Decades down the road, when Rudy Burrola has taken his last breath and moved to the next life, the town of Roswell will shut down. Flags will be flown at “half-staff,” his church will hold the funeral and Goddard may open the gym for a viewing of the origin of their all-time greats. Historians will look back and see that he and his crew delivered Goddard their first Blue Trophies in 1967 in football and ’68 in baseball. Surely, the mayor at the time will read a proclamation of the life he’s lived and the deeds he has done.
Picture if you will, when the minister asks, ‘What is a man?’ — dignitaries from around the world who grew up in Roswell will send messages and make phone calls about Rudy’s generosity, the goodness of his heart, and how he treated people, but mostly how he made them feel as a person. People will tell of his deeds like making secret donations to help a down and out family. Providing athletic gear and shoes for athletes who could not afford to play without his gift. Rudy has done all of this in keeping with his motto to “payback” — which to him, is “Paying It Forward.”
“Rudy means a lot to a lot of people — he is a father figure, a friend and he keeps us out of trouble,” said Paul Peyton, who represents the Roswell Boys Club at the National Youth of the Year competition.
When that time comes and the minister asks that we examine his life, there will be testimonies about how he used his position as director of the Boys & Girls Club to feed children that might not be able to eat at home, but at the Club, Rudy and his staff would make sure each kid had something in their bellies to get them through to the next day.
There will be a person telling anyone who will listen — which will be the whole town — about how he gave a person a job they weren’t qualified for. But to Rudy, he was a good finder in people and he was willing to give a hand up if he saw potential in a person. People would say the benefit of Rudy was a loyal employee and friend for life.
On that day, Rudy will be remembered for being more interested in building children into men and women for the future betterment of Roswell. When people gather around and talk Rudy Burrola, it will be stories of character and how he did this and that for me, when even my own parents didn’t believe in me.
There will be a group of grandsons to talk about the terrible 70-point loss Goddard suffered at the hands of Clovis when they were sophomores. The score could have been worse because Clovis had a couple of TDs called back. For Rudy, that will be his worst defeat as an athlete ever. Goddard lost so bad they didn’t even score against Clovis.
After the loss to Clovis, lifelong friends: Bobby Carroll, Steve Harmon, Bobby Dodson, Bob Harris, Ron Capps, Junior Hunter and Clyde Williamson — whom Rudy said is one of the best athletes from Goddard — made a vow that they would never lose like that again. Goddard won two games during the lifelong friends’ sophomore year, but they would come back to win the state championship in their junior season.
Years down the road, people will talk about how Rudy separated his shoulder his junior year and continued to play football both seasons as a linebacker and guard. They will talk about how Goddard teammates stuck together and helped produce Goddard’s Blue Trophy in any sport with their first football title in 1967 in Rudy’s junior year. The team went 9-2 and tied Roswell that year. To get to the title game, they had to beat Aztec, and then Bayard Cobre in the title game.
“Both firsts — football and baseball championships are the same for me,” Rudy said. “Back then you didn’t think about the championship. The coaches were on you and you wanted to win. Losing was not an option, we were going to win. The first thing that came first was the win.”
One of Rudy’s favorite memories from the football championship was throwing assistant coach Dick Winder into the pool after they won the football title. Rudy said the letterman’s club had to pay $800 in damages to the hotel.
“We broke a couple of doors and beds,” Rudy said with a laugh and smile, “but we got him, assistant coach Dick Winder. Winder was 6-foot-6 and weighed 240-250 pounds. We picked him up and threw in the swimming pool. That was the most memorable thing we did. We had to run and run and run for that.”
The team lost by one penetration to Lovington his senior season. Lovington went on to win state in football that year.
“We became so close,” Rudy said, “because we lived together on the football fields, basketball court and baseball diamond. We were brothers and we stayed brothers even until this day. Being inducted into the Goddard Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018 — we were there together, we didn’t lose 20 years, it’s like we were never apart. Those guys that I played with, we formed a brotherhood that will never be broken. We love each other.”
Those same group of athletes would win two baseball titles in ’68 and ’69 as juniors and seniors. Rudy knew his Goddard team was way better than everybody else. One of Goddard’s pitchers pitched seven innings, a no-hitter in a doubleheader. Goddard mercy-ruled the team in three and a half innings in the first game and the same thing happened in the second game. The game was over.
“Winning state in baseball was exciting my junior year,” Rudy said. “In my senior year, nobody was excited, nobody went to celebrate after the game. It was just a regular game. It was no big deal — we were expected to win. Former teammate, Bobby Dodson was the best pitcher I’ve ever seen. He was a senior and a great, smart pitcher.”
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for the second half of this two-part story coming up in Tuesday’s edition of the Roswell Daily Record Sports section.