Heartfelt biography of a Texas football star whose life was cut short by cancer.
Inspired by interviews with coaches, teammates and friends and a 1971 autobiography, award-winning sportswriter Dent (Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football, 2007, etc.) tracks Freddie Joe Steinmark’s early years and burgeoning career with the Texas Longhorns. From his childhood in 1950s Denver, Colo., Steinmark’s interest in sports flourished, carefully groomed and profoundly encouraged by his father, a self-made athlete turned cop who’d sacrificed a professional baseball career to raise his son. “A small child with fragile bones” yet dubbed “a born winner” by early mentors, Steinmark’s diminutive stature proved a surprisingly suitable match for his steely, fearless determination on the field. Dent budgets his narrative wisely, proffering equal parts sports achievement and personal accomplishment in tracing his subject’s incremental ascent to greatness as he earned the admiration of fellow teammates like star quarterback Roger Behler. As the Longhorns’ “golden boy” key safety, the “155-pound peach-fuzz kid” exhibited drive and tireless perseverance on the gridiron, making him a respected letterman under Coach Darrell Royal. However, soon after a game-saving field performance, Steinmark suffered a crushing blow when he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer that would eventually claim his life at 22. Dent also includes the story of Steinmark’s shyly romantic courtship of high-school sweetheart Linda Wheeler, an intensive love that endured throughout their tenure together at the University of Texas. The author also bolsters the biography with a fond foreword from current Texas head coach Mack Brown, who, to this day, continues to memorialize Steinmark’s legacy by bringing his photograph along to the team’s away-games.
A superb work that paints the resilient athlete as a fierce competitor and an unforgettable sportsman.