1957 - 61 Mustangs (White Version)
(Authentic Reproduction)

Bill Meek had an excellent college football experience, despite serving primarily as a blocking back, and often on the second string at the University Of Tennessee. He had the advantage of learning his craft under the tutelage of UT’s great head coach General Robert Neyland. Thus, he was able to become an effective coach immediately after leaving school and entering the U.S. Army where he was placed in charge of the football squad at Fort Benning, Georgia. He had an advantage there too, directing many starters from the strong West Point teams and he learned how to handle and utilize top line players. After military duty he became an assistant under Jim Tatum at Maryland so even as a young head coach, he was ably trained to take over a poor Kansas State program in 1951. The Wildcats won but a single game in Meek’s inaugural head coaching season there and he forfeited that lone victory, self-reporting the inadvertent use of an ineligible player. This act of honesty brought the benefit of the University Board when Meek asked that KSU allow a number of the shamed West Point Scandal players to transfer into K-State in 1952 [ see HELMET HUT http://www.helmethut.com/College/Army/NYUSMA4256B.html ]. The Board and President believed that Meek, as an honest and upstanding individual could actually be a role model for these men. They also knew that these players were superior to those on the Kansas State roster and it showed in ’53. After another single victory season in 1952, the Wildcats improved to 6-3-1 in ’53, and fell just short of an Orange Bowl berth and conference title with a 7-3 mark in ’54. In January of 1955 Meek moved on to Houston where in two seasons he went 13-6-1, and was named Missouri Valley Conference Coach Of The Year after winning the MVC Championship in ’56. Named as the new SMU head coach for 1957 and armed with a ten year contract, Meek went about the business of improving the Mustangs and the first thing he did was introduce not one, but two new uniforms. Except for the 1960 opening game against Missouri, Meek adhered to his separate and different “home” and “away” appearances. The red jerseys worn at home were topped off by a white helmet with a one-inch Navy blue center stripe and red flanking stripes and black player identification numerals on each side of the shell. The away white jerseys featured a scarlet red shell with a one-inch Navy blue center stripe and white flanking stripes. The players’ numerals on each side were white. He looked at his talent, especially that of sophomore quarterback Don Meredith, and installed an early version of the Run And Shoot Offense, utilizing two wide receivers and two slot receivers. Unfortunately, Meredith was not immediately available to start the season as The SWC Most Valuable Freshman Player was still recovering from an injury sustained against the TCU frosh that required surgery following spring practice. Meek worked Meredith into the starting line-up slowly but by the mid-season upset victory against Texas, he was the starter. He directed an attack that at times set up in the Shotgun Formation, Spread, or featured two quarterbacks in the backfield. Sidney Slaughter led the conference in receiving as Meredith set an NCAA record that stood for decades with a 69.6 completion percentage. The highlights included a 0-0 tie against Bear Bryant’s number one ranked Texas A&M and terrific two-way performances by backs Jim Welch and Charlie Jackson. Tom Koenig was an All SWC linebacker and fullback David Sherer led the nation in punting for the 4-5-1 Mustangs. Guard Jerry Cornelison blossomed while playing tackle for the AFL Texans and Chiefs from 1960 through ’65, named to the first team All AFL squad in ’61. Oft-injured end Willard Dewveall took his 6’4” frame to Winnipeg of the CFL, returned to play with the Chicago Bears in 1959 and ’60, and after playing out his option, became the first NFL player to sign an American Football League contract, joining the Houston Oilers for the 1961 through ’64 seasons.

The Ponies overall lack of depth in 1958 and the raw courage and ability of Meredith as a fearless and effective runner limited the talented quarterback’s effectiveness. He suffered at least two obvious concussions and missed two games after being struck in the hip by the knee of a Notre Dame player. His absence cost the team as they opened up well against pre-season number one Ohio State, losing 23-20 with Meredith completing 68% of his passes. A close 14-6 loss to Notre Dame and a win against Missouri set the tone for the up-and-down, 6-4 season. Meredith was fantastic and a darling of the football world with his charismatic leadership and toughness, taking third in the Heisman Trophy balloting, garnering some First Team All America votes, and leading the SWC in scoring. Ends Henry Christopher and future punter for the Colts and Cowboys Dave Sherer, who had moved to end, benefited while Ken Lowe filled in for Meredith and also ran from halfback, often behind fullback Jim Welch. Koenig was Academic All American for the second time and again made the All SWC team as did fellow lineman Gary Max Christian. 1959 was supposed to be a year of great expectations with Meredith, Glynn Gregory, Welch, Christopher, and other veteran players returning. A pre-season Top Ten pick, SMU was actually one of four SWC Top Ten choices with TCU, Texas, and Arkansas pollster favorites. With numerous injuries and little depth, SMU’s expectations were unrealistic and the 5-4-1 record resulted very much from the play and high end leadership of Meredith who led the Conference in passing and total offense while setting a career conference record for passing accuracy. He made a number of All America teams and Welch went on to play defensive back with the Colts from 1960 through ’67 and ’68 with the Lions but few other Mustangs stood out.


