During the three-week grind of preseason practice, many Texas players checked out of the Jester dormitory and checked into Hotel Moncrief — the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletic Center, that is.
As is custom, players moved out of their usual dorms at San Jacinto and into Jester for camp. But many decided they’d rather sleep at the team’s football facility instead. What started out as casual napping eventually turned into overnight stays inside Moncrief for many players.
“That was organic with the kids,” head coach Tom Herman said. “We give them air mattresses to take naps in the break when they don’t have class. A lot of them, as I’ve said before, couldn’t even nap in between the end of practice and meetings because of class. But the ones that didn’t have class, or once classes got over, we give them those air mattresses to sleep on.”
Little did Herman realize that there was a science behind turning Moncrief into an upscale hotel.
“When we moved into Jester,” Herman said, “a lot of the kids said, ‘Coach, sleep is at a premium, and if I can save myself the eight-minute walk to Jester and eight-minute walk back in the morning, that’s 16–20 minutes extra sleep. Can we just sleep here?’ Of course, the answer’s yes. It caught on, and more and more of the team did it. I think it’s pretty cool camaraderie.”
Herman estimates that about half the team — around 50 players — took advantage of sleeping at Moncrief during camp. About five to six players would occupy each room.
“We got enough mattresses for everybody,” sophomore safety Brandon Jones said.
A number of defensive backs joined Jones in his room, which included juniors P.J. Locke III and DeShon Elliott, freshmen Josh Thompson and Montrell Estell and senior Antwuan Davis. And in a room of six guys, there’s bound to be some snoring.
“P.J. is horrible,” Jones said.
Staying in Moncrief was about more than shut-eye for some players. Of course, having a brand-new, state-of-the-art locker room in the facility to relax and play video games in doesn’t hurt either. Jones concedes that junior safety John Bonney and junior punter Michael Dickson are the best with a controller in their hands.
But there was also a chance for players to forge stronger relationships and become a tighter-knit unit. Many players, including Jones and senior defensive tackle Poona Ford, said the Longhorns have gotten a lot closer since the end of last season.
“It’s been just a lot of team bonding,” sophomore quarterback Shane Buechele said. “Just being able to have all those guys in there at the end of the night, have conversations with them that you normally don’t have. During fall camp, it’s just all football, football, football. At the end of the night, you can finally have a conversation about things outside of this facility or whatever happens.”
Those conversations may even cut into the players’ sleep. But while sleep is very important, being able to communicate effectively is paramount.
“For some reason, nobody likes to go to sleep,” Jones said. “When we’re all together, we’ll all stay up talking about just random stuff. But I like it because it gets us familiar with each other. The biggest thing on the field is communication, so if we can build that relationship off the field, it’ll make it that much easier on the field.”