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The University of Texas played its first football game 130 years ago today

An inexperienced group of future lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and cattle ranchers from UT upset the top football team in the state on November 30, 1893, and forever cemented football’s status in Austin.

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A team photo with most of the regular starters on the 1893 University of Texas football team. Standing on the top row from left to right are: Ray McLane, James Morrison, John Henry Myers, and Rob Roy. Kneeling in the middle row are: Victor Moore, Paul McLane, and John Philp. Sitting in the front row are: Dave Furman, Billy McLean, manager Walter Crawford, Dick Lee, and Addison Day.
Image hosted by The Portal to Texas History, a project of the University of North Texas Libraries.

Saturday’s Dr Pepper Big 12 Championship game will be the 1,369th official game in the history of the University of Texas football program. The very first out of all those games took place 130 years ago today.

A win on Saturday would give the Longhorns their 27th outright conference title, and possibly put them in position to gain a spot in the College Football Playoff. But long before the program’s first conference title, the four claimed national championships, the many All-Americans and hundreds of players sent to the professional football ranks, three decades before the construction of Texas Memorial Stadium, over a decade before the legalization of the forward pass, and even before the adoption of the “Longhorn” nickname itself, UT football’s history began in earnest on Thanksgiving Day in 1893 when a dozen or so young men, most of whom were new to organized football, took on a team of older and more experienced men from the Dallas Athletic Club. UT’s surprising 18-16 win over the Dallas team that day at the Dallas Exposition Grounds brought football fever to Austin and laid the foundation for all the successes and accomplishments that the program would see over the next 130 seasons.

This is the story of that team, and whether you’ve read every book on Texas Longhorn football history or if this era represents a complete blank in your UT football knowledge, I guarantee that you’ll learn something new in this post.

Football comes to the University of Texas and the first varsity team is formed

The match recognized today as the very first college football game was played on November 6, 1869 in New Brunswick, New Jersey between teams from Princeton College and Rutgers University. That game bore a much closer resemblance to what we now call soccer (“association football”) than to the American gridiron football game, which is a close cousin of rugby (“union football”). Gridiron football evolved during the last three decades of the 1800s from an unruly mob game that involved many players on opposing teams and rules that often differed greatly depending on the host team or the game’s location, into a game with standardized rules that featured 11 players on each side, plays beginning with a ball being snapped or tossed from a “line of scrimmage”, and the team in possession of the ball needing to gain a certain amount of yards within a set amount of downs to avoid ceding possession to their opponent. (Teams need to gain ten yards within four downs today, but in 1893 it was five yards within three downs.)

Many of the innovations to the American football game that made it more or less the game we know today were the brainchild of Walter Camp, who had played football during his years as a student at Yale from 1876 to 1881, and was later the football coach at Yale and Stanford. Camp helped develop many of the rules and customs of the game, as well as its early scoring system, and he wrote many articles and books about the sport. He is, for good reason, known as “the father of American football”. From 1869 through the late 1880s, gridiron football was a sport mostly confined to colleges and athletic clubs in the northeastern states and along the Atlantic coast. The eight schools in today’s Ivy League had all formed football teams by 1881, aside from Cornell, whose first team was in 1887. Football did not become prevalent in much of the American south until the 1890s.

The 1891 publication of Walter Camp’s book American Football, which detailed the basic rules and strategies of the game and the responsibilities of the players at each position, likely helped knowledge of — and interest in — the game spread to the southern and western parts of the United States where few had watched organized football in person up to that point. The University of Tennessee played its first football season in 1891. Alabama and Georgia began their programs in 1892. Texas, Louisiana State, Tulane, and Ole Miss all played their first official games in 1893.

Football was not unknown in Texas before that time, but the few organized teams that existed then were primarily formed by city athletic clubs. Contemporary articles suggest that the game was played recreationally on a number of college campuses in the state by the early 1890s, and some informal games were occasionally played between teams from nearby schools, one example being a pair of games that were played in the fall of 1892 between a team from Weatherford College and another from Parsons College, the latter being about 15 miles away from Weatherford in the now long-abandoned Parker County community of Veal’s Station. But no Texas college had an official varsity football team before 1893.

Technically, the first University of Texas “football” game occurred soon after the University’s opening in 1883 when a group of Texas students played against a team from an Austin prep school known as the Bickler Academy, but it’s likely that this game bore little resemblance to the 1890s gridiron football game, and Texas did not field a football team for regular competition until several years later. Attempts were made in the early 1890s to start a football club at UT, but they apparently attracted little interest or on-campus enthusiasm, and very little information survives about those teams and what games they might have played. No games played prior to 1893 are recognized in UT program records.

Officially, the first varsity football team at the University of Texas was organized in the fall of 1893, at a time when the school was only ten years old and tiny by today’s standards. The entire student body on campus that year (just under 360) could easily fit into many classrooms there today. The three men commonly credited with the formation of the first football team are James Morrison and the brothers Paul and Ray McLane, each of whom enrolled at Texas for the first time that year. Addison Day, the regular fullback on the first Texas team, would write over two decades later in a letter to the Alcalde (the magazine of the UT ex-students’ association) that after he enrolled at Texas for the 1893 fall term he “found Morrison and the two McLane boys had played football before, so we started out to get up two teams, which we did in almost no time.”

Paul McLane is recorded as being the one who taught the game to those students who were newcomers to it, ran the team’s practices, was UT’s first football captain, and also served as its de-facto coach, as the University did not hire its first official football coach until the following year. As far as can be known, less than a handful of the students who participated in those early practices had played organized football before.

