Steve Worster, a two-time Texas All-American and the murderous running back who inspired the creation of the wishbone offense that dominated college football in the 1970s and 1980s, died Saturday at age 73.
Texas announced Worster’s death in a statement Sunday.
Worster, who has been nicknamed “Big Woo” or “Woo Woo” by Longhorns fans, signed with Texas in 1967 as a 6-foot, 210-pound high school star who ran over 5,000 career yards at Bridge City High School in southeast Texas, part of an advertised recruiting class known as the “Worster Crowd”. The group would lead Texas to 30 straight wins and national championships in 1969 and 1970 behind a new offense designed to capitalize on Worster’s strength in front of a floating-footed running back tandem of Ted Koy and Chris Gilbert.
The triangle, as coined by Houston sportswriter Mickey Herskowitz, would become the breakthrough offense of its day, leading Texas to those titles and later followed by the rise of the Oklahoma Sooners of Barry Switzer and the rebound of Bear Bryant in Alabama.
The triangle was introduced by Longhorns coach Darrell Royal’s offensive coordinator Emory Bellard, who had the enviable task of juggling too much talent in the backfield, including Worster, who had rushed for 28 straight games of 100 yards in high school, still the fourth-longest chain in state history.
In the lineup, there were three running backs with Worster, the fullback, lined up directly behind the quarterback. Two ball carriers were positioned further back, on either side of the back, in a Y or triangle shape. Royal recognized Worster’s abilities when Duffy Daugherty, the Michigan State coach, called asking for guidance on the new scheme.
“You don’t want my offense,” Royal said in a 1969 Sports Illustrated article. , straightens his headgear and quietly returns to caucus.”
Since freshmen were ineligible at the time, Worster didn’t start until 1968, when the Longhorns finished No. 3 in the nation. They then went on a historic run over the next two seasons as Worster became a national star, including appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated with the caption “Woo Woo Worster on a rampage”.
The Longhorns went 30-2-1 and won Southwest Conference titles every season. Worster started and finished with 2,353 yards and 36 touchdowns during his career, finishing as the second-leading rusher in Longhorns history at the time. He finished fourth in the 1970 Heisman vote behind Jim Plunkett of Stanford, Joe Theismann of Notre Dame and Archie Manning of Ole Miss.
Worster is a member of the Texas Longhorn Hall of Fame, Texas High School Hall of Fame, and Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame thanks to his 1970 performance against Notre Dame when he rushed for 155 yards on 20 carries in a 21-17 victory over Texas who won a national title.
Worster was already a legendary high school star before arriving in Texas, rushing for 2,210 yards in his senior year, including 249 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-7 win over a McKinney team that had 10 shutouts in 13 games and allowed only 16. points all season. After Worster became a college star, Bridge City residents were so proud they finally voted to incorporate the city after failing twice before, according to former mayor Kirk Roccaforte. Worster literally put his hometown on the map.
“There has never been a more famous high school athlete who has produced at the level of his hype,” said teammate and Texas Athletics Hall of Honor member Bill Zapalac, who was also part of the signing class. from 1967.
After Texas, Worster lost interest in football despite being drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams. He played a season in Canada, before returning home, as he said he was raised “in southeast Texas” and was just interested in earning a decent living and raising a family. .
“Football has given me everything I wanted it to give me and everything I was promised,” he told the Beaumont Enterprise in 2010 when he was honored at Bridge City.
Worster is survived by a daughter, Erin, and a son Scott.