The one time 3 sport star from Wheat Ridge High School located just outside of the beautiful city of Denver was now a college guy.
The 3 kids from Wheat Ridge, Colorado, Freddie Steinmark, longtime girlfriend Linda Wheeler and his high school teammate Bobby Mitchell made their way to Austin, Texas to attend the University of Texas. They were all now officially Longhorns.
In the summer of 1967, the Texas Longhorns recruiting class that would become known as the ‘Worster Bunch’ arrived in Austin to begin their college careers.
I wrote briefly about the class that came in with Freddie Steinmark in part 1. It’s hard to find any real information on the number of guys that Texas brought in with this recruiting class but my memory says it was around 75. There were no scholarship limits back in those years and schools could sign as many players as they wanted. Often, a big school like a Texas, or an Alabama, or an Ohio State would sign as many recruits as they could if for no other reason than to keep a player from going to one of their rivals and playing against them.
The years of 1965, 1966 and 1967 had not been good for Darrell Royal and his University of Texas football teams. They had suffered through 3 straight 4 loss seasons and that simply was not good enough for the supporters of the Longhorns. As they so often did, the loyal fans were out for blood and it was Darrell Royal that they were upset with. Maybe the game had passed him by. Maybe he was in over his head and those early years had been a fluke. For whichever or whatever reason it was, they were not pleased with 4 loss seasons.
Darrell K Royal was hired by the University of Texas in December of 1956 to bring them back to respectability.
Royal’s predecessor at Texas, Ed Price, started off well enough. He went 7-3 his first season, then 9-2, and then 7-3 one more year before the wheels came off for him. After a 1-9 season in 1956, he resigned, supposedly. If I was a betting man, I would wager he was run off and rightfully so.
Royal took over a once proud program that was now a certified disaster. Royal had been a head coach at Mississippi State for 2 seasons and then for 1 year at Washington. His record was far from totally impressive because he had gone 6-4 two seasons at Mississippi State and then had gone 5-5 at Washington. That was way before my time and I have no idea why they hired a coach with a 17-13 coaching record. Not only that, he was once a star player for the Longhorn’s biggest rival the Oklahoma Sooners.
Darrell K Royal revived the program almost immediately proving that he was definitely the right man for the job.
His first season after taking over a 1-9 team went 6-4-1. Not a fantastic season by any stretch of the imagination but for a new coach taking over a program in the dumps, it really was a good season. Then, in 1958, the Horns won 7 games while losing 3.
Royal and his teams took off for an amazing 56 – 8 – 2 record over 6 seasons and a National Championship and they were a missed extra point away from another possible national title.
Texas lost to Arkansas 14-13 in 1964 when they failed on a 2 point conversion with time running out. Arkansas, with Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones, Kenny Hatfield and others, went on to win the national championship and Texas went to the Orange Bowl and beat Alabama with Joe Namath at QB.
Those kind of seasons made going 6-4 almost unbearable for a fan base that is used to winning. After the 1966 season, Darrell Royal decided that he had become lazy with his recruiting and had slacked off a bit and meant to do something about it. They turned up the heat in their recruiting several notches and the fruit of that labor was the Worster Bunch that arrived in the summer of 1967 with Freddie Steinmark.
There were no national recruiting services back in those days, and there were no proclaimed national champions in recruiting. But, this class was really good and they cleaned up with most of the best players in Texas that recruiting year.
The story at Texas was eerily similar to what was going on in Columbus, Ohio with Woody Hayes. The Buckeyes had been a national power but had slipped in recent seasons under Woody Hayes and he did the exact same thing as Darrell Royal. He went out and signed an incredible recruiting cast that included stars like Quarterback Rex Kern, Defensive Back Jack Tatum, Nose Guard Jim Stillwagon and many, many more. These guys would have their own name much like the Worster Bunch, but they became the Super Sophomores.
When Freddie Steinmark, Linda Wheeler and Bobby Mitchell made it to Texas as freshmen, Texas was just 4 years away from winning a national championship.
