On September 3, the Texas Longhorns will officially begin the 130th football season in their school’s history. With four claimed national championships (plus seven undefeated seasons between 1893 and 1923), 32 conference championships, and 31 bowl wins in their history, the Longhorns have easily the most storied college football program in Texas, and one of the most prestigious in the country.
UT played its first varsity football game on November 30, 1893, and in the years since then there have been thousands of student-athletes who wore the school’s uniform. The football program’s official all-time lettermen list includes just shy of 2,300 names. Where did these men come from, and what high schools did they attend? Which high schools have produced the most Longhorns in those 129 years?
That last question was a longtime curiosity of mine. As a history and sports nerd (and a lifelong Longhorns fan), lists and rankings of that type have always fascinated me. With the state of Texas being as big and football-crazy as it is, and with a thousand or more high schools all having their own dedicated fanbases, one will occasionally run across message board chatter or social media conversations discussing all-time football greats from particular high schools or cities, large and small. Or there might be arguments about whether UT has received more players from, say, Houston Lamar or Galena Park North Shore, Cleburne or Highland Park, Texas City or Texarkana’s Texas High.
Settling such arguments — never mind ranking the high schools that have produced the most Longhorns — requires knowing where past Longhorns went to high school. Has such a list ever been compiled and published? My search for one proved elusive after scouring the web and browsing every Longhorn football history book I could find. When I made an inquiry with the UT sports information office I was told that the department did not maintain records on the high school alma maters of historic Longhorn football players.
So in December of 2020 I began compiling my own list. That work involved many hundreds of hours of research, about which I will not bore readers with the details (at least not in this post). Suffice it to say, the project has involved a large variety of resources and research methods, particularly in searching for the alma maters of most pre-World War II Longhorns.
It’s quite possible that a project of this type has never previously been done for UT football. The only similar list of its kind that I have ever seen was in the last pages of Here Come the Texas Longhorns, Lou Maysel’s 1970 book that covered the history of the Longhorn football program through the 1969 season. The book included a list of the school’s all-time lettermen up to that point, and unlike the all-time lettermen lists published in UT football media guides for the last 50 years or so, it listed a hometown for each player. Several of those “hometowns”, though, were not at all indicative of where a player had gone to high school, and in a number of cases listed the town where a player’s parents lived during his college years and not where he had lived during his high school years. But the book was still a very helpful resource in this project.
This project is still not 100% complete and may never be. Of the nearly 2,300 Longhorn football lettermen there are less than 70 that I have been unable to connect with a particular high school or prep school, and about 75% of the men in that group won their first letter at Texas before 1910. But even for those in the “high school unknown” group I know where almost all of them grew up or where they were living before they came to the University of Texas, and I feel very confident that if their high school information was revealed (assuming they went to high school at all) it would be more likely to slightly change the order of the schools in the top ten than it would change that group’s composition.
It should be noted that this ranking (and the spreadsheet of players/high schools used to compile it) is based on the UT football program’s list of recognized lettermen, and thus it is not so expansive to include every recruit Texas has ever signed, every scholarship player in the team’s history, or everyone who ever wore a burnt orange uniform but did not meet the qualifications to win a letter at Texas.
For much of the program’s history, a player had to participate in a certain number of games in a season to win a letter, or could be awarded one based on “special merit” at the recommendation of the Athletic Council. Since the 1980s there has been an increase in the number of walk-on players who won letters after being a member of the team for a certain number of years, regardless of whether they ever appeared in a game. Like the school’s all-time lettermen list, these rankings make no distinction between scholarship and non-scholarship players, or between those who started 40 games and those who never played a snap. Walk-on 5’11” offensive lineman Clark Orren (a 2015 letterman) counts just as much toward Longview High School’s total as the two All-Americans that school produced for UT.
So with that preliminary explanation out of the way, I present the schools that have produced the most Texas Longhorn football lettermen, from 1893 through the 2021 season. The lists of UT Hall of Honor inductees included with their schools are placed in the order in which they won their first letter at Texas, not their chronological order of induction.
This post will cover the schools ranked sixth through tenth (plus a pair of runner-ups), and part two (coming later this week) will cover the top five schools.
These following two schools are just outside the top ten and are tied for 11th place, each having produced 15 Longhorn lettermen.
