Since I mentioned the photo of the 1912 football team last week, there has been a groundswell of demand to see it. (That is to say, I got two emails.) After further examination it turns out that we have not one, but two copies of the original picture. One is in the scrapbook of Carl Knapp, the other is in the scrapbook of another member of the Class of 1916, Ervin “Tiny” Kalb (more about him later).
It’s probably best to confess right up front that for years I’ve had a bit of a crush on the little guy sitting on the floor in the front. His name was W.T. Betts, and he played on the football team, I believe, for only a year. He also played baseball for Rice for three years. There’s something in his demeanor that suggests he was a scrapper, and he puts me to mind of a later Rice baseball player.
Like quite a few of the students who enrolled in the fall of 1912, Betts didn’t make it to graduation. I’m not sure why he didn’t, and I’m not sure I can ever figure out. Understandably, there is a bit of a void of information about these kids. The most common reason for the early departure of these first enrollees was simply the shockingly high academic standards of the Rice Institute. It took high school students and teachers some time to come to terms with just how rigorous the Institute’s curriculum was and how little room there was for poor performance. I do suspect that Betts finished a college degree somewhere, though. He went on to become a beloved music teacher and long-time high school principal in his hometown of Marlin, up near Waco. Near the beginning of his career he also coached a little football.