S M U
1946 - 56 Mustangs
As college football has
reorganized in an attempt to maximize its earning potential, the loss of “what
once was” extends to many areas. One of the most significant losses was the
termination of numerous rivalries that reflected intra-state and
intra-conference pride and affection. What many have forgotten because of this
was the true greatness and fan base passion of the Southwest Conference, the
only major conference where all but one member resided within the borders of a
single state. That this state was Texas perhaps magnified the rivalries, the
importance of each game, and the legendary status of the great players that
passed through the member schools. An integral part of the fabric of the
Southwest Conference history and many of its greatest moments is Southern
Methodist University. Chartered in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church,
South, the college opened in 1915 and on September 14 of that same year,
football practice began under the watchful eye of head coach Ray Morrison.
Unlike almost every other football playing school in the nation, Morrison, a
Vanderbilt quarterback, graduate, and future College Football Hall Of Fame
member, installed a passing attack that could have been a portent for the future
days of Don Meredith and Chuck Hixson. Nicknamed the Parsons because of the
majority of theology students on the squad, SMU ran an offense that was
frequently referred to as an “Aerial Circus.” While opponents passed three to
five times per contest, it was typical for SMU to fill the air with the football
thirty to forty times in every game. A vote of the student body in 1917 brought
a new official mascot name of “The Mustangs” to SMU, and they entered the
Southwest Conference in 1918. Despite a few rocky initial seasons, their wide
open, unorthodox offense brought ten consecutive winning seasons, a conference
championship in 1923, an appearance in the Dixie Classic Bowl Game in 1924, and
an entertaining spectacle that led to the construction of Ownby Stadium at the
south end of the campus, in 1926. When head coach Morrison departed in 1935 to
direct the program of his alma mater at Vanderbilt, line coach William Madison
“Matty” Bell stepped up.
Bell was a graduate of
Kentucky’s Centre College and built his coaching resume at the Haskell Indian
Institute in Kansas, Carroll College of Wisconsin, and at SMU rival Texas
Christian University where he also served as head basketball coach. He was hired
at Texas A&M in 1929 but what was cited as “an inability to beat SMU”
contributed to his dismissal after the 1933 season. He joined the SMU staff as
the line coach for just one season until assuming the head coaching position in
’35. The hallmark of his teams was excellent defensive play blended with a wide
open offense. He insisted on a poised and focused style of play and was said to
prepare with “a cold calculation” that proved to be extremely effective.
“Moanin’ Matty” also presented a pessimistic public posture meant to lull
opponents into over confidence. In his very first season, Bell pushed the SMU
squad to an undefeated, National Championship 12-0 regular season record that
included eight shutouts before losing 7-0 versus Stanford in the Rose Bowl. As
the first southwest region team to receive a Rose Bowl invitation, the team and
Bell helped to gain national respect and recognition for the SWC. His teams
remained competitive through the remainder of the decade and shared the SWC
championship with Texas A&M in 1940. Bell entered the military and served as a
Commander in the United States Naval Reserve Air Force from 1942 through ’45,
returning to coach the Mustangs from 1946 through ’49. He returned just in time
to enjoy the heroics of one of the greatest college football players of all
time, Ewell Doak Walker, Jr.
