College Football's Special Kind of Violence from the Past 50 Years
Eleven Angry Men, presented for your approval.
Readers of any sport can spot the phrase "certain players from bygone eras would be able to play in today's game" as a testimony to the ability of that competitor.
This is not true with the 11 men listed in this article. In their heyday, they would be described as too dangerous to play in today's game.
They played in a world predicated on violence and dedicated to the idea of when your opponent is punished enough, he will acknowledge who is the better man.
There have been fantastic players on both sides of the ball who excelled in dishing out more than they take.
Many linemen have dealt in punishment, but this is not a story about them.
This is a journey into the world of linebackers and the defensive backfield.
It is recognized that such talented athletes as Jack Tatum, Dick Butkus, Ted Hendricks, LeRoy Jordan, Mike Singletary, Ronnie Lott, Tommy Casanova, Ray Lewis, and others performed magnificently in these positions.
Enough has been written concerning those men, and also a select group of others who can be identified by the casual fan on the street.
Needing to be described is an almost forgotten group of players during the past half-century who came to deal with others on the gridiron by hitting and hurting.
The currency of their world was pain.
Let us present 11 Angry Men from the past 50 years.
11. Tim McDonald, 6'2", 219: Southern California Defensive Back, 1983-86
One of the most consistently intense competitors in Trojan history, and that is saying a great deal.
As a tackler, he used his power to ride down tight ends and fullbacks. Downfield blocking from smaller receivers was simply disregarded by a quick shove from his huge powerful hands.
Unfortunately, McDonald played during the Ted Tollner era of Troy, and real success escaped the Trojans.
10. Don Rogers, 6'1", 208: UCLA Defensive Back, 1980-83
Ferocious hitter for the Bruins who made his mark and left this world at age 23.
Taping his wrists and his forearms to give even more force to his on-field collisions, this former sprinter and high hurdler was said to be the strongest man, pound for pound, on the Bruin campus.
9. Tim Rossovich, 6'4", 240: Southern California Linebacker, 1965-67
Known as "Rosso the Magnificent" while teaming with O.J. Simpson to lead the Trojans to the 1967 National Championship.
His favorite move was to tear the helmet off the other player. He was known to chew broken glass and set himself on fire to prove his toughness.
Tim's roommate in college, a fellow named Tom Selleck, was able to land him parts as the bad guy on television shows of the 1980s. He certainly made a convincing enforcer.
8. Dave "The Intimidator" Wilcox, 6'3", 242: Oregon Linebacker, 1962-63
Long before others used the moniker, Dave Wilcox was dubbed "The Intimidator" by opposing coaches and players.
In the early 1960s the Ducks were a load to handle. After two years of Junior College in Idaho, Wilcox returned to his native state and eventually led his school to the Sun Bowl.
Called "the perfect linebacker" by some in the know, The Intimidator was naturally strong, what people call today "country strong."
He had extremely long arms and very powerful hands. It was said he could bend a tire iron with one hand.
Wilcox used his physical tools to slap receivers to the ground, ruining their chance to run a timing route.
Incredibly quick, Wilcox could run down speedy players. In addition, he had a "head for the game" and was rarely out-thought on any play.
7. Dennis Smith, 6'3", 200: Southern California Defensive Back, 1977-80
When the names of hard hitters come up in discussion, this steel-muscled Trojan always makes it into the conversation.
Smith was a destroyer of a young man's vanity. His tackles were said to "blow up" the opponent.
Highlight reels of this man usually involve the carting off of players after they foolishly engaged him in contact.
During the final three seasons of Smith's reign of terror under coach John Robinson, the Trojans went 31-3, won a national title, and finished second in another season.
6. Terry Hoage, 6'2", 200: Georgia Defensive Back, 1980-83
Known as the hammer and tong of the 1980s edition of the Junkyard Dog defense.
The original "JYDs" had previously carried Georgia to the Cotton and Sugar Bowls in the 1975 and '76 seasons but came away with no national title.
With Hoage patrolling the defensive scene, Vince Dooley got his elusive national championship in 1980.
