David Ash

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Outside of the 15th Street Church of Christ in Temple, there is an old bush with a small hole in the middle.

Every Sunday, before church, a young David Ash started his morning by hiding his football in the center of that bush, and, when church was let out, it was the first place he ran.  

Slinging off his church clothes to reveal his play clothes underneath, he and his brother, along with a few of his cousins and friends, ran routes, pretending they were future stars. While these times wouldn’t be the first or last they played football, it was likely the most memorable.

“Those times really meant a lot to us,” said Stephen Ash, David’s younger cousin who lined up with him on 15th Street. “It just meant a lot that we were together playing, and football just happened to be something we all loved.”

Even back then, David knew football was only a game. He knew he couldn’t play it forever, so he realized the importance of family and spirituality in his life, which has guided him since and, most recently, helped him make the tough decision to retire from football.

“The biggest joy I’ve had in football was doing it all for my dad,” David said. “And I dedicated my career to Jesus when I was in eighth grade, and it’s really incredible to see how far I’ve come. But my football period is ending.”

Ash grew up in a conservative home in Belton, 60 miles north of Austin, with five other siblings. Growing up, his family never watched television and only watched movies on the weekend — his favorites were “The Fox and the Hound” and “The Grinch” — so he spent most of his time outdoors.

“Instead of watching TV, we spent our time on sports,” Stephen said. “It just gave us the time to just do and learn other things. We always played football. He would make me run routes all the time with him, and even sometimes, though rarely, I got to throw it to him.”

Outside of his comfort zone, Ash is reserved around most people, but his demeanor flips around close family and friends, showing off his goofy, fun-loving side.

Friends know him best for his compassion and commitment to others.

“He is a great example of caring for others,” Stephen said. “A lot of college football players are arrogant, but not David. He’s a servant at heart. He always tried to make people feel important, and it really meant a lot to you when he took time like that.”

Ash always had a knack for football. His electric blend of talents impressed coaches at a young age and propelled him to the top of the pack. When he scored his first touchdown as a running back in Little League football, he came back to the sideline and told his cousin, “That was too easy.”

Ash attended Academy High School until his sophomore year when he transferred to Belton. When his coach Rodney Southern first saw him, he knew Ash was talented.

“The first day he walked in the school, we happened to be outside playing football during our athletic period,” Southern said. “He warmed up, and, when I first saw him throw the ball, I turned to our offensive coordinator and said, ‘That’s our starting quarterback for the next three years.’”

Over the past month, Ash has realized his football career had to end. He knows his health comes before the game, and, once again, he realized there was more to life than football.

“I had a lot of goals … [and] had I remained healthy, I would have gotten to accomplish [them],” Ash said. “But there’s so much still; there’s so much good life out there besides football. I’m really excited to put time in those things now.”

David Ash has far exceded his 2011 totals this season, passing for 2354 yards, 17 touchdwons and five interceptions with two regular season games remaining in Texas’ season.

Photo Credit: Lawrence Peart | Daily Texan Staff

When David Ash committed to play at Texas in February 2010, he wasn’t expected to leave much of a legacy as a Longhorn.

Garrett Gilbert, former Gatorade Player of the Year, had just held his own after being forced into duty against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game and was supposed to be the quarterback of the future at Texas.

Ash didn’t even crack the ESPN150 coming out of high school, and many figured he might not play at all, even before Mack Brown found another top quarterback to step in after Gilbert.

Unfortunately for Longhorn fans, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

By the time Ash arrived on campus, Gilbert’s Longhorn career was in shambles and the Texas football program was coming off its worst season since 1997. Ash wound up playing in all 13 games as a true freshman, and, by week seven, he was the starter.

Fast forward a few seasons, and Ash has started 22 games, attempted over 600 passes and thrown for 4728 yards and 31 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he’s also had more head injuries — three — than he’s played in bowl games — two.

Three was apparently one too many for Ash, as concussion symptoms forced the Belton native to end his football career last week.

Ash met with the media for the first time since retiring this week, and the always-stoic leader showed an emotional side some had never seen before.

“The last couple weeks have been hard,” Ash said. “I’ve met my quota for crying for like the next ten
years probably.” 

In spite of the inevitable disappointment that comes with having a career cut short, Ash appears to be handling the challenging situation with grace. As always, he has been thankful for God’s presence in his life, but he has also been very appreciative of all the support he has received from people in his life.

“Throughout this whole process, there’s been so many people reach out to me and encourage me,” Ash said. “I want those people to know that that really does matter, and it really did affect me in a tremendous way.”