Robert E. Lee High School (Baytown)
First UT letterman: T Gene Vykukal (1948-50)
Most recent letterman: TE Chad Irwin (1998)
Longhorn team captains (2): Herbert Gray (1955) and Louis Del Homme (1957)
UT Hall of Honor inductees (2): Tom Stolhandske and Herbert Gray
All 15 Baytown Lee Ganders who won letters with the Longhorns were members of the program within a 50-year period (1948-1998). The only high school in Baytown (which is just east of Houston) until the mid-1960s, Lee was a state powerhouse in the 1940s and 1950s and reached the 4A state championship game in consecutive years in the early 1950s, but the school hasn’t had a lot of football success in recent memory, with just one playoff win over the last 20 years.
Most notable UT lettermen from Baytown Lee
Tom Stolhandske (1950-52) was an All-American end at Texas as a senior in 1952, then was the 10th overall pick in the 1953 NFL Draft. He only had a brief pro career in the NFL and CFL before attending and graduating from the St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, and he went on to practice law in that city until he was well into his 80s.
Herbert Gray (1953-55) was a Longhorn team captain as a senior in 1955 and made the All-Southwest Conference first team that year. He was also named an All-American by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). Gray was picked in the 5th round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts, but took his talents further north and played defensive end and offensive guard with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for ten seasons (1956-65). He was a six-time CFL All-Star and a member of four Grey Cup-winning teams, and was named the CFL’s outstanding lineman in 1960. Gray was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Temple High School (Temple)
First letterman: QB Nelson Puett Sr. (1911-12)
Most recent letterman: TE Jared Wiley (2019-21)
Longhorn team captains (6): Mack Saxon (1926), Bobby Dillon (1951), Allen Ernst (1956), Bob Simmons (1975), Bret Stafford (1987), and Ta’Quon Graham (2020)
UT Hall of Honor inductees (5): Nelson Puett Sr., Noble Doss, Kiefer Marshall, Bobby Dillon, Bob Simmons
Only three high school football programs in Texas have more wins to their name than the Temple Wildcats and their 793 victories through the 2021 high school season. Temple has won two state championships (in 1979 and 1992) and reached a state championship game seven other times. The central Texas school — located 67 miles north of the UT campus — has supplied a steady stream of contributors to the Longhorn program over the past 110 years, aside from a 30-year gap that separated Bret Stafford’s graduation from Ta’Quon Graham’s arrival. And only one high school has produced more Longhorn team captains than Temple’s six.
Here I should note that I counted Bret Stafford toward the totals of both Temple and Belton High. Stafford attended Temple for most of his first three years of high school before transferring to Belton during his junior year. In the case of Stafford (and other Longhorns who similarly spent significant time at — and played full varsity football seasons for — multiple schools), I decided it would be a needless exercise to adjudicate which high school got credit for him, so I listed him as a product of both. (If any readers can point to non-recent lettermen who also played football at multiple high schools, send me a message or mention them in the comments, because I’m sure I’ve missed some who should be counted for more than one school.)
Most notable UT lettermen from Temple High:
Nelson Puett Sr. (1911-12) was a star quarterback at Baylor for two years before transferring to UT in 1910, and he went on to star for the Longhorn teams of 1911 and 1912. He made “all-state” teams during his time at both Baylor ant Texas, and the Houston Post called him, “probably the best broken field runner in the state.” He is a member of the UT Athletics Hall of Honor, and Baylor named him to its “All-Decade team” for its pre-1921 period of football. His son Nelson Puett Jr. was also a Longhorn letterman from 1938 to 1940.
Mack Saxon (1925-26) came to UT from Austin College in Sherman, and in both of his seasons with the Longhorns he was named to the All-Southwest Conference first team at quarterback, and he was also esteemed as the conference’s best defensive back. He later became a coach and was the athletic director and head football coach at the Texas College of Mines (now the University of Texas-El Paso) for 12 years (1929-41).
Noble Doss (1939-41) was an outstanding receiver and defensive back at Texas. He left UT holding its career record for interceptions with 17, which has since been tied by Nathan Vasher but has not been surpassed in the 80 years since the end of his college career. He also made an impact while on offense, and will forever be remembered for his “impossible catch” early in the 1940 Thanksgiving Day game against defending national champion Texas A&M, which set up UT’s only score in an eventual 7-0 upset win that denied the Aggies a shot at a second national title. After serving in the Navy during World War II he had a brief pro football career, during which he was a member of the Philadelphia Eagles’ 1948 NFL Championship team.
