Last dance for Vahe, Hager

Patrick Vahe and Tristan Nickelson (Will Gallagher/IT)
Patrick Vahe and Tristan Nickelson (Will Gallagher/IT)

There is the hair, of course, but beyond the mane, Patrick Vahe and Breckyn Hager arrived in Austin with seemingly not much else in common.

Vahe, an offensive lineman, arrived on the 40 Acres in 2015 as one of 13 children, after twice being named to the all-state team while at Euless Trinity. Hager arrived as a linebacker/defensive end hybrid and a legacy child, the son of Texas legend Britt Hager, who played nine seasons in the National Football League.

One is Polynesian. One is a Westlake Chaparral. Both have exactly one year remaining to leave their mark at Texas, and both will be in Dallas next week for Big 12 Media Days. Both haven’t quite lived up to their high school billing on the field.

And one more thing: for the Longhorns to truly solidify the Tom Herman foundation, both must be at the leadership heart of the team. Being selected to go the Big 12 Media Days is clearly a sign – given directly by Herman – that both of them are ready for the farewell tour.

And though first glance doesn’t appear to reveal many similarities between the two, closer inspection shows that they’ve had similar careers.

Vahe blasted out of the gate at the beginning of his career as an immediate starter, earning freshman All-American honors after an injured knee cost him the last two games of that season. An admitted lack of focus, though, caused a drop off in his performance and, ultimately, a benching.

Vahe bounced back – sort of – last year, but could not have been pleased by the Longhorns’ lack of a running game and borderline overall dismal production on the offensive side of the ball. In his junior year, his offensive line unit was considered the team’s weak link.

Hager’s career began more slowly, as Charlie Strong and his staff tried to figure out exactly how to utilize him. He didn’t start at all as a freshman, jumped to five starts as a sophomore, and improved even more last season, though his stats didn’t really reflect the progress. He wore Tommy Nobis’ number 60 in the bowl game, however, and wrecked some shop in the win against Missouri, which certainly raised the level of expectation for him for 2018.

Breckyn Hager (Will Gallagher/IT)
Breckyn Hager (Will Gallagher/IT)

Strong finishes by Vahe and Hager have resulted in being rolled out by Herman as two of the vital components in his burnt orange rebuild, and he’s using the seniors who were first brought here by Strong to set the tone and example for all of the upper-crust young recruits who seem poised to break out and lift the Longhorns out of a long hibernation.

And though the example Herman hopes the two set pertain to hard work, discipline, study and emotion, the primary example the coach wants to set is one of winning, something both Vahe and Hager haven’t done nearly enough in their tenure. They certainly won last year, but they also lost, sometimes ineptly.

They have only a handful of games left to make their mark in what will be a quick-moving senior campaign. After careers that fell short of expectations on the field, only a true grand exit of winning will satisfy the pair with the hair now.