By Riley Zayas
Other parts of this week's 411 on the Forty:
AUSTIN, Texas — Among the changes announced Monday at the University of Texas, several impacted the UT athletic department, including the announcement that the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium will drop the Joe Jamail Field name and instead be named in honor of former Texas Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.
The announcement also included erecting a statue at the stadium of Julius Whittier, the first African-American to letter in football on the Forty Acres. Whittier excelled on the gridiron for Royal's competitive Southwest Conference squad 1970-72.
(photos courtesy of texassports.com)
A year before Whittier joined the team, Texas won the national championship, a squad that held the distinction of being the last national champion with an unsegregated roster. When Whittier stepped on campus as a freshman, he was not the first black player to become part of the Longhorn football program. But the two who came ahead of him, E.A Curry and Leon O' Neal, never made it on to the varsity roster. Whittier spent one season with the freshman squad, before appearing in the 1970 season opener in Austin against Cal. It was a day that went down in history, as Whittier had opened the door for future high school stars such as Quan Cosby, Jamaal Charles, Ricky Williams and Earl Campbell to have the opportunity to play for the third-most successful football program in the NCAA history; Texas has 916 wins.
During his first two seasons, Whittier played on the offensive line, helping to pave the way for a team that averaged 374.5 rushing yards per game in 1970. In each season, the Horns rolled to the Southwest Conference Title.
In 1972, he was moved over to tight end, where he secured UT's only receiving touchdown of the season in a 38-3 Thanksgiving Day victory over Lone Star state rival Texas A&M. By posting a 10-1 record, capped off by a win over No. 4 Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, the Horns finished the season ranked No. 3 in the country.
Whittier left a legacy that never will be forgotten at Texas, with or without a statue. However, with his tremendous accomplishments, honors and courage, he deserves to be honored alongside the players he directly affected by giving them the chance to play at the University of Texas.