Larger than life character Bill Bradley Quarterbacked his Palestine High School football team to the Texas state championship in 1964. They beat San Marcos in the finals, 24-15.
Supposedly, somewhere along the way, the right handed Bradley switched to his left hand and threw a Touchdown pass to save the day.
No matter what really happened on that play, Bill Bradley was maybe the hottest high school football recruit in the country. Everybody wanted him and somewhere along the way he picked up the nickname ‘Super’ Bill Bradley.
He was one of those guys that was All State in football, basketball and baseball. The Major Leagues wanted him and he was a super Shortstop. The Detroit Tigers picked Bradley with their 7th round pick and they reportedly offered him $20,000 to sign. 20 grand may be peanuts now, but it was a lot
of money back in those years.
But, Bill Bradley wanted to go to college. He picked the home state Texas Longhorns and he became the jewel of the Texas Longhorns 1965 football recruiting class for head coach Darrell Royal.
Texas fans were excited and I’m sure they felt he would lead them to 3 national championships.
Also a member of that class was a Running Back recruit out of Spring Branch High School in Houston named Chris Gilbert.
As highly recruited as Super Bill Bradley was, it was Chris Gilbert that turned into the bigger star in college.
As a sophomore in 1966, Bradley was the starting Quarterback and Gilbert was the starting Running Back. Gilbert ran for 1,080 yards and 6 Touchdowns in what was something of a disappointing season for the Horns going 7-4.
The 1967 season was much of the same. That was the first year I ever started watching college football and the very first game I remember was Texas versus Arkansas up in the Ozarks. Texas and Bill Bradley won the game 21-12, but it was much of the same for the Longhorns as they finished the season at 6-4.
Super Bill Bradley was less than super throwing three times as many Interceptions as he did Touchdowns. His back up that season was fellow East Texan James Street, who at the time was actually much better on the pitching mound than on the football field. Street was a sophomore.
The 1967 season may have been a bust, but Chris Gilbert did not disappoint as he ran for 1,019 yards and 9 Touchdowns in again leading the Longhorns in rushing.
Texas coach Darrell Royal had had enough of it. The Texas fans were giving him grief. He was 4 years away
from winning the national title and fans thought he had lost it. Things really never change with fans.
Royal wanted to ditch his offense and go back to pounding the ball with the running game. He asked Offensive Coordinator Emory Bellard to come up with a new offense.
To make a long story short, the mighty Wishbone Offense was invented. This was the offense that would dominate college football throughout the 1970s and part of the 1980s.
The Longhorns started 1968 with a disappointing tie with the University of Houston. People shouldn’t have been disappointed because the Cougars were really good that season.
Then, the Longhorns went up to Lubbock and they were getting blown off the field by the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Royal had seen enough of Bill Bradley at Quarterback and they benched him in favor of James Street.
The legend was born.
Texas still lost that game, but Street brought them back and made it more interesting. Then, the Longhorns reeled off 30 consecutive wins lasting until the January 1st, 1971 Cotton Bowl loss to Notre Dame.
Right Halfback Chris Gilbert did it again. He ran for 1,132 yards and 13 Touchdowns to finish up his college playing days.
Chris Gilbert became the first player in college football history to run for over a 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
He also became the first Running Back to rush for over a 1,000 yards in the soon to be popular Wishbone Offense.
Bill Bradley later moved to Defensive Back and he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL.
He became a mainstay in their secondary for years.
Chris Gilbert was drafted, but never played a down in the NFL.
Both of these legends were part of what drew me in to college football way back in the day and I have been addicted since then.