A day to remember for UT grad
by Eric Latcham
Dec 18, 2009 | 717 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009, was anything but normal for me. I woke up early around 7:30 a.m., I know, shocking. I showered and got ready for an exciting, eventful day in which I was scheduled to graduate at noon with a journalism degree from the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin.

I met my family for breakfast and then posed for photographs in front of the UT Tower in my cap and gown as all graduating seniors do. It was necessary for me to be punctual to my own graduation, so I said my goodbyes and headed to “the Drum” (Frank Erwin Center) where I had spent many weeknights and Saturday afternoons rooting on the likes of Kevin Durant, D.J. Augustine and Lamarcus Aldridge play basketball for the ‘Horns.

This day was surreal. It was MY graduation, and I knew this day would come, but after attending everybody’s and their mother’s graduation, I couldn’t believe that this one was mine. It finally sunk in as we entered the arena, grouped by our majors to “Pomp and Circumstance.” If I have any advice to students trying to decide whether to graduate in the fall or spring, I recommend the fall. It will cost you monetarily, but a one and a half hour ceremony is 10 times better than sitting through one that lasts three hours in the spring.

The time and ceremony flew by and it was my time to walk across the stage. My first thought was “do not trip,” followed by a “don’t forget to shake the dean’s hand and receive the mock diploma.” I succeeded in the task at hand and flashed a “Hook ‘em Horn” hand signal as I walked across the stage.

“The Eyes of Texas” was played at the conclusion of the ceremony and, as discussed with the fellow graduates around me, we were determined to toss our caps. I looked around sheepishly, and no one around me was doing it. My mind was made up. I flung my hat as high as I could and the others around me followed suit. We had fun that day and we deserved it. We knew that all the hard work and long hours were worth it and this was our time.

Now is the time that I should probably fess up. Toward the end of my sophomore year I was in the College of Natural Sciences, still undeclared. I realized that calculus, multiple chemistry, physics and biology courses were not for me. I decided to try my hand in journalism with hopes that the trait ran in the family. I can’t honestly say if it does or does not, but it was a heck of a lot easier to me then said classes in natural sciences.

I looked at my degree plan and realized that even if I took courses in the summer, which I did, I would not be on target to graduate alongside my sisters and the rest of my class in the spring. I called my dad and informed him of this. The first thought and main point I would present my father with was “Dad, I guess I’ll have to stay for one more season of UT football.” We came to the conclusion that this would be the correct decision, not to mention that before the season started we knew that Colt McCoy and the Longhorns had a great chance to make it to the national championship.

I thought to myself, “How cool would it be for me to come into college with Texas winning the BCS National Championship as a freshman and ending my overdue tenure as a student in the fall with Texas doing the same thing.”

I was in Houston in attendance for Texas’ last Big 12 Championship and it just so happened that Texas would be playing Nebraska in Arlington at Cowboys Stadium on the same evening of the day I graduated. This would be quite the dilemma for most college students, but for me, I knew what I was doing. I told my family, “I know that y’all are coming up for my graduation and all, but I cannot miss this game.”

Again, I must thank my family for being so understanding. They know me too well and knew that this was the only graduation present I wanted. They knew that I only missed two games total (at Missouri and at A&M, for which I had a ticket but they persuaded me to participate in “family time” at Thanksgiving). I attended games in Laramie, Wyo.; Stillwater, Okla.; Waco; the Red River Rivalry vs. Oklahoma in Dallas; and all the home games. Everything went as planned with Texas going undefeated in the regular season.

After graduation, I went to lunch with family and friends and got on the road to Jerryworld a little later than I would have liked. I knew I’d be cutting it close, but I made it just after the opening kickoff. Anything and everything used by others to describe the $1 billion stadium is probably accurate. From the enormous Jumbotrons, to the 10 or so HD flat-screen TVs at every concession stand, this stadium is like no other I have been to or probably ever will. The game was not as beautiful, being a defensive battle from start to finish. I found my alma mater down 12-10 with 1:44 remaining. I refused to give up on my team, my dream, but I knew it would be difficult to move the ball against the Nebraska defense and their monstrous defensive tackle and Heisman trophy candidate Ndamukong Suh. Luck and destiny were on the side of the Longhorns as Nebraska inexplicably sent the ensuing kickoff out of bounds, giving McCoy and the UT offense the ball on their own 40.

I knew at that point we would win the game. It was destiny; it HAD to happen. McCoy completed a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Shipley across the middle. A penalty for a horse-collar tackle tacked on an additional 15 yards. What happened next was unbelievable. Texas ran two quarterback draws with McCoy as the clock continued to run. Fifteen seconds, 10 seconds, I found myself screaming adamantly, “Snap the ball! Hurry up!” Finally, the ball was snapped, but the clock was winding down as McCoy rolled out. Next thing I knew, I was yelling to the top of my lungs, “Throw it away! Throw it away, Colt!” McCoy nonchalantly tossed the ball out of bounds. After the ball hit a railing on the sideline, the clock continued to tick and eventually ran out. The Cornhusker players and coaches rushed the field in sheer jubilation. I knew a second or two remained, but had zero confidence in the officials putting time back on the clock.

I prayed that the correct decision would be made. I thought about the day and pondered how in the world this could be happening. Remember this was my day; I graduated, we were supposed to win, it was destiny. This was the reason I stuck around for one more semester to see Texas win another national championship (and, of course, to graduate, Mom and Dad), not to be denied by one second like last year against Texas Tech in Lubbock. The official determined that one second be placed back on the clock. All was right in the world, at least mine.

Oh yeah, Texas still had to make a 46-yard field goal for a chance to go to Pasadena. No pressure, Hunter Lawrence; if you miss this, Colt McCoy’s clock management blunder would be on par with Chris Webber’s phantom timeout call that cost the Fab Five of Michigan a national championship in 1993 and the groundball that went between Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner’s legs in the 1986 MLB World Series. With the weight of the world and national championship appearance riding on the right leg of Texas’ field goal kick, Lawrence calmly nailed the ball just inside the left goal post, providing a great end to a great day.

I just found out that I will be attending the BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. See, Mom and Dad; it was worth my attending another semester and not rushing to complete my degree this summer. I am hoping for déjà vu all over again with Texas defeating the University of Alabama on Jan. 7, 2010. I mean it is destiny, but regardless, I have enjoyed my time at the University of Texas.

I still can’t believe my college experience is over, but I will never forget the excitement and chaos of the day I graduated. Now I am faced with the joyous task of finding a job at probably the worst time for college graduates. Maybe, just maybe, I can talk my parents into letting me stick around for another semester. I heard we have pretty good basketball and baseball teams this year.

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