TEXAS FANS USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO HELP SANTOS’ MOTHER
NBA MVP: KEVIN DURANT
BASEBALL: TOP 5 MOMENTS
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5-STAR MYLES TURNER CHOOSES TEXAS
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THEY HIT HARD, HIT THEIR MARKS AND SCORED BIG FOR TEXAS THIS YEAR
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(V. 21, NO. 5) DISPLAY THRU JULY 2014
MARK PAYTON TAYLOR THOM MICHAEL HIXON HALEY ECKERMAN BREAUNNA ADDISON
32 Haley Eckerman continues to thrive on and off the volleyball court.
Five Who Thrive Each year, Horns Illustrated selects a group of outstanding athletes to profile for our June issue. These athletes not only excelled within their respective sports but made an impact that set the bar even higher for future Longhorns. This year, we are proud to present Michael Hixon (diving), Breaunna Addison (tennis), Taylor Thom (softball), Mark Payton (baseball) and Haley Eckerman (volleyball) as our Five Who Thrive
26 FOOTBALL A Tweet for Mama On April 20, junior linebacker Dalton Santos tweeted what became one of the most important tweets of his life. He asked his Twitter followers to contribute to his mother’s open-heart surgery and directed them to her web page. Within three days, people contributed $30,000 to help cover the surgery. When the fundraiser ended on May 15, $69,798 had been raised. A single mother of three, Vista Santos didn’t know how she would pay for her medical expenses. But a simple request tweeted by her eldest son may have solved that problem.
38 GOLF Not Fading Away Although many people connect Texas with football, Longhorn fans recognize the athletic prowess of the university’s other programs — including men’s and women’s golf. And this season, the Texas golf teams did not disappoint. The men captured the program’s fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship, while the women came in second — the team’s best finish of the season. And although both teams had a slow start to the season, the players fought hard when it counted the most.
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Sophomore Jordan Larkins sprang into action at the Longhorn Invitational, helping the men sweep the team title. The Los Angeles native placed ninth in the high jump with a jump of 6 feet, 6.75 inches. The invitational marked the Longhornsâ€™ final meet of the regular season.
CALENDAR MARK YOUR
WHAT’S GOING ON IN LONGHORN SPORTS
5/30–6/1 W RoWing
NCAA Championships Indianapolis, Ind. All Day
NCAA Super Regionals TBA
M/ W tR ack & field
NCAA Outdoor Championships Eugene, Ore. All Day
PR EVIOUS SPR EAD: BET HANY WALT ER/UN IV. OF TEXAS, THIS S PREAD CLOCKWISE FRO M TOP LEFT: BETHANY WALTER.UNIV. OF TEXAS, PATRICK MER EDI TH/UNIV. OF TEXAS , PATRI CK MEREDITH/UNIV. O F T EXAS.
College World Series Omaha, Neb. TBD
Lukas Schiraldi is focused on the postseason.
M/ W tR ack & field
USA Outdoor Championships Sacramento, Calif. All Day
Women’s College World Series Oklahoma City, Okla. TBD
INFORMATION SUBJECT TO CHANGE. CHECK WWW.TEXASSPORTS. COM FOR UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION
NCAA Regionals TBA
Nick Phynn and the Longhorns are just a hop, skip and jump away from the NCCAA Outdoor Championships. The Texas softball team has come together and is aiming to go far.
ROUNDUP JUNE 2014
JI M S IGM O N/UN IV .O F T E XA S
MEN’S GOLF WINS BIG 12 TITLE // TURNER PICKS TEXAS // COMIN’ ON STRONG ... AND HONEST
BACK-TO-BACK: The Texas men’s golf team fought off a one-stroke deficit after 54 holes to claim the Big 12 Conference Championship at Whispering Pines Golf Club. Fueled by even-par performances in the final round by senior Brax McCarthy and freshman Gavin Hall, the Longhorns fired a three-over-par 291 to top second-place Texas Tech by three strokes. The win marks the Longhorns’ second consecutive and fifth overall Big 12 Championship title. In total, Texas has claimed 44 conference championships since 1927. Men’s golf becomes the sixth Texas program to capture a Big 12 Conference Championship during the 2013-14 athletics season, joining volleyball, men’s swimming & diving, women’s swimming & diving, women’s indoor track & field and men’s tennis. Freshman Beau Hossler led the Longhorns over the 72-hole championship with a tie for third place, marking his second straight top-three finish of the season. Senior Toni Hakula finished two strokes behind Hossler to tie for fifth overall.
BASKETBALL / HONORS
THE HIGHEST HONOR
A TURN OF EVENTS: Myles Turner’s commitment pushed the Longhorns into a top-10 spot in the preseason polls.
A NIGHT OF RECOGNITION: Texas honored its female athletes at the 40th annual Longhorn Honors event on April 30.
ESPN 100, selected Texas over Kansas, Oklahoma State and Duke. The 7-foot Turner owns elite shot-blocking talent while also having the ability to make shots out from the 3-point line. His commitment caps a meteoric rise for the big man. As a sophomore, he had offers from only Baylor and North Texas. During his junior season, he was unranked until a monster spring vaulted him toward the top of the rankings. With Turner’s commitment, expectations will be high for a Texas squad that returns its entire roster from a team that won an NCAA tournament game this past season. In addition to Turner, the Longhorns have signed small forward Jordan Barnett, No. 86 in the ESPN 100.
2009 AVERY BRADLEY
2014 MYLES TURNER
2012 CAMERON RIDLEY
2009 JORDAN HAMILTON 8TH 2010 TRISTAN THOMPSON 10TH 2011 MYCK KABONGO
Texas has the No. 19 recruiting class in the nation.
TEAM OF THE YEAR: Indoor Track & Field
EDITH AND DARRELL K. ROYAL COCA-COLA SOLID CITIZEN AWARD: Samantha Tucker, Swimming
OUTSTANDING ROOKIE PERFORMANCE: Breaunna Addison, Tennis
TEXAS TOUGH AWARD: Marielle Hall, Track/Cross Country
JAMIE CAREY COMEBACK AWARD: Brady Sanders, Basketball
YLES TURNER, the No. 2 basketball player in the
HIGHEST RATED TEXAS RECRUITS SINCE 2007
2013-14 AWARD OF HIGHEST HONOR WINNERS
JILL A. STERKEL LEADERSHIP AWARD: Hannah Allison, Volleyball
LONGHORN ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Kaitlin Petrillose, Track & Field
TURNER SELECTS TEXAS
Athletics” at the Bass Concert Hall. This year marked the 40th annual awards presentation for intercollegiate athletics for women at Texas. The presentation honored the athletic excellence of the 2013-14 studentathletes and teams. It also featured six Awards of Highest Honor. Indoor track & field, which won the Big 12 Conference title and finished as runner-up at the NCAA Indoor meet in March, claimed Team of the Year honors. Tennis’ Breaunna Addison, who advanced to the NCAA Singles semifinals in her freshman season last May, earned Outstanding Rookie Performance. Pole vaulter Kaitlin Petrillose was named Athlete of the Year, winning the NCAA Indoor title by clearing a meet- and collegiate-record of 15 feet, 1 inch.
THIS S PREAD CLOCKW IS E FROM LEFT: C OURT ESY A. M EADOR , SUS AN S IGMO N/ UNIV. OF TEXAS, JIM SIGMON/UNIV. OF TEAXAS, PATRICK MEREDITH/UNIV. OF TEXSA, ALL OT HER PHOTOS BET HANY WALT ER/UN IV. OF TEXAS
TEXAS ATHLETICS played host to “Longhorn Honors: Women’s
TENNIS / SOFTBALL
LEADING LADY: After a second-place finish at the conference championship, Natalie Karcher recorded the Longhorns’ low individual finish at the NCAA Regional Championship with a share of 38th place.
S OFT B A L L
HIT WOMAN SENIOR BREJAE WASHINGTON cemented her name in the Texas softball record book once more, this time as the program’s all-time hits leader. She accomplished the feat during the Longhorns’ 3-0 Big 12 series-clinching win over Oklahoma State. With a leadoff bunt single in the first inning — Washington’s 246th in her career — she passed Lexi Bennett (2009-12) for the career hits record. Washington is now the program leader in six offensive categories, including: hits (247), triples (20), stolen bases (128), sacrifice hits (31) and sacrifice flies (10). On the afternoon, Washington went 2-for-3 with an RBI and stolen base.
HEAVY HITTER: Brejae Washington now owns the record for career hits (246).
OPHOMORE Natalie Karcher fired her third straight subpar
round during the final round of the Big 12 Championship to record a career-best second-place finish. The women’s golf team finished second in the team standings to mark a season-best performance before beginning the NCAA Championship portion of the postseason. With her first top-five career finish, Karcher earned a spot on the Big 12 All-Tournament Team. Karcher had a rough start on the front nine of The University of Texas Golf Club with three bogeys and one birdie, but she turned it around with three birdies on holes 13, 15 and 17 to finish 1-under-par 71 on the day. Junior Bertine Strauss also recorded a final round team-best 71 that included three birdies and one double bogey. Strauss tied for 15th with teammate freshman Julia Beck.
From Athlete to Coach KARINA SCOTT is a senior, but she doesn’t play nearly as often as her fellow classmates. She has started only 18 games in 2014 for the Texas softball team, sharing first base duties with sophomore Holly Kern. But even when she’s not on the field, Scott doesn’t lose focus on the game. Instead, she watches and prepares for her intended career path as a softball coach. “I don’t have any aspirations to continue playing,” Scott said. “My passion is behind the game and coaching.” In her three-plus years with the Longhorns, Scott holds a .276 batting average with 65 RBIs and 17 home runs. Scott, a Los Angeles native, is nearly flawless, covering first base with only five errors and a .990 career fielding percentage. Throughout her
LEARN BY DOING: An aspiring coach, Karina Scott is already providing guidance to her teammates.
career, Scott has helped the team behind the scenes. Scott even assisted Kern — her competition — with her footwork. “That just tells you that she’s an unselfish player,” head coach Connie Clark said. Although her four
years of eligibility will be up after the last out of the season, Scott still needs to finish her degree in youth and community studies. She plans to use her additional time on the 40 Acres to work with the team as a student coach.
Coming on Strong... and Honest
MEET THE NEW BOSS: The Comin’ on Strong Tour gave Texas fans an opportunity to meet Charlie Strong.
TEXAS HEISMAN HOPEFUL
ers if he reaches the second level. Gray can push runs to the edge and isn’t scared to pound the ball up the middle either. However, there are a number of factors working against Gray’s Heisman case.
