Memories of a Sub-Four Minute Miler By Ricardo Romo

July 30, 2019

Today, fifty-three years ago--almost to the day-- I became the first Texan to run a mile under four minutes. What I didn’t know at the time was that only 18 Americans had ever accomplished that feat. I have been asked many times about writing about that achievement and up to now, I had not given it much thought. Then I realized that I spent thousands of hours training to excel in an event that took me less than four minutes to complete. Was it worth such an expenditure of time and effort? And would I recommend others to try it? Yes-- here is my story.

In 1960, at age 16, (when everyone called me Richard) I finished 5th in the state track competition with a 4:30 mile time, a respectable time for a 10th grader. By my senior year in high school I had improved my time significantly. My 4:10 mile was one of the fastest ever by a U.S. high school runner.

Three state championships earned me a track scholarship at the University of Texas Austin. UT Austin had great academic programs and one of the finest track programs in the nation. I started college with three goals: To run a sub-four minute mile; to graduate from The University of Texas; and to earn All-American honors in Track and Field.

At UT Austin I was fortunate to have Pat Clohessy, a former runner at the University of Houston and U.S. champion in the 5,000 meters. Clohessy came to UT to earn his Masters’ degree and was offered a graduate assistant position in the track program. He served as my distance coach and mentor. Clohessy trained with us daily throughout my freshman and sophomore year and his mentoring paid off. In the summer of 1963 I improved my mile time to 4:05 in a track meet in Wales, British Isles. I came in second but defeated two of England’s top Olympic runners. It was the fastest mile time for a freshman in the United States. I was on my way.

A serious track injury in an indoor track meet in Fort Worth in February of 1965 nearly ruined my track ambitions. As I started the 1,000 yard run, I felt a sharp pain in my left ankle. We were running indoors on a dirt track and thus everyone used regular long spikes. A spike from the runner behind me caught my ankle and served my tendon. I felt the pain, but since I was in the lead, I decided to finish the race.

I crossed the finish line in first place, but I left blood dripping from the back of my shirt. It was a serious injury and it required three months to cure the infection in my leg related to the dirt field. My surgery went well and after four months I resumed my training--albeit quite slowly. I was not certain if the injury would hamper my full development as a primer runner. By December I was back in top shape. I had lost the 1965 track season, but felt lucky to be competing again.

My preparation for a sub-four minute mile required superb conditioning and being at the right track meet at the right time. I was living in Texas, but in the 1960’s our state shut down most of its competitive track meets over the summer. Everyone agreed that California offered the best opportunity for competitive meets on a weekly basis and possibilities for fast times.

In the summer of 1966, I spent the summer in California with the expressed goal of running a sub-four minute mile. Two friends made the transition to running in California possible for me. First, Gene Comroe, a UCLA trackman who hailed from Dallas and competed in the same Texas state and regional high school meets with me assisted by providing a spare bedroom for me over that summer. Comroe was a member of the Southern California Striders, a track club that included the UCLA middle distance star, Bob Day. Day was a sub-four minute miler and a world class runner at 800 meters.

Comroe and Day introduced me to Atis “Pete” Peterson, the Striders’ distance coach. Peterson’s famous motto was “Run for Fun,” and many of our workouts over the summer of 1966 were exactly that. Peterson trained Bob Day and Ted Nelson, a former Canadian middle distance star and the American indoor record holder for 1,000 yards. Not long after meeting Nelson, he and I both decided that we would add extra speed training to our practice to prepare us for a sub-four minute mile.

Two events prepared me personally for my sub-four minute mile in 1966. While it has been more than 50 years ago, I remember the events quite clearly. In June of 1966 I competed in the San Monica Invitational meet which featured Cary Weisiger, a former Duke star miler with a best time of 3:56.6. I ran well that day and beat Weisiger by more than ten yards. I knew then that my training was paying off.

On July 17, 1966 I had my second opportunity to assess my readiness for a sub-four minute mile. I had been invited to the Berkeley Invitational where I learned that Jim Ryun would attempt to break the world record of 3:53.6 set by Michel Jazy in 1965. I had competed against Jim Ryun numerous times, defeating him once in May of 1964. Two months later, he improved his time and finished third in the U.S. Olympic trials, which earned him a trip to the Olympics in Tokyo.

Ryun’s plans were to run a 3:52 mile or better. To do so, he wanted a 58.0 first quarter. Tom Von Ruden delivered with a 57.7 quarter. I took over with a goal of running a 1:56 first half. I felt comfortable and got to the half mile in 1:55.5. It was a bit fast, but the first quarter had also been fast. I remember that the crowd started cheering when the half time was announced. They knew that Ryun had a shot at a 3:50 mile.

Wade Bell took over from me and led Ryun to 2:55.3 at the third quarter, definitely on world record pace. Ryun always had a great kick and everyone expected that he would run 57 flat or better in the last quarter. He did indeed and his 55.0 seconds last quarter brought him to the finish line at a world record 3:51.3. Ryun had broken the world record by more than two seconds, a highly improbable feat.

I was exhausted at the three quarters mark, but decided to hang on and, as a consequence I finished third in the race. I learned soon that I had managed a highly respectable time of 4:01.4, one of my fastest times ever. Weisiger, who paced himself carefully, finished second with a 3:58.0 effort. It occurred to me minutes after finishing that if Weisiger, whom I had beaten two weeks earlier, could run a 3:58 mile, so could I.

Great distance runners build up their endurance and speed over many years. Every world record holder has done it differently. Roger Bannister trained religiously, but did so while studying for a medical career. Herb Elliott trained three or more times a day and seemed to live only for setting world records. When Ryun set the world record he was a 20 year old college student and the youngest ever to be a world record holder in the middle distance.

