University Of Southern Mississippi

1959 - 65 Golden Eagles
(Authentic Reproduction)




1959 opened with the addition of three-inch black player identification numerals on each side of the previously utilized Riddell old gold helmets with black one-inch center stripe and ended with a disappointing 6-4 mark. This was in part linked to an expected let down after a National Championship season, and Head Coach Vann found his squad “…too good to play against regional competition but unable to compete with the major football powers” in part because they could not gain entry to the Southeastern or Atlantic Coast Conferences. Sophomore Morris Meador filled in at quarterback behind Billy Larson and Don Fuell but immediately established himself as one of MSC’s all time best defensive backs. “Hurricane” Hugh McGinnis was a standout and as a third round draft pick of the Cardinals played through ’63, completing his pro career in ’64 with the Lions. The Cardinals also signed their third round draft pick Charles Ellzey who played 1960 and ’61 at center. Captain Buddy Supple earned his way into the MSC Hall Of Fame as he again led the team in rushing despite his 177 pound stature. Big Texan 6’3”, 243 pound Byron Bradfute played his senior season with the Southerners after being “asked to leave” Abilene Christian for drinking beer. He was signed to a free agent contract with the brand new Dallas team of the NFL where he handled an offensive tackle spot in 1960 and ‘61, took his bonus money, and returned to Abilene Christian to complete his degree. The 28-7 loss to Auburn was discouraging to Fuell; he was and is still considered the cause of Auburn’s late 1950's NCAA penalties [see HELMET HUT ] and he had hoped to have a huge day against his former team. 1960 provided a significant shift for Mississippi Southern football as they were voted into the Major College Division based upon their schedule and results in past seasons. Although they would still be ranked as a “Small College” through 1962, they were now considered the equal of all of the so-called large division schools and would be given consideration for major bowl games. This made the 6-4 final record more stinging as Coach Vann saw a promising 4-0 start to the season disintegrate with four losses by a total of five points.  A strong finish against Chattanooga could not hide the disappointment of the players and staff as a rotation of three and at times four quarterbacks left Fuell as the team’s leading rusher and passer with 1037 total yards, but the team had difficulty scoring. One of the quarterbacks, Val Kecklin, would serve as a back up with the Chargers in ’62. The team began on a low note with the vehicular death of tackle George Underwood prior to the season’s start and they were often overmatched with only five players weighing over 210 pounds. Sophomore end Don Hultz showed promise while his brother “Man Mountain” George went on to two active seasons as a defensive tackle with the Cardinals. Halfback Tommy Morrow who had four pass interceptions, was picked for the Senior Bowl, and as a three year member of the Oakland Raiders, distinguished himself by intercepting passes in eight consecutive games.

1961 was another season of rock-ribbed defense in the typical Coach Pie Vann manner with most players going both ways and the staff taking the position that they had “twenty-two starters” on the squad. For every accolade that Don Fuell received as an all star quarterback, he got the same for his defensive play as did Morris Meador. These Co-Captains set the tone for the 8-2 season that found but two teams scoring over single digits against them and a number three final College Division ranking. Fuell at 6’2” and 220 pounds led the team in offensive statistics and returns for the third consecutive year and played well in the Senior Bowl before enjoying a six year pro career with the Oilers and CFL Toronto and Montreal squads, and a two year run with Orlando of the Continental Football League. John Sklopan, Moose Campbell, and Jimmy Harvard all stood out as two-way backs while Jerrell Wilson was a pleasant surprise, moved from guard to fullback, and becoming a reliable punter and placekicker.