If you are old enough, you will remember that freshmen football players were not eligible to play on the varsity before 1972. The freshmen had their own teams and played other school’s freshmen. They practiced separately from the varsity team. The freshman teams usually played about 5 games only and then their season was over.
The thinking was the college freshmen could acclimate themselves to the college life easier if they were separate from the upper class men. But, some of these guys were just too good to not play as the modern game has taught us. But, also the NFL wasn’t drafting juniors and paying them outrageous millions of dollars and there was more emphasis on a player getting an education. Imagine that, going to college to get an education. There is a movement today to make the college freshmen ineligible again, but I don’t see that working in current times.
The recruiting class of 1967 that was known as the ‘Worster Bunch’ named after it’s top recruit fullback Steve Worster, was as good as advertised. Worster was recruited by practically the entire free world and he said back then that his recruitment was crazy. Steve Worster was from far Southeast Texas and he claimed that he had never seen a hill until he made it to Austin. Texas.
Other players in that class were Jim Achilles, Bill Astessis, Scott Henderson, Danny Lester, Eddie Phillips, Greg Ploetz, Cotton Speyrer, Bill Zapalac and Bobby Wuensch. All of those guys were heavily recruited and some would go on to make All Conference and even All American.
Steve Worster played catcher in baseball and was the Fullback on his football team where he was all district for 4 years. He rushed for 5,422 yards and 38 career 100 yards games which tied him with the most famous old Texas high school football player of all time, Kenneth Hall. Billy Sims from Hooks, Texas and later of Oklahoma, Heisman Trophy and Detroit Lion fame would tie that record as well.
In 1966, Steve Worster led the Bridge City Cardinals football team to a 13-1 state championship and he rushed for 2,210 yards. Worster was named high school All American. Bridge City lost to Brownwood and it’s legendary coach Gordon Wood in 1965 and they made it the top the following season. Steve Worster was the guy that all college football coaches thought they had to have, and he signed with the Texas Longhorns.
Jim Achilles hailed from Spring Branch High School in Houston. He was tiny by today’s standards at 6-0, 207 but he would put on some weight and start at Center for the Longhorns.
Bill Atessis was a 6-3 240 Defensive End from Houston Jones and was rare for his time in that he had a little size. He was the #1 rated lineman in the state for the 1967 class.
Eddie Phillips was a highly recruited Quarterback and Defensive Back out of Mesquite High School. He was recruited by most and wound up picking Texas over Arkansas.
Bobby Wuensch was a Defensive Tackle and he was also Bill Atessis’ teammate at Houston Jones. Wuensch was very highly recruited and made all of the recruiting lists.
Bill Zapalac was a home grown boy from Austin McCallum and the son of Texas Offensive Line coach Willie Zapalac.
Billy Dale was a Running Back out of Odessa Permian. Dale played on Odessa Permian’s first of many state championships in 1965.
For those that don’t religiously follow Texas High School Football, Odessa Permian was the subject of the controversial book ‘Friday Night Lights’.
Cotton Speyrer was a swift Split End from Port Arthur, Texas.
Freddie Steinmark was the most lightly recruited of the bunch and easily the smallest freshman player on the team.
The University of Texas football team comprised of freshmen was known as the Yearlings instead of the Longhorns they would be if they continued with the varsity team.
Darrell Royal, and assistant coach Mike Campbell, his long time Defensive Coordinator decided they wanted Freddie Steinmark at Safety.
Again, things were much different in those years. Most college coaches believed in the Woody Hayes style of football which believes that most things that happen when you throw the ball are bad. College coaches just didn’t throw the ball all that much other than a few schools that were trying to play catch up with the big boys.
Teams played with a 4-4 or a 6-2 type of defensive front and only used 3 full time Defensive Backs. The first number in a 4-4 or a 6-2 is the number of linemen with their hands on the ground and the second number generally means how many linebackers they had in that particular defense. They had 2 Corner Backs and a Safety, but in a 4-4 type defense one of the 4 Linebackers could also be a rover type back meaning they could drop back in coverage and help the single safety.