After the Berkeley mile, I returned to Los Angeles to continue my training. Bob Day, a 3:56 miler often joined me and other runners for afternoon and weekend runs. Pete Peterson thought I was ready for a sub-four effort and selected an invitational meet in the San Fernando Valley for me to compete in August.

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Ricardo Romo from dishwasher, to Longhorn sub- 4 miler to President of the University of Texas San Antonio.

On the day of the race, I took the day off from my job at the Century Plaza Hotel. To pay my bills I was busing dishes and washing drink glasses. That summer the job market was tight and I felt lucky to find work that did not interfere with my training. I rested all day and left two hours early for the track meet.

Ted Nelson and I agreed that we would push each other to run an even pace of 60 seconds per quarter. We were both excellent kickers and felt confident that we could finish the last quarter under 60 seconds. All went as planned. We were dead even with 300 yards to go when I began to accelerate. My time of 3:58.8 was more than I had expected. Nelson finished ten yards back with an excellent 3:59.5 effort.

Important and memorable accomplishment are often done with the help of others--in some cases many individuals. Over many years I trained with other teammates and received excellent advice on how to prepare. I quickly learned that distance running also requires discipline and over the years I learned to push myself while setting reasonable expectations.

For me, all that training paid off on a cool August evening when I became the 19th American to run a sub-four mile. While I thought I might have run faster, I was humbled to know that my 3:58.8 was the 7th fastest ever by an American and surpassed the best of any Texas or South American runner. My friends often remind me that my mile time also made me the first Texan and first Hispanic to run a sub-four minute mile.

My record stood for 40 years and I was pleased that when it was broken, it was by a fine UT Longhorn runner by the name of Leonel Manzano.

Manzano broke my record by less than two seconds, but went on that year to win a silver medal in the Olympics.

For more about Ricardo Romo visit the T-Ring Reflection section for “Track”

THE NAVIGATION TOOL TO THE HISTORICAL  PAGES ON THIS WEB SITE ARE AT THE TOP OF THIS SCREEN. THE SITES ARE  "TLSN", "SPORTS", "GUEST WRITERS", "MISSIONS", "ARTICLES" , "LOST TOO SOON", AND "SENTRY".

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As the 60 year reunion of Darrell Royal’s 1957 recruiting class approaches, my thoughts return to the special moments of Dad's life as a Longhorn.  Although he passed on April 2, 2005, and he is not able to attend this momentous reunion, his spirit is present in DKR-Memorial Stadium, in Moore Hill Hall, on the practice field, and in my life. The time he spent playing football at the University of Texas shaped him as a professional, as a father and as a man.  Under Darrell Royal and his coaching staff’s tutelage, the lessons he learned in those four years of Texas football, became the lessons of my childhood. I became his  standard bearer. 

 

I was born in 1969.  This is the year that the Longhorns mastered the Wishbone offense, a slippery, hot, and hard Astroturf, the Arkansas Razorbacks, and the Notre Dame fighting Irish to win the  national championship in the 100th year of College Football.  It was a great time to be born in Texas!!!  Between the championship season and my birth in 1969 developed a special bond between the two of us that has lasted a lifetime.  

In 1956 Bobby Goodwin was one of the top football recruits in the Southwest. He went to Milby High School in Houston and received many honors that resulted in scholarship offers from   TCU, Baylor, A& M ( Bear Bryant was the coach), University of Houston,  West Point,  O.U. , Tulsa, and THE University of Texas.

My dad made the risky choice of joining Coach Darrell Royal’s first recruiting class in 1957, but history proves that Bobby Goodwin made the right decision.  

 

 

Dad’s memories of Texas

On Monday, September 23, 1957 dad started his great journey at UT. It was the day the Texas freshman football team reported for duty. (Freshman did not play varsity football in in the late 50’s.)

I still have the original scholarship he signed on April 1, 1957. It reads, "Tuition and Fees, Room and Board, and $10.00 a month for laundry for a period of four years."

Years later he would tell me without reservations that attending Texas were the best years of his life.  Jokingly, he would say that parenthood was fine, but his days at UT were better.   He said that teammates such as  Dan Petty and JB Padgett became like brothers. The bond was so strong that JB named his first son  after my dad. Coach Royal was not the player's friend. His role was to coach, and the the teammates role was to play football. While Dad was scared to death of Coach, dad spent his whole college career striving to make Coach Royal proud of him.

The Austin American Statesman was enamored with the size of the players on the freshman team. Bill Young was  6'-7, 250, Don Talbert  6’5 and 205, Gerald Crutsinger 6’4 205, and  Butch Goodman was (6’4, 200.)  My Dad was 6 feet 205 pounds, but he was quick and fast, and a good hitter.

 In the 50’s team members had to excel on both offense and defense to play for the Longhorns. There was no platoon system. Fortunately for Dad,  Coach Royal realized early that Bobby Goodwin was not only a great offensive lineman but also a great defensive player. Dad loved to hit people on defense. This was important because Coach Royal focused more on defense than offense in his early years.  Royal used to say, if the game ended zero to zero, at least that meant that you didn’t lose. 

Playing college ball is a significant step up from high school football. As in life-not all participants on the team possessed the special resolve and good luck needed to play college football. Some players were just unlucky and incurred a  freak injury that ended their football career. Many others left for other reasons – academics, home sickness, and/or disillusionment. Coach never held a grudge against a player who chose to leave the team. He never thought they were weak, or timid, or scared.  Most of the players who left were great people who lived productive lives, but  they just did not have football in their heart. Coach Royal says  “Football is not meant for everyone. Everyone’s not geared up for football. But for those who are geared up for football, thank goodness there’s a game like football for them to play.”

