Sam Ehlinger was the face of the Texas Longhorns football program for the last four seasons as the team’s starting quarterback. His story of being born and bred a Longhorn and overcoming his father’s tragic death at a young age was well documented.
Ehlinger ended the burnt orange chapter of his life with a win in the Alamo Bowl to close out 2020 and started a new one on Saturday as the sixth-round draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts. All the excitement of starting his NFL career took a tragic turn on Thursday as Ehlinger’s younger brother, Jake, a linebacker at Texas, was found dead near campus.
Sam Ehlinger suffers loss of father
Inevitably during almost every Texas Longhorns football national broadcast, Sam Ehlinger’s story always included the photo of a toddler showing his love of the team by flashing the “hook ’em” sign. While incredibly cute, each time that picture appeared on the screen, it brought about mixed emotions of joy and sadness for the family.
The joy was understandable as it was a young boy influenced by his father Ross and his love for the Longhorns. However, sadness was also an inescapable part of the photo because the man whose love of the Longhorns influenced his son to flash the sign was no longer around to see him become a star for the team.
Sadly, in 2013, Ross suffered a heart attack in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in San Francisco and died. At just 14 years of age, Sam found himself thrust into the “man of the house” role, helping his mom Jena take care of his brother Jake and sister Morgen.
Ehlinger becomes face of Texas Longhorns
When Ehlinger signed to play with the Texas Longhorns, he knew it was the best of both worlds. He not only had the opportunity to live out his dream and don the burnt orange just as his father hoped, but he would remain in Austin and fulfill his father’s role and take care of the family.
Ehlinger quickly became a leader of the Longhorns offense his freshman year in 2017, outdueling incumbent quarterback Shane Buechele for the starting position. For the next four seasons, Ehlinger made his father proud and became the face of the Texas Longhorns football program.
While that meant he was part of a team that won four straight bowl games, he was also part of a program that was in disarray at times, which resulted in head coach Tom Herman losing his job after Ehlinger’s final game in 2020.
Texas Longhorns LB Jake Ehlinger found dead at age 20
On Saturday, Ehlinger started writing the next chapter of his life when he received a call from the Indianapolis Colts as the team’s sixth-round selection. Video shared on social media showed Ehlinger taking the call while huddled with his mom, brother, and sister. When the call ended, the four elatedly jumped for joy as those in the house joined in celebration.
Unbelievably, less than a week later, that joy has been shattered by unspeakable pain, something all too familiar to the Ehlinger family. According to authorities, Jake Ehlinger was found dead in Austin.
The 20-year-old Ehlinger was a linebacker with the Longhorns, following in his brother’s footsteps and honoring his father playing for the burnt orange. The cause of his death was unknown but authorities did not consider his death suspicious.
“Words cannot express the depth of our sadness,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement.
The Longhorn family mourns as the Ehlinger family endures yet another unspeakable tragedy.