From 1967 thru 1970 3 African Americans walked-on at Texas- E.A. Curry, Robinson Parsons, Talmadge Blewitt- and 1 African American - Leon O’Neal-received a scholarship. None made the Longhorn varsity team.
A WALK ON’S STORY- John Scott- 1967
In 1967 I returned to ‘the world’ from my second and last tour in Viet Nam. I wanted to go to college and I had previous scholarship offers to play football from Georgia Tech, Southern Cal and Syracuse. I was quicker and harder than when those offers were made six years prior and I had played some semi-pro level ball while I was in the service against service teams, factory and prison teams and a couple of SEC teams when I was playing for the Pensacola Gosh hawks in flight training. When I checked around only Syracuse still offered any support and that was a part scholarship to cover tuition and a room with the team but not books and not board and zero ‘laundry’ money.
In May 67 my little sister Summer who was dating a RB/DB Pete Gallaher at the time invited me to visit the campus in Austin. I started reading up on UT football and came across a quote by DKR that said he would take a smaller but quicker player over a larger slower player every day of the week. With that in mind I got a ride in the back seat of one of our F4-B Phantoms to Bergstrom AFB where I was met by Summer, Pete, his room mate Terry Boothe and Terry’s girlfriend.
We adjourned to the Lake and went tubing. Beers were consumed, past glories on the field were relived and more beers were consumed. Next thing I know I am being introduced to the freshmen Coach, Ellington, who opines that my size 5’10” and weight 175 soaking wet are ‘unimpressive’, I repeate the DKR quote and say that I really liked the hitting part of the game. He asked me how quick I thought would get me noticed? I answered that I could turn 4.2/40’s. He just looked at me in disbelief. I mentioned that I had been running on the beaches in southern California with an SC scholarship athlete and had gotten quick out of necessity in the Nam dodging mortars and running through the jungle to preserve life and limb. I said I was ready that minute if he wanted to put a stop watch on me.
About five minutes later I am being introduced to Daryl Royal, coaches Bellard, Campbell and Zapalac. We talk and Royal asks me how I want to do ‘this’ and I say that as far as I am concerned the game is played in cleats and pads, just like running around Nam dodging VC and NVA is played in combat boots field packs and carrying weapons. After a quick phone-call I am escorted to the trainer Medina, who sizes me up and asks me my helmet size is and what size cleats I need and says he hopes I am not wasting his time. Then I am escorted to the practice field under the eyes and stopwatches of 5 coaches.
Ten forties later I have 6X4.2’s 3X4.3’s and a 4.4(bad start). Royal says he will match the Syracuse offer to start with and if I can make the team which he states categorically is made up of the best recruiting class in the history of Texas football. We agree and he tells me when I have to show up for two-a-days in August. He says that regardless I will get early registration with the team. He opines that since my folks are Texas residents I should be considered a ‘resident’ as well. I ask why that should make a difference? He says that the university can not deny entrance to a returning veteran. They don’t have to keep me if I can’t keep up so I have to keep up my GPA to play and to stay. Welcome to the Texas Longhorn Football team.
June 26, 1967 (5 years 11 months 22 days and a wake-up after joining up) I left the US Navy to go to junior college at Clermont Mesa, to avoid being extended, and spent the rest of the summer getting in shape, working odd jobs and surfing. I was looking forward to school in the fall, drinking, chasing the girls, playing football and getting over the nightmares and flashbacks that were my gift from 2 combat tours.
Despite my summer efforts two-a-days were a bitch. No surfing and No hitting to start with but grass drills, rope drills, push-ups, sit-ups, and after everything else Medina drills. The heat and humidity were just like Viet Nam without the monsoons and leaches but plenty of sweat. Toward the end I get a call and am invited to Coach Royals office. I’m thinking I would be cut but I have finally had a couple of hitting sessions and think that was no problem so what’s up?
Turns out the coach has 'person' problems and I am one of them. My roommate Billy Schoppe thinks I am the second coming of Satan and I have violated all of his Christian sensibilities. He wants to change roommates ASAP. Jack Levin is Jewish and Royal wants to make sure that he has a roommate and that the roommate is not biased. I tell him I think Schoppe is a clueless kid and I would be happy to be rid of him. As far as Levin goes – if he wears the same uniform I do and bleads red blood same as me, I could care less about race, religion, color, creed, or national origin. Royal says welcome to the team. I’m a longhorn!
Poor Jack, I just hope he understands that I don’t sleep well when I sleep at all. Moore Hill Hall is now home to this sorry vet. I changed rooms and went out to celebrate. 24 year old freshmen football players can get drunk legally, but I missed Ayers bed check. Jack and I become best of friends and later in life he is my Best Man for two of my failed marriages.
I make the team as a deep snapper and defensive line man... but way down the roster (grape jersey). My goal is to beat out Wooster for the fullback slot and challenge Scott Henderson for middle linebacker but deep down I know that my best chance will be at nose guard in a 5-4 alignment.
Just before the season starts I am getting my final evaluation for a full ride. I am going down under punts to disrupt the blocking scheme and tackle the ball carrier. Wooster is deep and Gene Salmon is leading him down field. I am destroying Salmon driving through him to force Wooster to choose which way he wants to go.
After 5 collisions Salmon is pissed because I am ignoring the ‘half-speed’ tackling orders. He bitches to Ellington and the coach admonishes me. I respond that I am to small to go half speed against either Salmon or Wooster. He makes it plain that 'that' is what he wants period? I mutter ok but tell him my death and or bodily injury is on him.
Next play I go down hard and fast but instead of running into Salmon I try to sidestep him. He hits me high with hand shivers as my left leg is crossing over my right. My right knee twist and explodes. I am laying on the ground, no cartilage most of the ligaments gone, I see coach. He asks how I feel and I cuss him out. He says I need to get well quick he needs me and I have my full ride when/if I can come back, full speed.
That does not happen. I get to play in one game before my knee surgery, against A&M, nose guard for a couple of plays and blocking line on a kick return where they kick short to me and I fumble. We win anyway but I never get the quickness back that got me there. We all get our freshman letters (along with food poisoning at the awards ceremony) for an unbeaten season. I joke with Royal that I’m small but I’m slow, put me in coach my ankles are taped, my knee-brace is good and my helmet is screwed on tight. He grins and asks if I will be a dorm counselor for him in Moore Hill to keep up my part scholarship. End of football – new focus – academics. End of my ‘walk on’ story.
#58, back row between Bill Zapalac and Scott Henderson in frosh group photo