Freddie Steinmark National Championship 1969 Part 3

In the famous words of rocker Bryan Adams:

I got my first real six-string

Bought it at the five-and-dime

Played it till my fingers bled

Was the summer of ’69

Me and some guys from school

Had a band and we tried real hard

Jimmy quit, Jody got married

I Shoulda known, we’d never get far

Oh when I look back now

That summer seemed to last forever

And if I had the choice

Yeah, I’d always want to be there

Those were the best days of my life

 

 

What do I really remember from the Summer of ’69?

A lot, really, I was only 9 years old but I remember a lot of things. Google helped out with what I didn’t. For me, it was a time of innocence and little responsibility. What’s not to love about being young and eager to know and to learn what’s out there?

I’m sure those were also the best of days for Freddie Steinmark and Linda Wheeler. They were young and in love and the future could not have appeared brighter for them.

Former Colorado All-State  Running Back Bobby Mitchell was slated to start at Left Guard for the Texas Longhorns and I am sure he was on cloud nine as well. Bobby Mitchell is another classic example on why you should never quit. Being a freshman on the Texas campus was a huge discouragement for him because he never played a down. But, he did play the following year as a back up and was now a starter on a top 5 college football team. He was not a quitter and he proved that in 1968.

Steve Worster was the highest ranked recruit signed on with the recruiting class that was named after him and Freddie Steinmark was the absolute lowest. But, both of these guys had the same work ethic and

both of them would never quit and busted their butts on every play in a game or in practice. They gave it their all in workouts and in school and in every thing else they attempted. Today we would say that these guys had heart, and they had that in abundance.

1969 was probably the strangest and wildest year in the history of mankind. It was the last year of a crazy decade and seemingly everything came to a head and ended with a bang in 1969. The 1970’s were my decade, but even though I was nothing more than a child in the ’60’s, it will always be a special time for me and will always hold a special place in my memories. Guys that were just a few years older than me like Freddie Steinmark were a huge part of that.

These were the guys that I grew up idolizing.

The legendary rock band, Led Zeppelin,  put out their very first album in 1969. They would put out another by the end of the year called Led Zeppelin II. I’ll still listen to Led Zeppelin to this day, but for many kids such as myself Zeppelin was THE band of the 1970’s.

Brian Jones, the most talented member of the Rolling Stones and the founder of the group before being booted out by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, died in 1969. He drowned in his own swimming pool, tragically but he had many years of drug abuse in his past.

The Beatles put out Abbey Road in 1969 and they had their last live performance on the roof of Apple Records in London the very same year. The Beatles didn’t officially break up until 1970, but the damages were done in 1968-69.

Woodstock, the most famous concert of all time happened in 1969. Woodstock was such a big deal it still gets publicity to this day. I was talking to a guy a few months ago that ran away from home at age 15 and attended Woodstock. It was huge then and it’s still huge now.

Richard Milhous Nixon replaced Lyndon Johnson in the White House and became the 37th President.

Joe Namath, Quarterback of the New York Jets guaranteed his Jets would beat the huge favorites in the Super Bowl, the Baltimore Colts, and the Jets did it. If you weren’t around back in those days, the Jets beating the  Colts was a really big deal. AFL teams just did not measure up to NFL teams then. The Green Bay Packers faced the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowls I and II and physically destroyed both of them very easily and the same result was expected when the Baltimore Colts faced the New York Jets. The same result didn’t happen with the upstart Jets and their brash young Quarterback Joe Namath pulling off the upset of the century and the two leagues would merge soon after.

Joe Namath was voted MVP of the game and I will always remember him running off the field with his finger raised indicating he and his Jets were number one.

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. Some people still insist it was staged and never really happened. But, if that was a hoax, it was one of the better ones ever pulled off in the history of the world.

The Charles Manson gang murdered Sharon Tate and several others in 1969. There are still television shows about this event. Sharon Tate was a beautiful young actress with a bright future only to be mutilated by a bunch of loonies with no potential at all in life.

The Walmart super giant store first incorporated in 1969 in Bentonville, Arkansas and the downtown areas of every small town in America would soon become like ghost towns.

The first Wendy’s fast food hamburger joint was opened by Dave Thomas named after his daughter and that also happened in this wonderful, but odd year.

The Wizard of Oz star Judy Garland died of a drug overdose in 1969.

The draft was set up for the first time since World War II. That was also 1969 and I just knew my destiny was to get drafted and go fight in Vietnam. Fortunately for me, they discontinued the draft before I became old enough, in 1973.

Hurricane Camille, one of the deadliest storms of all time happened in 1969.

