Monday, September 30, 2013

Legendary Longhorn James Street Dies

In my mind's eye, I can see quarterback James Street scrambling and passing for the University of Texas during his college football career in the 1960s.

Street died today at the age of 65.

Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News recalled Street's role in executing "the best play [coach] Darrell Royal ever called" — the fourth–and–three play action pass that set up the winning touchdown against Arkansas in the "Great Shootout" in Fayetteville, Ark., on Dec. 6, 1969.

The Shootout was a rarity in college football at that time — a game between the top two ranked teams in the nation.

"Street made [the play] work, his pass falling six inches behind two sets of Arkansas hands and into Randy Peschel's," Sherrington writes, "setting up the winning touchdown in a 15–14 game that won Texas a national title. In the process, Street made believers out of every teammate, coach, Longhorn and Razorback."

I guess that was true. I grew up in Razorback country. Ever since I was old enough to follow football, I pulled for the Razorbacks on autumn Saturdays, and the Shootout broke my young heart.

But I guess Sherrington is right. Street made a believer out of me — or, at least, his 20–0 record as Texas' quarterback coupled with Texas' victory in December 1969 convinced me.

(The memory still hurts even after all this time. I truly believed Arkansas would win that game.)

As much as I admired Bill Montgomery, Arkansas' quarterback in those days, I have to admit that I wished the Razorbacks had Street — in much the way that fans today wish their team had Peyton Manning.

When the game was over, Street joined Royal to accept the plaque from President Nixon proclaiming the Longhorns national champions.

But Street and Royal knew they still had to defeat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day — which proved to be a formidable task.

I watched that game — and wished again that it could be Arkansas playing for a national title against Notre Dame.

Instead, the Razorbacks lost the Sugar Bowl to Archie Manning and Ole Miss that day. The loss was meaningless, of course, compared to what the Razorbacks had lost a few weeks earlier — and what they could have won on that New Year's Day if they had beaten the Longhorns.

But it was Street who left the Cotton Bowl as the unblemished quarterback of the national champion.

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