Pudge Rodriguez was born in Manati, Puerto Rico. Dat Nguyen was born at a refugee center in Fort Smith, Ark., after his family left South Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. Sanya Richards-Ross was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
Yet, all three consider themselves true Texans.
“I lived here for 14 years when I played with the Rangers, and that was my first state I came to when I came from Puerto Rico,” Rodriguez said. “I went to Florida, and then I started living in Texas. To me, Texas feels like home.”
Rodriguez, Nguyen and Richards-Ross headlined the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s 55th induction banquet Thursday. Doug English, Larry Johnson, Charlie Krueger, Thurman Thomas and Don Trull joined them as inductees. Krueger, because of health problems, was the only inductee in the Class of 2014 absent.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Nguyen, 38, spent his entire athletic career in Texas. He played high school ball at Rockport-Fulton, became a college star at Texas A&M and spent seven years as a linebacker for the Cowboys. He was the first Vietnamese-American to play in the NFL.
“I talk about that all the time,” Nguyen said. “I’ve been very blessed, very fortunate. When you look at a kid who grew up in a small town, but came from an immigrant family, was born at a refugee camp and played the sport of football, which is America’s sport, and then I got a chance to play for America’s Team. You couldn’t ask for a better story. The next thing might be a documentary or something about it to tell kids, there is an opportunity. … You can fulfill the dream. There will be obstacles. There will be adversity. It’s all about your attitude and how you adjust to it or adapt to it.”
Rodriguez, 42, started catching for the Rangers as a 19-year-old rookie in 1991 and stayed in Arlington until 2002. He also spent part of 2009 with the Rangers. Rodriguez played for five other teams in his 21-year career but considers himself a lifetime Ranger.
He was inducted into the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame last year and works for the team as an instructor, ambassador and special assistant to the general manager.
Rodriguez, who uses the word “we” when talking about the Rangers, said if he’s fortunate enough to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, he would like to go in as a Ranger. Rodriguez is eligible in 2017.
“That’s what I’ve got in my mind,” Rodriguez said. “I know I respect all the organizations that I played with, because all of them are great organizations. We all did a good job together. … But I played the longest with the Rangers. I played 13 years with the Rangers.”
Richards-Ross ran at the University of Texas, now makes her home in Austin and trains in Waco. She brought along her husband, Aaron, a defensive back for the New York Giants, who made himself comfortable in the Landry Theater surrounded by Cowboys memorabilia.
Richards-Ross joked about getting Aaron into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame to have a “Ross wing.” But Aaron said it’d take “at least four more” Super Bowls for that to happen.
Richards-Ross is recovering from two surgeries on her right big toe, the latest performed last August by Dr. Bob Anderson, the prominent foot doctor based in Charlotte. She plans a return to competition in mid to late May but has firmly committed to one more Olympics.
“I had never watched the Winter Games like I did this time,” said Richards-Ross, who has four Olympic gold medals and a bronze in three Games. “I’m like, ‘I have to go back.’ I am so inspired. Yes, 100 percent — 2016 Rio.”