FROM RICKY WILLIAMS to Earl
Campbell, running back is a lofty position at Texas because of one word — Heisman. So fans shouldn’t be surprised that Texas’ next best chance at a Heisman comes in the form of Johnathan Gray. Gray is the top back on a roster featuring one of the best trios in the country. The top running back recruit in the class of 2012, Gray broke almost every state rushing record during high school. He’s quick in open space and can break away from defend-
First, he needs to remain healthy. Gray suffered a torn Achilles last season and complete recovery is
paramount for any chance for a great season. According to Charlie Strong, he’s on pace to return for fall workouts. Second, Gray shares the backfield with Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Both runners command more than 100 carries each season, taking away production from Gray. This arrangement keeps Gray fresh but hinders his ability to pile up yards. Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Gray’s Heisman hopes comes from Texas itself. Great numbers get a player so far, but a successful team is needed for voters to give a player’s season credence. The Longhorns need to return to national prominence to thrust Gray into the spotlight.
TEXAS SPIRIT WHILE STUDENT-ATHLETES’
schedules tend to leave little time for outside activities, a few athletes join campus spirit organizations with the intent of giving back to the community. Miles Onyegbule, who DIFFERENCErecently switched from tight end MAKER: Miles to quarterback, was selected to Onyegbule is one join Texas Cowboys, an all-male of the few athletes involved in a campus spirit and service organization. spirit organization. The group maintains and operates Smokey, the cannon that gets fired off at Longhorn football games. “It’s a getaway from the limeevents. light of football,” Onyegbule said. “You get “Bitter because I can’t spend as much to travel around the city and campus doing time with my fellow Spurs due to my athphilanthropy and service events where the letic responsibilities,” McFarland said. “Yet pressures are greatly minimized.” sweet because when I do spend time with Tight end M.J. McFarland is the only them, it’s always a good time.” athlete who’s a member of the Texas Silver The Silver Spurs is a spirit organization Spurs. McFarland said his experience has responsible for handling all events involving been bittersweet because his schedule Bevo. doesn’t allow him to attend all mandatory
THIS SPREAD CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOME LEFT: MATT HEMPHEL/UNIV. OF TEXAS,, JIM SIGMON/UNIV. OF TEXAS, SUSAN SIGMON/UNIV. OF TEXAS, JIM SIGMON/ UNIV. OF TEXAS, JIM SIGMON/UNIV. OF TEXAS
FTER VISITS TO Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston and Tyler, the “Comin’ On Strong” barnstorming bus tour stopped by Sunset Station in San Antonio and drew a sold-out crowd of nearly 800 fans. Head coach Charlie Strong closed out the two-hour event with a speech about the progress the team is making and the process to get there. “We know this — we’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’re going to get better and we’ll continue to get better.” For Strong, the travel is an unusual post-spring, back-and-forth demand, but one he’s embracing. And he continues to be available to the players. He held meetings with every player before hitting the road. Each player meeting gets 15 minutes and the truth: If you’re a starter, he said so. If you aren’t, get to work. He’s trying to be as honest with the Texas fan base, too. During the tour, Strong acknowledged that this Texas team will likely not play for a national championship. Some fans were outraged. Some nodded their heads. Like it or not, it’s truthful. “I know you’re excited, but it’s only April 28th,” Strong told the crowd. “Let’s not get out of hand. We’ve still got a ways to go.” Texas officials began planning the 11-stop tour immediately after Strong was hired.
WONDER WOMEN BACK ON TOP T R ACK & FI ELD
THE TEXAS WOMEN, paced by eight
OPHOMORE Breaunna Addison and freshmen Neda Koprcina and Pippa Horn captured the league championship for their respective singles positions this season. Addison won the Big 12 title at No. 1 singles while Koprcina and Horn won titles at Nos. 4 and 5 singles, respectively. Koprcina is a co-champion at No. 4 singles alongside athletes from Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. For just the second time in the 18-year history of Big 12 tennis, Texas crowned two freshmen as Big 12 singles champions in the same season. This marks the second time, out of the last three seasons, that the Longhorns secured Big 12 league titles at three of the six
WAVE OF TALENT: Breaunna Addison (pictured), Neda Koprcina and Pippa Horn claimed individual conference titles.
singles positions. Addison became Texas’ third Big 12 champion at No. 1 singles and the first since Petra Dizdar in 2005. The All-American collects her second straight Big 12 individual crown after winning the league title at No. 2 singles last season as a first-semester freshman. Addison went a perfect 8-0 in league play and won 16 of 17 sets played at No. 1 singles. She’s one of only two players this season to defeat college tennis’ topranked player, North Carolina’s Jamie Loeb. Koprcina, like Addison last season, won the conference title as a first-semester freshman. She compiled a 6-3 mark in league play, including a 5-3 record at No. 4 singles. Horn captured Texas’ fourth Big 12 individual title at No. 5 singles.
KINGS OF THE COURT JUNIOR Soren Hess-Olesen and sophomore Nick Naumann both
went undefeated to capture Big 12 regular season titles at their respective singles positions. Hess-Olesen held a 5-0 mark at No. 1 singles during Big 12 play — all against nationally ranked opponents. He won seven consecutive contests and was a two-time Big 12 Player of the Week this season. Hess-Olesen is the first Longhorn to win a Big 12 regular season title at No. 1 singles. Naumann finished the regular season with a 5-0 record at No. 5 singles and has a team-high 19 wins during dual match play. He’s the fifth Longhorn to win the Big 12 title at No. 5 singles and the first since Josh Zavala in 2010.
event victories, won the Big 12 Outdoor Track & Field Championship, completing the league season sweep. The men were the runners-up for the second time this season in conference title meets. The women’s victory marked the fifth time in program history that the women swept both indoor and outdoor titles. Texas Tech captured the men’s crown with 160.50 points. The Longhorns ended with 125 points in the men’s standings, which included victories by Ryan Crouser in the shot put and discus. For the women, Morolake Akinosun won both the 100 and 200 meters. Courtney Okolo set a meet record in the 400 and eclipsed the collegiate mark with a time of the 50.03 seconds. Her time is first on the 2014 IAAF World performance list. Akinosun and Okolo also ran legs in the victorious 4x100-meter relay unit, which clocked a season-best 43.54. Danielle Dowie claimed her second Big 12 title in the 400-meter hurdles. Senior Marielle Hall won the 1,500 meters, her fourth Big 12 title in the last two seasons. She was the favorite in the 5,000, but with the team title in hand, was scratched from the event. Shanay Briscoe claimed her league-record seventh high jump title and Kaitlin Petrillose won the pole vault. The Longhorn men, who had five event victories, had a strong finish to the meet. Zack Bilderback became the first Longhorn to win the Big 12 men’s outdoor 400-meter title. Senoj-Jay Givans captured the 200 in a wind-aided 20.28 and was second in the 100 with a time of 9.90
LET THE BEST MAN WIN: Nick Naumann took the Big 12 individual title at No. 5 singles.
B A SEB A LL
Augieisms HEAD BASEBALL
coach Augie Garrido may be known for producing winners, but his ability to deliver one-liners tops the best of them. Here are five quotes — or Augieisms — from the 75-year-old coach that best reflect his quick wit. “I used to have the body of a Greek God. Now I’ve got the body of a goddamn Greek.” “There are three parts to our game: get on base, advance runner, score runners.” “Baseball is nothing more than another classroom in the educational process. Baseball is a metaphor for life.” Reporter: “How are you doing?” Garrido: “I’m not telling you anything.” “We spent all fall attacking our biggest problem from last year — the word ‘entitlement.’”
ON THE RECORD:
“That great paragon of analytical rigor, Ask.Com says that the average American will meet 10,000 people in their lifetime. That’s a lot of folks. But if every one of you changed the lives of just ten people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another ten people, then in five generations — 125 years — the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800 million people. Eight hundred million people. Over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation and you can change the entire population of the world — 8 billion people.” – ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN during his May 2014 Commencement speech. McRaven, BJ ’77, Life Member and Distinguished Alumnus, is the commander of U.S. Special Operations and led Operation Neptune Spear, which resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
HORNS ILLUSTRATED 17
BLOCK VISION: David Anzaldua PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: joins Roadrunners offensive The the Mavericks’ springatgame was antackle. other step in the team’s preparation for the fall season.
W GOLF SENIOR FABIOLA ARRIAGA competed
CALENDAR JUNE 2014
TRACK & FIELD
11-14: NCAA Outdoor Championships Eugene, Ore., All Day
BY STEPHEN WHITAKER
team held its fourth consecutive spring game at the Alamodome on April 26. The game was played in conjunction with the Fiesta celebrations that overtake San Antonio for two weeks in April. The spring game rewarded the usual points for touchdowns and field goals but also gave one point for each first down on offense. The defense earned three points for stops and five points for a takeaway or safety. The defense won the spring game 52-33 despite several shining moments from the offense. The offense’s lone touchdown came on a 69-yard touchdown pass from Tucker Carter to Kenny Harrison. “Kenny just crossed and made it easy,” Carter said after the game. “I put the ball on his chest and he did the rest of the work.”
Nine of the offense’s points came off the leg of senior kicker Sean
HE ROADRUNNER FOOTBALL
Ianno. Carter went 11-for-22 with 125 yards passing and an interception to go with his touchdown pass. Quarterback Austin Robinson also played and finished 20-for-34 with 164 yards passing and two interceptions. The spring game was another step in the Roadrunners’ preparation for a 2014 season that will feature three nationally televised games. Two of those games will take place at home. “I thought we improved as a team,” head coach Larry Coker said. “We did some good things this spring and improved in a lot of areas.” UT San Antonio opens its season on Aug. 29 against the Houston Cougars in the inaugural game at the new Cougar Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN News. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. CST.
M GOLF FOR THE SECOND time in team history, a member of the men’s golf team earned a spot on the conference All-Freshman Team. The first player to accomplish the feat was Ryan Were, who won 2011 Southland Conference Freshman of the Year. This season it was Bryce Alley, a native of Longview, Texas, who was named to the conference AllFreshman Team. Alley ranked on the team with a 74.19-stroke average in his inaugural college season.
FR OM LEFT: COURTES Y JEFF HUEHN/UTSA ATHLETICS
THE NEXT GENERATION
at the NCAA West Regional hosted by the University of Washington on May 8. The regional was held at Tumble Creek Club at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, Wash. Making her fourth consecutive NCAA appearance, Arriaga was one of 18 individuals selected for the championship. She competed against five other players from 24 teams at the tournament. Arriaga captured the Conference USA Championship in April at Gulf Shores, Ala. She shot a 9-under-par 207 to win the title by a four-stroke advantage. The Torreon, Mexico, native was named first-team All-Conference USA on April 30 and became the first player in program history to earn four firstteam all-conference certificates. She has registered two straight top-two and five top-20 finishes this season.