Walker, a superb athlete at 5’11” and only 165 pounds, excelled in football,
basketball, track, and swimming, and had teamed with Bobby Layne at Dallas
Highland Park High School to capture the attention of the entire state. When
Layne entered the
During the 1930’s, SMU was considered to wear among “the most glamorous of uniforms” with their gleaming red leather helmets augmented with red jerseys bearing blue numerals and two-tone red and khaki pants. Utilizing the most up-to-date equipment, Bell outfitted the entire squad with Riddell plastic RT helmets in 1947, utilizing a red shell. Having Doak Walker for his first full season would change Southern Methodist football forever. Despite maintaining a dead-pan and pessimistic patter to all, including his own players, the Mustangs 9-0-1 record could not hide their ability. SMU finished the season ranked third in the country and won the SWC title with Bell as Conference Coach Of The Year. Only a 19-19 tie with rival TCU in the final game of the year, a game in which Walker’s last minute heroics tied it but his physical exhaustion caused him to miss the winning extra point, marred a perfect slate. Even another tie, a 13-all draw with Penn State in the Cotton Bowl did not diminish the national acclaim the team and Walker specifically earned. This was not a one man show; Co-captains Earl Cook, All SWC guard and Honorable Mention All American, and end Sid Halliday, another All Conference pick and a Third Team All American, were perfect, charismatic leaders for a squad comprised of young freshmen and war veterans. Paul Page and Dick McKissack were fine backs and Gil Johnson led the SWC in passing. Yet it was “The Doaker” who did it all, leading the conference in rushing, scoring, kickoff returns and ranking number one nationally in returns and third in scoring. He handled the punting, extra points, and field goals and threw for three touchdowns. He became SMU’s first Consensus All American and as a sophomore, won the prestigious Maxwell Award, and like the story book hero he had become, joined the SMU basketball team at the conclusion of the Cotton Bowl game.
The outcome of the ’47 season and the presence of Doak Walker for 1948 assured major national coverage of the SMU squad. With feature, cover stories in both Life and Look magazines during the 1947 season, the Mustangs were national darlings. Walker appeared on forty-seven magazine covers in a two year period, marking an unprecedented following, with the great Grantland Rice noting that “Doak Walker is the most authentic all around player in football history.” Segments of Walker’s runs were used in the popular Hollywood produced movie, Father Was A Fullback and the SMU team carried a reputation for both flair and good sportsmanship. Assistant coach Russell utilized many plays that had made Bobby Lane and Walker so effective in high school and many overlooked the fact that Russell had dominated the high school ranks while coaching an undersized and undermanned team of orphans at the Fort Worth Masonic Home and School. He did this with an assortment of reverses, screen passes, first down passing plays, and a wide open Y-Formation, single and double wing offense that he installed at SMU. Added to the mix of McKissack, Page, who was with Baltimore of the AAFC for ’49, and passer Gil Johnson was 190 pound fullback Kyle Rote of San Antonio who proved to be a battering ram. A 20-14 upset by Missouri in the season’s third game galvanized the squad and pushed them to a succession of victories, including one at Arkansas that was won on the final play of the game and required Arkansas tailback Gordon Long to protect the officials from the fans so that Walker could enter the field of play to kick the extra point to complete the 14-12 Mustang win. After but one home contest at Ownby Stadium, all of SMU’s home games were moved to the Cotton Bowl to accommodate the huge crowds of more than 50,000 fans that were clamoring to see the Ponies and Walker, and they would remain there for thirty-one seasons. At season’s end, another tie versus TCU in the finale, just as it had the year before, took little away from a successful season, with the final tally being 9-1-1, a SWC crown, a final number ten national ranking, and an offensive display against Oregon and Norm Van Brocklin in the Cotton Bowl that produced 724 yards of offense by the two squads. Walker was of course a Consensus All American and again a candidate for the Maxwell and other awards. However, the Maxwell Award had a no-repeat rule and Walker had won it in ’47. Believing he was the most deserving player for the year, they did not present the award for ’48!
