Washington, Leaks Honored

By David Barron the Houston Chronicle
Updated: May 20, 2005

Wishbone backs granted spots in College Football Hall of Fame

HOUSTON, TEXAS–Roosevelt Leaks and Joe Washington Jr., who walked opposite sidelines for the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners during the mid-1970s, will stand side by side in December as part of the newest selection class of the College Football Hall of Fame.



Leaks and Washington were among 11 players and two coaches announced Wednesday as the Hall’s 2005 induction class. The group, which includes Lombardi Award winner Cornelius Bennett of Alabama and Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte of Notre Dame, will be honored at a banquet in New York in December.

Other honorees are Southern California running back Anthony Davis, Pittsburgh offensive lineman Mark May, Michigan defensive back Tom Curtis, Penn State offensive tackle Keith Dorney, Ohio State end Jim Houston, Stanford defensive lineman Paul Wiggin, Illinois wide receiver David Williams and coaches Don Nehlen of West Virginia and Pat Dye of Auburn.

Long history

Leaks, from Brenham, and Washington, from Port Arthur Lincoln, both won All-America honors out of the wishbone.

They faced each other in 1972, 1973 and 1974 with the Sooners winning each time, then were NFL teammates with the 1978 and 1979 Baltimore Colts.

Leaks, although hampered by a leg injury that cost him most of his senior season in 1974, gained 2,923 yards in three seasons, fifth-best in school history. He scored 26 touchdowns and set the Southwest Conference rushing record with 342 yards against SMU in 1973.

His most important contribution to Texas football history, however, was as the first African-American star recruited by coach Darrell Royal.

Texas’ 1969 team was the last team without a black player to win the national championship. The Longhorns’ first black player, Julius Whittier in 1970, was a backup offensive lineman. Leaks was the first African-American to excel on the field for Texas, winning All-America honors in 1973 with a conference-record 1,415 yards, and he paved the way for others, including Earl Campbell.

“There wasn’t anybody in this section of the country that wasn’t offering him a scholarship,” Royal said Wednesday. “He was the first (African-American) superstar, and he opened the way.

“He was a great football player, and he had a wonderful career. He certainly made the University of Texas a more popular place for black athletes to come.”

Well deserved

By contract, Washington, who played for his father — Joe Washington Sr. in high school — followed a well-traveled path of Texas high school stars who went to Oklahoma. He is the Sooners’ third runner from Texas during the 1970s, joining Greg Pruitt of Houston Elmore and Billy Sims of Hooks, to be elected to the College Hall of Fame.

Washington’s 4,071 career yards at OU are second only to Sims’ 4,118 in school history, and his 39 career rushing touchdowns rank fourth.

Among the other honorees, Huarte won the Heisman for Notre Dame in 1964, quarterbacking the Fighting Irish to a share of the national title. Davis finished second in the Heisman voting as a senior in 1974, but his signature game came in 1972 when he scored six touchdowns against Notre Dame.

May is the fourth member of the 1980 Pittsburgh team to make the college Hall of Fame, along with Dan Marino, Hugh Green and Jimbo Covert.


Members of the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2005:

Name Pos. School
Cornelius Bennett LB Alabama
Tom Curtis DB Michigan
Anthony Davis TB USC
Keith Dorney OT Penn St.
Jim Houston E Ohio St.
John Huarte QB N. Dame
Mark May OL Pitt
Roosevelt Leaks FB Texas
Joe Washington Jr. RB Okla.
Paul Wiggin DL Stanford
David Williams WR Illinois
Don Nehlen Coach W. Va.
Pat Dye Coach Auburn