UTA ROUNDUP CALENDAR JUNE 2014
TRACK & FIELD
11-14: NCAA Outdoor Championships Eugene, Ore., All Day
BASEBALL John Michael Twichell was named Sun Belt Conference Hitter of the Week after hitting .417 over the course of a four-game road trip. A Dallas native, Twichell started just one of the Mavericks’ four games, but that didn’t stop him from playing a major role in the outcome of each game. He hit three home runs, including two against Troy, scored four runs and drove in four more. His slugging percentage for the week was a robust 1.250. Twichell’s award is the third weekly Sun Belt award earned by a UT Arlington player this season.
WITHIN THEIR GRASP: Brad Mason and the Roadrunners maintained a first-place position in the conference championship until the final day.
THE UT ARLINGTON women’s tennis team’s season came to an end when the Mavs fell 4-3 to South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference Championship semifinals. Elizabeth Thomas led the way for the Mavericks, winning the No. 1 singles matchup and pairing with Angeles de los Rios to win the top doubles match. The Mavericks wrapped up their season with a final record of 12-8 overall and 1-1 in the Sun Belt Championship.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
TRACK & FIELD
COURTESY ELLMAN PHOTOGR AP HY/UTA ATHLET ICS
BY STEVE LANSDALE
T ARLINGTON men’s golf team held the lead each day at the Sun Belt
Conference Championship — until the end of the tournament, when the Mavericks found themselves entrenched in third place. “We should’ve won the championship,” coach Jay Rees said. “We had the team total to 6-under-par for the day. We left some shots out there. We didn’t take advantage of the par-5s overall.” “I know a couple of the guys wished they could have played a couple of holes over again,” he added, “but you get one shot.” Joss Gosling shot 1-under-par to finish eighth overall in the tournament. He finished a single shot ahead of teammate Brad Mason, who finished at even par. “Brad ended his career on a positive note, with a two-under-par 70,” Rees said. “Another positive fact — all the guys finished in the top 20.”
LEADING THE FIELD: Emil Blomberg earned Athlete of the Week honors after his performance at the Mt. SAC Relays.
DISTANCE RUNNER Emil Blomberg was named Sun Belt Conference Men’s Outdoor Track & Field Athlete of the Week after placing 10th in the 3,000meter run at the Mt. SAC Relays. Blomberg’s time of 8:53.86 is the fastest time this year by a runner at any Sun Belt school by more than 26 seconds and was less than two seconds shy of his all-time school record. His time ranks 30th in the NCAA this season and 15th among competitors in the West Region. Blomberg already had been named Sun Belt Men’s Most Outstanding Track Athlete and was named the High Point Scorer at the league championship after winning the mile and 3,000-meter run and finishing second in the 5,000 meters.
SPIRIT OF THE MONTH / ALUMNI
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
SPI R I T OF T H E MON T H
ALASTAIR JENKIN TENNIS (2000-04)
BY SARA BETH PURDY
Texas Rugby draws in athletes from a variety of majors around campus, who all play simply for the love of the sport. The team isn’t affiliated with the NCAA, therefore allowing the players to also act as the club’s administrators. This year, Texas Rugby finished in the top eight in 15-on-15 (also referred to as 15s) and in the top 12 in 7-on-7 (7s). The athletes compete almost-year round. Some players even play with teams around the city to keep from getting rusty during the offseason. Throughout the year, Texas Rugby competes in several different major competitions. As part of the 7s season, the team plays in the USA Rugby 7s Nationals, the Las Vegas Invitational and the Collegiate Rugby Championship — all of which are the top three 7s tournaments in the nation. As part of the 15s season, Texas Rugby competes against the top 12 teams in the country in the Varsity Cup, the premier 15s conference in the nation. The team holds regular practices two to three times a week. The players also get together for film ORMED IN 1985,
How can someone get involved in Texas Rugby?
Just come out to practice and get a feel for the game. We don’t hold formal tryouts or make any cuts — we are open to anyone joining the team. Rugby is the greatest sport in the world, so why deprive anyone of it? Instead of holding tryouts, we have an A team, B team and so on. We try and schedule as many matches as possible so that everyone at Texas has the opportunity to play. What are your thoughts about rugby not being an NCAA-affiliated sport?
There are teams that are considered varsity and receive the same resources as an NCAA program. However, the majority of teams don’t fall into that category. We all compete under the same umbrella and the nonvarsity programs are expected to compete at the same level as the varsity programs. From an administrative standpoint, I would love to see the sport become NCAA affiliated. The sport would grow exponentially but I find comfort in the fact that we accomplish a lot by our own hard work. What is the mentality of Texas Rugby?
sessions and extra workouts that focus on skill training throughout the week. Texas Rugby also includes CrossFit in its training regime. Matches take place on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year. Daniel Camara is a senior Psychology major and the current Texas Rugby president. He spoke with Horns Illustrated to answer a few questions about the team.
One of the reasons I fell in love with this program is because we embody grit. Most of us are either engineering, pre-med, business or pre-law students, but we still work hard to succeed against teams that have the money of a varsity program. We’re a bunch of guys with a lot on our plate, yet everyone kills himself to make the program better. The sport attracts a certain character. The sport forces you to push yourself physically and mentally. You need the conditioning of a soccer player and the toughness of a football player. What is your favorite tradition?
Most people don’t know about the tradition to host your opponents. In most sports, you’re taught to treat the other team as the enemy, but this isn’t the case in rugby. We have built relationships with some of the teams we’ve played and we see them friends.
Jenkin helped the Texas tennis team advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2001 and to the Round of 16 in 2002 and ’03. As a Longhorn from 2000-04, Jenkin majored in Civil Engineering. Jenkin says his biggest accomplishment during his time at Texas was making the Academic All-Big-12 team and receiving the UT Athletics Provost Award. He also served as a member of the UT Commission of 125 Student Panel and the UT Student Advisory Committee. Beating Texas A&M at home in front of a packed house remains one of Jenkin’s favorite memories. He values the lessons he learned both on and off the court as a Texas athlete. “You have to stand up for yourself to be successful,” Jenkin said. “Life isn’t always an easy road, you have to know what you want, know what is best for you, and pursue it with hard work. People will knock you down, but it’s how you get up and push forward that matters.” Jenkin currently develops real estate in Austin, where he still resides. His most recent project is Coldwater — an upscale apartment project on Barton Springs Road near Zilker Park — that opened this spring and includes “The Picnic,” a permanent trailer food court. “Getting my degree in engineering enabled me to work in land development for seven years before making the jump to development,” he said. In his free time, Jenkin enjoys playing sand volleyball, golf and running the Greenbelt and Lady Bird Lake to stay in shape. He’s also finally learning to wakeboard after living in Austin for 13 years. — JAMES SCHLEICHER
FR OM LEFT: COURTESY T EXAS RUGBY, COURTES Y ALASTAIR JENKIN, COURT ESY ALASTAIR JENKIN
FR OMLEFT: JIM SIGMON/UNIV. OF TEXAS, UT ATHLET ICS PHOT OGRAPHY
HAD THE PRIVILEGE of attending the “Comin’ on Strong Tour” on April 28 when the tour stopped in San Antonio. The event went off without a hitch. Eight hundred people heard from not only coach Charlie Strong but also from soccer coach Angela Kelly, former women’s basketball coach Jody Conradt, baseball coach Augie Garrido, women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky and men’s athletic director Steve Patterson. Most people can’t identify the coaches from the other sports, so this gave them a chance to put a face with a name. The tour highlighted all Texas sports — not just the football team. The crowd heard from people who work behind the scenes and play a pivotal role in Texas’ success. Fans also had the opportunity to get autographs from the coaches and former athletes. Among the Texas Exes, Wane McGarity (football 199598), Chris Samuels (football, 1987-90), Ahmad Brooks (football 19982001) and Angie Vaughn (Track & Field, 199598) attended. Strong, however, was the main event. When he spoke, he commanded everyone’s attention. He talked about his expectations for the program and what it meant to be a Longhorn. One of the key points he made was about the players having to earn the right to put their Horns up after a game. If they haven’t put in the work, the players are not allowed to put up their Horns during “The Eyes of Texas.” Instead, they will hold up their helmets. The statement shocked some people, but it bodes well to what’s expected of the players both on and off the field. Strong and this staff have a tremendous amount of respect for Texas tradition. I believe that the general understanding of what it means to be a Longhorn had been lacking for the past few years; once you take care
of that, everything else falls into place. Putting the T back in Texas and the school’s tradition are things that some coaches might not address early on, but Strong has made it a big point to take care of that from the get-go. As far as how Strong thought the football team would do in the fall, he didn’t give a definite answer. He did say it’s not so much about the wins and losses as it is the level of intensity and respect the players have for the program. Fans should expect to see a lot of intensity this fall. The offense will look similar to the Louisville offense. Guys will play in attack mode on both sides of the ball. I don’t think the stamp has been placed on the specific scheme, and that continues to be a work in progress, but it’s moving in the right direction. Honestly, when I got to meet him for the first time, I was nervous and I’m generally not the nervous type. But knowing that he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and can still stand up and have so much pride for the Longhorn program — it speaks volumes about the type of person he is. So I was nervous but he was reassuring and strong even in the conversation that we had — no pun intended. You get the sense that he means what he says and he says what he means. He gives me the impression of a 100 percent coach. He’s completely dedicated and wants to see the players excel in all that they do. The whole Comin’ on Strong Tour was a brilliant idea and I hope that’s something the program continues to do. Strong’s all-business demeanor can rub people the wrong way, but the tour gave everyone a chance to get to see his personal side. I think we’re all going to like what we see on the field next fall.
JOHNNY WALKER’S RESUME • Played football and baseball at Texas from 1987-90 • Two-time All-Southwest Conference • Caught the game-winning reception to beat Oklahoma in 1990 • Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1990 (4th round)
“Knowing that he has the weight of the world on his shoulders and can still stand up and have so much pride for the Longhorn program — it speaks volumes about the type of person he is. ”
Way’s Top 5
CRAIG WAY RECALLS HIS FAVORITE MOMENTS OF THE 2014 BASEBALL SEASON
S THE VOICE OF THE LONGHORNS, Craig Way broadcasts the most thrilling moments of the Texas baseball season to fans listening in places near and far. In this month’s Media Voices column, Way highlights his five favorite moments of the 2014 season.
