Curtis Brown had every right to be angry.
After his second muffed punt inside the 20-yard-line on Saturday, he threw down his helmet, kicked it to the sideline and screamed profanities. He felt like the Longhorns’ loss to Baylor was all his fault. Obviously it wasn’t as if a loss can’t be placed on one man’s shoulders, but it’s easy to understand why he let his frustrations get the best of him considering the kind of week he had.
Last Tuesday before the Baylor game, Brown received a phone call every parent dreads — his 1-year-old daughter, Alayah, was in the hospital in Houston with a deadly respiratory illness.
Brown had to get to Houston immediately.
But before he could leave Austin, Brown’s name randomly popped up on a mandatory NCAA drug test that was scheduled for that Wednesday morning. He was told missing the test would cost him the standard penalty — a one-year suspension, which would have meant the end of his college football career because he is a senior.
“Bless his heart,” said head coach Mack Brown. “He got up at 5 Wednesday morning, took the test at 6 and got in the car and left.”
Curtis Brown arrived back in Austin on Friday in time to meet the team at the hotel it stays at before home games.
“Like anybody else would be, he was pretty distraught over the situation,” said defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who consoled his cornerback throughout the week. “It’s tough. We wear a lot of hats other than just being a football coach here at Texas. You’re an adviser, you’re a consultant, you’re a friend. You wear a lot of hats in order to help these young men work through adversity.”
In order to prevent conflicts like Curtis’ in the future, Mack Brown explained that the NCAA needs some flexibility in its drug-testing penalties.
“We need to look at ways that we can get an emergency appeal in that situation because that’s not right,” he said. “It’s not fair to put a young man in an awful position and he didn’t know what to do.”
Sometimes other things in life take priority over football, and in a time when the Longhorns are getting ripped by fans and the media for their inconsistency and 4-4 record, it’s easy to forget that.
All of the Texas players and coaches were aware of Curtis Brown’s situation and supported him during the week.
“We prayed for him and encouraged him,” said senior defensive end Sam Acho. “That goes back to something bigger than football. That goes back to life and we can all learn lessons from that.”
After Curtis Brown lost his composure in the fourth quarter because of his second dropped punt, Acho was there to give his teammate a lift.
“I told him, and he knows this, but I told him that football is a team sport,” Acho said. “It’s not like golf or tennis where it’s just one-on-one. It’s a team sport and we’re all in this together. And that’s been the message and will continue to be the message regardless of the outcome.”
With the way Texas’ season has unfolded, the players and coaches have learned how to pick each other up and forge forward. Though Brown’s situation is much more intense than losing a football game, missing a tackle or botching a punt, this group has learned how to face and handle adversity.
“It’s not just about what happens on Saturday afternoon,” Muschamp said.