Texas Football: Lifetime Longhorn Rod Babers Speaks Candidly

(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Rod Babers became one of the great defensive backs in Texas Longhorns history under Mack Brown.

On the 40 acres, Rod Babers helped perpetuate Texas’ standing in college football as “DBU”. He earned first team All-Big 12 honors in 2002 and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award the same year.

Babers was drafted by the New York Giants in 2003 and ended up playing for the Detroit Lions for two seasons. He then found his way to the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League.

This led to a career in media, most recently as host of “The Sports Buffet” on KTKR 760 AM in San Antonio and KVET 1300 AM in Austin. While now on sabbatical, the boisterous Babers talked to Hook ‘Em Headlines about his career in pro football, his time in Austin, and working with the great Texas Longhorns announcer Craig Way.

Rod Babers Talks Mack Brown

EM: First off, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, Rod. Let’s go back to the beginning a little. Coming from Houston, playing at Lamar High School, how did you end up in Austin and playing for the Longhorns?

RB: Easy, Mack Brown. He sold me totally on playing for him and becoming a member of the Longhorns family. He told me that not only would I be going to one of the top programs in the country, which we were, but also that I would always be a part of the University of Texas.

I’m grateful to Mack Brown and to UT for everything they’ve given me. Without them, I don’t know what I would be doing or where I would be. I do know I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had — to be the sideline reporter for the Longhorns, to have this daily sports talk show. They’re my family and I’m truly blessed to be a part of that tradition.

EM: You were part of that long line of great defensive backs to come out of the Texas Longhorns program, especially under Mack Brown. Nathan Vasher, Kenny Vaccaro, Earl Thomas, Cedric Griffin come to mind. What made Texas the right place for you guys and what made you, in particular, a successful DB?

RB: When I was there, I can easily say our defensive coaches put a lot of the focus on our schemes as the DBs. They would tell us if we did our jobs, the front seven guys would be able to stop anybody and I think they were right.

For me, you know, I don’t think I was born with that great short-term memory like a lot of guys are. I played the game a little bit differently — I got by on hard work and sacrifice.

I remember I was at a high school all-star game, Texas versus California, that I don’t think they have anymore. Anyway, even in these practices, I was getting beat by these guys. That had never happened to me before. I wasn’t a great player growing up, but I worked hard and I made myself good. It never occurred to me that I could be beaten. I was a shutdown corner! When that happened, I knew I would just have to work that much harder.

Rod Babers on Learning to be Great

EM: How did you do that — how did you make yourself great?

RB: It’s like that saying, life and football are games of inches. In pro football, everybody is talented, but to be truly great, to truly stand out, you have to be willing to sacrifice. The devil is in the details and that is what separates guys who played the game from those who were the best of all time.

I don’t think I would’ve made it at UT if I didn’t learn how to do that. Like I mentioned though, I learned how to have that short-term memory. It’s still something I use to this day.

It didn’t work out in pro football how I wanted it to, but I was able to move past it. I think having that ability to move on is something that has really helped me. I don’t have it as much as some guys do, that supreme confidence in myself, but I have enough!

The Transition from Pro Football to Broadcasting

EM: Let’s talk about your tenure in pro football. It ultimately didn’t work out in the NFL, but you got to play in the Arena League and up north in Canada. What were your goals then? Were you hoping to work your way back to the NFL?

RB: To be honest with you, I was struggling once I got done playing football. When I did those things, I was trying to hang on and play football. I went up to Canada and played for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, I played in the Arena Football League with the Austin Wranglers. It was crazy. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

More from Texas Football

EM: When did you know it was time to hang it up? How long before you got into the media world?

RB: It was kind of humbling with that last stint in Canada. I knew I didn’t want to do that anymore and I kind of saw the writing on the wall with the NFL. Like I said, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I came back here to Austin, talked to Mack and he told me to go back to school. Texas allows former athletes, as long as they’re in good standing, to come back anytime and finish their degree. So I did that.

I also started thinking I would like to try my hand at broadcasting. I started on the sidelines here for Texas and started the radio show, first with the great Craig Way. I’ve always been a talker and I think I’ve always had a great personality and that seems to translate to radio.

EM: What was it like working with the “Voice of the Longhorns,” Craig Way? He’s a real pro, it seems. Did he push you at all to be good or great at broadcasting?

RB: I got the chance every day to work with who I think is the best in the business. I consider Craig a friend and a mentor and it was blessing to work beside him for as long as I got to.

Being on radio with him for those years and then on the show by myself, it got me going every day to have the chance to compete at this level with someone who is as knowledgeable as he is. Being with him and then carrying the show, it made me want to be great.

Follow Texas Longhorns great Rod Babers on Twitter @RodBabers. Follow HEH contributor Eric Moreno @ericmoreno6477.