EL PASO — Three former Big Spring football players were among those honored recently at the 50-year anniversary of the Sun Bowl — the University of Texas at El Paso's venue and also where Jack Ed Irons, Jerry Tucker and Dexter Pate played collegiate football. Except five decades ago, it was known as Texas Western University.
While at Big Spring, the trio were all captains of the football squad. They played baseball together and led what Irons descibed as a very close-knit Steer team back in 1961.
“We've been together for a long time,” said Irons, who now lives in Dallas. “And we're still good friends. There was a real close group of 11 or 12 of us seniors. Our time in El Paso was fun because I knew them. Of course, we were small, we are all about 5'1'', 165 pounds, but we played hard. We called ourselves the Raiders. We wanted to be called something different. The Raiders stormed the beach at Normandy.”
In the 60s, BSHS was a 4A program, the biggest it got. The Steers competed in a district known as the Little Southwest Conference and included schools such as Odessa Permian, Midland Lee and Abilene High.
“We were definitely the smallest 4A school,” Irons said. “But we were all competitive.”
When their time in Big Spring was up, Irons, Tucker and Pate stormed into Sun Bowl stadium, too. Irons remarked that one of his most memorable moments on the field was the opening kickoff of the inaugural game at the brand new stadium in 1963 in a game against North Texas State.
“Our halfback Larry Durham ran 54 yards for a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage in the first ball game.” Irons recalled. “That was very memorable. It was a great experience. I have a lot of good memories with these guys.”
Though the Miners only went 3-7, the following year, Bobby Dobbs was tapped to lead TWU and a new era was born. The next season, a much better 8-2 record was posted and Miner football gained steam. Dobbs left the school having compiled an overall record of 41-35-2, including two Sun Bowl victories.
Irons' teammate and Miner QB Billy Stevens went on to play for the Green Bay Packers. Another, Chuck Huges, played for the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions.
But Irons is still proud of his high school alma mater and all of the success it has had in turning out pro athletes. Though the unofficial count is 19 former BSHS players to go on to the NFL, Irons said there's likely more.
“I saw a list with the names from Big Spring and my brother, Mikel Irons, wasn't on it. He played for Green Bay,” Irons said. “So there's probably even more that have gone to the NFL.”
Though all three have moved away from Big Spring, they remember their time here fondly.
“We had such a camaraderie,” Irons added. “Growing up in Big Spring, Texas was fantastic. We still talk about our time there. I still have some real close friends in Big Spring.”