ACU Remembers: Waymond Griggs

Waymond Griggs 250x300 96Waymond E. Griggs (’58), a member of Abilene Christian University’s Sports Hall of Fame and one of the top sprinters in the world during a standout collegiate career, died Nov. 30, 2016, in Abilene at age 80.

A graveside service will be held Monday, Dec. 5, at Hamby Cemetery in Jones County, Texas, under the direction of Elliott-Hamil Funeral Home (542 Hickory St., Abilene, Texas 79601).

Griggs was born March 25, 1936, in Benton, Ark., and graduated in 1954 from Camden (Ark.) High School, where he starred in track and field and in football. He married JoAnn Boley (’57) on Sept. 1, 1956.

As an ACU student he ran on 440-yard relay teams with Bill Woodhouse (’59), James Segrest (’59) and Bobby Morrow (’58) that set three world records (two in 1957, one in 1958) and won 16 titles at major collegiate relay meets such as the Texas, Drake and Penn Relays. With Griggs sharing baton duties and typically assigned to open each relay event because of his quick starting ability, the Wildcats posted a remarkable record of 36-4 in the 440-yard and 880-yard relay events during his collegiate career. His individual bests were 9.6 seconds for 100 yards and 20.8 for 220 yards.

Waymond Griggs 680x510 150Griggs earned a master’s degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and taught and coached in Odessa, Kermit and Midland public schools during a long career. His Odessa Permian High School teams won 13 district and five regional championships, and a 1993 state title. He also was a member of the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Preceding him in death were his parents, Lonnie W. Griggs and Dixie Belle Beard Griggs; and an infant brother, Norman Eugene Griggs.

Survivors include JoAnn, his wife of 60 years; sons Michael Griggs (’82) and Mark Griggs; two grandchildren; a sister, Patricia Kiser; and a brother, Tommy Griggs.

The 4x100 relay team of Morrow, Bill Woodhouse, James Segrest and Waymond Griggs set world records in 1957 and 1958. Morrow set world records on three other Wildcat relay teams, in the 100-yard dash, 100 meters (3 times) and the 200 meters (three times).

The 440-yard relay team of Bobby Morrow (top), Bill Woodhouse (left), James Segrest (right) and Waymond Griggs (bottom) set three world records in 1957 and 1958. 


Pit Stop: ACU returns to Lobos’ hoops haven

Pit color pic

This is University Arena, as The Pit looked about the time when it first opened in 1966 with a game between ACU and the University of New Mexico.

Dr. David Wray (’67) didn’t score the most famous two points in the history of the University of New Mexico’s legendary basketball arena known as The Pit. That distinction belongs, now and forever, to Lorenzo Charles whose unintentional alley oop dunk at the buzzer led North Carolina State University and fiery coach Jim Valvano to an epic upset over the heavily favored University of Houston Cougars in the 1983 NCAA Tournament championship game.

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

But Wray, a longtime bible professor at Abilene Christian University and currently the director of its annual Summit, did score the first two.

Or so he’s told.

“I was out there (Albuquerque) speaking at a church,” Wray recalls with a chuckle, “and a guy said, ‘I’m the sports information director at University of New Mexico and you scored the first two points (at The Pit).’ I didn’t remember.”

Dr. David Wray

Dr. David Wray

The Pit opened Dec. 1, 1966, with the Lobos hosting Wray’s Wildcats in that first game. This Wednesday, on the eve of the building’s 50th anniversary, ACU will be back to take on UNM for the first time since a 2006 exhibition game to mark the 40-year celebration of what has been one of college basketball’s most raucous and revered venues.

Originally known as University Arena, UNM students immediately began calling it The Pit because the playing surface sits 37 feet below street level. ACU got in on the ground floor as part of a two-game road trip the likes of which they may never see again. It began with the game against the No. 6-ranked Lobos and ended at the home of the defending NCAA champion University of Texas at El Paso Miners, who were No. 2 in the nation when the Wildcats arrived off a fine season of their own.

“We went out there confident,” Wray recollects, “because we’d been to the (small college) national tournament the year before. We’d beaten Oklahoma State University and taken on the Air Force Academy, so I don’t remember being intimidated or any talk about it being the first game in the new arena. What I do remember was how far it was from the dressing room down to the floor because it’s all underground.”

The Lobos dug a figurative hole when the game began, falling behind ACU and the offensive system head coach Dee Nutt (’50) employed known as California.

Wray provided a powerful presence under the basket for the Wildcats.

Wray provided a powerful scoring and rebounding presence under the basket for the Wildcats.

