IT Exclusive: Tommy Nobis Interview, Part 2

Recently, Inside Texas interviewed Longhorn All-American Tommy Nobis as part of the preparation for our current magazine cover story on Darrell Royal. Excerpts of the conversation were included in the article. But Nobis had a lot more to say...

...about his experiences during a golden era of Longhorn football when the program came with a two-point conversion of consecutive national championships. He also spoke of the current state of Longhorn football, the seismic shifts in the game during the past three decades, and of controversial trainer Frank Medina.

Click here for Part 1

YOU MENTIONED MACK BROWN. DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF WHETHER HE IS OF THE 'NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP' ILK THAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT?

I understand the situation that's there right now, about not winning the 'big game'. But the winning percentage has been pretty good under Mack Brown. There are a lot of guys that would like to have the record that we've got there. University of Texas people want to be champions, and they're not going to be truly happy with a season until they are. There's nothing wrong with that, but I guarantee they're going to be back out there on Saturday afternoon as long as you're winning football games.

As head coach and leader of that ship, of that football program, that is a full time job. And the biggest responsibility is getting your team ready. When I say getting your team ready, I mean that is a big job. And that includes the off-season, and spring practice, and they certainly have those kids in a summer program. It is constantly getting the team prepared. And recruiting requires so much time. If you neglect that, your program's going to pay.

You look at where Texas is today. Why are players going there? Shoot, they're going there because they know they have a chance to win. The players that the pros are getting from Texas doesn't hurt, either. But to get all that, they know they've got to get with a winning program.

COACH ROYAL TOLD ME THE BIGGEST CHANGE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL, SINCE HIS TIME, IS THE GREATER ACCESS COACHES NOW HAVE WITH PLAYERS AND THAT RECRUITING IS NOW YEAR-ROUND. WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL COMPARED TO WHEN YOU PLAYED?

Football is more complicated now. You have more complicated offenses, defenses, blocking schemes, systems. You look at the playbook now and it's probably twice as big as our playbook. It was more basic in my era. Coaches like Coach Royal really dwelled on the basics and the simple things and really worked us and were drilled that way. It was simpler, but that doesn't mean it was easier to motivate people.

In this era, Coach Royal would have had to have adjusted -- and I don't know that he would say that he would adjust much. Things are just different. I've seen how things change because I'm close to it. You see things today that I just didn't see back in that era in the 1960s and '70s.

FOR EXAMPLE?

Players with facial hair, and hair-dos, and stuff like that. I played with coaches who would just tell you that you were going to wear your hair short and, if you didn't like it, then you can do something else with your time after school. And the way (players) dress in today's fashion -- it used to be that we never had our shirt tails out from under our pants. Never. Now, it's kind of stylish to have your shirttails out from under your pants. And those baggy pants! I had a Texas coach, and I don't remember who it was, but he said, 'If you want to wear those bell bottom britches, go join the Navy.'

But coaches have now found that styles are what they are and we need to accept that. It's just a fact that you have to understand all of that. But to tell a kid back then to wear his hair short, that wasn't too much out of the ordinary. I mean, the hippies were starting to come in out there on the Drag. They were weird, and all that. But with our hair and things like that, there were just some basic rules that we knew we were going to have to abide by.

But I would have to say that the biggest difference, in recruiting, was that there were no scholarship limits when I played. Back then, an athletic department could sign as many scholarship players as it had money for them in its budget. At Texas, the alumni could come up with the funds to have enough for the number of player that (Royal) wanted to recruit. They were all doing it. Sometimes you were trying to get a player just so somebody else wouldn't get him, and vice versa.

HOW MANY FRESHMEN WERE SIGNED IN YOUR CLASS?

Oh my goodness, there were more than 60. I was second-team all-state but, heck, I might have had three or four all-staters in front of me. It was unbelievable. My freshman year, I was concerned with whether or not I was going to make it just because of the sheer numbers. You knew that if you didn't get a coach's attention, you weren't going to make it. You'd better know how that coach wanted you to fire out, or how that coach wanted you to tackle, or how you were supposed to do that drill. Too many mental mistakes could really cost you. A lot of guys would get discouraged; a lot of guys would leave on their own and go to smaller schools. You couldn't cut a scholarship guy but players could see the handwriting on the wall.

Tommy Nobis (1963-65) set the standard for Longhorn defenses and established his jersey number (60) as one to be worn only by truly exceptional Texas players. During his senior campaign, Nobis won the Outland Trophy (outstanding interior lineman), the Maxwell Award (nation's outstanding college football player) and was the only defensive player listed among the Heisman Finalists in 1965.


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