The year 1969 brought a tumultuous decade in American history to a close, capturing a place in our collective memory and, for those of us who weren’t there, in our imaginations.
Texas football fans reveled in the thrill of a National Championship, tempered by news of a cancer diagnosis for gritty fan-favorite Freddie Steinmark just weeks earlier.
Man walked on the moon for the first time and the Civil Rights movement continued its long march toward justice in the wake of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Vietnam War raged overseas, as did the protest movement against it back in the states. On the coasts, Woodstock and Altamont epitomized the contradictions of a baby-boomer generation that would soon evolve from hippies to yuppies.
In Austin, the bones of the city we see today were becoming more visible through infrastructure expansion and commercial development projects.
The UT campus was physically expanding, too, as new buildings began to rise along the East Mall and beyond, including construction of the LBJ Presidential Library and upgrades to Texas Memorial Stadium.
While the specter of an unthinkable tragedy three years before still loomed in the memories of upperclassmen in 1969, the daily rhythm of a busy campus carried on, punctuated by student protests and school spirit rallies.
And then there was football.
The most bittersweet football memories from 1969 are being rekindled by the feature film My All American, which opens nationwide on Nov. 13. The movie tells the tale of Freddie Steinmark, the inspirational heart and soul of the Longhorns 1969 National Championship football team.
After leaving the “Game of the Century” against Arkansas with an injured leg, Steinmark learned that the injury was due to a tumor in his left thigh bone. Though his leg was amputated within days of the diagnosis, Steinmark vowed to be on the sidelines of the Longhorns National Championship Cotton Bowl game three weeks later. Sure enough, he made the trip and received the game ball from Coach Darrell K Royal. [Watch Coach Royal present the ball.]
The following year Steinmark coached freshman football at UT, was a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society and gave motivational speeches across the country. On June 6, 1971, Freddie Steinmark passed away, leaving behind a legacy of inspiration and courage in the face of adversity.