For me, it’s easy to pinpoint the top four moments of the season but number five remains a toss-up. The Longhorns’ early season 12th-inning win over UT Pan-American and their win at Rice after having won the series at Texas Tech the weekend before tie for number five. The number four moment of the season was Game 1 at Oklahoma. The Longhorns had a 6-0 lead and just like that, it disappeared. The team faced some defensive and pitching issues. All of a sudden, the game was tied at 6-6 and then Texas was down 8-6. Going into the 7th, they tied it up 8-8 and then they topped the Sooners going into the 10th. C.J. Hinojosa led off in the top of the 10th and homered. The Longhorns ended up scoring two in that inning and won 10-8. That game kick-started the three-game sweep.
Number three is the Sunday afternoon win over Texas Tech in Lubbock. The victory allowed Texas to win that series — a feat that continues to look more impressive given the fact that Texas Tech has won 36 ball games and Texas sits a game behind them in the Big 12 standings (as of early May). Texas won Friday, Texas Tech won Saturday, and the Longhorns had a two-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth on Sunday. John Curtiss came out of the bullpen and the Red Raiders scored two runs, including a steal of home on a 1-2 pitch with two outs. Then the Longhorns came up with two runs. Curtiss righted the ship after the ninth and Madison Carter came up with a big base hit in the 12th to power the Longhorns to the 5-2 win.
ing. Twenty minutes later the storm hit and the game was delayed for two hours. Thornhill had thrown only 42 pitches because he’d been on the money. He stayed warm through the entire delay and returned to the game even better than the first four innings. Thornhill threw another 46 pitches for a complete game. I’ve never seen a pitcher come back after a delay like that, much less pitch that effectively. In the booth, Keith Moreland said his breaking ball had more break to it, his changeup more devastating, and his fastball had more zip on it. He earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors after that — it was the only complete game that any Longhorn pitcher has thrown this season — and it completed the three-game sweep over Oklahoma. The number one moment of the 2014 season to date is the Mark Payton walk-off hit against Baylor. The offense was stymied and Texas was down 4-2 going into the bottom of the ninth. At the time, Payton’s streak of reaching base safely stood at 69 games (a school record that continues to grow) and he had gone 0-for-4 so far in the game. The Longhorns batted in order in the bottom of the eighth — which is a key point to this moment. In order for Payton to get
TWEETS JON MADANI @Zone_Madani: Six Lifetime Longhorns will be in the NBA Playoffs: @aldridge_12 , @ DJAugustinHub , @ KDTrey5 , @J_Goin_ HAM , @Cory_Joe and @Dexter__Pittman (Apr. 18)
ROD BABERS @ rodb314: But... there is hope Charlie Strong’s regime produced 4 draft picks in the top 75.
@rodb314: Never thought I’d see day when couples feed each other cake during the NFL draft but times are a changing...& I’m lovin every minute if it.
My number two moment also comes from the Oklahoma series, but this one is from the Sunday afternoon game. Nathan Thornhill wound up with most unusual complete game I’ve ever seen in baseball — anywhere. Thornhill pitched the first four innings, the Longhorns batted in the top of the fifth and they led the game. I knew a rainstorm was coming — I could see it in the distance. But all of a sudden, Oklahoma’s grounds people ran out and stopped the game even though the sun was still shin-
CRAIG WAY @craigway1: Congratulations
another opportunity at bat, the Longhorns needed to send five men to the plate in the ninth, three would have to reach base and not double play. And it all happened. First, Carter hit what should’ve been a routine grounder to short, but the Baylor shortstop fiddled around with it and Carter got on base due to the error. Then Kacy Clemens had a screaming liner for the first out. Zane Gurwitz fought off an inside pitch to bloop a single. The Longhorns had two on base and one out. Brooks Marlow got down in the count but fought off a few pitches and worked a walk. Then Ben Johnson struck out, bringing Payton to the plate with the bases loaded. He got ahead in the count 3-1 and the pitcher delivered a pitch up-and-in that should’ve been ball four. Payton started out of the box and the umpire called strike. The next pitch he got one on the lower half and ripped it down the left-field line. All three Longhorns scored and they won. The game touched off a sweep of Baylor.
to Brejae Washington--246 hits and now the all-time hits leader for Texas Softball. #greatsenior
@Craigway1: @chrisgb00---I am ! Rupp Arena is one of those “bucket list” broadcasting venues. (On Texas Basketball playing at Kentucky next season)
FR OM LEFT : BETHANY WALTER/UNIIV. OF TEXAS, ALL HEAD SHOTS C OUR TESY AM 1300 THE ZONE
THE GOLDEN TOUCH WITH THREE FORMER PLAYERS SELECTED TO PLAY PROFESSIONALLY, STRONG’S FUTURE IMPACT ON TEXAS IS EVIDENT
JIM SIGMON/UNIV. OF TEXAS
positives for the Texas program in terms of Charlie Strong is that three of his former Louisville players were selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. And one of those players was Teddy Bridgewater. When recruiting, coaches sell whatever positives are fresh on the minds of players. The days when a Texas staff could milk the Vince Young and Colt McCoy eras for all they were worth are long gone. Shawn Watson — the Longhorns’ assistant head coach for offense and quarterbacks coach — can now tell recruits he developed a first-round quarterback in the NFL Draft, which is something that matters to high school prospects hoping to one day make it to the NFL. I’ve heard from sources that Watson is vastly underrated as a developer of quarterbacks and NE OF THE BIGGEST
that he did a lot to turn Bridgewater into one of the best signal callers available for this draft.Watson needs to sell that idea to recruits when he’s out on the trail this spring. He now has the ammunition to go out and get a franchise quarterback — something the Longhorns need. While the search for a championship quarterback continues, something Texas shouldn’t be longing for in 2014 are talented defensive players. From the moment Strong was hired, I knew Texas wouldn’t have any problem recruiting defensive players. Louisville safety Calvin Pryor and hybrid defensive end Marcus Smith both went in the draft’s first night and both are proof that Strong can develop talent on the defensive side of the ball. Neither prospect was highly recruited — both recruits were mid- to low three-star prospects according to the 247Sports Composite rankings — but were great finds by Strong and his staff. Strong’s track record before he arrived at Louisville suggests he can help prospects get to the NFL no matter how hyped or underrated they may be. In seven full recruiting cycles at Florida, where Strong was the defensive coordinator under
Ron Zook and Urban Meyer, 10 players became premium-round selections (selected within the first three rounds of the draft) and four of them were first-round selections. Add it all up and Strong has recruited and coached six first-round draft choices on defense since the 2007 NFL Draft. These players have accounted for two national titles, three conference titles and two other BCS bowl wins. Texas shouldn’t have a problem recruiting good defensive prospects and getting them to reach their ceilings under Strong’s watch. — JEFF HOWE / HORNS247.COM
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Former Longhorn Kevin Durant was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player this season. He’s the first Longhorn to earn the honor. But what impressed fans across the nation was Durant’s MVP acceptance speech, which many have dubbed one of the greatest acceptance speeches of all time. Our Facebook fans couldn’t have agreed more.
We knew you were special when you played for Texas. I can say after that speech, we can say you’re great. Such a classy man. – Brenda Price
I’m an Aggie through and through, but I have to admit a class act when I see one. Too bad Johnny couldn’t have been half this classy. – John Humbert
Wow! So humble, so honest, and so thankful. What a great moment for his mom. She truly is the MVP. Hook ‘Em! – Jose Montoya
Two life goals in the same day! So grateful. #YourTimeHasCome #MVP – KEVIN DURANT (@KDTrey5)
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I was cooking dinner when this came on the news …I bawled my eyes out. What an appreciative son! – Brenda Kaye
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Motivation for today: I know what I bring to the table so I’m not afraid to eat alone. – JOE BERGERON (@LL_Cool_Joe24)
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If Durant’s speech doesn’t move you, you aren’t human ... utmost respect for him. Durant = Class – Stephen John Balderrama
Dream come true competing at Augusta! Deserving champion in @bubbawatson — incredibly played. Stinging badly but it’s just fuel going forward! –Jordan
You can’t tell me the class of 2011 isn’t one of the realest classes. I’m talking about across the nation. Proof is in the draft class.
– MALCOLM BROWN (@MallyCat_28)
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Just a thought: what if all the fans in DKR did the Wolf of Wall Street hum before we came out of the tunnel? –TREY HOLTZ (@TreyHoltz)
@jaclyneaster: Everything is bigger in Texas!
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COURTESY A MEADOR/ TRINITY H.S.
MEET THE T-ASSOCIATION
The T-Association is an organization made up of former varsity athletics letter winners. An additional designation for the T-Association members is the T-Ring, which is awarded to an athlete who lettered for 2 or more years, who did not compete the last 2 years of eligibility anywhere other than The University of Texas and who graduated from college. David McWilliams, former Longhorn head football coach, currently serves as the executive director for the T-Association. T-Association Mission - The T-Association’s mission is to create and maintain an enhanced atmosphere and structure whereby UT student-athletes become lifetime members of The University of Texas Athletics family and are welcomed, involved and encouraged to participate during and after their college tenure. TAPN Mission - The Letter Winner’s Professional Network exists to unite the members of the T-Association on a professional level by providing networking opportunities and a database of contacts, thereby furthering the opportunities, community, education and success of Longhorn Letter Winners. CONTACT INFORMATION: firstname.lastname@example.org 512.471.6864
THE HABE ON THE HORNS BY STEVE HABEL
MYLES TURNER AND THE LONGHORNS CONTINUE TO RAISE EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 2014-2015 SEASON.
Y ALL ACCOUNTS, the men’s basketball team’s 2013-14 season was a huge success. Despite putting a squad on the floor that sported only one upperclassman on scholarship, the Longhorns won 24 games and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament. In the months since the campaign ended, expectations for Rick Barnes’ team continued to ramp up. Every player is expected to be back in the fold next fall — something that had plenty of college basketball prognosticators predicting a spot for the Longhorns in the preseason top 15. That all changed on April 30 when Myles Turner, one of the toprated prep players in the nation, donned a burnt-orange bucket hat emblazoned with the Longhorns’ logo and signed with Texas. In minutes, Texas roared from a possible top-15 team to a definite top-10 squad that should contend for the Big 12 championship and could MYLES TURNER make inroads toward a national title. “We’re excited to welcome Myles to our basketball family,” Barnes said in what could be considered the understatement of the year. “As pleased as we are to get to work with him on the basketball court in the near future, we’re more excited because of the type of person that Myles is. He’s just getting started in terms of his basketball development.” Turner, ranked the No. 2 overall prospect in the nation by ESPN, No. 4 by 247Sports and No. 9 by Rivals.com, is the highest rated Texas recruit since Avery Bradley, who was No. 1 in 2009. He chose the Longhorns after receiving offers from Kansas, Oklahoma State and Duke,
among many others. Turner is an elite shotblocking talent and has the ability to make buckets from outside the 3-point line. Turner gives the Longhorns a three-man recruiting class for the 2014-15 season that includes incoming freshman forward Jordan Barnett and junior transfer center Shaquille Cleare, who most recently played for Maryland. Per the NCAA transfer rules, Cleare will be permitted to practice and work out with the Longhorns when he begins taking classes at Texas. He’ll have two seasons of collegiate eligibility remaining, beginning in the 2015-16 season. “In looking at the entire class, we needed size and athleticism on the wing. We also need to continue improving our skill set and depth in the frontcourt,” Barnes said. “Most importantly, we needed to find individuals who fit our program, the culture and chemistry that our returning players worked so hard to develop last year.” “We’re not looking to be a really good team for just one year,” he added. “We’re looking to be a consistently good program for a long period of time.” Barnes’ program has come a long way since the Longhorns suffered multiple transfers after the debacle of the 2012-13 season. Texas was picked to finish eighth in the 10-team Big 12 before last season. The Longhorns look to be a team that will need to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future. In the words of Mortimer Snerd, “Who’da thunk it.” Just sayin’, ya know? The Habe is Steve Habel, Horns Illustrated’s Associate Editor. He was the magazine’s first staff member, in 1994, and has covered Texas sports ever since.