Bobby Dillon (1949-51) was one of the best safeties of his era, despite wearing a glass eye for the entirety of his football career after losing his left eye due to a childhood injury. He was a Longhorn team captain and was named to the Associated Press’s All-America first team as a senior in 1951, then played in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers for eight seasons. Though he played on terrible teams for most of his pro career he was named a first team All-Pro four times. When he retired from the NFL after the 1959 season, his 52 career interceptions were the second-most in league history, and he remains the Packers franchise leader in that statistic. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.
Bob Simmons (1973-75) became the Longhorns’ right tackle in 1973 after the graduation of All-American Jerry Sisemore. He made the All-SWC first team in each of his three seasons as a starter and was a two-time All-American. He was a consensus All-American as a senior in 1975 and played in the NFL for seven seasons after being picked in the 3rd round of the 1976 NFL Draft.
Bret Stafford (1984-87) grew up in Temple and played football for the Wildcats through his junior year. As a high school freshman he was a member of Temple’s 1979 Class 4A state championship team. His father Dick Stafford was a longtime assistant coach at Temple, and when the elder Stafford was named Belton’s head football coach in the spring of 1982, Bret (then a junior) transferred to that school. While at Belton he was a state champion in the 300-meter hurdles in 1982 and starred at QB as a senior that fall. He started 34 games at QB for the Texas Longhorns and owned most of the program’s passing records by the end of his career. In his final college game he threw for a then-UT bowl record 388 yards in a 32-27 win over Pittsburgh in the 1987 Bluebonnet Bowl.
Ta’Quon Graham (2017-20) played in 48 games during his college career and was a defensive line starter in both of his last two seasons. As a senior in 2020 he was a team captain and was named to the All-Big 12 honorable mention team, then was picked in the 5th round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Top Ten
10. Tyler High School (Tyler)
Former name for this school: John Tyler High School (until 2020)
Longhorn lettermen from this school: 16
First lettermen: G Woodrow Johnson (1941), HB Walton Roberts (1941-42), and E Wallace Scott (1941-42)
Most recent letterman: DB Kitan Crawford (2021)
Longhorn team captains (6): Wallace Scott (1942), Mike Trant (1956), Earl Campbell (1977), Joey Ellis (1994), Tim Crowder (2006), and Aaron Ross (2006)
UT Hall of Honor inductees (3): Wallace Scott, Earl Campbell, and Aaron Ross
Nine schools have produced more Longhorn football lettermen than has Tyler High School in east Texas, but Tyler has a strong claim for being the school that, player-for-player, has produced the most quality in the material its football program has sent to Austin.
On Tyler High’s ledger: six Longhorn team captains, five all-conference players, four All-Americans, five NFL Draft picks (plus two others who signed with NFL teams as undrafted free agents), one Heisman Trophy winner, one Thorpe Award winner, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and three members of the UT Athletics Hall of Honor. Earl Campbell alone checks all of those boxes aside from winning the Thorpe Award.
Tyler ranks high on the all-time wins list for Texas high schools, and has won three state championships (1930, 1973, and 1994) and lost in its one other state final appearance (1955). According to Pro Football Reference, 24 alums from this school have played pro football.
Most notable UT lettermen from Tyler High:
Wallace “Wally” Scott (1941-42) was a key player on the legendary 1941 Longhorn team and was one of its members featured on the cover of Life magazine in November 1941. He was a team captain as a senior in 1942, and was the team’s leading receiver that year. He later graduated from the UT School of Law and was a founder of the organization that became the Longhorn Foundation.
Earl Campbell (1974-77) was the most physically dominant running back of his era, and a starter on just about everyone’s all-time Longhorn team. He led John Tyler to the 1973 Class 4A state championship, then re-wrote the rushing record books in his four seasons at Texas, capping off his college career by rushing for 1,744 yards and 18 touchdowns in 1977 and becoming the first Texas Longhorn to win the Heisman Trophy. After being picked #1 overall in the 1978 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers, he had an outstanding (if unexpectedly short) pro career. He led the league in rushing yardage and was named a first team All-Pro in each of his first three seasons. In his latter five seasons he never played for a team with a winning record, and by the end of his career his production had dropped dramatically from the heights of his earliest seasons, but he still had the eighth-most career rushing yards in NFL history when he retired before the 1986 season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1991. Texas retired his #20 jersey in 1979, and in 2021 the field at Darrell K. Royal - Texas Memorial Stadium was dedicated as Campbell-Williams Field, in honor of Earl Campbell and UT’s other Heisman Trophy winner, Ricky Williams.
