Recruited by Hall of Fame Coach Darrell Royal out of Palestine High School in East Texas, James Saxton was one of the quickest players in college football history. Royal envisioned Saxton as a running quarterback but moved him to running back in 1960. Saxton would go on to lead the team in rushing that season with 407 yards and an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
By his senior season of 1961, Saxton was one of the most electrifying players in the country, scoring nine touchdowns and leading the high-scoring Longhorn attack with runs of 80, 79, 66, 56, 49 and 45 yards. A unanimous selection that year, he became the first running back in Longhorn history to become an All-American and finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, trailing only Hall of Famers Ernie Davis (Syracuse) and Bob Ferguson (Ohio State).
His per carry average of 7.9 yards (846 yards on only 107 carries) that season remains the best in school history, and was the highest ever in the history of the Southwest Conference. Saxton finished his career ranked third on the Texas’ all-time rushing list with 1,524 yards, and he led the Longhorns to a 26-6-1 record during his three seasons in Austin.
His college career ended with a 12-7 victory over Ole Miss in the 1962 Cotton Bowl Classic—a game which featured a record setting 73-yard quick kick from Saxton.
After his playing days at Texas, Saxton was drafted as the 146th pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL and the 75th pick of the Dallas Texans of the AFL. He signed with Dallas, but after one season he decided to enter the banking business.
Saxton would go on to become chairman of the board of Texas Commerce Bank in Austin, and worked in the banking business for 27 years. He became one of Austin’s civic leaders, was head of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and served for a time as chairman of the State Board of Insurance.
Texas inducted Saxton into the Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1973, and he achieved college football’s ultimate honor in 1996 when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Saxton passed away May 28, 2014 at the age of 74. He was survived by his wife, Carol Ann Saxton, and three children, Jimmy Saxton, Shelley Earnest and Cathy Alexander, and six grandchildren.