive coordinator, the quarterback run had already begun. Reesing was starring for Mark Mangino at Kansas and Gilbert had led Lake Travis, coached by Jeff Dicus, to the state title in 2007.

Over the next two seasons, Lake Travis went 32-0 and Morris joined Todd Graham on the Tulsa staff. That began his remarkable ascent from high school coach to SEC head coach in less than a decade, even recruiting Deshaun Watson to Clemson along the way. “I don't think Coach Morris will stop until he is maybe the head coach of the Patriots,” Carter jokes.

Carter brings a mix of Morris’ ambition with the sensibilities his father had by coaching and working in the same town for 42 years. (His mother taught nearby.) That’s why after winning state titles his first two seasons as head coach, Carter was just getting going.

The quarterback streak kept on humming after Gilbert (2009), with Michael Brewer (2011), LaGasse (2012), Mayfield (2013) and DeLira (2015) all starring and moving to bigger stages. Somewhere amid Mayfield’s fly route to the top echelon of football, the stigma of Lake Travis quarterbacks being “system guys” got left in the dust.

“These aren’t system guys at all because there's been four different offensive coordinators too, you know?” Carter said. “They're just really good quarterbacks and good football players.”

Along with the two Lake Travis quarterbacks in the Browns quarterback room, there’s plenty of other crossover symmetry. After Charlie Brewer finished his record-setting high school career in 2017, Matthew Baldwin started for one season in 2018 before landing a scholarship to Ohio State. He spent a year there before transferring back to TCU where he’ll sit out this season. With Baldwin at TCU, Brewer at Baylor and Card headed to Texas, nearly one-third of the 10-team Big 12 will have a Lake Travis quarterback on their roster next year.

“There’s such an expectation level,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who signed Brewer without ever meeting him or seeing him play. “This is what it means to be the starting quarterback at Lake Travis.”

Baylor Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer (12) rushes against the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first quarter in the 2018 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. (USA Today)
View photos
Baylor Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer (12) rushes against the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first quarter in the 2018 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. (USA Today)

Who’s got next?

Lake Travis boasts a spacious field house, a weight room that would fit in at a MAC school and an Under Armour sponsorship. On a steamy June afternoon, Card and his backup, Nate Yarnell, are whizzing passes to their buddies after an offseason workout.

The banners on the wall track state champions, and there hasn’t been one in these parts since 2016. For a place that won an unprecedented five consecutive titles from 2007-11, that dip hasn’t gone unnoticed.

With his folksy charm that contrasts the program’s rigid discipline, Carter could come straight from a “Friday Night Lights” casting call. He’s 116-15 as head coach and holds the school record for both wins and state titles (3).

It’s no surprise that he’s helped cultivate a culture where winning state, as they say in these parts, is an expectation.

“That’s the standard,” Card said. “I’d say state every year is our goal. It’s tough to meet, but I mean it makes us work harder and unite with one another.”

Card will be starting for his second year under offensive coordinator Will Stein, a sharp 29-year-old who played quarterback at Louisville. Stein’s hiring over from his job as an analyst at the University of Texas two years ago may be the most telling example of the school’s commitment to football. Stein worked under both Charlie Strong and Herman, making about $48,500 in his final year there. As a teacher and offensive coordinator at Lake Travis, he said he’s making “roughly around $70,000” when considering his teaching salary and money from camps.

Stein’s Gumpian trip through football helped shape his offense, as he played at Louisville under these quarterback coaches – Purdue coach Jeff Brohm (2008), Texas Tech coach Matt Wells (2009), Eagles OC Mike Groh (2010) and Pittsburgh OC Shawn Watson (2011-12). He’s also worked under Herman, Strong and Bobby Petrino, among others, which meant a hybrid of philosophies.

Stein is in charge of QBs Nos. 9 and 10 in the lineage, with Card already considered one of the best players in all of high school football. Carter jokingly calls Stein’s offense FTS – short for Feed The Studs – which means that Card will be exploiting mismatches all season. Things will look familiar when Card arrives in Austin, as Stein employs Herman’s three-level passing game and many of the offensive formations that Card will be running there.

It may be the highest compliment to Carter’s program that backup Nate Yarnell has scholarship offers from both Tulsa and Houston before he’s ever started a game. Patience at Lake Travis has shown to pay dividends. “I love this place,” Yarnell said. “I wouldn't trade this place for anywhere, so I'm in here for the long haul.”

