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Small handwriting sample of C.J.'s First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page
Tom in his Longhorn Band uniform

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Detail of Tom's band uniform

23 January 2006

It is documented that people in the state of Pennsylvania suffered cardiac arrest while witnessing the closing minutes of the American Football Conference divisional playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts.

I suppose the excitement of a close game can get to the most extreme of fans. So try being at this year’s Rose Bowl, held on Jan. 4 in Pasadena, Calif. I know I almost had a heart attack.

Traveling with the Longhorn Band to California in itself was enough excitement to fulfill any freshman’s biggest wishes. The most amazing week of my life was unfolding before me with sights, sounds, places, people and events occurring with such thrills and chills that I cannot rightly place all the feelings into the right words.

The state of California had it in its game plan to ruin our fortitude with rain all week; it wasn’t shaping up to fortune. But lo and behold that the Gridiron Gods smiled down upon ‘The Grandaddy of Them All,’ allowing clear skies and bright sunshine to be forecast for kick-off, making way for what is now being heralded as ‘the best game ever played.’

I’m sure if you’re reading this you know the outcome and may have even watched the game if you’re dedicated enough. But nothing can beat the knowledge that the Longhorns showed up to play in California and not only defeated the two-time defending champions, but also beat the ‘best collegiate football team of all time,’ as well as the media and all doubters.

I won’t go into lengthy detail because I can’t fully impart my memories to you, as you have your own equally exciting memories to recall. These words, however, I find best:

“To win this game and the national championship, the Longhorns had to stop the most prolific offense in college football history from gaining two yards–and they did.”
—Ross Lucksinger (You can follow all the Longhorns sports action by listening to Ross’ weekly webcast at Texas Sports Weekly.)

We all knew the ball didn’t reach the first down marker. We all knew.

Even when the referees took the precaution to measure the distance, we all knew. But when the marker was initially set behind the ball, I had my heart attack. And then with the marker fully extended revealing our opponents were short on fourth down, life flew back to me as well as every “orange blood” in the nation.

As the story will forever go, the ball was then placed in the hands of our favorite quarterback to win the game, and he truly delivered in fashion. We are national champions.

Exiting my flight from California at 4 a.m. on an inconspicuous Friday, we departed for campus. The UT Tower was lit that day and night. The Tower had the No. 1 in the windows and was fully illuminated orange, and it sank in at that moment.

All the while and even during the trophy presentation, it could never quite sink in. I’ve seen all the championship games previous to this one, but only on television; and those games never involved the Texas Longhorns. This game was too surreal to believe. But now I had reason to understand just what it meant. It’s special in every way, for sports fans, for students and for Austinites to be able to celebrate.

And returning to campus from a second trip home before classes convened, the Tower was once again lit. This time it was refreshing. I entered my room that night to a clutter of furniture that needed to be arranged and a bed that was not suitable for sleep. But it felt like the first day all over again. I was given a second chance to redo the things I did wrong, and another opportunity to take advantage of the wonderful things at my disposal.

Starting the semester was definitely a flurry of emotions and activities, and it doesn’t quite feel like the initial gunfire has gone off to begin. Amid trying to move in and get settled, there was the national title celebration, various activities, book buying and classes to get straight. Sometimes I think there are more things to get done than we give credit for; that is, I wanted to believe that I could simply move back in and go to class, but that is not entirely the case. To date, I’ve made seven changes to my courses and have yet to acquire my textbooks.

But I’m looking forward to the semester. The excitement of football has smoothed out, and it seems to me now that we are working on a good track to finish the year and enter the summer break. It could possibly be the wacky weather treating me to sunshine and a warm breeze. (I am currently waiting my five minutes for it to change.)

One good lesson I learned the first semester is to schedule classes where I want them rather than where I can have them. When push comes to shove I’m not a morning person and 10 minutes between classes doesn’t get me from the art building all the way across campus to the communications tower in time. Everything is bigger in Texas. Case in point: the Forty Acres. It ain’t just 40.

But it is the greatest Forty Acres anywhere on God’s green earth.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at

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