Hopefully, that is clearer than mud for anyone reading that is not a football fan. But, that was the type of defense that Texas ran back then and they had decided early on that Freddie Steinmark was to be their Safety man.
Every college football program did things differently in one way or another. But, for the Texas Longhorns at the start of the Fall season back in 1967 a preexisting depth chart was made up for all incoming freshmen.
Freddie was listed as the top safety on the freshman football team from day one. His high school teammate was listed as 5th string Fullback and that obviously did not sit well with Bobby Mitchell. He was an All State Fullback in high school and highly recruited, how was he supposed to feel?
Freddie Steinmark was the golden boy from the very first moment he came to UT. Darrell Royal saw a similar spirit to himself in Steinmark. Royal was a Quarterback and a Safety at Oklahoma and he still holds the all time interception record for the Sooners.
Royal was undersized just like Steinmark and he played with a lot of heart, also just like Steinmark. Royal loved his heart, his attitude, his understanding of the game and everything else about Freddie Steinmark. His lack of size made no difference at all to Darrell Royal.
Interested upper class men from the varsity team would occasionally stop by to watch the freshmen team practice and they usually thought Freddie Steinmark was the water boy until he suited up and hit somebody. Freddie Steinmark hit like a ton of bricks and he was fearless. He was also super intelligent both on and off the football field. He seemed to have a feel for the game and to know where he should be at all times.
In spite of his excellent play on the field he was still 154 pounds as a college freshman and looked more like a manager or a water boy, than the Longhorns’ new super freshman football player. Freddie Steinmark amazed the other freshmen that were more highly recruited than he was and also much bigger like Defensive End Bill Atessis and Fullback Steve Worster. They also quickly became big fans of Steinmark.
Bill Ellington was the coach of the freshman team but Royal and Campbell made the personnel decisions and they made it clearly known to Ellington that they wanted Steinmark starting every game. So, Freddie Steinmark started every game for the Texas Longhorns 1967 freshman football team.
The Texas freshman team won all 5 of their games fairly easily including a 45-0 whipping of in-state rival Texas A%M.
In that game, Freddie intercepted 2 passes and returned a punt 76 yards for a Touchdown.
His high school teammate and friend, Bobby Mitchell, on the other hand never played a down on the freshman team and was extremely discouraged. The irony of this was that Texas came to Colorado to recruit Mitchell and wound up taking Steinmark as well. Bobby Mitchell was highly recruited from many schools and few wanted Freddie Steinmark. But, now, Steinmark was the one getting to play and he was a star.
Out of all of those highly recruited athletes known as the ‘Worster Bunch’, little Freddie Steinmark out of Wheat Ridge Colorado was one of that group’s biggest and brightest stars.
Linda Wheeler, his almost lifelong girlfriend, followed him to the University of Texas. They dated from junior high through high school and now in college and they planned to be married after graduation. Freddie Steinmark and Linda Wheeler were well known and well liked around campus. Neither had a car in their freshmen year of college and they were seen walking all over the place hand in hand.
Linda came from a more affluent family from the Denver area. Her mother never really cared for Freddie and made it clear. She called him ‘that boy’ and thought that her daughter could do better. In all the reading and research I have done about Freddie Steinmark Linda Wheeler’s mother is the only one I have noticed that did not like Freddie.
The Texas freshman football team was highly successful in 1967, but it was the third straight 4 loss season for the varsity team. Darrell Royal was every bit as angry as all of the fans.
Darrell Royal, after signing one of the top recruiting classes decided to turn up the heat on the players in the off season. He was determined to build a top program again even if he had to go to extreme measures. A lot of coaches did not believe in weight training back then and there was no need for a strength and conditioning coaching staff.
In those years, they had a trainer that worked out the players in the off season and put them through their workouts. Texas had a man that was no taller than 5 foot named Frank Medina and he was supposedly a pretty mean little scoundrel and while players loved him, they tended to hate him during the off season.
They would definitely hate him in the Spring of 1968 as Darrell Royal had Medina put the players through workouts described as a living hell. Royal was determined to build winners and to run off the guys that couldn’t hack it.
