Thursday, Aug 26 at 2:07 PM
Most of them are retired and grandfathers now, the memories of their youth becoming more distant with each passing year.
But on the last Wednesday of each month for the past two years, a dozen or so members of Brackenridge High School’s 1962 football state-championship team have met for breakfast and turned back the clock.
They rib each other, just as they did as kids, and reminisce about an experience in their lives that will bind them forever.
“It was special,” said Claudis Minor, a 16-year-old senior offensive lineman that season. “It will never happen again.”
Guided by coach Weldon Forren and fueled by the potent combination of running back Warren McVea and quarterback Vic Castillo, the 1962 Eagles beat Borger 30-26 in Abilene for the Class 4A title three days before Christmas.
Forty-eight years later, Brack remains the last inner-city San Antonio high school to win a football state title.
Thirteen former players gathered Wednesday at a restaurant near their alma mater, spending nearly two hours talking as much about current events, grandchildren and their health as they did the days of yore.
But in the end, the conversation always came back to that magical season when the Eagles defied the odds.
“It means a lot to get together with these guys,” said Robert Wade, a 16-year-old senior fullback/cornerback in 1962. "It’s good to reminisce about our games, practices and our trips. We also talk about other things. It’s a lot of fun. We’re like a family.”
Eddie Villarreal, a senior tight end/linebacker, agreed.
“I look forward to coming to this every month,” said Villarreal, 65. “It’s always great to see these guys.”
The idea for the 1962 Eagles to meet monthly was initiated by Castillo, a retired teacher, coach and administrator.
“It’s a unique situation as far as the cohesiveness that we have,” Castillo said. “We accomplished something out of the ordinary and then there’s the makeup of the team. We were very close.”
Except for starting safety David Hardin, whose father was Angelo and mother was Hispanic, the Eagles’ roster was composed of Hispanics and African Americans.
“Coach Forren said I was the Great White Hope,” Hardin said, chuckling.
In those days, students in the San Antonio Independent School District were allowed to attend a SAISD high school outside their neighborhood school’s attendance zone.
“We had guys on our team from different junior highs on the East Side and West Side,” Castillo said. “But we all got along.”
Pete Bautista, a halfback/cornerback who was arguably the best two-way player on the team, said the Eagles took pride in representing the inner city.
“We were all home boys from the barrios,” said Bautista, 66. “We respected each other and tried to do what was right for each other.”
Minor, 64, looked around at his former teammates Wednesday and marveled at how their temperament hasn’t changed much since that championship season.
“The way you see them carry themselves now is pretty much how they carried themselves on the field back then,” Minor said. “We knew we were a special team and we carried ourselves as champions. Really, we won state before we played that last game.”
But the Eagles’ chances of going far in the playoffs – much less capturing the crown in what was then the UIL’s largest classification – appeared remote after a loss to Corpus Christi Miller dropped them to 4-3.
A master motivator, Forren made a bold prediction to his players when the Eagles were barely above .500.
“He said, ‘We’re going to win state,’” said Wade, 63. “I remember the players looked at each other and it was like, ‘Yea, OK, right.’ It went in one ear and out the other. But Coach Forren kept believing in us and instilling the belief that we were going to win state.”
Brack bounced back from the loss to Miller with a 47-0 rout of Lanier and never lost again that season, winning seven consecutive games to finish 11-3.
Underdogs throughout the playoffs, the Eagles beat Highlands 21-13 in bidistrict and Brownsville 38-13 in the quarterfinals before surprising highly heralded Houston Spring Branch 30-23 in the semifinals at Rice Stadium.
“We never got the credit we deserved,” said Hardin, 65. “Even after we beat Spring Branch, we were underdogs against Borger.”
George “Mickey” Cook, a sophomore lineman on the varsity in 1962, said he believes the Eagles were underestimated in the playoffs because of their race and ethnicity.
“We were a bunch of Hispanics and blacks,” said Cook, 62. “I give Coach Forren a lot of credit. Besides being an extreme disciplinarian, he was a master motivator. He could get you ready to play.”
Castillo was outstanding in the title game, completing 14 of 28 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, two to McVea, to earn a spot in the Texas high school record book.
Castillo’s 256 passing yards stood as a record for a 4A state championship game until Lee’s Tommy Kramer threw for 257 in the Volunteers’ 28-27 victory over Wichita Falls in 1971.
“We just jelled that season,” Castillo said.
Castillo completed 112 of 225 passes for 2,145 yards and 25 TDs in 1962, becoming the first high school player in state history to pass for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
No story about Brack’s 1962 team would be complete without recalling the bountiful talents of “Wondrous” Warren McVea, who ran circles around defenses with his speed and elusive moves.
Put simply, McVea was ahead of his time.
“I take a tremendous amount of pride in having played with McVea,” Wade said. “We couldn’t have won it without him.”
Said Hardin: “McVea was unbelievable. In my opinion, he’s the best back ever in San Antonio and one of the best in the state.”
McVea, who went on to star at the University of Houston and play professionally, lives in Houston.
Bautista was a dual threat as a runner and receiver, and made defenses pay dearly when they keyed on McVea.
“Everybody talks about McVea, but Bautista was a hell of a halfback,” Minor said. “He played defense, too, and was a mean guy.”
Forren, who coached at Brack for 12 seasons from 1958-69, died of a heart attack in 2002 at age 72.
Only 33 when he led the Eagles to the state championship, Forren was a disciplinarian who commanded respect on and off the field.
“He was real firm, real hard on us,” Bautista said. “But we could be pretty wild. It took someone like him to get us in line.”
Herbert Lacy, a sophomore end, recalled what it was like to play for Forren.
“If you missed an assignment, you heard about it,” said Lacy, 62, “You knew there would be consequences.”
But as tough as he could be, Forren also had a soft spot in his heart for every player he coached.
“He was always there for us,” said Isidro Villalobos, 65, a senior two-way tackle in 1962.
Minor shared an anecdote about Forren’s funeral that nails the rock-solid relationship Forren had with his former players.
“I was a pallbearer,” Minor said. “The casket was pretty heavy. I remember the guy with the funeral home was pretty concerned that we might drop it. I finally told him, ‘Coach never dropped us. What makes you think we’re going to drop him?’ I don’t think the guy liked what I said.”
No doubt, Forren would have been proud of Minor.