Fifty years in the making some of the guys on the sidelines got a taste of their youth as cheers echoed through the stands at the Honey Bowl Stadium in Uvalde Texas on Friday night.
Uvalde’s high school football team won the state championship in 1972 but that victory pales in comparison to May 24. The group of adolescents became superstars in their community and last weekend, the winners—now in their late 60s—returned to Uvalde to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their victory.
Buck Lanning a member of the 1972 championship team told ABC News that the close-knit group had been together since elementary school. “We had a real good class. … We were running the same plays and same program that we’d been doing since junior high,” Lanning, 67, said.
“We didn’t have any real stars. Uvalde had just a real good set of athletes — every position we had good players.” He emphasized the team’s unity by telling a story about getting into trouble as a kid and how the coaches tried to find the person responsible so they could “fess up.”
“I didn’t fess up. And they’re like, ‘Alright, the whole team is gonna run punishment drills.’ The whole team were in punishment drills for me,” he said. Lanning said the coaches told them, “Until we get the culprit on this, we’re gonna run every day.”
Later in life Lanning recalled the instructors remarked on how much they appreciated the boys’ “willing to sacrifice for each other.” For Lanning 1972 was magical because they “played some real good teams.”
Carla Hamilton Gerdes from the class of 1972 was on Uvalde’s dance team. At the championship she said, “The first time we went onto the field in Austin — Memorial Stadium — our mouths hung open. To be in something that huge was amazing.”
When they won, “we were all down on the field; it was one big ol’ party!” What Gerdes had to say. During halftime of the first home high school football game of the season on Friday, the 1972 squad was honored.
“For those guys to come back and talk to our kids — and a bunch of them still live in the community — they’re just great guys,” current Uvalde football coach Wade Miller said. “We want to honor them and play well.”
The 1972 Uvalde Palomino Fest parade’s Grand Marshalls were the championship team from that year. The weekend’s highlight was a rematch of the championship game, which was held in the Uvalde High School auditorium. Family and friends of the players came to witness the “magic.”
The 1972 team’s Randy Gerdes didn’t have to tell his wife about that remarkable season because she was there. Uvalde’s drill team member and longtime girlfriend Becky Gerdes has been with Randy since their high school days. They’ve got two kids and four grandkids now. She stated she hoped he would return home for the family reunion.
After the tragic shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24 which took the lives of 19 students and 2 teachers it was comforting to reflect on happier times and share in the fond memories that were brought to light.
Former football player Carlos “Charlie” Ramos said, “It still hurting me every day.” Ramos was a survivor of the massacre in 1972. He said that Tess Mata, a 10-year-old who was among the children killed at Robb, was a family acquaintance.
“But we’ve got to continue, we’ve got to be strong and we’ve got to keep going,” 69-year-old Ramos said. In his auto body shop in Uvalde where he still resides Ramos says he learned not to be intimidated by tough situations because of football.
“It’s an encouraging game. It’s a challenging game. You got to be smart and physical,” Ramos said. “I’ve had some difficulties and I just kept on going and think I’ve done pretty good.”
Lanning added, “Our coaches commanded a lot of respect. You had to work hard. … It carried through the rest of my life. It was ingrained.” In a choked-up voice, Lanning expressed his sincere desire for the reunion to be “a ray of sunshine in the darkness.”
For more such updates do follow us only on Venturejolt.