Many, many Texas football players quit that Spring and some from their heralded freshman class as well.
But, the ones that remained were toughened up.
Freddie Steinmark ended his freshman season at the University of Texas on top of the world. He had it all. He was an engineering major and made excellent grades. He had his high school sweetheart and planned to marry her in 3 years or so. He started at Safety on the freshman team and had goals to start on the varsity as a sophomore.
Steinmark, Linda Wheeler and Bobby Mitchell went home for the summer to work and earn a little money.
Steinmark went back to Austin a couple of weeks early and stayed with his friend and teammate Bill Zapalac. The plan was to work out together and get used to the heat and humidity of Austin, Texas. Freddie was determined more than ever to start at Texas as a sophomore. Zapalac and Steinmark
worked out hard twice day in preparation for the up coming two a days.
Bobby Mitchell, on the other hand, was discouraged. He was a hot shot Running Back and never saw the field at all as a freshman. There was no way he was going to play at Texas.
On his drive back to Austin, Mitchell stopped of and spent time with his brother. He told his brother that he wanted to turn around and go back to Colorado.
His brother talked him into returning to Texas because he was not a quitter. That was the last time he would see his brother because his brother was a helicopter pilot and was shot down in Vietnam.
When Mitchell did make it back to Austin, Coach Royal moved Bobby Mitchell the once heralded high school running back from Colorado, to the Offensive Line. Times were different, linemen were a lot smaller back in the 1960s. Mitchell was not that big and he would need to beef up a bit.
Steinmark found the preseason depth chart on the wall and he was listed at 4 out of 15 safeties. He was pretty encouraged by that and had a goal to start game one of his sophomore season. There were 300 guys on the team in the Spring of 1968, but considerably less in August. Again, there were no scholarship limits in those days.
On the first day of practice in 1968, Freddie Steinmark was moved to 1st string safety and he would never look back. One of his goals had already been accomplished and one of the others was to win a national championship at Texas.
Fred Akers was the Defensive Backfield coach in those years, before leaving for a head coaching job and then returning to Texas in 1977 as the head coach.
Emory Bellard was the Longhorn Offensive Coordinator and Royal wanted him to come up with something new to show their commitment to the run game and smash mouth football.
Bill Bradley was the QB in 1967 (incidentally, that’s what caught my eye and made me a football fan. My name was Bradley and so was this guy playing quarterback on television. I related to him right away)
‘Super’ Bill Bradley is what he was called upon arriving at Texas. He may have been the most highly rated recruit ever in the state at that time.
Legend has it that in high school when he played for Palestine High School in Palestine, Texas, Bradley was playing in the state championship and his team was driving for a score and he threw a touchdown pass with his left hand. Since he was right handed that was pretty amazing. Super Bill Bradley played in an All Star game in High School and supposedly, according to legend, one time Heisman Trophy winner Doak Walker told him to take off his jersey and let him see if there was a big S on his chest as in Superman. Bradley missed most of the season in 1966 with a knee injury and then 1967 was a disaster that caused Royal to want to regroup and start over.
Bellard and Royal came up with the Wishbone formation which would almost take over college football in the 1970s. The idea for the Wishbone actually came from a junior high coach in Fort Worth, but Emory Bellard took it and experimented with it at Breckenridge High School where he won a couple of state titles in 1958 and 1959. Then, he moved on to San Angelo Central High School where he also played with the formation and won another state title in 1966. Bellard had a 59-19-2 record at San Angelo Central and then he was hired by Darrell Royal as his Offensive Coordinator.
Texas used a variation of the Veer offense with a Fullback between the two halfbacks but closer to the line of scrimmage.
Texas started the 1968 season with a tie against the Houston Cougars, 20-20. The University of Houston was actually a really good team in 1968. Unlike most other schools in the South, Houston was already integrated. Darrell Royal, it was said, hated the Houston Cougars and their coach Bill Yoeman because they were a dirty program and Houston was on probation that year.
In 1968, Houston tied Texas, but they also beat #17 Ole Miss with Archie Manning at Quarterback, 29-7. Surprisingly, they also tied #7 and SEC Champion Georgia, 10-10.