Tim Campbell (1975-77, 79), one of Earl’s younger brothers, was a multi-year starter for the Longhorns at defensive end who won multiple all-conference honors and was an honorable mention All-American during his college career, despite being almost comically undersized for a Division I defensive end at a listed 5’11” and a playing weight between 190 and 205 pounds. (In a 2005 interview, Tim Campbell said his weight was “just over 165” when he first enrolled at Texas.) He was a disruptive presence on the defensive line who had the good fortune of starting his college career in 1975, the year that sacks were first recorded as an official statistic at Texas. He led the team in that stat three times in his four seasons with the team, and today is second on the program’s all-time career sacks list with 39.5 (one sack behind Kiki DeAyala).
Joey Ellis (1991-94) signed with Texas as a highly-rated cornerback in the 1991 recruiting class and was a four-year letterman and team leader. He made the All-SWC first team as a junior in 1993, and was a team captain as a senior the following year. He was twice awarded the D. Harold Byrd Leadership Award.
Chris Carter (1993-96) was a four-year starter at safety for the Longhorns and never finished lower than third on the team in total tackles in his four seasons. His 401 career tackles currently ranks fifth in program history, and his 13 career interceptions are tied for the fifth-most. As a junior he was a member of the final All-SWC first team, then made the All-Big 12 third team as a senior. He was picked in the 3rd round of the 1997 NFL Draft and played in the league for three teams in six seasons. In his final pro season he was a starting safety on the first Houston Texans team in 2002.
Tim Crowder (2003-06) started 44 games at defensive end for the Longhorns. As a junior he was a starter on UT’s 2005 national championship team. As a senior he was a team captain and led the team in sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles, and was named to the All-Big 12 first team and the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s All-America second team. He was a 2nd round pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and played pro football for five seasons.
Aaron Ross (2003-06) moved to Tyler before his junior year of high school after previously attending San Antonio Fox Tech, and was a star for the John Tyler Lions for two years. He was one of the highest-rated recruits in the 2001 class, but due to academic issues he was not able to join the Longhorn team until 2003. He was a key backup for three seasons on Longhorn squads that were loaded in the secondary, and was also the team’s primary punt returner in his last three seasons. He finally became a full-time starting cornerback in his senior year, and in that 2006 season he was named to the AP’s All-America second team and won the Jim Thorpe Award after recording 80 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 19 pass break-ups. He was the 20th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft and played in the league for seven seasons, during which he was a starting cornerback on two Super Bowl-winning New York Giants teams.
9. Lamar High School (Houston)
Longhorn lettermen from this school: 17
First letterman: FB Ray Borneman (1948-49)
Most recent lettermen: DB Anthony Cook (2018-21), CB D’Shawn Jamison (2018-21), and WR Al’Vonte Woodard (2019-21)
Longhorn team captains (3): Walter Fondren (1957), Corby Robertson (1968), and Brian Orakpo (2008)
UT Hall of Honor inductees (3): Walter Fondren, Corby Robertson, and Brian Orakpo
Lamar High School has had one of Houston’s most consistently solid football programs over the past several decades, and its team has missed the playoffs just once since the start of the 1987 season. It long had a reputation as one of the best — if not the best — public schools in Houston, and it contributed several players to the UT program between the late 1940s and late 1960s. Three decades passed after the close of the 1960s with no Lamar alums lettering at Texas until the arrival of Rod Babers, which re-opened the Lamar-to-Austin pipeline that has resulted in eight Longhorn letter-winners from Lamar in the past 20 years, including three in the 2021 season.
Most notable UT lettermen from Houston Lamar
Ray Borneman (1948-49), a fullback and the first Lamar product to star at Texas, led the Longhorns in rushing yards as a junior in 1948 and made the All-SWC first team. He was also an AP honorable mention All-American in 1948.
Walter Fondren (1955-57), a grandson of the founder of the Humble Oil Company (a forerunner of Exxon), was an All-SWC halfback as a sophomore in 1955, and a team captain as a senior two years later. He was a 30th round NFL Draft pick in 1958, but did not play pro football.
Ray Poage (1960-62) was an All-SWC fullback in 1961. He played in the NFL for eight seasons as a tight end after being picked in the 3rd round of the 1963 NFL Draft. He finished his career with 145 receptions, the fourth-highest total for a Longhorn tight end in the NFL.
