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Mr. William E. "Rooster" Andrews

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Rooster Andrews, whose tenure as a student manager for University of Texas teams turned into a lifelong association with the Longhorns and the founding of chain of sporting goods stores, died Monday at age 84.

Andrews had been in and out of hospitals in recent years, living most recently in the nursing unit of Westminster Manor, and he died of respiratory failure, daughter Lisa Ard said.

"I will miss him terribly," Ard said.

That sentiment undoubtedly will be echoed by many, especially those involved with Longhorn athletics.

For more than 60 years, Andrews seemed to know everybody's name around UT sports. His college roommate was legendary quarterback Bobby Layne. He dined regularly with Longhorns football coaches Darrell Royal and Mack Brown. His friends included Presidents Johnson and Bush (both of them).

Born William E. Andrews on March 1, 1923 in Dallas, Andrews is best remembered as the owner of a popular sporting goods chain that bore his name. At its peak, Rooster Andrews Sporting Goods had four retail locations across Austin, an annual sales volume of $5 million, and employed more than 70 people.

Andrews often said he stood "five feet on the dime" but he was a larger-than-life fixture and friend of the university. From D.X. Bible to Vince Young, Rooster made friends with coaches and athletes who wore burnt orange and white.

Andrews' devotion to Central Texas began when he came from Dallas to Austin as an undergraduate. He credits legendary track coach Clyde Littlefield for getting him to stay. As a 17-year-old at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Billy — Andrews' childhood name — participated in the UIL state track meet as the school's manager.

"I came down here from Dallas in '38 and started working the Texas Relays at the strong suggestion of Mr. Littlefield," Andrews once said. "He came up to me and said, 'Hey! What are you doing sitting on your butt?' I was sitting on my little curb, and I said, 'Coach, I'm waiting on the bus to take me back to Dallas.' "

Littlefield had other plans for Andrews.

"He said, 'Get ... out there and start setting up those hurdles.' I just said, 'Yes sir,' and started setting up the hurdles."

Andrews was hooked on the Longhorns for the rest of his life, attending the university as a student from 1941 to 1946 and earning a degree in business. During that time he earned the nickname "All-America Water Boy" by serving as manager in college postseason games (the East-West Shrine and College All-Star games). He also played seven different positions for the UT baseball team as a part-time player.

Andrews carried his 5-gallon buckets of water for the Horns until Bible had another role for him in 1943.

Many colleges had suspended their football programs because many players were drafted into the military during World War II. UT continued to play, but in 1943 the Horns were weak at kicker.

Bible had weekly tryouts for anyone who wanted to be the team's kicker. Andrews had showed off his drop-kick style in practice — something unusual at the time — and he earned the right to play.

In a 46-7 victory over TCU, Andrews made a pair of drop kicks, which irritated Horned Frogs coach Dutch Meyer. It was bad enough to lose a lopsided game, but to have a water boy make extra points in the second half, that was insulting, Meyer said.

Meyer dared Bible to use Andrews in the final game of the season against a better team, Texas A&M.

Bible didn't flinch. He let the water boy kick again, and Andrews made two more drop kicks in UT's 27-13 triumph.

By the end of his college career, he had earned a letter in both football and baseball, as well as a nickname that lasted a lifetime. The nickname stemmed from a college prank.

In 1946, Andrews decided to make Austin his home, and he entered the sporting goods industry. A year later, he married his high school sweetheart, Betty Jane, better known as B.J.

By 1969, he opened his first retail store. Fittingly, Longhorn-themed products were always a staple at Andrews' stores.

Andrews is survived by his wife, B.J.; brother J.B. "Bunny" Andrews; son Ralph Griffith Andrews and wife Melissa; daughters Betsy Dabbs, and Lisa Ard and husband Mike; and six grandchildren.

Funeral services are pending.

Published in Austin American-Statesman from Jan. 21 to Jan. 26, 2008
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