The Longhorns have the capability to attract five-star recruits out of high school, but Texas also recruits some relatively unknown players. The Horn breaks down the four best hidden gems to enroll at Texas.
The world recently witnessed LeBron James win an NBA Finals Championship. The same LeBron who was anointed as “The King”before setting foot on a professional playing court. This man had expectations, and he has fulfilled them.
But not every successful athlete came into their college or professional career with lofty expectations. The Tom Brady’s of the world flew under the radar, waiting patiently until they had the opportunity to showcase their talents and intangibles on a national platform. Texas has had their fair share of mildly sought-after recruits who matured into key components of Big 12 and BCS Championship teams.
First, let us explain what we mean by “mildly sought-after”. In the context of this article, it’s defined as a Longhorn recruit who was rated no better than three stars out of five.
Here, we’ve picked four players from the Mack Brown era that came in as unheralded football players and exited as great award-winners.
Sam Acho, 3-star, 2007
Sam Acho was considered a bit undersized coming out of high school, as would be the case four years later when he entered the NFL Draft. Ranked behind names such as Andre Jones, Tyrell Higgins, and Russell Carter (Who?), Acho wasn’t one of the hyped recruits of the 2007 class. But through all of this, Sam Acho’s potential and great character translated to the playing field.
The former 3-star recruit carried on the trend of great defensive ends that Texas seems to continually produce. A winner of the Campbell Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top scholar-athlete, Acho was ranked as one of the top-20 smartest athletes, both collegiate and professional. It’s a shame he had to play his senior year in 2010 during the worst statistical season of the Mack Brown era. Nevertheless, he was a bright spot during that season and was voted the team’s MVP.
Brian Robison, 3-star, 2002
Although Brian Robison wasn’t considered one of the gems of Texas’ 2002 recruiting class, he would develop into one. Coming in alongside Rodrique Wright, Aaron Ross, Kasey Studdard, David Thomas, and Vince Young, the linebacker from Splendora, Texas fit right in with this national championship group.
Robison was moved to the defensive end spot, in which he became a cornerstone on the Longhorns’ defensive line. After being redshirted in 2002, Robison battled through injuries and setbacks to achieve All-Big 12 honors in 2005 and 2006. The multi-sport athlete excelled in track and field, as well, claiming the 2004 Big 12 championship in shot put and finishing runner-up in the 2005 Nationals.
His biggest moment on the football field came in the 2006 BCS National Championship Game.
On 4th and 2 with two minutes remaining in the game, Robison stopped USC’s LenDale White on a run up the middle to help set up what would be the eventual game-winning drive, led by Vince Young and the Texas offense.
Tony Hills, Jr., 5-star, 2003
You may be wondering how Tony Hills fits the criteria for a mildly sought-after recruit. Technically he doesn’t. He was a five-star tight end coming out of high school. But he earned a spot on this list because A) he battled through injuries that few would come back from and B) he had to make the transition to the interior offensive line, where he excelled.
So, we’re counting his five-star status as a tight end as just a small technicality, because he never played the position in college. Before ever stepping onto the playing field, Hills was forced to redshirt. Hills suffered nerve damage in his knee, requiring reconstructive surgery. He battled back to become a part of the 2006 National Championship team, and just a year after he played his way onto the2007 All-America team. After shredding his knee and being forced to learn a new position, few would have projected Tony Hills’ success.
Colt McCoy, 3-star, 2005
Ah, yes. We finally reach the epitome of unhyped-Texas-athlete-turned-superstar. After redshirting his freshman year and watching Vince Young, possibly the greatest Longhorn quarterback ever, Colt McCoy had enormous shoes to fill. Not that anybody expected him to do so.
McCoy was recruited out of a Texas 2A high school as a skinny, undersized quarterback with an average arm. After his four years as a Longhorn, though, using the word “average” to describe his career couldn’t be farther from the truth. Colt was rather successful as a freshman, but went through major growing pains during his sophomore year.
He would rebound from that 18-interception season and turn his junior and senior campaigns into back-to-back top-3 finishes in the Heisman voting.
McCoy also led his 2009 Longhorn team to the BCS National Championship Game, but injured his throwing shoulder in the first quarter and was unable to finish the game. He left UT as the winningest college football quarterback in NCAA history, and was just recently surpassed by Boise State’sKellen Moore. Such an enormous amount of greatness from a once scrawny, 6’ 1” quarterback from Jim Ned High School in Tuscola, Texas.