September 12, 2008

Things to be thankful for on this weekend

What a week. The front edge of Hurricane Ike is starting pound Galveston. And I'm thinking about how Sept. 11 makes me feel every year. Sorry to break from football for the moment, but it's times like these that make me proud to be an American. When we pull together to help each other through.

Times are tough. Gas and energy bills are through the roof. Now, here comes Hurricane Ike causing Galveston officials to warn the residents there that if they don't leave they face almost "certain death." And seven years ago Thursday our nation was attacked.

We are all busy. We all have bills to pay and problems to solve and personal crises to manage. We all know people in the Gulf Coast area whose lives are completely upside down with questions at this moment.

But I hope everyone takes a second to think how lucky we are to live in a country where - for the most part - our fellow American reaches out to help each other in times of need. Whether it's donating money to emergency services or little things like Texas opening its parking garages over the weekend so evacuees have a place to put their car.

I remember telling my wife after Sept. 11, 2001, that I wished we could keep the feeling of community that came out of that unforgettable tragedy.

What an incredible feeling of togetherness we had after such a dark time in our nation's history. We were bonded, unified and focused. Suddenly, everyone in America had a commonality. No matter our skin color or economic background, we were all under attack and ready to stand side by side.

I try to reconnect with that feeling of unity and pride every year on Sept. 11. I vow to hold onto it, but I inevitably lose sight of it as I get swept up in every day life.

While I'm still holding onto it, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for making this country great. I always try to reach out to others - starting with my own family members and those living under my same roof - and see if I can help them in any way.

I do it because I think of those who died on Sept. 11 and those who have died since defending our country. (My brother-in-law has served three tours in Iraq, and I'm so thankful he's home.)

They serve as a constant reminder of how fragile life is and how lucky we are to live in this incredible country where we have people willing to die for our freedom.

All of us remember where we were on Sept. 11 seven years ago and that feeling of togetherness we had following it. All of us know people along the Gulf Coast. In that vein, I'm going to focus on 10 things I like about the Texas football team after two weeks.


10. Justin Tucker's kickoffs and John Gold's punts

Justin Tucker has kicked off 15 times and has six touchbacks. That's a 40 percent touchback rate. Last season, Texas kicked off 91 times and had 16 touchbacks (17.6 percent). With the exception of one dud against UTEP, John Gold has been solid, averaging 41.3 yards per punt. Justin Moore averaged 41.0 yards per punt last year. No dropoff.

9. Roy Miller

Roy Miller disrupting a reverse against UTEP last week that enabled Eddie Jones to make a huge play behind the line was a great example of how Miller is grinding away for this Texas football team. He cares so much about his teammates and coaches and winning games, and it comes across in everything he does.

8. Quan Cosby

Quan Cosby, a husband and father of two who will turn 26 in December, is playing like he's having fun. It's great to watch. His high-rising grab last weekend in tight coverage by a UTEP defender was one of the highlights of the game. The guy has rock-solid character, and it's great to see guys like that making big plays.

7. Blaine Irby

With each passing game, Blaine Irby looks more and more like a young David Thomas. Steady, dependable and a chain-mover on third down. He's got the California look with a tussled, windblown hairdo, but he's a yes-sir, no-sir guy … at least with the media.

6. Sergio Kindle in the Buck Package

Every time you look up on a pass play it seems No. 2 is chasing the quarterback. He won the Hard Hat Award in the UTEP game for leveling QB Trevor Vittatoe right as he let go of a pass. Kindle's stock will continue to rise if he keeps it up. Remember, he hasn't had his hand on the ground since ninth grade, and he's already playing a big role in Texas' pass rush.

5. Fozzy Whittaker

There's something really special about this kid. He's grounded, deflects all of the attention. Ask him what he does best, and he says, "I don't know." He works hard in the classroom and is inspired by his father, who died when Fozzy was 3. This is a guy you cheer for on the field. Oh, and he has a 6 yards per carry average and brings a big spark to the offense when he enters a game.

4. Roddrick Muckelroy

Roddrick Muckelroy has been a machine at linebacker. He had eight tackles after the first quarter at UTEP (14 for the game), scored a touchdown and currently leads the team in tackles. Linebackers haven't led Texas in stops since 2004 (Derrick Johnson). Muckelroy, like Johnson is low-key off the field, but highly productive on it.

3. Blake Gideon

This is the biggest surprise on defense and maybe the entire team. A true freshman starting at safety at Texas in a year when the Big 12 quarterbacks had a combined 70 percent completion rate last weekend? For UT fans that could be a scary thought. But so far he's been the most productive safety on the team and had a huge third-down pass breakup deep in UT territory against UTEP last weekend.

2. Adjustments by Will Muschamp

Yes, Muschamp's defense has been a little skittish on the opening drive of the first two games. And Muschamp also took the blame for calling a defense on UTEP's touchdown pass at the end of the first half that "hadn't been repped enough." But opponents have scored zero points (nada, nothing, zippo) in the second half so far this season. That's no accident.

1. Colt McCoy

Colt McCoy looks confident and comfortable and happens to be completing 75.9 percent of his passes (44 of 58 for 504 yards) with seven touchdown passes and one interception. At this time last year, McCoy had three TD passes and four INTs and 12 carries for 45 yards. This season, he's the team's leading rusher after two games (17 for 111 yards, 6.5 ypc average, a touchdown). You get the point. Have a great and thankful weekend.


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