Texas Tech University

Hispanic Heritage Month

Historian Chronicles Life of Red Raider Football Great Gabe Rivera

Jorge Iber Specializes in Biographies of Latino/Latina Sports Figures

It happened in 2000 at the Texas Tech vs. Nebraska football game: historian Jorge Iber had the opportunity to chat with football legend Gabriel “Gabe” Rivera.

“We talked for a bit,” Iber recalled, “and I remember walking away and saying to myself, ‘There should be a biography on this man.'” 

More than 20 years later, and out in time for Hispanic Heritage Month, Jorge Iber, associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences and professor in the Department of History at Texas Tech University, has published his latest sports biography, “Señor Sack: The Life of Gabe Rivera” (Texas Tech University Press, August 2021). 

In “Señor Sack,” Iber chronicles the rise of Rivera from his boyhood in Crystal City, Texas, to Texas Tech All-American defensive lineman —and his fall from first-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1983 to the accident during his rookie year that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  
With this biography of Rivera, Iber marks his 15th book as author, co-author, editor or co-editor. Coming soon are titles on Tony Romo, a juvenile biography Iber co-authored with his wife Raquel; a book about Spanish-language MLB broadcasters; and a volume about a Mexican-American family of high school and collegiate wrestlers from Wyoming. 

All but two of his works focus on Latino/a athletes. And, in one way or another, each is a story of perseverance, of courage against the odds. 

“Señor Sack” is no exception. Iber faithfully recounts Rivera's struggle to regain a sense of purpose, despite adversity, to carve out a very different sort of success: finding meaning in helping minority youths in his community of San Antonio, Texas. The life of Gabe Rivera is the story of a sports legend who powered through many obstacles to make way for future generations of Latinos in American sports. Ultimately, as Iber reveals, Rivera's true legacy reached far beyond the gridiron to touch many lives with his volunteer work.  

“I am so blessed to have had the chance to tell that story,” Iber said.