Tom Herman was officially named the head coach of the University of Texas football program this past weekend. It was the culmination of an amazing rise to the top for Herman, who was a graduate assistant for the Longhorns in 1999 and 2000.
But to understand exactly how far Herman has come, one must go back to 1998, when he got his start coaching wide receivers for Division III Texas Lutheran University.
Having no ties to the coaching community, Herman hopped in his 1994 Honda Civic (without power steering) and drove 1,428 miles from his college, California Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, California, to Seguin, Texas, where the 23-year-old found himself coaching for a school that was resurrecting a football program after a decade.
The following is an oral history of the 1998 Texas Lutheran team and Herman's role in it, as told by coaches, players and personnel.
Bryan Marmion, head coach: "I was the defensive coordinator at California Lutheran when Tom played there. I got the job at TLU to rebuild the program from scratch. I knew Tom as a guy who had a crazy work ethic. When he stopped playing, I knew he would funnel that insatiable appetite that he had into coaching. I didn't have much money. We had two full-time coaches and a bunch of retired Texas high school coaches working part-time for us.
"We offered Tom $5,000 a year, and I got him a meal card that would give him a meal on campus. I also got a deal for him and another coach to live in an apartment."
David Lyons, running back/kick returner: "I did well on my SATs, and so I had grants that were being paid to me. When I heard Tom got $5,000, I realized that I, as a player, probably got cut checks worth more than that."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "It will go down that he was paid $5,000. He didn't net $5,000. He finished that season in the hole, I'm pretty sure. When he was on the road recruiting he was paying for hotel rooms out of his own pocket, and they might have not been reimbursed.
"The apartment was nothing special. It was a two-bedroom in downtown Seguin behind an HEB [grocery]. Tom had the typical relics from his football days. It looked more like a college kid's apartment than a coach's place, since he was right out of school."
Herman's potential back then
Brandon Parrott, wide receiver: "He would ask questions, and it wasn't just to get the answers he wanted. He did it because he wanted to know, as a receiver, what you were thinking, so that he could then better coach you. He was meticulous back then, and he was only a year older than me."
David Lyons, running back/kick returner: "He'd be picking our brains nonstop. He would say, 'Now what happens if the defense showed you this? How would you change your route if this was the look?' He was basically our age, but he was so far ahead of what we knew, what we could see."
John Bland, wide receiver: "When I first met Coach Herman, he was so fired up and had more energy than any of us, I thought he was just weird and crazy. But then I got to know him and came to realize his genius. He would show us these ball tricks that none of us could do. And even though he had 11, 12, 13 knee surgeries, he would line up and guys would jam him, and there was no way to stop him from catching the ball."
Mike Walters, wide receiver: "As the season went on, he started to have more and more influence over the plays being run because he was so good."
Tom Herman, the young recruiter
David Lyons, running back/kick returner: "Coach Herman was one of the guys that recruited me for that first year. What struck me about him was his interpersonal skills. He would get on the phone with you each week and build on the conversation from the week before. He truly paid attention to you and remembered everything."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "You could tell he was really connecting to the kids, even back then. He not only had this energy, but he remembered their names, their stats and even things he had seen in their game film."
Mike Walters, wide receiver: "When Coach Herman started recruiting me, I had never heard of Texas Lutheran. I lived in Fort Worth, which was about four-and-a-half hours away from campus. I was upset that I wasn't going to get the scholarship I had hoped for, but then came Coach Herman with so much energy, calling me once every couple of weeks."
Herman's 1994 Honda Civic
Brandon Parrott, wide receiver: "I remember one day, Tom was firing up the car and there was a big oil leak, and there was smoke coming out the back."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "I went on a recruiting trip with him to Corpus Christi since that's where I was from. We were blessed that there was a cold front, and it was kind of cool, because I'm pretty sure the air conditioning didn't work in his car."
On the road
Ronnie Canedo, scout team QB: "Our first road game was at McPherson College in Kansas. That was the worst field I had ever seen. There were backyards that were better than that. Weeds growing everywhere, and I remember the locker rooms had three showerheads, and we were ankle deep in dirty water."