“We had a very disciplined offense,” says Wray, who was the only senior on that 1966-67 team. “We ran a lot of screens under the basket. You’d just be wide open, so it’s not surprising that I or one of the other forwards would’ve scored the first two points. It was amazing how we controlled the game in the first half.”

Indeed, ACU took a 27-25 lead into the locker room at halftime. But the Lobos, led by coach Bob King, whose success in turning around UNM’s moribund basketball program when he arrived in 1962 fueled the interest in and need for the new arena, rebounded in the second half to post an 11-point victory that prompted the Albuquerque Journal newspaper to write the next morning, “12,020 Watch NM Five Sweat.”    

Wray finished with 19 points, tying him with the Lobos’ all-America forward Mel Daniels for game-high honors. The Wildcats got 12 points from hotshot John Ray Godfrey (’68), who helped open ACU basketball’s new digs, Moody Coliseum, the following season by scoring 41 points, a home-court record that stood for nearly a quarter century.

Wray’s recollections of that night are more general than specific. Someone gave him a program from that first game, though at the moment he isn’t sure where it is. And his place in The Pit’s record book brings him no particular measure of pride.

“Basketball was really critical to me back in those days,” he says. “It’s nice, but you kind of leave all that behind.”

From The Pit to Summit, Wray rose within ACU’s College of Biblical Studies to hold a variety of influential positions, including his current one. What he has held on to from his days as a player is a deep appreciation for those with whom he took the court.

“We had phenomenal guys,” he says fondly. “Most have gone on to be elders and church leaders. We’ve been lifelong friends.”

Dee Nutt coached Abilene Christian the season before to the national tournament.

The season before, Dee Nutt coached Abilene Christian to the national tournament.


ACU Remembers: Holly Dunn

Holly Dunn in 1987 at the height of her recording career with MTM Records.

Holly Dunn in 1987 at the height of her country music recording career with MTM Records.

Singer-songwriter Holly Suzette Dunn (’79), the only Abilene Christian University graduate to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry, died Nov. 14, 2016, in Albuquerque, N.M., following a short battle with cancer. She was 59. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Dunn was born Aug. 22, 1957, in San Antonio. An ACU Sing Song hostess in 1979 and member of the Hilltoppers musical troupe, she earned a B.A. degree in mass communications. She was a member of Sigma Theta Chi women’s social club, the Choral Society, and a staffer on The Optimist newspaper and KACU campus radio station.

She was a member of the Opry from 1989-99, and one of the most popular artists in country music after getting her Nashville career started as a songwriter with her brother, award-winning writer-producer Chris Waters Dunn (’73).

Daddy’s Hands, the 1986 song she wrote and recorded, was one of 10 Top 20 and eight Top 10 hits – two reached No. 1 – and helped her winning three Grammy nominations. She earned the Academy of Country Music’s Best New Female Vocalist award in 1986 and the Country Music Association’s Horizons Award in 1987. She received BMI’s Songwriter of the Year award in 1989 and helped host TNN’s Opry Backstage show for two years. In all, Dunn recorded 10 albums and hit songs with Kenny Rogers, Michael Martin Murphey, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. She toured during her career with Merle Haggard, George Strait, The Judds, Randy Travis, and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Dunn was a country music radio show co-host on WWWW-FM in Detroit, Mich., in 1997 before retiring from the music business fully in 2003 to begin an art career in Santa Fe, N.M., where she was named public relations coordinator for the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in 2008 and later became co-owner of Pena-Dunn Gallery with artist Armado Pena. She opened Art Song Gallery in Salado, Texas, in 2004, featuring the work of artists with ties to Texas.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Frank Dunn (’40) and Yvonne Wiggins. Among survivors are her brothers Jerry Dunn (’68), Rodney Dunn (’72), and Chris Waters Dunn.


Wildcat hopes flying high after standout season

ACUToday_alt2 400x600 96Opponents of the women’s basketball team know Lizzy Dimba, Sydney Shelstead, Alexis Mason and Suzzy Dimba as a hard-working quartet of players who helped put Abilene Christian University hoops on the map during ACU’s transition to NCAA Division I.

While posing for us recently, they took a moment to enjoy a selfie during a photo shoot for “Junior Achievement,” the cover story of our new Summer-Fall 2016 issue of ACU Today magazine. Then it was back to business.

The four led their team to a 26-4 record last season and a spot in the 64-team Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament. Their impressive showing helped put the Wildcats on an even bigger stage to begin 2016-17: the 16-team Preseason WNIT this month.