The SMU Mustangs were national darlings in 1949, lauded in print with Doak Walker of course as the perpetual and deserving lead story. The entire team was credited with Walker’s traits of modesty, sportsmanship, and achievement and it was true. Receiving a pre-season ranking of number one seemed to finally bring them the recognition their play deserved over the past two seasons but injuries and the departure of still-eligible Gil Johnson to the professional AAFC New York Yankees was an immediate problem. Baseball player Fred Benners was asked to enroll and immediately play and he did exceptionally well, leading the SWC in passing. The rushing, passing, and receiving trio of Dick McKissack who stayed in Dallas to play pro ball with the Texans in ’52, Kyle Rote who led the SWC in rushing with 777 yards, and Doak Walker was reduced to two when Walker was hit out of bounds against Rice in the season’s third game, tossing him into and over a wheelchair, and injuring him. He then contracted the flu and was hospitalized, reducing his participation throughout the remainder of the season. Rusty Russell, Jr., the son of SMU’s offensive coach, filled in admirably and then Walker was lost for good during the TCU game. In the finale against heavily favored and loaded Notre Dame, the undermanned Mustangs provided what is still considered one of the greatest collegiate games of all time with Kyle Rote’s 115 rushing yards, 146 passing yards, three touchdowns, and forty-eight yard punting average voted as “The Best Performance By A Texas Athlete In The First Half Of The 20TH Century” by Texas journalists. The 27-20 loss and overall 5-4-1 finish did not diminish SMU’s national reputation as one of the most exciting teams in the nation and both Rote and Walker were All Americans. The modest Walker asked to be removed from the All American teams as he had missed so much time to injury but all but one service kept him on their teams, and he had the numbers to back it up. After twenty-six years as a head coach, Matty Bell stepped into the athletic director’s role full time, where he remained until his retirement in 1964. He was voted into the College Football Hall Of Fame.
SPOTLIGHT ON DOAK WALKER:
In an era where America still looked at the time honored virtues of hard work, self reliance, modesty, good sportsmanship, loyalty, and honesty to accompany achievement, Ewell Doak Walker, Jr. fulfilled every image of the All American football hero and local-boy-makes-good. His father, a coach at North Dallas High School, introduced Doak to sports and his childhood was filled with athletic participation and accomplishment. At Dallas Highland Park High School, he was a five sport letterman and teamed with Bobby Layne his junior season to bring the Scots to the state playoffs. With Layne at the University of Texas, Walker led his high school team as a one-man sparkplug to the playoff finals as a senior. He spent his teenage years selling programs and popcorn at SMU games but enlisted in the Merchant Marines after his January graduation, delaying his entry to college. Almost attending Texas to join Layne, he instead enrolled at SMU on a Monday and was playing against Texas that very Saturday. He was drafted into the U.S. Army months after a sparkling, All SWC freshman year and played service ball before returning to SMU. The exciting Walker did it all at SMU, running, catching, passing, kicking, punting, and returning the ball, becoming a four time All Conference and three time All American selection. Attendance was such during his time at SMU that home games were moved to the Cotton Bowl, nicknamed “The House That Doak Built” because it had to be expanded twice to accommodate all of his fans. He also put SMU football on the national map, appearing on forty-seven magazine covers. He won the Maxwell Award as a sophomore in 1947 and the committee refused to give the award in ’48 as their “no repeat” rule would not allow Walker to again win it and they felt no one was as deserving. For his era, Walker’s statistics were astounding, especially his total yardage and 303 points scored. SMU retired his number 37 and Walker was the third pick in the NFL draft, going to the Boston Yanks who sold his rights to the Detroit Lions. Reuniting with high school teammate Layne, Walker was the 1950 NFL Rookie Of The Year and in a six year pro career, All Pro four times, named to the Pro Bowl team five times, and he helped the team win the 1952 and ’53 championships. In 1954 he was a full time, two-way player and decided to retire after another All Pro season in 1955 as he stated, “while I still have my teeth and my knees still work.” Successful in business, he remained the same modest, team oriented gentleman that wrote to the Associated Press to thank them for naming him to their All America team and asking to be left off of Collier’s Magazine team “because other players were more deserving.” A member of the College and Pro Football Halls Of Fame, The Doak Walker Award is given to the best college running back in the nation. Walker remains the greatest SMU football player of all time.
