I experienced the beginning of the pandemic for the Covid 19 covering the first and last practice on pads of the Fighting Irish 2020 in South Bend, now I live the middle stage of it in Austin. In just 15 days of being here, the Longhorns Stadium name was changed as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Washington Redskins were stripped of their war name, the team created in 1933 and which had on its roster Native Americans players was conquered to display and devour its current owner Daniel Snyder.
Curiously, the colors and inspiration of the Pieles Rojas (Redskins) team that coach Manuel Rodero founded in Mexico in 1970 are born here in the capital of Texas. Coach Darrell Royal led the Longhorns to take over three national championships. Coach Rodero was a friend of Coach Darrell and put his offensive system into practice in the Mexican college football league.
In front of this Texas football venue, nestled in a city that is generally bustling but is quiet and lonely today, the golden sign “Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Memorial Stadium” glows high above a tree-lined prickly pear cactus. The music fell silent in the pandemic and the name of the house of the Long Horns will be “Campbell-Williams Field”, paying tribute to the Rose of Tyler, Texas, Earl Campbell, powerful running back of the Houston Oilers and to the imponderable Ricky Williams, Heisman Trophy winner in 1998 and running back for the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens.
Twenty-one years before the Texas Longhorns faced the Missouri Tigers in Monterrey and Mexico City, the white law hammer was melted when Union Army General Gordon Granger decreed June 9, 1865 in Galveston, Texas the freedom of black slaves. Even so, the changes were not agile and the hatred of the black race was hardly boiling. 73 years passed for the lynchings to stop, the last ones occurred approximately in 1942. It is the repetition of crimes of loathing for the appropriation of land and the contempt for the native American culture as the chilling strategy by the US Army in which Commander John Chivington and the 3rd Colorado Cavalry razed a village in southwestern Colorado in 1865, killing and maiming around 500 Native Americans from the Arapo and Cheyenne tribes, two-thirds were women and children. The brave Cheyennes inspired a group of Young People in Mexico to begin in 1947 the story of the Cheyennes of Vocational 2 of the IPN. Among those young men were runner Javier “Pipo” Mota and QB Manuel “el Gallo” Rodero.
61 years ago the torch that cremated black souls was freed from a stigma, at least in Texas gridirons, institutions made changes. Bobby Smith was in 1959 the first black player at the high school level to be named first team in the All State squad voted by the Texas Association of Sports Writers. Smith played college football with North Texas and professional football with the Buffalo Bills and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The University of Houston Cougars admitted their first player of color in 1964, Warren McVea. For the University of Texas, the rules that were implemented did not have a priority and strong personalities above Coach Royal were the main reason the Longhorns did not have black players. So the decision by the University of Texas student players, safeties Caden Sterns and Josh Thompson, being authentic leaders of the Longhorns community, is applauded.
On the west facade of the stadium is the poster of coach Darrell Royal that is carried on the shoulders of his players in orange jersey and white helmets, that image is not strange for the Redskins who fought for their coach, according to Manuel Rodero Sámano, the “R” logo corresponds to “Rodero” and not to the Washington “Redskins”. I looked at the photograph of Royal not knowing that three days after an American courier corporation would end up with the name “Redskins”. The Washington Redskins have disappeared forever.
After the Longhorns’ first game in 1893, 77 years passed for a black player to be on the roster. Julius Whittier, a native of San Antonio and a graduate of Highland High School in 1969. In that same 1969 the Accion Deportiva Cheyennes were born and the Longhorns were heading into another game for the national championship in the Cotton Bowl, the No. 1 Texas faced No. 9 Notre Dame. Since the Four Horsemen beat Stanford 27-10 in the 1925 Rose Bowl, the Irish had not played a Bowl game.
After 44 years Ara Parseghian led a group of fighters to Dallas who in the middle of the last quarter had taken the bull by the horns and dominated them 17-14, surprisingly Texas QB, James Street, executed a precise drive and threw a great pass to Charles Speyrer, the Longhorns were at the 2 yard line and Billy Dale relapsed the Longhorns’ 21-17 win over Notre Dame, the Cotton Bowl went to Austin and this was the last only White players team who reached the top of college football in the United States.
