In commemoration of Black History Month, we will honor the legacy of African-American athletes from ASN's family of schools throughout February. Today: Luke Jackson of UT–Pan American, now UT Rio Grande Valley ( UTRGV) .
The school's name has changed over the decades — Edinburg College, Edinburg Junior College, Pan American College, Pan American University, UT–Pan American.
But there is only one Luke Jackson.
In 1963, one of the greatest athletes in the history of what is now the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) led what was then Pan American College to the NAIA men's basketball championship.
It's the sports moment judged the greatest in the history of UTPA, which merged with UT-Brownsville to form UTRGV on July 1, 2015.
In 1963, Jackson led the Broncos (now Vaqueros) to a 26-6 record, including a 73-62 victory over Western Carolina in the NAIA title game.
"I was just a part of a team,” Jackson said in 2013, when the school raised his retired No. 54 jersey into the rafters of what is now UTRGV Fieldhouse. “I wasn't too concerned about my stats. I wanted to win.”
And the Broncs did. The team including Mitchell Edwards, Jim McGurk, Paul Friddle, Marty Urand and coached by the legendary Sam Williams won 17 of their final 19 games.
McGurk finished his career with 1,281 points where he is currently ranked 10th in the UTRGV record books. He also ranks third in rebounds (948), eighth in field-goals made (514) and 10th in free-throw made (253).
The catalyst was Jackson, a two-time NAIA First Team All-American. He is the program's career leader in field-goal percentage (.547), free-throws made (443) and free-throws attempted (605), second in points scored (1,813), rebounds (1,393) and field-goals made (685), and sixth in field-goals attempted (1,252). He is also in the top 10 for 17 single-season and eight single-game records.
Jackson also had a hand in a team record. In one game during their championship season, the Broncs finished with 75 rebounds.
“I'd always hear the other guys say I'd rather get kicked in the head by a bronco than go up and rebound against [Jackson],” Urand once said.
During the 1963 NAIA Tournament, Jackson averaged 26.4 points and 18.6 rebounds per game to earn the MVP honors.
He helped the Broncs return to the NAIA championship game in 1964. The Broncs lost, but Jackson went on to play for two more championship teams.
He won a gold medal playing for Team USA at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and started alongside Wilt Chamberlain on the Philadelphia 76ers' 1967 NBA champions.
Jackson's No. 54 was originally retired across all sports on Nov. 12, 1964.
Video courtesy University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Department of Intercollegiate Athletics