Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson's impressive story with UT band

Rex Tillerson was the drum section leader in the UT Longhorn Band. (Photo courtesy UT Band)

Long before Rex Tillerson became the CEO of ExxonMobil and Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, he was a section leader in the University of Texas Longhorn Band. And during that time, he helped make a dream come true for a San Antonio native.

As a freshman playing in the University of Texas Longhorn Band, Danny Gonzales was eager to prove himself, but the Lanier High School graduate encountered many obstacles.

“The racial climate back then was very bad,” said Gonzales. “I was hardly ever referred to as Danny or Daniel. It was always Gonzales.”

Despite his talent, Gonzales didn't get a spot in the marching band's drum line. Instead, he was assigned to carry a flag.

Until the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Eve 1973. When the drum section leader, Rex Tillerson gave Gonzales a chance.

“There's a tap on my shoulder and I turn and it's Rex,” said Gonzales. “He says, ‘You know Danny, you deserve it. You know the routine.’ I said, ‘What?’ He takes off his drum strap and gives me his drums and says, ‘Go. Half-time is about to start.’”

The halftime show was televised, giving Danny’s parents in San Antonio the chance to see him.

“Well what happened, unbeknownst to me, the television camera did a close up on me,” he said. “So for the next few months my dad would brag to his friends that his son was playing the snare drum in the New Year's Eve Cotton Bowl.”

Gonzales describes the secretary of state nominee as a man with heart.

“Rex acknowledged my talent and worth and gave me a shot,” he said.

So when Gonzales ran into Tillerson 40 years later, he had to thank him.

“He's got his back to me. I tap him on the shoulder and he looks at me and says ‘Danny?’ And I started crying,” said Gonzales. “He didn't have to. He went out of his way to do that very special thing for me. It meant the world to me. It was a gift. It's something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.”

When asked what Gonzales thinks about Tillerson being nominated for secretary of state, Gonzales says he wishes Tillerson good luck and says he hopes he does what’s in his heart.

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