Steve Worster, a Texas high school football legend who was a star on two Texas Longhorn national championship teams, has died at the age of 73.
Worster was a three-time all-state running back at Bridge City High School in southeast Texas, and as a senior in 1966 he rushed for over 2,200 yards and led his school to a 30-6 win over McKinney in the Class 3A state championship game. In that 1966 state final he ran for 249 yards and three touchdowns.
He accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Texas over the 75+ other college suitors who coveted his skills. He and the other members of UT’s 1967 recruiting class (dubbed “the Worster bunch”) went on to be a big part of what was arguably the program’s best three-season stretch ever, one in which the Longhorns compiled a record of 30-2-1 with three conference titles and two national championships. Worster was one of five members of that 1967 recruiting class to win All-America honors during their Longhorn career, along with defensive end Bill Atessis, linebacker Scott Henderson, receiver Cotton Speyrer, and offensive tackle Bobby Wuensch. [Author’s note: I originally omitted Scott Henderson from the group of Worster bunch All-Americans, but this was corrected after a reader made me aware of the error.]
After spending the 1967 season on the UT freshman team (freshmen were not allowed to play on college varsity teams until 1972), Worster was a three year starter at fullback and an essential cog in the Longhorns’ wishbone offense, which made its debut in the 1968 season.
Known alternately as “Woo Woo” and “Big Woo”, Worster was 6 feet tall and 205 pounds with good speed, a combination of size, skill, and toughness that was tailor-made for the role of wishbone fullback. As a junior in 1969 he was the second-leading rusher on UT’s undefeated national championship team. He rushed for 649 yards and 9 touchdowns in nine regular season games, then ran for another 155 yards on 20 carries in Texas’s 21-17 win over Notre Dame in the 1970 Cotton Bowl to clinch the program’s second national title.
For his work at fullback in the 1969 season he was named a second team All-American by the Associated Press, Central Press Association, and United Press International.
Worster was featured on the cover of the 1970 issue of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine and was one of four Longhorn team captains for its 1970 squad, which went into that season on a 20-game winning streak. He improved on his junior year numbers and led the 1970 Longhorns with 898 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. His 14 touchdowns tied the single-season school record, which would stand for another seven years until Earl Campbell broke it in his Heisman Trophy-winning 1977 season. Worster was named a 1970 consensus All-American and finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, which was won by Stanford quarterback Jim Plunkett.
The Texas Longhorns finished the 1970 regular season undefeated at 10-0 and were named national champions by the UPI coaches poll, which conducted its final poll at the close of the regular season rather than after the bowl games. Texas took a 30-game winning streak into its rematch with Notre Dame in the 1971 Cotton Bowl, but saw that streak come to an end with a 24-11 defeat. Worster gained just 42 yards on 16 carries in the loss.
Worster graduated as UT’s career leader in rushing touchdowns with 36, and his 2,353 career rushing yards was the second-most in school history at the time, behind only Chris Gilbert’s 3,231 yards. 51 years after his final college game, Worster is now tied for fifth on UT’s career rushing touchdowns list, and his rushing yardage total is now 16th.
He was picked by the Los Angeles Rams in the 4th round of the 1971 NFL Draft, but ultimately did not sign a contract with them. He played with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1971 in what would be his final season of competitive football.