As promised, there they were this afternoon, seated on leather chairs perched upon the Woodrow Wilson High School auditorium stage: Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Tony Dorsett, "Mean" Joe Greene, Craig James, Daryl Johnston, Billy Sims. Also there, of course, was Woodrow's favorite son, Tim Brown, joined by the son of Davey O'Brien -- together, the two represented the school's Heisman Trophy winners. And, seated in the back and to the far right, was Abner Haynes -- a star at Lincoln High, among the first black athletes to play at North Texas State University, a Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs immortal and, to this day, South Dallas's own.
All were on hand to help the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee debut its so-called "Century in the Making" list of the top 250 moments in North Texas football history, dating back to October 19, 1912, when Oklahoma trounced Texas as Gaston Park. The list, compiled by sportswriters and broadcasters (among them the greats: Frank Luksa, Carlton Stowers and Sam Blair), is available in full after the jump; word is the proprietor of the Sportatorium penned this version after all the initial suggestions were tallied. Voters will be asked in coming months to whittle down the list to a manageable hundred -- but, ahem, you'll have to wait a while unless you've got one of the paper Startlegram broadsheets handy.
So, then, to The Big Event itself -- quite a thing. Brown and Haynes stole the show, wonderfully moderated by Brad Sham. The Voice of the Cowboys asked Brown for his memories upon his return to his alma mater. "We were terrible," Brown said, recalling a 4-25-1 record during his four years as a Wildcat. "I was pushing for basketball."
Haynes told of his days as a black man at North Texas State -- getting shot at, enduring hell when he and Leon King were integrating Texas college football in '56. "I was scared to death," he said. "People attacked us. My white teammates has no idea what they were getting into." After the ceremony, he and I visited for a long time. Haynes said that he doesn't much like talking about race: "It dominates everything." Just once, he said, he'd like someone to ask if he could play football. He could. Rayfield Wright, the Cowboys Hall of Famer not invited to sit on the stage, told me Haynes was also his agent -- Joe Greene's too, among others. Haynes is writing a book. It's about time.
Sad to say the Woodrow auditorium wasn't packed to the rafters -- all those empty seats for all that history in the house, what a shame.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Much of the presentation was bone-dry, very corporate: Mayor Tom Leppert broke out his pom-poms to celebrate February 2011, when "the whole world comes to North Texas"; Super Bowl XLV president and CEO Bill Lively spoke of corporate sponsor dollars pocketed thus far ($15 million and counting, whoo-boy); Rick Gosselin and Startlegram publisher Gary Wortel and others spoke of partnerships and committees and this and that and my look at the time.
But then the curtains parted to reveal the history lesson. Mean Joe and Staubach traded jabs over Super Bowl XIII -- Steelers 35, Cowboys 31. Staubach blamed the loss on the fumbled double reverse; Dorsett didn't so much as grin. Said Sham to Greene, motioning toward Captain America: "The man has not gotten over that game." Said Staubach, motioning toward Charlie Waters, who sat in the second row, "The big play was when Charlie ran into the referee and missed that tackle on Franco Harris." The man has not gotten over that game.
Craig James spoke of his days as part of SMU's Pony Express ("it was a beautiful time"); Evan Grant and I wondered if he'd be booed (he was not). Greene spoke of his own days at North Texas State and said, no, he wasn't aware of the sacrifices Haynes had made during his days there. But, he offered, "I was aware of his football exploits." Said Sham, and others, of the jovial Mean Joe: "He's a lovely man." And he was.
And so, below, the list upon which you'll find at least one mention of each man who appeared at Woodrow today -- study well before you vote, as you've got plenty of time. To help jog your memory, you can flip through our slide show from the afternoon, full of familiar faces.Super Bowl XLV Century in the Making: 250 Best Moments in North Texas Football