Standing on the sidelines at the end of Baylor's 30-22 win over Texas Saturday night at DKR/Texas Memorial Stadium, I couldn't help but think of the late Judge Bill Logue and how much he would have enjoyed this moment.
Logue served as 19th District Court Judge in Waco for nearly four decades (1960-99) and was so well-respected that he ran unopposed in every race that he ran from 1954 until the day he retired.
But I knew Judge Logue as probably the most passionate Baylor fan I've ever met. A lover of all things green and gold, he was especially fond of the Baylor football, baseball and men's and women's basketball teams.
What a great day it was on Nov. 25, 1989, when Judge Logue had the indescribable privilege of standing on these same sidelines as an invited "coach" and guest of then-Baylor head coach Grant Teaff. Logue had developed esophageal cancer earlier that year, undergoing chemo therapy and a nine-hour surgery in Houston, and Teaff had predicted that his friend would beat the cancer.
When the Bears destroyed Texas, 50-7 - Baylor's first victory in Austin in 38 years - an elated Teaff said, "It's over, baby!" But no one in that stadium had a bigger smile than Judge Bill Logue. This was his victory, his moment.
"There was not a happier person in that stadium than the man who made a difference in the Texas game - Bill Logue," Teaff wrote in a tribute to Logue that appeared in the Waco Today magazine in January 1999. "I love Bill's positive attitude, his since support for his school, for being the great husband and father that he is, and of course, for being an inspiration to all who knew him."
Logue died five years ago at the age of 81, never getting a chance to see the Bears become bowl-eligible in the Big 12 era. But at least he did get to see his beloved Bears beat the Longhorns three more times, the last coming in 1997 at Floyd Casey Stadium.
I've got to think Judge Logue was up there smiling on Saturday, when the Bears beat Texas for the first time in 13 years and won in Austin for the first time since back-to-back victories in 1989 and '91. Oh, boy, he would have been grinning from ear to ear.
I also thought of Mickey Humphrey, my former roommate and longtime co-worker at the Waco Tribune-Herald. Mickey was a University of Texas graduate who had covered the Baylor football beat before I took it in 1987. Mickey remained an orangeblood at heart, but he had also grown to love the Bears through the years before he died in 1999 of a brain tumor.
And I thought of two of my favorite all-time journalists and Baylor grads, Dave Campbell and Jack Loftis. I'm sure that both of them were at home watching on TV, but I wish they both could have been there with me in the press box and shared in that moment down on the field at the end of the game.
This one was for Judge Logue, for Mickey, for Dave and Jack and for all those long-suffering Baylor fans that bleed green and gold. I just wish you could have been there with me to enjoy it.
Sic 'em Bears!
Some NFL players - Bret Favre comes to mind - have had a hard time walking away from a game that's played such a big part in their lives.
But two years ago, when he was still trying to make a miraculous comeback from a freakish injury in which he tore the patella tendons in both knees, Gary Baxter just knew, "it was time."
"I always tell people that as players, we all plan and kind of figure out how we're going to get there," said Baxter, a former Baylor cornerback (1997-2000) who will be honored as a Baylor Legend during Saturday's game against Kansas. "But no one ever plans for or sees the day that they're going to leave. For me, it was a tough decision, but it was time for a career change. I just felt like that was the first quarter of my life. It served me well, it got me to a great place in my life, and now it was time for me to go on to the next stage."
Until he signed a six-year, $30 million free-agent contract with the Cleveland Browns in March 2005, Baxter had never missed a game because of an injury. But he missed all but eight games in three seasons with Cleveland, suffering a torn pectoral muscle in '05 and then tearing both of his patella tendons on the same play in a game against Denver on Oct. 22, 2006.
"You're always going to get some bumps and bruises, but nothing that ever took me off the field," said Baxter, a second-round pick by Baltimore in 2001 who started 46 games in three seasons for the Ravens. "It was just a very tough time in my life. You want to play the game you've been playing your whole life, and you're dealing with the politics of being a high-paid free agent. And just the fact that, for me, it was unchartered territory. Basically my whole career, I had never gotten hurt."
Having the distinction of being the first NFL player in 13 years to tear the patella tendons in both knees, Baxter confounded all of the doctors by returning to the practice field for the start of training camp in July 2007. Although he never played in a game - he was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 23, 2007 and then released the next August - it was a miracle that Baxter was able to come back at all.
"Just the fact that I was able to get back on the football field, period . . . my goal was accomplished," he said. "I remember the day I walked out on the field and got to practice. And then the biggest thing was when I actually made an interception in practice and took it upfield. That was a major accomplishment."
For anyone that knows Baxter, nothing he does comes as a surprise.
He was part of a 1994 state championship team at John Tyler High School in Tyler, Texas, that "only lost three games from my freshman to senior year."
That team success didn't carry over to his days at Baylor, where the Bears won just seven games in his four seasons. But Baxter was still good enough to reap individual awards, becoming the program's first first-team All-Big 12 pick at an offensive or defensive position.
"You've got to have fun, no matter what you do," said Baxter, who has an infectious smile and boastful mouth that he carried on the field with him. "And at the same time, I played the game with a lot of passion and a lot of attitude behind it. For me, it was all about trying to defy the odds in everything that you do. Most people, when they played Baylor, thought it was going to be a cakewalk. So I thrived on being able to compete with some of the best receivers in the country."
Baxter got that chance as a sophomore cornerback in '98, when he survived a one-on-one test from Torry Holt and then blocked the game-tying field goal in a 34-31 upset of then-No. 20 North Carolina State in '98. A little more than three years later, when Baxter ran into Holt during a Super Bowl week in New Orleans, the St. Louis Rams receiver told him that he
couldn't wait to see him again "to get his revenge." But given the chance, Baxter and his Baltimore Ravens got the best of Holt again, holding St. Louis and "The Greatest Show on Turf" to just 121 yards total offense.
Baxter calls his four years with the Ravens a "phenomenal" experience, getting to play with the likes of Pro Bowlers Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders, Chris McAlister and Terrell Suggs.
"What a great experience! I was really blessed to be able to play with that group of guys," said Baxter, who finished with eight career interceptions, including five with the Ravens. "Just the experience I got, the football knowledge, it was unreal. And the fact that I was a starter on a nasty defense like that and contribute to a lot of wins and make a lot of plays, it doesn't get any better than that."
His NFL days now behind him, the 31-year-old Baxter has returned to his roots in Tyler, Texas, where he owns Burger King and Taco Bueno franchises.
"I was actually thinking about it before I got out of the NFL," Baxter said. "I'm loving it. It's like coaching up a team, getting better and trying to be the best at what we do."
Baxter has also stayed involved at Baylor, donating money for the Gary Baxter Computer Lab in the Simpson Athletics and Academic Center and following his Bears.
"Everybody wants to win right now. But you can't just turn it on like a light switch," Baxter said. "There are several key components to building a winning team, and that's what coach (Art) Briles is doing. It's important that a lot of the alumni get behind him and the coaching staff and encourage the players. One building block that would really help us is getting to a bowl game. That's like a huge mountain to climb. But once we get over that mountain, I think that program will really snowball and take off."
Sic 'em Bears!