If bayous and swamps, alligators and snakes, mosquitos and humidity are your thing, then southeast Texas just might be on your list of geographic locations of interest. That part of the world is also famous for producing top football talent.
Most of the top recruits from that part of the state come from Beaumont and Port Arthur, but there are other smaller towns like Silsbee that provide college football with numerous quality players. It’s been going on for decades.
Bridge City hasn’t been one of those towns throwing out blue chip talent left and right. Bridge City produced Jason Matthews who played 11 seasons in the NFL and Shane Dronett who also played 11 seasons in the league. Kicker Matt Bryant has been in the NFL for 17 years.
In the 1960’s, the Bridge City football team went through a period when they were a powerhouse,
mostly thanks to one guy.
Compared to today’s players, Bridge City beastly running back Steve Worster wasn’t that big and he wasn’t that fast. Yes, he was over 200 pounds, but backs that size are a dime a dozen today. He would be considered too slow by the standards of the modern game. In his time, he was big enough and he was fast enough and he brought pain to his opponents.
Worster was a four year starter at tailback for Bridge City. Amazingly, he was named All District as a freshman, and he led the state in rushing as a sophomore in 1964, with over 1,400 yards on the ground.
By the time Worster was a junior, in 1965, he led his team to the state championship game where they lost to the legendary Gordon Wood and the Brownwood Lions. Worster ran for 1,380 yards that season, but it was not enough to get past Brownwood. The Lions of Brownwood held 10 opponents scoreless in the 1965 season and shut down Bridge City and Worster. The big running back had 87 yards rushing in that state championship game against Brownwood.
That loss motivated Bridge City and all of the guys they had coming back to do better.
By the 1966 season, the mighty Steve Worster was a senior in high school. He led the state in rushing that season in Texas 3A football. Back in these days, there were only 4 classifications in high school sports in the state of Texas with 4A being the biggest schools.
Worster ran for 2,210 yards in the 1966 season which easily led the entire state in rushing. They lost a game during the year, but recovered to win district and earn a spot in the state playoffs.
In their playoff run, Bridge City beat Conroe, 41-17. Then, they handled Clear Creek, 36-7, before defeating San Marcos, 28-7.
That set up Worster and teammates for a state championship showdown with unbeaten McKinney.
McKinney was much like the Brownwood Lions of the previous season. They played rock solid defense and shut people down all year. During the playoffs, McKinney had given up 7 points in three games. They were the top ranked team in the state and would be a major problem for Bridge City.
But, Steve Worster proved to be unstoppable and carried the ball 36 times for 249 yards and 3 touchdowns in leading his team to an impressive 30-6 win over previously unbeaten McKinney.
During the playoffs alone, Worster ran for 13 touchdowns.
Some called Worster ‘a man among boys’ when he ran the ball and I would not argue that. He was now the top recruit in the entire country in the 1967 class and more than 75 colleges offered him a scholarship.
After much consideration, Steve Worster signed with the University of Texas and combined with the rest of the talent in that recruiting class, they were called the Worster Bunch. Worster vs Super Sophs
Of course, freshmen couldn’t play college football back in those times. But, the Longhorn freshman team was unbeaten in the few games they got to play. They also watched helplessly as the varsity team had a mediocre 6-4 record in 1967.
Changes were coming in 1968 for the Texas Longhorns and the Worster Bunch played a really big hand in everything over the next 3 seasons.
But, they didn’t get off to a great start. Texas had a brand new offense called the Wishbone and Steve Worster was the new fullback, the very first Wishbone fullback. A lot of the sophomores from Worster’s class moved right into the lineup including a little guy named Freddie Steinmark who was very lightly recruited. Freddie Steinmark Part 1
Taking on a talented University of Houston team that was ranked 11th, didn’t work out so well for the young team with the game ending in a 20-20 tie.
The following week was a trip to Lubbock, Texas to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Bill Bradley played quarterback for the Longhorns the past two seasons, but he’d never really lived up to the high school hype after being one of the top recruits in the country. Chris Gilbert and Bill Bradley
Texas was losing big to Texas Tech and Texas coach Darrell Royal replaced Bill Bradley with a junior that had played very little named James Street. Now, nobody would get Street and Troy Aikman confused with one another. He was not a gifted quarterback in that he was not 6-3, 220 with a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder. But, Street was cool under pressure and he just made the brand new Wishbone offense work.
He tried bringing Texas back in this game, but the Wishbone is not a great come from behind offense and the lead was too great for the Red Raiders. Texas lost, 22-31, but they would not lose again until January 1st, 1971. They won 30 straight games.
Senior Chris Gilbert led the Longhorns in rushing in 1968 and he became the first college football player in the history of the game to break 1,000 yards rushing in 3 straight seasons.
Fullback Worster ran for 806 yards and 13 touchdowns while averaging 5 yards per carry.
The Texas Longhorns finished 1968 with a 9-1-1 record and gave notice in the Cotton Bowl thrashing of Tennessee that they were going to be a threat in 1969.
The Ohio State Buckeyes and their own special group of sophomores won the national championship in 1968. The Longhorns and the rest of the country were playing catch up all season long. Super Sophs
Texas was ranked 4th as the season began, but beating California and then getting sweet revenge on Texas Tech and winning 49-7 opened a few eyes. They mauled the midshipmen of Navy, 56-17 and that Wishbone was working beautifully.
Texas dropped to 2nd in the polls, but 8th ranked Oklahoma was next. The Longhorns came through, beating Oklahoma 27-17. After that, Texas got hot and destroyed everyone on their schedule setting up a classic finish with Arkansas.
But, Texas needed a little help. The stars aligned for them and Michigan pulled off what people called the greatest upset of all time in beating Ohio State, 24-12.
That upset dropped unbeaten Texas to number 1 with also undefeated Arkansas at number 2. It set up the perfect ending with the huge rivals going at it for the top ranking.
It was called the Big Shootout with Texas coming through at the end and winning 15-14 after being behind the entire game.
Texas went to stage one more come back with a win over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl to capture the national championship with an undefeated 11-0 record.
Texas had considerable depth in the backfield and spread the ball around. Sophomore Jim Bertlesen led the team in rushing, but fullback Steve Worster bulled his way to 649 yards and 9 touchdowns. Stats don’t really matter when you’ve just won a national championship.
James Street, the confident quarterback, was gone in 1970. But, most of the other guys from the Worster Bunch were back and they were ranked #1.
Steve Worster had his best season while running for 898 yards and 14 touchdowns. The Horns had a tough time with 13th ranked UCLA before coming out on top, 20-17. Shockingly, they also had a tough time of it in Waco against the pitiful Baylor Bears before surviving, 21-14. They crushed everyone one their regular season including 4th ranked rival Arkansas. In Austin, they stomped the Razorbacks 42-7.
The 30 game winning streak came to an end in the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame when they turned the ball over 9 times. The Fighting Irish stunned Texas 11-24.
Worster’s final stats at Texas are not spectacular with 2,353 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns. But, he did help his teammates finish with a very impressive 30-2-1 record over three seasons. A winner on the high school level and the college level, Worster gave his all on every play.
Pro football didn’t agree with Steve Worster. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, but he held out and they never agreed on a contract. He played a year in Canada in the CFL before deciding that he was done with football. At heart, Worster was a Texan and he wanted to head back to Texas and get on with his life.