The weekend before last, I experienced one of the greatest experiences in my life. It wasn’t the greatest, as those are tied to the Lord directly, but it certainly was up there. I attended the induction of my dad, Joe H. Wellborn Jr., into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame at the Burgess Banquet. That certainly doesn’t make him “the best that ever was,” but allow me to explain in a bit more detail.
My dad is an extremely humble man, and he’ll be the first to downplay an accolade bestowed upon him. He’s not big on praise because he was raised that way. His father was Joe H. Wellborn Sr., and he was one of the finest men I have ever known. He was a kind, intelligent, forthright and generous man. He was also a man who believed you earn everything you get, and that nothing less of your best is acceptable. My dad learned a lot from him, but that last one seemed to be the lesson he held closest.
Joe Wellborn Jr. was not a tremendous athlete, by his own account. He claims he “couldn’t run out of sight in a day.” He was, however, an exceedingly fiery competitor who would not allow another man to get the better of him. He would offer his greatest effort in any situation, as that’s what he felt was the benchmark for success. He wasn’t a highly recruited player out of high school, quite the opposite, actually. He did manage to earn a partial football scholarship to Texas A&M University. As per his norm, he performed above expectation and was awarded a full scholarship. He went on to earn a starting role at linebacker, where he started in more than 60 games. He then played almost two seasons in the NFL but retired early due to an injury. These are all high accomplishments for anyone, but that’s still not why he is the best.
After leaving football he took a position with Exxon for several years. Knowing he could only advance to a certain level, he pursued an opportunity to form his own business. Exxon offered him a position as manger of a small bulk petroleum station in Hempstead, Texas. He was offered the option to purchase it over an extended period. He worked tirelessly to build the business, and we often didn’t see him during the light of day. After nearly ten years he begin to see the fruits of his labor.
When he initially took the station over, it was averaging around 250,000 gallons per month. When he finally sold out, almost 30 years later, it averaged nearly nine million gallons per month. Success had followed him again, but he wasn’t finished there. He then formed the Wellborn Tire Group as a wholesale tire distributor. After successfully expanding the Houston operation to four locations in South Central Texas and creating another multi-million dollar company, he finally decided that it might be time. In January 2012, at the age of 67, Joe Wellborn retired. These are outstanding accomplishments, but still not reason why he’s the best.
My dad was very good football player and a fine businessman. He is the type of man that Texas A&M can be proud of, as both a former student and Hall of Fame member. He likely won’t be considered the best player ever inducted, probably the opposite. He was, in my opinion, a very worthy addition. As his good friend and former teammate, Jim Singleton, stated, “Without Dick Butkus, there would be no Butkus Award. Without Joe Wellborn, there would be no Aggie Heart Award.” He was the first A&M player to receive the Aggie Heart Award. It’s given to the Aggie football player who shows the most effort, desire, determination, competitiveness, leadership and courage. Those qualities describe my dad very well, and I like to believe the award was created especially for him.
Joe Wellborn is the best that ever was … simply because he’s my dad. He gave the same effort in instilling his qualities to all his children. He knew that the playing field of life was far more important than football. I could not be a prouder son. My goal is to carry-on his teachings to my children and hope one day they hold me in similar regard. He taught me honesty, character and integrity. He is my hero. Joe H. Wellborn Jr. has been a member in my Hall of Fame for many, many years.