The Cougars beat Tulsa 100-6, which was totally uncalled for and made a lot of people angry. They beat Cincinnati 77-33 and Idaho 77-3. Several of their players were drafted by the NFL. Houston Running Back Paul Gipson ran for 1,550 yards in 1968 and was drafted in the 2nd round by the Atlanta Falcons. Defensive Back Johnny Peacock was drafted by the Houston Oilers. 6-4, 250
Defensive End Royce Berry was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. The other Defensive End was drafted by the New York Jets. Defensive Back Mike Simpson was picked by the San Diego Chargers. There were others drafted, but the point was this Houston team was talented and pretty good.
Bill Bradley was still the Texas Quarterback but was struggling with the new formation.
The Wishbone Quarterback had to make a quick decision to either hand the ball off to the Fullback, or hand off to one halfback, or keep the ball and take it up field or possibly later pitch to the other halfback. It took a slick operator that thought quickly to run the Wishbone offense effectively. Super Bill Bradley was struggling to make those reads and that was understandable. Not many Quarterbacks could run the Wishbone offense effectively.
In the Houston game one of the bright spots was our guy Freddie Steinmark. He intercepted a pass and not a single University of Houston receiver got behind him even though one of them was Elmo Wright who would be a first round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs and played in the NFL for a while. Wright has also been given credit for inventing the End Zone dance, if you are into that type of thing.
Freddie Steinmark broke up several passes, too, in this game and was all over the field.
The following week Texas traveled to Lubbock to play the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Texas Tech led Texas by 21-0 at halftime. Royal and the coaching staff benched the ineffective Bill Bradley and installed back up James Street in after half to run the bone, and lost 31-22. The loss was still painful but there was a glimmer of hope with Street at Quarterback.
Texas was 0-1-1 and the wolves were out in force. I am actually glad I missed that because I detest lynch mob mentality fans. I’ve seen it too many times at too many schools and it’s maddening. Darrell Royal was 5 years away from a national championship and 4 years away from beating Joe Namath and Alabama in the Orange Bowl. Fans have short memories.
The Horns turned it up a few notches after the Lubbock fiasco. James Street was now the starting Quarterback and Bill Bradley was moved to Wide Receiver.
Texas stomped Oklahoma State, 31-3, and Bill Bradley caught a 4 yard Touchdown pass from the guy that took his job, James Street. in the 4th quarter. But, Bradley was 5th string at Wide Receiver before Defensive Coordinator Mike Campbell snatched him up for his defense. Bradley was still a talented athlete even if not at Quarterback. Moving to defense was a life changing experience for Bradley.
Going into the annual Red River Rivalry game against the Oklahoma, the Sooners were 1-1 and the Texas Longhorns were 1-1-1. These teams were generally ranked going into this game and in 1968 both teams were struggling.
Oklahoma was still recovering from losing their legendary coach Bud Wilkinson who had retired after the 1963 season. But, they had been 10-1 in 1967 with the only loss being to Texas and of course they always hated Texas and would be out for blood as they normally were.
Texas trailed the game 20-19 in the 4th quarter with Oklahoma driving to go up by more when Freddie Steinmark picked off a pass setting Texas up at it’s own 15 with 2:37 remaining. If you know about the Wishbone offense it’s not intended to be a come from behind offense with little time left. The Wishbone offense is supposed to be a ram the ball down your throat offense and score while eating up clock and keeping the opposing offense off the field.
Nobody knew much about James Street other than he was considered the worst passing Quarterback on the Longhorns Roster. But, Street completed 3 passes of 21, 18 and 23 yards to Deryl Comer the Tight End and led the Longhorns down the field
Texas made it to the Oklahoma Sooners 2 yard line with 39 seconds remaining on the clock.
Fullback Steve Worster had gained 119 on 13 carries and the Oklahoma Sooner coaches, the team and all the fans knew that he would get the ball, and so he did, and they were helpless to stop it.
Texas won the game 26-20.