Corby Robertson (1966-68), a grandson of the founder of Quintana Petroleum, was a star for the Longhorns at both defensive end and linebacker. In each of his three seasons with the UT varsity he was named an AP honorable mention All-American. He was an All-SWC first team defensive end as a sophomore in 1966, then switched to linebacker as a junior and was named an All-American by the FWAA. He was a captain of UT’s 1968 team as a senior.
Rod Babers (1999-2002) became the first Houston Lamar product to play for UT in 30 years when he was a freshman in 1999. He was a four-year letterman and a three year starter at cornerback. He made the All-Big 12 first team and the AP’s All-America third team as a senior in 2002. He was picked in the 4th round of the 2003 NFL Draft, and after a brief pro football career he went into broadcasting. He was a sideline reporter for UT football’s radio broadcasts from 2011 to 2013, and today is a sports talk radio host during afternoons at KTXX-FM in Austin.
Brian Orakpo (2005-08) was a four-year letterman at defensive end, and undoubtedly one of the most talented and accomplished Longhorns of the past 20 years. He was the Big 12’s Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2005 as a member of UT’s national championship team. He was a team captain as a fifth-year senior in 2008, and in that season he was voted a consensus All-American and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to winning a plethora of national college football awards: the Lombardi Award, Bronko Nagurski Trophy (the only Longhorn ever to win it), Ted Hendricks Award, and the Bill Willis Trophy. Orakpo was the 13th overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and made four Pro Bowls during a ten-year NFL career.
Holton Hill (2015-17) started 12 games at cornerback in his three seasons with the Longhorns, then played three seasons in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings after signing with that franchise as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
D’Shawn Jamison (2018-21) will be a fifth-year “super senior” this fall, and he goes into his final season as a Longhorn with 31 career starts at cornerback under his belt. He has recorded four career interceptions and scored three touchdowns on kick and punt returns.
8. Longview High School (Longview)
Longhorn lettermen from this school: 18
First letterman: E Nick Wheeler (1935)
Most recent letterman: DL/OL Sawyer Goram-Welch (2021)
Longhorn team captains (1): James Street (1969)
UT Hall of Honor inductees (2): Chal Daniel, James Street
Longview is another longtime east Texas powerhouse that has been supplying talent to college football programs for several decades. At least 25 Longview Lobos have played pro football, and a Longview product has won a football letter at UT in every decade since the 1930s. Both of Longview’s state championship teams (1937 and 2019) had a future Longhorn on their roster. Longview could definitely move higher on this list within a decade or two, considering its status as a football talent factory and the fact that two of the schools ranked ahead of it no longer exist, with another one set to close in a few years.
Most notable UT lettermen from Longview
Chal Daniel (1939-41) was a co-captain on Longview’s 1937 state championship team. He was a standout guard for the Longhorns during his college career, despite being only 6 feet tall and about 190 pounds. He was named an All-American by multiple outlets as a 20-year-old senior in 1941, and was picked in the 6th round (44th overall) of the 1942 NFL Draft. He did not play pro football but instead enlisted in the Army Air Corps in early 1942 (the Longhorns’ final game of the 1941 season occurred one day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor). Daniel died in February of 1943 when his trainer plane crashed north of New Braunfels, and he became the first of seven Longhorn football lettermen (plus a former head coach) to die while in military service during World War II. (Note: the linked post regrettably did not mention Bachman Greer, a Longhorn letterman of 1917 and 1919 who died in a Navy hospital in Brooklyn in June of 1944. I was unaware until very recently that he had also died while in WWII service.)
Don Fambrough (1942) was also a member of Longview’s 1937 championship team. He won his only letter at Texas in 1942, then served in the Army Air Corps during WWII. After being discharged in 1946 he finished his college career at Kansas and was a two-year letterman in football. After graduation he began a long coaching career. Fambrough was KU’s head football coach for eight seasons over two separate stints (1971-74, and 1979-82).
Don Menasco (1949-51) played end and linebacker at Texas. As a junior in 1950 he was voted a first team All-American at defensive end by the Associated Press in what was the first time that the AP organized its All-America teams into offensive and defensive platoons. Up to that point, All-America and all-conference teams customarily only listed players by their offensive positions, because an athlete playing both ways was still common until well into the 1950s. Despite being named a first team All-American, Menasco was not named to the UPI’s All-SWC team and only made the AP’s honorable mention All-SWC team, as both of those groups still named their all-conference team by offensive positions only, and Menasco was exclusively a defensive player in 1950. He was picked in the 4th round (47th overall) of the 1952 NFL Draft and played in the league for three seasons.
