Bobby Hawthorne began writing a history of football at The University of Texas at Austin as a young boy by clipping articles from his East Texas hometown newspaper. Along the way, he discovered that Longhorn football is much more than just game. It’s a religion.
“Football is Texas’s unofficial religion, and our faith in this team or that transcends the superficiality of reason, logic or experience, or last year’s record,” writes Hawthorne in “Longhorn Football-An Illustrated History,” published in September by the University of Texas Press.
A graduate of the university and former director of academics for the University Interscholastic League, Hawthorne grew up in Longview, watching the Longhorns with his father on the family’s RCA black-and-white TV.
“Where I’m from, you are either for UT or A&M, and I gravitated toward UT,” he says.
His love of watching the game turned into playing it at White Oak High School, where he excelled as defensive back and wide receiver on a 13-1 state semifinal team in 1970.
“I love football,” he says. “I miss being able to play the game. As I said at my step-daughter’s marriage last summer, where I come from, love is a word that’s mostly limited to football, Jesus, old dogs and cold beer, in that order.”
Hawthorne’s passion for football made it easy for him to dive into compiling the 200 iconic photos found in his book and writing the history of Longhorn football from what he calls “a fan’s point of view.”
University of Texas Press Sponsoring Editor William Bishel approached Hawthorne about doing the book in 2005 after another press author recommended him.
“I was immediately impressed by his enthusiasm, and from that point on I was sure he was the right person for the job,” Bishel says. “His talent certainly shows up in his writing, but what sets the book apart from all the other football books is the photography, which Bobby himself selected. That’s where you see his enthusiasm come through, I think.”
Hawthorne combed through numerous campus archives as well as several personal collections for images that tell the story of the last 113 seasons of Texas football, from the 1894 team that shut out six straight opponents through the 2006 Rose Bowl.
“I wanted to follow the story—the ups and downs,” he says. “All of the photos aren’t of the high moments. I also wanted to show that win or lose, the players are doing something remarkable.”
And though the ‘Horns have enjoyed far more winning than losing seasons, Hawthorne knows how to stick with his team. UT lost the first two games he saw in person: the 1971 Cotton Bowl to Notre Dame and the 1972 Cotton Bowl to Penn State. He finally saw them win in person in 1975 against Alabama.