After several weeks of practices, a game was staged for the Austin public on November 11, and it was reportedly attended by about 700 people. Some accounts have portrayed this as a game between the University eleven and a team from the Austin Athletic Club, but it could more accurately be described as an intra-squad scrimmage that included the participation of at least one or two local athletes who were not UT students. At least one other practice game was held afterwards, and in the mean time a challenge from the football team of the Dallas Athletic Club was received and accepted, and the two sides agreed to a game to be played in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day. On November 23, a week before the game, it was reported that the following men would comprise UT’s regular lineup:

left end — Paul McLane
left tackle — Rob Roy
left guard — John Philp
center — John Henry “Baby” Myers
right guard — Billy Richardson
right tackle — James Morrison
right end — Ray McLane
right halfback — Dave Furman
left halfback — Dick Lee
fullback — Addison Day
quarterback — Billy McLean

In addition to those, Bibb Graves, John Maverick, Ross Clark, and Jesse Andrews were listed as “substitutes”.

That grouping of five linemen, two ends, two halfbacks, one fullback and one quarterback, remained the basic personnel grouping for Texas football lineups for several decades afterwards.

The Players

The men who made up the first UT varsity football team came from various cities and towns across Texas, and only one regular starter and one or two backups grew up outside the state. They ranged in age from 17 to 24, and all of them were born during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period.

Every generation of Longhorns has been, to some extent, a product of the times they grew up in and influenced by the experiences of their parents’ generation. For those original “Longhorns” of 1893, nearly all of the adults they knew growing up had lived in the South throughout the Civil War years, and most of them had fathers or other close male relatives who had been soldiers in the Confederate army. The end of the Civil War in 1865 was a more recent event for people living in 1893 than the founding of or the release of the original Playstation game console is to anyone reading this post in 2023. (To put it another way, Texans in the year 1893 were closer in time to the War of 1812 than those of today are to Texas A&M’s last national championship in football.)

[Author’s note: I use the term “Longhorns” very sparingly in this post because that nickname was not in wide use for UT’s athletic teams until the early 1900s, and for the first decade or so that Texas had a football team it was most often referred to as the “Varsity”. So any application of the nickname “Longhorns” to UT’s earliest teams is necessarily anachronistic.]

A few members of the first team had previous exposure to — or experience with — football, but most were new to the game. Gridiron football was still a young sport, and most of the early innovations and rule changes that made it the game it was by 1893 had taken place within these players’ lifetime. The high schools in most of the state’s largest cities (never mind the smaller ones) did not yet have organized football teams, and it was not for several more years that it would become the norm for football players at Texas to have played the sport for their high school or prep school before starting college, or for players to come to UT with the express goal of making the football team. And even those early UT student-athletes who did come to Austin hoping to play football for the University did not do so with aspirations of going into pro football; it was not until the 1920s that former Longhorns would start to regularly show up on rosters for some early NFL teams.

Fifteen different players started at least one game for the 1893 Texas team. Five became lawyers, one was a doctor, two were hardware store owners, one was a teacher and then a school textbook salesman, one was a rancher and an organizer of rodeo events, one was a “professional base-ballist” who played at the minor league level until his death, one was (at least for a time) a fruit farmer, two died before they had a chance to start any kind of career, and the actual identity of the last is unclear. The best players on that team might have been good enough to make a Longhorn lineup a decade or two afterwards, but most would have looked out of place on the teams at their alma mater beyond the 1910s. Only one player, the center “Baby” Myers, checked in at above 200 pounds, and most of his teammates did not even reach 180.

Here follows a rundown of the backgrounds of the original UT football lineup.

James Morrison

Morrison was a native Virginian and the only non-Texan among the regular starters on the first UT varsity football squad. He was the son of a physician, and would eventually follow his father into that profession. He enrolled at UT in 1893 as a graduate student taking courses in biology and chemistry, and had graduated two years earlier with a Bachelor of Arts from Hampden-Sydney College in his home state. The other members of the first varsity team at Texas were certainly under the impression that he had played football before coming to UT, though the extent of that experience is unknown. Hampden-Sydney did not have an official football team until the year after Morrison graduated, but it’s certainly possible that he played the game recreationally as a student, and that he witnessed his alma mater’s early games. In any event, he has long been credited as one of the three primary founders of Texas football.

Morrison was 22 years old at the time UT’s first football squad was formed, and, according to Lou Maysel’s 1970 history of the Longhorn football program Here Come the Texas Longhorns, he came to Austin not just to take graduate courses but also to serve as a secretary to his uncle, the Rev. Dr. Robert Lewis Dabney. Dr. Dabney, a native Virginian himself, had been a charter member of the UT faculty when the University opened in 1883, and was a Professor of Philosophy and of Political Science. For some three decades before being appointed to the first UT faculty, he had been a professor at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia and a respected Presbyterian theologian and academic. And during the Civil War he had been a chaplain in the Confederate Army and was briefly the chief of staff to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, whose wife was a third cousin of Dabney’s wife and to James Morrison’s father.

Dabney was 73 years old and his eyesight had been failing him for several years by the time his nephew James Morrison arrived in Austin in 1893. He had attempted to resign from the UT faculty a few years earlier due to his deteriorating eyesight, but the Board of Regents so valued his work that he was talked into remaining at Texas after the Board proposed to hire an adjunct professor who could lighten Dabney’s teaching load while also allowing him to remain in control of the School of Philosophy. The 1893-94 academic year would be his eleventh and final one on the faculty before he retired for good.

James Morrison played both tackle and end while on the Texas football team. He was not the only member of his family that year who helped start what would eventually become a prominent southern collegiate football program. The University of Mississippi also fielded its first football team in 1893, and it was coached by a Latin professor and Hampden-Sydney alum named Alexander Lee Bondurant, who was a first cousin to Morrison.

Paul and Ray McLane

By all accounts, the McLane brothers are, along with James Morrison, the figures most responsible for the formation of the first UT football team. Both were listed as freshman engineering students in that year’s UT catalogue, and they were natives of Laredo, where their father Albert L. McLane worked as a lawyer and was for several years the judge of the 49th state district court. Paul was 19 years old in the fall of 1893, while Ray, at 17, was the youngest member of the first Texas football team.

