Former Aggie athlete reflects on trailblazing career

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - It looks a little different now than when he used to play there, but returning to Kyle Field still inspires awe for Hugh McElroy.

"It's a different sort of awesome feeling, just knowing that I'm part of something so big and so magnificent," he said.

McElroy was the first African-American to start for the Texas A&M University football team and first to score a touchdown.

He is still very at home in the legendary stadium, but playing at Kyle wasn't part of his plan when he arrived at Texas A&M in 1967 from an all-black high school.

"If it hadn't been for the guys in front of the dorm where we were playing tag football or whatever that said, 'Hey, you out to try out,' I never would have tried out," said McElroy.

McElroy played around the time other black athletes used sports to highlight the civil rights movement.

"We knew about Tommie Smith and everyone else, and still have an image in my mind of them on the stand in Mexico City with the black, clinched gloves," he said.

But McElroy didn't think about the historical or social impact of his actions on the field.

"I was just so glad to be out there, because I said earlier, junior high school, I didn't start. High school, I didn't start. Here I was walk-on, you know. Twice, actually. So that touchdown I made against LSU in 1970 was the first touchdown I ever made in my life," he said.

McElroy is fully aware of his impact, not just on the record books, but on A&M's history, too. He says he's humbled as he's often asked to speak about his experience and how his performance helped open the doors to football for other African-Americans.

"When I started out, there was nothing in my pathway that said this is the way it ought to be. So first, it's blessings. But then it's preparation. Then it's opportunity and it's follow up. Somewhere in all of that, it'll work out, if it's meant to be," said McElroy.