Texas Aggies Honored In Bastogne – Joe E. Routt ’37
The lives of Texas Aggies who fought in and around the Battle of the Bulge, such as Lt. Col. James Earl Rudder ’32, Capt. Joe E. Routt ’37, Maj. James F. Hollingsworth ’40, Lt. Turney W. Leonard ’42, and Lt. William M. Pena ’42 before, during, and after the war will be highlighted in the “Texas Aggies Go to War exhibit in Bastogne. The five men chosen represent the ‘everyman’ …ciphers for every Aggie, every U.S. serviceman that fought in the war. Joe Eugene Routt is the 2nd in a five part series articles to honor these servicemen and to remind each of us of the sacrifice of all who made our nation the great nation it is today.
“Joe Routt had the biggest heart and was the best fighter I ever saw. He’s overflowing with the desire to win.” -Coach Homer Norton, Texas A&M, 1944
Joe Routt ’37 became a household name across Texas for what the sports media called “the toughest guy in Texas.” A product of the rolling, black land cotton farming area in Washington County, Texas, Joe excelled as a leader and role model both on and off the athletic field.
Joe was born in Chappell Hill, Texas on October 18, 1914, a member of a multi-generation immigrant family from Wales. The family arrived in Texas from Virginia and settled in Washington County and Joe was named for his grandfather, Joseph E. Routt. J.E. Routt was in the first A&M graduating class to go four years and received a degree in Engineering in 1880.
Growing up in the heart of the Great Depression he learned the value of a hard day’s labor working for his father, Eugene Otis Routt at their 1,500 acre cotton plantation at Chappell Hill on the Brazos River. Joe’s father recollected of his early years on the farm, “Even when Joe was a kid, I could get him to eat spinach by telling him if he ate it, it would help him grow strong so he could be a football star.” It worked – following his starring role on the football team at Brenham High School resulted in a scholarship to Texas A&M University in the fall of 1933 after attending Blinn College in Brenham for one year.
Routt entered the Aggie Corps of Cadets and soon established himself as a leader among the cadets. After a successful freshman year in which he did not play football but instead joined the boxing team, he earned the starting position of ‘right guard’ on defense and ‘left tackle’ on offense as a junior on the Aggie varsity squad. He played nearly all 60 minutes at each football game including punt returns, and did not relinquish his starting role until graduation. At the annual Texas Aggie Fall Sports Banquet, Routt was named the most valuable player on the 1936 Aggie grid team. In addition to being named an All-Southwest Conference guard in 1936 and 1937, Routt gained nationwide recognition as the first Texas A&M football player to be named a consensus All-American player in 1936; an honor he received a second time in 1937. He played on the 1938 College All-Star team in Chicago and the East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco. Since 1894, when football was first played at Texas A&M, only five Aggie football players have been selected as two-time All-American’s. The Captain of the 1937 Aggie football team was also the 1937 Southwest Conference heavyweight boxing champion – after never losing a fight.