The Wildcats will meet No. 24-ranked University of Missouri of the Southeastern Conference in a first-round game Friday night in Columbia, Mo. The game can be viewed live nationally on the SEC Network at 7 p.m. CST, and heard locally on 98.1 FM The Ticket. It’s one of three WNIT games ACU is guaranteed to play over the next two weeks; follow the schedule in the tournament’s online bracket.

Read about how these talented student-athletes – now seniors – are helping ACU reach new heights in Division I, followed in our online issue by 50 pages of Bonus Coverage about their dynamic head coach, Julie Goodenough, and last year’s magical season.


So long Shotwell: Mud, sweat and tears

A birds-eye view of Shotwell Stadium in 1961.

A birds-eye view of Shotwell Stadium in 1961.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This Saturday at 6 p.m., Abilene Christian University will play its last home football game at Shotwell Stadium. The historic venue will carry on as the place where Abilene and Abilene Cooper high schools play, but next fall ACU moves into new Wildcat Stadium for its first season of on-campus football in more than 50 years. 

Bill Locke was a Wildcat fullback.

Bill Locke was a Wildcat fullback.

There is nothing special about Shotwell Stadium. Never has been. It’s a pair of parallel concrete seating structures in a barren patch of a nondescript landscape. But the men who have played and coached football there for Abilene Christian University and the magic they’ve made? That is another story entirely.

ACU’s 57-year history at Shotwell began with a delay of game. After using Fair Park as their home field for a dozen years after World War II, the Wildcats were scheduled to host Lamar University (then called Lamar Tech) on Oct. 3, 1959, at the brand-new facility originally known as Public Schools Stadium. But a downpour that Saturday soaked the city and the stadium’s natural grass surface. So to keep the new sod from being trampled under the heavier foot of college-sized players, the game was moved to the old digs at Fair Park where the Wildcats lost to Lamar, 8-7, on what Optimist reporter Royce Caldwell called “a sea of mud.”

Three straight road games followed on the 1959 schedule, pushing the Wildcats’ debut at Shotwell back to a rather oxymoronic Homecoming date with Trinity University as alumni came home to a place they had never been. Playing what lineman and punter Thurman Neill called “good ole southern football” (“We punted, played it rugged on defense and watched for a break,” Neill said afterward), ACU turned back Trinity, 13-12, getting its tenure at Shotwell off on the right foot. Or feet, specifically those of Neill, who dropped two punts inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line and recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, and Bill Locke, who scored the other touchdown on a 7-yard run and whose extra point kick provided the winning margin.

ACU found its new home turf to its liking in those early years, going 17-6 at home from 1959 through 1964, including a perfect 5-0 record in 1963 when the Wildcats won their last eight games of the season. The overall win streak stretched to 10 into the second game of 1964 with a 17-11 victory over Texas A&M University-Commerce that saw running back Dennis “The Menace” Hagaman scurry around a soggy Shotwell for a season-high 126 yards, highlighted by a 50-yard touchdown burst and a 32-yard gallop on fourth down to help seal the deal.

That 1964 season was the first football campaign for the brand-new Southland Conference, which ACU co-founded after seven years as an independent. The Wildcats’ first Southland game at Shotwell was a 21-7 loss to Arkansas State University that also was noteworthy for the number of passing yards the home team accrued that day: zero. Six years later to the day, all-America ACU quarterback Jim Lindsey would set a conference record with 414 passing yards and earn a write-up in Sports Illustrated.

Wilbert Montgomery and Clint Longley helped the Wildcats win the 1973 NAIA Division I national championship.

Wilbert Montgomery (left) and Clint Longley helped the Wildcats win the 1973 NAIA Division I national championship.

For a town famously and historically dry – in more ways than one – the skies above Shotwell seemed frequently open when the Wildcats were there. In addition to the aforementioned deluges and drizzles, there was the game on Oct. 30, 1976, that Abilene Reporter-News reporter Art Lawler described as a mud pile. Jim Reese was in hog heaven as he threw for what remains an ACU-best 564 yards in a 26-0 rout of Angelo State University. Incredibly, Reese needed just 26 completions to reach that record total as Gary Stirman, Johnny Perkins and Wilbert Montgomery each had more than 100 receiving yards.

But that wasn’t the most memorable game ACU ever played at Shotwell. In fact, it wasn’t even the most memorable that month. The one right before it, a 17-0 Homecoming decision over Texas A&M-Commerce, featured not one, but two record-setting performances. Late in the first quarter, Ove Johansson kicked a 69-yard field goal, which 40 years later is still the longest in football history. In the second quarter, Montgomery passed Walter Payton as college football’s all-time touchdown leader.