Some will remember Ash as the quarterback who couldn’t lead Texas beyond mediocrity while others might think of him as the guy who made the most of a tough situation. Either way, it’s tough to question his perseverance.

He took over as the face of the Longhorn football program when it was at rock bottom, and through all the ups and downs, Ash has always kept a level head.

Sure, he may have never beaten Oklahoma and no, he didn’t lead Texas to one of the BCS games that Longhorn Nation had become so accustomed to in the 2000s. But, given all the injuries he suffered and the turmoil that existed within the program throughout his career, Ash’s time in burnt orange could perhaps best be defined by one word: persistence.

“I want [people] to remember the good plays and not the bad ones,” Ash said. “But I want what I stand for to stick out more than my abilities. I would like people to remember me for what’s on the inside — for my character, for my faith.”

An unfortunate series of events led to the start of David Ash’s career, and an equally unfortunate series of events led to its end. But, what happened in between was anything but unfortunate. Ash led with class and character as a quarterback at Texas, and that will be his legacy.

David Ash decided to retire last week after suffering concussion-like symptoms after the season opener. Ash also missed 10 games last year because of concussion symptoms.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Former Texas quarterback David Ash addressed the media Monday for the first time since head coach Charlie Strong announced the junior’s retirement last week.

Ash’s career came into question after he reported concussion-like symptoms to team doctors after the season opener against North Texas on Aug. 30. He missed all but three games last year after suffering a concussion against BYU in the second week of the season.

Ash said the past year has been hard on him, but after three weeks of deliberation, he’s at peace with his decision.

“At the core of my heart of hearts, I know I shouldn’t be playing,” Ash said.

Ash went 15-7 as a starter in four seasons with Texas, and he finishes his career eighth in school history with 4,728 passing yards. Despite these accomplishments, Ash hopes he is remembered more for the type of person he was than the type of player he was.

“I want what I stand for to stick out more than my abilities,” Ash said. “I think we live in a world where façade and skills [are gifts]; you can’t control your looks; you can’t control your athletic ability. I hope people remember me as treating other people well, not based on athletic ability or how fun you are.”

While Ash always hoped to return to playing, he said he’s looking forward to his future and enjoying life beyond football.

“There’s still so much,” Ash said. “There’s so much good life out there besides football. I’m really excited to put time in those things now. I love my family. I love getting to spend more time with them, my friends. … You know, maybe I’ll get a girlfriend. Who knows?  There’s all kind of possibilities going on right now.”

With Ash’s retirement, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will become the full-time starter. Swoopes started each of the last two games — both losses — but he played well, passing for 372 yards and three touchdowns against just one interception.

Ash said he’s been impressed with Swoopes so far, and he stressed that he is always willing to offer advice to him or backup freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard if needed.  

“I have some experience, and I have some things that I can share with these quarterbacks,” Ash said. “And, if they need help, or if they are in a situation where I can help them, I want to be there and be able to do that and just, you know, share what I’ve gone through and help them make this team successful.”

In this podcast, Anthony Green and Madlin Mekelburg are joined by crime reporter Natalie Sullivan to discuss City Council member Chris Riley's attempts to legalize ride sharing services Lyft and Uber, the state of local police demographics and how discrimination can affect the mental health of African American and Caribbean blacks. They also discuss the UT System Board of Regents unanimous vote to deny two state legislators’ requests to monitor the ongoing external investigation of UT’s admissions process and the end to David Ash's career on the UT football team after suffering his third concussion earlier this season.

After three concussions in the past year, senior quarterback David Ash has decided to end his football career at Texas.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas head coach Charlie Strong announced Wednesday evening that junior quarterback David Ash will no longer play football after suffering his third concussion earlier this season.

“We just decided because of his health, which was always critical and the number one concern for us, that he’s no longer going to play,” Strong said. “But he’s still going to be around the team, because he deserves to be on this team and around this program.”

Ash, who earned a medical redshirt in 2013 after missing 10 games because of concussions, returned this summer to his team and was named the starter for the 2014 season. In the season opener against North Texas, he completed 19-of-34 passes for 190 yards. He recorded both a passing and rushing touchdown, playing the entire game despite taking a hard hit in the first quarter. Later that night, Ash called the trainers with concussion-like symptoms, which sidelined him for Texas’ next two games. 

“We’re always concerned about a young man’s health and will never jeopardize his health for the good of a football team,” said Strong in a Sept. 1 press conference after announcing Ash as out “indefinitely.”

