It’s David Ash’s team.
And for the first time in a long while, Mack Brown goes into a season with no open competition at starting quarterback.
While Mack tries to prove to a uncertain fan base that he is still the right man to help this program regain its foothold among the national elite, Ash is making it his goal to become the type of leader that can win here. And he’s taking advice from a familiar name.
Vince Young is back in Austin trying to resurrect his pro career, while helping Ash develop the leadership skills that helped him bring Texas a 2005 national title, its first since 1970.
Ash could use the assist.
Brown announced that Ash would be the starter going into the 2013 season, which at least gives this team some needed stability under center, with Major Applewhite taking over the play-calling duties and Texas going to more of an up-tempo attack.
Ash, the Big 12’s most tenured starting quarterback with the departure of Landry Jones, Nick Florence, and Collin Klein, is easily the most laid-back starting quarterback Brown has coached here. Famously described by coaches as someone who doesn’t get too amped on one end or too down on the other, Ash is searching for that happy medium that’s going to add up to more consistency on the field and more respect from his teammates in the locker room.
That’s where Young comes in. Between workouts, he’s been showing up at practice lately, providing a few pointers, while keeping things loose in true VY style.
“He thinks it’s fun to call me Ashley,” Ash said.
“Why Ashley?” I asked him.
“Well, my last name is Ash.”
“I still wouldn’t want to be called Ashley,” I added.
“Maybe he thinks I’m pretty.”
Looks aside, Young hanging around, along with Applewhite’s smarts, will benefit Ash. While his NFL flameout had a lot to do with immaturity and ego, along with his unwillingness to attack the mental side of the game as passionately as he attacked the physical, Young was the unquestioned leader of Brown’s greatest team. He organized early-morning offseason workouts in 2005 and personally called out team members who were slow to fall into line.
The teams that won Rose Bowls and the national championship game were Young’s teams, in the locker room and on the field. Ash is trying to get to that point. It’s not his nature to be the jokester/pied piper that Young was here, but he understands that camaraderie is important, in good times and bad.
“He’s really good about throwing a little something in there, maybe what he did whenever he played that provided some team chemistry,” Ash said of their conversations. “Being visible to teammates and setting the example with your work ethic and talking to guys. Building those relationships that go deeper than x’s and o’s.”
Ash has the physical skills but Young’s advice could actually give a boost to the Big 12’s fifth-rated passer in 2012, in the leadership department.
Now, this isn’t NFL Vince Young imparting life lessons because NFL Vince Young struggled with the pro game on and off the field and blew through more than $25 million. To the contrary, this is Humbled Vince reaching back to his days as College Vince. He’s attempting help a young quarterback who needs some advice on how to motivate other kids in the 18-to-22 year-old range. College Vince did that well. He’s hoping to help College Ash get there.
In the process, he’s also desperate enough to become the first AFC Rookie of the Year to work out for NFL scouts in a second Pro Timing Day. The 29-year-old Young also recently sent a letter of apology to Jeff Fisher, apologizing for mistakes he made during their time together in Tennessee. In short, he wants to show NFL teams that he’s learned from past mistakes and wants another chance. Young is starting over, seven years after becoming the most beloved Texas QB since James Street.
“I’m just letting (the NFL) know I’m in shape and that I’ve been doing everything I could to stay ready and stay productive,” Young told the NFL Network. “The whole year I didn’t get a chance to play. I worked on some things.”
Young led this program to heights not seen in its modern football era while Ash watched as a kid growing up in Belton.
Now both are hoping to take a step forward this fall: Ash with the Longhorns and Young with any NFL team willing to take a chance.
ASH’S CAREER NUMBERS
Career starts: 18
Record as a starter: 12-6
Big 12 record as a starter: 7-6
Bowl record as a starter: 2-0