Mama BY JAY PLOTKIN
E HAS SENT MORE than 1,500 tweets since creating his Twitter account, but none will ever mean more than the one he posted April 20 at 3:39 p.m. “Raise $ for my mom’s open heart surgery! Vista’s Angry Aortic Aneurysm | Medical Expenses - http://YouCaring.com…” In the wake of that tweet — which was retweeted more than 400 times — an overwhelming number of people came forward and supported junior linebacker Dalton Santos and his family.
“I just tried to get the word out there to help her,” Santos said. “The way people have responded — it’s amazing. These people are easing my mind and my heart because of the kind things they’re saying and the things that they’re doing.” Three days earlier, Santos was in a much different state of mind. He received a call from his 17-year-old brother Wyatt, who told him that their mother, Vista Santos, needed medical attention. “My brother called me and said they were rushing mom to the ER,” Santos said. “I had no idea what was happening.”
The diagnosis didn’t lift spirits. Doctors found an aneurysm on Vista’s aorta that needed immediate attention. On the eve of the annual spring scrimmage, Santos hopped in his car and headed to Tyler. After a five-hour trip, he reached his mother’s side to learn more about her diagnosis. Vista’s angry aortic aneurysm — as her friends dubbed it — caused a portion of her aorta to grow more than twice its normal size. In order to repair her aorta, she needed to undergo open-heart surgery. The news brought the family to tears.
THIIS SPREAD FROM LEFT: COURT ESY YOURCAR ING.C OM ,JIM SIGMON/UNI V. OF T EXAS
IN NEED OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT, DALTON SANTOS TURNED TO TWITTER TO REQUEST HELP ON BEHALF OF HIS MOTHER
“I never thought I’d have to look at my mom, the person who’s always been there, who was always strong, and say, ‘It’s going to be OK,’” Santos recalled of that night. “And now it’s me looking at her. She was scared. It was the first time I had ever seen her scared or in a hospital bed. And I was nervous.” “Then I asked myself, ‘How is she going to cover these medical expenses?’” The medical bills were just the first of several issues that crossed his mind. As a single mother, Vista takes care of Wyatt
back home who will take care of my younger siblings.” While with his mother, Santos tried to forget about football. Even with the spring game taking place the next day, he didn’t want to leave his mother’s side. That is, until Vista ordered him to return to Austin. Ever the mother, Vista wasn’t about to let her oldest son sacrifice his passion for football to sit in a hospital room. Santos returned to campus and played in the Orange-White game. With little sleep,
and Gracie, 12. She supports the family by working as a nurse at hospitals, health care facilities and nursing homes in and around the family’s home in Van. Sitting next to his mother, Santos began to worry about his younger siblings. He wondered how their mother’s surgery would impact their daily lives. “That’s the one thing that’s hard for me to see — my brother and sister hurting,” Santos said. “They live with her and see her every day. It’s hard for my sister not to have my mom there to do the girl things they usually do in the mornings. She’s wondering how she’s going to get to school. Wyatt is wondering how he’s going to get to the hospital from the field house.” “I’m blessed enough to have friends
FOLLOWING ORDERS: Santos returned to campus the morning of the spring game at his mother’s request. On little sleep, he still managed to make a tackle and pressure the quarterback. According to the junior linebacker, his mother just wanted him to play.
he still managed to play well by all accounts. He made a tackle, pressured the quarterback and provided coverage that forced an early interception for the defense. He played on instinct, without thinking about the specifics of Vance Bedford’s new defensive scheme. “It was the weirdest thing because I wasn’t even thinking about plays,” Santos said. “It was natural. I knew in my heart that my mama wanted me to just play. The game was where she wanted me to be at the time.
I just did what I do and played ball.” If facing open-heart surgery wasn’t daunting enough, the family also had to face the fact that Vista had to pay for everything out of pocket. She sacrificed insuring herself so she could pay to insure her children. Open-heart surgery could cost as much as $150,000, and the family needed help paying for Vista’s medical bills. Upon learning of her condition, they tried to enroll for insurance through the Affordable Care Act but discovered the ACA would treat the aneurysm as a pre-existing condition and not cover the surgery. She didn’t have the time to wait for the next enrollment period. The day after the spring game, Santos took action. Malinda McKnight, a family friend, created a page for Vista on the website Youcaring.com. Wyatt found the page and sent the link to his older brother. Santos copied the link and crafted the most important 140-cha racter message he may ever send. “I just reached out — that’s all I could do, ask for help and just leave it in God’s hands,” Santos said. “And that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to do everything the right way and take care of my family at this time of trial.” After checking with the university’s compliance office to ensure his message wouldn’t violate any NCAA guidelines, Santos sent the tweet. And for Santos and his family, the unexpected happened. On the eve of his mother’s surgery, more than 1,000 people had visited the site, made a donation and left a comment. The family set a fundraising goal of $75,000 with a May 15 deadline. As of the deadline, fans, friends and the Longhorn Nation donated $69,798.00. “I thought I could help out a little bit,” Santos said. “I expected to raise a couple
His words brought Santos to tears. “There was a 10-year-old kid who said he receives a ‘monthly allowance of $25 and this month I want to give it to you. And my dad also said he would put in $25 to help you too,’” Santos said. “He’s a Stanford fan and he’s from Kansas. That was the first comment I read and literally started crying. A 10-year-old kid ran across the
FAMILY MATTERS: Vista Santos is a single mother who is solely responsible for Wyatt (17), Gracie (12) and Dalton. To support her family, Vista is a nurse and travels to different facilities around the town of Van.
story and wanted to help our family. It blew me away. I never thought I would ever see anything like that.”
The journey from Vista’s diagnosis to her surgery was a short but harrowing one. Now that the surgery is over, Vista faces a recovery period that could keep her out of work for 10-12 weeks. Santos said he always turned to his parents when faced with trying times before, but this situation has strengthened his faith. “I’ve always had faith in the right things,” he explained. “I’ve lost people and I’ve been to the bottom. I’ve seen bad things in my life. The one thing that always brought me together was my family. Now I look at it…I can’t go to mom. I don’t want to put that on her. I don’t want to ask my dad because I know he’s worried too. So I just fall to my knees and ask for help. That’s all you can do.” And he’s shown his family they can have faith in him. “My brother and sister need me. I’m going to do whatever I have to do as a young man, as a son, as a friend to do whatever I have to do to make sure they’re okay,” Santos said. “I’ll never back down from that. I’ll never look away. I’m trying to stay strong, to be the light in the darkness. The only reason I can do that is because of the man upstairs. I can feel it, stronger than ever.” UPDATE: On May 1, Vista Santos had sucessful open-heart surgery, and she is now at home in recovery.
thousand dollars — perhaps a few hundred. I opened the page before class on April 23 and the total was close to $30,000. I just stopped right where I was and prayed.” As a Longhorn, Dalton is a part of a much larger — and larger reaching — team. Even he didn’t know how far and wide the Texas football family stretches. “It breaks me up inside to see how many people care,” he said. The donations poured in, some with stories and some without. The contributions ranged from $5 to $1,000, and most had ties to Texas. “The Longhorn family always takes care of its own. Prayers for a speedy recovery,” AustinTexMan wrote with his donation. Donations came in from across the country as well. Georgia alumni, USC fans and even Texas rivals came together to support Vista. “I’m a big Oklahoma fan, but I saw this and wanted to help. Boomer Sooner, but prayers for your mother’s speedy recovery!” wrote one anonymous donor. “God Bless you and you’ll definitely be in my prayers! This is coming from Trojan Nation. It still hurts to lose the National Championship game to Texas a few years ago,” Bobby Macias posted along with his donation. Santos will forever remember one donation. The donation was made on April 21 and included a kind gesture and a few words from young Alex Brewer.
e v i F ho W ve i r h T C
HO W ES SH T LE PU . H E SS O T I P T E A W E U E E LO V C I F I T I N NV R E E T D EE ON E M C TH AN EL B A H E EV ST BY
ACCORDING TO THE BEATLES , love is all you need. Ask Breaunna Addison if that’s true and she’ll smile and shake her head. That’s because, in tennis at least, love is a bad thing. Addison, a sophomore from Boca Raton, Fla., is the Texas ace, dominating at the No. 1 position for the women’s tennis team all season. Addison went a perfect 8-0 in league play this season, winning 16 of 17 sets at No. 1 singles against league opponents. She became Texas’ third Big 12 champion at No. 1 singles and the first since 2005. The 12th-ranked Addison is 16-1 in two seasons of Big 12 dual-match play and is one of only two players this season to defeat college tennis’ top-ranked pl aye r, North Carolina’s Jamie Loeb. She was selected as the Big 12
Women’s Tennis Player of the Year — the Longhorns’ first since 2000. “It’s a great accomplishment but not the overall goal,” Addison said about her Big 12 honors. “My goal is to win a national championship with my team and individually. I’m trying to keep that consistency through the postseason.” Although she lived in Florida, Addison made regular trips to Central Texas, where she coached at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels. There she became familiar with the program at Texas and decided it was the best fit for her. And she’s never regretted the decision. “I’ve adjusted well, thanks to my coaches and team,” she said. “I’ve grown so much as a person and as a player. I’m so blessed to have this experience.” Her grind-it-out work ethic and ability to adapt to various styles of play have set Addison apart from the rest. Her approach to tennis mirrors the idea that no two opponents are ever the same. “I have a general plan. I try to use my forehand and look to be aggressive,” Addison said.
