Brown couldn't live up to his history

"I thought he played so well against us," Brown said. "He was poised. And I'll do that sometimes. I'll just write a kid a note and say, 'Hey, looked great, congratulations, tough for us, but you played great. I'm proud for you.'"

Brown courted the national media, even as he exposed his onion-thin skin. He counted on the force of his personality, and the respect with which he treated people, to win the day. It usually did.

He even used it to win over opponents.

His expansive office at Texas evolved into a shrine to Texas football, filled with photos of presidents, championship rings and other gewgaws of his successful run. He loved being the Texas coach. He loved Darrell Royal, who personally recruited Brown from North Carolina to take the job. Brown made Royal a presence around Texas football again, and fussed over him. Brown understood the importance of the sport to his people.

"In our state, when kids are born, they want to be a football player," Brown said. "It's really important to them. It's amazing how many parents will put little helmets or little footballs in their crib the day they're born. It's the culture. It's the spirit. It's the passion. There's even been some young guys that are born out of state, and I know friends of mine, fans that have taken buckets of soil from Texas and put it under the crib because people want them to be born on Texas soil. Or they'll dust some soil underneath the kid's body in the crib. I think, what about germs?"

That passion for football, and for Longhorns football, meant that Brown didn't have to recruit so much as he had to select.

"We've got 1,500 high schools," Brown said in August 2009. "There's 375 kids who sign Division I scholarships out of Texas on the average in the last two years. And we take 22 of them."

But the way that recruiting skewed earlier and earlier into a prospect's high school career took Brown aback, and the earlier players committed, the more that Texas seemed to misfire. It didn't help when Texas high school stars Robert Griffin III of Baylor and Andrew Luck of Stanford finished 1-2 in the 2011 Heisman Trophy voting, or when Texas native Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M won the 2012 Heisman, or when little-recruited Chuckie Keeton, a Houston kid, led Utah State to an 11-2 season that year, and the list goes on.

The overriding memory I will carry from Brown's career took place at a news conference at the Newport Beach Marriott the day before the 2010 BCS National Championship. Those sessions are typically buzzless. Coaches have heard every question, and rehearsed every answer.

Someone asked: "When you're not sleeping tonight, what will be racing through your mind?"

Brown, off the top of his head and from the depth of his heart, spoke for several minutes. He spoke nearly 1,200 words. He described better than I've heard, before or since, what it's like to be a head coach.

"We're two hours different, so I'm waking up at 4 a.m. now, thinking it's 6," Brown said. "But what you're doing is you're making sure that you're going through a checklist in your mind. Are they going to onside kick to open the game? Do we? How do you punt it? How do you protect? What about your fakes? What about protection? How do you start the game?"

He continued on, shifting to the scene in the locker room before kickoff.

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