Alex De La Torre

Sophomore full-back Alex De La Torre made the most of his opporunity against West Virginia last weekend, catching the game-winning touchdown in Texas' 47-40 overtime win.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

For most of his football career, sophomore fullback Alex De La Torre was in the forefront.

In high school, De La Torre played linebacker and was often in the spotlight for the 385 tackles, 20 sacks and four interceptions he recorded through his last three seasons. But after being recruited on defense, he became a fullback for the Longhorns and, like most in that position, moved to the background.

“I was a little surprised at the very beginning, but my dad is a head coach, so I’ve been told to be a team player and sacrifice,” De La Torre said. “So I said I was all for it.”

“Day-La,” as his teammates call him, learned to embrace his new position. He said he plays about an average of 14 plays a game, but he’s learned the in-and-outs of his new spot and how to make the most out of the limited action.

De La Torre has also used his defensive skills to his advantage. The tough and gritty linebacker attitude he learned to play with didn’t diminish once he stepped over to the offensive side of the ball.

“It’s a real blue collar [position],” De La Torre said. “You just have to keep on grinding in practice. You’re pretty much just a small O-lineman. That’s how it is really. I’ve really embraced that type of blue-collar mentality, and I’ve tried to take that linebacker mentality and bring it to offense.”

Embracing that mentality has worked out so far for the 6-foot-1-inch, 233-pound athlete. After apprenticing under Ryan Roberson his freshman year, De La Torre learned the trade and gained the fullback role this season. He recorded his first career rush for 19 yards on a fake punt against Kansas State, and his first career reception could not have come at a better time. 

Last Saturday, he snatched a goal line pass from Case McCoy against West Virginia for an overtime touchdown.

“I was really excited for him,” senior offensive guard Mason Walters said. “Alex, playing that fullback position, doesn’t get a lot of recognition, and I know he’s a guy that works extremely hard, so I was really excited to see him score not only the touchdown, but [it was] a big point in the game too. [It] really helped us out and [I was] excited for him.”

The new fame he gathered came fast and caught De La Torre by surprise. Since he had never experienced a college press conference, when his name was called for the post-game interviews, he had a few things backwards.

“He went to the media afterwards, and you never think about this, but what do you do?” head coach Mack Brown said. “I said, ‘They’ll tell you what to do when you get in there.’ He said, ‘Do I ask them?  What do I–.’ I said, ‘Just go out there and sit, and they’ll ask you questions.’”

Although he is in the background on the field, De La Torre has become quite the star in the Twitter world. The Denton, Texas, native enjoys his time on Twitter so much that his teammates had to limit the amount of action he could spend on the social media site after grabbing his first career touchdown.

“We gave him a hard time,” Walters said. “He likes his Twitter, so after the game, we told Alex to limit it to one [tweet] tonight, and then we’ll [lift] that restriction on a later day. It’s just all in good fun.”

Sophomore fullback Alex De La Torre's makes his first catch as a Longhorn — which also happens to be the game-winning touchdown in overtime, as Texas beat West Virginia 47-40.

Photo Credit: Joe Capraro | Daily Texan Staff

Sophomore fullback Alex De La Torre failed to record a reception in his first 15 games at Texas, but he picked a timely moment for his first.

His two-yard touchdown reception in Texas’ first possession of overtime proved to be the game winner in the Longhorns’ 47-40 over West Virginia on Saturday.

The Mountaineers had the opportunity to match De La Torre’s score in their first drive of overtime, but the Longhorns held the Mountaineers to just one yard in their final four plays after having a first and goal from the five.

Senior quarterback Case McCoy forced overtime by leading a 57-yard fourth quarter drive, capped by a 24-yard field goal by senior kicker Anthony Fera to even the score at 40. McCoy threw three touchdown passes in the second half and finished the game with 283 yards on 27-of-49 passing.

Junior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley paced Texas through the air with seven receptions for 82 yards, including his first touchdown catch of the season on a 10-yard strike in the fourth quarter. 

The Longhorns continued their strong play on the ground as well, rushing for 152 yards on 41 carries as a team. Junior running back Malcolm Brown led the way with 89 rushing yards and a touchdown.

“I thought we were playing very well for a long period of time,” head coach Mack Brown said. “I give them credit, they did some things great. We made a mistake or two, but at the same time they were challenging us.”

Sophomore running back Johnathan Gray also racked up 56 rushing yards on eight carries before leaving the game with an Achilles injury, sidelining him for the rest of the season, in the third quarter. In addition, senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley will also miss the rest of the season after suffering a left leg injury in the first quarter.

The defense struggled without Whaley, allowing 399 yards of total offense while surrendering more than 30 points for the first time in conference play. Texas did manage to record seven sacks and five turnovers in the game, though.

“We just knew we had to put pressure on these guys and disrupt them,” senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “That’s what we have to do as a defensive line and as a defense. It’s a little nerve-wracking to play in an overtime game. We work on that stuff all the time. You have to have a fast start, and then you finish the game.”

The Longhorns will now enter a stretch of games against three ranked opponents to close the season, starting with next weekend’s matchup against No. 14 Oklahoma State.

Peter Jenkins, 19, will suit up for Texas in 2012 . The linebacker from Dallas Skyline is the No. 5 player at his position in the state. (Photo courtesy of orangebloods.com)

Every year, college football coaches pursue the nation’s top players and try to convince them to play for their team. For some players, the choice on where to play is simple, and they don’t need any further convincing. Others mull over the decision, weighing such variables as potential playing time, proximity to their home and the overall feel of the program recruiting them.

In the end, it is the players’ decision, and in recent years, more and more of the nation’s best are choosing to come to Austin.

“Texas was just the best combination of tradition, comfortability and an academic future,” said 2012 commitment Alex De La Torre. “I love [Head] Coach [Mack] Brown, [defensive coordinator] Coach [Manny] Diaz and the staff and how the Texas players are one big unit, a family if you will. I just knew then, when I had the Texas experience, that I wanted to be a Longhorn.”

De La Torre is just one of 18 commitments the Longhorns have inked for the 2012 season. The inside linebacker from Ryan High School in Denton also received offers to play at Auburn and Notre Dame but chose to become a Longhorn instead. He still has a full season of high school football left to play, but he’s keeping a close eye on the Texas team.

“I have very high hopes for the team this year,” De La Torre said. “I’m a firm believer in all the coaches that have come in, and I think this year will be a great one.”

Dallas Skyline linebacker Peter Jinkens, another Texas commit, also has lofty expectations for the Longhorns this season.

“I think we have a really good team and could do something great,” he said.

Jinkens is ranked as the No. 5 outside linebacker in the state and was selected as an ESPN and Under Armour All-American for the class of 2012. He has also taken a liking to Diaz, even offering a new nickname for the former Mississippi State coordinator.

“I think Coach Manny Fresh is going to do a great job,” Jinkens said. “He’s very passionate.”

Jinkens’ decision to come to Texas was an easy one. He played with current Longhorn receiver Mike Davis while at Skyline and says Davis is “like a big brother” to him. In addition to having a good friend on the team, Jinkens admitted Brown had a significant influence on his decision.

“You just can’t tell Coach Mack no,” he said.

Jinkens and De La Torre still have a year before they are officially part of the team, but until then, they will continue to support Texas the best they can — and maybe even convince a few more players to become Longhorns. 

Printed on September 1, 2011 as: Texas Adds Pair