“But I understand that every player is different, so sometimes you can’t go with your A game.” When reflecting back on her freshman campaign, she does recognize the changes she made to earn the No. 1 position. “Last year I was able to sit back and play on the second court,” she recalled. “My team, they counted on me, but I didn’t feel the pressure of performing at the No. 1 spot. But working my way to the No. 1 spot helped me focus.” Last season, she became the third Longhorn to reach the NCAA Championship semifinals and the first freshman to do so while earning All-American honors. After this year’s NCAA Championship, Addison will start summer sessions on the 40 Acres and participate in offseason workouts. Before then, she remains focused on achieving her dream of an NCAA title. “I like to think in short term and my goal is to take each match at a time,” Addison said. “Our goal is to win nothing short of a national championship. I know it may not happen now, but my goal is to win one before I leave.” — ERIC WEISS
BREAUNNA ADDISON “OUR GOAL IS TO WIN NOTHING SHORT OF A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP. I KNOW IT MAY NOT HAPPEN NOW, BUT MY GOAL IS TO WIN ONE BEFORE I LEAVE.”
“I KNEW RIGHT AWAY, SINCE HAVING A BABY, THAT I NEEDED TO GET MY EDUCATION. MY GOAL WAS TO GET A COLLEGE DEGREE AND I KNEW VOLLEYBALL HAD TO BE A PART OF THAT.”
PR EVIOUS S PREAD: SUSS AN SI GMON/UNIV. O F T EXAS. T HIS SPR EAD FR OM LEFT: JESSE DROHEN, BETHANY WALTER/UNIV. OF TEXAS
ECKERMAN THE DEMANDS ON student-athletes are seemingly endless these days. Practice, games and travel are in direct competition with the studies and class time involved with earning a university degree. Somehow, junior outside hitter Haley Eckerman managed those demands so proficiently that she has earned back-to-back Big 12 Player of the Year and first-team All-American honors. She helped push the Texas volleyball team to consecutive berths in the Final Four and a national championship in 2012. Eckerman accomplished all of this, in addition to managing her course load, while being the mother of 4-yearold Cayden. She was a junior in high school when a visit to the doctor’s office to address rib pain revealed she was six months pregnant. “I didn’t understand what was going on until I looked at the monitor and it wasn’t like the little alien baby — it was a full baby. I was at 27½ weeks pregnant,” Eckerman said. “You couldn’t tell I was gaining weight until the end of eight months. It was shocking and fast. Parents normally have time to get a crib ready but ours was so quick.” She delivered her son between her final two years of high school in Waterloo, Iowa. Fellow Longhorn volleyball player Khat Bell, who met Eckerman in the U.S. junior national program, said her longtime friend disappeared off the face of
the Earth during the spring and summer of 2010. “Haley was trying to figure things out,” Bell said. “Then one day I got on Facebook and there she was with a baby. I asked, ‘He’s yours?’ and she was like, ‘He’s mine.’ Then she told me the whole story.” Fortunately, the women in Eckerman’s life stepped up to help her raise Cayden. Her mother, younger sister and grandmother relocated from Iowa to Austin before Eckerman’s sophomore season. The move brought Cayden closer to his mother and allowed for Eckerman to become an active, daily presence in his life.
“Mom said she would move and our relatives gave us things to help me and the baby,” Eckerman said. “That helped me who was there for me and who was just there for the fame with me being a volleyball player.” Head coach Jerritt Elliott reassured Eckerman that Texas would honor her scholarship and that the program would support her as a single mother. “We talked about what would hap-
pen if she didn’t come to Texas, if there was no Cayden … if she would still be doing the things she’s doing now,” Julia Eckerman, Haley’s mother, said. “But things happen for a reason.” Eckerman hasn’t just succeeded on the Texas volleyball courts — she has thrived over the past three years. Going into her senior year, she will be the team’s unquestioned leader and one of the best to ever don the Longhorns’ burnt orange and white. “To see someone like Haley, who has this responsibility, these pressures and wants to be successful in the classroom and on the volleyball court — it’s amazing,” Elliott said. Eckerman is only the fourth player to earn back-to-back Player of the Year honors and did so by leading the conference in kills and in points. She also ranked second in service aces and 10th in hitting percentage in conference-only match-ups. Those achievements came after Eckerman was named Freshman of the Year in 2011. Since then she has earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors 15 times, including three such awards in 2013. Even with Cayden on her hip, Eckerman remains focused both on volleyball and her schoolwork. She never abandoned her plans for college and the improved life a degree can provide both her and her son. “I knew right away, since having a baby, that I needed to get my education,” Eckerman said. “My goal was to get a college degree and I knew volleyball had to be a part of that.” — STEVE HABEL
MARK PAYTON THE QUICKEST WAY to determine how
much a player means to his team — to the guys who lace up their spikes beside him everyday — is to watch how the team acts when he’s around. Even though senior baseball player Mark Payton is as unassuming as the day is long, he’s revered by his fellow Longhorns for the way he handles himself both off the field as well as between the lines. Payton, the Longhorns’ best overall hitter for the past four seasons, leads Texas again this year. He has reached base at least once in every game for the past 90-plus contests. His biggest strength is his patience, which explains why he possesses a more than 3-to-1 ratio of walks to strikeouts in 2014. Only former Texas standout Omar Quintanilla, who currently plays shortstop for the New York Mets, had a lower strikeout percentage. In 2013, Payton batted .393 and compiled a .483 onbase percentage — numbers that recent greats such as Jeff Ontiveros, Kevin Keyes, Drew Stubbs and Quintanilla never attained while on the 40 Acres. The Cleveland Indians selected Payton in the 16th round of the 2013 MLB Draft but Payton turned down the opportunity, at least for his senior season. In 2014, he has started every game and played in every inning for the Longhorns. Texas starting pitcher Nathan Thornhill, who also turned down a professional contract to return for his senior season, said he’s enjoying watching Payton’s success from the dugout. “I get to watch Mark be Mark,”
“I WANT TO PLAY UNTIL SOMEBODY RIPS THE JERSEY OFF OF ME. WHEN THAT HAPPENS, THEN I HOPE TO COME BACK AND COACH COLLEGE BASEBALL.”
Thornhill said. “Having a guy like that in center field and in the lineup — you know you’re going to get a spark from him. The younger guys see that and they want to be like him.” Major League Baseball also drafted Payton after a stellar prep career in the Chicago area. He earned the Illinois Player of the Year award during his junior campaign. Payton was a standout hockey player as well, an aspect that’s not lost on opponents when they see his bat control, quick but soft wrists and his ability to go with the pitch to the opposite field. In his freshman year at Texas, Payton started in all 65 games of the season and repeated that feat his sophomore year. At just 5’8” and 180 pounds, he relies on his instincts to succeed.
“He’s one of the best and smartest baseball players I’ve seen on the field,” Thornhill said. “He doesn’t swing at bad pitches. He can throw people out. He knows what to do on defense. He’s a true captain and a leader.” Coach Augie Garrido depends on Payton to lead by example and he hasn’t been disappointed.
“I believe in Mark and that he’ll make good choices,” Garrido said. “He’s got one of the best baseball IQs at the college level that I’ve been around, and I’ve been around some good ones. He knows when to bunt, when to take the pitch and when to hit the ball.” Payton has been named one of 10 finalists for the Senior CLASS Award, which is presented annually to an NCAA Division I senior who has notable achievements in four areas of excellence — community, classroom, character and competition. As active as Payton is on the field, he has stayed equally as busy in the community. He’s active with the youth, volunteering at Austin area elementary schools, where he helps children with their homework and assists with school carnival fundraisers. When he returns home to Chicago, Payton also participates as an instructor in the Sparks Special Needs Baseball Clinic and Game. Payton, who’s majoring in Applied Learning & Development, wants to be a coach when he’s finished playing baseball. “I want to play until somebody rips the jersey off of me,” he deadpanned. “When that happens, then I hope to come back and coach college baseball.” Professional baseball waits for Payton at the end of this season. But he wouldn’t trade his four years at Texas for anything. “There are great schools, but the tradition here at Texas and the chance to play on this kind of field, in this kind of environment is unbeatable,” Payton said. “It’s every kid’s dream to play for Texas.” — STEVE HABEL
MICHAEL HIXON 36
PR EVIOUS S PREAD FROM LEFT: BETHANY WALTER/UNIV. OF TEXAS, JESSE D ROHEN. THIS S PREAD FROM LEFT: PATRICK MEREDITH/UNIV. OF TEXAS, JESSE DROHEN
“THE ONE UNIQUE THING I FELT AT THAT MEET, THAT I NEVER FELT BEFORE, IS THAT I NEVER FELT LIKE I WAS DIVING FOR MYSELF. IT WASN’T ABOUT ME AT ALL. THIS WAS ABOUT THE TEAM.“
USUALLY LINEBACKERS, power forwards and shortstops are the ones bringing Longhorn fans to their feet in celebration on a regular basis. Michael Hixon is the exception. When he dives, everyone stands up. The diver from Amherst, Mass., became the first Texas freshman to sweep the springboard diving events at the NCAA Championships this spring, winning the one-meter and three-meter events at the meet. The championships, as luck would have it, took place at the Lee & Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center. “It was unbelievable for me,” Hixon said. “Being at home made it so special; the crowd here was going out of its mind.” Hixon captured his first national title — the one-meter springboard — on the first day of the meet. The second day, however, is when the drama unfolded. “The one unique thing I felt at that meet, that I never felt before, is that I never felt like I was diving for myself,” he said. “It wasn’t about me at all. This was about the team.” Hixon stood in fifth place through four of six rounds during the threemeter finals. His fifth dive — a reverse, two-and-a-half somersault with oneand-a-half twists — scored 79.20 points, bumping him up to first place. With the momentum and a home crowd on his side, Hixon nailed his final dive, an inward three-and-a-half somersault. The resulting score, 90.10 points, was a meet best and secured his sweep of the springboard events. Defeating Stanford diver and Olympic bronze medalist Kristian Ipsen had been a life-long goal for Hixon. When he finally bested the champion at the NCAA meet, a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders. “Winning over [Ipsen] has been a mountain that I had to climb my whole life,” Hixon explained. “Overcoming that hurdle is huge. It makes you realize that you can compete on that level and win.” Hixon may be a natural on the springboard, but he put in the extra work to become the best in the nation. During the offseason, he trained two to three hours in the morning, at least four times a week. His training increased significantly when the season rolled around. He hit the weight room for two hours, three times a week. Diving practice took place in the afternoons over a two- to three-hour period, six days a week. CONTINUED ON PAGE 47
of its top players last season, the Texas softball program placed the responsibility for carrying on the team’s success on this year’s seniors. In addition to earning the program’s sixth trip to the College World Series, the seniors also became responsible for spurring the squad’s youth and showing them the ropes. Four-year starter Taylor Thom has been the center point of the Longhorns’ leadership since day one. And while she’s directing the younger players, she’s also playing her best softball yet. The program truly felt her impact in the beginning of April. The All-American took over as
AFTER GRADUATING THREE
the Longhorns’ top hitter, raising her batting average 27 points in 17 games. With her days as a Longhorn player winding down, Thom has already forged a place on a bevy of record lists. She’s ranked No. 1 in career RBIs and in the top five in career hits, doubles, home runs, runs scored and stolen bases. The shortstop took immediate command of the infield this season, calling out plays and making sure her team-
mates are in the correct positions. Texas has 13 underclassmen (including seven freshmen) on its roster and Thom had plenty of direction to share with her teammates. “Taylor not only leads by example, but she isn’t afraid to go grab a player and say, ‘We’re going to go hit today,’” assistant coach Corrie Hill said. “Her work ethic and leadership is huge for us.” As is her custom, Thom credits her coaches and teammates for her success. “I have great coaches and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” she said. “Being at Texas for four years has been an amazing experience.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 47
Taylor Thom “I HAVE A SPECIFIC JOB AND THAT’S TO HIT RUNNERS IN. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THAT.”
