COUNT QB ROTE AS ONE OF REGION’S BEST
Harlandale superstar stood out in ’40s and ’50s, helped teams capture titles in NFL, AFL and CFL
Lawrence Lane was a sixth-grader when Harlandale’s Tobin Rote burst into the spotlight as a junior in 1944. Watching from the stands, Lane recalls marveling as the 6-foot-4, 200pound quarterback raced past defensive backs.
When Rote wasn’t throwing over them.
“A lot of people don’t know how good he was because Tommy Kramer and some others came later,” said Lane, who is a former principal at MacArthur High School and also has been a coach. “But truthfully, he was the best.”
The legendary player, who captured championships as a player in the old Southwest Conference, NFL, American Football League and Canadian Football League, is in both the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame.
“He may have been the best quarterback to have ever played football in San Antonio,” said Gary DeLaune, who has been broadcasting high school football games for nearly six decades. “But because of the era in which he played, there’s not much we know about him.”
Rote died in Saginaw, Mich., in 2000 at age 72.
The San Antonio native led Harlandale to regional crowns in 1944 and 1945. He ran a de-facto singlewing offense with a scatback named Virgil Tope.
Rote burst into the national spotlight when he spearheaded Rice’s charge to the SWC title in 1949. Former Harlandale standout Ernie Denham, who graduated in 1942, recalls sitting in the stands when Rote led Rice, then ranked ninth nationally, to a 17-15 win over Texas at Austin that year.
“He was coming into his own then,” said Denham, who went on to serve as an administrator with the Harlandale Independent School District. “On the field, he could sure pass that ball.”
Rote, whose first cousin was legendary football star Kyle Rote, went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL with the Packers, Lions and Broncos. He led the NFL in passing in 1956 with 2,203 yards, ending with almost 18,000 yards in league play for his career.
In the NFL, he’s best known for throwing four touchdown passes and running for another in the Lions’ 59-14 win over Cleveland in the 1957 title game.
He also won crowns in later stints with the AFL and CFL, becoming the only quarterback in history to do so.
Done with playing, he tried coaching for a while, returning at one point to Rice to work with quarterbacks, including Kramer’s brother, Mike.
“My brother told me that Tobin could still kneel down on one knee and throw the ball 40 yards,” said Tommy Kramer, who’s also in the Texas Hall. “I met him several times and, man, he had some big ol’ forearms.”
“I met him several times and, man, he had some big ol’ forearms.”
Harlandale’s Tobin Rote won titles in the old Southwest Conference, NFL, American Football League and Canadian Football League. He was with the NFL in 1958, right.
Tobin Rote in 1965, with the San Diego Chargers.