More than four decades after he led the Bridge City Cardinals to a Class 3A state championship, former University of Texas two-time All-America fullback Steve Worster has been named the 2009 50th Anniversary Citizen of the Year by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce.

Worster, 60, will be honored during the BCCC 2010 Annual Banquet on Feb. 20 at Bridge City High School. His iconic No. 30 Cardinal football jersey, long retired, is displayed in the foyer of the new school gymnasium.

“Steve Worster put Bridge City on the map,” said Becky Andrews, chairwoman for the annual banquet. “He is still a legend here and always will be. We decided it is time to tell him thank you.”

Worster led the Cardinals to a 13-1 season and the Class 3A state football championship in 1966, running for 2,210 yards and being named a High-School All-American. To win the championship, the underdog Cardinals romped to a symbolic 30-6 win over McKinney at Baylor Stadium. Bridge City also reached the Class 3A state championship in 1965 before losing to Brownwood, 14-0.

Both championship seasons galvanized the small, unheard of town of Bridge City in a way that changed its course of history. Worster would plunge it in to the national spotlight.

He went on to become a two-time All-America fullback in Darrell Royal’s famed wishbone offense, and played a key role in the Texas Longhorns’ back-to-back national championships in 1969-70. He wore the same, famed No. 30 as he had as a Cardinal. Bridge City reaped nationwide publicity.

Back in his hometown a new sense of community had emerged. It impacted a successful citizen’s campaign to incorporate the town in 1970. It was the same year Worster was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, a three-time All-Southwest Conference selection who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting for the 1970 season. He was also voted 1970 Texas Amateur Athlete of the Year by Texas Sports Writers Association.

City founders have always attributed the successful election to incorporate Bridge City to Steve Worster, starting with the success of the 1965-66 Cardinals.

More than 40 years later the same sense of community sustained Bridge City in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, Sept. 13, 2008. Like most residents, Worster’s home (on Cow Bayou) and belongings were destroyed. Bridge City’s most famous citizen lived in his car and bunked with family and friends until a FEMA trailer provided temporary housing.

It was a message he carried with him in March, 2009, as he was inducted to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on its 50th anniversary in Waco.

Under the headline, “Longhorn legend Steve Worster remains dedicated to hometown of Bridge City” he told the Waco Tribune that January, “We’ve been eating off our laps and off picnic tables. The Salvation Army fed us for the first month. But it’s fascinating to watch what people have done for each other in Bridge City.

There’s a lot of good solid human beings who still care about their town and each other here.”

During his induction, Worster reminded the audience of the disaster, his experience in the aftermath and the strength and unity of his hometown and lifelong friends. 

Worster has also been inducted into the Texas Longhorn Hall of Fame and the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame.

During his years at UT, the Longhorns earned three Southwest Conference titles, and back-to-back NCAA National Championships.

Worster was a three-season All-State running back at Bridge City and accumulated 5,422 yards during his high school career, including 38 100-yard games. His record remains second in Texas prep history behind Robert Strait’s 41 (Ken Hall and Billy Sims also had 38 100-yard games).

“We’re planning a special event that recognizes Steve and that whole era in Bridge City history,” Andrews said. “It made us who we are as community and is the spirit that keeps us moving forward.”

In their honor, special seating for Worster classmates, teammates, cheerleaders and coaches is being provided.

Worster, who recently moved back into his home since the hurricane, said, “We’ve been planning to all get back together again. This would be a great occasion for us to do it.”

Worster has two grown children, Scott and Erin Worster. He has his two grandchildren with Scott’s son Evan and daughter Morgan. Scott married Jaclyn Morgan from Odessa.

Tickets to the event are $20 and will go on sale from the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce in February.