“A man must not hold himself aloof from the things which his friends and his community have at heart if he would be liked.”
— Mark Twain, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”
David Ash flashed a wry smile and teased the throng of cameras and recorders focused intently on his every word.
For what may seem like the first time since he left Belton for Austin, the former Tigers all-state quarterback was clearly having fun.
Usually a difficult interview, with what has seemed like an uneasy indifference toward the media, Ash joked and was playfully coy at times Tuesday as one of four University of Texas representatives at the annual Big 12 Media Days in Dallas.
When asked how new quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite was different than last season’s version — first-year Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin — Ash retorted quickly with: “You’ll see this fall.”
Then, after a couple of chuckles from the reporters, Ash smiled briefly and gave a more serious and thoughtful answer.
It was through the veiled insight of his dry wit that has many around him believing this is the season Ash finally emerges from his cocoon of mediocrity and becomes the elite quarterback those in Belton have known him to be for years.
But while Tuesday may have been the first time the usually sheltered Ash opened up and had fun with the media, it wasn’t the first time he did so on the field.
It was there, in the second half of last season’s Alamo Bowl game against Oregon State, when Ash broke out to his Longhorn teammates.
Texas head coach Mack Brown and senior offensive lineman Trey Hopkins each credited a rousing halftime speech and Ash’s 11-yard third-quarter touchdown run — when he hurdled three Oregon State defenders despite still recovering from previously broken ribs — as the distinctive moment Ash solidified himself as the Longhorns’ leader.
Since then, Ash has had the unflinching respect and attention of his teammates, many of whom admitted having doubts about the starting quarterback the past two seasons.
But this is 2013, and Ash is key among those Longhorns who are tired of being mediocre — and for Texas, a 9-4 season is mediocre — and not being relevant on the national stage since Colt McCoy’s final season in 2009.
Brown was resolute in his assertion that nine wins is not up to the lofty Texas standard set by former quarterbacks Vince Young and McCoy, each of whom played in the BCS National Championship game.
As former Copperas Cove standout Robert Griffin III proved at Baylor during his Heisman Trophy-winning season, success on the field starts and ends with the quarterback.
If Texas is finally going to return to prominence as the national power it perceives itself to be, it’ll be with Ash leading the way with that same wry smile.