Carter is confident that Yarnell will get plenty of interest, as most springs there are 150 different college coaches and assistants at Lake Travis watching practice and scrimmages.

“I don’t think kids slip through the cracks in Texas much anymore,” Carter said. “Certainly not at Lake Travis High School. Whether you start 60 games or six, if you can play there's been enough of a track record here.”

If they need a reminder, pop by the field house sometime in early January. (Or, later, if the Browns make the playoffs.) There will be a bustling game of Razzle, and the talent on the field will be the best reminder of Lake Travis’ remarkable quarterback lineage. Don’t be surprised by who’s talking the most trash.


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UT: Shackelford keeps the change, and has learned to make it pay off


At the time, none of the Longhorns players knew what to expect.

On Nov. 26, 2016, the University of Texas announced the firing of Charlie Strong as football coach. The very next day, the school named Tom Herman as his replacement.

Like the rest of his teammates, Zach Shackelford was initially shaken by the news of Strong’s firing. The UT players loved and respected the no-nonsense coach who had recruited them. They only knew Herman by name or reputation.


But, ultimately, Shackelford accepted the change and made the most of it.

It’s what he has been doing his whole life.

“It’s difficult sometimes,” said UT’s senior center from Belton. “Transitions can be hard. You don’t know what’s going to happen. And I’ve had a lot of transitions being a military kid, and I didn’t know what was going to happen sometimes. But you trust it, you keep working hard, stay low to the ground, and you hope that it turns out right. It’s turned out awesome.”

Shackelford’s father Lyle, a former University of Central Florida offensive lineman, works as a military chaplain. Before Zach turned 13, he’d already lived in Ohio, Washington state, and Germany.

Zach learned not to complain. It’s the life his family chose. You roll with it.

“The family of an individual in the Army really does serve as much as they do,” Shackelford said. “Besides obviously deploying, it’s very much service-oriented all the way around. So I think I’ve been able to take that and apply the experiences that I’ve had and just develop my personal attitude about certain things as a result of those experiences. It’s been hard at times, but it’s been awesome as well.”

Zach – aka “Shack” – said that his father’s various deployments, sometimes in combat areas, gave him a healthy dose of perspective at a young age. From his parents, he inherited a deep sense of discipline and a rugged work ethic. He wouldn’t be the same football player – or man – he is today without it.

“My dad and my mom, they both kept me grounded over the years,” Shackelford said. “Teaching me how to be a man, teaching me how to lead. The Army, they stress leadership a lot. Accountability, and all the stuff we stress in our program at Texas. There’s a lot of correlations.”

When he was 13, Zach’s family moved to Belton. He towered over most of the kids in his class, but did not lack for dexterity. Shackelford competed in the Junior Olympics when he was 8 years old – as a swimmer.

At Belton, Shackelford started all four years on the offensive line for then-coach Bob Shipley’s Tigers. He pushed many an opposing defender around, and his senior year of 2015 he was named both first-team Super Centex and first-team all-state.

Shackelford originally committed to Kansas State, but later changed his mind and switched his pledge to Texas. He found himself drawn to Strong’s honesty and vision for the program. He graduated from Belton a semester early and joined the Longhorns in January of 2016, so he could go through spring ball.

Shackelford started his first college game that fall, a 50-47 upset of No. 10 Notre Dame. What a debut, right? If college was like this, what a ride it was going to be.

The potholes lurked just around the corner. Texas won only four of its next 11 games after the vanquishing of the Irish. Shackelford played well enough to be named a freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America. But then Strong was fired, and Herman came in, and like the rest of UT’s players Shack didn’t know where he stood.

In short order, Herman’s coaching staff let Shackelford know the expectations. They envisioned him as a potential leader on the line, but he needed to get bigger, stronger to better withstand the pounding of a Big 12 season.

Yes, sir. No problem, sir. Ask Shackelford to do a job, and it’ll get done. The weight room became his second home. Last year he blossomed, starting 10 of UT’s 11 games and earning first-team all-conference honors.

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger may be the man in Austin. But, know this: The ball doesn’t touch his hands without going through Shackelford’s first.

“He’s a very disciplined young man that is probably, him and Sam Ehlinger, are probably our two most vocal leaders offensively. We’re proud to have him,” Herman said. “We think he’s as good a center as there is in the country.

