TCU named its press box at Amon G. Carter Stadium for Dan Jenkins, a 1953 graduate of the school, during a dedication ceremony that took place May 30, 2017. After graduating from TCU, Jenkins went onto become one of the most esteemed sports writers of the 20th Century, working at the Fort Worth PressDallas Times HeraldSports Illustrated and Golf Digest as well as penning numerous books and screenplays. Jenkins also served as the NFF Historian for more than a decade.

By Loran Smith, NFF Correspondent
           


FT. WORTH, Tex. – When Texas Christian University named its press box at Amon G. Carter Stadium for alumnus Dan Jenkins recently, the honoree wouldn’t let on how proud he was, but those who have knowledge of his passion and love of alma mater would conclude it was a highlight not to be taken lightly.

While Jenkins has always been able to invoke sarcasm and cynicism with a telling edge, he is a sentimentalist at heart.  He just can’t help it.  Harking back to the good old days turns him on.  For good reason.  Those times were simply better.   He'll take on anyone who wants to debate that.

Any soothsayer touting the fifties as the best of times would get little argument from those who experienced the days when only sailors wore tattoos, earrings could only be found on women and life was simpler.

Likely the most knowledgeable person living today when it comes to college football history, Dan could make irrelevant the most uppity player or coach on any campus, but he really got the most fun out of lionizing those where were champions and who stood the test of time.  He knew Sammy Baugh, Davey O’Brien, Dutch Meyer and later on Darrell Royal, Bear Bryant, Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer, Bob Stoops and Beebs Stallings.  He supped with all of them.  

His era, was the “pull up a chair” era.  Nobody took themselves seriously, and no coach was too good to drink with a common sportswriter.  Dan was more interested in an insightful story than he was a scoop.  He was smart enough about the game that no coach ever thought any Jenkins question could be labeled, a “dumb” one.  Woe be unto he who might have the temerity to advance that notion.

To Dan, you learned the game by bending an elbow with the headliners.  He listened, leaving the pontification to the principals.  He always had a poignant story by cocking an ear and relying on his impeccable memory to take the reader on a classic journey.

Can you imagine his life in the fifties when the Southwest Conference was as good of a league as any in America?  Except for Arkansas (Texas Tech had not been invited to join), you could virtually throw a blanket over the rest of the members of the conference.  You could wake up on Saturday morning and, in a couple of hours, drive to any campus where there was a big game unless you preferred Arkansas versus whomever in Fayetteville.

Then there was Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson—two former caddies at the Glenn Garden Golf Club in Ft. Worth.  Dan knew what they ate for breakfast and their view of the nuances of a one iron.  All along Dan, without making a point of it, earned everybody’s respect, mainly because they knew he respected the games he wrote about.

I have known and admired Dan since the sixties when he was covering college football for Sports Illustrated.  And while Dan maybe a one-time scratch golfer, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and he has probably written more words about the four majors than any sportswriter in our time, his passion for college football probably eclipses anyone you know.

In the prime years of Tiger Woods career, ten years ago, the media, at major championships, flocked around Tiger as if he were Zeus “himself.”  Dan would look my way, grin and say.  “He won’t have anything important to say.  Let’s go have some coffee and talk about college football.”

At Erin Hills in June, for the U. S. Open, we were having dinner one night at the media hotel, he was enjoying a hamburger (Go to dinner with him at 21 in New York and he will order a burger.) and said, “It won’t be long now.”  I knew what that meant.  The start of college football is just weeks away.

I was emotionally fulfilled to be in Ft. Worth when TCU did right by an alumnus who is, perhaps, more exalted as a writer than his one-time idol, Sammy Baugh was a quarterback. Dan, a gifted wordsmith, was honored with placards of many of his celebrated quotes.  My favorite:  "I married a homecoming queen, which means I know as much about college football as the next person, as long as the next person is not Darrell Royal or Bear Bryant."

Dan Jenkins has always enjoyed writing about his heroes, sanguine and insightful—never with rancor or fawning—but always leaving us, and them, laughing.  I am pleased that TCU honored my friend, an abiding college football aficionado who has illuminated the game’s great history better than anybody since Grantland Rice.