James Street (1968-69) was a two-sport legend at Texas. He took over as the football team’s QB early in the 1968 season as the Longhorns were transitioning to the wishbone offense, and went on to lead the team to 20 consecutive wins. He finished off his football career by passing for 107 yards and rushing for 31 more in UT’s 21-17 win over Notre Dame in the 1970 Cotton Bowl, which capped off an undefeated 1969 season and clinched the program’s second national championship. Street also played baseball and was also a two-time All-American as a pitcher, and he remains the only hurler in Longhorn baseball history to have thrown a perfect game.
6. (tie) Sam Houston High School (Houston)
Other names for this school: Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center (since 2008); Central High School (1926-1955), Houston High School (1895-1926)
Longhorn lettermen from this school: 20
First letterman: QB/E Richard West “R.W.” Franklin (1898)
Most recent letterman: T Bill Wilson (1949-51)
Longhorn team captains (3): Lawrence “L.H.” Feldhake (1908), Ben Dyer (1909), Gustave “Pig” Dittmar (1916)
UT Hall of Honor inductees (3): Leonard Barrell, Alva Carlton, Gustav “Pig” Dittmar
The school known today as the Sam Houston Math, Science, and Technology Center has gone by many names in its long history. It was Houston High School during its high point as a UT football pipeline in the early decades of the 1900s, then as Central High School for nearly three decades before taking on the Sam Houston name in 1955 (this is according to Wikipedia, though in contemporary news articles it was referred to as “Sam Houston High” for some years before 1955). Of the schools in the top ten this one will likely surprise the most readers, as Houston High/Sam Houston has never been a football powerhouse at any point in its history (no postseason trips beyond the state quarterfinals, and no playoff wins since 1971) and it has been a doormat for all of recent memory. Its Tigers have won more than two games in a season just once over the past 30 years. In fact, Sam Houston currently trails only North Dallas on the list of all-time losses by a Texas high school football program. Houston High’s team did score wins over Texas A&M in both 1897 and 1898, and both of those Houston teams had a future Longhorn in the lineup.
Not since the days of the Harry Truman administration has a player from this school won a letter at Texas, and in the next 15-20 years it could fall all the way out of the top ten for this list. It may be a football irrelevancy now, but for a three-decade stretch between the late 1890s and late 1920s it produced more Longhorns than any school except the one at the very top of this list. I’ve counted 20 total Longhorn lettermen from Houston High/Central, though its actual number may be 21 or 22. A pair of Houston residents are on my list of Longhorns whose high school is unknown: Neill Masterson (a 1904 Longhorn QB who had previously lettered with Texas A&M’s football team) and Robert Bruce “Sailor” Shearer (a 1924-25 letterman who had an older brother who attended Houston Central).
Bill Wilson, who died in 1990, was an offensive and defensive tackle who won letters at UT from 1949 to 1951, and he is the most recent Longhorn letterman from Sam Houston High. So with this school we have one whose most notable contributions to UT football rosters happened well before living memory. Unless you’re an avid reader of Longhorn football history, the following names will likely be new ones to you.
Most notable UT lettermen from Houston High/Central/Sam Houston
Leo “Big” Sam (1899-1900) was regarded as one of the greatest guards in the first two decades of UT football, and he was a giant for his era at 6’2” and 230 pounds. For historical perspective, a player of that size would have been the heaviest member of a great many Longhorn teams that played long after Sam’s day, even into the very early 1960s. Along with being big and strong he was noted as being fast for his size. A number of longtime UT football observers published “all-time” Longhorn teams in the early 1910s, and most of them named Sam as one of their first team guards. What kept him from being a likely four-year starter and certified Longhorn legend was the fact that he was too good of a student. He graduated from UT with a bachelor of laws degree in 1901, just two years after his graduation from Houston High School, and thus he only played two seasons of football in Austin before returning to Houston to begin what would be a distinguished but very brief career as a lawyer. His life ended tragically at age 23 when he died due to a brain hemorrhage in 1903. (Note: on UT’s current all-time lettermen list his name is mis-styled as “Leopold, George Sam”, as if Leopold were his last name, when his full name was actually “Leopold George Sam”.)