 

My Memories of Dad

 

For the first three years of my life, I had my dad all to myself. (My brother Hunter wasn’t born until three years later.) I have very fond memories of those years and watching the Longhorn games together. Other Longhorn fans would come over; the games were an event, more like a party, and my mom made snacks. But the memory that stands out the most is me tucked in the crook of my dad’s arm watching the television.  I quickly learned that the Longhorns made my dad crazy. He’d scream and yell and curse. And at the age of one, of course, all that yelling scared me to death, so I’d start crying, and people would have to coach me. They’d say, “He’s not yelling at you. He’s yelling at the football game.” I must have gotten used to it, because I kept watching the games with him, and he kept yelling.

Early on I realized football was a man’s game, so I found solidarity with the twirlers. I thought they were so beautiful and they had such appreciable skills. I mimicked the twirlers. I’d break away from Dad’s arm and twirl a plastic corn cob occasionally. That got me some of attention from our guests. 

While I may have identified with the Twirlers, football was still central to my childhood. It was the construct of our lives. It was how I socialized. Texas Longhorn football gave my dad a sense of purpose and mission in life. He was a smart man, a lawyer; he had this active, keen mind, and he used a large part of his brain to store and retrieve Longhorn football stats. He could rattle off completed passes, yards rushing, time of possession, and conversions on third down… to anyone who was willing to listen to him. He kept a calendar like other people keep diaries. In his calendar he recorded all his workouts. And, on occasion, he still ran pass patterns and pass defense, ten years after he’d finished playing the game. 

In some ways it was hard being a girl surrounded by all that football. I never got to play the game or understand the deep bonds shared between teammates, but I did leverage my front row seat into Texas football history to start my own life. In 1988 the values he taught me that transcend sports and gender -resolve, perseverance, and work ethic- resulted in a full athletic scholarship to USC.  

 

 

This picture reflects a very special moment in my life.  On this day in 1989 it was my father's turn to have a front row seat as I entered USC sports history as an All American in  Cross Country.  Even though my dad passed away in 2005, he and I are still bonded. In good times and bad times our spirits continue to connect and during those moments I draw strength from him. 

Amy Goodwin

 

 

Bobby Goodwins accomplishments  are a reminder to  all Longhorns that In sports and far beyond, his contributions  to Longhorn heritage  shape the present and empower  the future.

 

 

Amy has her own site that features original content.  Here is her site. 

Www.amycgoodwin.com

And here are some of her articles.

  • Ed O’Bannon interview Plaintiff in O’Bannon v. NCAA

  • Andy Schwarz: Sports Economist featured In The Business of Amateurs

  • Interview with Bob DeMars on The Business of Amateurs

  • My Obsession with My All-American (personal essay)

  • Q&A with film producer Mark Johnson

  • Jason Luckasevic-First attorney to file a concussion lawsuit v. NFL

  • Rian Johnson: Film Director and Dodgers Fan

  • Mark Lovell, Ph.D. – ImPACT Applications (Concussion Baseline Testing)

  • Richard Deitsch vs. Clay Travis-The Great Debate (audio)

  • The NFL Settlement Makes Me Want to Bawl

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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Guide Star Bronze Level

Visit http://guidestar.org/ and type in the search engine “TLSN” to learn more the Texas Legacy Support Network mission

THE NAVIGATION TOOLS TO  THE CONTENT OF THE WEB SITE ARE AT THE TOP OF THIS SCREEN. THE SITES ARE  "QUE" , "FANS", "TLSN", "SPORTS", "ARTICLES", "ICONIC",  "MISSIONS", "LOST TOO SOON",  "SENTRY", AND "DONATE".

Click on red font text in the panel to the  left panel for more information on the TLSN mission

The inspiration for the TLSN (Texas Legacy Support Network) mission started informally in 2004 when some Legacy Longhorn student athletes assisted a few former letter winners who needed temporary financial support. The money donated was used to help one teammate rebuild his home destroyed by fire, another teammate recover from damages caused by a hurricane, and several teammates defray medical expenses not covered by insurance.  

Everyone involved with the UT Athletic department thru the last 120 plus years is instrumental in making the Longhorn brand the most recognized name in NCAA sports  history and no one involved should  be forgotten or left behind. All have an equity stake in our great university and all who are living should have a safety net available when necessary.  

Over a 3 year period Jim Kay, Benny Pace and Billy Dale received approval from the the NCAA and UT compliance departments to form a 501 (c) (3).

Will Allen Dromgoole states in his poem " The Bridge Builder" that bridges are needed to make the path easier for others to cross. TLSN is building two bridges. One bridge is built from the past to the present ,and the other bridge is built from the past to the future. Both bridges are reminders to all that Longhorn heritage shapes the present and empowers the future. No Longhorn bridge builders should be left behind.

For the first time in intercollegiate athletic history, a private charitable and tax-exempt bridge has been built with the specific mission of offering temporary financial assistance to qualifying former Longhorn athletes, coaches, student managers, trainers, and their immediate families.

As of 7-07-2019 TLSN has managed to raise $42,000 to offer grants to help three former Longhorn student athletes. (All approved thru UT compliance) One is a volleyball player from the 80's whose son had Leukemia. One is a football player from the 60's who had throat cancer. The other is Tyres Dickson a football player who in 1998 was in a horrific car accident. Tyres has been member of our group since inception and his story is already on this site and on the TLSN website so I want republish how Tyres Spirit and faith have overcome adversity. For Tyres TLSN has granted $1000 a month to defray his living expenses for 9 months while he and his mother continue to adjust to Tyres never ending health issues.