The Purple and White’s head coach at the time, Wally Bullington, lost his first game patrolling Shotwell’s sidelines but not many more. A lineman and punter on the Wildcats’ undefeated team in 1950, Bullington took over the program in 1968 and brought with him his former teammate Ted Sitton as offensive coordinator. Together, they ushered the modern passing game into this corner of the college football world where teams generally ascribed to the old adage that only three things can happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad.

Riding the rocket right arms of Lindsey, Clint Longley and Reese, Bullington won more games at Shotwell (35) than any other ACU head coach, including a perfect 6-0 home mark in 1973 when the Wildcats joined the Lone Star Conference and won the NAIA national championship. Bullington will put a headset back on to help me call ACU’s final game ever at Shotwell this Saturday against Northwestern State University, the school he beat in his first game as the Wildcats’ coach.

Rex Lamberti wrote a remarkable comeback story in his final season as a Wildcat in 1992, having sat out for ____ seasons.

Twenty-seven-year-old quarterback Rex Lamberti wrote a remarkable comeback story in his final season as a Wildcat.

In the spirit of ACU’s great track and field teams, Bullington passed the baton in 1977 to another former Wildcat player, Dewitt Jones. After going 11-2 at Shotwell as a tight end, Jones’ record in two seasons as head coach was 12-1. It included a 35-7 playoff victory over the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Dec. 3, 1977, that sent the Wildcats on to the NAIA national championship game in Seattle, which they won.

Sitton took over for Jones, and Wildcat quarterbacks continued to sling it around Shotwell as ACU and the Lone Star Conference moved from the NAIA ranks to NCAA Division II. Under Sitton’s tutelage, Loyal Proffitt was the LSC’s Freshman of the Year in 1981 and a four-year starter. And on Oct. 29, 1983, at Shotwell, he completed an ACU-record 35 passes and threw for 466 yards and three touchdowns in a 24-10 win over Stephen F. Austin State University, perhaps proving a Proffitt isn’t always without honor in his own hometown.

Odessa native Rex Lamberti took the reins of the ACU offense in 1985, and the Permian High School product brought his own brand of mojo to Shotwell Stadium, off and on, for nearly a decade. In his first two seasons as a starter, Lamberti threw 56 touchdown passes, a then-team record 32 of them coming in 1986. Proving you can go home again, Lamberti was coaxed out of retirement in 1993 by first-year head coach and former Wildcat player Dr. Bob Strader. At the age of 27, Lamberti led ACU to its first winning season since his last year in 1986 and earned all-America honors by tossing 28 more touchdowns to finish as the program’s all-time leader.

A standout tight end for ACU, Chris Thomsen late became head coach of the Wildcats' most dominating offenses in school history.

A standout tight end for ACU, Chris Thomsen later became head coach of some of the Wildcats’ most prolific teams in school history.

Eight of Lamberti’s scoring strikes in 1993 were caught by 24-year-old tight end Chris Thomsen, another jurassic classic Strader excavated that year. Thomsen had played three years at TCU then a couple of seasons in the Oakland A’s minor league system before returning to football at ACU and, like Lamberti, being named all-America. He stuck around Abilene as an assistant coach under Strader and Jack Kiser from 1994-99 and, after assistant positions at Wichita Falls High School and the University of Central Arkansas, Thomsen was named ACU head coach in 2005. Like Bullington with Sitton nearly 40 years before, Thomsen brought with him a secret weapon and quarterback guru in brother-in-law and UCA offensive coordinator Ken Collums. The pair would turn Shotwell Stadium artificial turf into a virtual video game screen.

In 2007, the Wildcats led the nation in scoring with 49.2 points per game and were second in yards per game. In 2008, they were tops in both categories and produced the first unbeaten regular season since 1950, capping it at Shotwell with a 47-17 rout of Midwestern State University.

What happened next remains nearly impossible to describe almost a decade later. A month after ACU whipped West Texas A&M University, 52-35, on the road, the archrivals met again Nov. 22 at Shotwell in a second round playoff game. With more than a half dozen future pros on the field in what looked like a small-college NFL combine, ACU scored 13 touchdowns in 15 possessions and won, 93-68, obliterating most every scoring record in NCAA history and even outscoring the Wildcat men’s basketball team, which needed two overtimes later that evening to reach 90. Billy Malone threw touchdown passes to six different receivers, leaving Shotwell as ACU’s all-time leader in touchdown passes with 114.

Few tacklers caught running back Bernard Scott during his record-setting career.

