Texas fans celebrate championship, send off Young

Updated: January 15, 2006, 10:47 PM ET
Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- With fireworks and a final send-off for quarterback Vince Young, more than 50,000 Texas fans turned out Sunday night to celebrate the Longhorns' national championship.

Texas' 41-38 win over Southern California in the Rose Bowl gave the Longhorns their first outright title since 1969. Stepping up to the podium on the field at Royal Memorial Stadium, coach Mack Brown flashed the two-fingered "Hook 'em" sign as fans cheered.

"This is one night we can hook 'em and hold down the little finger, because we're No. 1," Brown said.

The ceremonies included highlights of the undefeated 2005 season, plus the national championship seasons of 1963 and 1969. Brown also paid tribute to the coach of those championship teams, Darrell Royal.

Young, named MVP of the Rose Bowl for his 200 yards rushing, 267 yards passing and three touchdowns, used the 1-hour event as a chance to thank fans who watched him compile a 30-2 record as a starter.

Young, who announced four days after the Rose Bowl that he'll skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft, cradled the crystal Bowl Championship Series trophy before thanking Texas' "beautiful" fans and his teammates.

"We thank you a lot," Young said as the crowd chanted his name. "I love y'all and thank you for your support."

Joining Brown and players on stage were U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Gov. Rick Perry. Hutchison was a cheerleader at Texas when the Longhorns won the 1963 title, while Perry was a yell leader at rival Texas A&M when he was a student.

Perry, who wore a burnt orange shirt beneath his blazer, told the crowd that even an Aggie like him could be proud of the championship.

"University of Texas went to California and beat the hell out of Southern California," Perry said. "Mack Brown, you are the man."

The UT campus took on a game-day atmosphere hours before the event, with thousands of fans arriving early to tailgate and stake out a place in line outside the stadium.

At least 3,000 fans began the "Texas Fight" chant more than two hours before the official party started. Lines quickly grew so long that officials opened the gates earlier than expected because the revelers were impeding traffic.

Gayle Shannon, 42, of Bastrop, arrived with her friends five hours early and set up a spread of wings, chips, sandwiches, hot dogs and beer in the bed of a pickup truck.

"We were worried that we wouldn't be able to see our beloved Longhorns," Shannon said.

Many fans around the stadium wore white T-shirts with "Texans for Vince" in orange lettering. Many others, such as 10-year-old Darrell Limuel Jr., of Round Rock, wore Young's No. 10 jersey.

Limuel's father, Darrell, said Young was making the right decision by going pro.

"I'd like to see him stay here and win another championship, but I respect him and sure appreciate what he's done," he said.

But unlike Young, offensive lineman Justin Blalock is coming back to the Longhorns. Blalock used his time at the podium to announce he'd return for his senior year, whipping the crowd into more applause.

That gave Brown a chance to address next season. The Longhorns, who have the nation's longest winning streak at 20 games, return to spring practice on Feb. 24.

"We're not going to rebuild, we're going to reload," Brown said.

The Bowl Championship Series title game next season is the Fiesta Bowl. Senior nose tackle Rod Wright told the returning Longhorns he'd like a reason to attend.

"I better be on the sideline of the Fiesta Bowl next year," Wright said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press