A dim news week for the Texas football program continued on into May 7, with the passing of former legendary running back Jim Bertelsen at the age of 17. A report from Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman on the morning of May 7 confirmed the passing of Bertelsen this weekend.
This news comes within the same 10-day span as the passing of a fellow former Longhorns National Champion and wide receiver/tight end Pete Lammons at the age of 77, which was reported by ESPN on April 30. Lammons won a National Championship with the Longhorns back during the 1963 season, under the direction of legendary head coach Darrell Royal.
And then it was Bertelsen that won a title in his first year actually playing for the Longhorns, in 1969, also under the direction of Royal. Bertelsen was around for some of the later years of Royal’s tenure, which was done following the 1976 season.
Remembering former Texas football star RB Jim Bertelsen
As a standout running back at both the college and NFL level, Bertelsen individually is remembered for his greatness on the gridiron, and how quiet he could reportedly be off the field. He built up to be a Longhorn legend by way of standing out in the wishbone option offense, leading the ground game to many productive seasons.
In three years playing for Texas, Bertelsen registered more than 2,500 rushing yards (over six yards per carry), 33 rushing touchdowns, and more than 200 receiving yards on a dozen catches. That led to him getting picked up by the Los Angeles Rams 30th overall in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft.
Bertelsen then played in the NFL for five seasons, one of which he was a Pro Bowl selection for the Rams. His Pro Bowl campaign came in 1973, which he actually mostly played at fullback in LA. Over the course of five seasons in the NFL, Bertelsen registered nearly 2,500 rushing yards, (four yards per carry), 16 rushing touchdowns, more than 1,000 receiving yards, and two touchdown catches.
He ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in yards per carry in 1972, during his rookie campaign, and in the top 10 in 1973 in all-purpose yards (nearly 1,400 on the season). Bertelsen also carried the returning duties for the punting team with the Rams early in his NFL career.
Bertelsen ranked in the top eight in punt return yards in each of his first two years in the NFL.
Texas lost multiple big names among the current and former players in the past 10 days. Bertelsen and Lammons were former Longhorn legends that helped the program win titles in the 1960s.