As the 1950 season got underway, both Walker and Coach Matty Bell were gone. The genius behind the innovative SMU offense was assistant coach Harvey N. “Rusty” Russell who at times is referred to as the “Father Of The Spread Offense.” Already a high school coaching legend when he became Bell’s assistant and de facto offensive coordinator at SMU, Russell had been a three sport star at Howard Payne University and an All Conference end who then coached at two Texas high schools. With a Masters degree in Education in hand, from 1927 to 1942 he first founded and then coached the football team at the Fort Worth Masonic Home and School orphanage where his total enrollment of approximately seventy-five boys each year, competed with the largest high schools in Texas. Yet, in sixteen seasons he went to ten State Playoffs. In 1942 he succeeded in coaching both the Masonic Home and School and Highland Park High School concurrently, taking both to the State playoffs where only a coin toss prevented his two teams from playing each other. He completed his prep coaching career at Highland Park where his last teams featured Bobby Layne and Doak Walker. His high school coaching record that earned him entry to The Texas High School Football and Texas Sports Halls Of Fame, and The Texas High School Football Coaches Hall Of Honor was 181-40-14. After five years as Bell’s assistant, he was also Bell’s logical successor. The 1950 season began very much as the previous “Doak Walker Years” had with a home crowd of over 50,000 and a victory over Georgia Tech. There was already a quarterback controversy with Rusty Russell, Jr. and Fred Benners vying for the starting role but in the season’s second game, SMU again gained national prominence for their offense as the Mustangs overcame a 24-6 deficit against Ohio State with Benners throwing to Russell. Head Coach Russell was named NCAA Coach of the Week for the 32-27 upset win over the Buckeyes that is still considered one of the greatest college football games of all time. Benners became the first SMU quarterback to break the 300 yard passing mark, and the addition of Russell’s passing yardage brought the team total to an unheard of 410 yards. Russell and Johnny Champion each caught seven passes. With a national number one ranking and Russell, Jr. improbably leading the Southwest Conference in both passing and receiving, SMU took their 5-0 record against Texas and lost. Russell went out with broken ribs and even with Rote and fullback Bill Forester as unstoppable rushers and Benners taking over as the best passer in the SWC, the team limped to the end of the season, finishing a disappointing 6-4. Even a record setting 526 total offensive yardage day against Texas A&M did not produce a win. Rote was the runner up for the Heisman Trophy and a Consensus All American, as was center Dick Hightower with tackle Bobby Collier, later a two way tackle with the L.A. Rams, and guard Hershel Forester making many Second Team All America squads. Benners led the SWC in passing and the SMU squad led the nation in passing. With the offensive achievements, multiple All Americans, and a 5-0 start, the team’s weak finish and underachievement raised serious concerns.
SPOTLIGHT ON KYLE ROTE:
Often in the shadow of teammate Doak Walker at SMU, Kyle Rote was very much a star and in numerous areas of endeavor other than football, that remained relatively unknown among his loyal fans. As a member of numerous local and state Halls of Fame, his high school accomplishments earned him entry to both the Texas High School Football and Basketball Halls of Fame as he starred at San Antonio’s Thomas Jefferson High School in those two sports, and baseball, and track. He chose SMU over a pro baseball offer and starred as an All American and second place finisher in the Heisman balloting. His junior season effort in a losing game against Notre Dame was considered to be The Best Performance By A Texas Athlete In The First Half Of The 20TH Century by a board of Texas journalists and years later in an unprecedented move, that 1949 National Championship Irish team voted Rote as an honorary member of their squad! He also was a member of the SMU baseball and track teams and upon his college graduation played minor league baseball, piling up huge statistics in a six week career prior to joining the New York Football Giants as the first pick of the entire 1951 NFL draft. A member of the College Football Hall Of Fame, Rote and Walker were named as the Second Team backfield on Pop Warner’s College Team Of The Quarter Century 1926-1950. A knee injury moved Rote from running back to receiver after two pro seasons, but he was successful, a four time Pro Bowl nominee and career leader in every receiving category for the Giants by the end of his eleven year pro career. Revered by his teammates, he was an eight year captain and spearheaded the formation of the NFL Players Association, in part motivated to insure that players of all races were treated equally and fairly on the road. The first President of the organization, the respect and love given to him by his peers is obvious when noting that fourteen teammates named their children after him! Rote was a sports broadcaster and Sports Director for WNEW Radio station in New York after retirement from the NFL. His son Kyle, Jr. was one of the nation’s first soccer stars. Less known about the 6’1”, 200 pound Rote who was the era’s image of the tough, masculine athletic star, was his Renaissance Man approach to life. He wrote the Giants fight song and a number of other commercial songs; he authored two football related books and two volumes of his poetry; his oil paintings and artistic renderings were sold and auctioned. A true hero of his day, Kyle Rote is still considered as one of SMU’s greatest athletes.
