If football reveals character, but doesn’t build it, then what does?
Is it, as a second grader, dragging your father to the track every day, determined to outrun all the fourth graders in the upcoming Honeybee Relays?
Is it never missing a football practice in high school, even if it meant giving up the chance to be an all-state singer?
“He has a wonderful bass voice,” Krista Ash, David’s older sister, said. “He would have been an all-stater if he would have been willing to miss a [football practice.] But he sacrificed that. He was that dedicated.”
Is it maintaining the same countenance and demeanor, no matter the situation, even before a 4th-and-6 play during the waning moments of a critical game against Oklahoma State in front of a raucous Stillwater crowd — despite being the loudest member of the family, according to your older sister, who actually looks up to you?
“I care about the football and I want him to be successful because he’s worked so hard,” Krista Ash said. “I’m proud of him for that. I look up to him a lot. Even though he’s my little brother, I still look up to him so much because he’s confident and fearless and driven.”
Whatever the answer, one thing is certain — this year’s version of David Ash is much different than the one Oklahoma saw in last year’s Red River Rivalry.
Ash completed 11 of his 20 passes for 107 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown toss to Jaxon Shipley. But he was picked off twice, fumbled twice, and was sacked four times in the 55-17 shellacking. It was not a kind introduction to the Red River Rivalry for the true freshman.
“I hadn’t been beaten like that since I was a sophomore in high school,” Ash said, recalling Belton’s 35-6 loss to McNeil in 2008. “I was still very inexperienced when I played in that game. I didn’t play well at all ... Whenever you’re on offense, it’s going to be loud. Whenever you’re on defense, it’s going to be loud. The stadium’s split in half and it’s just really cool. That’s why you play college sports.”
That all seems like a distant memory now. The country’s third-most efficient passer, Ash has completed 77.5 percent of his passes, the second-most of the country, while throwing for 1,276 yards, 11 touchdowns and one interception. “It won’t be the same David Ash that played in [the Red River Rivalry] last year,” junior guard Mason Walters said. “There’s so much maturity, so much progress and understanding the offense. He’s become so much more of a complete football player.”
Last season marked the first time Ash faced Oklahoma, but it wasn’t the first time he played football during the Red River Rivalry.
While still in elementary school, Ash, along with Krista and several other members of his family, travelled to Wichita, Kan. for “gospel weekend meetings” with Church of Christ members every October. Every year, the Longhorns fans from Ash’s church would gather with the Sooners fans from Kansas to watch the Texas-Oklahoma game.
“There’s not supposed to be divisions in the church but there was on that weekend,” Ash recalled. “Several men’s wives who would go to the basement because it got too loud upstairs.”
A pre-game ritual involved the kids at the camp, including Ash and his siblings, participating in a flag football game between the Longhorns faithful and those rooting for Oklahoma. Ash, of course, would play quarterback, for the Texas team.
“I feel like we would win most of the time because we had all the Ash kids on the Texas team,” Krista Ash said. “He was really little, when it was just the kids, [David] would play quarterback. When it was everyone, he would do something else. He was only about 10.”
As important as football is to him, Ash’s faith plays a huge role in his life. After Texas’ bye week earlier this year, he called watching his brother, Ian, getting baptized “the greatest thing” that would happen to him this season.
As emotionless and singularly focused as Ash seems on the football field, he couldn’t help but shed a tear when Ian, the youngest of six siblings, told his brothers and sisters he wanted to get baptized.
“It was a really big moment,” Krista Ash said. “We had all been praying about it. He was a little bit older than the rest of us when we were baptized. Whenever he came forward, all four of us kids were sitting on the same bench and we started crying because we were so happy.”
And as quiet as Ash comes across when talking to reporters, he’s not always that way.
“I think it’s really funny people reading how everyone thinks he’s so quiet,” Krista Ash said. “David’s pretty boisterous. But I guess we’re all like that. We’re quiet around people that we don’t really know. But when we get together, we’re pretty crazy and goofy.”
Ash displays a completely different demeanor on the gridiron. Legendary Longhorns quarterbacks of the past like Vince Young and Colt McCoy were animated before, during and after games. But not Ash.
“My dad kind of taught us to be that way,” Krista Ash said. “It’s just kind of a focus thing, not spending energy on anything else. And it’s also not bringing any attention to yourself. My dad never let us make a big deal about it if we did something in sports. We always had to keep it to ourselves and encourage our teammates.”
Ash is still outrunning people, just not fourth graders. He’s still singing, just not competitively, although he does belt out a Josh Turner song every now and then. And he still has the same stone-faced, calm look on his face when he straps his helmet on.
But he’s far from the same player he was at the Cotton Bowl a year ago.
Printed on Friday, October 12, 2012 as: Ash gets another shot at OU