The walls of his office in the Parking Services building are blanketed with Bobcat mementos, past and present. “Go Bobcats” banners and flyers intermingle with various newspaper clippings. A framed photograph of him shaking hands with President Lyndon B. Johnson rests on a side table next to an edition of the University Star from 1973, honoring Johnson after his death.
Johnny Parker has been a parking sergeant for the University Police Department for 25 years, but his involvement with the univeristy dates back to the late 1960s — a time when LBJ himself attended football games, when Southwest Texas State College was a part of the Lone Star Conference and when Texas A & I was its biggest rival.
Parker labeled his playing days as the ‘cool days,’ a time “when streaking was popular and girls would throw panties out of the dorm windows.”
Johnny Parker transferred to SWT in January of 1969 from New Mexico State. SWT receiver coach Danny Leinneweber had coached Parker in high school and was the main contributor in Parker’s transfer.
“Johnny wasn’t the fastest or toughest person in the world,” Leinneweber said. “But if you threw a ball up between four people he would come down with it.”
In the 1969 Bobcat Maroon and Gold Spring football game Parker caught three touchdowns in the second half to lead his side to victory, 21-15.
In his three year career (1969-1971) Parker set 10 Bobcat receiving records and three Lone Star Conference records. Today, Parker still holds five Bobcat receiving records, including career pass receptions (160) and career receiving yards (2470).
Parker’s enduring accomplishments were attained in a time when concussions weren’t given a second thought and it was commonplace to play multiple positions.
Tom Soyars, Parker’s roommate through the early 1970s, played strong safety/punter for the Bobcats.
“I think a lot of these guys today wouldn’t have made it,” Soyars said. “It was a lot tougher back then.”
Soyars said they played so intensely during each practice that sometimes it was counter-productive.
“I don’t think they try to kill people in practice like we did,” Soyars said. “They wised up. If you go out there and try to kill one another than you’re just hurting yourself.”
Practices were held at C. E. Evans Field, named after the college’s second president and Soyars ‘great-granddaddy,’ located at the present day Strahan Coliseum parking lot (Evans taught Lyndon Johnson when he attended school at Southwest Texas State Teachers College).
“We would pack ten thousand in there for games,” Parker said. “We would actually have people on the sidelines with the players watching the game because there just wasn’t enough seating – and they’d keep selling tickets.”
Instead of walking the Square to celebrate a victory, players would drive to other neighboring cities because San Marcos was in a dry county. The Square was lined with businesses, not bars. If students decided to drive to Austin on the newly constructed Interstate 35, it was to catch a movie or to eat out, said Robert Patton, athletic trainer in the 1970s and current professor at Jowers Center.
In the 1960s, when Six Flags and Sea World were merely future plans, Aquarena Springs, its most popular attraction being Ralph, the swimming pig, and the Wonder World amusement park drew hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
With the drastic changes in facilities, businesses and enrollment, the constants have been the Bobcats of old – Leinneweber, Soyars, Patton, Parker and many more prominent former Bobcat figures still call San Marcos home.
“I love the University,” Parker said. “I work all of the games now and kept up with them all of these years.”
Parker worked at Gary Jobs Corps Training Center when education was the largest industry in San Marcos and met his wife there.
Parker began working for the University Police in 1987, witnessing first-hand the transformation from a small college into one of the largest universities in Texas.
“Right now we’re at our peak,” Parker said. “I’ve never seen it like this before.”
With a new stadium, new conference and new coach, Parker is optimistic about the future of the program and the city as a whole.
“It’s always been a great place,” Parker said. “Once you get used to living here, it’s hard to leave.”