AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Amarillo may not be known as a hotspot for athletes. However, plenty of athletes are born here in the Yellow City.
This list will be comprised of 12 different athletes that were born in Amarillo before making their claim to fame in their respective sports. This list is based on the accomplishments and the legacy that athletes were able to build. While this list does not contain all the great athletes from Amarillo, residents commenting on a Facebook post were able to add a few of the local sports stars they consider to shine the brightest.
Famous athletes from Amarillo include:
Rex Baxter (1936-Present)
- Rex Baxter Jr. sank a 45-foot putt to give his University of Houston team its first NCAA golf championship in 1956. Baxter started playing golf at 9 years old and went on to play professionally. Fresh from leading Amarillo High to a state tournament runner-up spot, and two straight years as district medalist, Baxter received a golf scholarship at the University of Houston. The Houston Cougars captured NCAA titles in 1956 and 1957; Baxter won the individual crown in 1957. UH went on to win three more consecutive titles. Houston has won 16 NCAA golf titles and produced numerous PGA standouts; it all began with Baxter. He won the 1957 Trans-Mississippi and was named to the Walker Cup team in 1957. Baxter turned professional in 1958 and played on the PGA Tour from 1961 through 1968. He played in 12 U.S. Opens, 10 PGAs, and six Masters tournaments. After his touring days, he became a club pro, then an instructor.
Trevor Brazile (1976-Present)
- Trevor Brazile has always desired to be known as a great All-Around Cowboy. He appears to have met that goal after winning 26 World Championships. He had a rope in his hand since he was a young boy. He practiced whenever he could, even roping the babysitter’s cat. He made his professional debut in 1996 when he was named Steer Roping Rookie of the Year. It would take a few more years for him to win the coveted All-Around title, but once he did, he was unstoppable. The 2002 All-Around title was decided in the final round. Brazile had to rope his final calf to win, and he did so in style. He outperformed his competition the following season. coming in second place. Brazile appeared to be unstoppable when he won number three in 2004, but he was edged out by Ryan Jarrett in the 2005 season. He recovered from that defeat and went on to win ten consecutive All-Around titles. He also won two triple crowns during that time, in 2007 and 2010. In 2011, he broke Ty Murray’s All-Around record of seven wins. He won the Steer Roping World Championship in 2013, tying Guy Allen’s record of 18 world titles. A month later, he broke that record by winning his tenth All-Around title. Brazile continued to outperform his competition, winning his final title in 2020 without missing a beat or slowing down. In addition to ProRodeo Hall, Brazile is the only other cowboy to qualify in four events, including Tie-Down Roping, Steer Roping, Team Roping Heading, and Team Roping Heeling. Brazile is currently the only cowboy with earnings in excess of $7 million. In 2008, he was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and in 2016, he was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. His unwavering devotion to the sport of rodeo has undoubtedly made him the King of the Cowboys.
Brad Bryant (1954-Present)
- Bryant was the son of a Southern Baptist pastor and was born in Amarillo. During his childhood, he moved with his family to Alamogordo, New Mexico. Bryant spent three years at the University of New Mexico before turning professional and qualifying for the PGA Tour in 1976, a year before his scheduled graduation. Bryant’s only PGA Tour victory came at the age of forty in the 1995 Walt Disney World/Oldsmobile Classic, a feat that took 20 years and 475 starts, one of the longest waits for a PGA Tour victory. Bryant began playing on the Champions Tour after turning 50, where he won for the first time at the 2006 Toshiba Classic and then won again later that year at the Regions Charity Classic. In a playoff for the 2006 Senior PGA Championship, he was defeated by Jay Haas. His best year as a professional golfer came in 2007 when he finished third on the Champions Tour money list and fourth in the Charles Schwab Cup race, highlighted by his victory at the US Senior Open. Bart Bryant, Bryant’s younger brother, also won on the PGA Tour.
