When I was growing up, my father would throw to me in the yard, but my constant playmate was my brother, Reid. He's two and a half years younger than I am, and we played all the time in our little yard in Austin, Texas. Our "field" was a patch of grass that was about as big as a good-size living room. Trees bordered the yard, and those were our sidelines. The invisible goal lines were clearly defined in our minds, so we knew when we scored.
There's a big gap when a fifth grader plays against a second grader or when a sixth grader plays against a third grader, so to make it fair, I would get down on my knees and Reid would try to run around me. And it wasn't touch football—we were really tackling each other, and I would try anything I could to take him down. Even though I was scrambling on my knees, Reid still got beat up on quite a bit. Sometimes my dad would come out, and he'd play all-time quarterback, but most of the time it was just Reid and me.
I grew up in a very sports-minded family. My mother, Mina, was very athletic. In the late 1960s she was all-state in high school track, volleyball, and basketball. If she were playing today, she'd have gotten an athletic scholarship to just about any school in the country for any of those sports. But at that time women weren't given many of those opportunities. She decided to attend Texas A&M, which had been an all-male military school. My mother was in one of the first classes of women to attend Texas A&M. It was there that she met my dad, an athlete himself who played freshman basketball.
My mom's brother, Marty Akins, was an All-American quar-terback at the University of Texas. Marty was part of the Longhorns team that beat Alabama and Bear Bryant in the 1973 Cotton Bowl.
My mom's father, Ray Akins, was a Marine and served in World War II. After the war he coached high school football for thirty-eight years, winning 302 games in his career. He was a legend in the state of Texas, and best of all, he was my grandfather. He coached at Gregory-Portland High School in Portland, Texas, just outside Corpus Christi. He used to let Reid and me attend his summer two-a-day practices. From the time I was about seven years old, right around my parents' divorce, until my grandfather stopped coaching in 1988, Reid and I would stand on the sidelines and hand out this green water to the players during breaks. It was something like Gatorade—green because of the electrolytes mixed in. I always felt like my grandpa was ahead of his time with that kind of stuff. It didn't matter what Reid and I were doing—it was a thrill just to be that close to the game and the ¬players. I never would have guessed back then that I'd be on the other side someday.
That's my lineage. We have always been a very athletic and competitive family. Our get-togethers when I was growing up were all about sports. That's what we all loved. On Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, the Fourth of July, or any other time we got to-gether, we'd eat a big meal and then end up in the yard playing something. We played basketball, football, Wiffle ball, washers, you name it. At the end of the day there was always a winner and a loser. The winner went away happy and the loser was mad, and you wouldn't talk to each other for a while. That's just the way it was, and we looked forward to those get-togethers like you wouldn't believe.