Texas had been on the ropes with the Sooners about to score again and go up by 8 points before Freddie Steinmark came up with the big play allowing James Street to lead the team down the field for the win.
The little things like that in a ball game are not often written about in the papers the following day.
Texas was now 2-1-1 and ranked 17th in the nation in the weekly polls.
Texas did not get a break because next up for the Longhorns was long time nemesis Arkansas and they were ranked 9th and averaging 35 points a game and these were different times when offenses did not score as many points. They had outstanding Bill Montgomery at Quarterback and he teamed with Chuck Dicus at Wide Receiver. The Razorbacks were a national force in the 1960s with Frank Broyles as head coach.
Bill Bradley was a brand new starter on defense at a Cornerback position. Defensive Coordinator Mike Campbell gave Freddie Steinmark the job to help brand new starter and inexperienced Bradley with Dicus and not let him behind the secondary. Campbell’s and Fred Akers’ number one rules for the defensive secondary was to not let any receiver get behind the defensive backs in scoring position.
Steinmark had the complete trust of Mike Campbell and head coach Darrell Royal and they depended on him to keep things going well in the defensive backfield. Yes, he was still small, but he was smart, he hit hard and he was dependable. Steinmark did well in the classroom, but he was also football smart. He had played 4 games on the varsity and was a sophomore yet they trusted him to help a senior with the senior’s job that day.
The Horns were leading the Hogs 18-15, but Arkansas was driving to score. Again for the second week in a row, Freddie Steinmark came up big and picked off a pass at his own 5 yard line and returned it to the 25.
The Longhorns drove the ball and went up 25-15 on a 16 yard run by Steve Worster. The game turned on Freddie Steinmark’s Interception and they were up 39-15 in the 3rd quarter.
Arkansas scored twice late to make it 39-29 and the game seemed closer than it was. Arkansas and Texas played some incredible games against each other in the 1960’s and Frank Broyles was always a close friend of Darrell Royal in spite of the rivalry.
Texas beat the Rice Owls the following week, 38-14, and they ran for 440 yards.
The SMU Mustangs and their unusual for the times aerial circus was next. The Ponies had also played Ohio State and it’s super sophomores the first game of the season and the Buckeyes beat them 35-14, but there was plenty of stress that year in Columbus, Ohio over the Mustangs coming to town.
The Mustangs had passing sensation Chuck Hixson and they had Wide Receiver Jerry Levias. John Hill Westbrook a walk-on at Baylor was the first black man to play in the old Southwest Conference, but Jerry Levias was second. Sadly, Levias has described his playing time at SMU as a living hell because of the abuse he took from other teams and his own teammates as well. I wish that was a portion of our American history that we could all rewrite. Those were ugly times in racial relations.
Levias may have been one of the few college football players that was actually smaller than Freddie Steinmark, but Levias had tremendous speed. Steinmark was fast, but it was more like quick instead of top end speed. Levias was just plain fast.
Hixson threw for an astounding 3103 yards in 1968 on 468 attempts he had 21 Touchdowns and 23 Interceptions. Those numbers back in 1968 were just unheard of.
oddly, Hixson got worse as he played with each year’s statistics getting worse from 1968 to 1970, he threw 9 Touchdowns in 1969 with 15 Interceptions and in 1970 threw 10 Touchdowns with 18 Interceptions.
Back in those days Quarterbacks tended to throw more picks than Touchdowns. He won the Sammy Baugh Trophy, which is given every season to the nation’s top passer, in 1968 problem for Hixson after 68 is he lost Levias who was a senior
Hixson was drafted by Kansas City Chiefs in the 13th round but never played a down of football in the NFL.
Levias caught 80 passes in 1968 for 1,218 yards and 8 Touchdowns. After the 1968 season, he was picked in the 2nd round of the 1969 draft by the Houston Oilers and played there 2 years and 4 more in San Diego.
Hayden Fry coached SMU before he went to North Texas and then to Iowa. Fry had most of his success at Iowa, but he was a vital part of bringing college football out of the stone ages and the 3 yards and a cloud of dust mentality.