Evan Tanner (1971-2008)
- Evan Tanner was an American professional mixed martial arts fighter. Tanner started his wrestling career during his sophomore year at Caprock high school and later won a state title in wrestling in his junior and senior years before graduating in 1989. He would later go on to attend two colleges the University of Oklahoma, and Simpson College before later returning to Amarillo. Tanner also tried different jobs while attending college including a bouncer, cable television contractor, framer building beach houses, dishwasher, baker, ditch digger, and slaughterhouse worker. During his professional UFC career, he became UFC Middleweight Champion and was the first American to win the Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament in Tokyo, Japan. Tanner defeated UFC Champion Robbie Lawler, former King of Pancrase Middleweight and Welterweight Champion Kiuma Kunioku, Heath Herring, Paul Buentello, Phil Baroni, Ikuhisa Minowa, and more. He makes this list due to the impressive way he began his successful professional MMA career by learning the sport from instruction videotapes. Tanner is also known for being the first MMA fighter to use social media to connect with fans of the sport.
Steve Butler (1956-Present)
- Steve Butler is known as one of the best Sprint car drivers of the 1980s, winning six national driving championships in USAC Sprint Car and Silver Crown racing. Butler would try and give up motorcycle racing before entering the Sprint car racing world with little to no money or experience, which made his hope of having a successful racing career slim. For the money, he would sell his racing bikes, and his van which was his only way of transportation, and ask his wife for a loan using her house as collateral. This would be enough for Butler to buy an old Sprint racing car that was not in the best shape. This did not pose a problem for Butler as he was known for his technical skills and he would later be assigned chief mechanic duties on several of his winning race cars. After rebuilding the out shape car in his mom’s garage, using hand tools and a gas-welding rig, he would start his Sprint Car racing career in 1981. He makes this list due to his long list of accomplishments in the sport including being an inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, the USAC Hall of Fame, and the Hoosier Auto Racing Fan’s Hall of Fame. Butler was also an author and also commentator for the sport.
Ryan Palmer (1976-Present)
- Ryan Palmer is a successful golfer that graduated from Amarillo High School in 1995, he went on to play golf at the University of North Texas and Texas A&M Univesity. Palmer began his professional career in 2000 playing in two mini-tours including Tightlies Tour and Hooters Tour. In 2003 he hit the big stage earning his first PGA Tour card playing in the Nationwide Tour winning the Clearwater Classic and finishing 6th on the money list. Palmer won his first PGA Tour in a three-stroke advantage in 2004, over Briny Baird and Vijay Singh. He would go on to win 3 more PGA titles in his career along with a PGA Tour of Australasia, and a Korn Ferry Tour. Palmer also played in major tournaments including the Master’s Tournament finishing 10th, PGA Championship tieing for 5th, U.S. Open tieing 21st, and The Open Championship where he tied for 30th place. He makes this list of the top athletes from Amarillo due to his long list of ongoing accomplishments in the sport of golf, and his career earnings of approximately $32 million. Palmer still competes today recently playing in the PLAYERS Championship.
Michael Cobbins (1992-Present)
- Michael Cobbins is an 806 basketball legend that attended Palo Duro High School where he led his team to the I-4A finals game. He averaged 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game as a junior and 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game as a senior. Cobbins garnered attention in the sport for the way he played the game of basketball as an athletic 6’8″ left-handed power forward. He was a four-star recruit, ranked as the 12th-best power forward by Scout.com and the ninth-best power forward by Rivals.com, which also ranked him as the No. 38 player in the nation of the 2010 class. In his senior year, he was listed as a nominee for the Mcdonalds-All American team that included, Harrison Barnes, Kyrie Irving, Reggie Bullock, and more. Cobbins would sign with Oklahoma State to begin his college career where he later graduated before going undrafted. During his college tenure, he played in a total of 105 games averaging 5.8 points 5.6 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Cobbins was a Big 12 two-time all Defensive Team member and he also ranked second in blocks during his senior year averaging 1.83 blocks per game. He started his professional career undrafted joining the Oklahoma City Thunder and playing with their Summer League team before eventually signing with them. After being waived by the OKC he would later play for other professional teams including Oklahoma City Blue, Greek club Apollon Patras, the Capital City Go-Go, Split, and Maccabi Haifa of the Israeli Basketball Premier League, and Italy for Basket Brescia Leonessa.
