Now living in Houston, San Antonio football legend Warren McVea doesn't visit his hometown very often. One of his boyhood friends, former pro football player Willie Mitchell, would like that to change.
"I'd love to bring him down here more often, not only so we can see him and talk with him, but so he can talk to kids and tell his story," said Mitchell, a building contractor and prominent community leader on the east side of San Antonio. "I know they would listen to him because he speaks from the heart and has a way of connecting with people."
Mitchell was among the more than 300 people who were on hand to watch McVea and six others enshrined in the San Antonio Independent School District Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday at Sunset Station. The SAISD Hall inducted its first class last year, and the ceremony drew so well that the event was moved to a bigger venue for 2016.
McVea, a 1964 Brackenridge High School graduate, helped lead the Eagles to the Class 4A football state championship as a junior in 1962. He went on to star at the University of Houston, where in 1965 he became first black to play major college football at a Texas university, and won a Super Bowl ring with the Kansas City Chiefs. Mitchell, who graduated from Wheatley in 1959, was one of his pro teammates.
"It just feels great to be home," McVea, 69, said while mingling with friends before the induction ceremony. "It's just good to see so many people I haven't seen in years, and have a chance to talk with them. Man, this is great. I'm very grateful for this honor."
McVea fought back tears later when he thanked his family, teammates and Mitchell during his induction speech.
Also enshrined Saturday were:
- Former Edison golfer Christi Cano, who went on to a stellar career at Oklahoma State and played on the LPGA Tour.
- Former Sam Houston boys basketball coach Wayne Dickey, who was as successful in the classroom as he was in the gym.
- The late William Carson "Nemo" Herrera, who guided Lanier to two boys basketball state titles in the 1940s.
- Kathleen Lovejoy, an employee in the SAISD athletic office since 1962 who has worked for seven athletic directors.
- Gabe Rivera, a 1979 Jefferson graduate who earned All-America football honors at Texas Tech before the Pittsburgh Steelers made him their No. 1 draft pick in 1983
- Dorothy "Dottye" Williams, who made history in 1975 when she was hired as the first female assistant athletic director in the SAISD.
Cano, Lovejoy and Williams are the first women to enter the Hall, and Dickey and Herrera are the first basketball coaches to be enshrined.
"It's a wonderful honor to be recognized for my achievements in golf," said Cano, who lives in San Antonio. "It's great to see the district promoting itself in San Antonio and recognizing some of its former athletes and coaches. The district helped us be successful down the road."
Cano, 36, stopped playing golf full time in 2010 and now works in the admissions office at Trinity. She also works as a part-time golf instructor.
"I've been back and forth with that for the last couple of years," said Cano, who graduated from Edison in 1999. "I don't think I'll ever take the competition out of something that I really enjoy doing. It's kind of up in the air. I enjoy being an instructor. I'm looking at getting into coaching at the college level. I got a little experience working with the high school girls at Incarnate Word for a couple of months. I really enjoyed that. It was a lot of fun."
A two-time state champion at Edison, Cano realized a longtime goal when she competed in the LPGA. She qualified for the U.S. Women's Open in 2005, 2010 and 2013.
Williams served as an assistant athletic director in the SAISD for seven years, and was instrumental in helping the district comply with requirements mandated by Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity.
Williams thanked former SAISD superintendent Victor Rodriguez, who was in the audience, and his staff for their support while she took on the district's challenge of complying with Title IX.
"They opened doors and said, ‘We want to take on Title IX. Let's go,'" Williams said. "Thanks be to all of them, we had the vision."
Kathleen Lovejoy was 17 years old and had just graduated from Providence High School when she was hired to work as Kellam's secretary in 1962.
"It's nice to be acknowledged, but I was just doing my job," Lovejoy, 71, said. "When I told Diane Henderson (former SAISD athletic department secretary) that this was going to happen, she said, ‘Well, you've always been told you're going to be buried on the 50-yard line at Alamo Stadium. Isn't this a little bit better?' And it is. I have been saying so much that I did not deserve it. I fully believe that, but it's time to stop that and to thank everybody."
Rivera became a legendary defensive lineman at Texas Tech in the days of the Southwest Conference. Nicknamed "Senor Sack," he was a fierce pass rusher who also could run down ball carriers after they broke on long runs.
"Back then I didn't think of my accomplishments," Rivera, 54, said. "I just enjoyed playing the game and enjoyed my teammates."
The Steelers drafted Rivera with the hope that he would be their next Joe Greene, another rugged defensive lineman from Texas. Rivera played in six pro games before spinal-cord injuries he sustained in a car accident in October 1983 ended his career and left him a paraplegic.
Sam Houston was a perennial boys basketball power in 30 seasons under Dickey, going 751-289 and advancing to the state tournament in 1980, 1983 and 2003 before winning the 4A state title by forfeit in 2005. Dickey was enshrined in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014.