G.C. “Ox” Emerson Endowed Scholarship

Aug 9, 1996 | Scholarships

Born Gover Conner Emerson on Dec. 18, 1907, and raised in the rural East Texas town of Douglass, “Ox” Emerson played football at Orange High School. When Emerson botched a play one game, the quarterback said to him, “Emerson, you are a big dumb ox.” Emerson went by “Ox” ever after.

After high school Emerson played starting left guard as a Longhorn. He played the 1929 and 1930 seasons under Clyde Littlefield, garnering All-Southwest Conference honors in 1930. He was slated to play as team captain during the 1931 season but was ineligible because he participated in two plays against Baylor in 1928.

Emerson’s pro football career began with the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans in 1931. The Spartans paid him a salary of $75 per game. Money was tight because of the Depression, and though many fans attended Spartan practices, few could afford the price of a ticket. In 1934, the franchise was sold and moved to Detroit, becoming the Lions.

With Emerson blocking and leading the way, the 1936 Lions set a rushing record of 2,885 yards in a 12-game season, a record that lasted 36 years.

Emerson retired in 1937 to become line coach under Potsy Clark for the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers but then briefly played for the Dodgers, earning $150 per game.

Finally retiring in 1939, Emerson returned to Detroit, working in the Personnel Department of the Ford Motor Co. and coaching at Wayne State University, where he earned his master’s in American diplomatic history.

He joined the U.S. Navy in 1942, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Block Island, which a German U-boat sunk in the Atlantic. Emerson and several members of the crew spent hours on a life raft until picked up by a destroyer.

After the sinking Emerson transferred stateside, where he coached the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station football team until his discharge.

He stayed in Corpus Christi coaching football at Alice High School and Del Mar Junior College until he was offered the freshman coaching position at The University of Texas at Austin in 1951. Emerson remained at UT until the end of the 1956 football season, then returned to high school coaching in Austin. In 1976 he coached football and taught American history at St. Louis Catholic School until his final retirement in 1985.

This endowment was funded by Ox’s daughter Linda Bushell and by Helen and James Leahy, in  1996. Ox died Nov. 26, 1998.

More information is available at Emerson’s Wikipedia page.

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