It’s Time To Invigorate The Future At Texas Tech By Honoring The Past. It’s Time To Put Elmer “The Great” Tarbox In the Ring Of Honor And To Retire #21!

He served in the Texas Legislature.

He flew a B-25 Bomber in the Pacific Theater in WWII.

He taught Sunday school.

He grew-up in West Texas in the heart of the Depression.

He should have his #21 retired as a Texas Tech Football legend.

He’s Elmer “The Great”!

When it comes to any college there are only a few folks who get the distinction of being first. Of being originals. Of being leaders and setting a tone and creating a path for others to follow.

Elmer Tarbox was one of those people for Texas Technological College in the 30s.

A fantastic football player, a fine student and a leader on and off the field, Tarbox was at once unique, and the same. The same as his other classmates at Texas Tech, just trying to make it through one of the toughest times in our country, in a part of the country that some folks didn’t know a Depression was on. It had always been hard in West Texas. That’s what shaped his and their character.

For many Texas Tech fans the name Elmer Tarbox is shrouded in the fog of history. A name associated with events so long ago that they aren’t tangible even if the fan knows the name. That’s a shame. Elmer Tarbox is exactly who Texas Tech needs to embrace in 2019.

The future for Texas Tech lies in celebrating its past.

Texas Tech was shaped by the Elmer Tarbox generation. The school exists and thrives today because of what men and women of the Elmer Tarbox generation did, both while at Texas Tech and then after they graduated, fighting to ensure the school would grow, prosper and not wilt under the pressure of down-state interest hell-bent on keeping it small.

They dreamed no little dreams.

Better yet, they acted in no small manner.

Elmer Tarbox led Texas Tech to an undefeated season in 1938, ironically starting off with a win over Montana St. just like this season. He and his teammates culminated their year in the still newly-minted Cotton Bowl, falling to St. Mary’s.

When he left Texas Tech he had the single-season interception record of 11.

He still does.

It would take Idalou native Tracy Saul until 1991 to pass him on the career interception chart with 25 to Tarbox’s 17. Saul is still the only one to best him. . .

Tarbox was “The Great” then and he is The Great now.

Texas Tech needs to make it a priority to go back and include men like Tarbox in the new Ring Of Honor and by retiring their numbers just like E.J. Holub, Donny Anderson, Dave Parks. History matters and far too many Red Raider fans truly don’t understand the names and events that happened before they started watching Texas Tech football.

Tarbox is the start and should be taken care of first but there are many others.

Windy Nicklaus. “Handsome” Ransom Walker. Herschel Ramsey. Jim Neill. Walt Schlinkman.

An entire generation-plus of Matadors and Red Raiders need to be recognized alongside the more modern heroes of Texas Tech football.

When it comes to celebrating the vast and colorful history of Texas Tech football, the school should be more inclusive than exclusive. When it comes to showcasing history, In my opinion, Texas Tech lags far behind many other brethren schools in the State of Texas.

The history is there.

It’s time to share it and bring it to light.

As for Mr. Tarbox, if you’re not familiar with his story you should read up.

Ray Westbrook did a great feature on him a few years back in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. You can read it here: Elmer “The Great’ Tarbox.

Also, KAMC28 Sports Director David Collier did a fine piece on Tarbox a while back. The definitive video history. Watch it here: Red Raider Nation On Tarbox!

It’s time.

It’s time to retire #21 and time to celebrate the men and women who took Texas Tech from the fields of West Texas to the Heights Of Victory.



  1. Wendy Nicholas was my high school principal! Loved that man he was such a Godly man and such a remarkable leader. Wendy was of course Texas Tech’s first football captain.
    A friend of mine is cousins with the Tarbox family they certainly agree with your story and so does my family.

  2. Thank you for your support of Elmer Tarbox…..I was a member of Texas Tech Saddle Tramps in the class of ’73 and although Mr. Tarbox played before my time, I knew of his accomplishments on and off of the field. It is indeed time to honor this war hero, Tech legend, inventor, legislator and truly a great human being in the Ring of Honor. Kudos to you for keeping his memory alive….I look forward to seeing his name on the West Side of Jones AT&T Stadium sooner than later.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. That means a lot!
      I can write a column, but it’s really up to Texas Tech grads and Red Raiders like you and
      others to make this happen. Y’all have to spread this column around. Not for me, but for the idea of getting it
      rolling. Then, it’s up to Texas Tech folks to contact the university and let them know that this is something you
      want. Not because you donate a million dollars, but because men like Tarbox and his generation made it possible
      for folks to WANT to give Texas Tech a million dollars.
      Thanks again for commenting and I’m so glad y’all are out there reading what we do in Raiderland!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.