Though few believed Ash would return, his decision was not official until Wednesday. Strong said there was “no way” they were going to let Ash back on the field after his history of injuries, but he thinks it’s important Ash remains a part of the team.

“It’s a very tough call for him,” Strong said. “He’s very emotional — done a lot for this program, been a major part of this University. Any player you’d like to finish his career — that’s why they sign up to be a part of something special. What’s important is that he feels a part of this and [doesn’t feel] like he’s been pushed aside.”

Ash finishes his career with 22 starts, 385 completions and a 62.8 percent completion rate. He threw for 31 touchdowns, tallying 18 interceptions, finishing with a quarterback rating of 138.41. Now, Ash will continue to attend practices, team meetings and potentially travel, Strong said. He will help younger quarterbacks, acting as a coach on the team.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes took the starting job after Ash’s injury and will continue to start for the Longhorns, with redshirt quarterback Jerrod Heard assuming the backup position. Strong said he has not decided whether they will burn Heard’s redshirt — guessing it will be a game-time decision.

Senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson will also undergo possibly season-ending foot surgery and could potentially apply for a medical redshirt at the end of the season.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes completed 70 percent of his passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns against No. 12 UCLA on Satuday night. Swoopes, in just his second career start, led an 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth.

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Coming into the season, sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes was just an inexperienced backup quarterback whom Longhorn fans were hoping they wouldn’t have to see in 2014.

Swoopes struggled in limited playing time last season, leading many to fear absolute disaster if he was forced to handle a significant number of snaps in place of the oft-injured redshirt junior David Ash this season.

Sure enough, just three games into the season, Swoopes has already started more games than Ash has this year. But, to the surprise of many, the 6-foot-4-inch, 243-pound gunslinger’s performance hasn’t yet been the disaster fans expected.

Although Texas came up short in the 20-17 loss to No. 12 UCLA, Swoopes’ performance was worthy of a victory at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night.

The former four-star recruit completed more than 70 percent of his passes for a total of 196 yards and two touchdowns against the Bruins and led an impressive 80-yard touchdown drive to give Texas the lead late in the fourth quarter.

“[Swoopes] just continues to get better and better,” Texas head coach Charlie Strong said. “You look at him this week, and he made really good throws. He’s big and strong enough where he can make the plays and with pressure, you can run.”

Swoopes’ performance against BYU last week wasn’t poor by any means, considering it was his first career start at Texas. But his game looked so improved against UCLA that, at times, it seemed like he was an entirely different player.

Take, for example, his 33-yard completion to fifth-year senior John Harris in the second quarter. The pocket quickly collapsed on Swoopes; but instead of panicking the way he had on multiple occasions a week earlier, he calmly escaped the pressure, waited for Harris to outrun the coverage and threw a perfect ball.

“I felt a lot more comfortable,” Swoopes said. “I played last week, and with that, I built confidence. I came in a little bit more confident, and I can build off that next
week, too.”

While nothing has been made official, it looks as though Ash will be out for the foreseeable future, meaning it’s Swoopes’ team to lead. He’ll want to continue improving as an individual, but at the end of the day, he will be judged based on his ability to win games.

Swoopes was a superstar in his senior year at Whitewright High School but won just one game that year. So far he’s 0-2 at Texas, and as long as the losses continue to mount, the individual numbers won’t matter.   

“I thought I played well, but at the end, it is not about me,” Swoopes said. “We still didn’t win, so we have to build confidence off this and try to get the win next time.”

Imagine buying your dream car. It has all the bells and whistles you can imagine, but just two weeks after you drive it off the lot, two of the tires are flat; the air conditioning breaks; the power windows stop working; the navigation screen burns out; and two of the speakers blow out.

That’s kind of how new Longhorn head coach Charlie Strong must feel about his offense right now.

When Strong took over one of the most prestigious jobs in the country in January, the offense didn’t look too bad. His starting quarterback was returning for his third year at the helm; he had one of the best running back tandems in the country; three of the top four receivers from last season were coming back; and the offensive line looked solid.

But, heading into the third week of his first season in Austin, Strong will likely only have five of his 11 projected preseason starters playing against UCLA, and the offense looks hopeless.

Redshirt junior quarterback David Ash is out for the foreseeable future because of his concussion symptoms, which returned after the season opener against North Texas.

