January 1942, Robert Duff Maddox opens his eyes, conscious for the first time in six weeks. Maddox has been in a hospital bed at Baylor Hospital for months now, spending the last few weeks in a coma. Robert, better known by his nickname “Hoggy,” awakens to a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions. Over the past months he has gone from believing he has a minor injury to discovering his medical condition is of the gravest condition before finally slipping into a coma. Upon regaining consciousness, Hoggy learns that the United States has been attacked by the Japanese and, subsequently, entered World War II.
Maddox’s story begins long before that day in Baylor Hospital. In fact, Hoggy was extremely proud to trace his roots back to the original 300 settlers that accompanied Stephen F. Austin to Texas in 1821. Maddox would grow up in Fort Worth, eventually joining the inaugural Arlington Heights High School graduation class in 1937. After graduation, he would enroll at Southern Methodist University on an athletic scholarship, lettering in football, basketball, baseball and track; however, he was most successful on the gridiron.
Hoggy would play an integral role on the 1940 SMU team as an end. His contributions would help lead SMU to a share of the 1940 SWC Title, tying only with Texas A&M. His play was so strong that he was invited to play in the Blue-Grey Game, a Civil War themed All-Star game between the North and South held in Alabama. Maddox promised to feature prominently on an SMU team going into the 1941 season with high hopes.
There was little time to waste, as the second game of the ’41 season was against the highly ranked Fordham Rams. Although a small program today, Fordham was a consistent power from the mid-1930s to mid-1940s. Starting with the “Seven Blocks of Granite,” the nickname for a Fordham line that featured no less than Vince Lombardi, to a Cotton Bowl appearance against Texas A&M in 1941, Fordham was a known power that SMU was greatly looking forward to.
Traveling to the Bronx in New York on October 4, 1941, Maddox and the rest of the Pony football team were ready to test their mettle. That same weekend, the city of New York was entranced by a World Series that showcased the Yankees against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Yankees would win the series 4-1 but spectators got their money’s worth, as eight players would go on to the Hall of Fame. With such a spectacle happening in the same city, the crowd turnout for Fordham-SMU was disappointing but those that did make it would watch one of the greatest contests of the 1941 college football season.
While Fordham led most of the game, SMU played with a sense of urgency in the final quarter. The Ponies pushed and fought for every yard, before stalling down to the Rams 9-7. With a field goal attempt looming, few expected the SMU kicker, Joe Pasqua, to hit the forty-yard long attempt in the poor weather; but with a strong snap, good hold and the ever present fighting Pony spirit, Pasqua drilled the kick to give SMU the lead with mere minutes remaining.
However, Fordham was never a team to be counted out. With one last desperation drive, the Rams threw for the go-ahead score with the clock winding to zero. The final score was Fordham 16, SMU 10.
After the game, Fordham had nothing but praise for the SMU senior, Maddox, remarking that he, “…is really a player” and, “Why we had three men to block him out but he just wouldn't go down; gosh there's nothing you can do about a guy that won't go down."
Maddox would make it a few more weeks, helping the team collect victories against the College of the Pacific (led by the “Grand Old Man of Football,” Amos Alonzo Stagg) and Auburn before falling to the Texas Longhorns. All along, Maddox was nursing an injury that he originally thought to be a ‘charley horse.’ However, after aggravating the injury in the football game against Texas A&M, Hoggy was taken to the hospital. Doctor’s quickly diagnosed the young SMU star with an infected blood stream, informing young Maddox that the injury was very severe and that it was quite possible he would not survive it.
During his stay in the hospital, SMU would go to Fort Worth to face TCU. One of Maddox’s main goals during his career at SMU was to start a game against TCU in Fort Worth as the captain of SMU. Of course, Hoggy’s medical condition dictated that he be in the hospital during the game but that didn’t stop those in Fort Worth from remembering him. SMU’s head coach, Matty Bell, named Maddox the honorary captain for the game and when it was over, final score TCU 15 – SMU 13, the TCU squad decided to deliver the game ball to the injured Maddox.
Maddox was hospitalized November 8, 1941 at Baylor Hospital. Hoggy, with the help of his doctors, would fight his condition every day but it seemed that the disease was overtaking him when he fell into a coma. Doctors continued around the clock treatment with Maddox seeming to make a break for the clear when he awoke six weeks later in January of 1942.
Despite his critical condition, Maddox was confronted with seemingly incomprehensible news: the Japanese Empire had attacked Pearl Harbor forcing the United States into World War II. College campuses across the country were immediately affected by the event and SMU was no different. All ten of Hoggy’s fellow senior teammates would join the fight by January 14 with their jobs ranging from the FBI to the tank corps.
Maddox had his own fight to face. Doctors were pleased with his recovery and announced that he would be released January 24. Celebratory articles were posted in the SMU campus newspaper and Hoggy couldn’t wait to return. Fate intervened when Maddox’s case again made a turn for the worse when he began to run a fever of 104 degrees and was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, or a bone infection. Concerned, doctors called in specialists from around the country to try and save Maddox’s life.
In a move of desperation, Maddox was given penicillin, one of the earliest approved civilian uses. The antibiotic worked and Maddox began to steadily improve. After a yearlong stay in the hospital, Hoggy returned to SMU but was restricted to crutches for another two years. However, nothing would stand in the way of the young man, as Maddox would eventually earn degrees in business and law from SMU. While in law school, he would meet and marry Neva Culpepper, his wife for over 60 years.
Maddox’s personal career was long and distinguished, serving in Austin as an Assistant Attorney General before joining the law firm of McDonald, Sanders, Ginsburg, Phillips and Maddox in 1951. He would retire in 1986, pursuing a personal passion for raising Quarter and Paint horses on his ranch while caring for his yard. Hoggy Maddox passed away August 22, 2012 but his life and story will continue to inspire for many years to come.