College Football's Forgotten Five of the Past
There was a time when college football was a settled sport, a game played between schools who took pride in representing the name on the helmet as well as the thousands cheering from the stands.
It was an era when Nebraska and Oklahoma fought with each other on a yearly basis for supremacy in the highly competitive Big 8 Conference.
The Big 8 was a league so vast and powerful it is to this day the only conference ever to have the top three teams in the final AP poll.
This historic sweep occurred in 1971 when the Cornhuskers, Sooners, and Colorado Buffaloes put their stamp of superiority on the nation. This trio of behemoths finished the year by winning a combined 34 of 37 games.
During this time the Penn State Nittany Lions were one of two powerful independent schools in the Quaker State.
The annual year end bloodletting with the Pittsburgh Panthers was a backdrop for a total of four undefeated seasons between the two rivals during the eight year period between 1968 and 1976.
The Southeastern Conference was laid waste by a native Arkansan named Paul Bryant, who coached both Kentucky and Alabama to SEC titles while the Pacific 8 Conference was home to the formidable talents of John McKay's USC Trojans.
So much is written regarding the great stars of the recent past, and so much is known about the all time greats from the golden age of college football in the 1920s, 30's, and 40's, it appears little is celebrated concerning those who were masters of mayhem during the latter half of the 20th Century.
It is time to set the record straight.
The following is a list of five stars who are for all purposes forgotten by everyone except the fanbases of the schools where they excelled.
Let us begin.
No. 5: Derrick Ramsey, Kentucky Quarterback 1975-77
Predating Steve McNair and Vince Young, the sight of Kentucky's huge and powerful quarterback Derrick Ramsey bulldozing over linebackers in the mid- 1970's was enough to bring fear to any SEC defensive coordinator.
At 6'4" and 233 pounds, "The Ram" lived up to his nickname.
Ramsey smashed school records left and right, leaving little doubt who was the most talented player on the field each time he stepped under center.
Equally at home running or throwing, the sensational and intelligent Ramsey led Kentucky to a 10-1 record and No. 6 national ranking in 1977, finishing undefeated in the SEC.
A season earlier, in 1976, Ramsey led the Wildcats to the co-championship of the SEC. To this day, it remains the last conference football title for Kentucky.
After a stellar NFL career, Ramsey returned home to become the Deputy Secretary of Commerce for the state of Kentucky.
A true star in every wage a man is gauged, yet rarely do we hear of the player who changed the fortunes of his beloved Wildcats in the Bluegrass Commonwealth.
No. 4: Dan Stubbs, Miami Defensive End 1984-87
Behold the countenance of destruction personified.
Listed as 6'5" and 280 pounds, the presence of "Big" Dan Stubbs was felt immediately upon his arrival at "The U."
Stubbs became known as the individual who restored and maintained order in the lively Hurricane locker room of coach Jimmy Johnson.
While many of the great stars of this golden era of Miami football were busy making reputations for themselves, it was the fearsome Stubbs who prided himself in playing with a controlled rage.
Danny Stubbs is the all-time Miami sack leader for a season and for a career. That is all one needs to know concerning the ability and achievements of this man among men.
But, there is far more to the impact of Daniel Stubbs on Hurricane opponents during their legendary 1980s reign of terror. Stubbs' ferocious pass rush was seen as the essential element of an acclaimed Hurricane defense.
So extraordinary was big Dan's ability to disrupt the timing of the quarterback, the 'Cane defensive backs were generally left to cover helpless receivers who had little chance of making the catch.
Following the loss of fellow lineman Jerome Brown to the NFL after the 1986 season, which ended with a defeat at the hands of Penn State in the de facto national championship game, the '87 season was seen as a temporary step back and rebuilding year.
No one asked Dan what his plans were for the upcoming season but, he soon delivered his answer. And, as usual, it was done on the field.
Daniel Stubbs completed his career in Coral Gables by leading the Hurricanes to an undefeated season and winning the National Championship in 1987.
During his final three years at Miami the Hurricanes lost only one regular season game.
No longer remembered by those who dared to oppose him? Not likely.
No.3: Freeman White, Nebraska Split End 1963-65
What sets coaches Bob Devaney, Bear Bryant, and John McKay apart from their successors and contemporaries is they built their dynasties from scratch and did not have successful winning programs handed to them.
Oh, there was tradition. Plenty of tradition. That and 10 cents could get you a cup of coffee in those halcyon days of the early 1960s.
When Bob Devaney left Wyoming for the plains of Lincoln following the 1961 season he envisioned creating a winning football program that had lay dormant for several years.
Truth be told, the Cornhuskers had only won 40 games while losing 68 in the previous 11 seasons.
Nebraska was bad, bad. Always around the bottom of the conference.
Beginning in 1962 Bob Devaney changed all that, by turning around the moribund 3-6-1 Cornhuskers (prior to his arrival) into a 9-2 well-oiled machine that capped off the season with a Bowl victory over the Miami Hurricanes.