 


Longhorn Heritage shapes the present

The TLSN website chronicles the never ending saga of Longhorn sports derived from the amassed thought and experience of innumerable Longhorn minds. The site  converts UT history, UT traditions, UT legacies, UT culture, individual records, photos, insightful comments, and personal commentary from former athletes,  trainers, managers, coaches, and their families  into a form that all Longhorns can celebrate.  

  

Longhorn Heritage empowers the future

Ralph Waldo Emerson also said "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail".   TLSN has  left  the established  path and is building new trails (bridges) for the future.                                                              

Go To the 5:45 mark of the video below to listen to Coach Royal recite the Bridge Builder by Will Allen Dromgoole. 

TLSN is "exempt from federal income tax under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 501 (c) (3)".                     

 TLSN is an independent organization with no affiliations to UT Austin.  

 

 

 

 

Ragan Gennusa hall of honor inductee 2019

In an article written titled T-Ring Reflection the statement is made that “many student athletes every year overcome injuries, obstacles, and hardships to fulfill their dream of graduating and earning their T-Ring.   A ring that embodies the whole college experience of   playing  sports, lettering, and graduating from our great university. This group of men and women possess a special spirit, focused commitment, and an irrepressible passion to have an equity stake in Longhorn heritage that shapes the present and empowers the future.  Ragan Gennusa is one  of them. 

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Yoda says "You want to know the difference between a Master and a beginner? The Master has failed more times than the beginner has ever tried".

Ragan Gennusa the Master he is.

 

Yoda knew Ragan when he said “In a dark place we find ourselves…”  In his first two years as a Longhorn Ragan Gennusa found himself in a dark place and had to overcome several serious sports injuries to earn his T-Ring.  In his first month as a Longhorn Ragan suffered a broken nose at practice followed by a nightmarish ordeal that caused both of his knees to lock up. For the next 18 months of his life he experienced a few partial recoveries that were followed by relapses which required a combination of surgeries, cast, and canes. His teammates kidded him by saying his scholarship was paid by Johnson & Johnson and not by Texas.

After a doctor suggested he quit football, Royal’s staff felt Ragan would quit so they took him off the summer mailing list. Ragan called Coach Ellington and asked to be put back on the mailing list.   Ragan said  “they did not realize that I was a “Buckshot Boy” (referring to his head coach Clarence E. “Buckshot” Underwood) and the thought of quitting never entered my mind.”

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Steve Worster, Ragan Gennusa, and Bill Bradley

Royal said Ragan “could have quit and we’d have given him his full scholarship without any question.”  “It took a tubful of guts for him to keep playing.”  Ragan Gennusa was emblematic of the type of player Coach Royal liked to recruit -tough, passionate, stubborn, and positive. Ragan could by sheer strength of character will a win. 

Ragan returned in the Fall of 1965 as the 9th team quarterback. He was first used as a “dummy” which required full speed contact drills against the starting team. Most football players with Ragan’s type of injury never recover from this demotion to play again. Being used as a dummy either re-aggravates the initial injury, diminishes the player’s skill set, or leaves a mental scar that leads to depression and a sense of failure that the athlete cannot overcome.

As a “dummy” Ragan received a concussion, 15 sticthes in his jaw, and a bicep that swelled to 20 inches due to delivering blows.

 

 

 

Ragan says “I got real discouraged during two-a-days … I was pretty far down”, but “it proved a blessing in disguise”.  Something fortunate was about to happen.

 

 

Frank Denius in his book On the Way captures the essence of the T-ring spirit for many recipients.  He says "there is a purpose in our hardships, because they demand persistence and determination to overcome. Adversity and difficulty often draw out qualities in a person that otherwise might never be realized and incorporated into a useful life." 

Ragan Gennusa was living Frank Denius quote.    

After a short period on the injured list, Ragan got his first break.  The defensive coordinator,Coach Campbell, moved him from "dummy" to the  offensive “attack team” which prepared the first and second team Longhorn defense by running the opposing team’s offensive plays.  Ragan says “I chose to play split end because I thought I might be able to make some of the Longhorn defensive backs look bad,” and I might get a chance to replace one of them.  

His strategy was sound, but the results unexpected.  Ragan says “I was quite successful (at making the defensive backs look bad), and Coach Campbell told Coach Royal that I was beating the starting defensive backs regularly, and that he should look at me not as a defensive back but as a receiver".  Ragan says  “Royal did so at a Friday practice before the opening game with Tulane, and told me that I had been doing a good job, and that I could suit up for the game.”

The night before a home game the team always stays in a local hotel, but Ragan was not officially listed on the team roster so he says " I had to spend the night at Moore Hill and walk down to the stadium the next day".  "I was wearing shorts and a “T” shirt,  weighed 170 pounds, and bore a remarkable resemblance to Ichabod Crane."

"When I tried to enter the stadium, the gentleman at the gate asked me for a ticket.  When I told him that I was on the team, he called for security and shortly before I was fitted with a straight jacket, someone who worked in the office happened to come by and told him to let me in the stadium." 

"I was issued a Ernie Koy's jersey #23  which was an extra-large.”   It was a short sleeve shirt for Ernie but a long sleeve shirt for Ragan.