M E N ’ S G OL F
NOT FADING AWAY AFTER MAKING A STATEMENT AT THE BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP, THE TEXAS GOLF TEAMS SET THEIR SIGHTS ON THE NCAA TOURNAMENT BY STEVE HABEL
OR THE PAST SEVERAL
months, the spotlight has shined brightly on the men’s golf program due to former Longhorn Jordan Spieth’s runnerup finish in the Masters Tournament. The current team made headlines of its own in late April when it surged ahead on the final day of the Big 12 Championship to defend its title. The championship took place at Whispering Pines Golf Club in Trinity. The win garnered the Longhorns their fifth overall conference title. Texas previously finished
as runner-up at Whispering Pines in both 2008 and 2012. In total, Texas has claimed 44 conference championships since 1927. As a result of the win, the NCAA granted the men’s team the No. 3 position at the 14-team NCAA Southeast Regional, which was held at Auburn University Club in Auburn, Ala., on May 15-17. At the Southeast Regional, the Longhorns found a resolve to fight back in the final round of play and garnered the last spot in the NCAA Championship. The team will head to Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., May 23-28 for the championship tournament.
ALL PHOTOS THIS SPREAD COURTESY UT AT HLETICS PHOTO GR APHY
KEEPING IT CLOSE: The men’s team advanced to its eighth-consecutive NCAA Championship after squeaking out a fifth place finish at the Southeast Regional.
The low five teams and the low individual not on those teams from each regional advanced to the Men’s Division I Golf Championships at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan., May 23-28. Texas won the 2013 Big 12 title at the Prairie Dunes course in frigid and windy conditions. Up until winning the Big 12 title, the Longhorns’ season was a mixed bag of unmet expectations. Texas went without a victory in all 10 of the tournaments that preluded the conference championship, even though head coach John Fields lassoed a pair of the country’s top freshmen onto the team the past two seasons. Beau Hossler and Gavin Hall were added to the blend of holdovers that won the Big 12 title and finished fifth in the NCAA championship in 2013. A myriad of factors were involved with the Longhorns’ winless streak, including a wrist injury to junior Kramer Hickok and the maturation of the team’s younger players. “We found a way to deal with that adversity and it made us stronger,” Fields said. “We’re just now getting to the point of doing what we thought we might be able to do at the beginning of the year.” The biggest factor was likely Fields’ adherence to playing the toughest courses against the best competition in order to ready the team for the most important part of the season. “It’s not just the teams that you are playing against — it’s the golf courses that you’re playing on,” Fields said. “The kind of courses we play and the fields we play against dictate that there needs to be patience and some seasoning to your team. Essentially, we didn’t have that early in the season. There was a learning curve that we had to address.” The Longhorns entered the Big 12 tournament on the heels of an eighth-place finish in the Western Intercollegiate at the Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, Calif. In that tournament, Hossler, who made waves of his own as a 17-year-old in the U.S.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: After going without a single victory in all 10 tournaments this season, the Longhorns captured their fifth consecutive conference title. Head coach John Fields prepared the team for the postseason by scheduling play on the toughest courses against the best competition.
Open at the Olympic Club in 2012, recorded the first top-five finish of his collegiate career. “I’ve been working on the right things,” Hossler said. “It had been frustrating because I wasn’t seeing results until the last four weeks. I’m enjoying playing for this team because I’m around competitive guys and that’s only helped me improve as a player. It’s nice to get a win under our belts and prove we can do it.” Texas had its best result of the fall portion of its campaign when it finished second. The Longhorns played against 15 teams in the Fighting Illini Invitational at Olympia Fields Country Club in Chicago in September, losing to
top-ranked Alabama by 18 strokes. The Longhorns began the spring season on a slight upswing, posting a seventh-place finish at the Amer Ari Invitational in Hawaii in early February. That tournament was won by Big 12 rival Oklahoma State (which finished 18 strokes ahead of the Longhorns) while TCU was third, just two shots behind Texas. The team then garnered second place in the Bayou City Intercollegiate Championship at the Golf Club of Houston in late February. Hickok registered a career-best tie for second place, while Hall and senior Toni Hakula finished tied for fifth place. Texas’ spring season included a seventh-place finish in the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters in Las Vegas (with Hakula earning runner-up honors) and a fourth-place finish at the Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Ga., where Hickok finished sixth and Hossler tied for 10th. The team also captured a second-place
finish — for the third time all season — in the 3M Augusta Invitational in Augusta, Ga., with Hakula taking fourth and Kramer finishing eighth. The bottom line is that the Longhorns have a roster full of great players who can shoot low scores on any given day. Getting each of those players to be on their game for the same tournament will be the key to Texas’ chances of repeating as conference champions and making waves in the upcoming NCAA Tournament and beyond. “We’ve been preparing for the postseason, and right now, we are,” Fields said. “Our practices and thoughts will be predicated on giving us the best opportunity to compete. This is what you envision.” Texas headlined the 2014 Big 12 Conference postseason awards. Hossler became the fifthstraight Longhorn to claim Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors while Fields was named conference coach of the year for the second consecutive season. Hakula and Hickok joined Hossler on the All-Big 12 Team.
M The Women WOM E N ’ S G OL F
THE LONGHORNS COME TOGETHER FOR RICHARDS’ FINAL YEAR AT THE HELM BY STEVE HABEL
EANWHILE, the Texas women’s team finished a surprising second in the Big 12 Championship, which took place at the University of Texas Golf Club. With the finish — the team’s best of the 201314 season — the Longhorns earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Central Regional as the No. 15 seed. “I liked the idea of us being the underdog and hosting the tournament. We made the most of the chances we had,” head coach Martha Richards said. “We have put together a good spring season and we’re getting better as a team. Now it’s up to us to improve as the competition gets tougher and the tourna-
ments are more intense.” The regional berth marks Texas’ seventh consecutive appearance in the postseason and its 29th overall. Under Richards, the Longhorns have advanced to the NCAA Championship in five of their last six regional appearances. Unfortunately, the team finished 19th at 67-over-par 931 at the Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., during the regional. Sophomore Natalie Karcher recorded the Longhorns’ low individual finish with a share of 38th place at 12-over 228. Karcher and junior Bertine Strauss carded Texas’ low final-round scores of 80 on a final day where scorecards were averaging
a three-day high of 78.55. Strauss finished three shots behind Karcher to tie for 51st place in her third NCAA Regional appearance. Karcher posted three consecutive sub-par rounds at the conference meet to record a career-best second-place individual finish. She also earned a spot on the Big 12 All-Tournament Team. Strauss was also honored for her excellent 201314 campaign when she was named to the All-Big 12 Team. Strauss led Texas with an overall scoring average of 73.85 (27 rounds) and finished as the Longhorns’ low player in six tournaments. After seven years at the Texas helm, Richards is stepping down. She beat ovarian
ALL PHOTOS THIS SPREAD JIM SIGMON/UN IV. OF TEXAS
ENDING ON A HIGH NOTE: Head coach Martha Richards (far left) retired at the end of the 2013-14 season. She said this year’s team was one of her favorite groups to coach.
cancer in her 20s and thyroid cancer in her 30s — now she made a health-related decision to leave the coaching profession at the end of the spring season. “Although I am 100 percent capable and willing to continue coaching, we have determined it’s in the best interest of my health to step away,” Richards said. “The stresses involved with continued coaching beyond this season are not conducive to the healthy lifestyle I and my doctors are striving to maintain for me.” “I’m happy to say that I am cancer-free and in no immediate danger where my health is concerned,” she added. “The recovery time for me takes a little longer. This job is getting harder and harder.” In 2011, Richards guided the Longhorns to the Big 12 Conference Championship for the third time in school history. The title marked
IN FOCUS: Junior Bertine Strauss led Texas with an overall scoring average of 73.85 and finished as the Longhorns’ low player in six tournaments.
Richards’ first of three team victories during her career at Texas that later included a pair of wins in the fall of 2011 at the Texas A&M ‘Mo’ Morial and Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational. The Longhorns played in Richards’ final regional on May 8-10 at the Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. The top-eight team finishers and top-two individuals not playing on the eight qualifying teams earned bids to compete at the Division I Women’s Golf Championship from May 20-23 at Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. Richards hoped her final appearance as a coach in the NCAA Regional would on the highest of notes. “This current team is one of my favorites that I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach,” she said. “The way these players are performing right now, anything is possible.”