In 1970 Julius Whittier wore the Texas uniform and the Longhorns had their revenge against the Irish who went to the Cotton Bowl as No. 6 in the country. The Irish dominated the Longhorns 24-11 at the Cotton Bowl Rodeo, breaking their 30-game winning streak. 1971 came and the Notre Dame Freshman team traveled to Mexico City to face another team wearing the Texas orange at the Azteca Stadium. It was the year the Pieles Rojas debuted in college football, it wasn’t easy for the Sports Action rookies and taking on other rookies, guys who shone as college boys and in the NFL. It was a bloody fight on the Azteca Stadium grid in which the Irishmen’s “Freshman” team annihilated the Pieles Rojas 82-0.
These are the Irish who face the Redskins at the Azteca Stadium and who were national champions in 1973, later playing in the NFL: Mike Fanning (DT), who played Super Bowl XIV with the Los Angeles Rams, Drew Mahalic (LB ), played with the San Diego Chargers and the Philadelphia Eagles. Tom Clements (QB), who played with the Kansas City Chiefs and became a QB coach for the Green Bay Packers when he won Super Bowl 45 and is currently responsible for QBs for the Arizona Cardinals.
The Pieles Rojas’ success was that Coach Rodero led that rookie team to take on the powerful Irish. They learned from pride and the Redskins rookies 4 years later reached the major league final. On November 29, 1975 my brother Iván, my father and Rodero’s student, Rubén Ureña Gómez and I witnessed an epic battle in which the Redskins blew up the Ciudad de los Deportes Stadium in a duel to the death against the Borregos Savages of the Tecnológico de Monterrey. It was the first time that an independent team and a Monterrey team had contested the major league championship. It was a stamp of aggressive plasticity in the plays performed by brave Redskins like Francisco Hernández and Agustín Águila in the explosion of their careers towards the end zone, the Pieles Rojas defense closed the gaps to black running back Ronnie Washington. The Pieles Rojas framed the Borregos 52-13 to establish themselves as National Champions.
What if that game would be planned to take place at the Estadio Aztecain 2020? What would be the reaction when announcing the game REDSKINS vs FIGHTING IRISH? Should the name of the Irish be changed because it is identified with the stereotype of swashbuckling, obscene immigrants due to the effects of whiskey? This game would of course be behind closed doors. Notre Dame recruiting QB Tyler Buchner could be ready to throw passes to Lorenzo Styles Jr, and defensively Gabriel Rubio could be annihilating the Mexican QB of the Pieles Rojas tribe, or perhaps this Redskins team would fight bravely along the scrimmage line and could control the Freshman Irish with their sophomores and juniors.
Coach Manuel Rodero was used to the forced name changes of his teams, the Polytechnic prohibited him from using the nickname of Cheyennes in 1970 and the Redskins one in 1995. What makes the Pieles Rojas – Longhorns equation extraordinary is the result of two coaches who believe in discipline and intensity, feeling hot blood running through their veins, Royal and Rodero sharing the 52 veer and the wishbone formation, two teams that shared the same colors and guts, facing the most powerful teams in their path to become absolute champions.
This fall sadly the gridirons in Mexico will be empty while in Texas the kids will seek equality and focus their energy to live and expand their souls in the pursuit of glory in times when families have been punished by the Covid 19, the emptiness and their wounds due a diversity of emotions that were forgotten and annihilated, the next generations of the Long Horns, Cougars and Mustangs will fight in Austin, Houston and Dallas so the history of hatred and segregation does not repeat itself. American football in Texas is as powerful as the impact of outcry from forgotten players. It is the eternal fight for equality represented 51 years ago at the University of Mexico Olympic Stadium, right after Tommie Smith and John Carlos swept the 200m race at the Olympics. The black glove cuff that appeared in Mexico in 1968 has risen to the sky.