1962 began well as Mississippi Southern College was granted full university status and had a name change to the University Of Southern Mississippi. The squad would take the field with twenty lettermen from the ’61 squad and barrel through their final schedule as a College Division team unscathed except for an 8-6 loss to Memphis State on a disputed two-point conversion play. With Captains Harold Hays, a center and linebacker who played locally at Hattiesburg High School and who later put in five years with the Cowboys and two with the Forty Niners and halfback John Sklopan who managed part of ’63 with the Broncos and a year with Edmonton in the CFL, leading the way, the “usual combination” of stout defense and “just enough” offense paved the way to the National title, although the 428 yards poured onto Richmond’s defense, and team total of 259 points scored was certainly more than just enough! Week Four’s 31-13 victory over Chattanooga marked Coach Vann’s one-hundredth win and reflected a high level of talent. Fullback Jerrell Wilson had a sixteen year, All Pro career as a punter and occasional rusher and passer with the Chiefs and two-way end Don Hultz, following his older brother George into the NFL, enjoyed a twelve year career, ten of them with the Eagles. He was named to the USM Team Of The Century and later became a State Criminal Investigator. The supporting cast too was impressive with fullback George Sekul, halfback Jimmy Harvard, tackle Charlie Parker, sophomore center Larry Ecuyer, and quarterback Bill Coleman indispensable to the team’s success. As a token of appreciation for his “dedication and contributions” to the program, Coach Vann received a new Chrysler automobile at halftime of the season finale against Louisiana Tech.

Although the 5-3-1 record of 1963 did not look good on paper, it was significant in numerous ways. Southern Miss had stepped up to a much higher level of competition and was now ranked against all of the big time schools including their neighboring Southeastern Conference programs. They completed the season ranked third against the rush, second against the pass, and first in the nation, in total defense. This was “ranked first in total defense” as ranked against the AlabamaMississippiTexas, and every other major, big time, as-seen-on-television-college program in the nation! Unfortunately the offense was not up to the same standard despite good play by quarterback James Vic Purvis, fullback Harmon “Bull” Brannon, and halfbacks Robert “Rabbit” Brown, Herman Nall, and Tommy Walters who lasted four seasons at safety with the Redskins. Shut out in the season’s first two games, it was the defensive play of Big Charlie Parker who was with the Broncos through the ’65 season, Nick Kolinski, and the rest of Vann’s headhunters that gave them widespread notice. The predictions for ’64 were dire coming off of what was for Southern Miss, a mediocre 1963 record, a beefed-up schedule of opponents, and only fifteen returning lettermen. What did not become public knowledge until years afterward was Coach Vann’s request to retire but he was convinced to remain as head coach. A scheduling quirk allowed for two victories over Memphis State and overall play was better than the 6-3 tally that came with three consecutive losses to big-time Mississippi StateAuburn, and Florida State. The 48-7 defeat by Mississippi State was difficult to accept and the 14-7 loss to Orange Bowl bound Auburn that featured a brawl requiring police intervention overshadowed fine season-long performances by quarterback Purvis and halfback Nall who added a 100 yard kickoff return versus Mississippi State to his resume.

With former USM players Maxie Lambright directing the offense and Bear Underwood on top of the defensive unit which took on the nickname The Vandals, Coach Vann had the team in good hands for the 1965 season, which became an important factor as he missed both the Richmond and Mississippi State games with chest pains that kept him off of the field. His angina was controlled by medication and he came back to see a 7-2 finish to a season again marked by exceptional defense. The success of the defense overshadowed the loss of fullback Bull Brannan who was ejected from the VMI game, argued with Coach Vann, and quit the squad, yet still was inducted to the USM Athletic Hall Of Fame. USM ranked ninth in pass defense, third in rushing defense, second in scoring defense, and was the very best in the nation in total defense. The Vandals unit, led by noseguard Julius “Poochie” Stringfellow, linebackers Ken Avery, who also filled in at center and long-snapper, and Doug Satcher and defensive back Billy Devrow who came from a family of Hattiesburg athletes, literally took games over, posting four shutouts in the process. Devrow intercepted eight passes and Satcher, a catcher on the baseball team, played with the Boston Patriots as a 215 pound linebacker from ’66 through ’68. The 3-0 win over Auburn marked the first SEC opponent defeated since 1954.  The 27-9 loss to Mississippi State was galling and the 3-0 upset by William And Mary very unexpected and no doubt cost the team a bowl game which would have given national recognition to quarterback Vic Purvis who had back-to-back rushing games of 238 school-record yards against Memphis and 203 versus Richmond. Purvis, who was high school valedictorian and was coached by his brother Don who was a member of the 1958 LSU National Championship squad, was a two year Academic All American and ’65 Honorable Mention All American. He was a DB and return man for the Patriots for two seasons and later became the long time color commentator for the Southern Miss football broadcasts. Big 270 pound tackle John Mangum received significant time on the Patriots’ defensive line in ’66 and ’67.

If interested in any of these Southern Mississippi helmets please click on the photos below.