On Monday, October 28, one of Bear Bryant’s infamous “Junction Boys,” Dennis H. Goehring, spoke on leadership at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Goehring focused his talk on goal setting, decision making, and persevering through difficulties.
Drawing on his time as a football player for Texas A&M under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Goehring said that Bryant took the struggling Aggie football team to drought-plagued Junction, Texas, for their pre-season camp. Of the 111 players that initially made the trip, only thirty-five remained after the ten days of grueling practices in the heat. The men who did return as members of Bryant’s team led the Aggies to an undefeated season and the Southwest Conference title two years later in 1956.
Goehring was on the Aggie team from 1953-1956 as a guard, and was an All-American in 1956, when the team was undefeated, won the Southwest Conference championship, and was ranked number five in the nation.
Of his time on the team with the Junction Boys, Goehring said the leadership qualities he learned are discipline, hard work, perseverance, and just knowing that if you learned all these things, you could have a mission statement to believe in and chart your life around.
“I was determined to be in the group that stayed and survived, and not part of the group that left camp,” Goehring said. “I think what really happened were several things that affected me – I had to make the team to stay at A&M because I didn’t have a scholarship going out there. To me it was hard, but it was just a game. And I knew Coach Bryant was going to change things. I just knew that he was going to develop a championship team, and I wanted to be on it.”
Goehring said that all of the above made Coach Bryant a good leader.
“Throughout history, you know people who are unique – Roosevelt, Churchill, Lincoln, Patton, and Eisenhower – standout people. Coach Bryant could have been a general,” Goehring said. “When he walked in, there was a presence about him that was totally captivating. He had the ability to mesmerize people. He was smart, articulate, and intelligent about his mission and what he wanted to do.”
A tribute to Coach Bryant’s success is that all of the boys who came back from Junction graduated and were successful people.
Speaking specifically to the Bush School, a place filled with students aspiring to be leaders in public service, Goehring said that the Junction Boys weren’t unique in terms of the challenge that was given to them.
“That Junction episode – everyone will have a ‘Junction episode.’ The things I’ve been through since then were a lot tougher. If I’m not persevering, making it through, then I’ve failed,” Goehring said. “There’s a Junction ongoing, and if you can accept that, you will be successful. Out of every negative, there is a positive. You just have to persevere through it—have the mental toughness to do it.”
Goehring added that leadership can start at any age in life. You learn from all of the experiences. You learn from the mistakes you make and develop leadership from that. If you survive, then you become leaders, he said.
“The Junction era was only a few years after WWII. There was a mental toughness in this country that we don’t have today,” Goehring said. “Now leadership has to generate a different format, a different way of saying, ‘hey, this is how we’re going to solve the problem.’ If we don’t muster up some leadership, we will not be happy with where we end up.”
Goehring emphasized the importance of finding the job you are passionate about doing – not the job that may make you the most money.
After college, Goehring went on to have an illustrious career in both the private and public sectors that includes positions at Proctor & Gamble, College Station Economic Development Foundation, Bryan Business Council, and the US Air Force.
A long-time friend of Bush School writing consultant Sally Dee Wade, this is Goehring’s second visit to the School.
Wade said students can learn valuable leadership lessons from Goehring’s experience with the Junction Boys.
“They are an icon in Texas A&M history. They epitomize what you can do when you have the right leadership,” Wade said. “The experiences they had at Junction molded them into a cohesive team. They all went on to be successful at A&M, but that sense of overcoming obstacles has gone on with them through all of their careers.”
Goehring started his own bank, went on to do city development in College Station, and now is doing the same in Bryan. He has been instrumental in such projects as the TAMU Health Science Center location, Wade said.
“His leadership has made such an impact on the cities of Bryan and College Station,” Wade said. “Overall, the Junction Boys personify leadership, teamwork, and overcoming obstacles to get the job done.”
Goehring began and ended his talk with two key principles.
“Success breeds success. And if there’s a negative in your life, find a positive,” Goehring said.