Attendance suffered and followers wondered why the high-flying Mustangs offense that often flooded the field with five receivers on each play, and the presence of three All Americans and one of the nation’s most heralded passers could only muster a 3-6-1 mark for the ’51 season. Other than a big 363 yards of rushing against Missouri, the team could not crack the 150 yard mark in any contest and the offense was left to the passing of Fred Benners. The 6’3” star was often compared to Sammy Baugh in his ability to throw and he tallied 1306 yards but the squad finished last in the SWC. Center/linebacker Dick Hightower was a Consensus All American force with brother duo guard Herschel Forester and younger sibling Bill at fullback and linebacker also named as All Americans. Hightower was voted into the SMU Sports Hall Of Fame and Herschel became a dependable guard for the Browns through the ’57 season. The highlight and a game that found coach Russell named the NCAA Coach of the Week came in their great victory over Notre Dame. Starting the game with twenty-six consecutive pass plays, the October 13th, 27-20 upset was ranked as one of the season’s best, with a more satisfying finish than the Ponies 7-0 loss to Ohio State.
Burly Bill Forester led the team in 1952 as an All Conference fullback and defensive tackle before becoming one of the defensive giants in Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay glory years in an eleven year pro career. Jerry Norton was a terrific running back and for the second consecutive season led the SWC in punting and was fourth in the nation. With DB Val Joe Walker, with the Packers from ’53 to 1956 and the Forty Niners in ’57 as another of the team’s stars, fans again were disappointed that the record was only 4-5-1 with a continued inability to defeat Texas. There was a lack of offensive consistency, a true surprise for a Rusty Russell team though he helped to co-author the American Coaches Association Code Of Ethics, denoting the respect of his peers. Assistant AD Lester Jordan, noting the academic achievement of the Mustangs as a group, proposed the first SWC Academic All Conference team which proved to be so popular that he was asked to form a committee and expand it to a national All American list, one that continues to the present day. Under alumni pressure, Russell resigned on February 2, 1953 and moved on to coach football at Schreiner College for one winning season and then became head football coach and athletic director at Victoria College from 1954 through 1960, posting a solid 40-27-2 record in those years. He retired but answered a request to assist his alma mater where he is a member of the Howard Payne University Sports Hall Of Fame, and served as head coach in 1962 and ’63 before again retiring.
Entering the 1953 season in need of a new head coach, there were a number of surprising refusals from top names in the coaching profession when the SMU job opened. The new head coach was Chalmer “Woody” Woodard who had been a four sport star at Valley Center High School in Wichita, Kansas. He was a four year quarterback at Kansas’ Southwestern College and achieved six undefeated seasons in ten years of high school coaching. He installed the T Formation early in his coaching career and did well with it at small McPherson College where from 1950 thorough 1952 he served as head football, basketball, and track coach as well as Athletic Director. His 18-7-1 record was not as important as what was perceived as his ability to install the T Formation as a full time offense at SMU. Unfortunately, while the defense stepped up to lead the conference in ’53, the new offense faltered and Woodard’s grasp of the formation had some blank spots as his red zone offense was open to penetrating linemen due to the fact that he neglected to reduce the “line splits” in his Split T! The Mustangs played solid one-platoon football which had returned to the collegiate ranks with the line leading the way to a 5-5 record. Co-captains Jack Gunlock and Jerry Clem were consistent, 6’5”, 250 pound giant tackle Don “Tiny” Goss was named to the All Christian Sportsman Team while guard Darrell Lafitte was an Academic All American. Receiver Raymond Berry showed promise but was perhaps more effective on defense and Ed Bernet was an All SWC end on many ballots. Norton was the backfield standout and punter before embarking on an eleven year pro career as a defensive back and punter with the Eagles, Cardinals, Cowboys, and Packers. The 6-3-1 record of 1954 was a surprise to some as the defense led the conference against the rush and a number of substitutes stepped in for injured starters and played “lights out” football. Receiver Ray Berry made the Academic All American and All SWC teams with only sixteen receptions by always being in the right place at the right time, and excellent defensive play. His roommate, quarterback Duane Nutt was the man who stayed late while Berry worked on pass patterns and extra drills for self improvement and he was the conference’s best passer because of it. When starting halfback Don McIlhenny was injured, Frank Eidom stepped in as did John Marshall. Eidom did so well he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles but was killed in an automobile accident prior to the start of pre-season camp. Junior tackle Forrest Gregg “hit like a truck” as one teammate noted, after filling out from 195 to 225 pounds. Receiver Ed Bernet was again outstanding and played for the Steelers in ’55, served in the U.S. Air Force and played in the CFL before spending 1960 with the hometown AFL Texans. He was a fine musician who formed a number of Dixieland bands, opened a popular nightclub, recording studio, and entertainment booking agency, and became a well known artist who built scale model churches and sculptures. End Doyle Nix became a defensive back for the Packers and Redskins and failing to make the squad of the expansion Dallas Cowboys in ’60, finished his pro career in the AFL with the Chargers in 1960 and Texans in ’61.