 

Ragan remembers his first catch on the varsity as a redshirt sophomore in 1965.  Since he had never practiced with the first or second team offense, Ragan did not know any of the offensive plays for the Longhorns, so Royal used a “sandlot” approach to tell Ragan what to do on each  play.  Right before half Ragan says “Coach Royal summoned me to his side and told me to go in for Pete Lammons at  tight end, split out and run an out at 10 yards".  Since his name and number were not listed on the team roster the stadium announcer could only say  ‘pass completed to number 23’”.  The announcer then frantically looked for a name to associate with the number and was successful.  On Ragans next reception the announcer said  "catch by Ragan Genesis ".  It was the wrong pronunciation for Gennusa, but the right word to capture a special moment in Ragan’s life when a dark period finally turned to  light.

In 1966 Coach Royal added  a split end to the offense to take some pressure off the running game.  Ragan won the starting position and every one learned how to pronounce his name.  

 

 

As a starter he continued to hone his receiving skills with the help of three NFL friends-  Ernie Koy, George Sauer, and Jim Hudson . Ragan says “my junior and senior year I led the team in receptions, not a great accomplishment on a team that rarely threw the ball, but more importantly, I did the best I could and fulfilled an obligation to my coaches, teammates, family, Coach Underwood, and myself”. 

 

Coach Fred Akers was not as modest as Ragan when discussing Ragan's skill set.  Aker's said "Ragan's hands were like a net".  Throw the football in his vicinity and he would catch the ball.

 

Page Elizabeth Bauerkemper in her 2013 report titled Beyond Sports says " Many of the lessons and experiences that come from participation in athletics are career transferable skills. Competing with a team improves communication, leadership skill, toughness, and reliability. Athletics teaches many life lessons, including how to try again after failure, triumph with class, and the advantages of going the extra mile............." 

Ragan had all the assets mentioned by Page in his "tool chest".  After receiving his BFA in art in 1968, Ragan used the lessons he learned at Texas and from his High school Coach Underwood as his roadmap to success.  Ragan says “after persistently working very hard and struggling for many years, I was able to make a living as a full time artist”.  

 In 1985, 17 years after graduating from U.T. , he was selected State Artist of Texas.  In 2006 he received the John Ben Sheppard Jr. of Merit  award from the Texas Historical Foundation for outstanding achievement in historic preservation.

 

In 2016 he was awarded the  " purchase prize" which means it is purchased by the Briscoe Museum for it's permanent collection, and

in  2017 he won the Briscoe Museum  "Patrons prize" which is the best painting.

 

Ragan's artwork has raised significant money at auctions for various historical groups, organizations, and causes including the Longhorn Foundation. His paintings hang in private and corporate collections nationwide, including New York Life Insurance Company in New York City, The Texas Longhorn Breeders national office in Fort Worth, The King Ranch, and The Briscoe Western Art Museum.  Several of his longhorn paintings are prominently displayed in The University of Texas Alumni Center and large reproductions of six his paintings are hanging in University of Texas dorms as a part of the Food and Housing Departments “Longhorn Art Series”.

Success always comes in stages

One of Ragan’s favorite and most inspirational artistic endeavors is the  Trilogy. While these three paintings symbolize the stages of success for the Horns on their path to the national championship during the period 1998 to 2005, these paintings also capture the stages necessary for success in ANY endeavor - storm, climb, and triumph.

A very limited number of prints of the “Trilogy” were produced and signed by Coach Royal and Coach Brown, the only two University of Texas coaches in history to win National Football Championships.

All three original paintings are property of The University of Texas and hang in the coaches offices.

The Trilogy is  A  Tribute to the Mack Brown Era
by Ragan Gennusa

  1. The first painting is titled "Longhorn Storm" . This is not an ominous storm but a storm symbolizing the support building for the Longhorns program and the charging longhorns portraying the excitement of the new program.

  2. The second painting is titled "The Climb to the Top," which depicts longhorns working up a steep hill, symbolizing the team's effort to work their way up in the national rankings. This is Ragan and Coach Royal's favorite because it delivers the message that success follows hard work.

  3. The final painting is called "Dawn of a New Longhorn Era". The longhorn stands proudly at the top of the highest point in the rich dramatic first light of morning, symbolizing the winning of a national championship under Mack Brown.

 

LONGHORN STORM

A "Longhorn Storm" rose up in the sky,
As they started their drive, their goals set high. (1998-2001)

 

 

cLIMB TO THE tOP

 

Through adversity and criticism, they just wouldn't stop,
As they continued their journey, their "Climb to the Top."

Over the last steep part of their journey they came,
Focused on their goals, they took dead aim.

Upward towards the summit, they kept on the move,
After all, they all had something to prove. (2002-2004)

 

DAWN OF A NEW LONGHORN ERA

And they reached their goals, in a perfect year,
At the top stood the champion longhorn steer.

As their tradition becomes history, the view is much clearer,
This is the "Dawn of a New Longhorn Era." (2005)

2005 National Champions with Mack Brown

2005 National Champions with Mack Brown

 

 

Ragan  is one of those special individuals who has personal equity in  Longhorn heritage and  who represents a portal to the past to  remind all Longhorns that heritage shapes the present and empowers the future. 

 

 

 

THE NAVIGATION TOOL TO HISTORICAL  PAGES ON THIS WEB SITE ARE AT THE TOP OF THIS SCREEN. THE SITES ARE  "TLSN", "SPORTS", "GUEST WRITERS", "MISSIONS", "ARTICLES" , "LOST TOO SOON", AND "SENTRY".

Click on the content for other football subjects denoted in red font on the panel to the left

 

A great story of triumph over adversity surviving a German concentration camp that leads to a historical mark in football that can never be duplicated.  Edited for the TLSN site by Billy Dale

http://www.roadrunnerpictures.com/portfolio/the-kicker/

 Sherrington FROM THE dALLAS MORNING NEWS SAYS “often overlook, Texas Bednarski is the true pioneer of soccer-style kick”.