The Brady Bunch appeared on American Television. The first episode of Scooby Dooby Doo also came out that year. Both of these shows were a huge part of American culture and still are to this day.

Rocky Marciano the only undefeated Heavyweight Champion of all time died in a plane crash in 1969 and boxing fans everywhere wept.

General Motors built the 1969 Z28 Camaro, while Dodge put out the 1969 Charger, and Ford put out the Ford Boss Mustang. The Muscle Car era was at it’s peak before insurance companies and oil prices and so called shortages did away with one of the best times in automobile history.

Incidentally, my first car was a 1969 Oldsmobile, but it was a far cry from new.

It was in the summer of 1969 and back in Denver, Colorado that somebody first noticed that Texas Longhorn starting Safety Freddie Steinmark was limping.  Steinmark assumed he injured his knee while playing baseball, but it just wouldn’t go away.

It wasn’t too bad at first, and he kept saying it was nothing. Top athletes play with pain, he probably kept telling himself, and Freddie Steinmark was tough and he could take it.

But, the pain didn’t subside and it would only intensify as the 1969 season wore on.

Simply put, Freddie Steinmark was a starting safety for one of the nation’s best college football teams and he did not want to lose his spot in the lineup. If he went to the trainer and complained of pain, he could lose his starting position for the Longhorns.

With his 5 interceptions during his sophomore season, Steinmark was a preseason All- Southwest Conference and gained some mention as an All-American.

Freddie Steinmark and his Longhorn teammates finished the 1968 college football season as one of the best college football teams in the nation and the next 2 seasons looked extremely promising with the return of the Worster Bunch.

I  encourage anyone that is interested in the life and times of Freddie Steinmark, to buy Jim Dent’s outstanding book Courage Beyond the Game. http://books.google.com/books?id=Uan0dctI6TYC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

According to this well written and interesting book, Freddie Steinmark went to Dallas in August of 1969 to work out with his best buddy, Scott Henderson. Longhorn junior Henderson and his fellow Linebacker Glen Halsell were the best pair of Linebackers in the SWC.

Henderson and Steinmark worked out together to get ready for the up coming two-a-days at Texas. They went to a local high school and some high school boys beat Steinmark deep.

In the 1968 season, Freddie Steinmark played against speedy future NFL Wide Receivers like Jerry Levias of SMU and  Elmo Wright of the University of Houston and they never beat him deep. Yet, now, he was getting beat by high school guys.

Something was wrong with Freddie Steinmark, but he did his best to hold onto his starting job as the Safety for the Texas Longhorns.

If you went to the football trainer back in those days you were labeled a whiner. Players didn’t complain about cuts and bruises back then because of fear of losing their starting position, or extra punishment. Tape it up and play on it was their mentality and old school coaches like Darrell Royal didn’t accept any excuses.

With all of the other things happening in 1969, it was also the 100th year of college football and lots of teams wore the number 100 on their helmets or their uniforms.

It’s not exactly a secret that the Texas Longhorn 1967 recruiting class labeled the Worster Bunch was the heart and soul of the 1969 football season.

Texas lost Chris Gilbert and that was a huge loss because he ran for over 3000 yards and was the first ever player in college football to run for over 1000 3 seasons in a row. The Horns also lost one time Quarterback Bill Bradley who  went on to a fantastic career in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. Another big loss was outstanding Linebacker Corby Robertson, plus All-American tackle Loyd Wainscot.

Sophomore Jim Bertleson, like Freddie Steinmark and Bobby Mitchell, was a rare out of state player at Texas, partly replaced Chris Gilbert at Halfback. Bertleson, a sophomore from Wisconsin, split time with Billy Dale from Odessa Permian High School who was another member of the Worster Bunch.

Freddie Steinmark was the only returning starter in the Defensive Backfield for the 4th ranked Longhorns.

The Ohio State Buckeyes finished the 1968 season as national champions and they started off the 1969 season ranked a strong number 1 and the Bucks were an awesome team. Their own outstanding recruiting class, the Super Sophomores were now juniors. Texas and Ohio State would never play, but they were intertwined in 1969 and also the following season in 1970.

Behind top rated Ohio State, Arkansas started the season ranked number 2. Penn State came in at number 3, Texas was ranked number 4, and USC was ranked right behind them at number 5.

The Texas Longhorns started off at California and won 17-0.

Strangely Ohio State was idle during opening Saturday. The 2nd ranked Arkansas Razorbacks crushed the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 39-0. Penn state beat the Naval Academy, 45-22, and yet they moved ahead of Arkansas to the number 2 spot. Texas remained at number 4.