SPOTLIGHT ON RAYMOND BERRY:
All of the stories about Raymond Berry’s physical ailments were true and in part, these prevented the thin but lean, fragile appearing but tough, studious and religious young man from earning a four year football scholarship. With his father as his head coach at Paris, Texas High School he still could not capture a starting position until his senior year. He did well at Schreiner Institute (JC) and made his way to SMU as a two-way end but totaled but thirty-three receptions for his entire college career. He proved his toughness and durability on defense but at 6’2” and 185 pounds was not an impressive physical specimen and did wear a back brace for a low back condition and glasses for poor eyesight. In total, there was nothing to suggest that Ray Berry would become, arguably, the greatest receiver in National Football League history but he did. All of the stories about Raymond Berry walking or jogging across a football field and “knowing” that the field was marked one to two yards short of official measurement are also true and because of his fastidious, non-stop efforts to study and perfect his knowledge of the game, he became the best of his era. He convinced Johnny Unitas to remain after practice and throw to him when they were both members of the Baltimore Colts and they developed a chemistry that landed both of them in the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. In the 1958 NFL Championship Game, Berry caught twelve passes, a record, and a performance still considered as “an all time best.” His career spanned 1955 through ’67 and resulted in six Pro Bowls, first team All Pro selections three times and two more as a second team member. He led the league in receiving three times and performed with the grace and poise of a champion such that he was named a member of the NFL’s All Time 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams. His 631 receptions for 9275 yards and sixty-eight touchdowns were, for the era, tremendous statistics yet he is best remembered by those he played with as always “doing the right thing” while truly being “one of the guys.” He completed two enlisted stints with the Maryland National Guard, practiced in accordance with his devout religious beliefs, and was fair with everyone. After retiring from active play, he was an assistant coach from 1968 through ’81 with the Cowboys, University Of Arkansas, Lions, Browns, and Patriots. He was hired as the head coach of the Patriots in 1984 and galvanized a fractured team, taking them to the Super Bowl in 1985 and completing an 11-5 record in 1986. After the Patriots tour ended at the conclusion of the ’89 season, he spent two more years as the quarterbacks coach, one with the Lions and one with the Broncos before becoming involved in private business and motivational speaking. Successful in all he has done and highly respected by everyone who played with or for him, Raymond Berry ranks as one of the greatest to come out of SMU.
Huge 6’6” 250 pound tackle Don “Tiny” Goss who had been a High School All American at Sunset High School and an SMU starter had missed the ’54 season due to military service commitments where he was on the All Army team and had returned for 1955. He was a terrific “bookend” on the offensive line with Co-captain Gregg who was the only Mustang to make the All SWC team. Goss later played for the Browns and Giants before founding the Dallas Chapter of the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes. Many seniors were completing their SMU careers and like Goss and Gregg, would go onto the pros. Halfback McIlhenny, whose sons Lott and Lance played with the excellent Mustangs teams of 1979 – 1983, made his pro debut with the Lions, and then played with the Packers, expansion Cowboys, and Forty Niners; quarterback John Roach also played defensive back for the Chicago Cardinals before becoming a very reliable backup to Bart Starr during the Packers glory years and then completed his pro years as a quarterback with the Cowboys. 1955 was also the final year of participation for three year reserve end Lamar “Poor Boy” Hunt, the co-founder of the American Football League and owner of the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs. Soph end Willard Dewveall already sparkled for the 4-6 squad but the fans were getting restless over what was considered to be consistent underachievement.
