Commentary

Excerpt: 'Courage Beyond The Game'

Originally Published: August 19, 2011
By Jim Dent | Special to ESPN.com

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Jim Dent's book "Courage Beyond The Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story." Reprinted with permission.

No one expected the wishbone in its infancy to inflict such damage on the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Street opened the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown pass to Cotton Speyrer to build a 10-0 halftime lead. Fans could not believe what they were seeing from Street, once considered the worst passer of all the Texas quarterbacks. Street was operating the offense as if he had known it all his life.

Early in the third quarter, Royal turned Worster loose on OSU -- He gained gained 73 yards on 10 carries in the second half alone. Worster scored on a 2- yard run and Bill Bradley proved his career was not over. He caught a 4-yard scoring pass from Street in the fourth quarter, and Mike Perrin returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown as the Longhorns rolled 31-3.

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Thomas Dunne Books Jim Dent's latest book tells the story of Texas legend Freddie Steinmark.

The following Monday, coach Mike Campbell was walking across the practice field, past the offensive drills, when he spotted an idle Bradley, listed as a fifth-string wide receiver, sitting on his helmet. He grabbed Bradley by the jersey and yanked him to his feet.

"Hey, Coach Royal," Campbell yelled, "if you don't need Bill Bradley anymore, I sure could use him on defense. Whatdaya say?"

"He's all yours," Royal said.

Bradley followed Campbell to the other end of the field, where the defense was running through drills. He would never return.

Some said that the Campbell-Royal conversation in front of Bradley had been rehearsed. Regardless, Bradley was the happiest player on the practice field that day. He was moving to right cornerback andit would become a life-changing experience.

Next on the schedule for Texas was the game that everyone in two states talked about for 365 days a year -- Texas versus Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl. In the years when Bud Wilkinson's Oklahoma teams dominated the college landscape in the 1950s and early '60s, Texas-OU was often the Game of the Year in college football. Five years after Wilkinson's departure, the Sooners were finally putting the pieces back together. Th ey were coming off a 10-1 season in 1967, with the only loss to Texas.

In 1968, the record of the two teams looked out of whack. The Sooners were 1-1 and the Longhorns stood 1-1-1. Moreover, it was a rarity on the second Saturday in October when neither team was ranked in the top twenty.

The outcome would come down to the final 2:37 with Texas trailing 2019 and the ball at its own 15-yard line. Steinmark had halted an Oklahoma drive with his second interception of the season.

No one figured Street to be the quarterback to lead this kind of comeback. Still, he completed three wobblers of 21, 18, and 23 yards to end Deryl Comer, the tight end who had quit the team in spring practice, then returned the next day.

When Texas reached the 2 yard line with thirty-nine seconds remaining, everyone knew what was next. Worster had racked up 119 yards on 13 carries. Street handed him the ball off right guard and two Sooners rode him piggyback over the goal. Happy Feller's PAT kick made the fi nal score 26-20 and the Longhorns were suddenly celebrating again.

Any victory over Oklahoma was sweet, and this one removed a few tons from Royal's shoulders. The Longhorns were back in the top twenty, weighing in at number seventeen. Still, Royal knew what the critics were saying: Why had his team played with such nonchalance early in the season? Why had he waited so long to ditch Super Bill?

And why in the world was he going to a run-it-down-your-throat offense in this era of passing madness.? As Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated, "the wishbone was three yards and a cloud of protest."

On the eve of the Arkansas game in Austin, Royal sounded off to Jenkins: "I may be one of the few people around here who recognizes what has happened in our conference. Other people have gotten good, that's what. Other people have athletes in school, under conference rules, that could not play at Texas because our scholastic requirements are higher. Anyone who does not believe that, I can show them some documentation."

Coming to Austin on Saturday was the undefeated ninth-ranked team in America. The Arkansas Razorbacks averaged 35 points a game while not losing a game all season. The Hogs hated Texas, and Texas hated the Hogs even more. One Longhorns fans held up a sign outside the stadium that read, let's make arkansas the next nagasaki!

Causing most of the stir for Arkansas was as a sophomore quarterback named Bill Montgomery, who was burning up the national passing rankings. Montgomery was a tall, lithe quarterback with a whiplike throwing motion and the accuracy of William Tell. His favorite receiver, Chuck Dicus, was one of the best young players in America.

On the morning of the Texas-Arkansas game, Mike Campbell called Steinmark into his offi ce to discuss the Montgomery-to-Dicus predicament. Campbell already considered Steinmark someone the coach could depend on and the coach needed his help.

"Freddie, quite frankly, Bill Bradley doesn't know what the hell he's doing out there," Campbell said. "It's not all his fault. He hasn't played a whole lot of defense since he got to the University of Texas. You're going to have to help him. Th ere's a pretty good chance he's going to let one of those Arkansas receivers behind him today. Most likely, it will be that number 20 [Dicus]. If number 20 gets past Bill, you've got to keep him from scoring. I know that's asking a lot considering all of the other things that you've got to worry about."

The first rule of pass defense in Campbell's world was never to allow a receiver behind the secondary. One of the reasons Campbell chose Steinmark as the starting safety was his ability to keep receivers in front of him.

As Freddie smiled and left Campbell's office, the coach shook his head. Running through his mind were the obvious thoughts: Freddie Steinmark is a sophomore. He has started a grand total of five games on the varsity. He's nineteen years old. And I've just entrusted my entire pass defense to him.

Campbell shook his head and chuckled. He knew that Steinmark could handle it.