AS A CHILD MIKE WINCHELL HAD DREAMED OF IT, RIGHT DOWN to the shoelaces that he wore. And now he was here in that mystical place, the huge oval of Memorial Stadium at the University of Texas, with those smooth flanks of concrete curving to the sky.
During their road trips across Texas together, his brother Joe Bill had always made a point of showing Mike the great football baronies of Texas -- Texas A & M, the University of Texas, Baylor. "Hey, if you work hard, you can go here," Joe Bill told him. Of all those trips, and all those schools, it was the University of Texas that had made the greatest impression. He wore shoelaces with little orange Longhorns on them. He fought for its honor when other kids dared to sully it.
Joe Bill had first taken him to Memorial Stadium in 1981. They had gone there other times since then, and Joe Bill remembered the time Mike got to try on the helmet of one of the Longhorn players. When Mike was a junior at Permian, his brother took him to meet David McWilliams, the Texas head coach, and an assistant later took Mike into the field house and showed him the weight room.
"That's all he wanted to do," said Joe Bill, "was go to Texas."
And now he was in that field house again, not as some gawking, starry-eyed kid, but as a football player, preparing for the semifinal game against the Carter Cowboys.