Fox, Tech all-America cornerback, dies at 65
Stroke claims late 1960s Red Raider star
By Don Williams
Even before he arrived at Texas Tech, Denton Fox had had a brush with greatness, appearing briefly in the Paul Newman classic “Hud.”
Not long after, Fox became a Red Raider and set about achieving greatness in his own right. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound cornerback in an era of not-so-outsized players, Fox became a first-team all-American in 1969 — only the sixth Tech football player to be so honored.
Once a hard-hitting, ball-hawking defensive back, Fox was felled in recent years by a series of strokes. He died Monday at age 65, his wife Sara Beth Fox said. He lived in Richardson.
“He was just a great athlete,” said former Tech fullback Kenny Baker, a teammate and later longtime business partner of Fox’s. “He was a big ol’ boy at the time. That was back before people got so big as they are now. He was fast. He was just a heck of a player.”
Fox was inducted into the Tech Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
He suffered an acute brain-stem stroke, his fourth stroke since 2010, early last week, his wife said. He went into hospice care Saturday and died two days later.
Playing for Tech “meant the world to him,” said Sara Beth Fox, who married her childhood sweetheart in 1966. “Not only was he delighted to be able to get an education, but coming from his background, a scholarship and Texas Tech gave him an opportunity to get a college education and play athletics.
“He was a big Red Raider fan all the way.”
Fox, a 1965 Claude High School graduate, also is a member of the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame. He lettered for the Red Raiders from 1967 through 1969 in the era before freshmen could play college varsity sports. He intercepted four passes in 1969 and played in the Blue-Gray all-star game, the Hula Bowl and the Coaches All-America Game.
“He was the fastest guy on the team, one of about three,” teammate John David Howard, a former Tech safety, said. “An extremely hard hitter. Very good on one-on-one coverage.”
After the 1969 season, Fox appeared on the Bob Hope Christmas special in the era in which college football all-American team members were invited on the show each year.
That wasn’t Fox’s first time to cross paths with celebrity.
A good portion of the 1963 movie “Hud” was filmed in and around Claude. Fox and his then wife-to-be appeared briefly in the film.
“You won’t see it on the TV version,” Howard said, “but if you get the full version, he and Sara were in the scene where Brandon deWilde and the girlfriend walk into the movie and some kids’ dates were walking into the movie. He and Sara were two of those that were in the original movie. They’ve cut all that out of the TV version.”
The Dallas Cowboys drafted Fox in the third round of the 1970 draft, shortly after they took Charlie Waters from Clemson.
“He was so excited about the Cowboys,” Fox’s wife said. “The first time we had ever been on an airplane was when we went down there to sign with the Cowboys.”
Fox’s NFL career was short-lived, however, as he didn’t stick with the Cowboys, the Atlanta Falcons or the Chicago Bears.
Fox went into the insurance business after football. Baker and Fox worked together from 1971 until Baker retired in 2002.
“He was just an all-around upright guy,” Baker said. “You probably have friends yourself that you could count on in any situation. He was one of those kind of guys.”
In addition to his wife, Fox’s survivors include a son, a daughter and five grandchildren. The youngest of seven children, he also is survived by three sisters and two brothers. Fox lost another brother to Lou Gehrig’s disease, his wife said.
Sara Beth Fox said plans for a celebration of life service are still to be determined.
Died: 4/29/2013, Richardson, Texas, U.S.A.
Denton Fox’s western – extra:Hud – 1963 (moviegoer)