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Sunday, November 13, 2022

The glory days of Schreiner Institute football

An early Schreiner Institute football game.
Click on any image to enlarge.

With Schreiner University’s recent announcement of football returning to the campus, I thought it might be fun to research the earliest football teams at what was then called Schreiner Institute.

When Schreiner opened its classroom doors almost 100 years ago, on September 18, 1923, it had six instructors on its first faculty: J. J. Delaney, president and instructor in mathematics; S. V. Carmack, English and history; C. C. Mason, agriculture and science; James C. Oehler Jr., Latin and mathematics; and J. C. Patterson, history. They were expecting 75 students that first year, and when 85 enrolled, the new school had to scramble to build dormitory space.

The very first Schreiner Institute
 football team, 1923
Two of the men had big jobs outside of the classroom: Mason was the commandant and instructor in military science, and Oehler was the director of athletics at the new school.

That means James C. Oehler, Jr., an Uvalde native, was Schreiner Institute’s first football coach, and his work began before classes started. On September 10th, Schreiner Institute held its first ‘football training camp,’ and Oehler had 38 young men to show up. Oehler was optimistic: “prospects are bright for a fast squad at the Institute the opening year.”

Fortunately, most of the students had played football before.

Their first game was on September 28, 1923 against the “strong Junction High School eleven on the local school’s gridiron.

The 1926 team, undefeated

“According to the advance dope a good game is in store for the fans. Junction is reported to be unusually strong and the Maroon and White squad has shown some good stuff in scrimmages…The Maroon and White will put a strong eleven in the field tomorrow. The team as a whole, although heavy, is fast enough to work the running and passing game as well as straight football in line plunging, and the chances are that the fans will see samples of each kind of tactics in tommorow’s fray.”

Schreiner won that first game, 7 – 0.

For a brand-new school, Schreiner had a decent opening season: 4-2-1, outscoring opponents 101 to 50.

The Schreiner football program got a big boost in 1925, when H. C. ‘Bully’ Gilstrap became the school’s athletic director. Gilstrap had achieved athletic greatness at the University of Texas at Austin, lettering in three different sports in his first year of eligibility.

The 1923 team

“We hope to offer Junior College athletes the finest opportunity in South and Central Texas for their athletic development,” Gilstrap told the Kerrville Mountain Sun.

The stats suggest Gilstrap was correct. The next year, 1926, the Schreiner Mountaineers were undefeated. The team won the state junior college championship in 1935.

They won that title again in 1937, a year after Gilstrap left Schreiner. That team featured some prominent Tivy High School players, who’d played on the legendary 1936 Tivy Football team, including Preston Chambliss and Slick McCaleb.

Rex Kelly was another notable coach at Schreiner Institute, serving as a line coach through the 1940s and early 1950s.

In 1950, Claude ‘Chena’ Gilstrap, brother of ‘Bully,’ took the reins of the football program. Cliff Newell, in a 1989 article in this newspaper about Schreiner sports, had this nugget about Claude Gilstrap’s teams: in 1950, “one of the new players was a slender, bespeckled young man from Paris, Texas, who showed a depressing lack of speed for a wide receiver. His name was Raymond Berry, and he became the most famous football player ever to come out of Schreiner Institute.” 

Berry had a long career in professional football, including playing for the Baltimore Colts, where he led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards three times, and in receiving touchdowns twice. Barry was invited to six Pro Bowls. Barry was also head coach of the New England Patriots in the 1980s.

The football program ended at Schreiner Institute in 1956, though one standout player from that season also had a career in professional football: Charley Johnson, who played for the Cardinals, Broncos, and Oilers. In the midst of his football career, Johnson earned his doctorate in chemical engineering, later he worked at NASA while in the U.S. Army Reserve, and was a professor of chemical engineering.

Football at Schreiner University has a rich history, and it will be interesting to watch the school reclaim some of the program’s earlier glories.

Until next week, all the best.

Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects Kerr County historical items. If you have something you’d care to share with him, it would make him happy. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times November 12, 2022.

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  1. Preston Chambliss was my typing teacher when I was at Tivy High School.

  2. As always, outstanding writing and history Joe - thanks so very much!

  3. My father, Bruce McElroy, played football for Tivy and Schreiner. I have his 1933 yearbook here at the house. After Schreiner...his mother made him attend St. Mary's and the rest is history.


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