“He’s brilliant when it comes to making the calls. The center is kind of the quarterback of the offensive line, and he’s really the glue that holds that group together.”

Shackelford appreciates the compliment, but takes such praise in stride. He’s seen the other side. The watch lists and preseason teams are nice, but this is a guy who appreciates the art of staying grounded, after all.

“I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum. I’ve gotten bad press and I’ve gotten good press,” Shackelford said. “So I try to keep a level head throughout it all, and I try not to let anything affect me good or bad.”

It’s only a short 57-minute drive from Austin to Belton, but Shackelford doesn’t get back very often anymore. His girlfriend’s family still lives there, so that gives him the occasional excuse. But Zach’s parents moved to New Jersey in February, the latest landing spot for the nomadic military lifers.

Over the past three years in Austin, Shackelford has witnessed his own share of detours down side streets he wasn’t expecting.

When that happens, he simply tightens his grip and keeps plowing forward.

“It’s been a wild ride,” he said. “A lot of highs, a lot of lows. But I’m thankful and grateful for all those moments, because it’s ultimately what made me into the person I am today. It’s been a unique journey, it’s been a fun journey, and it’s been rewarding.”

Texas Longhorns

Head coach: Tom Herman (17-10 in two years at Baylor; 39-14 in four years overall)

2018 record: 10-4 (7-2 Big 12)

Last bowl game: 2018 Sugar Bowl (beat Georgia, 28-21)

Returning starters: 5 offense, 3 defense, 3 specialists

Stadium: Darrel K. Royal Memorial Stadium

Capacity: 100,119


8/31 Louisiana Tech 7 p.m.

9/7 LSU 6:30 p.m.

9/14 at Rice 7 p.m.

9/21 Oklahoma State TBA

10/5 at WVU TBA

10/12 Oklahoma at Dallas 11 a.m.

10/19 Kansas TBA

10/26 at TCU TBA

11/9 Kansas State TBA

11/16 at Iowa State TBA

11/23 at Baylor TBA

11/29 Texas Tech 11 a.m.


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From misery to happiness: Why UNC’s Mack Brown became a football coach again at 67

AUGUST 24, 2019 05:30 AM, UPDATED AUGUST 24, 2019 09:30 AM


North Carolina coach Mack Brown addresses any doubts about his energy level and enthusiasm for coachingBY ROBERT WILLETT


The shelves in Mack Brown’s office are lined with photos, reminders of his more than 40 years of coaching college football.

There are pictures of him sharing hugs and conversations with other coaches and players. There’s one of Brown, his wife Sally and former president Barack Obama. And another with former president George W. Bush.

But among the many photos that grace his new office overlooking Kenan Stadium, there’s one that sticks out.

It’s the one of Brown holding a plaque moments after giving his ‘thank you’ speech at the College Football Hall of Fame awards ceremony in New York last December.

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Brown, who was hired to coach UNC for a second time in November, has 244 career wins, 34th-most in college football history. He has a national championship, multiple coach of the year awards and many other accomplishments.

For most, the image of a coach at his hall of fame induction ceremony would represent the end of his career. A chapter closed.

Not for Brown. His coaching chapter is still being written.



RAL_UNCFBPRAC-SP-081919-RTW30.JPG North Carolina coach Mack Brown thanks fans for coming to watch his team during the Tar Heels’ open practice in Kenan Stadium on Monday August 19, 2019 in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett RWILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM



In 2013, Brown stepped down as the head coach at Texas, and started working at ESPN as an analyst the following year.

Five months of the year, he lived in the North Carolina mountains with his wife, Sally. They spent the rest of their time in Austin, Tex. The two could vacation when they wanted. It was a nice life. A life Mack and Sally designed for themselves.

“Work hard while you’re young, relax and have fun when you get older,” Brown told The News & Observer in June.

But he found out he needed more than that, he said.

Less than a month before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Dec. 4, Brown accepted the head coaching job at UNC, which prompted some to ask ‘why?’

Brown, who turns 68 on Aug. 27, is the third-oldest active head coach in FBS Division I college football, behind Ohio’s Frank Solich, 74, and San Diego State’s Rocky Long, 69. The average age of an FBS college football coach is 49.6 years old.

Brown countered.

