Harlan Woods’ goal in high school was to play sports, but a serious injury prevented that.
“I always wanted to play competitive sports,” the San Benito native said. “The mastoid bone in the right side of my face was infected. It was a serious deal. They had to open me up and take that bone out on the side of my face. It left me deaf in my right ear. The doctors impressed on my parents that no matter what, don’t let me get a blow on that side, because I didn’t have anything there to cushion it. It would be a serious injury if I got hit there. My dad told me as much as I wanted to play football and basketball, he said, ‘Son, you just can’t do it. The doctors said if you get hit in the wrong place, it could seriously hurt you and maybe kill you.”
Woods was very upset about that as he started high school, but then he took a journalism class, and something clicked. He joined the San Benito high school newspaper as the sports editor.
Woods fell in love with sports writing right away, and from 1950 until his retirement a few years ago, he kept writing about sports.
For his work covering the Rio Grande Valley, Woods will be inducted into the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Woods is one of nine honorees to be celebrated at this year’s ceremony, which will take place today at the Boggus Ford Events Center in Pharr.
“I was very pleased and happy to learn I was being inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Woods said.
Woods was good friends with Kenneth White of Mission. White and Woods would often attend the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame ceremonies together.
“We would sit in the audience and watch all the inductees,” Woods said. “I remember, before he passed away, we were in one of the meetings, and they had the group on stage that was going through their speeches and their programs. He said ‘Harlan, you know, one of these days, I think they are going to ask you to join that Hall of Fame.’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know whether they will or not.’ Well, it turns out he was right when he said that.”
Woods covered two of the most successful athletes in Valley history: Bobby Morrow and Tom Landry. Woods began his career at the San Benito News, where he covered most of Morrow’s career. Woods followed Morrow throughout his journey to NCAA Championships and Olympic Trials.
After six years at the San Benito News, Woods moved to Mission and became the sports editor of the Mission Progress Times. Woods covered Landry throughout his career at Mission. Woods made the trip to Dallas several times to cover Landry as a pro.
Woods served as co-chairman of the Tom Landry Celebration in Mission, during which the city named the football stadium after Landry.
“When the week was over and he left, I got a letter that he wrote me from Dallas, thanking me for being a part of the week and everything,” Woods said.
A few years later, Woods represented Mission at a celebration to honor Landry in Dallas.
When Woods got back from that celebration, he received a similar letter from Landry.
“Things worked out well for me,” Woods said. “I was in San Benito during Bobby Morrow’s climb, and I got to follow him and write about him. … Then, when I went to Mission, it was Tom Landry and the Mission teams and so forth.”
“I have been involved ever since 1950 in sports writing,” Woods said. “I did a lot of writing in those years. While I didn’t get to play, at least I got to be involved in the games and get to know some great athletes.”