Del Rio Trailblazer
Sidney Blanks Sr., a true Del Rio Trailblazer
Sidney (Sid) Blanks was the grandson of the Black Seminole Freedom Fighter Sampson July. Sid’s mother, Leona, is Sampson’s daughter. Sid’s father, Roscoe, was the original plumbing engineer of the San Felipe neighborhood located in the Barrio.
Sid, the youngest of 11 children, was born in Del Rio, Texas on April 29, 1941. In 1960, Hall of Fame Head Football Coach Gil Steinke offered Sid a football scholarship to play at Texas A&I University. Sid’s acceptance made him the first African American to play at an integrated school on a football scholarship in the state of Texas. In 1989, Steinke told the Houston Chronicle, “We integrated football in Texas. We had Sid Blanks before anyone else integrated.”
Sid went on to become an All-American member of the Texas A&I football team from 1960 through 1963 before he was drafted in 1964 by the Houston Oilers, where he would begin his American Football League (AFL)/National Football League (NFL) career. A talented running back, he played professional football for eight years—seven seasons in the NFL (1964-1970) and one in the World Football League (1974).
Sid was inducted into the Texas A&I Hall of Fame (1981), the Lone Star Conference Hall of Fame (2002), and the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame (2011).
After his playing career, Sid started his own business and became a successful sports agent, representing both NFL and National Basketball Association (NBA) players, including his youngest son, Lance. Additionally, Sid spent an inordinate amount of time volunteering and coaching his sons with the South Maine Mustangs in little league football in Houston, TX.
In 2015, the San Felipe Exes built a park in the town of Del Rio in honor of Sid’s life and legacy. He was loved for his steadfast leadership, soft-spoken manner and loyal commitment to family and friends. In one of Sid’s last public interviews, for the book Black Man in the Huddle (published in 2019), Sid reflected positively on his time at San Felipe High School, growing up in Del Rio and how the “barrio” helped equip him for later success in life.
Sid passed away one Sunday evening in December of 2021, surrounded by his loving caregivers in his home in Webster, Texas, near Houston. He was 80 years old.
Sidney’s accomplishments in Texas helped pave the way for many people, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, to follow in his footsteps. Sidney is considered one of Del Rio’s first community legends.