Monday, November 22, 2010

Rick Casares the Gator, ca. 1951-53

Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay History Center received a large gift of original drawings, prints, and materials from the family of the late Tampa Tribune artist Lamar Sparkman. Among the countless wonderful artifacts in the collection are a few hundred photographs that Sparkman took of his subjects prior to drawing them for the newspaper.

Some gems recently uncovered include a series of photographs taken of local football star Rick Casares. The Jefferson High School standout led the Dragons to two city titles (1947, 1949) playing fullback while earning All-American, All-State and All-Southern honors as a senior. He went on to star as a two-sport athlete at the University of Florida in football and basketball from 1951-1953. The Chicago Bears drafted Casares in 1955, and he eventually became the team’s all-time leading rusher before being eclipsed by Walter Payton.

In this photograph, Casares is joined at Florida Field by University of Florida head football coach Bob Woodruff, who coached the Gators from 1950-1959. The highlight of both of their careers at Florida came in the Gator Bowl on January 1, 1953. Casares scored the first touchdown of the game on a two-yard run and kicked two extra points as the Gators defeated Tulsa 14-13 for their first-ever bowl game victory.

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