FORT WORTH — What’s the first thing the Comin’ On Strong bus tour needs? A bus driver, of course.
Enter Mark Evans of Wynne Motorcoaches, a 14-year veteran behind the wheel.
“The hardest thing about driving this is coming down the road and people seeing it for the first time,” Evans said while looking over the pristine Wifi- and satellite TV-enabled motor coach that’ll go all over the state. “People want to take pictures and drive, and that’s kind of scary.”
The bus made its first stop Monday night at Joe T. Garcia’s, a legendary Tex-Mex joint near the Fort Worth Stockyards. The bus, a huge inflatable Bevo mascot and the real four-legged man himself were all parked outside as Longhorns fans trickled in to meet football coach Charlie Strong.
The thing about Joe T.’s is that there’s no menu. “How do you know what to order?,” Strong asked. You get either fajitas or enchiladas. But on this night, truth was served with margaritas and beer.
“We have everything available, and I don’t know why we can’t be successful,” Strong said. “There’s no reason for us not to be. Now, I can’t tell you how soon it’s going to be. Don’t hold me to that. Don’t say, ‘Ooh, coach said next year we’ll be in the national…’ We will not be in the national championship game.”
Burp. Come again?
Realizing what he just said to hundreds of fans, Strong laughed nervously, looked at emcee Ahmad Brooks and said, “OK, you ready to go?”
Hey, that’s not exactly breaking news for anyone who watched Saturday’s spring game. It’s wildly unrealistic to think a team that went 8-5 last season and still has major quarterback issues will pop up and reach the four-team playoff this fall.
“He’s not going to go around kissing babies,” former UT coach David McWilliams said. “And that’s good. I know when coach (Darrell) Royal came in, all those guys after the first meeting said, ‘Things are going to change around here.’ And you’re seeing the same thing.”
You could see people nodding in agreement when Strong talked about the culture within the program, which hasn’t won a Big 12 title since 2009.
“A lot of our guys, they feel entitled and they get a little complacent because of where we are,” Strong told the crowd. “So then as a coaching staff, that’s what we have to be so conscious of when the guys feel they are a little better than what they are. It’s all about building their confidence, and I tell them each and every day. You are a good football player. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not.”
Volleyball coach Jerritt Elliott and women’s basketball coach Karen Aston were on hand to talk about their programs, too. But fans were really dialed in when Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams took the microphone and talked about Strong.
When asked what he thought about the Strong hire, Williams said: “The first thing I did was said, ‘Are you serious?’ I didn’t believe it. All I’d known of coach Strong was that he whipped Florida’s butt.”
Right now, at this moment in the program’s history, that’s all Texas fans want — someone who can build Texas into a program that kicks you-know-what.
“Y’all can join the tour if you’d like,” Strong said to the crowd, but he may as well have been addressing Longhorns everywhere. “I have a bus out there. So if you want to get a bag and get on the bus, we will be more than happy. There’s a lot of room for you, I promise you that.”
And to think, it was only Day 1.
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