There were certain iconic photos Hawthorne knew had to be in the book: Nelson Pruett catapulting into the end zone in the Longhorns’ 7-6 upset of Texas A&M on Thanksgiving Day 1938; Noble Doss’ “impossible catch” against A&M in 1940; James Street and Darrell Royal with 2:26 left to play against the Irish in the 1970 Cotton Bowl.
“But I also looked for photos people had not seen before or not as often,” he says. One such photo was of Earl Campbell romping past Southern Methodist University’s Sid Greehey in a 1977 victory against the Mustangs. Campbell rushed for 213 yards in the game.
The photo of Campbell, taken by Tom Lankes of the Austin American-Statesman, was one of the most difficult to find, says Hawthorne, and one that he was determined to get. An intern at the Statesman finally found the photo for him in the newspaper’s archives.
Hawthorne was especially enthusiastic over finding the photo because Campbell is his favorite Texas player of all time.
“In my opinion, Earl Campbell was the greatest player in the history of UT and the second greatest running back of all time, behind only Jim Brown,” Hawthorne says. “I’ve never seen a combination of strength, power, speed and balance. He could be hit by 10 guys before he went down.”
Another photo Hawthorne found especially unique is one of defensive line players Bo Robinson, Tommy Jeter, James Patton and Shane Dronett.
“It just screams testosterone and UT,” Hawthorne says. “These kids look like UT players, and it speaks to the power and intensity that is UT football.”
Which leads to a question Hawthorne can’t quite find an answer for. What is it about football at UT?
“I can’t explain why it is what it is,” Hawthorne says. “It was the first sport at Texas that galvanized the community. People made it a part of their lives. Over time, it became a social, almost tribal, experience. That has never changed and probably never will.”
These days Hawthorne prefers to watch the Longhorns on TV like he did as kid, both to avoid the crowds, the Texas heat and so as not to embarrass himself if the game goes south.
“If a game is close or Texas is losing, I’ll stalk upstairs and watch it alone, pout, scream at the television, that kind of thing. I’ve embarrassed myself on more than a few occasions.”
He said he figures real UT fans understand. Like thousands of others across the city, state and nation, Hawthorne is invested in the team and the Longhorns.
“In Texas, football means Texas Longhorn football,” he writes. “It means ‘The Eyes of Texas,’ and it is the stuff of heroes and myths and legends worthy of the great state of Texas.”