Once an Aggie, always an Aggie
VAIL — Young Richard Steadman was a big kid from Sherman, Texas, and in Texas that means football.
However, young Richard was lined up to study medicine at Harvard.
That’s when legendary Texas A&M coach Paul “Bear” Bryant stopped by the Steadman home, where he visited with the young football-playing Richard.
“Son, we’d like to have you at Texas A&M,” Bryant said.
“Sir, I’m all yours,” Steadman answered.
And that’s how Texas A&M’s Richard Steadman became No. 74 in your program and No. 1 in your heart.
Steadman received his alma mater’s highest alumni honor when he was named a Texas A&M Distinguished Alumni.
More than 425,000 Aggies have graduated from A&M. Only 249 have been named Distinguished Alumni since it was established in 1962.
It’s a surprise
When Steadman and his wife, Gay, walked into the conference room in the clinic that bears his name, Preston Sturdivant with A&M’s famed Corps of Cadets met them at the door and, in full military regalia, read the proclamation declaring Steadman among A&M’s Distinguished Alumni.
A&M sent their best to honor their best. Sturdivant is the commander of the Ross Volunteers, an elite unit that, among other things, serves as the honor guard for the Texas governor.
“It’s certainly a great honor,” Steadman told Porter Garner III, executive director of Texas A&M University’s association of former students.
As he made his way into the room crowded with Steadman Clinic staff, friends and well-wishers, in the middle of the conference room table Steadman spotted a huge picture cake, adorned with a black and white photo of him coming out of a three-point stance in his A&M gameday football uniform.
“I know I made it. I’m on a cake,” Steadman said laughing.
Grinning at his photo on the cake he smiled and said, “I look pretty tough.”
Richard and Gay will be honored guests Oct. 2 at A&M, for a Football Saturday, which, in College Station, Texas, is capitalized as a proper noun.
Steadman graduated Texas A&M in 1959. Gay was a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas when she and Richard met on a blind date. He was a sophomore at UT Southwestern Medical School, also in Dallas.
The doctor is in
Steadman played a couple of years for Bryant at A&M and was part of those great Aggie teams featuring Heisman Trophy winner John David Crow and NFL great Jack Pardee.
Those teams won a couple Southwest Conference championships, and Steadman said he was proud to be part of them.
Academics, though, came calling in a pretty serious way.
He said he got a D in comparative anatomy, and he found himself at one of life’s crossroads.
He made the tough decision to drop football to get his grades up and go to medical school.
“I told coach Bryant, ‘I don’t think I can do both,’” Steadman said.
“Coach Bryant was very supportive,” Steadman said. “He told me to pursue my long-term goal.”
And so he did.
In 1963, he earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. He interned at Charity Hospital in New Orleans, spent two years in Germany with the Army, returned to Charity Hospital for his orthopaedics residency, and he and Gay moved the family to South Lake Tahoe, California, where he joined Dr. Paul Fry’s general orthopaedics practice.
In the mid-1970s, Dr. Steadman revolutionized physical therapy after surgery. Instead of putting a hard cast on the injured arm or leg, Dr. Steadman kept the limbs mobile immediately after surgery, improving patients’ recoveries.
Between 1971 and ’73, Steadman was asked to join the U.S. Ski Team as a team doctor. He began to focus on knees in 1982 and created his nonprofit Steadman Sports Medicine Research Foundation in 1988 at Lake Tahoe. That organization exists today as the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.
Former Vail ski company owner George Gillett was one of Steadman’s patients in the late 1980s, and in 1990 lured Steadman to relocate his family and his practice to Vail.
Dr. Steadman has been a consultant to the Denver Broncos and Colorado Rockies, and he has served as U.S. alpine team physician at almost a dozen Winter Olympics.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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