Ziggy Hood (1987-Present)
- Evander “Ziggy” Hood is a former American football defensive tackle who graduated from Palo Duro High School. He played college football at Missouri and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round (32nd overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. Hood has also played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, and New Orleans Saints. Hood was a two-sport star in both football and track. In high school football, he earned All-District honors in his junior and senior seasons. He was selected in the first round, 32nd overall, by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2009 NFL Draft. He moved to the defensive end in the Steelers’ 3–4 defense and served as a rotational backup in his rookie year. Hood recorded both his first sack and first recovered a fumble against the Baltimore Ravens on December 27, 2009. Hood appeared in Super Bowl XLV against the Steelers losing to the Green Bay Packers 31-25.
Tucker Davidson (1996-Present)
- Joseph Tucker Davidson is currently a Major League Baseball pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels however, his dreams started at Tascosa High School. He played college baseball at Midland College. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB draft and made his MLB debut with them in 2020. At Tascosa he played baseball as a starting pitcher and football as a quarterback. For Midland in his sophomore year in 2016, Davidson was 6–2 with a 2.27 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 71.1 innings. He was named All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference’s first team.
William Thomas (1968-Present)
- William Harrison Thomas is a former American football linebacker for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles (1991–1999) and Oakland Raiders (2000–2001) franchises. Thomas’s dreams began here in Amarillo, where he attended Palo Duro High School and later played college football at Texas A&M University. After college, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Thomas in the fourth round, 104th overall in the 1991 NFL Draft. He played for the Eagles in nine NFL seasons. His most notable seasons were in 1995 and 1996 when he was selected as a member of the NFC’s Pro Bowl team. Thomas ended his career with 37 sacks and 27 interceptions and is a member of the 20/20 Club.
Alex O’Brien (1970-Present)
- Alex O’Brien is an American former doubles world No. 1 tennis player who was born here in Amarillo. He gained the top ranking in May 2000 and was ranked as high as world No. 30 in singles in June 1997. O’Brien, won his only singles title at New Haven, Connecticut, in 1996 and reached the quarterfinals of the 1994 Cincinnati Masters and the 1996 Canada Masters. O’Brien has won 13 doubles titles, the biggest coming at the 1999 US Open, the Cincinnati Masters in 1994 his first doubles title, the Indian Wells Masters in 2000, and the Paris Masters in 1999. He also played on the United States Davis Cup team, competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and was a four-time All-American at Stanford University, where he won NCAA singles, doubles, and team titles in 1992.
- Emily Brister born in Amarillo stayed in the Panhandle for her college career attending West Texas A&M and, came within 125 points of breaking the LSC career scoring record in 2009 capping an incredible career for the Lady Buffs. She helped lead the team to the Elite Eight for the first time in 12 years in 2008-2009. She currently holds 13 school records and is the only WT women’s basketball player to surpass 2,000 points with a school record of 2,645 points ranking her second all-time in the Lone Star Conference. Cooper was named LSC Female Athlete of the Year four times and earned the Fred Jacoby Academic Athlete of the Year twice. Brister was an ESPN The Magazine and CoSIDA Academic Player of the Year and LSC Academic Athlete of the Year.
More top athletes from Amarillo, that may not be born here but whose name was made in the Yellow City:
- Brandon Wolfram, former basketball player.
- Alyssa Ballard, Team USA weightlifter.
- William Thomas, former National Football League linebacker.
- Bobby Duncum Jr., a professional wrestler.
- Brad Weick, is an American professional baseball pitcher.
- Brandon Slay, Olympic gold medal for the United States in wrestling.
- Crockett Gillmore, former National Football League tight end.
- Mike Scroggins, is a professional ten-pin bowler and member of the Professional Bowlers Association.
- Natalie Ritchie, former Texas Tech women’s basketball player.
- Dory Funk Jr., is a professional wrestler.
- Dory Funk, is a professional wrestler.
- Terry Funk, is a professional wrestler.
- Heath Herring, mixed martial artist.
- Mike Hettinga, aka Mike Knox, professional wrestler.
- Barry Orton, former professional wrestler.
- Sheri Haynes, former basktball player.
- Austin Johnson, former pro basketball player.
- Joe Fortenberry, is a former American basketball player.
- Nick Jones, a former football player, is a part of NCAA track and field record books.
- Montrel Meander, is currently an NFL defensive back.