Jason Witten caught 1,152 passes in 15 years for the Dallas Cowboys. No Houston Texans player ever brought in more balls than Andre Johnson.
Now, even in retirement, Witten and Johnson are still catching greatness.
Witten and Johnson are among the seven athletic greats who have been voted in as inductees to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the museum announced on Tuesday. The rest of the 2019 induction class includes former University of Texas and Major League Baseball pitcher Greg Swindell, women’s basketball star Nancy Lieberman, tennis legend Maureen Connolly Brinker, former Texas A&M football placekicker Tony Franklin, and former University of Arkansas football standout Loyd Phillips.
Witten grew up in Tennessee and playing college football for the Tennessee Volunteers. He started out as a defensive end for the Vols, but later switched to tight end – and developed into one of the best in the country by his senior year. The Cowboys selected him in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft, and he became a fixture on the opposite end of Tony Romo’s passes. Witten made 11 Pro Bowls and had 12,448 yards receiving, most in franchise history. He is currently in his first season as an analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Football telecasts.
Johnson starred at the University of Miami before the Texans took him No. 3 overall in the 2003 draft. He became the first big star in the history of the fledgling franchise, making seven Pro Bowls over his 12 seasons with the club. Johnson ranks No. 11 all-time in NFL history in catches (1,062) and is 10th all-time in yards (14,185), and holds virtually every Texans receiving record.
Swindell led Sharpstown High School, near Houston, to a Texas Class 5A state baseball title in 1983. He then moved on to UT, where he became one of the most decorated pitchers in school history. For his career with the Longhorns, he went 43-8 with a 1.92 ERA and also registered 13 saves. He pitched for 17 years in the majors, including a four-season stint with his hometown Houston Astros from 1993-96. Since 2011, he has worked as an analyst for UT baseball on the Longhorn Network.
Known as “Big Mo,” Connolly-Brinker won nine Grand Slam titles in the early 1950s. In 1953, she became the first woman to win all four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year. A native of California, she moved to Texas later in life and helped establish the Maureen Connolly Brinker Foundation to promote junior tennis in the state. Brinker Elementary School in Plano is named for her. She died in 1969 after a battle with a cancerous stomach tumor.
Lieberman is generally renowned as one of the top women’s basketball players in history. She grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y, and was a college star at Old Dominion before moving to Texas later in life. In 1976, she became the youngest basketball player ever to win a medal at an Olympic Games when she and the U.S. captured silver in Montreal. Lieberman played in the WNBA in the league’s inaugural year of 1997 at age 39, then signed a seven-day contract in 2008 at age 50 to break her own record as the league’s oldest-ever player. She coached the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League in 2009, becoming the first woman to coach a men’s professional basketball team.
A native of Big Spring, Texas, Franklin popularized the barefoot kicking style in football. At Texas A&M, he set a then-Division I record for longest field goal at 65 yards against Baylor in 1976. Though the record fell the next year, Franklin also drilled a 64-yarder in the same game against the Bears, becoming the only NCAA kicker with two kicks of 60 or more yards in the same contest. He later played for Philadelphia, New England and Miami in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in 1985.
Phillips, who grew up in Fort Worth, won the 1966 Outland Trophy at Arkansas, where he was a two-time All-American defensive tackle. Phillips played three seasons in the NFL with the Chicago Bears, and later took on a career in education. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992.