One news story from that year depicted Paul as an experienced football player who “has come in contact with all the northern players of note and been the onlooker of many a famed struggle for intercollegiate supremacy”, but this was almost certainly an exaggeration. He had attended Columbia College (now Columbia University) in New York City during the 1892-93 academic year, and though football had been played at Columbia as early as 1870, the college did not field a varsity team in 1892. This fact has provoked a lot of conjecture over the years from Longhorn football historians on the source of Paul McLane’s football experience.

Lou Maysel, a 1949 UT graduate who spent over three decades at the Austin American-Statesman as a columnist and sports editor, wrote in his aforementioned 1970 book that “the football background of the McLanes is in dispute”, and concluded, “there is no record of what football [Paul McLane] played prior to coming to Texas.” Maysel’s fellow Statesmen sportswriters Kirk Bohls and John Maher said much the same thing in their 1993 history of the program, Long Live the Texas Longhorns!, in which they speculated, “it’s likely that he [Paul] picked up his knowledge of football in the East.” More recently, Bobby Hawthorne wrote in his 2008 book Longhorn Football: An Illustrated History, “No one knows whether the McLane brothers ever actually played football” before enrolling at Texas.

What all of them missed or overlooked is that although Columbia did not have a varsity football team in 1892, that year’s freshmen class did organize a team, and Paul McLane was reported in Columbia’s student publications as playing tackle on that squad. That Columbia freshmen team played against an assortment of opponents from local athletic clubs, as well as the freshmen team from longtime Columbia rival Princeton. Aside from the 1892 freshmen team, Columbia also saw the formation of a “scrub” team, which was composed of upperclassmen. This scrub team was organized partly to give the Columbia freshmen some older players to practice against, and partly in an attempt to keep campus interest in football alive in the expected event that a varsity team was formed for the following year, though Columbia would not have another varsity football team until 1899. The contests that the 1892 Columbia freshmen team played against the likes of the Princeton frosh or the Staten Island Cricket Club (an actual opponent) could hardly be called “famed struggle[s] for intercollegiate supremacy”, but it likely provided Paul McLane with more football experience than any other member of the 1893 Texas team possessed.

Ray McLane’s football background is more mysterious, as is his educational background before enrolling at Texas. An August 1892 news item stated that Paul and Ray McLane were spending that summer living at a cottage home in a New Jersey resort town, and referred to them both as “Columbia College students”, but published records of graduates and ex-students of Columbia list only Paul and not Ray as a former student. We can only speculate that Ray learned much of what he knew about football from his older brother, and how much football he had played and in what setting he played it is not something I’ve located any record of. The two of them filled the left and right end positions on the team, though the Cactus yearbook for that school year erroneously listed Paul as the right tackle of the 1893 football team, a position no contemporary news reports listed him as playing.

Rob Roy

Robert Edward Lee Roy was the oldest member of the initial Texas lineup at 24 years of age, and he was the original Texas left tackle, though he checked in at a mere 150 pounds, less than half of current Longhorn left tackle Kelvin Banks’s listed weight. He was sometimes referred to as “Rob” as a student, and in his professional life as a lawyer and judge he was known by his initials R.E.L. He grew up in the Johnson Station community in Tarrant County, a settlement that lost a lot of its population after the Civil War and was eventually subsumed by its northern neighbor Arlington. When Roy’s parents named him for the Confederate general Robert E. Lee, they could not have known that his hometown would come to be named for Lee’s family home in Virginia.

After attending Arlington’s public schools, Roy began his college career at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, where he was a student from 1888 until his graduation in 1892. He enrolled at Texas in 1892 as a law student, and in the fall of 1893 he was a senior law student on track to graduate the following spring. News reports indicate that Southwestern students played football on their campus at least as early as February of 1893, but that school did not have its first varsity team until 1908. Whether the game was played there recreationally while Roy was an undergrad is not clear, but in all likelihood he had no real football experience before the fall of 1893. He was quoted in a 1920 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article on the first UT football team, saying, “None of the players knew anything about the game until we began to practice.”

John Philp

Playing next to Rob Roy at left guard was Dallas native John William Philp, who had briefly been a contemporary of Roy’s at Southwestern University a few years earlier. Philp was born in 1874 in Caldwell, Texas, but moved with his widowed father to Dallas at a very young age and lived in that city for most of his life.

The path of Philp’s preparatory education was illustrative of the time in which he grew up. Public education was far less uniform at that time than it is today, and even into the early 1900s the public high schools of many cities and towns only went through 8th or 9th grade, if even that high. And since a high school diploma then was far from a guarantee that a student had attained the requisite education to enroll in a college or university, it was common for colleges to operate their own preparatory academy or department for the purpose of sufficiently completing a prospective undergrad’s preparatory education.

Philp spent his early years in Dallas’s public schools, then was a preparatory student at Southwestern University from 1887 (the year he turned 13) until 1889, and was an undergraduate at that institution during the 1889-90 academic year. For the next three years he was a cadet at the Staunton Military Academy (SMA) in Staunton, Virginia, a private, all-male military school that was founded in 1884 and would remain in operation until 1976. SMA had a football team during at least the last two years in which Philp attended, and he was very likely a member of at least one of those teams. The records from SMA’s first two decades of operation were destroyed in a 1904 fire, so we cannot say for sure if he played football there, but a surviving photograph of its 1892 team includes a player who bears a striking resemblance to the John Philp featured in this story’s header photo.

After graduating from SMA, Philp enrolled at Texas in 1893 as a law student, and he was 19 years old when he played left guard on the first UT football team.

John Henry Myers

Usually referred to by his initials J.H. or by the nickname “Baby”, John Henry Myers was the biggest man on the first UT football team, weighing in at a reported 210 pounds and playing the center position, which was often referred to in that era as the “center rush”. His listed residence while a UT student was Hallettsville, though news stories in the Halletsville Herald that mentioned him during that period indicated that his home was actually in the small community of Oakland, about 15 miles to the northeast. He enrolled at Texas in 1893 as a law student, and was 21 years old when the University’s first football team was formed. What his educational background consisted of prior to entering UT is unclear.

