It always seemed it was a cold, cloudy day and the black and white images on the old Capehart television set sometimes seemed as snowy as the bleak Winters, Texas, sky.
A little later on Sunday afternoon, the highlights show featuring that new young coach Darrell Royal down at The University in Austin would be coming on.
For the moment, however, the New York Giants were coming to us via the television antenna bringing in the signal from Abilene or San Angelo. Or the Detroit Lions or Pittsburgh Steelers.
From those faraway places, we learned about another level of football. Friday nights were reserved for high school football like the hometown Winters Blizzards, and on Saturdays, folks gathered around the radio to listen to Kern Tipps paint a brilliant word picture about Southwest Conference football.
But in those days of the late 1950s, the new medium of choice was television. As we watched, stars of the cities became stars of a nation and the biggest of these, as far as those of us in Texas were concerned, were Texans such as Yale Lary, Doak Walker and, for UT fans, the larger-than-life quarterback named Bobby Layne.
Those were the men of the National Football League.
As the 2003 version of the NFL Draft comes up this weekend, a remarkable statistic has surfaced. Texas, where most folks feel the shrine of football is located, has produced at least one player drafted for 65 consecutive years. It is a national record and a remarkable run.
To begin our story, we have to go all the way back to 1937, the year that D.X. Bible was hired away from Nebraska to coach the Longhorns. Bible was paid the unheard-of sum of $14,000 to become the UT coach and athletics director. They had to raise the school president's salary, so the football coach wouldn't make more money than he did.
Little was left of the legacy of Jack Chevigny, the dapper coach who had rapidly worn out his welcome after an historic victory over his alma mater, Notre Dame, in his first season of 1934. By 1937, Chevigny was shown the door and Bible inherited a program in turmoil. However, even in the midst of the 2-6-1 season, one guy came shining through. He was a "jack-of-all-trades player" named Hugh Wolfe, who earned All-Southwest Conference honors as a running back.
In the 1938 draft, Wolfe was taken in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played only one season — in 1938 with the New York Giants — and while he was the first UT player drafted in a system that began in 1936, he wasn't the first, nor the most famous, of the early vintage Longhorns who played professional football in America.
As early as the 1920s, there are records of former UT players playing in the fledgling league. By the early '30s, Longhorns legends such as "Ox" Emerson, "Big 'Un" Rose and Dexter Shelley actually were making a few dollars playing the game they loved, using the skills they had honed in the new Memorial Stadium.
During the first half of the 20th century and up until the late 1960s, the professional football guys took a back seat to the more popular Major League Baseball. However, with the coming of television, that changed. In fall 1967, sports editors who were members of The Associate Press answered a survey of the interest in sports as they perceived it from their readers. For the first time, football moved ahead of baseball at the professional level.
Layne and his black-and-white sets gave way to color, and Joe Namath and his New York Jets stunned the world by leading the AFL to a Super Bowl victory against the NFL's Baltimore Colts. Right there with Namath were guys who earned a nickname of "The University of Texas at New York." George Sauer, Jim Hudson, Pete Lammons and John Elliott all became part of the legend that changed the face of the game forever.
Through era after era and coach after coach, the Longhorns have continued an amazing tradition.
From the lone pick of Wolfe in 1938, Bible built a program that produced 10 NFL draftees in 1942, nine in '43 and 11 in '44 and '47, and 10 in '48 (the latter two classes producing a back named Tom Landry and the quarterback, Layne). Eleven members of Ed Price's 1952 class were picked, and as Darrell Royal rebuilt the program and quality of league players increased, his top year was nine in the 1971 draft, following back-to-back National Championships at Texas.
The early years of Fred Akers produced some of the largest classes, with 11 players taken in the 1982 draft following the No. 2 national finish in '81, and a remarkable 18 (including a supplemental draftee) taken in '84.
David McWilliams had eight players drafted from his 1990 team, but as the talent in the NFL got better and better, so did the scrutiny of those taken in the draft. Rounds were cut, and more and more teams were extremely selective in their choices. By 1998, Chris Akins was the only Longhorn taken and Cedric Woodard was the only one picked in 2000.
Mack Brown's era in the draft is only beginning at Texas, but his rich legacy includes some outstanding top draftees from his North Carolina days, as well as five first round draft choices in his first four years at Texas.
The Longhorns are particularly "user friendly" for the pro scouts, who have raved about UT's Pro Timing Day, as well as the maturity, training and accessibility of those in the Longhorns program.
Going into the weekend, there have been 32 Longhorns taken in the first round of draft over its 65 years, and five of them have come under Brown's watch.
Through it all, the goal of the UT program under Brown remains "to win championships with nice kids who graduate." It is a University's responsibility to educate young people and prepare them for life after college. The foundation of football at Texas is based on a long tradition of those who not only go on to play pro football, but those who graduate and go out prepared to make a significant difference in life.
As a new class gets a chance to shine in the spotlight, it is another example of those who excel in excellence. In this case, as with Layne and those guys so very long ago, their chosen profession is football and for 65 years and beyond, those guys have represented us very well.