Lunchtime links: Brown family helps start Stillwater school

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma State and Texas will renew a fierce rivalry Saturday involving two of the top six teams in the country. An entire nation will be watching a game with Bowl Championship Series and Big 12 title ramifications.

And even though the competition between the two schools will be fierce, there's a connection between the two schools that goes much deeper than any football game.

San Antonio Express-News columnist David Flores writes about how Texas coach Mack Brown and his wife, Sally, helped start the Rise School of Stillwater, a school for special-needs children. The idea came after Oklahoma State director of football operations Jimmy Gonzales' daughter, Mya, was born with Down Syndrome in 2005.

Gonzales was the director of football operations at Texas under John Mackovic. And although Brown brought his own person to fill the job after the coaching change, he has maintained a close relationship with Gonzales over the years.

Soon after their daughter was born, Gonzales told Brown about Mya's diagnosis. Brown told him about his family's work in starting the Rise School of Austin, a school modeled along the lines of the Rise School, a nationally recognized early childhood program at the University of Alabama for children with disabilities.

The University of Alabama Rise School-Tuscaloosa is housed in the Stallings Center, named after the late Johnny Stallings, the son of former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings.

The Browns, along with the Gonzales family, have played active roles in the start of the Stillwater center that opened last October.

The facility celebrated its grand opening the following week, coinciding with last season's Texas-OSU football game. Sally Brown came early to attend the festivities.

"I went to the airport to pick her up," Gonzales told the Express-News. "Even though we had a big game with Texas the next day, it was neat to have her share that occasion with us because we found out about the Rise School through her and Mack."

The following day, Gonzales met with Brown on the field before the game between the Cowboys and Longhorns.

"Mack shook my hand and gave me a hug, and then he said, 'How's Mya?'" Gonzales told Flores.

That's why tomorrow's game between the Cowboys and Longhorns would be special, even if the attention for the game wasn't nearly as high as it is.

More information about the Mya Gonzales Foundation, a non-profit organization created for families of children with Down Syndrome and other special needs, can be obtained here.

And here are some other links from across the Big 12 for your edification. Enjoy them.

  • The Denver Post's John Henderson isn't buying the Big 12 as the nation's best for one main reason -- lack of defense. Henderson determined that all but one team that made the BCS title game in its history had a defense ranked 23rd or better nationally. Nine of the top 24 teams in the country are from the SEC. And the Big 12's best defense this season is Oklahoma at No. 34.

  • The Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue profiles Texas A&M freshman wide receiver Ryan Tannehill, who has emerged as the Aggies' top receiver despite starting the season as a backup quarterback.

  • With Missouri struggling and Kansas facing a difficult upcoming schedule, the Lincoln Journal-Star's Brian Christopherson says that Nebraska could be poised to win the North Division with a few breaks.

  • The Dallas Morning News' Kate Hairopoulos writes a touching story about how Texas running back Chris Ogbonnoya has overcome several family tragedies to emerge as one of the Longhorns' key players this season.

  • Oklahoma State will bring a roster heavily stacked with Texas natives to meet the Longhorns, Scott Wright of the Oklahoman writes.

  • With his red-tinted contact lenses and Mohawk hairstyle, the Waco Tribune-Herald's John Werner says Baylor free safety Jordan Lake looks like a crazy man in cleats. Lake's father says his son watches a DVD "The NFL's 100 Hardest Hits" to psyche himself up before games.