Billy Richardson

William Henry “Billy” Richardson, Jr. started at right guard in UT’s first football game. A Texas native, he had grown up in the town of Mexia, and he was already a UT student when his family moved to Austin in 1892. He first entered UT as an academic student in 1890, the year he turned 16. He had some involvement in athletics (such as they were in that period) early in his time at UT. He was elected treasurer of the University Athletic Association in 1892, and it’s possible that he was involved in early efforts to organize a football team. A news report from October of 1892 said, “The foot ball team has in view a game with the Georgetown team on Thanksgiving day, which promises to be quite interesting.” This was likely a reference to Southwestern University in Georgetown, which was only about 25 miles north of Austin and seemingly a natural rival geographically, but that proposed game did not take place, and UT and Southwestern did not face each other in football for the first time until 1908.

Billy Richardson lived in Austin for the rest of his life after he enrolled at Texas, but it appears he was not a student when the 1893 football team was formed. A 1925 directory of ex-students of the University of Texas listed him as having been an academic student from 1890 to 1893, and later a law student in 1897. The University’s catalogue for the 1893-94 school year does not list him as a student, and he was entirely unmentioned in the 1894 Cactus yearbook. He served as the referee for the November 11 intra-squad football game on the Texas campus, and at some point afterward became a member of the varsity football team and was penciled in as its right guard in the days leading up to UT’s November 30 game against Dallas.

Dave Furman

David Strother Furman was a key member of the first University of Texas backfield, and he was a regular at right halfback. He was born in South Carolina, but moved with his family to Bell County, Texas as a toddler, and he grew up in Belton. His father, John McIver Furman, had been a 17-year-old private in the South Carolina cadets at the end of the Civil War, and he later became a lawyer. The elder Furman was for several years the judge of the 27th state district court in Belton.

Dave Furman received his preparatory education at Belton High School, and also at a local private school called the Belton Male Academy. He enrolled at the University of Texas in 1892, a few weeks shy of his 18th birthday, and he was 19 years old when he lined up at right halfback in UT’s first football game on November 30, 1893.

Dick Lee

Playing next to Dave Furman in UT’s original backfield was Richard Unett Lee, usually called by the nickname “Dick”, and sometimes referred to by his initials R.U. He was born in Arkansas, but moved to Austin at age two when his English-born father, the Rev. Thomas Booth Lee, became the rector of St. David’s Church, an Episcopal congregation that celebrated its 175th anniversary this year. I have yet to find a record or news article stating where Lee received his preparatory education, but he first enrolled at UT in 1889 when he was 16 years old.

He was regarded as one of the best all-around athletes at the University during his time there. He was an early student member of the University Athletic Association (later known as the Athletic Council) when it was formed in 1891, and he evidently was part of a group of students who attempted to organize a football team in 1892. Texas did not have its first varsity baseball team until 1895, but it had unofficial baseball clubs in prior years, and Lee was the captain of UT’s baseball team as late as the spring of 1893. UT did not yet have a track team either, but Lee participated in several track & field events at UT’s Field Day in the spring of 1892, at which he was the winner in three events: the pole vault, the 220-yard dash, and the “hurdle race”. Had baseball and track & field been varsity sports during Lee’s time as a student, he very likely would have been UT’s first three-sport letterman.

By the fall of 1893, Lee was 20 years old and beginning his fifth year as a UT student. In that year’s catalogue he was listed as both a senior academic student and a junior law student. He would also prove to be an invaluable resource to later Texas football historians as a member of the editorial staff of The Texas University, a monthly magazine that was jointly produced by UT’s three literary societies: the Ashbel, the Athenaeum, and the Rusk. Lee was at one time the president of the Athenaeum Literary Society, and during the 1893-94 school year he wrote a regular column in The Texas University that he called “College Notes, Athlets, Vanity Fair”, in which he wrote a fair amount about the first varsity football team.

Billy McLean

William Pinckney “Billy” McLean, Jr. was UT’s original quarterback, though he played that position 13 years before the forward pass was legalized. The quarterback was then, as now, responsible for calling the offensive signals and for receiving the ball as it was snapped from the center, but after that he would typically either hand it to another ball carrier or make a lateral toss to a teammate.

McLean was the son of a prominent lawyer who had been a major in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and who was later a Texas State Representative, a one-term U.S. congressman, a district court judge, and a member of the first Texas Railroad Commission. The elder William Pinckney McLean is the namesake of W.P. McLean Middle School in Fort Worth.

Billy McLean grew up in the northeast Texas town of Mount Pleasant, but is recorded as attending and graduating from Austin High School. He first enrolled at Texas as a freshman in 1890, but left after one year and transferred to Southwestern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee, an institution that would relocate to Memphis three decades later and which is today known as Rhodes College. A news item from March of 1891 reported on a football game that was held on the Southwestern Presbyterian campus “between the city and university teams”, so the sport of football was known on that campus during Billy McLean’s time as a student, but whether he obtained any football experience while there is unknown.

After graduating from Southwestern Presbyterian in 1893, he returned to UT as a law student, and he was one of several junior and senior law students who dotted the first varsity football roster. He was 21 years old when he played quarterback in UT’s first football game.

Addison Day

The Texas Longhorns have had many star halfbacks, tailbacks, and fullbacks in the team’s 130-year history, and arguably the program’s first star ball-carrier was its original fullback, Addison Perry Day, who was most often called “Ad” Day while a student, and “A.P.” during his post-college years. Writing about UT’s football history in the 1915 issues of the Alcalde, Ben Dyer, the captain of the 1909 Longhorn team and the longtime sports editor of the Dallas Morning News, said of Day:

Probably there is no student who has passed through one year at the University of Texas and during that year taken more than a passing interest in football who has not heard of Ad Day, has not listened to stories of how that wonderful back plowed his way through all opposition on the offense and was a mighty bulwark on the defense, for Ad Day was one of the really great backfield men the University has turned out.

