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Texas Longhorns five most impactful recruits the last 25 years

Gerry Hamilton06/25/22
Article written by:On3 imageGerry Hamilton

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Austin, Texas – Only a small number of recruits have truly altered and shaped Longhorns athletics in the past 25 years.

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For those that don’t believe perception is a massive driver in recruiting, Thursday should have brought you out from under that rock. Arch Manning absolutely dominated a news cycle on levels never seen by a high school prospect.

While the full story is yet to be written, the past helps predict the future. Manning immediately jumps to No. 1 on a list of the most impactful recruitments in the last 25 years.

1. Arch Manning

With one tweet, Arch Manning instantly became No. 1 on this prestigious list.

Manning instantly placed the Texas Longhorns in an envious spot in the 24 hour news cycle. Literally, everyone had stories or mentions of Manning choosing Texas over Georgia and Alabama. Manning spurning the National Champion Bulldogs and the best college coach of all-time Nick Saban for Texas is a total game changer for a program that has been engaged in message board battles about how mediocre the last decade has been more than big wins.

Manning provides Steve Sarkisian and staff instant credibility, and yes he will certainly have an impact on the 2023 class. That’s the easy part of the equation. The big part of the equation is a story yet to be written.

Having the first family of football as part of the University of Texas is a big deal. A really big deal. The Texas football program is in position to garner as much national attention as any other if the Longhorns capitalize on the field of play this season. Arch’s progress will keep a national lens focused on Texas. Peyton Manning and Eli Manning in the stands in Austin will generate national buzz. Applications to the University of Texas will spike even more. One could go on and on.

The perception in recruiting will change with a few more wins on the field this season. Don’t focus solely on the 2023 class, but future classes and how that will impact the recruiting efforts of Sarkisian and staff. And the reach will go beyond football. The back-to-back Learfield Director’s Cup winning Longhorns will garner even more attention from prospects in a number of sports.

There is so much more than can be written, but watching it play out in the future will be much more meaningful.

2. Chris Simms

When Chris Simms flipped from Tennessee to Texas January 23, 1999, the perception of Longhorns football instantly changed. And that was prior to social media and the rabid 24-hour news cycle. Simms spurning the National Champion Volunteers for Texas opened the door for Mack Brown to rebuild the Texas program into a National Championship contender. The son of Phil Simms picking Texas in 1999 was a huge story in the recruiting world. Texas signed the nations No. 1 recruiting class in 1999, coming off of a successful first season on the field under Brown headlined by Ricky Williams Heisman Trophy and record breaking season.

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Simms may not have won a National Championship at Texas, but he had a major impact on Mack Brown winning one in Austin. Simms provided national appeal for the Longhorns, and gave a huge boost to the in-state recruiting efforts. It was Chris Simms that hosted Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and many others on visits during his time at Texas. He helped place Texas in the national spotlight for four years. Simms saying yes to Texas provided Mack Brown, Tim Brewster and staff a clear message in recruiting.

Simms fully understands how big of an impact he had on the building of the Texas program, and what the commitment of Arch Manning means for the future.

3. Vince Young

Vince Young was the nations No. 1-ranked prospect in the 2002 cycle by our very own Bobby Burton. Only the Texas A&M fan base thought Burton was wrong. The Aggies to this day may still believe Reggie McNeal was a better prospect, but that’s a different article. Vince Young was a phenomenon in the Houston area. He moved and played in way different than anyone had ever seen. And he did it with flair and personality. His dominant performances in the Astrodome were in front of more than 30,000 fans on multiple occasions.

When Young picked Texas in 2003, the Longhorns inked a second No. 1 ranked class under Brown. While much of the heavy lifting had been done building the program, Young was another pied piper in the state of Texas, especially in Houston. Young cemented what was already know, Texas is a national power under Brown. More than any one prospect that he helped recruit to Austin, he got Texas and Brown over the finish line January 4, 2006. And he did so with the best performance one will ever witness in a National Championship game, especially considering the record setting opponent, USC.

4. T.J. Ford

Like Young, T.J. Ford was a massive recruiting win for the Texas Longhorns. Ford and the Willowridge Eagles packed every gym with a cult-like following, including yours truly. When Ford committed to Texas at an elementary school in Baytown, the future of the Texas basketball program instantly changed — even though many Texas fans didn’t realize it. Ford was a true pied piper. Rick Barnes and then-assistant Rob Lanier knew it. And Ford’s family knew it. Ford’s mom had a vision for her son at the University of Texas. The undersized, ultra-athletic point guard had personality and a smile that would have made Mack Brown comment in a signing day press conference. This was a really big deal, even if not understood by a football-centric Longhorn nation.

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Without Ford, there is not a Final Four appearance. And probably not two Naismith and Wooden Awards in the Frank Denius Family University of Texas Athletics Hall of Fame. Ford gets much of the credit for helping make Texas a “cool school”. Just ask Daniel Gibson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Durant, Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Jordan Hamilton and others. Ford was a true trailblazer recruit for the University of Texas.

His impact went beyond basketball. Staying home, getting to the Final Four and winning the “basketball Heisman” carried over to football, and other sports in the years following.

And Ford, like other pied pipers, know just how impactful Manning choosing Texas truly will be.

5. Cory Redding

Chris Simms and Cory Redding elevated the Texas football program, and provided Mack Brown with powerful recruiting momentum. Brown’s first full class finished No. 1 headlined by the Parade All-American Team offensive and defensive players of the year. The 1999 class was officially the awakening of a sleeping giant per Bobby Burton and Allen Wallace. As impactful as Simms was nationally, Redding was just as impactful in Texas.

The Longhorns program needed a major boost in the Houston area. Texas A&M under R.C. Slocum was ruling the state in recruiting long before the slogan was a mere bad t-shirt idea by Daylon Mack. On the recruiting trail, the Aggies were winning big in Dallas and Houston. Redding being the top defensive prospect in the country coming out of emerging power North Shore High served as the ultimate game changer. Not only did Mack Brown end up reeling in future NFL draft picks from North Shore in Chykie Brown and Trey Hopkins, but the Longhorns won many big battles in the Houston area for a decade. Redding’s reach went beyond Houston too, helping Brown’s vision for recruiting the state serve as reality for prospects like Derrick Johnson and Cedric Benson to follow.

For those that don’t know how big of a deal Redding’s recruitment was for Texas and Brown, several other Houston area prospects in the 1999 and 2000 classes were also in attendance at North Shore High for his announcement. I was in attendance, and still remember walking out of the high school auditorium that day knowing the perception of Texas with top prospects was quickly changing.