Fry was quoted by the Dallas Morning News Sports section that they could score on Texas and score a lot because the Texas secondary was green. Steinmark was taken aback by that remark, but he quickly figured out that Fry was trying to get in the head of the Horns defensive backfield.
SMU was a dangerous opponent in 1968 for the Texas Longhorns, or anyone else.
Freddie Steinmark’s job, yet again, was to help out with the dangerous speedster, Jerry Levias.
Steinmark, like in the previous 2 big games, had a timely Interception against Levias and returned it to the SMU 26. Texas then scored in 3 plays.
Texas wound up spanking the Mustangs and their passing game, 38-7.
Texas beat Baylor the following week with an amazing 557 yards rushing.
Chris Gilbert a senior ran for 212 yards, Steve Worster had 137 yards and James Street had 108 yards running the option. Texas got a big win, 47-26.
Texas had the TCU Hornfrogs next and they had a 23-0 lead. Freddie Steinmark stopped another drive with his 5th Interception of the season.
Texas put in the back ups in the second half and the Frogs tried to make a game of it and come back but Texas prevailed 47-21.
The Texas Longhorns were now number 6 in the AP Poll.
College football teams only played 10 games in those years and then there was a bowl game if they qualified. Texas was 7-1-1 with one of their biggest rivals, the Texas A%M Aggies next.
The Aggies had beaten Texas in 1967 by a 10-7 margin, and they surprised the world with Gene Stallings as their coach. They won the Southwest Conference football championship and they went to the Cotton Bowl where they upset the Alabama Crimson Tide, 20-16. One of the most famous NFL Quarterbacks of all time played for Alabama that season, Kenny Stabler, so the Aggies win was huge.
Texas was out for revenge for 1967. They were mad and they were ready.
Bill Bradley at the coin toss was asked when Texas won the toss if they wanted to take the ball or if they wanted to choose to defend a particular goal. Bradley said, according to legend, “we don’t give a shit”.
The game official was shocked as he had never heard anything like that before. No, he said, you have to make a choice and Bradley, again supposedly, said “we don’t really give a damn” and then quickly said “ah, hell, we’ll take the damn football”. I’m not sure how much of that is truth or how much is legend but it was a cool story and showed how upset the Horns were with their rivals, the Aggies, and how confident they were as well.
Aggie legend Quarterback Ed Hargett, who was a star in the 1968 Cotton Bowl, threw the ball 45 times that day and Bill Bradley picked off 4 of them which tied a Southwest Conference record. Ironically, Bill Bradley had thrown 4 Interceptions against the Aggies the previous year in the Aggie win. Bradley had at least redeemed himself a little bit for the 1967 collapse.
Texas cruised to a 35-14 win and Royal emptied the benches in the second half letting guys that hadn’t played much that season get some playing time.
Texas tied with Arkansas for the Southwest Conference championship and Texas got Cotton Bowl berth because they beat the Razorbacks in their game. Arkansas had a great team that season and went on to beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl, 16-2.
Texas was all set to play the Tennessee Volunteers in the January 1st, 1969 Cotton Bowl.
Freddie Steinmark got plenty of recognition before the game. Bob Galt. of the now defunct Dallas Times Herald newspaper praised Steinmark and said every coach in America would like to have a Freddie Steinmark. Steinmark is small but he hits like a truck.
Darrell Royal called him one of the smartest players he had ever coached. Freddie Steinmark finished with 5 Interceptions on the year but for some reason did not make first team All Southwest Conference at Safety.
His Longhorn teammates said that pound for pound Freddie Steinmark was the best player in the SWC. Teammate Tom Campbell, one of the Campbell twin sons of Defensive Coordinator Mike Campbell, said that Steinmark did more with less than anyone he had ever met.
Also happy in the 1968 season was Steinmark’s high school teammate, Bobby Mitchell, who never saw the field as a Running Back on the freshman team. He was now an Offensive Guard and was seeing some playing time and he was scheduled to start in 1969, and later again in 1970. Quitting the team would have been the worst thing that Bobby Mitchell could have ever done.
