Last Tuesday, on May 8th, I was presented with a very rare opportunity to tag along with a group of retired people that my wife, Barb, spends time with most Mondays at the University of Texas campus. The group is known as the UT SAGE, where SAGE is an acronym for Seminars for Adult Growth and Enrichment. Anyway, this group was taking members who wanted to go on a “South End Zone Tour” at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
That’s the football stadium for The University of Texas Longhorns! More specifically, the tour was mainly of the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, which is where the vast majority of all UT athletes work out, but we were there to see the football player’s facilities. Now I’ve been in Austin for 40 years this August, and I am a University of Texas graduate, and I have never had the opportunity to see anything “more inside” the football facilities other than buying tickets and attending the home games. When Barb said she was allowed to bring a guest, I immediately said “yes!” and scheduled a day of vacation at work.
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It was raining most of the day, and when we got there at 3:30 PM for the tour, we still had to use our umbrellas. We met at the entrance to the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Complex, which is at the southeast corner of the stadium. That corner is somewhat open, and as we approached the front door to the facility, we could see inside the stadium somewhat.
Now the photos that I am going to show you are not skilled photography. They are “get the shot and move along with the tour” kind of shots. I was simply trying to document what we were being shown, so I could share it here with you. This was just like being a tourist in my own town.
By the way, I had ordered a new Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera from Precision Camera on May 1st, hoping that I would have it with me for this tour, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Instead, I was going to have to use my Canon PowerShot G12, which is a Point-and-Shoot type of a camera. I knew that if I showed up with my Canon 5D Mark II that there was a very good chance that I would not be allowed to bring it inside the facility (and heaven forbid I even think about a tripod).
I did bring a Canon 580EX II flash with me, but I had Barb put it in her large purse, and I never used it. Instead, I handheld the G12, and shot under all sorts of different lighting conditions. This is the sign on the wall over the front desk, where we gathered to wait for the tour to start. There were tungsten lights aimed down the wall, while there was a mixture of tungsten and fluorescent overhead lights in the ceiling.
Silhouetted beyond the pool table is our tour guide, Curt. Curt encouraged us to take pictures, and I immediately “got mobile” and started shooting everything that I could! He watched me at times, but never said anything to me. I thought that he eventually would, as I was taking 5 to 10 times more photos than anyone else in the group.
On the other side of the pool table, there is this giant wall that contains helmets of all 28 NFL teams (plus the former Houston Oilers). Under each helmet is a small plaque for each Texas Longhorn player actively playing on that NFL team. Wow!
We then moved from the Player’s Lounge a few doors down to The Trophy Room. This is my wife, Barb, standing next to the 2005 National Championship trophy. This was very special to me, as my good friend Greg Ringer and I went to that National Championship game at the Rose Bowl on January 4, 2006.
Here is a photo that I took with my 4 megapixel Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom camera that I took to the game. This was taken from our seat, about 5 rows above the tuba players in the Longhorn Band. Yes, the Texas quarterback, #10, is Vince Young.
Anyway, I just had to have my photo taken next to this trophy. I probably should have traded places with Barb, but I wasn’t looking at the back of the camera, so I didn’t see the huge perspective distortion of having the larger person closer to the wide-angle view camera.
After leaving the Trophy Room, we were taken down further into the facility. Along the way, we passed by “The Longhorns” that each player touches as they leave the facility right before heading out onto the field before each game. There is a camera on them as they do this, and it is displayed on the HUGE video scoreboard outside for all 100,000 fans to see. They always cheer wildly when they see this!
Here are some of the trophies from the Longhorn’s major bowl victories. The first 4 pedestals closest to you are from the Cotton Bowl (in Dallas, TX). The next one is the Holiday Bowl (in San Diego, CA). The next one is from the Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA – and the game that Greg and I went to).The next one is for the Fiesta Bowl, and the last one is too blurry for me to read now. 🙂
Those Bowl Trophies are at one end of a very long hallway outside the weight training room, and that hallway is just loaded with hundred of plaques and memorabilia of famous players and historically significant victories. Here’s a photo that I put the camera into macro mode, and held it right up to the glass, just 8 to 10 inches from this football.
After the weight room, we were told that we were going to be taken trough the same rooms and route that the players go through immediately before a game.
This is the large auditorium that the players meet in, while the coaches and inspirational speakers get them all pumped up. Our tour guide, Curt, is standing where Mack Brown would be standing. I was sitting in the 4th row, trying my best to keep my camera steady. I had to bump up the ISO to 500, and even then the shutter was 1/5 of a second (f/5.0). My elbows were firmly planted on the arm rests!
After leaving the auditorium, we deviated from the plan to follow the route that the players take, and we went down a few doors to spend a few minutes in the medical facilities. This is where they bring the injured players during a game. This is also where all the injured athletes from The University come for physical rehabilitation.
OK, now we are back on the plan to follow the route between the auditorium and the field. This is very much a “grab on the go” type of shot, with Barb blinking while I snapped the shutter of her touching “The Longhorns”. We were moving fast, in a large group, and with a one shot opportunity, sometimes a shot like this is what you end up with….
OK, so they didn’t fill the tunnel with smoke for us, like they do for the players when they run out onto the field. It was lightly raining, but there was no way I was going to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity!
In the next photo, you can almost see our season ticket seats in the upper deck high on the left side of the photo. We are about 6 rows above the white colored seats, in the upper deck, right at the edge of the photo.
After walking out past the 20 yard line, I turned around and took a picture of the large video scoreboard above the tunnel that we had just came out of. You can see the raindrops streaking down in front of the black scoreboard.
After spending 3 or 4 short minutes at mid-field listening to Curt’s stories, the group headed back for the dryness of the tunnel. I called out to Barb to come back so that I could get this photo of her.
We then walked under the coverings to the southwest corner of the stadium to see the two 8 foot tall statues of the school’s only 2 Heisman Trophy winners. This one of Ricky Williams has only been in place a few months.
I know that this post was very, very long. I seriously considered chopping it up into multiple posts, but in the end I thought that would not have the storytelling effect that I wanted it to have.
The Canon PowerShot G12 did a pretty good job, as I had about 50% of the photos that I actually took ended up in this post. Viewed up close, there is a fair amount of grain when I pushed the ISO to 400 and even 500. The camera did a pretty good job with Auto White Balance, but I did shoot these in RAW format, and did adjust the color temperature of several of them in Lightroom. The Image Stabilization of this little camera surprised me with how well it performed!
I hope that you enjoyed seeing this as much as I enjoyed being able to tag along with this tour.