Marvin Upshaw: Collegiate Athletics, Racial Equality, & Trinity University
Marvin Allen Upshaw was born on November 22nd, 1946 in Robstown, Texas; a town nearly two hours south of San Antonio (Hall of Fame, 2001). When it came time for Upshaw to make a college decision nearly eighteen years later, Upshaw decided to take his talents to the one and only Trinity University in the fall of 1964. At the time, Trinity University was a small and private Presbyterian affiliated institution located in the heart of downtown San Antonio. Rather than follow older brother Gene to Texas A&I, Upshaw took his own leap of faith by accepting a scholarship to play both football and baseball for Trinity.
Upon Upshaw’s arrival on campus in the fall of 1964, he immediately stood out for both his size, at six-foot-four and 245 lbs. (“Tiger lineman plays tough”, September 1967, p. 11), as well as his skin color. The demographic of Trinity’s campus was purely white and the majority of students came from upper middle to upper class families (Pritz, 2016). Trinity then, as now, was a small school where most students knew one another (Weiss, 2016). Although one of the few African American students on campus, Upshaw would prove to be accepted by teammates, coaches, and classmates through being a standout athlete on the football field, on the baseball diamond, and by serving as president for the “T” Association.
Coaches, Teammates, and Classmates on Upshaw
Head coach Earl Gartman shared with The Trinitonian in the fall of 1967 that Upshaw was as good as any lineman in Texas and the best player Trinity has to offer (“Tiger lineman plays tough,” September 1967, p. 11). Following Upshaw’s invite to the Senior bowl following the season, Gartman added on to his comments about Upshaw as being “one of the best football players I’ve ever seen, let alone coached,” (“Upshaw All American; invited to Senior bowl,” December 1967, p. 7).
Teammate Greg Lens cited Upshaw as his greatest inspiration on the field and trying to beat Upshaw in on-field performance is one of his top challenges (Mervin, October 1967, p. 10).
Ron Pritz, a Trinity graduate in 1969, first started his friendship with Upshaw during the two weeks of two-a-days for football in the summer of 1965. Pritz (2016) shared that "Marvin was a wonderful guy, remarkably friendly, and easy to know and be around."
Eric Weiss, a Trinity graduate in 1968, took Opera Literature with Upshaw and had the opportunity to get to know Upshaw both in the classroom and while studying together. Weiss (2016) shared that "Upshaw was very well known at Trinity, both as a superb athlete, and as an all-around nice guy."