Leonard Barrell (1911-14) played quarterback and halfback during his four years with the Longhorns, he was a talented ball-carrier whose name stood atop a pair of school records for several decades after his graduation. As a senior in 1914, he starred for an unbeaten Longhorn team that thoroughly dominated its eight opponents, outscoring them by a combined 358-21. Barrell scored 14 touchdowns along the way, which remained tied for the program’s single-season record six decades later before it was broken by Earl Campbell in 1977. Barrell was also the team’s kicker in that 1914 season, and because the Longhorns scored more points that year than they would in any season until 1968, he attempted a lot of PATs and converted 34 of them. His 121 individual points scored in the 1914 season was a school record that stood until Ricky Williams finally broke it in 1997, and today it is still the fifth-highest single-season total by Longhorn.
Gustave “Pig” Dittmar (1913-16) was a Longhorn team captain in both football and basketball, and was an all-conference player in both sports. (Note: most sources have spelled his first name “Gustav”, but it was spelled “Gustave” on his gravestone, so that’s the one I’m using.) He was a four-year letterman in football and was named as the center on the first two All-Southwest Conference teams in 1915 and 1916. In later years he served in the U.S. Army and attained the rank of colonel. He was inducted into the UT Athletics Hall of Honor with its second class of inductees in 1958. In the 1969 issue of Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, Dittmar was picked as the first team center for a “vintage” team made up of the best players from Texas colleges in the period from 1893 to 1918, as voted on by a group of veteran sportswriters. In that same year, the Austin American-Statesman’s Lou Maysel quoted H.J. Ettlinger (who’d been a football game official in the Southwest Conference for over 35 years) as saying Dittmar was “the best center that ever played in the Southwest Conference.”
6. (tie) Wichita Falls High School (Wichita Falls)
Longhorn lettermen from this school: 20
First letterman: HB Leo Baldwin (1925, 27-28)
Most recent letterman: HB Joey Aboussie (1973-75)
Longhorn team captains (5): Joe Parker (1943), Max Bumgardner (1947), Dick Harris (1948), Billy Pyle (1949), and Don Maroney (1956)
UT Hall of Honor inductees (4): Leo Baldwin, Joe Parker, Dick Harris, and Johnny Genung
Wichita Falls High School is one of Texas’s historic football powers, and it has had multiple sustained runs of football success. Wichita Falls reached the state championship game ten times between 1937 and 1971, winning six titles overall. Between 1923 and 2000 the Coyotes advanced to the state semifinal round 16 times, doing so at least once in every decade of that span except the 1990s. In 2007, Texas Monthly named Wichita Falls the top Texas high school football program of all time.
Fellow Wichita Falls ISD schools Hirschi and Rider have cut into the former talent pool of “Old High” in more recent decades, but it has still produced some solid teams. Of the 20 Wichita Falls High School grads to win letters at UT, half of them did so during the 1940s alone. Remarkably, there were four Longhorn teams within a seven-season span (1943-49) that had a captain from Wichita Falls, including three straight from 1946 to 1948. But it has been nearly 50 years since the last time a Wichita Falls Coyote contributed on the gridiron for the burnt orange.
Joey Aboussie, who was a star running back on Wichita Falls’s last state championship team in 1969 before going on to an injury-riddled college career at UT, is the most recent Longhorn letterman from that school, having won the last of his three letters in 1975. He may end up being the last one as well, as Wichita Falls ISD will in the next few years open two brand new high schools as part of a district reorganization plan that calls for the district’s three current high schools to close by the middle of the current decade.
Whenever that happens it will close the book on one of the most storied high school football programs in Texas history.
Most notable UT lettermen from Wichita Falls High
Leo Baldwin (1925, 27-28) must begin any discussion of Longhorn athletes from Wichita Falls. Had the concept of a “five-star recruit” existed in 1924, he surely would have fit the bill. He was arguably the state’s most celebrated high school athlete of his time, and for several decades was regarded as the best athlete to ever come from Wichita Falls High School. Standing a tall and athletic 6’1” and 190 pounds, there was no position on the football field where he would have looked out of place in the 1920s, and he actually played tackle as a junior in high school before being moved to fullback as a senior. Baldwin started off his famous senior year by scoring almost every touchdown for a Wichita Falls team that reached the 1923 state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Abilene. He then led his basketball team to the 1924 state tournament, where it lost in the state semifinals to eventual champion Oak Cliff (now Dallas Adamson). But his most noteworthy feat was winning four events at the 1924 state track & field meet — the 120-yard hurdles, 220-yard hurdles, high jump, and shot put — and taking second place in the discus to single-handedly bring Wichita Falls the team championship. Expectations were sky-high for him when he enrolled at UT that fall, and while competing for the school’s freshmen teams in the 1924-25 school year (when rules at the time prohibited college freshmen from playing varsity sports) Longhorn coaches in multiple sports put short odds on him becoming the school’s first four-sport letterman.
