“Let’s kick their ass.” Those were the words Johnny Treadwell spoke to me before kickoff of Longhorn games from 1961-1962. We were on either side of Eldon Moritz in 1961 and Toby Crosby in 1962. So when No. 60 Treadwell would look across at me and give me his short to the point battle motto for games against Oklahoma, Arkansas, Rice, A&M, and our bowl games, I was ready.
When I told that to my wife, who did not know me during my football days at Texas, she said, “Did y’all really talk like that?”
My answer, “To Johnny, football was war.” He was the number “60” at Texas before Tommy Nobis, before Britt Hager. Perhaps Texas fans don’t remember those days anymore or perhaps don’t care but Treadwell’s story is worth remembering. He played at a time when the Longhorns came of age in the Southwest Conference. Darrell Royal had yet to win a bowl game at Texas. Johnny was born and raised in Austin, played High School Football at Austin High but in his senior year he broke his arm early in the season and was overlooked by recruiters except for West Point, who were attracted to his grade point average and recommendations by his high school coaches.
The fact is, it was a Temple DL coach that told Mike Campbell, who was the Texas defensive coordinator for Royal’s 20 years as head coach. “The best lineman in our district is the Treadwell boy at Austin High.” Campbell sat in the Austin High School fieldhouse and watched Treadwell on preseason scrimmage films and the couple of games he played. Those were the days of 50+ plus on football scholarships and Campbell made him an offer.
He was an end on the freshman team at Texas but had, “Hammer-Hands” as his teammates called him. That ended when he was shifted to offensive guard and also played linebacker on the 1960 varsity team. The most he weighed at Texas was 205 but he had the ability to make smashing collisions when he tackled. As a guard, he used his quickness to beat defensive players to the punch. In 1961 he began to call the signals in the defensive huddle and would add his remarks that set the stage for big plays. Those were the days when memorial stadium only sat 64,350 and Darrell Royal’s first sell out came on a hot night when the No. 1 Longhorns faced Frank Broyles’ Arkansas Razorbacks who were ranked No. 7 in the nation and were also undefeated. The year was 1962. There were no more tickets and some Arkansas fans cut through the fence in the back of the south end zone and got on the track around the playing field. National media were there from Wednesday all the way up to the game, interviewing players at lunch at Moore Hill Hall and then attending practices. In those days Texas was only allowed national television for the Oklahoma, A&M, and bowl game so people to this day remember the Kern Tipps broadcast that night or treasure the fact they were in attendance.
In many ways, the 1961 season had set the stage for such a game. The 5-0 Longhorns had been the nation’s No. 1 team often beating Rice 34-7 in Austin and then held off an SMU team on the goal line just before halftime with their old Rose Bowl team standing in the end zone yelling encouragement. Treadwell and the other Texas linebacker stacked SMU’s fullback on fourth down one yard shy of the goal line. James Saxton raced 80-yards on a counter trap play to ignite a 27-0 Texas victory in the 2nd half. Baylor was crushed 33-7 in Austin. TCU upset Texas 6-0 to knock Texas out of the top ranking but the Longhorns rebounded at College Station putting a 25-0 whipping on the Aggies and that brought on the Cotton Bowl and the Ole’ Miss Rebels under Coach Johnny Vaught. Only a 10-7 loss to LSU separated Vaught’s team from an undefeated season and Royal while head coach at Mississippi State and then at Texas had never beaten the Rebels much less won a bowl game as a coach. Period.
In sunny, 41-degree weather in Dallas, Texas intercepted five Ole’ Miss passes, one on which “Hammer Hands” Treadwell slugged the ball high in the air that cornerback Jerry Cook picked off killing the Rebels possible fame winning drive. Texas won 12-7 and thus the Longhorns, who ended the 1961 season as the Nation’s number 3 team, entered the 1962 season as the number one team, which set up the huge game with Arkansas on that humid night. Arkansas was averaging 34 points a game, which was unheard of in 1962. The stage was set in Austin with both teams 4-0. At the end of the third quarter with the Razorbacks holding a 3-0 lead, they reached the Texas 5-yard line where the intense Treadwell said these words in the defensive huddle, “We’ve got them where we want them. They have run out of room. They can’t throw a long pass. They have got to come at us. Ready… Break!”
Two plays later the Razorback fullback trued the counter on the Longhorn line and was met by Treadwell and his fellow linebacker and the ball came out, tumbling into the end zone which Joe Dixon recovered in a mad scramble. As if that wasn’t enough, Texas fumbled the ball at its 22-yard line and Arkansas drove to the 12 and on fourth down. QB Billy Moore tried a sneak at the Texas right side only to be hit squarely in the chest for no gain by Treadwell. The game ended with a 90-yard drive by Texas with Treadwell at guard on 20 plays with a Longhorn touchdown for a 7-3 win.
Following that season, Treadwell was named to the All-American team and got to meet President John F. Kennedy at the Army-Navy game on his way to New York to receive his award on the Ed Sullivan’s TV show. After graduating from Texas, Johnny got an agricultural degree from Texas A&M and became a Vet in Austin.
Those spring days when I would ride in his Jeep in the countryside and talk about what we wanted to accomplish in the fall were priceless. He had a great smile and loved to laugh. He married Peggy, a beautiful woman and they made a great team in his vetenarian business. It was Peggy that attended Johnny so beautifully when dementia began to take over. The action photograph of Treadwell and the Texas defense knocking out the football on that goal line play versus Arkansas use to be in the defensive room of the Longhorns and was the only action photograph Darrell Royal had on his wall during his last days at the Baton Creek assisted living facility.
His teammates called him “chopper” for the way he got to the job alone and I was proud to call him “Johnny.” I miss him already.
Tommy Nobis said it best, “The real number 60 was Johnny Treadwell.” God Bless his passion, his courage, and his friendship. He was the best because he gave it all he had. What more can any person do? That passion rubbed off on those who played around him. There was no “faking it”. It was real and made us winners while we were at Texas.
It will take such passion and effort by future Texas players to return the Longhorns to football prominence. Johnny Treadwell helped ignite such effort and dedication in the early 60’s and it brought about Conference Championships and National Championships in 1963 and 1969.
Pat Culpepper played for The University of Texas from 1960-62 and graduated from UT with a B.A. degree with honors in history. He coached college football for 12 years as an assistant at Texas, Colorado, Tulane, Baylor, and Memphis State and was head coach at Northern Illinois from 1976-79. He also spent 16 years as a high school coach in Texas at Midland, Lufkin, Galveston Ball, Westfield and his hometown of Cleburne. He was selected to the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1991. His commentary appears regularly in the Inside Texas magazine and at InsideTexas.com.