Lou Maysel aptly described Day as “a young 150-pound cowboy from Ballinger”, as that west Texas town was his listed residence while he was a UT student, but Day was actually an Austin native. He was born in or near Austin in 1873 and spent most of his youth living in that city. At least one of his obituaries would claim that he was literally born on land that later became part of the University of Texas campus. Like several other members of the first UT varsity team, Day was born to a non-Texan father who had been a soldier in the Confederate Army, and who later made his home in Texas after the Civil War. His father, Charles Perry Day, was a Missouri native who had a longtime involvement in the cattle ranching business, and Ad Day would similarly make his living in cattle-raising and in organizing rodeo events.

Day turned 20 years old a month before suiting up for UT’s first football game, one in which he would play a prominent role.

The Dallas football team

The opponent for UT’s first game was the football team from the Dallas Athletic Club, the unofficial champion team of Texas. It was widely claimed at the time (and has been repeated by Longhorn historians ever since) that the Dallas football team had never been beaten and had not been scored against in several years. Dick Lee specifically wrote in The Texas University that Dallas had not lost a game in four years. Archival news stories bear out the claim of that team having never been beaten before facing Texas, though it had, in fact, only been organized two years earlier in 1891. And news reports from its first year of play indicate that its early games were played by Rugby union rules, with 15 players on each side. It was not until 1892 that the Dallas team was regularly playing by “collegiate” gridiron football rules with 11 players on each team. The Dallas football club had a reported membership of 56 at the time of an October 1891 note in Outing magazine, and had enough players that it had both a “heavyweight” and “lightweight” team that could play games against opponents of different skill levels and at different locations on the same day.

By 1891-92, football clubs had been organized in cities like Galveston, Greenville, Houston, Sherman, Tyler, and Waco, and the Dallas team is recorded as playing against some of those teams, but their most frequent opponent was a football team from Fort Worth, who they played at least four times between late 1892 and early 1893, and three times under rugby rules in November of 1891.

Almost all of the men on the Dallas team had, by November of 1893, played in more football games than those on the newly-formed UT varsity, but their players’ work schedules probably didn’t allow for the daily practices that Paul McLane was putting the new Texas players through for over a month before their November 30 game. The Dallas players could well be described as “grown men”, not in the sense that they had a significant size advantage over the Texas eleven (the two teams were practically even when it came to their average weight), but because they were working men who had day jobs. At the very least, we can be confident that the Dallas team was significantly older overall.

Rob Roy, at age 24, was the oldest Texas starter, and only three other members of the initial Texas lineup were older than 20.

Dallas’s fullback George Merewether, a mail-carrier who had been one of the primary founders of the Dallas football club, and its original captain, was 32 years old. He was born in present-day Pakistan (then part of British India), and was the son of a colonel in the Royal Engineers. Though he was old for a football player, he was seen as one of the team’s best all-around players.

Playing left end for Dallas was 29-year-old Tom Monagan, an American born son of Irish immigrants. He was an insurance man who, along with being a founding member of multiple iterations of the Dallas Athletic Club (including the current one, which was founded in 1919), was also an original member of the Dallas Country Club and captain of the Dallas Bicycle Club, and he reportedly won several large-wheel bicycle races in the late 1880s.

One of Dallas’s younger players was its center Edward Moseley, who was a comparative pup at 22 years of age, but still older than every Texas starter aside from Rob Roy. Moseley had attended Cornell and won a letter playing on its 1891 football team, then joined the Dallas football team in 1892 upon his return to his hometown, and he was a regular member and frequent captain of the team for over a decade. It is likely that no one opposing football player has ever faced Texas more times than Moseley, who played with the Dallas Athletic Club team well into his 30s and was a starter in no less than eight games against UT.

The Texas “Varsity” vs. the Dallas Athletic Club

The University of Texas football team traveled to Dallas via a nine-hour train ride in the early hours of Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1893, and six hours after arriving in the city, the players took the field for the program’s first game.

All of UT’s announced regulars were in the lineup save Dick Lee, who had been injured during practice earlier that week and was replaced at left halfback by Al Jacks. Jacks, whose full name was actually Joseph Allison Jack, was an Austin athlete of note who was never a UT student but had played with Lee on the UT baseball team, and was a participant in the intra-squad football game at UT on November 11. To the extent that Jacks shows up at all in Longhorn football history books, it is because of that November 11 game, during which he hugged the football — the only one the team had on hand — so hard that it popped, and play was delayed for a half hour while a replacement was procured.

Contemporary news articles paint Jacks as a do-everything athlete who competed in just about every sporting event available to a young man in Austin in the early 1890s. In addition to playing football and baseball with students at UT, he reportedly participated in wrestling and in rowing and bicycle races. In May of 1891, he was described by the Austin Daily Statesman as the “champion wrestler of Texas”. In a bit of tragic irony, Dick Lee and Al Jacks would both die as a result of injuries sustained during track & field events. (More on that later.)

Had this been an intercollegiate game, the use of a non-student like Jacks might have been controversial, or at least frowned upon, but there was no NCAA to enforce any sort of eligibility rules, and it was not entirely uncommon then for coaches to suit up and play with their teams. To the mail-carriers, book-keepers, and railroad workers of the Dallas team, it probably mattered little whether all the Texas players were college students or not. In any case, future Texas teams would not go to battle with non-students on the roster, 1990s imposter Ron McKelvey notwithstanding.

Along with the eleven starters, the programs printed for the game also named four “substitutes” for the Texas side: Bibb Graves, John Maverick, Ross Clark, and Jesse Andrews. Of those four, the most notable is Graves, an Alabama native who had graduated from the University of Alabama the previous spring and was attending UT as a junior law student. A year earlier in 1892, Graves had been a substitute on Alabama’s first football team, and he is a recognized football letterman at that school, but neither he nor the other three substitutes for the first Texas game are credited as lettermen for the 1893 season. Many years later, Graves would serve two terms as governor of Alabama.

