Prominent Houston attorney and University of Texas philanthropist Joe Jamail, seen here in 2008, passed away in December 2015 at the age of 90. (Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman)

Football

Texas renames Joe Jamail Field in honor of Heisman greats Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams

Name change came at Jamail family’s request; Williams: ‘A new consciousness is rising and we are honored to be a part of it’

Posted July 13th, 2020

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Story highlights
  • “If you don’t take chances on things that are right, it’s wrong. Pretty basic,” Dahr Jamail said.
  • Interim UT President Jay Hartzell announced the decision Monday as part of sweeping changes to UT's racial landscape.
  • Mack Brown: “And what an awesome tribute it is to Joe Jamail, and an amazing gesture by his family."

Dahr Jamail saw the George Floyd video and cried.

“I was just weeping, thinking how low have we gone?” Jamail said. “That we just stand around and allow this. It’s murder! And it’s become the norm.”

Floyd’s death at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, captured on video and broadcast all over the world, sent shock waves throughout the country — and right through the heart of the University of Texas campus.

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It triggered a worldwide movement highlighting racial inequality, the same issues UT football players highlighted when they marched to the State Capitol last month. “For a few days, I was just sort of thinking is there anything any of us can do besides just raise hell?” Jamail said.

Jamail and his brothers, Randall and Rob, had an epiphany. They decided they would ask UT to have their father’s name taken off Royal-Memorial Stadium’s field and replaced with UT’s two Heisman Trophy winners, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.

RELATED: ‘Great day to be a Longhorn’: Athletes react after Texas announces a plan to tackle its racial issues

RELATED: With monies from athletics, UT to expand recruitment of high school students from underrepresented groups

On Monday, the school announced it would do just that. Joe Jamail Field will be changed to honor Campbell and Williams, two Black athletes but also easily two of the best athletes in UT history. Dahr believes his father, a white man who is easily one of the best lawyers UT’s ever produced, would gladly agree.

“If you don’t take chances on things that are right, it’s wrong. Pretty basic,” Jamail told the American-Statesman on Monday. “It was obvious to me this needed to happen.

“We all are living in a world where the news is just shit,” Jamail added. “The country is leaderless. At least people that will see this, maybe it will inspire somebody to do something else. It’s just one step on the road to making things better. But when we lift other people up, we lift ourselves up.”

On Monday, UT officials said Joe Jamail Field at Royal-Memorial Stadium will be renamed to honor Heisman Trophy winners Ricky Williams, left, and Earl Campbell. [Jay Janner/American-Statesman]
Dahr’s tone was unmistakable. He plans on addressing UT players in the coming days, too. “They are the best of us,” he said of Campbell and Williams. “They are the best of Texas. Who better to shine that light on? These guys have earned it.”

Texas officials were merely looking for a way to honor Jamail in August 1997 when they put his name on the grass at Royal-Memorial Stadium. The lifelong Longhorn had just pledged to give another $5 million.

After UCLA strolled into town and demolished UT 66-3, Jamail wasn’t so honored one month later. “How much (expletive) money does it take to get my name off the field?,” he famously quipped.

Interim UT President Jay Hartzell announced the decision Monday as part of sweeping changes that reshaped UT’s racial landscape.

“This is such a great tribute and so well deserved,” former Texas coach Mack Brown told the American-Statesman via email. Brown and Jamail were close friends during the coach’s 16-year run at UT. Joe Jamail died in December 2015.

“And what an awesome tribute it is to Joe Jamail, and an amazing gesture by his family that they wanted to do this for Ricky and Earl,” Brown said. “But that’s who the Jamail family is. Joe loved Ricky, Earl and all of the players.

“This is such a fitting way for the family to honor Joe and to say thank you to all of the players and the university they care for so deeply.”

Houston attorney Joe Jamail (left) represented former UT coach Mack Brown (center) during the coach’s 16-year tenure with the Longhorns. (Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman)

It’s a bold move that redefines campus symbolism at UT. Both Campbell and Williams have towering statues in the Texas Athletics Hall of Fame. The school also will erect one for Julius Whittier, UT’s first Black football letterman.

“Earl and myself are honored to be part of the momentum of change sweeping our alma mater, the University of Texas, the nation, and the world,” Williams said in a statement.

“We recognize the naming of Campbell/Williams Field is a historic moment,” Williams added, “and we urge our nation’s universities and communities to continue to reflect and review the history, symbolism, and identities that we place on monuments, public institutions, and sports organizations.”

In two statements, both Campbell and Williams expressed true amazement in the honor, which comes at true crossroads moment in UT history and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“For countless days as young football players and upon being inducted to the Hall of Fame, Ricky and I have stood on this iconic field for many important points of our lives,” Campbell said. “We never would have envisioned this historic site would one day bear our names.

Texas athletic trainer Allie Wilson takes a photo with Earl Campbell on the sideline before a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

“The symbolism of this honor transcends the recognition of the Heisman Trophies we received,” Campbell added. “It extends to all students, but specifically Black athletes, who continue to work to define our collective motto ‘Winning with Integrity.’ Ricky and I are humbled by this honor.”

Williams said both he and Campbell request the name change “be a recognition of the achievement of a broad body of people and an ongoing commitment to diverse representation in the University of Texas athletic organization and student body.”

“A new consciousness is rising and we are honored to be a part of it,” Williams said.

Both Texas exes thanked the Jamail family. Joe Jamail and his wife, Lee, were two of UT’s biggest donors and fans. Their name is still on the Texas Swimming Center.

Former Texas running back Ricky Williams celebrates the 20th anniversary of his Heisman Trophy on the field during a Big 12 Conference football game at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. [Stephen Spillman for Statesman]
“We must acknowledge the Joe Jamail family for personally requesting and making this name change to the President of the University of Texas in the spirit of their father,” Campbell said. “Joe was always known for being a passionate, aggressive advocate of truth. We know he would have been proud to see this day arrive, both as a lawyer and a Longhorn.”

Campbell won the Heisman Trophy in 1977; Williams won in 1998. Both are widely considered two of the best players in Texas football history.

“In the way that Joe was a lawyer, you have Earl and Ricky,” Dahr Jamail said. “We don’t have any other measure of greatness. So in a way, we’re allowing the fans, the alumni and the team to share a little bit of their glory. When these kids or new kids come out on that field, it’s unrealistic to expect them to perform at that level. But it gives them something to shoot for.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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