Top 10 Texas Longhorns Who Embodied the Spirit of Texas Football

Pasquarella BrettContributor IMarch 30, 2009

10. Duke Carlisle

Duke Carlisle quarterbacked the Texas Longhorns to their first National Championship in 1963.

The first one is always the toughest.

Texas defeated Navy 28-6 in the Cotton Bowl and Carlisle was named the games’ MVP.

He averaged 30.4 yards per completion during the season and even intercepted a pass against Baylor to hold off a late-game rally and preserve a 7-0 victory.

9. Roosevelt Leaks

Roosevelt Leaks was one of the first black running backs to play for the Texas Longhorns. He had to deal with prejudice as well as opposing defenses.

Leaks excelled on the field, becoming an All-American in 1973 and leading the Longhorns in rushing with 1,415 yards and a 6.2 yards-per-carry average.

In a 42-14 win over SMU that year, he rushed for an astounding 342 yards.

He is still one of the top 10 rushers in Texas Longhorn Football and was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Leaks was drafted by the Baltimore Colts and played nine seasons in the NFL. 

8. Tommy Nobis

Tommy Nobis was part of the 1963 National Championship team. He harassed Navys’ Roger “The Dodger” Staubach all afternoon as Texas won the Cotton Bowl, 28-6.

Nobis made a game-saving tackle on Joe Namath in a 1965 matchup against Alabama.  On a 4th-and-inches play late in the game,  he hammered Namath and preserved a 21-17 victory.

Nobis was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and played 15 years in the NFL.

Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka once said he would rather play against Dick Butkus than Nobis.

7. Fred Steinmark

Fred Steinmark was a fan-favorite safety for the Texas Longhorns from the time he was a sophomore. He played in what is considered to be the greatest games in Texas Longhorn Football history.

With severe leg pain, which doctors thought was only a bruise, Steinmark helped the longhorns erase a 14-0 deficit and defeat the Arkansas Razorbacks 15-14, preserving Texas' undefeated season.

After the game, x-rays showed he had a malignant tumor and his leg had to be amputated. He was on crutches watching from the sidelines as Texas defeated the Fighting Irish in the 1969 Cotton Bowl, 21-17, to win the National Championship.

He died in June of 1971.

6. Bobby Layne

Bobby Layne is considered to this day to be one of the greatest quarterbacks in Texas Longhorn history.

He was named to the All-Southwest Conference Teams all four years he played, from 1944-1947. In 1946, he helped Texas defeat Missouri 40-27 in the Cotton Bowl, scoring all 40 points himself.

Layne ran for four touchdowns, completed two touchdown passes, and kicked four extra points.

He was named MVP of the 1948 Sugar Bowl when the Longhorns defeated No. 6 Alabama.

Layne also pitched two no-hitters for the Longhorn baseball team.

He played 15 seasons in the NFL, retiring in 1962 with most of the leagues passing records. 

5. James Street

James Street finished his Longhorn career undefeated as a starter. He quarterbacked the Longhorns to a 21-17 Cotton Bowl victory over Notre Dame to win the 1969 National Championship.

In the Cotton Bowl, Street and the Longhorns took possession of the football with two-and-a-half minutes to play and trailing 17-14.  Street converted two fourth down plays on the drive, including a pass to Cotton Speyrer on 4th-and-two at the Notre Dame 10.

The first down conversion set up the eventual one-yard run by Billy Dale. The touchdown gave Texas the victory and National Title.

Street was a great all-around athlete as he pitched two no-hitters for the Longhorn baseball team, helping them to two southwest conference titles. 

4. Major Applewhite

Major Applewhite was a small quarterback for the Longhorns, standing at 6'1", and was not the most gifted athlete. But when the chips were down, you just had the feeling he would find a way to win.

Applewhite was a student of the game and understood X’s and O’s.

He rallied the Longhorns on many occasions, including a memorable win in the 2001 Holiday Bowl, in which he threw for 473 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-43 win over Washington.

Texas trailed that game 30-14 in the third quarter.

In 1998, Applewhite ended Nebraska’s 47-game home winning streak with a 20-16 victory. Later that same year, he rallied Texas to a come-from-behind upset victory over rival No. 6 Texas A&M, 26-24.

He lost his starting job to Chris Simms in 2001.

Simms committed four turnovers in the first half of the 2001 Big 12 Championship game against Colorado and left with an injury. Applewhite stepped in, immediately completing his first pass for an 80-yard toucdown.

He pumped up the Longhorns and attempted to rally them from a 29-10 deficit, but fell just short, losing 39-37. The loss kept the Longhorns from playing for the National Championship.

Many fans wonder to this day what might have been if Applewhite would have started the season, rather than the prototypical 6’4” quarterback, Simms.

Applewhite still holds the record for the longest touchdown pass in Longhorn history, a 97-yard strike.

He returned to the Longhorns Football program in 2008 as running backs coach. He also acts as assistant head coach to Mack Brown.

3. Colt McCoy

Colt McCoy still has his senior season to go, but he has already established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Longhorn history.

It is also hard to find an athlete in this day and age with his ability and such a humble attitude.

He finished second in the Heisman voting in 2008 and set several season passing records, including completing 77.6 percent of his throws, breaking Daunte Culpepper’s old record.

McCoy rallied Texas to a 24-21 win over Ohio State in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, completing 41 of 59 passes for 414 yards and two touchdowns. He completed a six-yard strike to Quan Cosby for the game winner with 16 seconds remaining.

McCoy already holds almost all of the Texas Longhorn Football passing records and will break several more in his senior season.

2. Earl Campbell

Earl Campbell led Texas to an 11-0 undefeated regular season in 1977 before losing to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl, 38-10.

Campbell rushed for 1,744 yards for an astounding 6.5 yards-per-carry average and scored 19 touchdowns that season.

He was awarded the Heisman Trophy and became the first longhorn to win the award.

Campbell is also the only Longhorn football player to ever knock the Longhorn mascot “Bevo” to the ground.

Please note, “Bevo” is a 2000-pound longhorn steer.

Campbell was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1978, where he won rookie-of-the-year honors. He led Houston to two AFC Championship games, where they fell to their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers.

Campbell is still a fan favorite and volunteers much of his time to helping Austin charities.

1. Vince Young

Do we have to?  His two performances in the 2005 and 2006 Rose Bowls are ridiculous. 

Young led the 2004 Longhorns to an 11-1 season and a Rose Bowl berth against the Michigan Wolverines where he put up five touchdowns, four rushing and one passing.

He rallied Texas in the final seconds as he positioned the Longhorns for a winning field goal. Dusty Mangum converted, and Texas won 38-37.

The following season, Young led the Longhorns to a 12-0 season and the Big 12 Title, setting up an epic battle with undefeated USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

The Trojans had no answer for Young.

He ran for 200 yards, threw for another 267, and put up three touchdowns. He ran eight yards for the go ahead touchdown with 19 seconds remaining to make the final score 41-38 and give the Texas Longhorns their long-awaited fourth National Title.

The game is considered by many to be the greatest in college football history. Young is still hailed as the great conqueror when he returns to Austin for the occasional football game.

The fan response is unbelievable when he is shown on the jumbotron at Darryl K. Royal Memorial Stadium.

Honarable Mention: Ricky Williams, Steve Worster, Roy Williams, Jerry Sisemore, and Jeff Ward.


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