Texas was 8-1-1 and ranked 5th in the Associated Press Poll and Tennessee was also 8-1-1 and ranked 8th. The Volunteers had finished 2nd to Georgia in the SEC.
The Vols had a talented Running Back named Richmond Flowers, and great Linebackers Steve Kiner and Jack ‘Hacksaw’ Reynolds.
Texas averaged 34 points a game with 331 yards per game and they faced a dominating defense. Halfback Chris Gilbert was the first player in college football history to run for more than 1000 yards in each of his varsity seasons. Gilbert had 1,132 rushing yards on the season with Ted Koy running for 601 yards, Steve Worster had 806 yards and James Street ran for 340 yards. Tennessee gave up only 11 points per game and 93 yards per game rushing.
So, Texas went to the air and burned the Volunteers early with Street to Cotton Speyrer.
James Patrick HAPPY Feller should be in here somewhere. his mother said he was always laughing as a child and it was only natural that they called him Happy. Happy replaced Rob Layne at kicker who was the son of longhorn legend Bobby Layne. Supposedly Rob Layne was quite the little gambling man and could have been the team’s bookie.
Texas raced out to a 28-0 half time lead before going up 36-6 and then coasting to a 36-13 victory.
That very same day in the Rose Bowl out in Pasadena, California the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the University of Southern California Trojans, 27-16. That Rose Bowl win gave the Buckeyes the 1968 national championship. Ohio State and their Super Sophomores were great but even they couldn’t stop 1968 Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson as he rushed for 171 yards on 28 carries.
Ohio State was number 1 going into that game and USC was #2. Penn State went to the Orange Bowl and barely beat the number 7 ranked Kansas Jayhawks, 15-14.
The 6th ranked Arkansas Razorbacks went to the Sugar Bowl and roughed up the Southeastern Conference champion and 4th ranked Georgia Bulldogs, 16-2.
The final Poll for the 1968 college football season would have Ohio State at 1, Penn State at 2, Texas 3, USC 4 Notre Dame 5, Arkansas 6.
The rest of the Poll looked like this: 7.Kansas 8.Georgia 9.Missouri 10.Purdue 11.Oklahoma 12.Michigan 13.Tennessee 14.SMU 15.Oregon State 16.Auburn 17.Alabama 18.Houston 19.LSU and 20.Ohio University.
Chris Gilbert, Texas halfback would make 1st team All America. He was a consensus All American and would be drafted in the 5th round by ny jets but never played a down.
Loyd Wainscott would make 1st team All America
The Texas Longhorns finished the season ranked 3rd and they all felt they could have taken Ohio State. We will never know for sure but the future was very bright for the Texas Longhorns and the Worster Bunch.
They had Quarterback James Street coming back for his senior season. They did lose outstanding Halfback Chris Gilbert, but they had a young hotshot on the freshman team from Wisconsin named Jim Bertleson who was to replace him. On defense, they lost great linebacker Corby Robertson and All American Defensive Tackle Loyd Wainscott.
But, a lot of the positions were already filled by the Worster Bunch and the future looked tremendously bright for the Longhorns.
Especially bright for a young sophomore safety from Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
Freddie Steinmark was a starter as a sophomore on the 3rd ranked college football team. He was second in the SWC with 5 Interceptions. He was fourth in the league as a punt returner. He should have been All Conference and he was just 19 years old. Freddie had the love of his life, Linda
Wheeler, he was one of the more popular guys on campus at the University of Texas. Darrell Royal loved him and so did his Defensive Coordinator Mike Campbell and his Secondary coach Fred Akers. Nobody much had wanted him out of high school and he had conquered and overcome every obstacle he had run up against.
He was loved and respected by most everybody including the schools he played against.
Freddie Steinmark had it all and his entire life was ahead of him.
Nobody knew this more than Freddie Steinmark.
Again, thanks to the internet and the books I Play to Win by Freddie Steinmark and Blackie Sherrod and Courage Beyond the Game by Jim Dent.
I Play to Win is hard to find unless you want to pay the big bucks, but Courage Beyond the Game is available on Amazon.com.