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Rooster Andrews; water boy became Texas kicker, legend

Email|Print| Text size + By Joe Holley
Washington Post / January 25, 2008

WASHINGTON - Rooster Andrews, a diminutive man who stood tall in the annals of University of Texas football, died Monday of respiratory failure in Austin. He was 84.

The Rooster Andrews legend began on a fall day in 1943, with the Longhorns playing the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University. After a second-half Texas touchdown, Coach Dana X. Bible sent in the water boy to kick the extra point. That was Mr. Andrews, all 4 feet 11 inches of him. The 130-pounder drop-kicked four extra points that afternoon in a 46-7 Texas blowout.

After the game, TCU Coach Dutch Meyer accused Bible of rubbing it in by playing the water boy and dared him to use Mr. Andrews the next week against a much tougher opponent, archrival Texas A&M. Bible, having seen Mr. Andrews kick on his own during team practice sessions, did just that, and the water boy made an extra point and had a field goal blocked in a hard-fought 27-13 Texas victory.

He attempted a few drop kicks during the 1944 and '45 seasons, but his primary duty, in addition to lugging a 5-gallon water bucket onto the field during timeouts, was to keep his roommate, hard-partying, hard-drinking quarterback Bobby Layne, out of trouble.

One night during Layne's first season at the university - he would go on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL - he awakened Mr. Andrews with a question: "When you're back there drop-kicking on extra points, I wonder if we could fake the thing and you could throw it to me on the left flat."

They tried it in a 20-0 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners, and it worked. It succeeded one other time, in the 1946 Cotton Bowl game against the University of Missouri.

The Longhorns' Cotton Bowl victory was Mr. Andrews' last football game. After graduating in 1946, he became a traveling sporting goods salesman for an Austin-based company, calling school athletic programs in cities statewide. After 23 years on the road, he opened a chain of Austin sporting goods stores in 1971. Thanks to those sporting-goods connections and his ebullient personality, he was almost as well known in Texas sports circles as a good friend, famed Longhorn football coach Darrell Royal.

"Rooster Andrews had more friends than anybody I know, and I was lucky to be one of them for more than 60 years," Royal said in a statement issued by the University of Texas at Austin. "He never met a stranger, and there is no way to even try to guess the number of people he helped."

A Dallas native, William Andrews Jr. decided to enroll at the University of Texas when Bible offered him a position as assistant manager and found him a $16-a-month part-time job to help him pay his way through school.

He also acquired his nickname during his freshman year. It had nothing to do with his size.

Billy Andrews became Rooster late one night when several Longhorn players who were headed to a cockfight in the nearby town of Elgin came to his room, rousted him out of bed, and led him to a tall hickory tree near the Longhorn baseball field. They were birdless, they told Mr. Andrews, but when they shined a flashlight into the tree, they could see several cocks roosting high in the branches. The water boy, lithe and light, was just the man to snatch their entrant.

"I put the flashlight under my arm, skimmed the tree, and it seemed like it was the Empire State Building," Mr. Andrews told the Dallas Morning News almost 60 years later. "I got up there, and there were five or six roosters."

He grabbed the bird the players wanted, one they called Elmer. "When I did, he clawed my face," he recalled. "Oh, man, he tore me up. I fell, bounced through some limbs, but I still had the rooster."

His buddies, late for the cockfight, left Mr. Andrews under the tree with a broken arm and with a nickname that became him.

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