The Dallas Morning News’s report on the Texas vs. Dallas football game estimated the size of the crowd to be about 2,000 spectators, though other papers gave differing estimates that ranged from 1,200 to 1,500. Texas received the ball first and immediately gained chunks of yardage employing a then-popular tactic known as the “flying wedge”, a “mass play” in which a team’s blockers would form a “V” in front of a ball-carrier while others would follow the play and help push the pile in the direction of the goal line. Large pile-ons after the ball-carrier was tackled were a feature of those plays, and injuries were common. Such mass plays were officially outlawed after a rules change in 1894, though smaller-scale versions of the wedge were employed for many years by kickoff return units.

It took Texas barely three minutes to march down the field and score its first-ever touchdown, which came on a play in which Ad Day fumbled the ball and it was picked up by the right tackle James Morrison, who carried it over the goal line. Day successfully kicked the goal after the touchdown and Texas had a 6-0 lead. At that time, a touchdown was worth four points, and a made goal kick after the touchdown added two more. The current scoring system for football (six points for a TD, one point for a PAT, three points for a field goal) did not fully come into place until 1912. Unlike the point after touchdown (PAT) kicks of today, the attempted goal after the touchdown in that era was a free kick and could not be blocked by the opposing team.

Texas would score another touchdown in the first half, and led 12-10 at halftime, the difference being a missed goal by Merewether after a Dallas touchdown. The teams scored a touchdown each in the second half to make the score 18-16 in UT’s favor, with Dallas making the game’s last score a short time before the referee called time to end the game, leaving Texas as the upset victor.

Football was a very rough sport in 1893, with little to no padding or protective gear being worn by the players, only two officials (an umpire and a referee) keeping control of the game, and frequent between-plays extracurriculars and fisticuffs the likes of which would certainly get a player ejected today, and the Dallas team had a reputation for engaging in its share of rough tactics. In a 1920 Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, Rob Roy recalled Texas captain Paul McLane teaching a “killing code” to the varsity, to be used if and when an opposing team attempted to play dirty. According to Roy’s recollection of an unnamed contest that was very likely first UT game against Dallas:

The game had not been going long until the other side made a deliberate attempt to break the leg of one of our men. Then McLane gave the ‘killing code’ and we put three of the other side out in less than ten minutes of play. The captain of the other side called for time and came across with the request that we try to play the rest of the game without any further rough stuff. We agreed and there was not another accident.

The Morning News article on the game described the condition of the Dallas team during its final offensive possession as, “Red in the face, many of them bleeding from the nose, knees, backs, and faces”. The paper further said that Dallas’s left halfback Sam Watts had to leave the game after being kicked in the abdomen, though another paper’s report stated that Watts left after being injured while making a tackle on Al Jacks in the second half. Dallas’s left end Tom Monagan broke the middle finger on his right hand, but refused to leave the game and played throughout the contest. Another Dallas player had two teeth knocked out after being tackled by Ad Day.

Dick Lee mentioned in his recap of the game in The Texas University an incident that was not widely reported by the newspapers that had a reporter present. Early in the second half, Ray McLane made a ten-yard run that ended in a violent collision with Dallas’s George Merewether, the latter of whom “lay on the ground senseless for five minutes.” Merewether continued to play in the game and was still on the field for Dallas’s final possession. Here seems a good point for a reminder that this game was played over a century before “concussion protocol” became a familiar term in the sporting lexicon.

The Texas aggregation left the Dallas Exposition Grounds with mere bruises for the most part, and Dave Furman was the only starter who had to withdraw because of injury, his reportedly being a sprained knee. Dick Lee named Bibb Graves as the Texas player who filled Furman’s spot in the lineup, though another report stated that Paul McLane moved from end to halfback, and backup Ross Clark took McLane’s place on the line.

The win by the Texas varsity over the “state champion” Dallas football team was considered an upset. In one of the most elegant passages ever written about the aftermath of a UT football game, the unnamed Morning News writer who covered the Dallas game began their report thus:

This tale is of woe to Dallasites and bright to the Austinians.

“Our name is pants and our glory has departed,” said Tom Monagan as he pulled his overcoat over his sweater yesterday afternoon, jerked his cap down over his eyes, wiped the blood off his face and started for home by the unseen route.

Tommie was but a type of a glorious band of eleven warriors who went out to victory with banners flying and pretty girls to look on and a big gang of whoopers on the side. They were not as handsome when they came home in the evening but they had learned something.

Walter Crawford, one of two students who filled the role of team manager for the first varsity squad, was also editor-in-chief of The Texas University. He had been a student at the University since 1889, long enough to see earlier attempts to form a football team fizzle and come to nothing. In the December issue of The Texas University, the first one published after the football team’s win over Dallas, he began his editorial with some 19th century trash talk about UT students “amusing themselves by annihilating a foot-ball team in a certain village in North Texas [by the name of] Dallas.” In the next paragraph, he presciently wrote, “This victory for the University means more than is at first evident. It means that foot-ball in the University is on a firm basis, and that the permanence of a team is now assured.”

The rest of UT’s 1893-94 football season

Having upset the Dallas football team and wrested away the figurative title belt of the state’s champion team, other teams seemed eager to challenge the upstart Texas varsity squad, and the players were eager to play another game. The captain of Fort Worth’s team was present at the Dallas game and challenged Texas to a match after its conclusion, but no game was ever arranged between the two teams.

Texas ended up playing its second football game, and its first-ever home game, on December 16 in Austin against an ad hoc football conglomeration from San Antonio. That city had two rival football clubs at the time, and there were also teams organized at local preparatory and military schools like the San Antonio Academy and the West Texas Military Academy. The San Antonio team Texas hosted was a thrown-together roster of players from various teams in the city, and whether because of a lack of cohesion or inferior skill overall, they were no match for the UT varsity, who won 30-0.