He settled into the Longhorn lineup at halfback as a sophomore in 1925 after being tried at a pair of other positions, and though he didn’t earn high praise for his play that year he was still seen as a potential star. But he never fulfilled the expectations many had for him in football, partly due to injury. He suffered a torn ligament in his left ankle during the 1926 track & field season, and sat out of athletics during the 1926-27 school year to recover and preserve a year of eligibility. During that recovery time, he had what was reported to be a “fractured achilles bone” in his right ankle in early 1927. He managed to play football that fall and would finish his athletic career with three football letters, one in basketball (1926), and three in track (he did not play baseball, the fourth sport some expected him to letter in). He was never an all-conference player in football, but he was one of UT’s biggest stars in track; he was the Southwest Conference champion in the shot put three times, and twice in the discus. He finished 2nd in the discus at the 1928 NCAA meet, and if not for an uncharacteristically poor performance in that event at the 1928 U.S. Olympic Trials he would have been the first Longhorn to compete at the Olympics in track & field.
Joe Parker (1941-43) starred at end for the Longhorns and was a team captain as a 20-year-old senior in 1943. That season he was voted to the AP’s All-America first team. After serving in the Navy during World War II he played in the NFL for two seasons with the Chicago Cardinals, and was a member of the Cardinals’ 1947 NFL Championship team.
Max Bumgardner (1942, 46-47) was a three-year letterman as an end for the Longhorns, though his service with the Army Corps of Engineers during WWII delayed the final years of his college career. He was a team captain and the team’s leading receiver as a senior in 1947, and that year he won All-America recognition from the AP (honorable mention) and FWAA (third team). He was the 10th overall pick in the 1948 NFL Draft but played only one year of pro football before beginning a coaching career. He was the longtime athletic director and head football coach at San Angelo College (now Angelo State University), and he presided over its athletic department during its 1960s transition from a two-year to four-year college. Many years later, his grandson Matt Bumgardner played football at Texas A&M and caught the winning touchdown pass in A&M’s 20-16 win over Texas in 1999, which took place a week after the A&M bonfire tragedy.
Dick Harris (1945-48) was an all-state center as a senior at WFHS in 1944. Due to the brief World War II-era relaxation of the rule barring college freshman from playing varsity sports, Harris was able to win the starting center spot in the Longhorn lineup in 1945 as a 17-year-old freshman. He finished his career as a four-time All-SWC selection, and received All-America recognition from the AP in three different seasons. He was moved from center to tackle as a junior in 1947 due to injuries on the team, and he showed to such great advantage at his new position that he was named an AP first team All-American at the close of that season. As a senior in 1948 he returned to his old center position and was a co-captain of the team along with future Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, and he was named a 2nd team All-American by the AP. Harris was the 11th overall pick in the 1949 NFL Draft, but did not play pro football. NFL teams were high enough on him that he was subsequently drafted two more times: in the 8th round of the 1950 Draft, and the 25th round of the 1951 Draft, but to no avail.
Fred Currin (1972-74) received all-state plaudits in both his junior and senior years at Wichita Falls, and as a junior was a member of the school’s 1969 state championship team. In his first year at UT he was a first team linebacker on the 1971 All-SWC Freshmen team in what would be the final season that freshmen were barred from playing on college football varsity squads. Due to team needs he was moved from linebacker to defensive tackle as a sophomore in 1972, and was a starter in each of his three seasons on the Longhorn squad. Both his junior and senior years ended early due to injury. Despite missing much of the 1974 season he still made the UPI’s All-SWC honorable mention team.
That’s the bottom half of the top ten high schools (plus two honorable mentions) that have produced the most Longhorn football lettermen.
6. (tie) Houston High/Central/Sam Houston
6. (tie) Wichita Falls
9. Houston Lamar
10. Tyler John Tyler/Tyler High
11. (tie) Baytown Lee
11. (tie) Temple
If you’ve made it this far down the page, thanks for reading! The top five will be revealed in Part Two later this week. Now that you know the schools at #6-12, which ones do you think will make the top five? Share your guesses in the comments.