Few tacklers caught Bernard Scott during his career, which including winning the Harlon Hill Trophy as the best player in NCAA Division II.

Under Thomsen and Collums, the Wildcats’ final seven seasons in NCAA Division II produced six playoff appearances and one pro after another, including Danieal Manning, Bernard Scott, Johnny Knox, Clyde Gates, Daryl Richardson, Charcandrick West, Aston Whiteside, Taylor Gabriel and Mitchell Gale, who ended his ACU career as the school’s and the Lone Star Conference’s all-time leading passer with 12,109 yards.

Collums took over for Thomsen in 2012 and, facing hurdles no Wildcat sprinter – much less head football coach – had ever seen, continued to churn out record setting performances and quality young men.

Johnny Knox was a speedy, dynamic wide receiver who went on to star for the Chicago Bears in the NFL.

Johnny Knox was a dynamic wide receiver who went on to star for the Chicago Bears in the NFL.

In 2013, ACU began its four-year transition to Division I FCS (football championship subdivision, formerly I-AA) with a bang, pummeling Concordia (Ala.) College at Shotwell, 84-6, as John David Baker fired a program-best seven touchdown passes in his first career start.

ACU’s final game at Shotwell Saturday will be its last in Abilene of this tedious transition to Division I, meaning the debut at Wildcat Stadium on campus next September will be the first home game in which the Wildcats are finally eligible to make the FCS playoffs.

They say home is where the heart is. And while Shotwell hasn’t been much to look at or even remotely whispered to passersby or guests that it is the home of the Wildcats, it is for better or worse where 12 ACU head coaches, scores of assistants and hundreds of players have left their hearts. For that reason alone, a small piece of our hearts, along with a huge chunk of our history, will always be there.

Charcandrick West was a speedy, tough running back who led the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs to the 2015 NFL playoffs and continues to shine this season.

Charcandrick West was a speedy, tough running back for the Wildcats who led the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs to the 2015 NFL playoffs and continues to shine this season.


So long Shotwell: The greatest show in town

Jerry Cabluck's image of Wildcat quarterback Jim Lindsey appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1970.

Jerry Cabluck’s image of quarterback Jim Lindsey appeared in Sports Illustrated in 1970.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This Saturday at 6 p.m., Abilene Christian University will play its last home football game at Shotwell Stadium. The historic venue will carry on as the place where Abilene and Abilene Cooper high schools play, but next fall ACU moves into new Wildcat Stadium for its first season of on-campus football in more than 50 years. 

Saturday night, Oct. 24, 1970, music legends Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph performed at Taylor County Coliseum. Likely it was an entertaining concert (I don’t know because I wasn’t there), but the biggest show in town that night was across the street.

Lindsey was college football's all-time passing leader when his career ended.

Lindsey was college football’s all-time passing leader when his Wildcat career ended.

That’s where the top-ranked Arkansas State University Indians invaded P.E. Shotwell Stadium to battle the nationally ranked Abilene Christian College Wildcats in a Southland Conference showdown with national implications.

(“They’d never schedule that concert to conflict with a high school game,” James Norman, the Wildcats’ director of sports information that season, told a reporter from New York.)

From my seat in the pressbox at Shotwell, where I’ve been for 49 of the Wildcats’ 57 full seasons there, it was the GOAT (greatest of all time) – the greatest Wildcat football game ever at Shotwell. Raise your hand if you were there, along with Sports Illustrated and 11,999 other college football fans.

Coach Bennie Ellender’s Indians (their mascot now is Red Wolves) came to town with the latest two Southland championship trophies. They were undefeated at 5-0, ranked No. 1 in the NCAA college division (before the days of Divisions II and III) by the Associated Press, and ranked second in the UPI coaches poll, which had the University of Tampa – coming off a victory over the University of Miami Hurricanes – ranked first.

Coach Wally Bullington’s Wildcats were 5-1 (having lost their season opener to Howard Payne before taking five straight wins in Bullington’s third season) and rated 8th by UPI and 12th by AP. Seven players now in the ACU Sports Hall of Fame were on Bullington’s roster that night. (And three more hall of famers were on the sideline coaching, including quarterback guru Ted Sitton.)

Former Sports Illustrated photographer Jerry Cabluck is now retired and working in prison ministry in Fort Worth, Texas.

Former Sports Illustrated photographer Jerry Cabluck is now retired and working in prison ministry in Fort Worth, Texas.

Sport Illustrated reporter Skip Myslenski and photographer Jerry Cabluck spent two days in Abilene to contribute to SI columnist Pat Putnam’s article on college division football in the upcoming Nov. 2 issue of the magazine.

