My Obsession with My All-American (personal essay)

by Amy Goodwin on November 20, 2015

My dad’s life peaked when he was 18-years-old; he got a full scholarship to the University of Texas to play football. He was a highly recruited athlete out of Milby High School in Houston; he played center. I still have his recruiting letters from The University of Texas, A&M, Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma, West Point. After several recruiting trips, he picked Darrell Royal and the University of Texas Longhorns. He became a member of Darrell Royal’s first recruiting class in 1957.

He had a great freshman year. In the five game series they played as freshmen, the yearbook said:

“The freshmen opened up their 1957 campaign in fine fashion by downing the Baylor Cubs 13-6. With one second on the clock quarterback Tommy Newman faded back and fired a quick pass to Bobby Goodwin for the winning touchdown…and freshman Bobby Goodwin should see plenty of action on the Varsity next fall.”

My father had a rough sophomore year in 1958. He had a lot of nagging injuries; he broke his arm. In 1959, in the game against Cal Berkeley, he received a neck injury, so severe, it ended his career as a football player. I know that was one of the lowest points in my dad’s life. When he spoke about it years afterwards, his voice was filled with regret and disappointment.

When I heard they were filming My All-American, I got curious about the Longhorns again. I signed up to be an extra on the film. I hung around the set. I started going through his old football pictures and programs. How did he get hurt? What exactly happened to him? My dad passed away ten years ago, so I couldn’t ask him about it. I looked up some of his former teammates, and even interviewed one of his best friends from college, a fellow teammate J.B. Padgett. This is what J.B. said:

“Bobby got hurt early in the year. He would have played but they were afraid another hit to his neck might paralyze him. And Darrell Royal, Frank Medina and the medical staff said no. I really think Bobby would have done it if they wouldn’t have said no. That could have been really bad. And Bobby wasn’t going to change what he did. He was a good hitter. He’d hit people with his shoulder pad and his head. I remember him telling me he wasn’t happy about it, but there wasn’t anyway in the world they were going to risk it. I think he coached freshman the following year. No matter what, he stayed on scholarship. They just did that so he’d have something to do.”

Growing up, my dad spoke of Darrell Royal with this great reverence, almost like he was God. My dad would say, “Darrell Royal saved my life. He let me keep my football scholarship, even after I got hurt. He let me stay on as a freshman coach. If it weren’t for him, I might not have gone to law school.” He attributed much of his success in life to Darrell Royal.

I never realized the neck injury was that serious and despite the prognosis, he wanted to keep playing. I had no idea Darrell Royal, Frank Medina and the medical staff at Texas had to step in and stop him from playing the game he loved.

I am indebted to Darrell Royal and his entire football staff for not only letting my dad keep his football scholarship, but also for not leaving the decision on whether or not to play up to a 20-year-old who thought he was invincible.

If it weren’t for them, my brother and I might not exist.

For twenty years, Darrell Royal coached football at the University of Texas. One of his players, Freddie Steinmark, has been memorialized in the film My All-American. Go see it. It is beautiful. Freddie will live on in our memories forever. Some of Royal’s players went on to be famous NFL football players. And some of his players left UT without much notice. They took regular jobs. They got married and had kids. And they took their kids to Longhorn football games. And they became stand bearers for Darrell Royal.

Dad football

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bud Brigham November 20, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Amy, you’ve been a warrior for Freddie, Coach Royal and UT’s 1969 national championship team! You’ve helped spread their inspiration. I believe, by touching more people, you’ve helped us provide Americans with very special role models that will affect people for generations. I share and appreciate your passion. Thank you for making a difference!
Bud Brigham

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