He followed that miracle with a Big 8 Conference Championship in '63 and an Orange Bowl victory over Auburn.
But, the great Devaney knew his 19-3 record after two seasons belied the talent available on the team. In short, coaching, tactics, and inspiration had turned the program around.
Now he needed players. Talented players, and plenty of them. And Bob Devaney knew where to get them.
Devaney had earned his spurs as a top notch High School coach in Michigan before joining the terrific staff under Biggie Munn at Michigan State in the early 1950's.
Going back into the Peninsula State, Devaney secured the services of a young man named Freeman White out of Chadsey High School in Detroit.
White was a freshman during Devaney's first season in '62 but, by the time he was a junior he had made a splash that is still felt around the country.
What is so special about Freman White?
Consider the size of the typical "All-America" receiver prior to this time. Nearly everyone was in the 5'10" to 6'1" 185 pound category.
The keys to playing the position in that era were elusiveness and speed.
White was speedy alright but he was 6'5" 230 pounds. He could simply run over any defender, crushing him under his immense size.
He was bigger than even the tight ends of his time, and was a better blocker than any other receiver in the nation.
Freeman White owned the Nebraska record book for receivers, or split ends as they were known in their day.
By the time White left Nebraska following the 1965 season, he had broken all of the prize receiving records on his way to First-Team All-America honors.
Freeman White set multiple records and standards. Most catches in a game, most yards in a game, most catches in a season, most yards in a season, most catches in a career, and most yards in a career.
In addition he set the record for longest pass reception and run with a 95 yarder. This broke the 92 yard reception record White had set as a Junior.
In his junior year he led the Big 8 Conference in receiving and was named first team All-Conference.
During his three years as a Cornhusker, Nebraska lost only two regular season games while playing in a New Year's Day Bowl as Big 8 Conference Champions each season.
However, the everlasting effect of Freeman White is that of an effort by coaches everywhere to find much larger receivers, taller and more powerful.
As one reviews the status of the receiving corps around the land this year, it is remarkable how many feature tall and strong pass catchers, able to rumble once they reach over smaller defenders and get their hands on the ball.
Just like Freeman White.
No. 2: Pete Gogolak, Cornell Kicker 1961-63
Think you know everything there is to know about college football?
Allow us to describe the importance of Peter Gogolak to the game, and how someone born in Nazi occupied Hungary in 1942 came to revolutionize the essential element of place kicking.
The Gogolak family fled Hungary for New York when Peter was 14 years old.
An excellent student who grew to become a strapping 6'2" 200 pounds by his senior year in high school, the young Gogolak took advantage of an Ivy League education at Cornell University.
Pete was interested in the American game of football, and in 1961 found opportunity knocking once again, this time it was the chance to become the place kicker for the Big Red.
Until this time, all kicking for extra points and field goals had been done using the "straight ahead method" where the ball is approached in a straight line before being booted by the toes of the foot.
Pete drew upon his European football (soccer) experience and wound up his leg sideways and kicked with the side of his foot.
Although panned and derided by purists and conservatives at every turn, by the end of the 1961 season the results were clear—Pete's method delivered greater distance and accuracy.
In addition to being the first ever "soccer style" kicker, Gogolak made the first ever 50 yard field goal in history.
Accuracy? Pete left school with the most consecutive extra points in the history of the game.
As astonishing as it sounds now, Gogolak was still treated as a curiosity by the NFL when draft day came around.
Pete Gogolak is to this day the all-time leading scorer for the New York Giants of the NFL.
Even more amazing is the fact every school and professional team now uses only "soccer style" kickers and the straight ahead method went the way of bobby socks.
Now that is an impact.
No.1: Sal Aunese, Colorado Quarterback 1987-88
Sal Aunese had a college football career far different from the other young men who become the starting quarterback during their first year of eligibility.
It is certainly a difference no one wishes to have.
While at the peak, following his junior season, the native Californian of Samoan descent was found to have a inoperable stomach and lung cancer.
The star of the football team was given no chance of survival.
Needless to say, Sal was unable to play during his senior year and died shortly after the season began in September, 1989.
As a tribute to their fallen leader, the Buffaloes won every game in 1989 before bowing to Lou Holtz's powerful Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Orange Bowl.
With Sal at the helm in 1987 and '88, Colorado had won 15 games while losing eight.
Sal achieved the honor of Big 8 Newcomer of the Year in 1987.
The recruitment of Sal Aunese to Colorado was overseen by an assistant on the Buffalo staff named Les Miles, who later went on to fame as the head coach at Oklahoma State and LSU.
The three years Sal Aunese attended school in Boulder produced one event no one was prepared for at the time—the birth of a young son.
In another unusual set of events, the child's Mother is the daughter of the 1980s CU head coach, Bill McCartney.
The youngster's name is T.C. McCartney.
Astonishingly, after all of these years, T.C. plays quarterback for the LSU Tigers. He is coached by the same Les Miles who brought his Dad to Colorado so long ago.
A tragic story of a fine young man who passed away too soon.