Happy Birthday Freddie Steinmark

Today is a special day for all college football fans who remember one of the most valiant players in the history of the game.

The late Freddie Steinmark would have been 61 today. Anybody who remembers the gritty former Texas safety's valiant fight for life can't shake his memory even though passed away nearly 40 years ago.

Steinmark was a wiry, tough starting safety on the Longhorns' teams in 1968 and 1969 that earned back-to-back Southwest Conference championships. His last game came when the Longhorns rallied to beat Arkansas in a legendary game that has become known as the Game of the Century.

After the Arkansas game, Steinmark felt a dull pain from a deep bruise on his left leg that wouldn't get better. It turned out to be a tumor, a bone sarcoma originating from the bone itself and not the result of a football injury. The cancerous growth led to an amputation of the leg at the hip less than a week after that game.

Less than a month after the amputation, Steinmark astounded doctors and his teammates when he appeared on crutches along the sidelines for the Longhorns' Cotton Bowl victory over Notre Dame.

When linebacker Tom Campbell intercepted Joe Theismann's pass with 29 seconds left to seal that victory, he refused to give it to an official. Instead, he gave the ball to Texas coach Darrell Royal, so it could be presented to Steinmark in the locker room after the game.

Steinmark continued as a freshman football coach during his senior season and later was on target to graduate on schedule.

He also collaborated on "I Play to Win," a book of his experiences with Blackie Sherrod, a legendary Dallas sportswriter.

But Steinmark couldn't overcome the cancer that spread through his body, passing away June 6, 1971, at the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston.

Sherrod wrote a column about Steinmark after his death, closing it with a story about the dedication of the book.

"Freddie has written a book about his experiences," Sherrod wrote. "It will be published this fall. The editor noticed after Freddie was hospitalized, that he had not made a dedication of the book and he asked to whom Freddie wanted to dedicate his story.

"Freddie said to the Lord, who had been so good to him."

One of the major scoreboards at Memorial Stadium was dedicated in Steinmark's memory on Sept. 23, 1972.

The Freddie Steinmark Memorial Scoreboard was dismantled during the stadium's expansion in 2006-2008. It was replaced by a new high-definition scoreboard, but you can still find Steinmark's picture and a plaque dedicated to his memory near the entrance to the Texas team locker room at Darrell K. Royal/Texas Memorial Stadium if you look hard enough.

I still get a lump in my throat every time I see it.