B A SEB A L L
BATTLE TESTED FINALLY HEALTHY, JOHN CURTISS RETURNS TO THE TEXAS MOUND BETTER THAN EVER BY CHRISTIAN CORONA
OHN CURTISS came into the game with a little pain in his wrist. By the time the sixth inning rolled around, he felt as good as he ever had on the mound. The sophmore right-hander was trying to keep Texas alive in the 2012 Big 12 Tournament against Kansas, but the Longhorns weren’t having much luck climbing out of a 3-0 first-inning hole. Curtiss had his slider working and was throwing in the mid-90s in the sixth inning — harder than he’s ever thrown. Texas trailed 4-1 going into the seventh but Curtiss was doing
what he could to keep his team in the game. He fired an inside fastball to the Jayhawks catcher, getting him to ground out to first for the second out of the inning. Yet something didn’t feel right. “I felt a twinge, not completely like a snap, but I felt like I pulled my hammy in my elbow,” Curtiss recalled. “It hurt pretty bad and I tossed one over to Erich [Weiss] at third. My arm felt good throwing at 50 mph so I figured I’d try to finish the inning.” Two pitches later, Curtiss left the game. Two innings later, Texas’ season was over. The Longhorns
, THIS SPR EAD PHOT O CREDITS
THE HARD WORK STARTS HERE: After tearing his ulnar collateral ligament and being dignosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, John Curtiss put in the work to finally return to the mound.
failed to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. When Curtiss walked off the mound, he thought he had torn the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. He was right. Team trainer Mike West evaluated Curtiss that day and the initial UCL stress test was negative. An MRI revealed just a Grade 1 tear (out of 3) but Curtiss confirmed his initial concerns when he was playing catch with his father a few days later. “You get to a point in your rehab where you get to about 100 feet and you have to throw the ball hard enough to where you can tell if you need surgery or not,” Curtiss said. “I was throwing with my dad and I couldn’t throw the ball 100 feet.” Curtiss didn’t need a doctor to tell him he needed surgery. He visited Dr. Keith Meister, the Texas Rangers’ team physician, in Arlington two weeks later. Meister gave Curtiss an MRI and informed him he, in fact, had a Grade 2 tear of his UCL and required Tommy John surgery. Unfortunately the most painful part of Curtiss’ rehab was yet to be diagnosed. Just as he started his throwing program — four and a half months after he suffered the UCL tear — Curtiss began to feel some numbness in his forearm. His fingers tingled. His elbow and shoulder were fine but his control was not. There was something wrong but he didn’t know what. Curtiss was diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which blood vessels or nerves between the first rib and collarbone are compressed, causing pain in the shoulder and upper arm, along with numbness in the fingers. Just as Curtiss was making significant progress recovering from one surgery, he had to undergo another, more agonizing one. “I had to use my entire bottle of pills that week because I couldn’t breathe,” Curtiss said. 44
“It’s difficult to talk or laugh. I was bed-ridden for a week and a half.” Excruciating pain aside, Curtiss was forced to start his throwing program over again, pushing back an already lengthy recovery timetable. He didn’t throw a baseball for another two and a half months. “You have to put everything on hold,” West said. “You have to let the tissue heal. You have to
more than watch as Texas missed out on postseason play for a second straight year. The Longhorns finished last in the conference — the first time since 1956. “It was frustrating. It was difficult to watch the team struggle and not be able to do anything,” said Curtiss, who assisted pitchers in the bullpen and periodically gave the younger players advice. “Anytime you’re an injured player, your role is reduced and
THE IDEAL INJURED ATHLETE: Team trainer Mike West said that keeping Curtiss from doing too much on the field and in the weight room was the hardest part of Curtiss’ recovery period.
regain the strength you lost and then start your throwing program all over again. The initial stages of the throwing program are accelerated because you’ve already been through that. But you go backwards quite a bit.” Adding insult to injury was the fact that Curtiss could do little
you have to buy into the team concept. You have to accept that you’re not going to contribute as much as an everyday starter.” Curtiss couldn’t compete on the field, but West tailored his rehab to resemble a competition to keep him as engaged as possible. Creating the program wasn’t
the hard part — keeping Curtiss from doing too much was West’s biggest challenge. When Curtiss was foolishly diving for fly balls, running into walls during practice or exerting himself too much in the weight room, West was always there to rein him in. “Those were the times where I got upset and had to remind him that he was still hurt and to think about the big picture. Our goal was to have him throwing again — not playing outfield,” West said of Curtiss, whom he called “the ideal injured athlete.” Curtiss didn’t slow down in the classroom either. He currently boasts a 3.85 GPA and is on track to graduate in July after just three years at Texas. Curtiss has become a mainstay on the Big 12 commissioner’s honor roll and is likely to be named an academic All-American this year. He’s a double major in English and History with Plan I honors and recently earned the Lorene L. Rogers Award as the top male scholar-athlete on campus. Should Curtiss return for his redshirt junior season next year, he plans to enroll in the oneyear Master of Science in Finance program at the McCombs School of Business. An aspiring Major League Baseball general manager, Curtiss wants to better understand the numbers side of the game if he’s not taken high enough in this year’s MLB Draft. For now, he’s putting up great numbers as the Longhorns’ closer. Curtiss went 2-3 with a 3.50 ERA as a freshman in 2012. Three weeks into this season, Curtiss made his first appearance for the Longhorns in nearly two years — 637 days to be exact. Ironically it was a start, this time against UT-Pan American on Feb. 25, that marked his first outing this year. He pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two and walking one in a 2-1, 11-inning victory. He quickly cemented himself as the team’s closer, picking up his first four saves this year
PATRICK M ER ED ITH/UNIV. OF T EXAS
over a nine-day period this March. Curtiss now has six saves in all, posting a 1.09 ERA over 17 outings this season, holding opposing hitters to a .157 batting average and allowing only two extra-base hits in 24 2/3 innings. As a freshman, Curtiss said, it took some time to get used to the pressure of pitching at Texas. Now he’s thriving in arguably the most pressure-packed role on the Longhorns’ pitching staff. “When I go into the game, that means we have a good opportunity to win,” Curtiss said. “It’s easy to root for yourself to get in the game when your job is to help the team in the very last inning and throw the very last pitch.” Curtiss is still regaining his form and made a few tweaks to his delivery to mitigate chances of ever suffering a severe injury again. “No one wants to deal with injuries,” West said, “but my satisfaction comes from helping them get back to where they were competitively. Getting athletes back on the field is a huge accomplishment but having them succeed is a whole other level.” “John’s a perfect example of that.”
With a few NCAA titles and awards under his belt, the 2016 Olympics in Brazil now seem attainable for Hixon in his budding career. He plans to continue competing in the World Series circuits throughout the summer to stay sharp. In mid-April, he teamed up with former Indiana diver Darian Schmidt and placed second in the three-meter synchronized diving event at the USA Diving World Cup Synchronized Trials. Hixon has also competed in synchronized diving events with Texas-Ex and Olympian Troy Dumais. Hixon is scheduled to dive at FINA diving events throughout the summer. With his sights set high, he will undoubtedly continue to see success. “The NCAA Championship was a real turning point,” Hixon said. “The dual meets keep you on your game. But working with [athletes like Troy Dumais] has taught me a great amount. Getting to compete in the World Championships, and experiencing those type of competitions, will only make me a better diver.”
Five Who Thrive: Michael Hixon
Five Who Thrive: Taylor Thom
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 38 “My
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 39
main goal was to be the hardest worker in the country,” Hixon said about his ambitions when he first came to Texas. Texas offered Hixon the right environment to train and succeed. And even though the grueling training schedule is a grind, he remains focused on his goal. Failure is not an option. “It’s hard to handle everything that’s going on,” Hixon said. “Things get tough sometimes but you just stay with it. You don’t receive the individual attention like you did in high school. You have to figure out things for yourself. I think it’s important for any great athlete to know what they need to do.” His performances this season earned him the Big 12 Diver of the Year and Newcomer of the Year awards.
— ERIC WEISS
In 2013, Thom’s offense helped push the Longhorns into the semifinals of the College World Series. Texas moved into a No. 3 national ranking — its highest final ranking ever in the program’s 17 campaigns. Thom’s spot on the AllBig 12 first team was assured when she set a Texas team record of 66 RBIs and paced the Longhorns in virtually every batting statistic. Head coach Connie Clark lauds Thom’s maturity and her athletic abilities. “She has absolutely improved over the years she has been here,” Clark said. “She put up great numbers as a freshman and then she went through the sophomore year where everyone saw the scouting report on her, so they pitched differently. She had to raise the bar and she got better
coming into her junior year.” “She’s an amazing athlete; she has great range, speed and brings everything that we need to the table,” Clark added. “She has always been a great player to watch.” Thom, a Cedar Park, Texas, native, was a member of Team USA over the summer of 2013 and entered the current season with heightened hopes. But batting mostly in the leadoff spot as the team worked to find its strengths, Thom put too much pressure on her shoulders. Her batting and fielding suffered from the added weight of leading the team. “I was just pressing too much and overworking myself,” she said. After moving to third in the lineup as the Big 12 season began, Thom regained her AllAmerican form. Her efforts in mid-April earned her back-to-back Big 12 Player of the Week honors for the second time in her career. “I like the three-hole [in the lineup] because I have a specific job and that’s to hit runners in. I absolutely love that,” Thom said. “I feel more at home. I’m more relaxed.” Thom fought through a similar downturn during her sophomore season after winning the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2011. “Learning how to grow from those struggles,” she said, “made me a stronger person.” — STEVE HABEL
Horns Illustrated (ISSN 1096-2573), Volume 21, Number 5. Copyright © 2014 by Texan Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Published nine times a year (monthly in January, February, March/ April, May, June, July, October, November and December) in the United States by Horns Illustrated, 1505 Ridgecrest Drive, Austin, TX 78746. Subscription inquiries: Send new or renewal notices or change of address (send both old and new addresses) to Horns Illustrated, P.O. Box 50069, Austin, TX 78763. Allow 6-8 weeks for change of address. Subscription problems: Call 855-246-7677. Subscription costs: U.S. and its possessions, one-year basic rate, $49.95. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER – send address changes to Horns Illustrated - P.O. Box 50069, Austin, TX 78763. Tel. (512) 626-8513. Publisher disclaims all responsibility to return unsolicited editorial matter, and all rights in portions published vest in publisher. Letters to Horns Illustrated magazine or its editors are assumed intended for publication in whole or in part without permission from the writer. Any similarity between persons or places mentioned in the fiction or semi-fiction and real places or persons living or dead is coincidental. Single copies: $4.95 in U.S. JUNE 2014
The NBA named Texas standout Kevin Durant as this season’s Most Valuable Player. Durant is the first Longhorn to earn the prestigious honor, and the first NBA player to win both the MVP award and the scoring title in the same season since Allen Iverson in 2011. Durant previously finished second for the award three times. Currently in his seventh season in the league, Durant averaged an NBA-best 32.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and a career-high 5.5 assists per game in 81 games during the regular season. He won his fourth scoring title in five years, joining Michael Jordan, George Gervin and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to do so. Durant converted 50.3 percent from the floor, including 39.1 percent from 3-point range, and 87.3 percent from the free throw line this year. “Our entire basketball family is so proud of Kevin and this well-deserved honor,” Texas head coach basketball Rick Barnes said. “Knowing Kevin, he’ll consider this a team award. Although this is a great honor, there’s no doubt that Kevin’s only thought now is about his team winning and advancing in the playoffs.”
ALANZO ADAMS/USA TODAY SPORTS