Sweet: Nedra Pickler calls an audible.

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AUSTIN, TEXAS–The AP’s Nedra Pickler, on the Obama campaign, threw an audible to Sen. Barack Obama this morning and the Texas Longhorns intercepted her play. Read all about it in this pool report from a visit Barack Obama made Thursday morning to the locker room at the University of Texas, home of the Texas Longhorns.

Hook ’em Horns pool report

Maria L. La Ganga, Los Angeles Times

No news, just color. Nedra tried to ask a question about McCain and

lobbyists. The senator demurred. See below for details.

AUSTIN–Sen. Barack Obama spent about an hour touring the football

players’ lounge, the locker room and stadium at the University of Texas

Thursday morning, arriving at just after 10 a.m.

The official name of the athletic facility is the WA “Tex Moncrief

Jr.-VF “Doc” Neuhaus Athletic Center. Over the entrance is the slogan –

one of many observed on the tour – “Earn the Right.” The stadium’s

official name is Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Texas Longhhorns were national champions in 1963, 1969, 1970 and

2005. Bush was escorted on the tour by head coach Mack Brown,

quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receiver Quan Cosby.

The tour started in the player’s lounge, with lots of leather furniture,

six ornately carved saddles on display, a pool table, a kitchen and a

wall display of football helmets from 32 separate NFL teams and little

metal plaques under them with the names of “Texas Longhorns in the NFL.”

There were 242 of them.

Obama met secretaries, Brown’s wife Sally and grown son and daughter

Chris and Barbara and posed for pictures all around in Brown’s office.

Also in Brown’s office, Obama tried on items from a display case of

National Championship rings.

He hefted the Heisman Trophy on the office coffee table and assumed the

position of the football player in the sculpture. He admired pictures on

the wall of Brown posing with Pres. Bush (father and son both) and Pres.

Clinton and remarked that if the team gets back to the national

championship level in the next few years, “I’ll invite you to the White

House.”

He also learned lots of Longhorn lore. There’s a set of horns between

the locker room and the football field with the words “Don’t Mess with

Texas” above them that players rub enroute to a home game. Quan and

McCoy explained the tradition.

“So what do you do?” Obama said, sounding congested. “Do you rub on it?”

They said yes, and he did. “It’s not game day,” he said. “It’s debate

day.

He posed for pictures in the locker surrounded by the team, everyone

(candidate included) flashing the “hook ’em horns” sign. Before that, he

posed with every player individually.

Brown turned that into a decorum lesson for the players. “When you don’t

want to have pictures taken and sign autographs, remember this,” Brown

told the team.

Explained Obama: “You’ve always go to be appreciative of folks taking an

interest.”

Out in the field area, he was presented with orange jerseys for the

girls, “Malia ’08” and “Sasha 08”, and one for himself, “Obama 1”.

Then Nedra Pickler shouted out a question about whether Sen. John McCain

had an inappropriate relationship with lobbyists. She was immediately

scolded by the coach.

“Do you know it’s inappropriate while we have his time to ask him these

inappropriate questions?” Brown asked.

Said Obama with a grin, joking: “Coach solved that one, didn’t he? Shame

on you Nedra.”

The tour was by no means an endorsement of Obama by Brown, McCoy, Cosby

or any of the other players or the university, as the coach was happy to

explain.

Hillary Clinton, he said, had been offered the same opportunity to come

to the football facility. He did not know if she had responded.

“We can’t be political, because we lose 50% of our support if we do

either way,” Brown said after Obama left the campus. “So we do not

endorse anyone publicly. Obviously people have their own private

opinions on our staff and that’s right for them.”

Brown on what football means to Texans: “Football to Texas is like

politics to other people. It’s very very passionate. It’s very

prideful.”

Brown on what his players can get from meeting the candidates:

“He’s got a tremendous story. She’s got a tremendous story for them to

spend their whole lives giving back to the country and not being takers

but being givers. For a time in our country where a lady and an

African-American have a chance to be a president sends a great message

to young people that maybe wasn’t available when I was their age. It

shows how far our country’s come in a positive way.”

Brown will vote in the fall but he never votes in primaries because you

have to choose a side to do so. Cosby and McCoy will likely vote early,

they said.

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