“The first thing I think is that 67 is really young right now,” Brown said in June, just days after he had knee replacement surgery. “It’s (Nick) Saban’s age. It’s Pete Carroll’s age. Roy Williams is 68.

“So a lot of guys are in the prime of their coaching really right now at 67 because it’s different. It’s a different time.”



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He also insists he’s full of energy.

“I’m jacked,” he said.

But why would Brown want to return to coaching?

He said he missed the camaraderie with the players and coaches. He missed making a difference in his players’ lives.

Vince Young, the former NFL quarterback who also led the Texas Longhorns to a BCS national title under Brown in 2005, said his former coach was like a father figure. He attended Brown’s Hall of Fame speech in December.

“It’s why I’m here today,” Young told The News & Observer at the ceremony. “He cared about you and he shows it. Everything that’s coming out his mouth, he means that.”

That’s why Brown got into coaching. But in his later years at Texas, Brown says he lost sight of that.


Play Video
Duration 1:15
Mack Brown: Growing up in Cookeville, TN

North Carolina coach Mack Brown talks about his roots, growing up and playing sports in his hometown of Cookeville Tenn

By Robert Willett




Coaching was all Brown knew.

He grew up in Cookeville, Tenn., the second of three boys.

Brown’s dad was a football coach and a principal. His brother became a Division I football coach. And Brown’s grandfather, Eddie Watson, was a high school coaching legend in Cookeville. At the time of his grandfather’s retirement, he was the all-time winningest coach in middle Tennessee history, Brown says with pride. The football stadium at Cookeville High is named after Watson.

When Brown was a small child, he and his older brother, Watson Brown, would ride to games in the front of the team bus that Eddie Watson would drive. The two brothers would wear X’s and O’s on the backs of their shirts and mimic football plays.

Brown admired his grandfather and wanted to be like him.

In college, Brown was a running back at Vanderbilt and Florida State. But a number of knee surgeries derailed his career. So he became a student coach at Florida State in 1973.

Over the next 10 years, Brown continued to work his way up the ranks as a college assistant coach, until he got his first break as the head coach at Appalachian State in 1983. He was 32.

He then went to Oklahoma as its offensive coordinator in 1984 before becoming the head coach at Tulane, where he spent three seasons. He became head coach at North Carolina in 1988.

When he moved to Chapel Hill, it was his ninth coaching job in 13 years. His job with the Tar Heels wasn’t initially easy.



IMG_0002.JPG_6_1_00ERTNGR_L433058737.JPG North Carolina head football coach Mack Brown, shown in a 1994 file photo, screams at an ACC referee following a reversal of a touchdown scored by the Tar Heels. CHARLOTTE OBSERVER FILE PHOTO



On a dreary, rainy Sept. 30 in 1989, Brown was in his second season with the Tar Heels. UNC had just lost to Navy, 12-7.

“Navy hadn’t beat a Division I-A team in two years,” Brown said this summer, as if still frustrated with the loss. “It was awful.”

“That was one we felt we would have won,” John Swofford, the former UNC athletic director, recalled in a phone interview with the N&O in December.”

The Tar Heels finished 1-10 in 1988, and seemed to be heading in the same direction in 1989.

Fans were upset and pressure on the coach was mounting.


Play Video
Duration 1:43
Mack Brown on the early years at North Carolina

Mack Brown shares the experience he has gained coaching, his recruiting philosophy and the wisdom he acquired working in television

By Robert Willett



After the Navy game, Swofford, who is currently the ACC Commissioner, offered to drive Brown to the Smith Center, where he would tape his weekly television show.

Brown got into Swofford’s car and broke down in tears.

“John, why don’t you just change,’” Brown said he told Swofford at the time. “‘It’s not working.’”

But Swofford declined Brown’s offer. He told Brown not to give up. Swofford felt Brown would turn things around, even if Brown didn’t see his own potential.

The Tar Heels finished with a winning record in each of their next eight seasons, and in 1996 and 1997, Brown was 20-3. During his first career at UNC, Brown was 69-46-1, with a 3-2 record in bowl games.

He became one of the most coveted coaches in college football, and after the 1997 season, moved on to coach Texas.

Under Brown, Texas won the BCS national championship in 2005. Young, who was the Longhorns’ quarterback at the time, scrambled for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone with less than 30 seconds left to win the game.

Brown said winning that BCS title was one of the best moments of his life. But it turned him into a monster.