Referring to himself as “Jeff and Hazel’s Boy” out of rural Mount Vernon, Texas, Joe Don Meredith was a 6’3”, 190 pound two-time High School All American Basketball player who once put in fifty-two points in a major tournament and led his team to two state championships. With a wink and smile, one could say, “He also played football,” leading the squad to a state title his junior season and he won High School All American honors as a senior. Despite a broken collarbone suffered in the seventh game of the season, he led the North All Star team over the South at the annual Texas Coaching School All Star Game, and scored 204 points in his high school career. His athletic talent, charismatic good looks, and Salutatorian academic ranking had most major colleges on his trail. Southern Methodist got him and he was the most popular man on campus. Concerned that he would not easily adjust to “a big city school” like SMU, or to Dallas, he was named freshman team captain and was elected as Class President which gave him a great deal of confidence. Football began well, named as team MVP, founding the SMU chapter of The Fellowship Of Christian Athletes, and teaching Sunday School classes. He was a two time All Conference and All America performer, setting school and conference passing and scoring records with his one season pass completion percentage record standing for decades. His leadership ability was perhaps his greatest attribute and he won his teammates’ loyalty with a dedication to his squad that saw him play with obvious concussions, broken bones, and serious injury. Considered “reckless” for his style of play by some opposing coaches and sportswriters across Texas, this made him a crowd and student section favorite, especially when mated with outstanding athletic talent. Third in the Heisman Trophy balloting his junior season, and putting up excellent statistics as a senior, Meredith was signed to a personal services contract by Dallas Cowboys owner Clint Murchinson after being named the MVP in the East West All Star Game, guaranteeing an income even if Dallas was not awarded an NFL franchise. Drafted by the AFL Dallas Texans and NFL Bears, and then immediately traded to the new expansion Cowboys, Meredith is considered to be the first, or “Original Dallas Cowboy” since he signed before the city even had an NFL team. Meredith learned his craft and took over the starting reins in ’63, going on to earn Pro Bowl nominations in 1966, ’67, and ’68 and was named the NFL’s Player Of The Year in 1966. Many believed he retired too early, leaving the game after the 1968 season. He became an original member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team in 1970, left them to work at NBC from 1974 through ’76, and then returned to ABC and MNF from 1977 until retiring in 1984. He sang country music tunes and acted in numerous movies and commercials, proving to be popular and successful at every turn. “Dandy Don” lived quietly away from the field and cameras, preferring time with his family. His number 17 was retired by the Cowboys and he was inducted into their Ring Of Honor, pro football awards that went well with his induction to the College Football Hall Of Fame. Long after his retirement and years after his death in 2010, Don Meredith remains one of the most popular SMU athletes and Dallas Cowboys players of all time.

While Meek observed his on-field product and was justifiably proud of Don Meredith and his accomplishments, he went into 1960 having two new professional football teams as intra-city neighbors and competition. Facing off on the road against Missouri in the opener, Meek was forced to wear the white home game helmets and red jerseys and watched his heavily favored squad lose 20-0. Mizzou’s first opening game victory since 1947 raised red flags throughout the SMU community with new concerns about the team’s potential. The business savvy members of the SMU Board Of Trustees were less than thrilled that attendance had steadily declined throughout Meek’s coaching stint and before the re-introduction of pro football to Dallas. Meek and his staff did not help their cause as recruiting was poor and there were few stars to attract fans to the Cotton Bowl though Co-Captains Jerry Mays and Glynn Gregory were highlight reel players. Mays had dominated as an All State lineman at local Dallas Sunset High School. He was named to the All Southwest Conference team before signing with the new Dallas Texans and in the AFL he again was dominant. Mays was a six time All Pro, captain of two Super Bowl teams, and the defensive end on the All Time All AFL team. Gregory was one of the greatest high school athletes in the history of Texas schoolboy ranks, leading Abilene to forty-nine consecutive victories and three State Championships. He was a two-time High School All American and made the All State team in basketball. He was offered a huge contract by the Cleveland Indians but chose SMU football instead and at SMU he lettered three times in both football and basketball. A rib injury slowed him in 1960 and with the Dallas Cowboys, he played six different positions in a four year career. The 0-9-1 record, the worst in school history, was actually more abysmal than the winless slate. The Mustangs managed to score only thirty-one points for the entire season! They were shut out five times, scored seven points in four games, and a field goal in one other. They managed a 0-0 tie against Texas A&M as their only “non-loss” but were horrible against Ohio State where they had thirty-eight total yards of offense while against Navy, they rushed for sixty-six but had zero passing yards. Tackle Ray Schoenke was considered a major “offensive threat” as his blocked quick-kick against Texas resulted in a score and he saved the A&M game with a blocked punt.

Despite having signed a ten year contract when he came to SMU in 1957, Meek found himself under fire and on the carpet after the Ponies winless season. He entered ’61 with a quarterback who had rare credentials. Jerry Rhome, like SMU’s 1960 Co-captain Jerry Mays, played at Sunset High School and the coach was Rhome’s father Byron. He passed for 1633 yards and was one of Meek’s few excellent recruits. Unfortunately, he had little help and the situation was, in the words of one writer, “…akin to being the captain of the Titanic.” Though Rhome led the SWC in passing, the team finished at 2-7-1, showed no All Conference selections, and suffered from a further declining fan base. Rhome transferred to Tulsa where he was a record setter, played in the pro ranks for seven seasons, and spent many years as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Of the few standouts, tackle Guy Reese later played productively on the defensive front for the Cowboys, Colts, and Falcons in a five year pro career. Surprising no one, Meek was fired though he claimed that SMU could not recruit effectively or play the likes of Ohio State and Notre Dame because “SMU made a commitment to be the Harvard Of The South” and academic standards were much higher than other conference universities. He remained in football, serving in a variety of capacities between 1962 and ’67 including Director of Pro Personnel for the Denver Broncos and a scout for the Cowboys. He was offensive coordinator for the U.S. Military Academy in ’66 and ’67 before taking the head coaching job at the University of Utah where he remained until ’73, posting a 33-31 record that included a very good 8-2 in 1969.

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