Sam Ehlinger is living a dream. The junior is the starting quarterback for the Texas Longhorns, the team he’s been cheering for since he was a baby. Both of his parents, Ross and Jena, went to UT, and took their kids to nearly every Longhorns football game in Austin.
“Every weekend it was what we were doing together as a family,” Sam said in a video for The Players’ Tribune.
“There was no way we were missing a game,” Jena said, adding, “There’s two things we’re going to do, and that is we’re going to go to Texas football games and we’re going to go to church.”
— Sam Ehlinger (@sehlinger3) August 29, 2019
After playing in nine games and starting six as a freshman in 2017, Ehlinger started all 14 games for Texas last season. The Longhorns won 10 games for the first time in nine seasons and finished ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2012, as Ehlinger threw for 3,292 yards, 25 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Hopes in Austin for 2019 are that Ehlinger can lead the squad back into the national title conversation. Texas has yet to reach the College Football Playoff (which was established in 2014-15) and hasn’t played for a national championship since it lost the title game to Alabama at the end of the 2009 season.
The chance to reestablish the program and bring home a title is why Ehlinger chose to play at Texas coming out of Westlake High in Austin, where he broke records set by Drew Brees and Nick Foles. Playing for the Longhorns is also a way to honor his father, who died at the age 46, when Sam was in eighth grade. Ross suffered a heart attack while competing in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon.
The loss of his father — who Sam says “definitely taught me everything that I knew about the [football]” — forced Sam to grow up in a hurry. As much as he was hurting, Sam wanted to be strong for his younger siblings, Jake and Morgen.
“Thirty minutes after I had heard the news and my whole family was together at the house, something — I think God just told me, ‘Your little brother’s sitting right next to you and you’re thinking about how bad you’re hurting. Think about how bad he’s hurting and help him,'” Sam said in the video. “And so then from that point on, my role switched. It wasn’t, ‘What can I do for myself to feel better?’ It was, ‘What can I do for my family to make them feel better?'”
As he matured at home, Ehlinger grew on the football field too.
“The way I felt by taking care of my family, I think that that carried over into how I lead on the field,” he said.
Driven by the memory of his father, Sam is now leading the Longhorns, who open the season ranked No. 10 in the country. Texas begins the 2019 campaign by hosting Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
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