I believe that it is almost impossible to compare athletes from different eras because of all the variables involved. Yet, after saying this, I offer you the legend of Tommy McDonald.
He was born on July 16, 1934, on a farm just outside of Roy, N.M.
At Roy High School, he played on the varsity teams as an eighth-grader, showing the great potential that would be shown the rest of his athletic career. He has been quoted as saying that Roy was a learning experience for him and that he wouldn’t trade it for anything. He remembers playing against Springer and Clayton high schools.
In 1951, after his sophomore year, his family moved to Albuquerque, and the legend was off and running at Highland High School.
His two years at Highland High School included the following highlights:
1. In his senior year in football, he scored 26 touchdowns.
2. In basketball, he was one of the leading scorers in the state.
3. In track and field in the 1953 state meet, he won five gold medals as a sprinter and hurdler on a state championship team.
4. He also found time to play shortstop on the baseball team.
If there has ever been a better high school career in New Mexico history, I’m not aware of it!
After his fantastic career at Highland High School, Coach Bud Wilkinson of the Oklahoma University Sooners recruited him to play football.
Highlights of his career at Oklahoma University:
1. Led Oklahoma to three undefeated seasons with national championships in the 1955 and 1956 seasons.
2. Finished third in the Heisman balloting behind Paul Horning of Notre Dame and Johnny Majors of Tennessee.
3. He was selected to several All-American teams.
In 1957 he was drafted to the NFL by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Highlights of his NFL career:
1. Caught passes in 93 straight NFL games.
2. In 1960, the Eagles won the NFL championship. He scored a record-best 13 touchdowns that season.
3. In the 1961-62 seasons, he caught 64 passes for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns.
4. In 1962-63 season, he caught 58 passes for 1,146 yards and 10 touchdowns.
5. When he retired from the NFL he was ranked on several all-time lists.
• Second all-time in touchdown catches with 84.
• Fourth all-time in yardage 8,410, which is 17.0 average per catch.
• Sixth in receptions at 495.
In 1998 he was enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame. There are fewer than 250 all-time players enshrined. He is the smallest player — at 5-9, 172 pounds —ever honored by the NFL.
His life story and athletic career can serve as a life lesson and a motivation to all athletes. If he is not the best overall athlete in New Mexico history, then the list he is on is very short when you call roll. It makes for very interesting discussions among sports fans and coffee club members.
Henry O. Sanchez is former National High School Basketball Coach of the Year and has more than 700 wins. He coached at Our Lady of Sorrows High, Bernalillo High, New Mexico Highlands University and Robertson High. He also served three terms as the mayor of Las Vegas. He currently teaches sports performance for Luna Community College.