45 Years after the Big Shootout some of the key players reunite!!!!

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45 Years after the Big Shootout some of the key players reunite!!!!

LITTLE ROCK — Forty-five years later, hate and venom were replaced by love, respect and sugar and spice Monday at the Little Rock Touchdown Club.

Spotlighted was delicious blend of a wonderful essence of sports that is nowadays so often in the shadows.

For decades, Arkansans hated James Street, seethed at the very mention of his name. Many could not bear to watch the primitive replay of that 44-yard pass he completed to Randy Peschel that led to the Texas Longhorns’ victory in the “Big Shootout in 1969,” or “Game of the Century,” eventually paving the way for UT to win the national championship.

Street broke the hearts of Razorback fans, cut away part of their soul and the scars were evident for decades.

Fifty years later, the two teams had a reunion and out of rivalry, community and comraderie developed as members of both teams shared stories and reflections. The Texas players openly spoke about how lucky they were to win that day and how much respect they had for Arkansas in the much-hyped (particularly for the era) confrontation of two undefeated teams.

Street and teammate Bob McKay later paid their own way to speak to the Little Rock Touchdown Club and started knocking away barriers, unsharpening horns into plowshares.

The two former “enemies” were heartily welcomed by Razorback fans.

Street was so moved by the respect he was shown by Arkansans that he again paid his own way to come to Arkansas for the premier of the movie about the “Big Shootout” in Little Rock.

“He came back and told us what a wonderful trip he had and how nice the Arkansas people were,” said Bob McKay, an All-American lineman for Texas, teammate and close friend.

It turned out to be Street’s final major public appearance. He died 25 days later.

Members of that 1969 Longhorn team were so moved by Street’s description of his Arkansas experiences that they pooled funds and wrote a check to the Little Rock Touchdown Club to use for something appropriate.

David Bazzel, the creator and head of the club and master entrepreneur, got together with Bruce James, a star defensive end for the Razorbacks who played in theat 1969 game, and the wheels started turning. After consultation with McKay and some of the other Texas players, they came up with the James Street Sportsmanship Award to be given to a player, manager or anyone else connected with a Little Rock high school football team for a body of work of sportsmanship and character traits exhibited by Street.

The UT players from that era said they would fund a $1,000 scholarship in Street’s memory to a worthy recipient as “long as we are standing,” said McKay.

The 12 finalists, nominated by their coaches, were introduced Monday.

McKay and running back Ted Koy were members of that team who traveled to Little Rock on Monday for the awards presentation.

McKay, an offensive lineman, and James, a defensive lineman, butted heads often in that 1969 game. Monday, they were said by side on the dais, sharing a meal and smiles.

“For us, this is what football is all about,” McKay said. “Everybody played as hard as we could and at the end, the scoreboard shows who won, but we could have lost that game … We wanted Street to pass as few times as possible. Our tight end couldn’t outrun my mother. Coach Royal told us afterwards six hands (two players from Arkansas and Peschel) went up for that pass and our two hands somehow came down with it.”

Many were not who would be considered stars on their teams. Some had overcome or were fighting serious illnesses. Some were fulfilling financial obligations to take care of their families. Some were leaders and an inspiration beyond the field. All had special traits.

A man was using sign language as Bazzel introduced the finalists. One of them was from Arkansas School for the Deaf.

Each finalist received a plaque, emblazoned with a picture of Street and former Texas coach Darrell Royal and shooks hands with the Texas representatives.

Dominique Scott of Little Rock Christian was announced as the winner, which was almost an afterthought. They all had persevered ultimately won, just like James Street, who reportedly battled alcoholism in his early days and overcame it to go “drink-free” for 30 years until his dead.

Amid the sweetness, Bazzel got syrupy.

“These people represent not only the essence of sports but the essence of what America is built on,” he said as he saluted them.

And some new-era players got a newly created award from old-school football guys who wanted to honor a teammate who exhibited classic, bedrock principles of success and fortitutde beneath the surface glory.

When those players go home and Google “James Street and Big Shootout,” they’ll understand more.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or david.mccollum@thecabin.net or follow him on twitter @dmaclcd)

Senior Dominique Scott, a visual arts magnet student at Parkview Arts/Science Magnet High School was presented with the “James Street Award” for outstanding sportsmanship for the 2014-15 football season. The award is presented to only one student, and this is the first time it has been presented.

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