Hall of Famer Rodriguez's Watch Tells Trackster's Tale
DENTON, Texas (6/30/09) ? Nothing can help illustrate a story quite like a piece of memorabilia. In the case of the latest addition to the T.D. Parks North Texas Hall of Fame, Victor Rodriguez and his gold Bulova watch show why 1953 was the year of t
DENTON, Texas (6/30/09) Nothing can help illustrate a story quite like a piece of memorabilia. In the case of the latest addition to the T.D. Parks North Texas Hall of Fame, Victor Rodriguez and his gold Bulova watch show why 1953 was the year of the North Texas tracksters.
A distance specialist, Rodriguez had competed in the 3,000 yard run at the 1953 Kansas Relays the previous weekend, but it looked like Walt Lindsey, the Eagles’ top quarter-miler, would have to return home from the two-week road trip due to a stomach illness.
North Texas’ legendary track coach Winton “Pop” Noah told Rodriguez that he would be taking Lindsey’s place in the first leg of the sprint medley relay at the Drake Relays, opening the door for the junior who was the first Hispanic to earn an athletic scholarship from NT.
Not only were the Drake Relays one of the most prestigious meets in the nation, it was set to be televised before a national audience for the first time in the event’s history. To up the ante, the sprint medley relay was the opening race of the meet.
On that snow-ridden black cinder track in Des Moines, Iowa, Rodriguez paced the opening quarter mile, and his teammates Charles Teague, Ken Smith and Paul Patterson battled through chilling 40-degree rain to win the relay in a time of 3:33.9.
A North Texas day through and through, NT sophomore Emily Lou Bonham from Marshall, Texas was selected the “Drake Relays Queen”, and was given the honor of presenting the team with their winning watches. A gold Bulova wristwatch encrusted with the words “Drake Relays” around the dial, the watch would signify much more than a timepiece for Rodriguez.
“I had never owned a watch before we won that race. I was as poor a devil as anyone who had ever gone to school at North Texas,” Rodriguez said. “At that moment, we were very proud of what we had just accomplished.”
Spurred by the win at Drake, that relay team would also go on to win the esteemed Texas relays in Austin. The occasion marked the first time in school history that North Texas came away from all three prestigious meets (Kansas, Drake and Texas relays) with gold medals in the same event.
Both Rodriguez (2006) and Patterson (2001) would be inducted into the North Texas Hall of Fame within the last decade, just in time for the modern resurgence in Mean Green track.
Under head coach Rick Watkins, NT has sent 12 athletes to the NCAA National Championships since 2001, including Keith Talley, who became the first athlete in school history to take home gold at the Junior USA Championships with his first-place finish in the 200-meter last weekend.
Rodriguez's watch is just one of dozens of pieces of memorabilia at the T.D. Parks Hall of Fame that help tell the rich story of North Texas athletics. If you have a piece of North Texas memorabilia that you think would tell your Mean Green story, feel free to contact Stephen Howard of the North Texas athletic department.