Eddie Southern of the United States, the 1956 Olympic 400m hurdles silver medallist, has died aged 85 ©texassports.com

Proud Texan Eddie Southern, who won Olympic 400 metres hurdles silver at the 1956 Melbourne Games as an 18-year-old in only his fifth career race at the event, has died aged 85.

"Eddie Southern was a truly amazing runner and competitor," said longtime Texas Athletics director DeLoss Dodds, who ran against Southern as a collegian at Kansas State.

After making his name as a one-lap runner on the flat, Southern made a decision after his first year competing for the University of Texas that would radically alter his career.

"The story goes, Eddie went to his Young Life leader as a freshman, who was Cleburne Price, and talked about his dreams of trying out for the Olympics," Southern’s attorney, longtime friend and UT teammate Shelby Sharpe, told Texas Sports.

"But as a young quarter-miler was concerned that he was not as strong as the more experience and mature people in that race.

"Coach Price said, 'Why don't you do the intermedia hurdles.

"'You're a good hurdler, a good quarter-miler, and I think you'd be great at that race.'

"Well, I'd say it worked out and the rest is history.

"He took right to it.

"Three career races in and he makes the Olympic team, and after just five races, he's in another country breaking the Olympic record in his new event."

The 1956 Olympic final was the culmination of a sensational year for the 18-year-old first-year University of Texas student.

Eddie Southern, pictured right taking 1956 Olympic 400m hurdles silver behind fellow American Glenn Davis, has died aged 85 ©Getty Images
Eddie Southern, pictured right taking 1956 Olympic 400m hurdles silver behind fellow American Glenn Davis, has died aged 85 ©Getty Images

He finished second to one of America's legendary 400 metres hurdlers, Glenn Davis, at both the U.S. Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games.

At the trials as the runner-up, he clocked the second-fastest time ever of 49.70 seconds in that event.

Southern set an Olympic record of 50.1sec to reach a tightly contested final where he went on to finish second to Davis, who equalled the Olympic record in winning.

Southern, who clipped the final hurdle, finished just a step behind in 50.8, thus becoming only the second Texas track and field athlete to win an Olympic medal, and the first to earn one in an individual event.

He set University of Texas records in the 100 yards - 9.4sec, 200 yards - 20.5 - and 440 yards - 45.8 and the short and long hurdles.

He held a combined 10 Texas Longhorns individual and relay records at the conclusion of his University of Texas career, and ran a leg on multiple world-record setting relay quartets as well.

 A 1959 Texas graduate with a business degree, he competed for his final time internationally that year in the Pan American Games, winning a silver medal with the United States’ 4x400m relay team.

And to further illustrate the talent he had, even though he didn't play football at Texas, Southern was selected by the Chicago Bears in the 29th round of the 1959 NFL Draft, but passed on the opportunity to play in the league.

Southern served in the Air Force after his time at the University of Texas followed by a career in the restaurant business in the Dallas area.

He was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in 1969, Texas Athletics Hall of Honor in 1973, Texas Track & Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2013 and is also a member of the Sunset High School and Drake Relays Hall of Fames.