Record-setting quarterback Jim Lindsey – and his talented set of receivers featuring Ronnie Vinson and Pat Holder – led the Wildcats. He was nearing the end of his Wildcat career as college football’s all-time passing leader and the cause of no small amount of anxiety on the Indian sideline that night.

Before the game, Arkansas State assistant coach Bill Davidson told Myslenski, “They can’t drink, they can’t smoke, they can’t dance. Why did they stop there? Why didn’t they put in a rule against quarterbacks?”

Fortunately, there was nothing in the student handbook prohibiting quarterbacks. Unfortunately, the Indians prevailed 28-23 in this intense battle – called “one of the hardest fought games ever seen at Shotwell Stadium” by Abilene Reporter-News sports writer Steve Oakey. The outcome was always in doubt, and virtually every play was as intense as each pitch in a 1-0 World Series game.

Lindsey played for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League after graduation.

Lindsey played four years in the Canadian Football League for the Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts. He helped Calgary win the 1971 Grey Cup championship.

That night Lindsey recorded Abilene Christian’s first 400-yard passing game by throwing for 414 yards and three touchdowns (all to the “incomparable” Vinson), but Arkansas State never trailed, and the Wildcats’ fourth quarter comeback came up five points short. Lindsey led his team on an 81-yard scoring drive that ended with 5:05 to play to pull within five, but a final drive that started at 1:55 was unsuccessful after a third-down QB sack.

“This was one of our best games ever,” Bullington told the Reporter-News after the game. “I’m extremely proud of our football team. They kept their poise under pressure.”

Putnam, writing in “They Don’t Play No Mullets Down There” in the next issue of Sports Illustrated, said, “Go down to Abilene, Texas, sometime and catch Jim Lindsey, the nation’s all-time total offense leader. Not small college, not big college, but all college … Lindsey is a God-fearing riverboat gambler, and you don’t find that kind everywhere. He is a reverent man in a reverent school – Abilene Christian – but he tends to forget the Sermon on the Mount when he goes into battle, like Saturday night as he passed for three touchdowns against the percentage players of Arkansas State, the AP’s very top small school, No. 1 in the NCAA division.”

The Nov. 2 issue – still available online in SI Vault – included Cabluck’s classic photograph of the surfer-blond-haired Lindsey spinning a football. “This guy’s the greatest,” Cabluck said that weekend of Lindsey. “You don’t have to worry about good ‘pix’ of him.”

Pat Holder was one of Lindsey's favorite targets.

Pat Holder was one of Lindsey’s favorite targets.

Ellender, a hall of famer at Arkansas State who died in 2011, called Lindsey “the best quarterback I’ve faced.” Ellender added, “He could have easily ducked his head and left the field, but he sought me out, held his head high, and offered congratulations. It was a tribute to the outstanding young man Jim Lindsey is.”

The Indians finished 11-0 (capped by a win in the Pecan Bowl in Arlington) and were ranked No. 1 in the final polls to earn the 1970 national championship (before the NCAA instituted a playoff system), and Ellender left after the season to become head coach at his alma mater, Tulane University.

Sitton, Lindsey’s quarterback coach who died earlier this year at the age of 84, said the Sweeny, Texas, native had “everything a coach looks for in a quarterback … I wish I could say I taught Jim all he knew, but really he taught me all I know about throwing the football.”

Lindsey’s career ended two weeks later at Shotwell Stadium when he suffered a broken left collarbone early in the fourth quarter of a 21-7 win over The University of Texas-Arlington. With two games still to play, and an average of 300.8 passing yards per game, surely he would have been the first collegiate quarterback to throw for 9,000 yards in his career.

The 1970 Wildcats finished 9-2 (after 8-2 in 1969), and Lindsey was 21-9-1 in his three seasons.

Forty-nine seasons in Shotwell’s venerable pressbox (and a few more games in earlier years in the stands, the first Shotwell game I remember was 1960 Homecoming with my dad and uncle against the University of Southern Mississippi). Twenty-five as director of sports information and 21 as a member of the highly acclaimed ACU “stat crew” after three on The Optimist staff. Wow! That’s a lot of barbecue sandwiches!

So now that string of Wildcat games at Shotwell Stadium that started on Halloween in 1959 with a one-point Homecoming victory over Trinity comes to an end Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016, against Northwestern State University in another Southland contest. A few Wildcats will return to cheer for their alma mater one final time at Shotwell.

