If it weren’t for the size of the apples in Texas’ locker room during a recruiting visit, former first-team All Pro defensive end Doug English might have never become a Longhorn. Seriously.
The week before, English -- who attended Dallas’ Bryant Adams High School in the early 1970s -- visited Texas for its annual game against Texas A&M, he attended TCU’s home game against SMU and was blown away by what the Horned Frogs had to offer. That included boxes of fresh apples.
“Boy, it was just a beautiful campus,” English said. “They had just remodeled the locker room and they had this beautiful purple carpet and beautiful lockers. It was a first-class locker room. So we were all nodding and grinning thinking it would be a great place to come.
“They beat SMU, their cross-Metroplex rival. So they came off the field and at the end of their locker was a cardboard box full of apples, at the end of each row of lockers. I remember looking at them. It must have been from the farmers market or something because many of the apples still had the stems on them. I just thought 'Man, free apples. This is great. This is the place for me.' "
Apparently the red delicious’ in Fort Worth had nothing on the Granny Smith’s in Austin.
“The next weekend I went down to Texas and Texas just annihilated Texas A&M that day,” English said. “After the game when the guys were leaving the locker room, Mr. Jim, who was the equipment manager at the time, was grabbing these apples from behind the counter and shoving them out two at a time as they leave. I swear those apples were the size of pumpkins. You could hardly pick one up with one hand. I remember seeing those apples and saying, 'This is where I need to go.' It was pretty cool, pretty funny."
English visited other places, including Oklahoma, but there was no he was ever going to go out of state.
“I didn’t want to represent a different state other than my own, but they made it pretty attractive to me,” he said. “Those people know how to recruit. I also visited Houston and Baylor. But if I would have gone anywhere other than Texas it would have been TCU. “
In the end Texas won out because the apples were bigger and also because English thought that being a Longhorn represented a bigger challenge as far as football was concerned.
“My primary reason for coming to UT was I didn’t feel like I could respect myself if I didn’t,” he said. “Texas was the prize, the place where the good players go and don’t make it because it is that competitive. I felt like if I didn’t go to Texas, I would be backing down. When it is all said and done, that is the biggest reason I went there.”
English not only worked his way on the field during his 1972-74 tenure, he dominated in every facet imaginable.
He has since been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame thanks to his two-time All-Southwest Conference selections, 260 total tackles (111 solo) and four forced fumbles. This all coming from a man who says he probably didn’t have the skill set to play at Texas coming out of high school.
He went on to become a second-round selection in the 1975 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions. He played 10 seasons in the NFL, four of which ended in trips to the Pro Bowl, and was a first-team All-Pro in 1982.
English, who holds the NFL career record with four safeties, now lives in Austin where he is the owner of a supplier logistics company. He’s also the president of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, which as raised over $2.4 million toward research of paralysis from spinal cord injuries through celebrity gold tournaments.
English still very much bleeds burnt orange. Count him as one who is OK with Texas moving on from its Thanksgiving Day rivalry with the Aggies.
“I’m not missing them,” he said. “It’s kind of for the fans, who like the idea of traditional games and rivalries. But A&M, having them in the conference, they kind of do things differently down there with some of their antics. I don’t miss them. I am proud of them because they are a Texas school and there are really good people that go there.
“But [TCU coach] Gary Patterson has built that thing from the ground up. They play hard, work hard and do it right. They just go out and play hard. They are innovative. You know you have to get your chinstrap buckled straight when you play them because they are a handful.”
Just like those apples were on his recruiting visit to Texas.