John Bland, wide receiver: "When we get to Kansas, it's time for us to practice, and the practice field was a cow pasture -- divots all over the place and grass taller than our ankles."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "Our second road trip, we didn't even stay at a hotel. We took a bus at 6 in the morning to Austin College in Sherman, Texas, got there at 11, walked the field, got dressed, played the game, showered, and 40 minutes later we were doing the five-hour drive home."
David Lyons, running back/kick returner: "It wasn't glamorous. When we were on the road, it was mostly fast food. Our first trip to Oklahoma, I remembered we each got a couple things at Carl's Jr."
Rick Roswell, head athletic trainer: "We were at a fast food joint and Coach Marmion was handing out $5 to each kid to get something to eat, and he gets up to the three student trainers I had brought with me, and he says, 'I don't have enough money for you guys.'"
Mike Walters, wide receiver: "Eating at Golden Corral was a treat."
John Bland, wide receiver: "I remember going to Hardin-Simmons, where they had won titles. They beat us by more than 10 touchdowns [the score was 83-6]. And I remember every time they would score, which was a lot, the announcer in this soccer-goal voice would say, 'The Thunder Rolls!' It was so annoying that I still can't forget it."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "I was a junior, but I was the full-time equipment manager. They paid me $5 an hour, but I could only report 20 hours a week because that's all they could afford. I was really working 50 to 60 hours a week."
Brandon Parrott, wide receiver: "At Kansas, I was given a choice of three different pairs of wide receiver gloves. At Texas Lutheran, they told us they had none. So I literally had to go to Academy and buy myself some gloves."
Ronnie Canedo, scout team QB: "Our equipment was Reebok, but most of us liked Nike. So the guys who could afford it just bought our own stuff."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "A lot of the Riddell pads that we had didn't fit the smaller guys. Tom gave one of our receivers, John Corbin, the pads he wore in college. I'm not even sure they were legal to play with, but he did. But I would say 40 out of 120 of our guys bought or brought their own stuff to play with."
Ronnie Canedo, scout team QB: "We played our games at Seguin High School. A lot of us showed up from Texas high schools, where there would be 10,000 people, and we didn't even have our own stadium to play in."
Brandon Parrott, wide receiver: "I had transferred from Kansas, and I thought I had made a good move. But I scored a touchdown against Mississippi College, and I look up in the stands and there wasn't 500 people there."
Mike Walters, wide receiver: "Our home practice field was right across from the Tyson chicken plant. If the wind blew south, the smell -- which was like rotten eggs -- was so bad. In the beginning, we practiced three times a day. Guys were throwing up, not because of the conditioning, but because of the smell."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "It was the wettest season in Texas in decades. We had one pair of light yellow game pants. It was almost impossible to keep those clean. In fact, for the pants that weren't clean after the first go-around, Tom Herman was still in the office and he would go back and forth between watching game film and putting in the uniforms [in the washing machine] for a second time."
Rick Roswell, head athletic trainer: "There were some rainy games that year, and we didn't have any rain gear. We were black and gold, and I was on the sideline in my purple jacket from my playing days. The night before our first game, it rained at Seguin High School and tore up the entire field. The field wasn't good for the rest of the year."
Herman leaves after first season
Tim Clark, sports information director: "I remember Tom telling me that his mother would like the fact that he was in MENSA to be included in his next media guide bio. But he was gone before we ever got a chance to include it."
Bryan Marmion, head coach: "A guy named Jimmy Gonzalez was the football operations guy under Mack Brown at the time, and he was a TLU alum. The spot came open, and we had to let him go."
Kevin Richardson, equipment manager: "When he went to Texas after the 1998 season, I think the team was really devastated, because he was clearly our biggest source of energy."
Mike Walters, wide receiver: "I was a slow white guy who was undersized, who started every game beginning in my freshman year. I knew he was good, but I didn't realize how good he was until he left."
Rick Roswell, head athletic trainer: "A couple weeks after he left, we see a picture in the Austin American-Statesman of Tom on Ricky Williams' float on a parade in Austin, and we're all shaking our heads."
David Lyons, running back/kick returner: "I wouldn't have guessed that 15 or so years later, he would be orchestrating the offense for Ohio State's national championship team, or a couple years later he would become head coach of Texas, but I knew, one day, he would be somewhere."
Bryan Marmion, head coach: "When I saw he got the Texas job, I went to the website and counted 52 jobs supporting the football team. Amazing to think about considering where we were in 1998."