“David [Ash] is indefinitely out until the doctors decide — the doctors are going to make a decision,” Strong said. “Tyrone [Swoopes] is our quarterback, and he’s going to be our quarterback, and we’re just going to go with him.”

Fifth-year senior center Dominic Espinosa, who was expected to be the leader of a relatively inexperienced offensive line, is likely out for the season after breaking his ankle.

Junior wide receiver Daje Johnson, Texas’ best big-play threat, senior Kennedy Estelle and junior Desmond Harrison are all still suspended over violation of team rules.

“You get frustrated because you look at a talented group of players that you have to suspend that could really be helping this football team,” Strong said. “But who knows if they can be? Because they can’t even do the little things we ask them to do.”

And senior Jaxon Shipley, the Longhorns’ most consistent receiver from a year ago, has been listed as questionable for this weekend after suffering a head injury against BYU, according to Texas officials.

All in all, that’s six potential Texas starters who will be out against the Bruins on Saturday, and we’re barely into September.

The injuries to Ash and Espinosa appear to be long-term, and it’s unknown how long the suspensions will last, so it’s going to be up to the current group to turn it around for the Longhorns.

“We have a good football team, and we have what we need,” Strong said. “We can get it done with it, and we will continue to get it done with it.”

Five of those six were out last week, with Shipley being the exception, and the struggle was evident.

The patchwork offensive line didn’t establish any chemistry as BYU defenders were in the backfield on what seemed like every other play. The lack of a push stalled the running game, disrupting the Longhorns’ conservative game plan.

In his first start, Swoopes was solid but wasn’t much of a threat to run and never really had a chance to show off his arm strength. That should change this week as Strong and offensive play-caller Shawn Watson have vowed to open up the playbook for the sophomore gunslinger.

“We always keep [Swoopes] growing,” Watson said. “We’re working with a young offensive line and still putting those guys together, but we’ll keep pushing [Swoopes]. We’ll keep pushing the pieces that we have.”

Strong and his staff appear confident in their ability to replace each of the broken pieces in their brand new vehicle, but it’ll be difficult to get the same performance from the new parts as they did when they drove it off the lot.

It has been all bad news for the Longhorns since they routed North Texas, 38-7, last Saturday.

Senior center Dominic Espinosa is most likely out for the season after breaking his ankle against the Mean Green, taking away a vital part of Texas’ offensive line. On Wednesday evening, head coach Charlie Strong suspended two of the Longhorns’ offensive lineman because of a violation of team rules, leaving this week’s line with a combined five total starts. But the most devastating loss is starting quarterback David Ash, whose concussion symptoms returned after the game last weekend, sidelining the only quarterback on the roster that has started a game at this level.

In place of Ash, Texas gave sophomore Tyrone Swoopes the starting job, hoping he can lead the Longhorns to victory against Brigham Young, who embarrassed Texas last season. However, with a tough stretch ahead for Texas, the Longhorns’ would be best equipped to win with true freshman Jerrod Heard at the helm.

Swoopes had the media buzzing when he first signed with Texas in 2011, giving Longhorn fans flashbacks to Vince Young with his stature and athleticism. However, since then, he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations.

The 6-foot-4, 243-pound quarterback was only able to win one game as a senior at Class 2A Whitewright High School, as his team finished his final season 1-9 after a disappointing postseason run his junior year.

It’s difficult to make a case for a quarterback to lead one of the most historic NCAA programs in the country, when he had trouble winning two games in a high school division that is only a small step above 7-on-7 ball.

Heard, on the other hand, tallied two state championships during his time at Guyer High School, a 4A school. He recorded a 36-8 record as a starter with 6,512 passing yards and 65 passing touchdowns during his three years while competing against many of the top high school athletes in Texas.

However, the biggest difference between Heard and Swoopes is confidence and leadership. When Swoopes took the field in six games last season, he looked timid and uncomfortable, throwing just five completions for 26 yards. He struggled with accuracy and had little success scrambling, which was his supposed strong suit when he arrived on the
40 Acres.

In comparison, before Heard was even enrolled at Texas, he had assumed a leadership role for the Longhorns. On multiple occasions, he made visits himself to other recruits to help push them to come to Texas, and Strong continually relied on him when he needed assistance.

When Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples visited the dual-threat quarterback last season, while he was still in high school, he said Heard already “talked and acted like a college senior.”

While Swoopes certainly has the potential, he is a risky choice for a team and head coach that is under a lot of pressure. With Ash out and the offensive line dwindling, Heard has the combination of talent, leadership and game management skills that the Longhorns need.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will start Saturday against BYU in place of junior quarterback David Ash, who is out with concussion symptoms. 

