After becoming Texas Tech's all-time most winning football coach, an emotional Mike Leach saluted Spike Dykes, the man whose record he broke. His voice cracking, Leach said, "I don't think us young guys give the old guys like Spike nearly enough credit."
With the announcement that Texas Tech will establish a football Ring of Honor, the athletic department has the opportunity to give credit where it is most due. Rather than predictably enshrine the greatest Red Raiders in the first class to enter the Ring, athletic director Kirby Hocutt and the committee charged with nominating the inaugural group could do something better. They could honor those men whose talents and labors laid the foundation of the football program.
It was these gentlemen, whose Texas Tech careers fell in the 30s, 40s and 50s, that brought fame and glory to Red Raider football, and in so doing, made possible the exploits of later luminaries such as Zach Thomas, Wes Welker, Michael Crabtree, and a coach named Leach. With that in mind, here is one man's nomination for the Ring of Honor's first class.
Pete Cawthon: Long before anybody heard of Spike Dykes and Mike Leach, there was Pete Cawthon. This colorful Houstonian coached the Red Raiders from 1930 through 1940, winning 79 games and losing 27. In 1938 Cawthon also coached the first Tech team to go undefeated during the regular season. That squad played in the Cotton Bowl, losing to St. Mary's 20-13.
But the larger-than-life Cawthon was about more than wins and losses. He promoted Texas Tech football by traveling the span of the country to play, and he clothed the—then—Matadors in uniforms that caught the eye.
In 1937 Cawthon's squad became the first college football team to travel by plane to play an opponent. And his teams, tricked out in solid red satin uniforms, became known as the "Red Raiders." After one particularly disgruntling loss, Cawthon said to his flashy, high-flying team, "I feeds ya' like Notre Dame. I dresses ya' like Notre Dame. And ya' plays like Oklahoma Normal!"
Elmer Tarbox: Pete Cawthon's greatest Texas Tech player was running back Elmer Tarbox. But Tarbox was more than just an exceptional ball carrier. In an age when gifted performers sometimes played on both sides of the line of scrimmage, Tarbox was also a stellar defensive back.
Hence, in 1938 Tarbox led the nation with 11 interceptions in an era when the forward pass was merely an afterthought! In that 1938 season, Tarbox also scored nine touchdowns in only 10 games.
Tarbox's football accomplishments are all the more remarkable considering that he didn't even play high school football. And after his collegiate football career, Tarbox declined the opportunity to play professionally.
Walt Schlinkman: They don't name them like Walt Schlinkman anymore. And Texas Tech's bruising fullback from the 1940s played as good as his name.
The Channing, Texas native earned first team Little All America honors in 1945. He was the first Red Raider to rush for 200 yards in a game, chugging for 206 against Creighton in 1942. That record stood for 36 years before a certain James Hadnot came along to break it. Schlinkman's 871 yards rushing in 1945 was also a school record. The Green Bay Packers selected Schlinkman in the first round of the NFL draft and he played five seasons for that storied franchise.
Bobby Cavazos: The third great running back from Texas Tech's early days was Kingsville's Bobby Cavazos. And like Elmer Tarbox, Cavazos was the MVP of one of Tech's greatest football teams. Tarbox was the bellwether of the Cotton Bowling 1938 team, while Cavazos was the engine behind Tech's 1953 squad, which went 11-1, demolished Auburn in the Gator Bowl, and finished the season ranked No. 13.
Cavazos earned second team All America notice in 1953, scoring a school record 80 points along the way. Cavazos finished as Tech's all-time leading rusher with 2, 278 yards. He was also a three-time All Border Conference performer.
E. J. Holub: The one member of this group who will very likely be in the inaugural class of Tech's football Ring of Honor is E. J. "Double Tough" Holub. Simply put, Holub was one of the greatest all-around players college football has ever seen, and that is why he is in the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend.
In addition to being a terrific linebacker, Holub was a two-time All American center for Tech in 1959 and 1960. He carried his multi-position exploits to the NFL where he starred for the Kansas City Chiefs on both sides of the ball. To this day he remains the only football player to start two different Super Bowls at two different positions. Holub was an NFL All Star and/or All Pro in every season from 1961 through 1966.