Stan Mauldin from Walkon to Captain
Majority of this article was written by the sports writer Mark McDonald as a contributor to TLSN
Stan Mauldin says“Coach said he didn’t have a scholarship to offer but said, ‘I really think you ought to come down here to Austin and give it a try.’ I always had a lot of respect for Coach Royal, so I just had one question for him: Are you going to give me a chance.”
Royal had a ready reply: “Yes, you will get your chance. I will make sure of it.”
When Stan hung up the phone, he would have crawled on his hands and knees from Azle to Austin.
“A chance, that’s all I needed,” Stan says. “I felt confident. I wasn’t very big, maybe 185 pounds, I didn’t have the wheels. I ran a 4.9 (40-yard dash) … maybe.
“I had been looking at Abilene Christian and thinking about going to Texas A&I (now A&M-Kingsville). But I would say I had the quickness. I thought I could make it (at Texas).”
That didn’t mean that the youngest Mauldin, U.T. legacy or no, would be greeted with a downtown parade.
During the state high school track meet that spring, Stan and a buddy hitch-hiked to Austin and, without a motel room, wound up sleeping in the pole vault pit at Memorial Stadium. More reality would soon follow.
In those days, freshmen nationwide were prohibited by the NCAA from playing varsity ball. Stan bided his time on the freshman team, then the spring of 1968, his first shot at making an impression. At Texas, and so many other schools, the depth chart was posted on the locker room wall, with names of each player hanging on a metal hook. Starters were on the first rung, second-stringers on the second. Stan kept looking and looking until he found his name.
Surrounded by proven lettermen … along with the heralded recruiting class of 1967 called the “Worster Bunch,” for high-profile fullback Steve Worster, Stan’s status could have been no lower. Issued a blue jersey, he was assigned to the so-called “attack squad,” comprised of surplus humans, used as blocking dummies and tackling targets – raw meat for the starters to sharpen their fangs. Better to be the back end of a shooting gallery than to be on the attack squad.
Stan looked around, saw scholarship players who didn’t have the chops and started climbing toward daylight. He started hitting anything that moved.
“I was really determined, every day,” Stan says. “Any chance I had to show I could play, I had to jump on it. Face it, I wasn’t coming in with any position (status) at all. I took every opportunity, I could. I didn’t go slow anywhere.
“The timing for me was very unusual. Spring training of 1968, the coaches were under duress. The team had gone 6-4 three straight years. Another one, and they might all get fired. They were determined to change things around here.”
Coach Royal and his staff were not looking for glamour, they were looking for pure-dee football players. What he called “dipped and vaccinated” Longhorns, rangy kids who, in coach-speak of the day, would hitcha.
“For somebody like me, it was great timing,” Mauldin says. “Coaches didn’t care if you were a blue chipper, or if you came to town on a load of wood. ….. I was looking for a better deal.”
Stan’s big break, if you could call it that, came when Defensive Coordinator Mike Campbell called for an older player to step into a drill opposite Leo Brooks. Bill Little says “At 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Brooks was a massive force in a day when offensive linemen of the time weighed in at an average of 210 pounds. He was strong. He followed (college) with a seven-year NFL career and earned an invitation to the 1976 Pro Bowl, his final season in the league. “ Before Campbell could look twice, a smallish kid in a blue shirt had jumped into the fray, a classic mismatch that surely would end up in Frank Medina’s training room.
First play … wham … a fierce collision of two willing competitors. Second play … blam! … another practice field car wreck.
When the dust cleared, Stan Mauldin was still standing. He had not conquered the giant, but Leo Brooks, who would go on to a Pro Bowl career with the NFL Cardinals, had not run roughshod over the 185-pound blocker. And most of all, Stan had won over his immediate supervisor.
Tweet! All players freeze, and look to Coach Campbell.
Dinner for you Mr. Mauldin
“Come here, son,” bellowed Campbell, a no-nonsense survivor of WW II. “You are going to eat steak tonight. Hear me? Steak!”
Sure enough. That night, in the chow hall where scholarship players always ate at separate tables from walk-ons, Stan was set aside again. This time, while the favored ones ate chicken or hamburgers, Stan sat down to a steak dinner, with all the trimmings. He had a table to himself, and his own waiter.
More than anything else, he had carved out the grudging respect of the locker room and, so it is, the Stan Mauldin story takes a new turn. Coach Royal singles him out the next day at practice, saying “from now on, Mauldin, you eat with the scholarship players.” Stan got his scholarship and though he never played at more than 195 pounds, Mauldin captained the 1971 team.