San Antonio native and renown college football defensive lineman Larry Seidel remains in the Intensive Care Unit of the downtown Baptist Hospital while doctors and health care staff help him through severe respiratory problems. On Dec. 10, Seidel was transferred from a Corpus Christi facility where he had been treated for much of November.
“I have two 40% damaged lungs with secondary complications,” Seidel confirmed today. “I’m trying to get on the fast track for a double lung transplant.”
Despite his trouble, Seidel remains a strong man with his trademark sense of humor and the incredible ability to smile at improbabilities. He’s faced tough odds throughout his sixty-years, but as high-school friend, and Bridge City, Texas Baptist Pastor Jack Comer, Jr. explained to Seidel’s daughter Krystal, “your dad has gained a lot of respect from us all. Some of us have known him for almost 50 years that dates back to grade school or junior high.”
Comer, who has known Seidel as far back as junior high school and played with him on the McCollum High Cowboys first championship team in 1972, says “he is one tough cookie but no doubt faces his toughest challenge as of yet. Our prayers continue to be with you guys.”
Seidel, almost forty years ago, was among one of the most dominant teams in college football history, the 1976 Texas A&I Javelinas. On Sept. 11, 2015, Seidel received his second and third awards from Texas A&M University-Kingsville Hall of Fame. During three seasons, Seidel earned 149 solo tackles as their honor winning defensive lineman, helping the legendary team with a 39 game winning streak.
By the time Seidel walked off the Javelinas’ football field, the 1976 team had won its third consecutive NAIA Division I national title and numerous awards. Coach Gil Steinke later became enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Seidel was on the NAIA all-district first team.
“He’s been consistently the most aggressive pass rusher we’ve got,” Coach Steinke told a reporter in 1976. “Larry uses his height to great advantage and blocks lots of passes. He’s always enthusiastic.”
Besides the fabled 39-game winning streak, the squad was the first American college team to play in Europe. They also played at the Astrodome in Houston and Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“I not only played in Hawaii, I had the first injury in the form of getting my right hand ring finger damaged in the zipper that fasten the turf that covered the base field under it,” Seidel remembers. “Later that year Houston’s quarterback in the Pro Bowl ended his playing time when he lost the end of his pointer finger to the same zipper. I played the season with that injury and had it fix at the end of the season. The game was broadcasted on the Arm Forces network, worldwide.”
By all accounts, the Hawaiian team did not know what hit them when the Javelinas tsunami came to town with the Texas team beating them by a score of 56-21. This was not surprising to the A&I’s alumni who are proud of the fact the university chose the “Javelina” as their mascot in 1925. Seidel and his teammates embodied the symbolic meaning of the tenacious and ferocious creature of the Lone Star State. When the universities first president, Dr. Robert Cousins was attacked by one of the mascot javelinas in 1929, he remarked that the creature represents the symbol of character of the students.
The Javelinas were called, along with Henderson State from Arkansas, to join in a three-week exhibition tour in Europe the summer of 1976 before Seidel’s senior year. They were among the first to introduce American-style football to friends across the Atlantic Ocean. Because of an injury to his knee against the Southwest Texas State Bobcats the previous fall, Seidel stayed behind for rehabilitation.
“I’ve never seen a guy recuperate from knee surgery as quickly as Larry did,” Coach Steinke commented that year. “He worked like a dog to make it back!”
While Seidel was recuperating, he could not use the stairs between classes. A pretty coed, Kim DeIorio would make certain she was near the elevators so she could ride up or down with him. The couple began dating and were married on Jan. 2, 1978. On the day of their 35th anniversary, Kim DeIorio-Seidel died.
“Only my Kim could make this day the happiest and saddest day of my life,” Seidel wrote on his Facebook page. “Happiest when you took my hand in marriage on 1/2/78. Saddest when you went to heaven on 1/2/13, 35 years later.”
Seidel contemplates all of these memories and conjures up the fighting instinct of the Javelinas as he lays in his hospital bed.
“I used to be a commercial roofer,” Seidel surmises. “Apparently I was exposed to hazardous material. I have forty percent damage to my lungs.”
“Six months ago, I went camping with a friend and stayed at his off the grid campsite,” he explained. “Pollen count, mold and mildew were very high that week because of the heavy rain at Canyon Lake, and we were staying on the Guadalupe River. Before the weekend was up, I started experiencing asthma like symptoms.”
Seidel said his “condition worsened and I went to a doctor who referred me to pulmonologist who said the damage was permanent and all he could do for me is a double lung transplant.”
Daughter Krystal Emery has helped her father set up a fund raising website because Seidel’s “current insurance does not cover the hospital in San Antonio or the new pulmonary fibrosis specialist which is why I am holding this fundraiser.”