This game had a few small lineup changes from that of the Dallas game. Dick Lee was back with the team, but rather than playing halfback he was the listed quarterback in place of Billy McLean. Starting at left halfback was not Lee or Al Jacks but a man only identified in contemporary accounts as “Brackenridge”. UT did not then have a student with that last name, and his identity is mysterious. In the opening chapter of Lou Maysel’s Here Come the Texas Longhorns, which listed all the known players on the 1893 football team, Brackenridge was the only one not identified by his first name or initials. One possibility is that he was John Adams Brackenridge, a 24-year-old Austin resident who was a nephew of longtime University of Texas regent George Washington Brackenridge, the namesake of UT’s first dormitory, Brackenridge Hall. J.A. Brackenridge had graduated from Hanover College in Indiana a few years earlier and would later attend UT as a law student and win a letter on its 1898 baseball team.

Also entering the Texas lineup for the first time was 19-year-old Austin native Victor Moore, who took over Billy Richardson’s spot at right guard and held it for the rest of the season. Moore was the son of a lawyer, and he too would later take up that profession. Before enrolling at UT he had attended a boarding school in Bell Buckle, Tennessee called The Webb School. He would play with the UT football team for three years and was captain of the 1894 team.

After the 1893 Christmas break, a game was arranged with the football team in Galveston, a coastal city that was one of Texas’s largest at the time with over 30,000 residents, likely double what Austin had in 1894. Plans were made for the team to travel to Galveston, but Galveston ultimately cancelled the game and sent word of its decision only a day before its scheduled kickoff. UT instead traveled south for a re-match with the San Antonio team on February 3, with much the same result as their previous game a month and a half earlier. Texas won 34-0.

Billy McLean reclaimed his quarterback spot in the second San Antonio game, while Lee and Brackenridge both played left halfback. Paul McLane missed the game, and James Morrison filled his spot at right end and also assumed the role of team captain. (It is likely for that reason that UT’s official list of all-time football captains credits only Morrison as the captain for the 1893 season, shamefully erasing the original captaincy and invaluable leadership of Paul McLane.)

Sliding into Morrison’s right tackle spot for the second San Antonio game was 24-year-old law student Charles Bennett. Bennett was a native of Helena, a south Texas town which was at that time the seat of Karnes County, but would lose that distinction later that year to Karnes City, and experience a steep population decrease in the following years. Bennett lived long enough to see his hometown become a ghost town.

Texas closed its inaugural season by hosting a re-match with the Dallas team on a bitterly cold Austin afternoon on February 22. In the three months since the teams’ first matchup, the Dallas Athletic Club had bolstered its football roster by issuing invitations to members of the Dallas YMCA to join their team, and a few players in their lineup were new to their Texas opponents. UT’s lineup for this game was mostly unchanged from the second San Antonio game, with the following exceptions: Paul McLane returned, Morrison played left end in place of Ray McLane, and Lee played left halfback while Brackenridge was relegated to being a substitute. The February 22 re-match had a lot less drama than the teams’ November 30 game. Texas won 16-0, completing their first season undefeated and forever ending any notion of the Dallas Athletic Club having the best team in the state.

UT football in the following years

After experiencing a perfect season and a newfound level of campus enthusiasm for football in its inaugural campaign, Texas had several more program firsts in its second football season in the fall of 1894. The University hired its first football coach that year, 26-year-old Reginald Wentworth, who had played football while a student at Williams College in Massachusetts. After playing all four games in its first season against athletic clubs and “town teams”, Texas finally faced its first collegiate foe when it hosted Texas A&M on October 19, 1894, a game Texas won handily 38-0. UT also played Tulane and Arkansas for the first time that year, winning both contests. Texas won its first six games of the 1894 season by shutout, then concluded its second season with its first-ever defeat, a 28-0 drubbing at the hands of Missouri.

Two games were played against the Austin YMCA in 1894, and the Dallas Athletic Club was once again an opponent in 1895, and for several years afterward. Texas and the Dallas team would play each other ten times in all between 1893 and 1901, with Texas winning eight times, losing once (a 22-4 setback in 1897), and an 1896 matchup ending in a scoreless tie.

As more in-state and regional colleges adopted football and formed their own varsity teams, there was less of a need for Texas to fill slots on their schedule with non-collegiate foes, and the rougher-than-usual play that characterized games against “town teams” gradually soured UT’s athletic officials on scheduling them. It was not until 1900 that Texas played an entirely inter-collegiate schedule, one that included the University’s first game against Oklahoma. After playing the Dallas Athletic Club for a tenth and final time in 1901, Texas would exclusively play its games against other college teams in the years that followed, aside from a few games against teams from military bases during World Wars I and II.

Many of the regulars on the 1893 roster returned for the program’s second season. Baby Myers was once again the center. Victor Moore was a stalwart on the line and was team captain for 1894. Charles Bennett, who’d started two of the team’s four games at tackle in the first season, was the regular right guard in season two.

Three-fourths of the original backfield returned, with Billy McLean and Ad Day once again playing quarterback and fullback, respectively, and Dave Furman played for two more seasons at halfback. But the other original halfback, Dick Lee, died a few weeks before the 1894 season began.

In April of that year, an accident occurred while Lee was practicing for the pole vault competition at the University’s upcoming spring Field Day. News accounts of his injury were vague, and gave no more detail than to say that Lee “fell and ruptured himself”. Whatever the nature of his injury was, it led to off-and-on periods of physical suffering for five months before an illness ended his life at age 21 on September 22. He was the first member of the first Texas football team to pass away.

Al Jacks, who filled in for an injured Dick Lee in UT’s very first football game, continued to have a presence at UT games in 1894, though not always on the same sideline. He was listed as a Texas substitute in its October 27 game against Tulane, but later that Fall he played against Texas while in the lineups for the Austin YMCA team and for another patched-together San Antonio team. A few years later in 1897, he was on a Dallas Athletic Club team that played Texas, the only one from that club that ever recorded a win in the series between the two teams. He later played on a series of minor league and semi-pro baseball teams, and in the last year of his life he played for the team from the Southern Athletic Club in New Orleans. He was set to participate in a track & field meet held in New Orleans on July 4, 1908, in which he was entered in the hammer throw. While talking with two other competitors between throws, he was accidentally struck on the back of the head when someone carelessly tried to toss the metal ball used in that event back toward the throwing circle, not realizing there were people in its path. Jacks died the following day without regaining consciousness, and was reportedly 34 years old. He has never been recognized as a UT football letterman, probably because he was never a student of the University.

