Dick Stafford

Dick Stafford (fourth from right) poses with family during UIL football state championship week last month at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

As far as Dick Stafford is concerned, his upcoming induction into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame has less to do with Dick Stafford and much more to do with the town that got him there.

From the time he was a young boy growing up in Bellflower, Calif., and met Sammy Baugh, Stafford’s biggest dream was to someday become a Temple Wildcat and do well enough to earn a college scholarship to play football. He now will be enshrined as a player alongside Baugh, his son Bret and others he admired who once donned a Wildcats uniform at the Waco-based Hall of Fame.

“I was completely surprised,” Stafford, 84, said. “It’s been a long time since I played. That was the last thing on my mind.”

Stafford will be inducted May 7 during ceremonies at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. He represents players from the pre-1959 era. He will go in with fellow 2022 inductees from corresponding decades: Ray Rhodes of Mexia, Rodney Allison of Odessa, Shea Walker of Port Arthur Jefferson, Tony Brackens of Fairfield, Colt McCoy of Tuscola Jim Ned as well as current Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire and long-time Iowa Park announcer Robert Wilcox.

Dick and Bret Stafford become one of several family inductees, though perhaps the first in which the father went in after the son. Bret, who quarterbacked both Temple and Belton teams plus the University of Texas, was a 2007 inductee.

“For me and Bret to be a father-son in is a big deal,” said Stafford, who was introduced to the crowd at one of the Class 6A state championship games last month with most of his family in tow. “But it’s not about me at all.”

“We’re real proud of him,” Bret Stafford said. “It’s more sentimental at this point, but he spent a lot of time (around football). I knew Dad was a great athlete in high school and college.”

Dick Stafford joins an illustrious legacy of this hallowed Hall with Temple ties. The list includes Baugh, Bob McQueen, Jay Fikes, Barton “Botchey” Koch, Brad Dusek, Tom Pickett, Rusty Russell, Doyle Traylor, Euel Wesson, Kenneth Davis, Bobby Dillon, Joe Greene, Ki Aldrich, Noble Doss and Pat Patterson.

For Stafford to even hear about Temple from his boyhood home in suburban Los Angeles, much less move here, took an act of providence. Stafford’s single mother married Temple native A.P. Shockley, who was working in California.

“I never knew anyone who loved the Temple Wildcats and Temple as much,” Stafford said of his stepfather. “He would tell stories about the Wildcats and all I wanted more than anything was to be one. He’d give me a new football every Christmas.”

Shockley introduced his stepson to Baugh, an old friend, after a nearby exhibition to further ingratiate Stafford in Wildcats lore.

The family annually made the 1,600-mile trek to Temple for summer vacations to visit Shockley’s relatives and friends. On one such occasion before his freshman year, he happened upon a group of Wildcats playing catch in a vacant lot. One was Traylor, a legendary quarterback, and another included his favorite receiver, Roy Chapman. Stafford joined in. That short outing cemented his dream to become a Wildcat like them.

“We talked about Wildcat football,” Stafford said. “As time got near to go back to California, I begged my parents to let me stay in Temple and play for the Wildcats. In California, it was just a game in the afternoon after school.”

His parents relented, and the 14-year-old essentially lived on his own, walking to school from 13th and Nugent and working at a gas station on weekends for five bucks a day. His parents rejoined him the following year.

On his first day at Temple High the 6-foot-2, 175-pounder sat next to another student in freshman science class. The other student, McQueen, asked him why a senior was in a freshman class. A lifelong friendship and the seeds of a coaching partnership ensued.

“He was a big old guy when he walked into the general science class,” McQueen said. “He was bigger than everybody else. He was the best football player on our team. Dick is very deserving (of the induction).”

Stafford played in the secondary and fullback for Jay Fikes’ mid-1950s district-title teams and was duly lauded. He began his collegiate career at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls in 1956. After the program folded, he finished his final two years at Texas Tech. He returned to Temple in 1963 under Fikes and embarked on a 31-year coaching career.

The first Temple stint was short-lived. Fikes retired after the season and Stafford reunited with former Temple assistant Patterson at Amarillo Tascosa. He spent a couple of seasons as head coach at Muleshoe and as an assistant at San Angelo Central until McQueen took over the Temple program in 1972. McQueen hired Stafford to be his offensive coordinator and the two paired during a 10-year span that saw the Wildcats reach the state title game in 1976, win their first state title in 1979 and enjoy a 50-game regular season winning streak.

“I thought I was through with Temple,” Stafford said. “Bob had been at SMU and had done a good job, but his dream had always been to be the head coach of the Temple Wildcats.”

Stafford became head coach at neighboring Belton in 1982 for a successful six-year term, including a 10-2 record his first year with Bret at quarterback. He closed out his coaching career with four years at Baytown Sterling before once again returning to Temple to care for his mother and start the Pack-N-Mail business with his wife Linda. The two are living in the same house they originally bought in 1977.

Every journey led back to Temple. Now, he brings Temple back into the Hall of Fame.

“I was a good high school player, not a great one. I was a good college player, not a great one,” he said. “I was in the right place in the right town. Temple, Texas.”