Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Elvin Bethea Joins Texas Tailgate

Elvin Bethea. Photo from

Elvin Bethea. Photo from

By M.G. Angulo –

At the time of his retirement in 1983, Elvin Lamont Bethea held three team records relating to service: most seasons – 16, most career regular season games played  – 210 and most consecutive regular season games played – 135. And although not an official National Football League (NFL) statistic until 1982, his 105 unofficial sack total still ranks as team best, as are his 16 sacks in 1973. Bethea was selected to play in eight pro bowls, and in 2003, he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003. He even wrote an autobiography in 2005 entitled Smash-Mouth: My Football Journey from Trenton to Canton.

Of all the accomplishments attached to his name, however, there is something that remains prominent in retired Houston Oilers player Elvin Bethea’s mind: the fans.

Awe-Inspiring Fan Love

“We had a lot of lean years,” said the retired defensive end, reflecting on the early years on the team in the late 60s and early 70s. “But our fans stuck with us. That is what I loved – not just playing the game, but being a part of Houston, the city, the people.” And in 1978, the people demonstrated to Bethea just what it meant to be a fan.

Elvin Bethea and Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen.

Elvin Bethea and Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen.

Here’s the setting: The Oilers made the playoffs with a 10-6 record, qualifying them first to play in Miami, Florida, where they beat the Dolphins 17-9.  That win was followed by a game against the New England Patriots, where again, they were victorious – this time 31-14. So then it was on to Pittsburgh to battle the Steelers, with the chance at the Super Bowl on the line. But they lost that game 34-5 in a crushing defeat. It was a blow to a team who had been so close to a chance at America’s greatest sporting event.

“When we lost to Pittsburgh, I saw something we’ll probably never see again,” Bethea said. “We were used to fans coming to the airport when we arrived home, just to cheer for us, hold up signs or shake our hands. But this time was something different. We were told to stay on the bus, because we were going to the Astrodome.”

The Astrodome, as it turned out, was the meeting ground for thousands upon thousands of fans who wanted to prove to the Oilers that their fans undoubtedly loved them. “I’m sitting here getting chills about it,” Bethea said. “It was seven o’clock, and the parking lot was crowded. I’m talking 50 or 60,000 people giving us a standing ovation.” That roar of loving fans vibrated Bethea to his core and etched an everlasting memory in his heart.

“I mean we just lost the game, you see?” he said. “We were the losing team, and to see that many people cheering us on was the greatest thrill ever.”

Texas Tailgate

The Astrodome ovation is Bethea’s favorite story to share from his football days, and he, along with nearly 20 more players, are willing to share similar stories and talk football this month at Texas Tailgate, a special event on Sunday, February 5th – Super Bowl day – hosted by the Missouri City Parks Foundation. During the Pre-Game Tailgate Party, guests will have a chance to mingle with Pro Football Hall of Fame players and NFL legends and talk about player stats, stories and predictions for the big game. Then during the Private Watch Party, guests can enjoy refreshments, activities, a silent auction and watch the game with the players in a comfortable and relaxed environment.

For the past nine years, Bethea has been involved with the event, which has been held in Super Bowl cities. With this year’s Super Bowl being held in Houston, Bethea pushed for the 2017 Texas Tailgate to be held in Missouri City, where he has lived for the past 21 years. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Missouri City Parks Foundation dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of residents through parks and recreational opportunities.

“This is the perfect place to live. I know so many people here, and they know me,” Bethea said. “This community has always supported me, and I felt this was something I could do to support the community. I’ve participated in nine of the Texas Tailgates, and I can tell you something like this doesn’t come every day.

“We’ll be talking football, taking pictures, giving autographs, and you might even see some Hall of Fame jackets,” he added with a laugh. “It’s all about community first, community love.” Last year’s tailgate boasted 300 to 400 people, and following the event, the players visited a veteran’s hospital. “That was a wonderful feeling,” Bethea said.

“I can’t wait for this year’s tailgate. We’ve got fan favorites who people will enjoying meeting. This is an exciting time for me, and I’m proud it will happen here, and benefit where I live.”

For more information about the Texas Tailgate or to purchase tickets, visit or call 281-403-8518.