CEDAR HILL (CBSDFW.COM) – On Friday night, Raymond Dennis stood along the sidelines watching Cedar Hill High School square off against Mansfield Timberview.
The 88-year-old has always had a passion for football. And 70 years ago, he was suited up as a Cedar Hill Longhorn.
“I played left half-back,” he said. “It wasn’t called running back. If I had something to run with, I was all right.”
Dennis now lives in West Texas; he said he was recently shuffling through old photos when he came across a stark black-and-white image of himself in uniform. It was taken in 1941, and two cheerleaders are gazing at him.
“They were beauties,” Dennis said. “They were just my friends.”
Besides the nostalgia, Dennis said that picture reminded him of missing out on a high-school tradition that has spanned decades.
“We had our best team the last year. We played the 40 to 41 school year and we didn’t even get an award for it,” Dennis said. “We didn’t even get a letter jacket for it.”
That’s because the region was still reeling from the Great Depression. The school couldn’t afford to buy the letter jackets – which then cost $9.95 – for the team.
But Friday night, as Dennis idled on the sideline, he was finally presented with a letterman jacket.
“It means that other people understand how special he is,” said Gwen Austin, Dennis’s daughter.
Cedar Hill Athletic Director Gina Farmer was behind the surprise. Dennis met her a number of months ago when he went back to the school for a visit.
“He touched my heart the moment he walked in the office and he had such a great personality. He reminded me of my dad, who I lost in 2003,” Farmer said. “I didn’t think anything about it; I wanted to do something nice to make him smile.”
And smiling he was; Dennis got to recreate that famed picture of himself that brought him back to the high school in the first place.
But he did have one last wish.
“I wish all my other team members got one before they passed,” he said.