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STEINKE, GILBERT ERVIN [GIL]

Gilbert Ervin Steinke (1919–1995).
Legendary college football coach Gil Steinke took the Texas A&I Javelinas to six NAIA championships. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

STEINKE, GILBERT ERVIN [GIL] (1919–1995). Gilbert Ervin Steinke, renowned football coach, was born on May 3, 1919, in Brenham, Texas, to Otto Paul Steinke and Emma (Kramer) Steinke. He attended Ganado High School in the small South Texas town of Ganado, and in 1937, following his graduation, he went to Texas College of Arts and Industries (which later became Texas A&I University and eventually Texas A&M University¬–Kingsville) and played for the football team there. He played four seasons at the position of halfback and led the team in rushing for three consecutive seasons. During World War II Steinke served in the U.S. Navy and achieved the rank of lieutenant. He married Mary Anthony Houston on April 6, 1945. They had twin sons and a daughter.

Gil Steinke played four seasons for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1945 to 1948, where he averaged four yards a carry. Obliged to retire from playing football after a neck injury, he followed his football career with assistant coaching jobs at Trinity, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M universities. Subsequently, in 1954 Texas A&I brought him back to the school as head coach of the football team, where he remained for twenty-three years. During his time at Texas A&I at the head coach position, the team posted a record of 182–61–4. The Texas A&I Javelinas, under Gil Steinke’s tutelage won six National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) championships as well as ten Lone Star Conference championships. The team had an astounding thirty-nine-game winning streak by the time he retired after the 1976 season. The 1976 team also played exhibition games in Europe. Steinke stayed on as A&I athletic director until 1982. He was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1971 and was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1976. Steinke is lauded as being a trailblazer in integrating college football in Texas; he regularly recruited black and Hispanic players. He recruited the first African American player, Sid Blanks, in 1960, and Blanks went on to become team captain in 1963.

Steinke came onboard as head coach for the USFL San Antonio Gunslingers and served in that capacity during the 1984 season and part of the 1985 season. The Gunslingers went 9–15 over two seasons with him at the helm before the USFL shut down the team. The league itself ended in 1986.  

Gil Steinke Statue.
A life-size statue of Gil Steinke was dedicated at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville on September 6, 2015. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Steinke died on May 10, 1995, in Austin after fighting a long battle against Alzheimer’s. He was seventy-six. Steinke was buried at the Masonic Cemetery in Caldwell in Burleson County, Texas. He was survived by his wife Mary, his twin sons Leslie and Larry, and his daughter Jan Starnes. In 1996 he was an inaugural inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame for his legendary coaching career. A scholarship fund is named in his honor at Texas A&M University–Kingsville. On September 6, 2014 a life-size statue of Steinke, sculpted by Armando Hinojosa, was dedicated at Javelina Stadium in Kingsville.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Jack Bechta, “Gil Steinke: The greatest coach you’ve never heard of,” Yahoo! Sports (https://sports.yahoo.com/news/gil-steinke-greatest-coach-youve-200017079--nfl.html), accessed November 1, 2016. “Gil Steinke,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=23757563), accessed October 30, 2016. Cecilia Aros Hunter and Leslie Gene Hunter, Texas A&M University Kingsville (Chicago: Arcadia Publishing 2000). New York Times, May 12, 1995. Players: Gil Steinke, NFL.com (http://www.nfl.com/player/gilsteinke/2526467/profile), accessed November 3, 2016. San Antonio Express-News, May 14, 1995; May 23, 1996. San Antonio Gunslingers, USFL.info (http://www.usfl.info/gunslingers/), accessed November 20, 2016. 

Jason Franklin

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Handbook of Texas Online, Jason Franklin, "Steinke, Gilbert Ervin [Gil] ," accessed June 24, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fstdn.

Uploaded on May 30, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.