Bridging The Gap

As Sam Houston prepares to play for a national championship, no one is prouder than Rockdale legend Jack Kyle
BY BRANDON SCOTT
The Huntsville Item


Timothy Flanders (left) and Jack Kyle share a laugh after the star running backs met for the first time three weeks ago. 
Huntsville Item Timothy Flanders (left) and Jack Kyle share a laugh after the star running backs met for the first time three weeks ago. Huntsville Item HUNTSVILLE—Dressed sharply in a navy blazer and a beige Stetson cowboy hat, Sam Houston State football legendary tailback Jack Kyle sits in the Bearkat lounge at the Ron Mafrige Field House with his grandson on a sunny, but chilly afternoon.

It’s a Saturday, normally a day when college football is at the forefront of national attention, but only the good teams are playing since it’s late in December.

These are teams like undefeated

Sam Houston, which the day before, solidified its place in the Football Championship Subdivision national championship game in Frisco next month.

As he observes the field from the lounge window, Jack Kyle can say that he’s seen at least 60 years worth of Bearkat football in his priveleged life.

Kyle’s journey to Huntsville comes by way of hitchhike from his hometown Rockdale when he was just 17-years-old.


Sam Houston All-American running back Timothy Flanders (left) listens to stories from Bearkat legend Jack Kyle (right) as Kyle shows Flanders his letterman quilt from 1948-51. The “T” stands for teachers because that was part of the universities’ official name at the time. Earlier this season, Flanders broke Kyle’s record for most points scored in a single game with five touchdowns in an overtime victory over New Mexico. The fifth touchdown kept the Bearkats undefeated season alive, and also surpassed Kyle’s previous record (26 points). Sam Houston All-American running back Timothy Flanders (left) listens to stories from Bearkat legend Jack Kyle (right) as Kyle shows Flanders his letterman quilt from 1948-51. The “T” stands for teachers because that was part of the universities’ official name at the time. Earlier this season, Flanders broke Kyle’s record for most points scored in a single game with five touchdowns in an overtime victory over New Mexico. The fifth touchdown kept the Bearkats undefeated season alive, and also surpassed Kyle’s previous record (26 points). It was a state high school playoff basketball game Rockdale played in after winning a district championship that got Kyle recruited to play football at Sam Houston.

Rockdale played in the regional round, which was hosted by Sam Houston in the spring of 1948, Kyle’s senior season.

The Bearkats’ head football coach at the time was Puny Wilson, a fiery fellow who was looking for fresh talent wherever he could find it.

At this basketball game was fresh talent at his doorstep, since at schools the size of Rockdale, the same players who played one sport played the next, similiar to the way it is now but more so then.

All but one player on the Rockdale basketball team played on the football team as well, and Kyle was one of four teammates invited to practice with Sam Houston’s football team following the basketball season.

“We caught a ride to Houston, then hitchhiked from there up (Highway) 75,” Kyle said.

These of course were days long before the creation of Interstate- 45.

“ We stayed in the old gym and worked out with the football team,” Kyle continued. “I don’t know what he (Wilson) saw in me, but he offered me a scholarship to play ball.

“I’m looking at him thinking, ‘ this guy has lost his mind.’ I didn’t even know what a scholarship was.”

When All-American running back Timothy Flanders walks into the lounge, Kyle and his grandson Matthew light up immediately.

They were both amongst the 12,000-plus crowd at Bowers Stadium the night before that saw Flanders run for a Sam Houston record 287 yards on the ground to lead the Bearkats past Montana in the semifinal playoff round.

Flanders and Kyle sit there for almost an hour and talk football, life, and Sam Houston.

After all, those subjects, in no particular order, are exactly what brings these two strangers together.

By his sophomore season, Kyle is the starting tailback for Sam Houston and on his way to setting Bearkat history.

Kyle remembers breaking his collar bone in one game where he was only treated with “redhot” before he finished the game.

Later, Kyle receives x- rays that reveal his ribs are broken as well.

The doctor said Kyle would be out for six weeks, but there was no way that was going to realistically happen. Not back then.

Player safety was not the type of academic study it is today, where instead of leather helmets, the players even have sophisticated face guards attached to the their helmets and some even have eye protection.

“I sat out for one ball game,” Kyle said. “ The next game, I suited up but I was just supposed to stand there on the sidelines. I walked up to the coach and told him that if he didn’t let me play, I was going to go play some place I could.

“ Wel l, he just loved t hat. Somebody that was going to play hurt?”

Kyle ran for two rushing touchdowns, two receiving scores, and a pair of extra point attempt conversions as well.

They played platoon football back then.

Kyle accounted for 26 points that game, which was a school record that stood for 62 years.

That’s until the latest recordsetting Sam Houston running back had something to say about it.

On his way to rewriting the Bearkat record books this season, Flanders scored five touchdowns against New Mexico, including a 4-yard game-winning touchdown in overtime. What dramatic fashion to break Kyle’s record for most points scored in a game.

Kyle just wanted to meet Flanders to remind him that he has a great future ahead of him in football if he can stay healthy, the way it was impossible to in 1949.

“That record was meant to be broken,” Kyle said. “Now I have no doubt who is going to win the national championship.” brandons@itemonline.com


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