During Hoage's four years at Georgia, the Bulldogs lost only one SEC game.
The former Bulldog coach stated that Hoage was the finest defensive player he ever coached and may be the finest defensive player he has ever seen.
That pretty much sums up his inclusion on this list.
5. Kenny "E-Street" Easley, 6'3", 206: UCLA Defensive Back, 1977-80
One of the hardest impact hitters in history.
In 1980, Easley led his Bruins into "The Horseshoe," where they shut out Ohio State 17-0. In doing so, UCLA snapped Ohio State's 14-game regular season winning streak.
Easley is one of the sensational 1970s-era defenders, a time marked by an increase in the emphasis of safety.
The only safety this man was concerned with was his position on the football field.
4. Michael Barrow, 6'2", 245: Miami Linebacker, 1989-92
Feared on the field as one of the hardest hitters to ever walk the earth, seventh in Heisman Trophy voting his senior year, and endowed with the reputation for delivering career-ending tackles.
Michael also graduated from Miami with a B.S. in Accounting and is an ordained Minister, a married father of two children, and an assistant coach for the Hurricanes.
3. "Dirty" Dan Connors, 6'2", 232: Miami Linebacker, 1961-63
Here is a good example of why these people cannot play in today's game. The NCAA would toss a Dan Connors off the playing field so fast it would make headlines.
These were the days of the stick-taped thumb to the Adam's apple and the eye bite.
Such men as Connors set the tone for future Hurricane "masters of mayhem."
"If your opponent can't breathe, he'll stop playing; same goes for when he's blind," became the rallying cry of those coaches who wanted changes in the rules.
Teammates of Connors are not happy with the progress of the game: "It's all a bunch of sissy rules."
A pretty tame comment concerning the original Bad Man of Coral Gables. He went into pro football and helped institute the mystique of the Silver and Black Oakland Raiders.
Ah, those were the days, my friend—we thought they'd never end.
2. Pat "Dr. Midnight" Swilling, 6'3", 247: Georgia Tech Linebacker, 1982-85
So known as Doctor Midnight because it was time for opponents to go to sleep when he hit them on the field.
Perhaps the most genuinely frightening physical specimen one will ever encounter.
Possessing cold eyes that see into the soul of lesser men (see pictured above), he was the leader of the famed "Black Watch" defense of Georgia Tech.
Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
1. Mike "The Animal" Curtis, 6'3", 230: Duke Fullback and Linebacker, 1962-64
A violent and dangerous individual equally at home on either side of the ball.
It is well established that Curtis felt there was nothing sacred about the opponent.
Rumor has it his taking several bites out of other players during the game helped lower their concentration level.
A perfect example was the 1963 contest with Wake Forest. During several pileups, Demon Deacon quarterback John Mackovic came out bleeding.
Finally one of the Deacon linemen yelled at the officials while pointing to Curtis, "Ref, he's eatin' me!"
Similar to his contemporary Dan Connors of Miami, Curtis had all the physical gifts to be a great football player, and like Connors, he used them.
During a 38-25 battle royal with Roger Staubach and the Navy in 1963, the future Heisman Trophy winner found himself fleeing in fear all afternoon from the two-way star of the Blue Devils. The artful dodger admitted, "He doesn't give up, does he?"
Locked in a tight struggle with South Carolina the following season, Curtis had resorted to "red-dogging" the Gamecocks' star quarterback Dan Reeves. After a particularly loud collision, Reeves screamed at Curtis, "When are you gonna quit following me around?"
In 1971, Curtis would face Reeves and Staubach again. This time Staubach rode the bench, and the game was the NFL Super Bowl.
Curtis stole a pass intended for Reeves and sealed the victory for the Colts over the Cowboys.
You might conclude Mike Curtis must be the all-time nemesis of Dan Reeves, but it is not necessarily so.
"That guy is the hardest working player I ever saw over so long a period of time," bemused a retired Reeves when recollecting his past experiences with the angriest man of all.
There is a respect that cannot be taken away from the 11 Angry Men.
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