The Nixon city administrator was a three-year letterman for the Longhorns, played in the game when Texas shocked Oklahoma as well as the Cotton Bowl classic that crowned a national champion, was drafted as a professional football player, then spent 20 years turning struggling football programs into winners
NIXON – George Blanch waited 53 years to have knee surgery.
The Nixon resident had his leg put in a cast during the 1959 offseason for 6-8 weeks to prevent him from receiving knee surgery. Blanch had his reasons to dodge surgery at the time.
“Everyone I knew who had knee surgery at that time was done with football after that,” Blanch said.
The move paid off, as he was able to play his senior season at the University of Texas and then go on to play for a year with the Oakland Raiders – then an American Football League franchise. Blanch, a member of Nixon High School’s Class of 1956, left the Raiders and the AFL after the 1960 season to embark on a 42-year career in education.
Blanch also had knee surgery on Wednesday. He expects to be back at work for the city of Nixon next week.
After a successful career playing at Nixon, Blanch earned a scholarship to play halfback and safety at Texas. In that era, freshmen played on the junior varsity team.
“Back then everyone played on both sides of the football,” he said. “You also had to report to the officials to enter the game. If you started a quarter, you could exit and re-enter. But if you entered during the quarter and exited, you could not re-enter until the following quarter.”
When Blanch was a sophomore, he played for a first-year coach named Darrell Royal. The Longhorns shook off a 2-2 start, which included a 21-7 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma, to finish 4-1-1 in Southwest Conference play with its only blemishes being a 19-12 loss to SMU and a 7-7 tie against Baylor.
One of Texas’ big wins in 1957 was a 9-7 victory over No. 4 Texas A&M, who was coached by Paul “Bear” Bryant and had the eventual Heisman Trophy winner in halfback John David Crow. The Longhorns earned a berth in the Sugar Bowl, but lost to Ole Miss, 39-7.
The 1958 Texas team finished 7-3, which included a 15-14 win over No. 2 Oklahoma. But losses to Rice (34-7), SMU (26-10) and No. 9 TCU (22-8) cost the Longhorns a berth in a bowl game.
Blanch and his classmates saved their best for last, as Texas began the 1959 season 8-0 before dropping a 14-9 decision against TCU. The Longhorns won the SWC championship and drew a date with No. 1 Syracuse and Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis in the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Davis and the Orangemen proved to be too much for the SWC champions, as Syracuse ran away with a 23-14 win over Texas to finish the season as the national champion. The Longhorns operated offensively out of the straight-T or wing-T and the 5-2 on defense.
Following his career at Texas, Blanch was drafted by the AFL’s Minneapolis-St. Paul franchise, which was relocated to Oakland before the inaugural AFL season in 1960.
The Raiders finished 6-8 in the AFL’s first season. Following the season, Blanch left professional football to begin coaching as he graduated from Texas with a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education.
Blanch spent 20 years as a coach, which included head coaching stints at Nixon and Kingsville as well as an assistant position at Texas Lutheran. He had a system for coaching.
“I liked to go to schools that had troubles winning and turn them into winners,” Blanch said. “I loved to see young people improve.”
After 20 years of coaching, Blanch took a new step in his education career. He became a superintendent.
“I loved coaching, but after a while, you get the urge to try something different,” Blanch said.
Blanch served as the superintendent at various places, including Hubbard and El Dorado. He retired in 2003 and returned to Nixon.
Although he hasn’t coached in approximately 30 years, Blanch still keeps up with high school football. He follows Nixon-Smiley and El Campo.
“The fire is still there,” Blanch said. “I went to a few El Campo playoff games and I like to see what they have.”
El Campo is playing for the Class 3A-Division I state championship today against Stephenville. Blanch also noted a few differences between football in his day and football today.
“Back then, everything was three-yards-and-a-could-of-dust,” he said. “With the spread and wide open offenses today, it seems like flag football.”
While Blanch is no longer involved in education, he has one piece of advice for today’s youth.
“If you have the fire to do something, do it,” he said. “If you try and fail, that’s one thing, but don’t live with regret for not trying something you really want to do. Try it and give it a shot.”
Out of every accomplishment Blanch had as a player, coach or superintendent, he has one moment that stands out above the rest.
“Playing against Syracuse in the Cotton Bowl was great,” Blanch said. “Just walking out on to the Cotton Bowl field is a thrill in itself. It’s something you’ll always remember.”
Blanch still remembers it
– 53 years later.