Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Friday, October 24, 2008
Lunchtime links: Brown family helps start Stillwater school


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma State and Texas will renew a fierce rivalry Saturday involving two of the top six teams in the country. An entire nation will be watching a game with Bowl Championship Series and Big 12 title ramifications.

And even though the competition between the two schools will be fierce, there's a connection between the two schools that goes much deeper than any football game.

San Antonio Express-News columnist David Flores writes about how Texas coach Mack Brown and his wife, Sally, helped start the Rise School of Stillwater, a school for special-needs children. The idea came after Oklahoma State director of football operations Jimmy Gonzales' daughter, Mya, was born with Down Syndrome in 2005.

Gonzales was the director of football operations at Texas under John Mackovic. And although Brown brought his own person to fill the job after the coaching change, he has maintained a close relationship with Gonzales over the years.

Soon after their daughter was born, Gonzales told Brown about Mya's diagnosis. Brown told him about his family's work in starting the Rise School of Austin, a school modeled along the lines of the Rise School, a nationally recognized early childhood program at the University of Alabama for children with disabilities.

The University of Alabama Rise School-Tuscaloosa is housed in the Stallings Center, named after the late Johnny Stallings, the son of former Alabama football coach Gene Stallings.

The Browns, along with the Gonzales family, have played active roles in the start of the Stillwater center that opened last October.

The facility celebrated its grand opening the following week, coinciding with last season's Texas-OSU football game. Sally Brown came early to attend the festivities.

"I went to the airport to pick her up," Gonzales told the Express-News. "Even though we had a big game with Texas the next day, it was neat to have her share that occasion with us because we found out about the Rise School through her and Mack."

The following day, Gonzales met with Brown on the field before the game between the Cowboys and Longhorns.

"Mack shook my hand and gave me a hug, and then he said, 'How's Mya?'" Gonzales told Flores.

That's why tomorrow's game between the Cowboys and Longhorns would be special, even if the attention for the game wasn't nearly as high as it is.

More information about the Mya Gonzales Foundation, a non-profit organization created for families of children with Down Syndrome and other special needs, can be obtained here.

And here are some other links from across the Big 12 for your edification. Enjoy them.