Rob Roy graduated in 1894 with a Bachelor of Laws degree and began a three-decade career as a lawyer. He died in 1928 after having been the judge of the 17th state district court in Fort Worth for 11 years.

John Philp also did not return to the team in 1894. He went on to graduate from Texas and was a businessman in Dallas for several years. He was prominent within the Texas Republican Party, and was the party’s nominee in the 1914 Texas gubernatorial race, but he received just five percent of the vote, far behind the 81.95% garnered by Democrat James Ferguson, and only half as much as the 11.59% share received by the Socialist candidate, E.R. Meitzen. He was later the Dallas postmaster for much of the 1920s, and for four years was the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General of the United States.

Billy Richardson, UT’s original right guard, is not recorded as playing in any more football games after the very first one. He was not present (due to injury, according to Lou Maysel) when the 1893 team picture was taken, and possibly for that reason he was not listed among the school’s athletic lettermen for many years. He became a part owner of the W.H. Richardson Hardware Company (which was started by his father), was an alumni member of the UT Athletic Council several times, and was a frequent speaker at UT athletic pep rallies in his later years.

Ad Day withdrew from UT after the Missouri loss at the end of the 1894 season. He moved to Canada a decade later and was involved in the cattle ranching and horse farming business there, as well as some popular rodeo events. He was one of the principal organizers of the first Calgary Stampede in 1912, at which he was the arena director.

The original Texas quarterback Billy McLean graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1895 and went on to a very prominent career as a lawyer, following his father into that profession, and becoming the second in a line of what is now five William Pinckney McLeans to practice law in Texas. He spent most of his career in Fort Worth and was one of the state’s best-known criminal defense lawyers. When he died in 1941, his obituary claimed that his firm had successfully represented 75 defendants charged with murder in the previous 35 years. (McLean’s obituary also erroneously claimed that he had been UT’s first football captain rather than Paul McLane.)

James Morrison remained in Austin after the 1893-94 school year, and he is reported to have appeared in at least two of UT’s games during the 1894 football season, but he is not credited as a letterman for that year. (The longstanding rule for awarding football letters, which was likely established some time later, was that a player had to appear in at least half the games on a team’s schedule, or to play in at least half of the game against A&M.) He eventually returned to his home state and played football for two years at the University of Virginia while attending its medical school, and he was captain of Virginia’s 1897 team. After receiving his M.D. from UVA, he coached the 1898 football team at Add-Ran College in Waco, a school we now know as TCU. He went on to have a long career as an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist in Lynchburg, Virginia before dying in 1940, at the age of 68.

The other founding fathers of UT football, Paul and Ray McLane, had drastically different life paths after the first season. Paul did not return to school after the 1893-94 school year, and he evidently lived for the rest of his life in Laredo. During a visit to Mexico City in the early months of 1897 he contracted an illness believed to be typhoid fever. It lingered for several weeks before he died on April 21, 1897, three months shy of his 23rd birthday. His younger brother Ray, in contrast, played two more football seasons at Texas and was captain of its 1895 team. In the first decade of the 1900s he moved to California, and lived in that state for the the vast majority of his remaining years. He was the last surviving letterman from the first Texas football team when he died in 1960, at the age of 84.

The men who formed the first Texas football team were campus legends in their time, and some of them were still held in high regard among UT football fans and alums several years later. Stories of Ad Day’s running prowess were told for at least two decades after he’d last shown his face on campus, as noted earlier. James Morrison and Ray McLane were also mentioned by former players at that time as being in the company of the best that the program had had.

James Hill Hart, who watched the University’s earliest football games as an Austin schoolboy before entering UT as a student himself and having a standout football career from 1897 to 1900, said in 1915 that, as all-around players, the original Texas backfield of Dick Lee, Addison Day, and Dave Furman “was as great as any” the program had in its first 22 seasons. (It should be noted that Hart was Furman’s brother-in-law.)

But over time, the accomplishments of the first team were overshadowed by the bigger, faster, more talented, and far better trained players who came along in later years, and by the better Texas teams that beat up on better opponents than those faced in the earliest years. The names of the original “Longhorns” are probably only known today by the most dedicated of Longhorn football history buffs. No player from the 1893 or 1894 team has been inducted into the Texas Athletics Hall of Honor, something that can be said for only one other Texas football roster prior to 2011, that being the 1902 team.

Modern day program record-keeping has also been occasionally unkind to the memory of the first team. As previously noted, Paul McLane is not included in the program’s official list of historic football captains. David Furman’s first name has been misspelled “Davil” on UT’s all-time football lettermen list for over 50 years. Charles Bennett, starting tackle in half the games of the 1893 season and regular guard throughout 1894, was for many years properly listed as an 1893-94 letterman, but for mysterious reasons his 1893 letter was removed when the lettermen list was updated in 2001. In that same update, W.H. (Billy) Richardson’s listing was also changed, and ever since then he has been erroneously shown as a 1900 letterman instead of 1893.

If any of the 1893 players climbed out of a time machine and onto a UT practice field today, nobody would even think of issuing them a jersey. Offensive line coach Kyle Flood would laugh uproariously at the notion of 150-pound Rob Roy playing left tackle for any team. In all likelihood, none would have gotten significant playing time on the 1943 Longhorn team either, and maybe not even in 1923. But all the Longhorn greats who came after them and all the fans who will cheer on the current Longhorns in Arlington on Saturday owe those original UT gridders their appreciation for the way they established the program 130 years ago, and ensured that football would be on the Texas campus to stay.