One who will be there in spirit is Lindsey, another GOAT (greatest of all time) – the best quarterback ever at Abilene Christian. He threw for 8,521 yards and 61 touchdowns for the Purple and White. Yes, he was a reverent man who made an impression on Myslenski (and everyone else he met), who reported to his editors in New York, “Despite constant requests not to, Lindsey insisted on calling me ‘Sir’ during our whole talk. For real.”

Ronnie Vinson was a standout receiver for the Wildcats.

Ronnie Vinson was a standout wide receiver for the Wildcats.

Myslenski said Lindsey had “the confidence of a bluff poker player.”

“Sure I’m confident,” Lindsey told him the day before the game. “It’s the only way to be. I don’t think that’s being conceited. It’s just a fact. If you’re scared, you’re whipped before you start. Then there’s no sense going out at all. I love being a leader. It’s the only thing. It’s all I’ve ever known, ever.”

(Lindsey played quarterback on all of his football teams since the eighth grade.)

A daily reader of the Bible, Lindsey added in his conversation with Myslenski, “I like to read about Christ. They criticized him, spit on him, beat on him, did everything to him, and he kept cool. It just proves you can’t lose your temper. Guys try to badmouth me, call me dirty names, tell me how they’re going to break me in two, and I just have to put it out of my mind and go back to the huddle.”

Lindsey, who died Sept. 9, 1998, at the age of 49, once told a crowd of high school students on the Abilene Christian campus, “I’m not a football player who just happens to be a Christian. I’m a Christian who just happens to be a football player.”

He also told Myslenski, “I feel God gave me all that I have. And I know he can take it back at any time. I just feel grateful for what’s happening to me.”


So long Shotwell: A view from the sideline

ACU quarterback Jim Reese (with microphone) thanks to 1976 Shrine Bowl organizers while teammates Ray Nunez (55) and Wilbert Montgomery (with trophy) look on.

ACU quarterback Jim Reese (with microphone) thanks 1976 Shrine Bowl organizers while teammates Ray Nunez (55), Wilbert Montgomery (with trophy) and John Usrey (69) look on.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This Saturday at 6 p.m., Abilene Christian University will play its last home football game at Shotwell Stadium. The historic venue will carry on as the place where Abilene and Abilene Cooper high schools play, but next fall ACU moves into new Wildcat Stadium for its first season of on-campus football in more than 50 years. 

I was not born around these parts, and have no natural affinity for P.E. Shotwell Stadium, whose namesake was Prince Elmer Shotwell, also known as “Pete,” a Texas football-coaching legend.

Shotwell looks like other mostly concrete high school gridiron venues I have seen before in Texas. It also has a certain charm about it, and some engineering features not everyone has seen, like a restroom with a strategically placed window down the hall in the press box, allowing 99.9 percent privacy as well as a fine view of the game below. Say what? It’s hard to explain but one need not worry about answering the call of nature and missing a play.

Ove Johansson signs the first of his many postgame autographs on Oct. 16, 1976, while his wife, April (Bankes ’77) looks on.

Ove Johansson signs the first of his many postgame autographs on Oct. 16, 1976.

I am one of the fortunate fellows invited to help staff the press box at home ACU football games, a privileged view of the action I don’t take for granted. It’s not really a box and not everyone present is a member of the press, but there is no cheering in this upper room, at least in the professional press boxes at Shotwell run through the years by ACU sports media icons Lance Fleming and his Hall of Fame predecessor, Garner Roberts, who help keep the statistics team running smoothly and media guests happy.

The Shotwell press box has no central air conditioning nor heat, so there are several games each season when we experience some combination of spring, summer, fall and winter, depending on the wind direction. That makes it a great place to get a snoot full of mountain cedar, the most pristine puffs of West Texas pollen one can inhale at those lofty heights each fall. It also is a fine place to have your ankles chewed on by mosquitoes with stingers long enough to penetrate two layers of socks.

But I’m not complaining. The fellowship and swapped stories are priceless, and the food serving as our compensation (mostly barbecue with some chicken fajitas thrown in for good measure) is mighty tasty. Oh, and there are those purple thumbprint cookies as they are called in these parts.

Wally Bullington starred on the field and as a head coach for the football-playing Wildcats.

Wally Bullington starred on the field as a player and as a head coach for the Wildcats.

I was spoiled by a couple seasons of writing about some really fine college football when I first transferred to ACU as a junior in Fall 1976. That was the last Wildcat team with Wally Bullington as head coach, and he had a stable of good-enough-to-play-on-Sunday talent – Wilbert and Cle Montgomery, Johnny Perkins, Ove Johansson and Chuck Sitton – on his roster. They finished 9-2 and runner-up that season to mighty Texas A&I University, that era’s football-playing Babylonians of the Lone Star Conference. The Wildcats advanced to play in the Shrine Bowl in Pasadena (Texas, not California; rats) before Wilbert, Johnny, Ove and others headed to NFL training camps the next summer.

