Former Longhorn quarterback James Street, who led Texas to an undefeated season in 1969, died Monday morning at the age of 65.
“When we got the call Monday morning, I just couldn’t believe it,” head coach Mack Brown said. “We have to celebrate who he was. I want the players to understand he’ll have a legacy at this place.”
Street, a two-sport star at Texas, was also an all-conference pitcher with a 29-8 overall record for the baseball team. He arrived at Texas as a seventh-string quarterback but clawed his way to earn the starting spot. An undersized quarterback, Street personified the wishbone attack under former head coach Darrell K Royal and worked closely with offensive coordinator Emory Bellard to perfect the formation.
The wishbone, which features two deep backs with the fullback setup behind the quarterback under center, overwhelmed opponents under Street’s guidance. Street, who snagged the Longhorns’ starting job two games into the 1968 season, didn’t lose a game as a starter, finishing with a perfect 20-0 record.
“Coach Royal grabbed me, and he looked for a minute as if he were having second thoughts about putting me in,” Street said to the Austin American-Statesman in 2012 when Royal died. “Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘Hell, you can’t do any worse. Get in there.’”
Texas players will wear orange decals with the initials “JS” on the back of their helmets in the game against Iowa State to honor Street.
“I see James all the time, I talk to him all the time, he’s got high energy,” Brown said. “I was just shocked that life can end so quickly … Here’s a guy who’s been so instrumental in so many lives in this state and especially at this university.”
Even with his baseball success — he threw a perfect game and a no-hitter in his time at Texas — Street is best known in Austin for football. His biggest moment came in 1969 when No. 1 Texas squared off against No. 2 Arkansas in what was dubbed the “Game of the Century.”
Street led the Longhorns to a pair of fourth quarter scores, which included a 42-yard touchdown, pulling Texas to 14-8 after a two-point conversion. Street added a passing touchdown late to give Texas a 15-14 win. Texas clinched its second national championship with a victory over Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.
The Longhorns will play in memory of Street this week. Brown said Street and Royal — who died in November 2012 — changed the college football landscape with the wishbone formation and said they won’t be forgotten.
“James is very opinioned and strong willed, and coach Royal was the same way,” Brown said. “So they’ll be sitting in heaven watching our game critiquing, and I’m sure I’ll have to feel the heat from them.”
Street, who went on to a career in finance in Austin, is survived by his wife and five sons, including his son Huston, a pitcher for the San Diego Padres.