Where Are They Now? Willie Cager Still Quick with a Story (October 2021)

Glory Road basketball star Willie Cager shows off his ring
from the ’66 national championship run.

Confined to a wheelchair but still mentally nimble and cheerful as ever, Willie Cager of the Miners 1966 national basketball champs was a welcome sight during a recent campus reunion. He and teammate Nevil Shed always draw eager ears when it comes to telling Glory Road stories featuring iconic Coach Don Haskins and equally colorful trainer Ross Moore. Willie has lived in El Paso for decades, delighting Miners young and old with his relentless good will. 

Nevil Shed and his teammates enjoy enduring acclaim among Miners fans. (Photo by Lewis Woodyard Photography)

After last month’s mention of Leeford Fant, several readers asked the whereabouts of this Corpus Christi product who came to Texas Western in 1958 as one of the first black football players. The popular Fant passed away in 1999, after serving his entire career at athletic coordinator at El Paso’s Lydia Patterson Institute. Fant was a former teammate Larry Meeks and his brother Jack who both played for the late Ben Collins. 

Dave Smith, a defensive end from Houston St. Thomas in the late-1960s and early-70s, for years has been a self-employed businessman in the Marble Falls area. More recently, he has had both shoulders and a knee replaced, erasing any chance he might have of skinning through airport security. More recently, Dave been the full-time caddy and caregiver for wife, Helen, his wife of 32 years who is battling cancer. Dave is the father of four, the grandfather of six. Both he and Helen remain in good spirits, calling “every day above dirt level a blessing.” 

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