Remembering Lobo, Longhorn great James Street
Sept. 30, 2013 at 10 p.m.
James Street was hearing it all day from the mound when the Lobos traveled to Carthage in the late 1960's.
With his long hair slicked back into a 'dovetail', Street was an out away from the Lobos handing the Bulldogs their first loss of the season as chants of 'pretty boy' rained down from the opposing stands.
With a full count and two outs, Street called time, stepped off the mound and pulled a comb out of his pocket and began combing his hair, sending the already riled-up fans into a frenzy.
"I remember standing on first base and thinking to myself, 'I can't believe this' as the crowd went to hooting and hollering even more," childhood friend and classmate
Eddie Richardson recalled Monday. "He put the comb up, steps up and fires a fastball right down the middle for the strikeout and the win.
"He had more confidence in himself than any athlete I've been around and he had a passion on and off the field."
Street, a four-sport letterman at Longview High School who later led the University of Texas to a national football championship in 1969, died Monday in Austin. He was 65.
While his athletic accomplishments will be forever enshrined in Texas football lore, Street friends remembered him on Monday mostly for his actions off the field.
"You know, as good as an athlete as he was, he was an even better person," long-time News-Journal columnist and 1966 LHS classmate Van Craddock said. "A dad raising his son would have done well to point to James as a role model."
"He was just something else," Richardson said. "Just a great guy, a funny guy – one of the most likeable guys you could be around. After the initial shock of his death, I just sat around laughing while thinking about all the stories and memories."
Street excelled at football, baseball, basketball and track as a Lobo, but the humble beginnings were just the start.
"I know that there's a lot of former Lobos that are awfully proud of James Street and what he accomplished as a Lobo and as a Longhorn," Longview athletic director John King said. "Winning a national championship gave Longview something to identify with."
Street arrived in Austin in 1966 as the Longhorns' seventh-string quarterback. He would leave three years later as a Texas legend.
The former Lobo took over as the starting quarterback two games into the Longhorns' 1968 season. He went on to lead Texas to 20 consecutive wins – most notably the 'Game of the Century,' a come-from-behind 15-14 win over No. 2 Arkansas to close out the regular season. That game was attended by President Richard Nixon, who declared Texas the national champions. The Longhorns went on to defeat Notre Dame later that year in the Cotton Bowl – Street's final game with Texas – to seal the national title.
"James was a great person and obviously a great athlete," Steve Judy, who was a sophomore at Longview behind Street before facing Texas as Texas Christian University's quarterback in the 1969 season, said. "He was a competitor and had a huge will to win."
Undersized by quarterback standards, legendary Texas coach Darryl Royal looked to Street to implement his newly-introduced wishbone offense after a loss and tie to start the season.
"Coach Royal grabbed me and looked at me for a minute as if he were having second thoughts about putting me in. Then he looked me in the eye and said, 'Hell, you can't do any worse. Get in there," Street told the Associated Press when Royal died in 2012.
The rest was history.
Street conducted a game-winning drive later that season in the Cotton Bowl to give the Longhorns a 21-17 and got a handshake from former President Lyndon B. Johnson after the game.
"He earned that starting role and that says something about his grit, determination and drive," King said. "It takes a special guy to run the wishbone offense and James Street fit that mold."
King said the Lobos would honor Street at some point this season, but wasn't sure how or the date as of Monday.
Street was also a baseball standout at Texas, earning all-conference honors and a 29-8 career record off the mound, including a perfect game (1970 vs. Texas Tech) and a no-hitter (1969 vs. SMU). He led the Longhorns to three CollegeWorld Series appearances. His son, San Diego relief pitcher Huston Street, led the Longhorns to a CWS title in 2002.
"He might have been better at baseball than anything else," Craddock said. "Growing up, I played baseball with him for several years and my dad coached. Goodness, James had a smoking fastball. I made the mistake once of warming him up between innings. Never again. My glove hand hurt for three days."
Texas head coach Mack Brown took to Twitter on Monday in response to Street's death, saying "Very sad day as we lost college FB great, good friend & wonderful man with passing of James Street." He also announced that the Longhorns would wear 'JS' decals on their helmets when they play Iowa State on Thursday.
Street went on to a career in finance, founding the 'The James Street Group' in Austin. He is survived by his wife, Janie, five sons and several grandchildren.
Funeral services were pending on Monday.
<em>(The Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow Hayden Henry on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/hayden_h" target="_blank">@hayden_h</a>).</em>