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February 15, 2006

Longhorns honored at White House

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WASHINGTON - The White House had a burnt orange tint Tuesday as President Bush honored the national champion Texas Longhorns.

With the U.S. Marine Band playing "Texas Fight" and "The Eyes of Texas" and attendees flashing the Hook 'Em sign, Texas football players filled the outdoor staircases leading to the first balcony of the White House South Portico.

Bush, who wore an orange tie, was dwarfed at the podium by the brawny and well-dressed players as he looked out at the South Lawn with a Longhorns banner hanging behind him.

He declared Jan. 4, the day the Longhorns defeated then-No. 1 Southern California 41-38 in the Rose Bowl, "a day that a lot of Texas fans will never forget."

Bush, at his Crawford ranch that night, fell asleep during the game but woke up in time to see quarterback Vince Young scramble for an 8-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left to win it.

"I remember they started calling you Mr. February," Bush told Texas coach Mack Brown, referring to the nickname given Brown for being able to recruit great players in February but not win big games during the season. "Well today, Mack, you are giving the title Mr. February a whole new meaning.

"This February, you brought the national champs to the White House."

In return, Brown presented Bush with a white 2005 National Champion football jersey with burnt orange lettering. The No. 1 was emblazoned on the jersey with "President Bush" above the number.

Bush noted the celebration brought a sizable crowd, which he attributed to the many Texans living in Washington, including him.

First lady Laura Bush, who has a master's degree in library science from the university, sat in the front row wearing a burnt orange coat. Daughter Jenna, who attended UT, was not at the celebration, but plenty of other Texas exes were, including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican, and former U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans.

Bush singled out several players for their community work, including fullback Ahmad Hall, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan and Kosovo and has started a care package program for overseas troops.

While praising Hall, Bush dispensed a little coaching advice to Brown: "You need to get him the ball more," he said.

Young, who had 467 total yards and ran for three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl, tried to keep a low profile behind some of his larger teammates.

But when Bush singled him out, Brown admitted: "He didn't bring his suit." Later Brown said a relative failed to get it to Young, who has been traveling.

Bush was forgiving, and after Young emerged, the president praised his work as a mentor. He also later noted that 28 of the 32 Longhorns seniors will have earned their degrees by the end of the summer.

"One of those who hadn't quite earned it yet made a promise to his mother, and Vince, I suggest you honor that promise to your mother and get your degree by the end of this summer," Bush said.

Young decided to skip his final year of eligibility and is expected to be one of the top picks in the NFL draft in April.

Bush lingered with the crowd and players after the event, saying hello to old Texas friends, signing autographs and snapping photos.

For more coverage of the Texas Longhorns, check out Orangebloods.com.

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