AUSTIN — Julius Whittier broke down barriers for future African Americans who followed his path to the University of Texas football program.
Former Longhorns spoke about Whittier's legacy and his inspiration, including Norman Watkins, who played linebacker at Texas from 1991 to 1994. "If you don't know your history, you truly can't appreciate who you are," said Watkins.
Whittier, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 68, was one of the first black athletes to receive a football scholarship. The San Antonio native was a three-time All Southwest Conference lineman and tight end for the Longhorns. He also played for Darrell Royal's third national championship team in 1970.
According to this excerpt from the book, "What it Means to Be a Longhorn," courtesy of Bill Little, the decision to to attend the University of Texas was a no brainer for him.
"I came to Texas because it was big time football 80 miles from home and I loved Central Texas. I was in the right place at the right time. I think it was divine - of God - because there were enough white people up there, if they'd wanted to kick my (explicit), they could have done it. Coach Royal was the right coach, Mike Campbell was the right recruiter and the group of guys that were there, were the right group. A few of my colleagues let their tongues slip, but I was comfortable that they didn't mean me any harm. I didn't care that some had ideas that were antithetical to integration. I didn't care."
Whittier showed great bravery and drive to further his education without any knowledge of the prominent figure.
"I'm very thankful and appreciative for Mr. Whittier paving the way so that I could go to the University of Texas to play a sport I love. And most importantly, graduate from one of the finest academic institutions in the country," said Watkins.
Rodrick Walker, who played running back for the Longhorns in the 1990s, expressed the same appreciation.
"Mr. Whittier is a pioneer, not just for black football players at the University of Texas, but for all black athletes here," said Walker. "He set a standard that we all strive to maintain. He's simply one of the best."
Vince Young also shared his appreciation for Whittier via Twitter.
Whittier earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from UT and later completed his law degree at Texas as well. He finished his career as a senior prosecutor in the Dallas County District Attorney's office, where he retired in 2012.
One year later, he was inducted into the Longhorn Hall of Honor.
Whittier's legacy will forever continue to live on and the current Longhorns will remember his contributions as a true legend by wearing the initials JW on the back of their helmets at the Kansas State game Saturday.