Dave Campbell’s football creation remains relevant more than 60 years later
If you played or coached high school football in our state over the last 62 years, odds are your name appeared in Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine (DCTF).
Campbell died last weekend at age 96, but the magazine he created seven decades ago continues to touch the lives of those involved with Texas schoolboy football.
The magazine, started in 1960 by Campbell during his 40-year run as sports editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald newspaper, originally gave more space to college than high school. There was no internet in those days, no talk radio to keep college football at the forefront, and no year-round coverage of college football.
When Texas Football hit the newsstands in the summer, it was perhaps the first – and certainly the most in-depth – reading about your favorite college team of the entire offseason. Nowadays, we almost instantly knew when Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Before the internet, you had to wait for DCTF to know who your favorite college team’s new starting quarterback was going to be, and what newcomers were supposed to make the biggest impact. Now you can know those things before some of the assistant coaches.
DCTF is still thriving today because it has changed with the times. When media reporting of offseason and spring practice made keeping up with your favorite college team easier, Texas Football shifted gears and began devoting more pages to the high schools. A lot more space was given to the recruiting of the top Texas high school players, with many going to play for Texas universities.
Most of the high school information remains in the back of the printed magazine – behind the college teams – but the high schools now get more pages since their information is fresher.
DCTF has also changed with the digital age. Even though the printed magazine remains popular – it has grown from 100 pages in the 1960s to 400 this year – a wealth of information about Texas college and high school teams is also available on the website, texasfootball.com.
Even with all the other information available on the internet, DCTF has kept its title as the “bible of football in Texas.” The print arrival in early July still signals the unofficial countdown to the start of football season.
The magazine – especially past editions – remains a source of informational nuggets you can’t always find on the internet.
For example in 2019, San Saba was ranked No. 4 in Class 2A Division I after a school-best 14-1 record and state semifinals appearance in 2018. Someone asked if the Armadillos had ever been ranked that high in the preseason.
A call to lifelong friend Ray Frazier, who lives in Brownwood, quickly produced the answer. Frazier has a printed copy every DCTF ever published, and he quickly reported back that San Saba was ranked No. 1 in 1979. Most of the Class 1A lead-in story was about San Saba, tabbing them the “Bad News Armadillos” because they had lost so many games during much of the 1970s.
The Armadillos finished 7-5 in 1979, but what the heck. Theirs made for a good story to read when you’re craving football news during a hot Texas summer.
Back in 1966, Texas Football nailed it in Class 4A, picking San Angelo Central as its preseason No. 1 team. Amarillo Tascosa was ranked No. 2, and a big showdown with Central was forecasted. But the Bobcats easily beat Tascosa 37-6 in the state quarterfinals on the road to the 1966 state championship.
Also in 1966, the magazine nailed the top three teams in Class 1A in White Deer, Forney and Sonora. Sonora was picked No. 3, but the Broncos beat White Deer in the state quarterfinals and Forney in the semifinals on the way to the state championship.
Brownwood was ranked for all its state championship seasons – after the Lions surprised everyone in Gordon Wood’s first season as coach in 1960 and won state. In 1960, Brownwood wasn’t even picked to win its district.
For their other six state titles under Wood, the Lions were ranked No. 6 in 1965, No. 9 in 1967, No. 8 in 1969, No. 4 in 1970, No. 3 in 1978, and No. 5 in 1981. The 1969 Brownwood team avenged a 49-8 playoff loss to Lubbock Estacado, which had stunned everyone in 1968 by winning state as a first-year varsity program.
When Mason won its first state title in 2011, DCTF ranked the Punchers No. 5 in Class 1A. Mason running back David Mora was the Class 1A featured player after he set a single-season national record with 498 carries in 2010.
In 1969, the season Texas and Arkansas played for the national championship when it was determined before the bowl games, DCTF interestingly picked Arkansas over Texas to win the Southwest Conference. Arkansas led Texas 14-0 entering the fourth quarter before the Longhorns rallied for a 15-14 win in a game still known as “The Big Shootout.”
FYI, the top high school quarterback in Texas in 1969 was Brownwood’s Jimmy Carmichael.
The coverboys of DCTF has been a Who’s Who of football in Texas over the last 60 years. If you want to stump your friends at trivia, the first coverboy was Texas running back Jack Collins in 1960.
In 1965, Donny Anderson made the cover. “The Golden Palomino” went from tiny Stinnett in the Texas Panhandle to an All-American career at Texas Tech to playing for Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers in the late 1960s.
Coverboys from the 1960s also included end Lawrence Elkins from Brownwood, who starred at Baylor; and lineman Scott Appleton from Brady, who helped Texas win a national title in 1963.
Later on, coverboys included Mike Singletary of Houston Worthing and Baylor, who became the defensive captain of the vaunted 1985 Chicago Bears’ defense; Rockport High and Texas A&M linebacker Dat Nguyen, the first Vietnamese-American to be drafted, to play, and to be recognized as an All-Pro in the NFL; and Patrick Mahomes of Whitehouse and Texas Tech, who’s now a league MVP and Super Bowl winning quarterback in the NFL.
Shea Morenz, who led Central to the state semifinals in 1991, was on the cover in 1994 as the starting quarterback for the University of Texas.
In 2000, Cedric Benson became the first high school player to appear as the dominant figure on the cover. It was a good choice, considering Benson led Midland Lee to three consecutive high school state championships, finished as the No. 10 all-time NCAA D-I career rusher while at Texas, and ran for 6,000 yards in the NFL. Benson died in 2019 in a motorcycle crash at age 36.
Coaches who appeared on the cover run the gamut from Darrell Royal to Grant Teaff to Jackie Sherrill to Spike Dykes to Mack Brown to Jimbo Fisher.
Of course, when you select a coverboy for 60 years, there are some you’d prefer to take back. Like in 2013 and 2014, when DCTF chose Johnny Manziel and Art Briles, respectively. Of course, you couldn’t argue with either selection at the time.
FYI, when the “Bad News Armadillos” from San Saba were ranked No. 1 in 1979, the coverboy was Steve McMichael, who started out at tiny Freer in South Texas, was a collegiate All-America defensive tackle at Texas, and was the “Mongo” of the 1985 Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears’ defense.
Mike Lee writes a weekly high school football column for the USA Today Network's Texas newspapers. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.