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

Mere hours after learning their starting quarterback won’t play against BYU this weekend, head coach Charlie Strong and his players faced the media, and one thing was clear: Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes will not be the only person relied upon to fill the void left by junior quarterbacks David Ash’s absence.

Swoopes will take the reins at quarterback for Texas on Saturday, but the entire team has stressed the importance of each player stepping up to make up for the loss.

“Tyrone [Swoopes] is the starter, but you have to look at it as it’s not all about just one position,” Strong said. “You get the defense to play well and play like we played the other night, and you have two good running backs, the offensive line protects well and then cover it up — you can function. It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

While teams would often focus on hyping up the backup quarterback and preparing him for the added pressure that comes with starting, the Longhorns appear to be diverting attention away from Swoopes and stressing the importance of each position group adding a little bit more to the plays.

“I think that we have a lot of leaders on every position,” senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson said. “I feel like, at the University of Texas, you have to practice like you’re a starter because you never know when your number is going to get called at any given time.”

Despite limited playing time last season, the Longhorns are confident in Swoopes’ ability to execute on the field. But it is Ash’s leadership that will be most difficult to replicate.

With Ash and senior center Dominic Espinosa out, it will be up to Texas’ other veteran players to lead the offense.

“When you have two great leaders go down, some of the guys have to step up even a little bit more,” senior running back Malcolm Brown said. “It’s nothing completely different that we are going to do, but [we] just got to be a little bit more vocal. Those guys that are stepping in for them — as a team — we have to keep those guys up.”

Texas will need to continue to support Swoopes and avoid putting him, or freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard, in a situation where they are forced to play beyond their means against the Cougars.

“[Swoopes and Heard] — they have got a long week to get ready,” senior cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “I know they are going to give their all, and we just have to rally around those guys and be ready to go.” 

Senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley has seen a dip in his numbers without junior quarterback David Ash over the past few seasons. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

For the second straight season, Texas will be without junior quarterback David Ash for a considerable amount of time because of concussion symptoms.

While the absence of an experienced starter under center would certainly impede any team, the loss of Ash could prove to be even more significant for the Longhorns.

Since he took over as the full-time starter as a sophomore, Texas has faired considerably better with Ash in the lineup. In Ash’s 16 starts since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Longhorns have gone 12-4 while averaging 36.6 points per game. Over that same stretch, Texas has scored just 27 points per game while struggling to a 6-5 record without Ash.

The biggest disparity last season, though, came in terms of total offense. In Ash’s three starts in 2013, Texas averaged a whopping 537.3 yards per game, compared to just 370.1 in its 10 games without him. To be fair, the Longhorns racked up a school-record 715 yards against a far inferior New Mexico State team in one of Ash’s game, but they still registered at least 450 yards of total offense in each of the other two contests he started.

One major reason for this discrepancy in offensive output stems from Ash’s ability to limit mistakes and make the most of his pass attempts. His efficiency rating of 153.3 was good for fifth in the Big 12 in 2012, and the 156.3 mark he posted in three games last year would have been good for third best in the conference had he maintained it over the course of a full season. Additionally, Ash has posted an impressive 2.7-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio since becoming the starter in 2012.

On the other hand, backup quarterback Case McCoy struggled to replicate these numbers when pressed into duty last season. In 13 games  with 10 starts in 2013, McCoy threw 11 touchdown passes against 13 interceptions, while posting a 109.3 efficiency rating. 

While the Texas offense as a whole takes a step down without Ash, nobody seems to experience a bigger drop in numbers than senior wide receiver Jaxon Shipley. In Ash’s 16 starts since the beginning of 2012, Shipley has hauled in six touchdown receptions and enjoyed seven games with at least six receptions. In 11 games without Ash, though, Shipley has recorded just two touchdowns while turning in just three games with six or more grabs.

Sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes gets the start in Ash’s place this week after completing 5-of-13 pass attempts for 26 yards while rushing for 79 yards and a score in limited playing time last year. Texas has had mixed results with quarterbacks making their first career starts in recent seasons; McCoy passed for 168 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Iowa State in 2011, while Ash struggled later that season against Oklahoma State, passing for 139 yards and two interceptions.

The Longhorns hope Swoopes can utilize his considerable size and speed to make an immediate impact after being thrust into the starting lineup, but, as past history suggests, the offense won’t be the same without Ash under center.