Play Video
Duration 1:52
Mack Brown on winning the National Championship

Mack Brown talks about winning it all at Texas

By Robert Willett




After an undefeated 2005 season at Texas, winning became everything, Brown said.

But the wins were never enough. He says his team never played well in wins and he was miserable after every loss.

After beating a 1-3 Colorado team 38-14 in October 2009, Brown was angry. And he let his players know it, he said.

“It got to be about winning more than the players,” Brown said in June. “And I think that’s why I got tired in the end.”

From 2010 to 2013, Brown’s teams finished 5-7, 8-5, 9-4, 8-5. And at the end of the 2013 season, he announced his resignation from Texas.

“We talked about it for a while,” Sally Brown told the N&O last month. “We knew it was time for something new. A new chapter.”

He and Sally traveled for months, everywhere from the Bahamas to Hawaii, until Brown had had enough. He needed something to do and wanted to be close to football, so he joined ESPN as a college football analyst.



2007 AP_071227019396.JPG Texas head coach Mack Brown, center, urges his players on during the fourth quarter of the Holiday Bowl football game against Arizona State on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007 in San Diego. Texas won 52-34. Denis Poroy AP



Five years later, Sally was at her Austin, Tex. home when her phone rang.

It was Mack.

He was nearly 2,000 miles away in Bristol, Conn., on the set of ESPN’s ‘Who’s In?’. But he had something important to tell her.

North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham had offered him a job.

Hours earlier, Cunningham had fired Larry Fedora after a disappointing 2-9 season. Brown was Cunningham’s first and only choice, saying “others” throughout the season told him that Brown was the right fit.

Sally said she was shocked her husband wanted to coach again.

“Hmm. Well, come home and we’ll talk about it,” she said she told him. “We’ll do a list of pros and cons.”

“No, actually I have to tell them today,” she recalled him saying.

They talked it through. He had longed for the family environment he got with coaching a football team, and he wanted to mentor young men again. He also wanted to win and help make UNC football relevant again.

Sally gave Mack her blessing.



RAL_ACCKICKOFF-NE-071819-RTW06A.JPG North Carolina coach Mack Brown along with offensive tackle Charlie Heck, left and safety Myles Dorn pose during a photo shoot for the ACC Social Media group on Thursday morning July 18, 2019 during the ACC Kickoff at the Westin in Charlotte, N.C. Robert Willett RWILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM



When Brown was named UNC’s football coach on Nov. 27, 2018, he said at his introductory press conference that he and Sally liked to fix things, and they wanted to do that at UNC.

After 2019 spring practice, Brown gathered his players and asked them to write down everything they wanted him to change.

One of the requests was for a renovated players’ lounge. When the players returned for the fall season, the lounge had new carpets, games, televisions and two sleeping pods. Brown also had a new weight room built, the locker rooms renovated and Kenan Stadium’s old grass field converted to turf.

“I don’t think it’s one thing we wrote down that he hasn’t (changed),” UNC senior safety Myles Dorn told reporters at ACC media day in July.

When training camp started earlier this month, there was a noticeable difference in the attitudes of UNC’s players. Coming into training camp, players appeared excited and rejuvenated. They talked about starting fresh.

Dorn attributes the new attitude to seeing change. UNC senior offensive lineman Charlie Heck said the same.

“Coach Brown really knows how to get things done, and he gets what he wants,” Heck told reporters at ACC media day. “And what he wants is for the players to be happy.”

Brown’s hair is a lighter shade of gray than it was a decade ago. He’s not the same angry, tired person he was at Texas.

He’s happy again.

“There is no question in my mind that we should have come back,” Brown said in June. “(Sally) even talks about how I’ve got a lot more energy now than I had with TV because I’m excited again. I’m challenged. And it’s a lot of fun for me.”

In his office, surrounded by photos and mementos from the past 40 years, Brown leans back into his chair, crosses his arm and smiles.

He’s in his element. He has found what he had lost.



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  • 2021 Texas Football Schedule

    W 38-18
    L 21-40
    W 58-0
    Texas Tech
    W 70-35
    W 32-27
    L 48-55
    Oklahoma State
    L 24-32
    L 24-31
    @Iowa State
    L 7-30
    L 56-57 OT
    @West Virginia
    L 23-31
    Kansas State
    W 22-17

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