FRISCO, Texas – The last two years at Big 12 football media days, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy was a topic of conversation because of his mullet, which remains in full flow. But Tuesday, Gundy’s hairstyle was totally outpaced and overshadowed by the long locks of Breckyn Hager and Patrick Vahe.
Big brand Texas is always going to draw the spotlight and with the hopes that the Longhorns will take another step along the improvement path in Tom Herman’s second season, it made sense that the reporters in attendance would hover around the UT coach and the four players in attendance.
The cynics and horns down crowd can chortle over the thought that the shoulder-length hair worn by Hager and Vahe created a conversation flow between the five podiums.
But when a 6-3, 325-pound offensive lineman is willing to describe his hair care – Panteen shampoo and Suave conditioner – and a 6-3, 250-pound seek-and-destroy linebacker vows that if Texas wins the Big 12 championship his teammates will cut his hair and he’ll bag it up for Locks of Love … well, screw the talk about program building and team goals.
“We kinda keep our distance when it comes to our hair,” Vahe said. “I’ve always worn my hair this long. But when he showed up as a freshman, he was a short-haired kid. Seeing him grow it out like he has is pretty impressive. I just told him to let it flow. I mean look at him … Goldilocks. But I’ve got the best hair.”
Making a choice between his teammates’ flowing locks is off-limits for Chris Nelson.
“Aw, we talked about this and I really can’t pick one … They both said they’d beat me up,” said the 6-3, 315-pound defensive tackle who will need to anchor UT’s front after the departure of Poona Ford.
“I’d go with Patrick because he’s more committed to it,” senior tight end Andrew Beck said. Breckyn hates his hair. But ask him the story.”
Hager was stationed next to Beck and Your Veteran Scribe did as requested. The story:
“Andrew once shook my hand and said that he would grow out his beard and hair,” Hager said. “The man broke the promise … a week later I was like, ‘Man, did you forget?’”
Beck: “I envy him; I tried the long hair. It didn’t work for me.”
The four seniors meeting with the media have experienced one winning season. They’re unanimous in their opinion that this year’s team is a bonded brotherhood; the cliques that have plagued the team in recent seasons are gone. Vahe and Hager are good examples.
Vahe, who will probably be on the Outland Trophy watch list, should be the team’s top offensive lineman but he’s also an affable guy who is majoring in corporate communication. He tells of when he was a high school quarterback as a freshman before his “school spirit” prompted a move to offensive line. After being asked to pick his Fortnite teammates from the roster, he was asked if he’s the best player of the popular video game.
“Pfffft. Is that a question?”
Hager is a Texas legacy. His father Britt was an All-American linebacker for the Longhorns in the mid-1980s and holds the season and career records for tackles. Breckyn’s career has been spotty – nine starts in 34 games.
Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando last season started to harness Hager’s intensity and with the departure of Malik Jefferson, Hager could be the defense’s bull in a china shop.
Hager is a film buff and says “On the Waterfront” is his favorite and “I love Marlon Brando, he’s my man crush Monday every Monday.” While he’s majoring in philosophy, he wants to make movies. “I’ve got a feature film I’m working on. I love going to L.A., seeing the Hollywood sign. It’s like Burnt Orange sparking my passion.”
About that time, Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports asked “Who’s the bigger legend? Brando or Orlando?”
Hager reacted like he’d just sacked a QB to clinch the national championship. “Oh my God. That’s the question of the century … But I’d go with Todd Orlando because without him I wouldn’t be sitting here.”
Hager has a history of quotes that go viral. His rambling verbiage is entertaining but the more you talk, the more likely you’re going to say something that is yanked out of context for a Tweet. He was asked if he was surprised to be selected for the media day gantlet.
“I was happy that people understand I’ve matured exponentially from where I was a year ago,” he said. “As a person I’ve evolved, and I understand words are powerful.”
Combined with attention from shoulder-length blonde hair, Hager – and a teammate he calls “Patty Melt” – is hoping to be modern-day Samsons for a program that wants to return to legendary status.
Greg Burks in the Big 12’s new officiating coordinator, replacing Walt Anderson who is now working fulltime for the NFL. Burks open Tuesday’s media session and made it clear he’s going to speak his mind.
The topic was rule 8-3-2-a.
It says: “If a touchdown is scored during a down in which time in the 4th period expires, the try shall not be attempted unless the point(s) would affect the outcome of the game. Exception: If the scoring team is ahead by one or two points, they have the option to forego the try.”
Burks went Strunk & White (Google it) like a good editor.
“This is one of the worst-worded rules I think I’ve ever seen and has created a lot of confusion,” he said. “Basically, what this says is the offensive team does not have to attempt the try if they don’t want to.”
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who will turn 80 this season, says he hasn’t thought about retirement:
“I’ve got a 6-year old great-grandchild that I want to coach.”
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen on Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, who is still coaching at 79:
“I ain’t doing it when I’m 79. I’ll be lucky to be here when I’m 79.”
Texas coach Tom Herman suggesting that the Longhorns need to renew its rivalry with Texas A&M, playing the Aggies each season in Week Two:
“The University of Texas does not play a rival at home, ever. Our only now-true historic rival is Oklahoma. We play them in Dallas at the state fair. Oklahoma, they play Oklahoma State home-and-home every year. Iowa plays Iowa State home-and-home every year.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy prefers an eight-team playoff – the Power 5 conference champs, two wildcards and the top Group of Five team:
“If you’re at a smaller (Group of 5) school you essentially have no chance to win a national championship because you’ll never get in & I don’t think that’s fair.”