One of Gil's most heroic accomplishments was offering Sid Blanks in 1960, who became the first African-American football player at an integrated school in Texas. What followed were stories of the obstacles Steinke and his teams faced in the seasons after Blanks joined the team. Steinke and his team would leave restaurants and hotels that didn’t welcome minorities. Blanks, with the support of his teammates, eventually went on to serve as a team captain in 1963, another first for a black player at an integrated school in the state or in the south.
In what became one of the most unorthodox trademarks in coaching history, Steinke left the sidelines and went into the stands to watch and call plays. “The worst place to watch a game is on the sidelines,” Steinke would say at the time. He said the press box was “too hectic”. He had a coach with him and would send the aide back and forth to the sidelines to give the coaching staff instructions.
On many occasions, he would be seated in the opponent’s fan section. All that meant was that he had made friends with people from another school.
He sent a stream of athletes into the pro ranks, including six who were first-round draft choices. These included Gene Upshaw, an all-pro performer for the Oakland Raiders, and James Hill, who was selected by the Green Bay Packers. Upshaw went on to become the executive director of the NFL Players Association and Hill continues to be one of the top television sportscasters in the Los Angeles area.
Eight other Javelinas were selected in the second or third round.
Steinke played for the Javelinas out of high school in Ganado, Texas.
He held several Javelina rushing records for years after finishing his career.
Steinke was in the U.S. Navy during World War II and when he returned, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles for five years where he led the NFL in punt returns and led the Eagles in interceptions in 1947.
Steinke died in May 1995 but his legacy will continue as long as there is college football.
Although his entire head coaching career was at a NAIA college division school deep in south Texas, the milestones the Javelinas accomplished under his guidance can stand up to those posted by any college, at any level, at any time in college football history. Gil was an honorable man whose story should never be forgotten.
Special Thanks to Texas A&M Kingsville Coordinator for External Affairs and CoSIDA Secretary Emeritus Fred Nuesch for his contributions to this article.
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