Some of the more notable events of 1937: The Golden Gate Bridge opened. The Coronation of George VI and Queen Elizabeth took place. The Hindenburg disaster.
1937 was the third year of the NFL Draft. Football was not the all-encompassing product that it is today, and the NFL even less so. So, the fact that the University of Texas didn’t have a player selected in 1937 didn’t make a ripple on anyone’s radar screen. However, fast forward 77 years, and the fact that not a single Longhorn was selected in the 2014 draft inspires embarrassment among the burnt orange faithful, and scratching of heads among others who wonder how is it possible that the most successful football school (sorry Aggies), in one of the most rabid football states in the nation could EVER reach this point.
We know the raw numbers over the last four seasons. 30-21 overall record. 18-17 in Big 12 games. 3-12 vs ranked teams. That stings. But, at least in the last three years, Longhorn coaches and fans could watch their players walk onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall and hug NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, or at the very least have the satisfaction of hearing their players’ names called out to the remaining diehards hanging around to the bitter end of the draft. That there were NO names called and there were NO walks across the stage was the final, jarring image of the end of the Mack Brown era, an era in which he was given ample time to get Texas back to the level it was at during the 2009 season (Texas lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship game that year), but never came close to doing so.
Did Brown and his staff fail to “coach up” his supposedly talented team? Those charges have dogged Brown wherever he has been, and why, for years he heavily wore the crown of “Coach February.” Or maybe, did Brown and his staff consistently outsmart themselves by offering and committing to players well before they should have? Joe Paterno started, and Mack Brown perfected, the art of the junior camp, getting the young recruits to commit at the end of the camp. This allowed the bulk of that year’s recruiting to be done in the summer, six full months before signing day arrived. This recruiting tactic was especially true as it related to offensive linemen, where Texas has not had one member of their O-line selected since Tony Hills was grabbed by the Steelers in the 4th round of 2008. You might remember Hills was recruited as a tight end, hurt his knee, and was ultimately moved inside. Often times it seemed Texas would select what would turn out to be a finished product with little room for improvement.
There are a zillion other factors in play beyond talent – including injuries, academics, and personal issues – that can lead to the ultimate success or failure of a recruiting class, factors that can lead to consistent 10+ win seasons and playing for Big 12 and national honors. UT’s new head man Charlie Strong knows this as well as anyone. He has a fantastic reputation as a recruiter, and the fact that three of his players from his Louisville squad last year (Calvin Pryor, Marcus Smith and Teddy Bridgewater) were all selected in the first round last week only enhances this image. But perhaps more importantly it also enhances his reputation as someone who can develop players. While Bridgewater was heavily recruited coming out of high school, neither Pryor nor Smith were. On the heels of not a single Longhorn player being selected in the NFL Draft, the Texas football program’s “Hindenburg moment,” Strong will need all of his skills to get the Longhorns back to where they believe they should be.