MOUNT RUSHMORE OF TEXAS ATHLETICS
By mark rogers
January 28, 2009
I had an interesting discussion with some friends of mine recently. It revolved around this question: If Texas were to create a Mount Rushmore of its most influential and greatest sports figures, whose face would be carved into the mountain?
We decided that since Texas was so big we could have five faces instead of four. And the criteria are athletes who had their greatest impact on the sports world while they performed in Texas. It also helps to have made significant waves in the national or international "waters."
Here's who I think should be on the mountain: Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Earl Campbell, Lance Armstrong and Nolan Ryan.
Tom Landry because he was born in Mission, Texas. Played college football in Texas. Served his country as a pilot in WWII. He was the first coach of the Dallas Cowboys and took an expansion team of old and unmotivated players and created one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time. He is also credited with creating the Flex defense and teaching defensive players to play assignment football rather than just running to the ball...a revolutionary technique that is used by every football team at every level in the country. People all over the world know who Tom Landry is. He was a willing and powerful representative and speaker with the FCA for many, many years. He is the Dallas Cowboys.
Roger Staubach because he won the Heisman Trophy at Navy in 1963. He lost the Cotton Bowl to Texas in Dallas, which is where his legacy in Texas began. He was drafted by the Cowboys in 1964 but didn't actually suit up for America's Team until 1967 because he was serving his country. He took the Cowboys to their first Super Bowl win. They won two and lost three with him as the signal-caller. Rodger the Dodger was the All-American quarterback who vaulted the Cowboys to "America's Team" status.
Earl Campbell because he was born in Tyler and led John Tyler high school to a state championship in 1973. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1977 as a running back for the Texas Longhorns while leading the nation in rushing. He was named rookie of the year and league MVP in his first season with the Houston Oilers in 1978. He is ranked #12 on ESPN's Top 25 Players in College Football History.
Lance Armstrong because he was born in Plano. He single-handedly made cycling a relevant sport with his unprecedented 7-straight Tour de France titles from 1999-2005. He's also turned a fledgling non-profit organization into a money-raising powerhouse for cancer research. He is a cancer survivor with an amazing story of dedication and perseverance.
Nolan Ryan because he was born in Refugio, Texas and is the current president of the Texas Rangers. He played the last 14 seasons of his incredible 28 year career in Houston and with the Texas Rangers. His 5,714 career strikeouts is first all-time and is a record which will never be broken. His seven career no-hitters are first all-time...second place is four. He is tied for first with 12 1-hitters and threw 18 2-hitters.
Now these are extremely brief descriptions of each of my five Rushmore "heads," but I think it's a good enough synopsis.
Other names that came up and you could make a good argument for were Byron Nelson, Sammy Baugh, Michael Johnson, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Davey O'Brien, Doak Walker, Bobby Morrow and Flozell Adams (just kidding).
Am I wrong? Who've I forgotten about? Let's argue. Who are the five greatest sports figures in Texas history?
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