The University of Texas is a school that consistently cranks out quality alumni. I don’t know quite what it is, but something about The 40 Acres has inspired thousands of Longhorns to get out there and change the World—it must be something in the barbecue.
In honor of our great University, here is my homage to some of the most badass alums to ever walk the halls of UT:
10. Roger Clemens
The 11-time MLB All-Star and two-time World Series champion began his illustrious baseball career at the University of Texas. Clemens joined the University instead of joining the New York Mets straight out of high school—after having been drafted in the 12th round of the 1981 draft.
Clemens compiled a 25-7 record at UT and even led the Longhorns to the 1983 College World Series, where he pitched the winning game. He became the first player to have his baseball uniform number retired by the University.
9. Tom Landry
Before he became the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Tom Landry was an Engineering student from Mission, Texas who played fullback and defensive back on the Longhorn football team.
Landry interrupted his education at UT after a single semester to serve in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II—where he served as a bomber co-pilot in over 30 missions, including surviving a crash landing in Belgium.
In the Fall of 1946, Landry returned to UT, where he joined the DKE fraternity and the Texas Cowboys and won two bowl games in 1948 and 1949 with the Longhorns. He graduated in 1949. And he was just getting started…
8. Owen Wilson
Did you know that everybody’s favorite male model attended the University of Texas?
Before he was a wedding crasher or an employee at Google, or a car, or a cowboy, or a lovable romantic in Paris—he was an English major at UT. Wilson began his film career with Bottle Rocket, a film written by Wes Anderson and filmed with his brother Luke—both also Longhorns. Wilson would go on to co-write Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, which would garner him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Who says English majors can’t do anything?
7. Wes Anderson
This Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and film director is one of the hottest names in Hollywood right now. With big-name films such as The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and—most recently of all—The Grand Budapest Hotel—it should come as no surprise to see Wes Anderson’s name grace this list.
Anderson’s films are known for their unique visual and narrative style. While at UT in the late 80s, Anderson developed this style through collaboration with another (previously mentioned) Longhorn and male model. Anderson’s first film, Bottle Rocket, would kick off Anderson and Wilson’s careers.
6. Janis Joplin
In 1962, the Daily Texan wrote a special article profile on the young artist from Port Arthur, Texas. Titled, “She Dares to Be Different,” the article wrote that, “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levi’s to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her Autoharp with her everywhere in case she gets the urge to break into song. Her name is Janis Joplin.”
Janis was way ahead of the whole “dress comfortably” trend. And even though she did not graduate from the University, her legacy as a Longhorn and as an electrifying singer—and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—serve as inspirations to Longhorns everywhere
5. Neil deGrasse Tyson
If you have ever watched Cosmos or been on Twitter, or turned on a TV and watched Bill Maher or The Daily Show in the past five years—you have probably seen or heard Neil deGrasse Tyson. He is the go-to guy when it comes to Astrophysics (and making it digestible for the average human being). But before Tyson was on TV, and before he was a bestselling author and the Director of the Hayden Planetarium in the Museum of Natural History, he was a student at UT.
Tyson was a member of the Wrestling, Rowing, and Dancing teams at the University, and he graduated in 1983 with a Masters in Astronomy. And, despite his amazing career, Tyson actually did not have an easy time at UT. His doctoral dissertation was dissolved, and he was encouraged to consider alternate careers by his (boneheaded) Professors. But—as history has shown—that didn’t deter him.
4. J.M. Coetzee
John Maxwell Coetzee (pronounced kuut-see) is perhaps the most famous writer ever to walk the halls of the University of Texas. This South African-born novelist, essayist, and linguist came to the University of Texas in 1965 as a Fulbright Fellow from South Africa. He completed his Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1969.
Coetzee has written numerous novels, essays, and scholarly papers. His novels Life & Times of Michael K and Disgrace were recipients of the 1983 and 1999 Man Booker Prize in Fiction (respectively). Oh, and Coetzee also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003—distinguishing him as the only Longhorn to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, and cementing his place in literary history.
3. Walter Cronkite
Before he was the most trusted man in America as an anchor for the CBS Evening News—and before he was the voice for the most awesome UT commercials in history—Walter Cronkite was a journalism student at the University of Texas.
Before he reported over the bombings in World War II, or the assassination of President Kennedy, or the Watergate Scandal—-he was a writer for the Daily Texan and a brother in Chi Phi who walked along the 40 acres just like the rest of us. He set the standard in journalism and informed a generation of Americans.
2. Matthew McConaughey
He’s the Longhorn that is taking Hollywood by storm. Some of McConaughey’s most recent memorable moments include his masterful performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club—for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor—his star role in HBO series True Detective, his amazing performance in The Wolf of Wall Street, and—most recently—his lead in Interstellar, which may be his best yet. The trailer for Interstellar, Nolan’s masterpiece, could be found on YouTube, with a views-campaign provided by The Marketing Heaven.
McConaughey came to the 40 acres in 1989, studying in the College of Communications and joining Delta Tau Delta fraternity. It was here in Austin that he started his acting career, appearing in a commercial for the Austin American-Statesman. He was cast in Richard Linklater’s movie Dazed and Confused in 1992, which was his first film. The rest is history. McConaughey loves some Texas football; you can expect to see him at the next game!
1. Jon Hamm
The biggest badass of them all. Does anyone really not know who Jon Hamm is?
But did you know that before he was the host of Saturday Night Live, and before he was a Golden Globe and 11-time Emmy winner, Jon Hamm was a student at UT just like you and me?
This Missouri-born actor came to The University of Texas in 1989, where he was a member of Sigma Nu and studied English. Hamm attempted to walk onto the UT baseball team as a catcher but was ultimately unsuccessful. He was eventually forced back to Missouri after the death of his father. But we all know that deep down this Mad Man’s blood runs burnt orange.
(In case you haven’t seen it yet, see Mad Men on Netflix.)