SPOTLIGHT ON FORREST GREGG:
If Alvis Forrest Gregg was described by the great Vince Lombardi as “…the finest football player I have every coached” perhaps he deserves his standing as one of the greatest to play the game. He is certainly recognized as one of the top two or three at his position and few have garnered the respect of his peers as Gregg did through a pro career that spanned 1956 through ’71 and included eight consecutive All Pro seasons and nine trips to the Pro Bowl. A member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, he played on four NFL Championship Packers teams and in his final season, added one more with the Cowboys. Those years included three Super Bowl victories and he was a key part in all of them with his leadership ability a strong factor in the Cowboys run to the top. At 6’4” and only 195 pounds Gregg was on the lean side as a high school senior, but he added “mean” to his lean and was a top recruit out of Sulphur Springs High School. The family resided in small Birthright, Texas when Forrest's older brother David was "recruited" to live in the local firehouse and play for Sulphur Springs High School. After the family moved to Miller Grove, Forrest was asked to move into town and lived by himself in the high school gym and then in a rent free garage. A star in basketball and baseball too, the coaches wanted him nearby instead of “out in the country” and this was not an unusual arrangement during that era. At SMU he was a three year starter and All Southwest Conference in both 1954 and ’55 as well as team Co-captain. He filled out to a robust 225 pounds and became perhaps the hardest hitter in the conference. After his storied playing career, Gregg served as an assistant coach before taking over the Cleveland Browns head coaching position from 1975 through ’77, did the same for Toronto in the CFL in 1979, led the Bengals to the Super Bowl after the 1981 season while completing his head coaching run with Cincinnati that spanned ’80 through ’83 before getting his “dream job” as head coach of his beloved Packers. He held that from ’84 through the 1987 season and after SMU was given the Death Penalty by the NCAA, was chosen as the man to lead them back to respectability. Gregg took on the task for his alma mater despite having less than a handful of linemen as large as he was and essentially an all freshmen squad. Of the experience, he later said that the players on the two teams he coached “should have had their numbers retired for restoring dignity to the program. I never coached a group of kids that had more courage. They thought they could play with anyone. They were quality people. It was one of the most pleasurable experiences of my football life. Period.” He spent the 1989 and ’90 seasons heading the program and then focused on his job as SMU athletic director. He returned to coaching in 1994 and ’95 with Shreveport of the CFL, and through his varied coaching stops, always motivated and disciplined his players so that they played to their full potential. Gregg remains one of the most respected SMU players of all time.
1956 was a 4-6 year that was perhaps worse than it looked on paper. Starting quarterback Charlie Arnold’s season and career ended with a severe kidney injury in the season’s next to last game versus Baylor but he had been spelled often by Larry Click before this with both being inconsistent. All SWC end Tommy Gentry was reliable but the year was full of disappointment. The opening game victory over Notre Dame and Heisman winner for that season Paul Hornung meant a lot less after the 2-8 finish for the Irish but at the time, it made for unrealistic and unrealized expectations. The 20-19 win over Texas was the highlight and the 33-7 loss to Bear Bryant’s powerful A&M contingent the nadir. Woodard resigned days before the finale against TCU but the players could not muster enough emotion to avoid a 20-6 defeat to their rivals. Woodard took over the program at his hometown Wichita State University from 1957 through ’59 but resigned after his 10-18-2 record earned him what he considered to be an unacceptable one year contract extension. SMU looked at 150 applications before choosing Bill Meek as the new head coach.
If interested in any of these SMU helmets please click on the photos below.