Great expectations greet Applewhite

With great anticipation – and expectation – Major Applewhite was introduced Thursday morning as the new University of Texas assistant head coach and running backs coach.

Also see: Applewhite Press Conference Notes and Quotes

After a whirlwind few days that included web sight tracking of his flight pattern from Tuscaloosa, Ala., as well as a report on what he and his wife, Julie, ate during a dinner at Mack and Sally Brown's house Tuesday night, Applewhite finally and officially met the media and addressed his return to Austin.

"The opportunity to come home is one you can't pass up," Applewhite said. "Being in this building the last two days, we recognize that the expectations have changed. When we left here, we were trying to get to a BCS game, we were trying to win a national championship.

"Now we're trying to win another one. The expectations are different from when I left."

The former record-setting Texas quarterback returns to Austin after a one-year stint at Alabama, where the Crimson Tide's offensive production improved almost five points per game with Applewhite as the youngest Division I offensive coordinator in the country. He replaces Ken Rucker immediately, and hit the recruiting trail (which will soon take him to California in pursuit of the nation's top running back recruit, Darrell Scott) when his news conference was over Thursday.

Rucker has taken a newly-created job at Texas as director of high school relations and player development. Despite his obvious excitement at returning to the Forty Acres, Applewhite said the decision to leave Alabama was not an easy one.

"When you're talking about two great institutions, Alabama and the University of Texas, one that you went to school at and one that you idolized as a kid, it becomes an extremely tough decision," Applewhite said. "Coach Saban is a great coach. To work with coach Saban, to be on the staff with other great coaches and to be able to coach at Alabama, I was extremely gracious and appreciative throughout our time there.

"It was very difficult to leave."

As difficult as it might have been, Applewhite fit perfectly into his white and burnt orange-trimmed windbreaker at the press conference. Accompanying him to the press conference was his wife, Julie, a University of Texas graduate from San Antonio.

The event at times looked more like a homecoming than a press conference. Sally Brown hugged Julie. Julie hugged Mack. Mack hugged Major. Major joked with the media, though not nearly as comfortably as Brown and Davis. Eleven television cameras were humming, still cameras were clicking and newspaper reporters from across the state attended.

"Good to see some of you guys," Applewhite joked as he sat down behind the microphone. "Some of you guys, it's not (so good)."

Brown opened the press conference and shared memories of Applewhite's playing days and his stint as a graduate assistant coach in 2004. He reiterated that offensive coordinator Greg Davis will continue to call plays on game day, and mentioned Applewhite's potential not only as a recruiter, but also as a coach.

"When you look at ‘why Mayor?' one of the things he does, he gives us a lot of knowledge of what it takes to be a great football player at the University of Texas," Brown said. "We've seen it with Oscar Giles, who's a tremendous role model for our players. Major brings great continuity to our offensive room.

"We feel like he's more than prepared to come in here and coach our running backs. And at the same time, he has that relationship with those coaches. They trust him. He also gives us great name recognition with the success he had here."

Questioned about his relative lack of experience (he's 29), Applewhite emphatically said his youth – and name recognition - will help him not only in recruiting, but also as it relates to communicating to the players about expectations, pressures and great joy that comes with being a Longhorn football player.

"All those guys playing today grew up watching Gameday and watching the ABC and CBS national games," Applewhite said. "Texas has a great amount of exposure, and guys like that. It gives you a chance to get your foot in the door and you get your phone calls returned when you're recruiting.

"Priest Holmes, Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, Earl Campbell…you can't come to a better place if you're a running back. I'm ready to hit the ground running."

Davis may have been the happiest of all to see Applewhite walk through the front door.

"I'm excited today," Davis said. "I feel like a father, and how proud you are with your children and what they've accomplished. When the opportunity arose and Ken decided to move to the new position, Mack came to us and asked us to come up with five names, and I said, ‘Coach, I'm done. I've got mine in.'

"And everybody in our room felt the same way."


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