The list of Longhorn Legends reads longer than a Lord of the Rings novel, but who is the ultimate Texas Longhorns ambassador? That's what Horns Illustrated aims to determine in our Longhorn Legends Faceoff and the answer lies in your hands.
The first round of the Hoops, Homers & Olympians Region, devoted to UT's iconic baseball, basketball, and track athletes, saw Roger Clemens and Brooks Kieschnick both advance on tie-breakers, leaving Burt Hooton and Keith Moreland behind. But do they have what it takes to get to the Sweet Sixteen? That's up to you. Let the games begin!
Be sure to also vote in the second round of the Gridiron Greats Region. Just click the link to go there and decide the fates of Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, and other Texas football legends.
Roger Clemens vs. Trey Hardee
Before he became known as "The Rocket" or "Rocket Man", Roger Clemens punished batters with his combo of intensity and power pitching. He threw the winning game against Alabama for the 1983 Texas team that won the NCAA College World Series and found his groove while at Austin, and constantly improved his game as he piled up a 25-7 record. Clemens' pitching was often downright untouchable, proven when he threw 35 consecutive scoreless innings, a college record until 2001. The University of Texas honored Clemens' speed and swagger by retiring his jersey, a first for a Texas baseball player. On top of that, in 2004 the Rotary Smith Award, given annually to America's best college baseball player, was changed to the Roger Clemens Award, honoring the best pitcher.
Trey Hardee appears to possess few weaknesses as a decathlete. The Silver Medalist in the London 2012 Olympics actually landed at UT through a bit of luck, when Mississippi State, the college Hardee began his career with, dropped its indoor track and field program. The Bulldogs' loss was the Longhorns' gain and the track & field sensation took the NCAA decathlon championship in 2005. He would then go on to set a NCAA decathlon record for points in 2006. Hardee's success becomes more intriguing when you consider that he didn't even compete in track and field events until he was a junior in high school. Better late than never.
Kevin Durant vs. T.J. Ford
KD cut the nets with his silky smooth jumper from the moment he stepped into the Frank Erwin Center. The forward only stayed with Texas for a season, but that's all it took for him to make his case as the greatest individual scorer in school history. Durant became the first ever freshman in the 2006-2007 season to be named Naismith College Player of the Year. He droppped 25.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game and won pretty much every award you could dream of, including the John R. Wooden Award. Durant's single season at Texas was so impressive that the university retired his number a week after he was drafted in the NBA by the Seattle Supersonics.
T.J. Ford represented everything you could dream of in a point guard. He led by example, blew past defenders with his quicksilver speed, and seemed to hit his teammates with a perfect pass every time. The buzz over Ford's play at Willowridge High (who won 62 games in a row) created mountainous expectations and somehow the six-foot general climbed even higher. He conducted a symphony on the court and became the first freshman player in NCAA history to lead the nation in assists. For his encore, Ford led the team in scoring, assists and steals as a sophomore, and carried Texas to its first Final Four since 1947. The performance earned him a First Team All-America selection, the Naismith College Player of the Year and John Wooden awards. He also became the first basketball player to ever have his jersey retired, joining the likes of Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, and Roger Clemens.
Brooks Kieschnick vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
Many baseball experts have made the case for Brooks Kieschnick as the greatest all-around player in University of Texas history, and you'd have to make one heck of an argument to prove them wrong. "The Tool Shed" was named Baseball America National Player of the Year in 1993 and won the Dick Howser Trophy twice, a feat no other college player has accomplished. Kieschnick's stats still stand in the school's Top 10 as both a hitter and pitcher. He knocked the seams off the ball at a .360 career clip with 43 Home Runs, 215 RBI, a school record .676 slugging percentage and 140 Walks, and matched his batting numbers by pitching for 34 wins, 7 shutouts, and 268 strikeouts. Kieschnick embodies the traits of a do-it-all player.
Aldridge possessed so much athleticism as a youngster that he nearly entered the NBA Draft straight out of high school. Fortunately for Longhorn hoopaholics, the gifted big man came to Austin and showed off his insane skill set on both ends of the court. The All-Big 12 First Teamer led the charge on 2005-2006 squad that fell one game short of a Final Four appearance, averaging 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. Aldridge made the leap to the pros at the end of the season and the Portland Trailblazers eventually grabbed him, through a trade with the Chicago Bulls, with the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft. Now if he had just stayed one more season, he would have teamed up with Kevin Durant. Imagine the possibilities.
Greg Swindell vs. Slater Martin
If you had to select one starting pitcher to dominate a game, you could make a great case for Greg Swindell, a three-time All-SWC and 1986 All-American selection. The leftie owns a 43-8 record with two no-hitters and a 1.92 ERA in 77 games at Texas, also setting a school record for strikeouts (501) and college record for shutouts (14). Swindell shined as a sophomore, rocking a 19-2 record, 1.67 ERA, 15 complete games, and 204 strikeours in just 172 innings. For his absolute display of domination, Swindell received Baseball America's National Player of the Year Award. The Longhorns retired Swindell's number, which he shared with Roger Clemens, in 2009.
While he didn't inspire any hip-hop dances, and we'll forgive him since he played a bit before the movement, Slater "Dugie" Martin debunked the myth that size matters as one of the greatest small men ever to hit the hardwood. Martin shined as a sophomore on a 1947 team that went to the Final Four. While he set a school scoring record with 49 points in a game, Martin built his reputation as a shutdown defender. NBA Hall of Famer Bob Cousy once said that Martin was the only defender he would ask for help against. Martin also holds the distinction as the only Longhorn to gain induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and had his jersey number retired in 2009, which makes him the second Texas basketball player to ever receive the honor.