Kevin Sherrington Follow @KSherringtonDMNksherrington@dallasnews.com Published: 08 December 2012 10:09 PM

Whether it’s a Rotary Club or a confederation of coaches or just a sportswriter calling, Fred Bednarski likes talking about the immigrant experience.
First, though, you have to understand where he came from. First the Soviets invaded and then the Nazis. One day, little Fred got in a cattle car and woke up in Austria........................................................
Fred had played a lot of soccer while at the DP camp, and he didn’t see why the shape of a ball should matter. No one had ever seen a kicker come at a football from a 45-degree angle before. No one in college or the pros did it, and certainly no one at Fred’s junior high.
He eventually walked on at Texas, where he sent kickoffs high and deep. Because of strict substitution rules and conservative times, he didn’t attempt a field goal until his junior year.
Even as Fred lined up a 40-yarder on Oct. 19, 1957, in Fayetteville, Ark., the Razorbacks didn’t believe it.
“Fake! Fake! Fake!” yelled Arkansas’ little safety, Fred Akers.
Darrell Royal fooled the man who would one day succeed him at Texas. The kick was one of the longest in SWC history at the time.
Bednarski never made another field goal. History was made, however. Pete Gogolak, a Cornell kicker who played in the NFL, usually gets the credit, but research by the Washington Times concluded that Bednarski’s kick was the first, college or pro, done soccer style.
Audiences have a hard time believing Bednarski’s story, but, as they say, you could look it up.........................................

 CHEERS ERUPT FROM HIS TEAMMATES IN THEIR COLORFUL, MATCHING TEAM JERSEYS AND SHORTS AND IN THE GRANDSTAND NO ONE CHEERS LOUDER OR MORE ECCLESIASTICALLY THAN FRED BEDNARSKI AS HE JUMPS TO HIS FEET IN CELEBRATION AT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS 8 YEAR-OLD GRAND-SON MILES AT HIS SATURDAY YOUTH SOCCER GAME, MILES LOOKS UP FROM FIELD LEVEL ABOVE THE FENCE AND SPIES HIS GRANDFATHER CLAPPING AND CALLING OUT TO HIM "WAY TO GO , SON!" 

 HIS MOTHER IS NOT THERE TO SEE THE JOY, AS SHE IS HUDDLED ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CAMP IN THE COLD BARRACKS WHERE FRED AND HIS FATHER LIVE WITH HER, AND HIS YOUNGER SISTER LUCY AND HIS BELOVED LITTLE BROTHER JOSEPH. THE BEDNARSKI FAMILY'S LIFE HAS LITTLE JOY ; THEY BARELY SURVIVE THE LACK OF FOOD AND THEIR SURROUNDINGS ARE HARSH AND MINIMAL. THEY HAVE NO POSSESSIONS; ONLY THE CLOTHES ON THEIR BACK.  BUT THEY HAVE A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF DEVOTION TO EACH OTHER, AND FAITH.

   

EVERY NIGHT ENDS THE SAME, AS THE ENTIRE FAMILY GETS ON THEIR KNEES AND RECITES THE LORD'S PRAYER.......... IF ONE DAILY ACT DEFINES THE BEDNARSKI'S IT IS THE RECITATION OF THIS PRAYER. THEY BELIEVE IT, AND THEY BELIEVE THAT THEY WILL BE DELIVERED FROM THE EVIL FORCES THAT HAVE UPROOTED THEM FROM THE VILLAGE IN OCCUPIED POLAND WHERE THEY WERE LOADED INTO CATTLE CARS ON THE TRAIN THAT HAS TAKEN THEM TO AUSTRIA NEARLY 1,000 MILES AWAY.

 

 AFTER THE GRUELING TRAIN TRIP, THE POLISH VILLAGERS WERE UNLOADED ONTO THE SNOWY PLATFORM. IMMEDIATELY SIRENS RANG OUT.  IT WAS AN AIR RAID, AND ALL WERE HERDED INTO A SHELTER JUST AS THE BOMBS STARTED DROPPING. PEOPLE CRIED AND PRAYED AND HELD ON TO EACH OTHER AS THEY ALL REALIZED THEIR LIVES WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME IF THEY LIVED AT ALL.

*******************************************************************************

 

Fred has grown into a powerfully built, handsome young man. He takes off his football helmet, beams as he proudly adjust the shoulder pads of his burnt orange, University of Texas longhorn uniform and places his hand over his heart and proudly, if not somewhat out of key, sings the National Anthem. ",,,,O'ER THE LAND OF THE FREE........". these words echo in his head as he looks around at the 65,000 fans including his motter, father, brother Joe and sisters Lucy and julie, are all cheering on his team.  

His mind snaps back to that day in 1945 when American soldiers freed the camp where his family had been held for nearly two tortuous years.  He hears the cheers of the liberated. American soldiers as they hand out boots and foot rations. They are overjoyed at helping the interred gain their freedom;they even hug and kiss the children! Families, cried, cheered and danced with joy. Children ran with glee shouting "we are going to be free!" "We are going home!"

But home would never be the same, as their village was incorporated into the Soviet Union at the war's end. The Bednarski's would never live there again.  The family spent the next three years living in a displaced persons camp waiting for the chance to come to America and praying for that day every night with the whole family on bended knees reciting the Lord's prayer. 

THOSE PRAYERS WERE ANSWERED IN LATE 1949 WHEN THE ENTIRE FAMILY BOARDED THE GENERAL STURGIS, a US army TRANSPORT SHIP AND SAILED TO ELLIS ISLAND.

