Big play, clutch QB Street recalled

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James Street was warming the bench for the University of Texas Longhorns when football coach Darrell Royal sent him into the game saying, “hell, you can’t do any worse.”

With that hopeful challenge, Street reeled off 20 straight victories as the UT quarterback, never losing a game as a starter, and leading the Longhorns to a come-from-behind win in the “game of the century” against Arkansas in 1969. He rallied his team once more from a deficit to win the national championship against Notre Dame a year later in the Cotton Bowl.

Street died earlier this week at 65.

When Royal put Street into the game, Texas was 1-1 in 1968 and was struggling to master the wishbone offense which was developed by Royal and offensive coordinator Emory Ballard. Not to put to fine a point on it, but the wishbone offense then was revolutionary to the college game and Street, at only 5-10 and 165 pounds, was its master. He also was 29-8 as a starting pitcher for the Longhorn baseball team, pitching a perfect game and a no-hitter. He’s the father of Huston Street of the San Diego Padres, once the Colorado Rockies closer.

Street grew up in Longview, Texas, the archrival of my hometown, Marshall, some 20 miles to the east. Not unlike the Sheridan-Gillette rivalry. Street was a supremely confident athlete and person. Maybe the best story about him was how Street was once pitching for Longview High School in nearby Carthage. The Carthage fans were calling him “pretty boy” because he wore his long hair slicked back in a dovetail style. They were really razzing him. So with two outs and a 3-2 count on the last hitter, the tying run on base and Longview primed to give Carthage its first loss of the season, Street calls time and walks off the mound. He removes his cap and pulls out a comb and starts combing his hair, which just elevates the hoots and the hollering from the hometown partisans. He replaces his cap, steps back on the mound and fires one more strike to get the final out and win the game.

Another story is from the “shootout” game versus Arkansas in 1969. Both teams unbeaten and ranked 1-2 in the national polls. Coach Royal called for a play that was a all-or-nothing long pass to the tight end Randy Peschel. Street thought the call was improbable and returned to the sideline to ask his head coach if he was sure.

“Damn sure,” barked Royal.

Street returned to the Texas huddle and said to his teammates, “Boys, you aren’t going to believe this, but….” And then called the play. One of the starting offensive tackles, all-American Bob McKay, then said, “Hell, Street; you can’t throw the ball that far.”

Street did, (the pass play went 44 yards and was successful in setting up the winning scores), and Texas prevailed, 15-14.

Street, who never was drafted or played professionally in the NFL, became a successful financial planner in Austin.


By |October 3rd, 2013|

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