Robert Brewer, the Texas quarterback, has a confession to make. "All right. I admit it," he says. "When I was little, I rooted for...Oklahoma." Say it isn't so, Robert! "Hey, I was an impressionable kid."
But Robert, what the devil could have been more impressive to a son than the fact that his father. Charley, was a Longhorn quarterback from 1953 to 1955?
Oh, your Uncle George was in the starting backfield with Darrell Royal at Oklahoma in 1946 and '47 and in the season opener in '48....
And that's why, come showdown time between Texas and Oklahoma each year, Li'l Robert inevitably found himself on the wrong side of the fence with some relative. Finally, his exasperated dad had had enough. "When I was about 10, Dad and I played some serious games of catch in our front yard in Dallas," Brewer says. "He pumped me full of Texas football stories, and I started to come around. It's funny, because now I'm such a Longhorn fan that even the Dallas Cowboys don't come close—and they're America's Team. Bigger than America? That's big. It's probably unpatriotic, too."
Not in Texas. When Brewer graduated from Richardson High School and found himself with only a handful of scholarship offers, he drove to Austin and convinced Coach Fred Akers that he deserved a shot at playing for the Longhorns. It wasn't until the final four games of last season—after 2½ years of sitting on the bench—that Brewer finally got the chance. Taking over for an injured Rick McIvor in the second half against Houston, he led the 'Horns to a come-from-behind 14-14 tie and then to wins over TCU, Baylor, Texas A&M and Alabama (in a 14-12 Cotton Bowl upset). He completed 12 of 21 passes against 'Bama, scored on a 30-yard draw play and was selected MVR
McIvor's shoulder injury came just in time—for Brewer, that is. "If I hadn't played last year, I would have quit," he says. "I was miserable. Football had been my self-worth. Those first two years I drank, partied, chased women—anything to forget my predicament. I felt I was letting my parents down, especially my dad. Finally, I put things into perspective: Texas football isn't bigger than God."
But it's still pretty big. So big that Akers, who was 10-1-1 last year, has won an SWC title (1977) and stands 4-1 against Oklahoma, still doesn't feel all that comfortable sitting in Royal's old chair. He bombed miserably with boosters last season when the Longhorns, riding the crest of a No. 1 ranking and four straight wins, including a 34-14 drubbing of Oklahoma, got annihilated 42-11 by Arkansas in their game in Fayetteville. "We were numb." Brewer says. "It was a weird day—dreary with tornado warnings. It was like everything was in slow motion."
Akers has 34 returning lettermen this season, but among them are only four offensive and three defensive starters. Gone are All-America Defensive Tackle Kenneth Sims, the No. 1 pick in the '82 NFL draft. Offensive Tackle Terry Tausch, Tailback Jam Jones, receivers Lawrence Sampleton and Donnie Little, and Punter John Goodson. In all, 19 Longhorns signed NFL contracts. Gone also are two of three linebackers, five of six interior linemen and the entire defensive secondary. Things were so thin that Texas had too few players for a spring game, and Akers is still holding tryouts for punters.
Key returnees are defensive ends Kiki DeAyala, Eric Holle and Ed Williams, Linebacker Jeff Leiding, Defensive Back Jerry Gray and Offensive Guard Doug Dawson; also, Raul Allegre, the walk-on soccer-style placekicker from Torreon, Coahuila, Mexico via Shelton (Wash.) High and the University of Montana, who led the 'Horns in scoring last season—70 points on 25 of 26 PATs and 15 of 25 field goals.
Akers expects major contributions from tailbacks John Walker, who rushed for 714 yards while spelling Jam Jones in '81, and Mike Luck, who is switching from fullback. Both are heavyweight backs—204 and 200 pounds respectively—in the best Texas tradition. In game-breaking situations, however, both Akers and Brewer will be looking to a junior middleweight. Senior Wide Receiver Herkie Walls goes only 153 pounds, but he is the fastest man on the squad (he ran a 10.29 100 for the Texas track team in the spring) and established his credentials as a Big Play man in the Cotton Bowl, where his third-down, 28-yard reception kept the Longhorns' winning TD drive alive. Walls's diminutive size does not prevent him from being used as a ballcarrier. Texas will occasionally take advantage of his speed by springing an end-around play.
Brewer, though, remains the designated savior. "I'm excited," he says. "No Texas quarterback has made it through a whole season as a starter since the mid-'70s. I've got a chance to be a real leader. I've waited a long time for that."
Beware, option quarterbacks, of Akers' acquisitive end, DeAyala.