Freddie Steinmark’s leg started hurting worse after the California game and he finally agreed to go see Texas trainer, Frank Medina, and at least to do some time in the whirlpool. Players were expected to play with pain in those years and Freddie Steinmark was really no different in that regard.

Texas Longhorn football trainer Frank Medina was a mean little man, but he loved Freddie Steinmark because Steinmark was pound for pound the best and the toughest player on the team.

The following week, on September 27th, the Ohio State Buckeyes finally opened their season by crushing the TCU Hornfrogs, 62-0. Penn State beat Colorado, 27-3, and Arkansas beat Tulsa, 55-0. Texas got some revenge towards a recent thorn in their side, Texas Tech, by stomping them, 49-7. Freddie Steinmark made an impressive interception in this game setting up his team for a big score and the rest of the defense came up big as well.

Steinmark’s Texas Longhorns were still ranked number 4 this early in the season.

Ohio State beat the Washington Huskies out in Seattle rather convincingly, 41-14. Penn State barely beat traditionally bad Kansas State, 17-14, and dropped all the way to 5th in the poll. Arkansas beat

TCU, 24-7, at home. Texas beat Navy at home 56-17 and rose to number 2, which made little sense because Navy was awful. USC beat the Oregon Ducks, 31-7, and rose to the 4th position in the Polls.

Steinmark and his teammates were rolling along, but the Ohio State Buckeyes were looking really good and it wasn’t looking promising for the Texas Longhorns catching a team that they could never have the opportunity to play.

On October  11th, the top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes beat Michigan State 54-21 in Columbus.  Arkansas was off that week and number 4 USC barely beat 16th ranked Stanford 26-24 and passed Arkansas to the 3rd spot in the Polls. The 5th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions beat 17th ranked West Virginia, 20-0, which was a solid win for them.

The 2nd ranked Texas Longhorns beat the 8th ranked Oklahoma Sooners, 27-17 in their annual grudge match. The Sooners had big 6-2, 215 Tailback Steve Owens, who had been 4th in the nation in rushing in 1968 with 1,536 yards and was a heavy favorite to win the Heisman in 1969. Owens would never have been mistaken for a speed Running Back such as OJ Simpson, but he was a pretty outstanding power runner much along the lines of Jeff Kinney from Nebraska a couple of years later. Owens did go on to win the Heisman Trophy in 1969, as expected, but the Longhorns still prevailed that day.

Freddie Steinmark totaled 18 tackles against the Sooners. Pain in his leg, or not, Steinmark was all

over the field. Steinmark lacked some of his usual quickness, but he made up for it with his football understanding and just seemed to be in the right place at the right time.

The Sooners built up a lead behind the running of Steve Owens, mostly, but Texas shut them down in the second half.

On October 18th, Ohio State beat Minnesota, 34-7, on the road. Texas was idle. USC tied the 11th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, 14-14, and that dropped the Trojans to number 7, and the Irish fell to number 12 in the weekly Polls. The 4th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks beat Baylor 21-7, the 5th ranked Lions of Penn State barely beat Syracuse, 15-14, and they fell to the 8th ranking in the next Poll.

Number 7 Tennessee beat Alabama 41-14, in Birmingham which was good enough to lower them  to the 3rd spot. The number 6 ranked Missouri Tigers beat Oklahoma State and made it to the 5th position in the Poll. Arkansas was still ranked number 4, but their win over the Baylor Bears was not extremely impressive.

Normally, Texas would have had Arkansas the week right after the Red River Rivalry, but the game had been moved to December and the last game of the year by ABC, which would turn out to be a move of genius by the Network.

Hopefully, the week off would give Freddie Steinmark a little more time to heal his injured leg, at least that was the hope.

On Saturday, the 25th of October, the top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes beat hapless Illinois senseless, 41-0. The Fighting Illini of Illinois didn’t have a lot of fight in them in 1969, finishing 0-10.

While further South the 2nd ranked Texas Longhorns beat the Rice Owls 31-0.  The Tennessee Volunteers were idle, while the 4th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks beat Wichita State, 52-14.

Joe Paterno’s 8th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions beat Ohio 42-3 and for some reason rose to the 5th spot again, but Ohio was hardly a powerhouse. Missouri had been the 6th ranked team, but they lost to Colorado 31-24.

6th ranked USC beat Georgia Tech, 29-18.

We were now into November and Ohio State continued their winning ways by beating Northwestern, 35-6. The Longhorns of Texas beat SMU in Dallas, 45-14. The Texas offensive backfield became the first in NCAA history to have all 4 starting backs rush for over 100 yards, as Texas ran the ball for an amazing 611 yards in crushing the Mustangs of Southern Methodist.

