SAN ANTONIO -- For Bram Kohlhausen, and his mother Donna, a priceless moment only cost $100.
There’s nobody else Bram wanted to see after the greatest game of his life. So 10 minutes after the Valero Alamo Bowl win, while his teammates and coaches were busy celebrating, Bram was on a cell phone, trying to reunite with his family.
Brother Dash Kohlhausen found a solution. He quickly paid an Oregon fan cash for a sideline pass to sneak their mother onto the Alamodome field. Security guards weren’t cool with it at first but eventually relented.
When he spotted his family, Bram hopped off the postgame trophy stage. After mom slowly waded through a mob of TCU fans, they finally met.
— Dash Kohlhausen (@dkohlhau) January 3, 2016
Bram had just achieved the biggest comeback in bowl history. The unknown backup making his first-ever start in the final game of his career actually pulled it off. He rallied from down 31-0, set every TCU bowl passing record and, for one night, got to be the star of a 47-41 victory over the Ducks in triple overtime.
But he didn’t care about partying. Mom was more important.
“To get to tell her I love her, that was a great way to end it,” Bram said.
They cried together because someone they love wasn’t there. And Bill Kohlhausen had always been there.
“He was always the first one down at the front calling my name, wanting a hug or a picture after the game, even if I didn’t play,” his son recalled. “He really was my rock.”
Throughout his yearlong bout with melanoma, Bill was still there. He even made it up to the season opener at Minnesota. It wasn’t easy to get there or even walk, but to Bill, it mattered.
The Houston attorney was as proud as ever on Oct. 3 when he got to witness his son, the quiet backup, finish off the Horned Frogs’ 50-7 blowout of Texas.
But as his cancer continued to spread, the family knew their time together was running out.
“It was always in the back of my head,” Bram said, “that I could get a phone call with some bad news.”
The call came on the Saturday morning of Nov. 7. Bram was in Stillwater and TCU was about to play Oklahoma State. After the loss, coach Gary Patterson urged him to go home to Houston.
“I told him to take all the time he needed,” Patterson said. “And he came back on Tuesday for practice.”
Even if he had no chance of playing, he cared about being ready. Kohlhausen began his career at Houston in 2011 but sat behind David Piland as a redshirt freshman. Eager to play, he transferred to Los Angeles Harbor College in 2013. A shoulder injury ended his year after just three starts. Soon after he got to TCU, Boykin took off as a Heisman contender. So he just kept working and waiting.
Four days after Kohlhausen rejoined the team, he had to play. Boykin went down with an ankle injury against Kansas. Kohlhausen didn’t fare well after his rough and shortened week. But he got another shot the following week when Foster Sawyer struggled at Oklahoma. Kohlhausen guided a 16-point comeback in the fourth quarter and came oh-so-close to being the hero. But his two-point conversion pass, to upset the eventual Big 12 champs, was battled down.
And that should’ve been the end of his TCU career. But then came Boykin’s arrest and suspension for a bar fight, and one last, completely unexpected opportunity. Even when he fell behind by 31, he wasn’t going to waste it.
Patterson reminded Bram to think of Bill.
“I told him, ‘If you come back and win this football game, can you imagine what he’s thinking?”
After the hug, the trophy, the locker room revelry and all the newfound fame, the Kohlhausens snuck off to a downtown steakhouse. The restaurant stayed open late so they could enjoy a family dinner together.
They’re back in Houston now. Bram’s phone is still blowing up. Even his old buddy from high school, Johnny Manziel, sent him a tweet -- from wherever he was -- late Saturday night. All the phone and radio interviews he did turned Monday into his own personal media day.
“It’s been hectic. I feel like the Kohlhausen name is a household deal now,” he said. “It’s just been crazy. Can’t even put it into words. Surreal. Still thinking I’m about to wake up from this dream.”
With 18 credit hours needed to graduate, he’s not quite sure what’s next. Now that he’s done with the TCU starting quarterback gig, he joked, “I guess I have to go get a big j-o-b.”
He’s not sure what to make of all this sudden fame, either. This much seems certain: Bill Kohlhausen sure would’ve gotten a kick out of it. His son has no trouble imagining that.
“I’d love for him to be here to watch this happen,” Kohlhausen said, “but I know he’s watching upstairs.”