Seniors want to leave team as they found it

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Safety Kenny Vaccaro is among the seniors who will graduate this year. Vaccaro has been a valuable asset to the Longhorns defense since his freshman year.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Saying that the seniors have seen it all is an understatement. They went from the BCS Championship game to not attending a bowl game at all in less than a year.

While going 8-5 last season was a step up from their sophomore campaign, that isn’t the legacy they want. They want to get this team back to where it was when they arrived here — back to being a national contender. They’ll play in their last Big 12 opener this weekend against Oklahoma State.

“When I came in, it was a program going up and I would like to leave it the way I came in,” said senior running back D.J. Monroe. “The seniors take a lot of pride in that, and we take it upon ourselves to lead the team and not be selfish.”

Monroe has scored a touchdown in each of the Longhorns’ three games and is running more physically than ever. Being the smallest running back, he took it upon himself to get stronger.

He and the other running backs would work out at noon every day this summer to get stronger. He, the rest of the backs and the team had a chip on their shoulder.

”We wanted to let everyone know that we weren’t intimidated by an 8-5 season,” Monroe said. “We are going to come back stronger.”

Head coach Mack Brown has witnessed the seniors’ need to get the team back where it was in 2009.

“There’s this group of guys that said, ‘We got to get this place back on track, and we’re tired of being okay, so let’s do whatever we need to do to win,’” Brown said.

Senior tight end D.J. Grant has been a part of the movement to take the Longhorns back to a higher caliber. He said coaches didn’t tell them to step into this role. The seniors took it upon themselves.
The past three seasons Texas has started off 3-0, but these seasons all had very different endings — an appearance in the BCS Championship, a 5-7 season, a Holiday Bowl berth. Finishing the season strong is vital.

“We’ve seen a lot of things,” Grant said. “We’ve seen how the school is when it’s great and we want to be back there. Everybody knows that so we’re fighting to get it back there.”

After returning to a bowl game last season, the team is hungrier than ever. Facing off against Oklahoma State will be the Longhorns’ first tough test. The Cowboys have defeated these seniors twice during their careers at Texas, both times at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The hostile environment in Stillwater, Okla., won’t faze the Longhorn veterans, but it will tell a lot about the progress the team has made.

The team stresses the importance of the “Texas Standard.” These seniors briefly saw that high during their freshman season. Now the bar is set even higher and they have accepted the challenge.
“You have to gain the trust of your teammates and work hard so they can look at you and be like, ‘I want to be like him,’” Grant said. “You’re going to mess up, but if you mess up, you have to show them that if you mess up, you have to get up and keep going and make a positive play.”

Texas finished the first part of its season, the non-conference slate, with an impressive win over Ole Miss. Now the true test begins, and with the guidance of the seasoned seniors, it will look to make a statement.

Printed on Thursday, September 27, 2012 as: Seniors to play in final Big 12 opener