 " America ! The land of the free, and the home of the brave! We are home now and we will live in freedom." says Ferdynand Bednarski in broken English as the Statue of Liberty comes into view from THE deck of the Sturgis.  "our new life is now beginning!" 

 

FOOTBALL HAD ALWAYS BEEN FRED'S REFUGE IN AMERICA.  MR. BUMS THE DAIRY OWNER AND THE FAMILY'S SPONSOR HAD TAKEN FRED TO A SMITHVILLE HIGH SCHOOL GAME, WHEN THE BEDNARSKI'S FIRST MOVED TO HIS FARM. FRED DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THIS GAME PLAYED WITH AN OBLONG BALL OR EVEN MUCH ENGLISH, BUT HE WAS FASCINATED BY THE RECKLESS ABANDON OF THE PLAYERS. A FEW YEARS LATER AFTER HIS FAMILY HAD MOVED TO AUSTIN, HE WOULD WATCH THE BOYS PLAY FOOTBALL ON THE PLAYGROUND AND WAS DELIGHTED WHEN HIS SCHOOL MATES URGED HIM TO PLAY TOO.

FRED GREW STRONG AND HE WAS FAST. FOOTBALL WAS A NATURAL FOR HIM AND HE COULD NOT WAIT FOR THE DAY'S CLASSES TO BE OVER SO HE COULD GET OUT ON THE PRACTICE FIELD. HE LOVED PLAYING AND ESPECIALLY LOVED KICKING THE BALL. HE WAS A MARVEL AND KICKED OFF, PUNTED AND KICKED EXTRA POINTS WITH HIS UNIQUE STYLE IN JUNIOR HIGH, ALWAYS TO THE BEWILDERMENT OF THE OTHER TEAM AND MUCH TO THE DELIGHT OF THE FANS, HIS COACHES AND FELLOW PLAYERS.  HIS FIRST COACH TRIED TO KICK THE FOOTBALL LIKE FRED AND DAMN NEAR DISLOCATED HIS HIP. YEARS LATER DARRELL ROYAL TOLD HIS COACHES, "NOBODY MESS WITH BEDNARSKI. I DON'T KNOW HOW HE DOES IT, BUT LET'S NOT SCREW IT UP!"

 

* * * * * * * * * * *

AS FRED RUNS ONTO THE FIELD, KICKING TEE IN HAND, COACH DARRELL ROYAL PATS HIS SHOULDER AND SAYS, "KNOCK 'ER OUT OF THE BACK OF THE END ZONE, LIKE YOU ALWAYS DO BEDNARSKI!" THE COACH IS IN HIS FIRST YEAR AT TEXAS, BUT WITH HIS MATINEE IDOL GOOD-LOOKS AND MAGIC TOUCH WITH PLAYERS, HE IS ON HIS WAY TO BECOMING ONE OF THE ALL-TIME GREATS IN THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHING RANKS.

 WHEN ROYAL HAD ARRIVED IN AUSTIN THE PREVIOUS SPRING, FRED WAS THE ONLY LONGHORN PLAYER HE KNEW MUCH ABOUT. AS THE COACH OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, HE HAD SENT A SCOUT TO AUSTIN TO WATCH TEXAS PLAY THE USC TROJANS, THE HUSKIES' NEXT OPPONENT. IN A STAFF MEETING, ALL THE SCOUT COULD TALK ABOUT WAS  THIS TEXAS KICKER HE HAD SEEN THAT MADE FIELD GOAL, AFTER FIELD GOAL ASTONISHINGLY FROM 50 YARDS AND BEYOND DURING WARM-UPS.

PLUS, EVERY TIME THE LONGHORNS KICKED OFF THE BALL SAILED THROUGH THE END ZONE.  "AND GET THIS COACH," THE SCOUT SAID, "..THE GUY LINES UP WAY BEHIND THE BALL AND FIVE YARDS TO THE SIDE AND  USES THE INSIDE OF HIS SHOE LIKE A SIDE-WINDER! NEVER SEEN NOTHING LIKE IT!" 

 "WE AIN'T PLAYING TEXAS OR THEIR KICKER, HOWEVER HE DOES IT.  TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT USC!" ROYAL HAD DEMANDED.

IN THE FIFTH GAME OF THE 1957 SEASON TEXAS WAS PLAYING THE #10 RANKED UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS WHEN ROYAL SENT FRED ONTO THE FIELD TO MAKE AMERICAN FOOTBALL HISTORY.  THE LONGHORNS FACED A FOURTH DOWN AND FOUR FROM THE ARKANSAS 30-YARD LINE. "MAKE IT, SON," ROYAL YELLED OUT AS FRED SET THE KICKING TEE DOWN ON THE HASH MARK AT THE 37-YARD LINE. HE TOOK TWO STEPS BEHIND THE BALL AND THEN TOOK THREE PACES TO THE SIDE OF THE BALL AND READIED HIMSELF.  "TRICK PLAY!  WATCH FOR THE FAKE!" THE ARKANSAS COACHES AND PLAYERS WERE MYSTIFIED. "WHAT THE HELL IS THIS GUY DOING?" THEY WONDERED AS THE BALL WAS SNAPPED. FRED TOOK THREE BIG STEPS PARALLEL TO THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, THEN PLANTED HIS LEFT FOOT AND WHIPPED HIS RIGHT LEG AROUND AND STRUCK THE BALL WITH THE INSTEP OF HIS SHOE.  

THWACK!

