How Longhorns Coach Tom Herman Wants To Be ‘dad To Everybody’ After Losing Father To Addiction, Homelessness

He caught 26 passes for 426 yards and two touchdowns for the Kingsmen as a redshirt freshman. But Michelle had remained at UC-Davis, so Herman, believing he had football out of his system, transferred back to UC-Davis that spring to become, he thought, Joe Student.

As a way to stay in shape and compete, he played basketball at the campus rec center every day. Though a self-described terrible basketball player, he often played four hours a day. Realizing he missed competing and the structure of being on a team, he told Michelle he wanted to return to Cal Lutheran and football.

She, in turn, transferred to nearby Cal-Santa Barbara. Cal Lutheran's 6-foot, 180-pound receiver, Herman, shared an apartment with his 6-foot, 190-pound quarterback, Zack Hernandez.

"The story goes, he's had a lot of knee surgeries and a couple of shoulder surgeries, and he's blamed me for most of them because of poor passes," says Hernandez, a Sony Pictures Television executive and still-close Herman friend.

"I try to remind him, 'We were playing Division III football. If I was Division I and I could put it on you every time, I wouldn't have been at Cal Lutheran.' "

Hernandez says he often wondered why Herman, a Presidential Scholar who double-majored in business and marketing and ultimately graduated cum laude, kept punishing his body.

For instance, that time against University of San Diego when he got hit catching a pass over the middle and his helmet popped off, ripping his chinstrap. And later in that game, when Herman took another whack and was unable to get up.

"He had torn his patella tendon and his kneecap had floated to underneath his leg," Hernandez says. "We're like, 'Oh, that's not good.' "

The final game of Herman's senior season, 1997, was at home against Claremont College. It poured rain the entire game. Hernandez could barely grip the ball, much less pass it accurately.

Hernandez says he still can hear Herman on the sideline that day, yelling, "This is my last college football game. I am wide open. Get me the ball!" to which Hernandez replied, "I can't! It's covered in mud!"

Asked why he kept playing, knowing he might have difficulty walking later in life, Herman shrugs.

"It's hard to see the forest for the trees, to look that far into the distance, when you're in love," he says. "I was in love with the game of football. Loved it.

"Stunk at it, but loved it."

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