The 3rd ranked Tennessee Volunteers beat the 11th ranked Georgia Bulldogs, 17-3. The 4th rated Arkansas Razorbacks beat the Aggies, 35-13 in the Hills of Northwest Arkansas. 5th ranked Penn State beat Boston College, 38-16.

All of the top ranked teams were still unbeaten and the odds of Texas catching Ohio State were looking pretty slim and so were Freddie Steinmark’s dreams of winning a national championship.

November 8th the Buckeyes looked unbeatable while tearing into Wisconsin, 62-7. But, Texas looked pretty tough as well beating Baylor 56-14. 3rd ranked Tennessee tried to keep pace by beating South Carolina, 29 -14, and 4th ranked Arkansas beat Rice 30-6 down in Houston.

The top 5 schools in the Polls were all undefeated at 7-0 and USC was sitting at #6 at 7-0-1 with cross town rival, UCLA also at 7-0-1 and ranked 7th. There were some good college football teams in 1969.

In the following week, the top rated Ohio State Buckeyes had their toughest test of the season with 10th ranked Purdue coming to Columbus. The Buckeyes passed their exam with flying colors with a  42-14 win over a very tough opponent. Woody Hayes and his Buckeyes were rolling at 8-0 and winning most games rather convincingly. They were a solid number 1 and the best of all time type of talk was starting to appear across the country. They had beaten every team they had faced so far by an average score of  46 to 8.

The Buckeyes were down to their very last game because of a really bad rule at the time in the Big 10 Conference that did not allow a team to go to the Rose Bowl 2 years in a row even if they won the conference. Even if Ohio State beat Michigan as was expected, they were still going to be staying home for the holidays. It was a ridiculous rule.

Down in Austin, the Texas Longhorns beat TCU 69-7. The Hornfrogs had been beaten by Ohio State, 62-0, and Arkansas, 24-7.

Tennessee was pulverized in Jackson, Mississippi by the 18th ranked Ole Miss Rebels with Archie

Manning in a real shocker, 38-0.

Arkansas got by SMU, 28-15, in Dallas at the old Cotton Bowl. The Nittany Lions beat Maryland, 48-0, in State College, Pennsylvanvia.

6th ranked USC beat Washington, 16-7, up in Seattle and dropped to the 5th spot with everyone moving in the polls due to the Volunteers shocking loss to Ole Miss.

Arkansas was now 3rd, with Penn State at 4th and USC in the 5th spot. UCLA was now 6th and Missouri at 7th. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were moving back into the picture and appeared at number 8.

On November 22nd, 1969, the Michigan Wolverines ranked 12th in the latest Polls, shocked the nation by beating Ohio State, 24-12. The 1969 season was the first at Michigan for head coach Bo Schembechler and the beginning of the famous 10 Years War. Some people have called this the greatest upset in college football history.

Nobody benefited more by Michigan’s huge upset than the Texas Longhorns, who then moved up to the top spot in the Polls. They say the parties in Austin after the Michigan Wolverines upset the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes were a sight to behold.

The people at ABC were ecstatic as well. Thanks to their ingenious  plan, they now had a good shot at another possible game of the century.

Out in California, the 5th ranked USC Trojans barely beat 6th ranked UCLA and the Pac 8 Conference didn’t have those ridiculous rules like the Big 10 had about their champion not repeating in the Rose Bowl.

Penn State beat rival Pittsburgh, 27-7, to continue their own quest for the national title.

Thanksgiving Day brought the Longhorns versus the Aggies with the Horns winning with ease in College Station, 49-12. Texas A%M head football coach Gene Stallings spoke glowingly about Freddie Steinmark and how good he was as well as the rest of the Texas team.

Number 2 and another huge rival of Texas, the Arkansas Razorbacks beat Texas Tech, 33-0, and were ready for top rated Texas. Plus, these 2 schools just did not like each other.

 

On December 6th, again thanks to the foresight of ABC executives, the now number 1 ranked Texas Longhorns would travel up to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the number 2 ranked Arkansas

Razorbacks. It was the classic number 1 versus number 2.

The game would become known as ‘the Big Shootout’ with Texas coming back from 14 down to win the game 15-14.

President Richard Nixon attended the game and came in the Texas locker room and named the Texas Longhorns national champions.

Freddie Steinmark was still limping, but he made some Honorable Mention All-American teams and he accomplished a major life time goal of winning a national championship.

 

The SWC Conference champions went to the Cotton Bowl back in those years and that was all that was left for the Texas Longhorns and Freddie Steinmark for the 1969 season.

They were on top of the world.

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