THE PIGSKIN EXPLODED OFF OF HIS FOOT, HIGH AND TRUE AND EASILY SPLIT THE UPRIGHTS 37 YARDS AWAY. FRED HAD JUST KICKED THE THIRD LONGEST FIELD GOAL IN SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE HISTORY AND HIS NAME INTO THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL RECORD BOOKS AS SCORING THE FIRST FIELD GOAL EVER, SOCCER-STYLE. THE CROWD AND THE ARKANSAS PLAYERS WERE STUNNED . FRED RAN TO THE SIDE LINES YELLING AND JUMPING FOR JOY IN THE ARMS OF HIS COACH, WHO SAID, "CALM DOWN SON, YOU GOTTA GO KICK-OFF FOR US NOW!"

 

 

 

AND THE TOP SONG IN 1957 IS

 

 

 

 

Fred Bednarski: Amazing Life of a Holocaust Survivor, Football Innovator

Posted on January 29, 2011 by Jeff Nixon

About Jeff Nixon

Jeff was a first team consensus All-American from the University of Richmond in 1978. He is 7th in NCAA history with 23 career interceptions. Played for the Buffalo Bills 1979-1984. Led the team with 6 interceptions in Rookie Year. Holds Bills record for 4 takeaways in a single game - 3 interceptions and a fumble recovery. Tied Bills record with four consecutive games with an interception. After 5 knee surgeries Jeff retired from pro football in 1985. He worked for 13 years (1988-2000) as the Youth Bureau Director for Buffalo and Erie County. He has worked for the past 11 years as the Youth Employment Director for Buffalo. Plays guitar and was voted best R&B guitar player by Buffalo Nightlife Magazine in 2006, 2007 and 2008.

View all posts by Jeff Nixon →

 

Fanhouse – January 26 2011 By Chris Harry Senior NFL Writer

 

Fred Bednarski

AUSTIN, Texas — In the 1950s, field goals in college football were rarer sights than even facemasks, so the University of Arkansas defense immediately was suspicious that fall afternoon in Fayetteville when one of its biggest rivals, Texas, began lining up for a surprisingly long field-goal attempt in the first quarter.

Razorbacks safety Fred Akers figured something fishy was in the works as he watched Longhorns fullback Fred Bednarski move into kicking formation. Akers quickly sounded the alarm when Bednarski not only backed away from his holder, but did so at a diagonal angle.

It was an entirely different look to the single wing — with the holder kneeling behind the center — and thus set off all the familiar alarms.

FAKE! FAKE! FAKE!

IT’S A PASS!

WATCH FOR THE END AROUND!

And watch everybody did, as the ball was snapped, placed and Bednarski kicked the first soccer-style field goal in either college or pro football, stepping in from 45 degrees and bombing a 40-yarder that kick-started the Longhorns to a 17-0 upset of the 10th-ranked Hogs.

The year was 1957. Before Pete Gogolak took Cornell and later the AFL and NFL by sideways storm. Before Jan Stenerud became the only designated placekicker inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bednarski, a Polish immigrant whose family settled outside Austin, didn’t turn place-kicking upside-down, but he did turn it sideways by being the first more than a half-century ago...............

“We didn’t know it at that time,” recalled Akers, now 72 and retired in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, “but we were witnessing history.”.....

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM

After nearly four years in a DP camp in Poland, the Bednarskis packed for Ellis Island and the United States. They were to be relocated to North Dakota, but a job there fell through. Instead, the welfare organization charged with placing them found work on a dairy farm in Smithville, Texas, about 20 miles from Austin. Ferdynand Bednarski became a farm hand. The children, now 13, 11 and 8, went to school, and soon the family moved to Austin.

One day at Fulmore Junior High School, Fred sat and watched while the kids played football at lunch. He’d been to games before, but understood the marching band better than the game. Still, one of the boys invited him to play. Better yet, invited him to try kicking the ball.

“Went 40 or 50 yards, at least,” he recalled.

The football coach happened to be on the playground that day, too.

Who is that kid? He’s that Polish boy, Coach

The next day, Bednarski was wearing a football uniform and playing the game for the first time. Bednarkski spoke six languages, but he knew nothing about the rules of the game with the funny-shaped ball. It was bunch of kids pushing, shoving and fighting. Eventually, he was put on defense and told to put the guy with the ball on the ground.

“He ran toward me, I stuck my foot out and tripped him,” Bednarski laughed. “It was easy.”

And illegal, which Bednarski quickly learned.

What the coaches at Fulmore and later Travis High learned was that Bednarski was a terrific athlete. While waiting assignment in the DP camp back in Poland, he’d learned to play soccer and volleyball and ran track. It didn’t take long before Bednarski not only understood how to play football, but excelled at it too, becoming an all-city performer as a fullback and kicker.

A soccer-style kicker.

“That’s the only way I ever kicked,” he said. “You can control the ball better.”.......

His kicking might have been peculiar, but it was good enough for Texas coach Ed Price to invite Bednarski to join the Longhorns as a walk-on in the fall of 1955. Freshmen were ineligible to play during that era, so it wasn’t until the ’56 season, his sophomore year, that Bednarski’s foot first gained fame.....

Football rules were different then. Substitutions were far less frequent and more controlled by officials. When a team scored, a player on the field had to attempt the point-after. There were no kicking specialists.

So the circumstances — in this case, fourth-and-long from the Razorbacks’ 33 — made Royal decide to give his big-footed fullback a chance to kick a field goal. A long one.

“It was unheard of,” said Akers, that Arkansas defensive back who 20 years later would succeed the retiring Royal as head coach at UT in 1977. “And when he lined up in that funny place in the backfield we took the rush away and absolutely knew they were going to pass it or do something tricky.”

But then?

“Man, did that ball go. Would’ve been good from 10 more yards.”

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