How good was the football? A&I was the only LSC team with more annual potential pro talent than ACU and only one team other than the Javelinas or Wildcats won the NAIA Division I national title from 1973-79. ACU ended A&I’s 42-game winning streak with a disputed 25-25 tie in 1977, and both programs had amazing pedigrees of producing pros – better than many universities much larger and more well known.

As sports editor of The Optimist in 1976-77 and editor the next two years, I liked to stand on the home sideline for a closer view of the action and an insight to help write the game story. It proved a great angle to catch these memories:

  • Johansson's blue Brooks soccer shoes and the ball he kicked into the record books.

    Johansson’s soccer shoes and the ball he kicked into the record books.

    Johansson’s world-record 69-yard field goal on Oct. 16, 1976, which still stands as the best a mortal has ever kicked in game competition. I had experience as a fan with long-distance field goals, having watched my hometown Detroit Lions fall to the awful New Orleans Saints in 1969 on a last-second 63-yarder by Tom Dempsey, who was born with half a foot and only one hand. He booted that NFL record kick (six yards longer than the previous, which made it that much more shocking) wearing a special-made high-top shoe, sort of like a club or mallet into which he laced up his half-foot. Pro Bowl tackle Alex Karras of Detroit promised he would walk home to Michigan if the Lions lost to the lowly Saints in the road game. He didn’t, of course, but I have a soft spot in my heart for teams deflated by such mighty feet. East Texas State players trudged off the field after Johansson’s kick, hands on hips and heads bowed while the Wildcats celebrated at midfield and the crowd went wild. They may as well have loaded onto their bus and headed back to Commerce, knowing ACU only needed to reach its 41-yard line to be in scoring position, effectively the largest “red zone” known in the sport. They and their collective psyche were toast.

  • Johnny Perkins was a fleet wide receiver who starred for seven seasons for the NFL's New York Giants, who made him their second-round draft choice in 1977.

    Johnny Perkins was a fleet wide receiver who starred for seven seasons for the NFL’s New York Giants, who made him their second-round draft choice in 1977.

    Wilbert Montgomery’s last collegiate season offered fleeting glimpses of the immense talent he possessed to run with a football. One opposing coach described his team’s effort to tackle No. 28 as “old men trying to catch a jackrabbit.” Wilbert broke Walter Payton’s career college touchdown scoring record the same day as Johansson’s field goal in 1976, yet it took him three seasons to double the amazing 36 TDs he scored in 1973 as a freshman on ACU’s national championship team. Targeted by defenses on every play, he suffered a deep thigh bruise in a game in Wichita Falls with Cameron University on Nov. 6, 1976. He recovered after his senior season, was drafted in the NFL’s fifth round and went on to a record-breaking career with the Philadelphia Eagles, and induction the same year (1996) as fellow Mississippian Payton to the College Football Hall of Fame. Montgomery was still hobbled by that thigh injury and did not play in the 1976 season-ending Shrine Bowl against Harding University, likely an answer to a lot of pre-game prayers among the Bison brethren in Searcy, Ark. The Wilbert-less Wildcats still beat ACU’s sister school handily and haven’t had a rematch since.

  • A cold 1976 night in late October, I watched quarterback Jim Reese throw for what is still a school-record 564 yards in a 26-0 win over Angelo State University. It had rained heavily that week in Abilene, and what was left of the brown Bermuda grass in Shotwell was skimpy at best. It was a muddy quagmire in places, and I still have no idea how any of Reese’s receivers maintained enough traction to run routes. But they did, and perhaps were the only fellows on the field that night who knew in advance where they were headed.
  • Kelly Kent was a hard-nosed fullback for the Wildcats.

    Kelly Kent was a hard-nosed Wildcat fullback.

    I saw a Cameron University player leave the bench to trip Wildcat halfback Alex Davis as he was running free down the visiting team’s sideline Sept. 24, 1977, in Shotwell. The player, a drink in one hand and his helmet in another, stepped onto the field, stuck out his leg and felled Davis in clear view of one of the officials. They awarded Davis a 52-yard touchdown and ACU continued its 46-13 dismantling of the visiting Aggies.

  • Kelly Kent, the aw-shucks, country-boy sophomore fullback of the 1977 national championship team, suffered an embarrassing moment in a home game one afternoon in Shotwell. Running with the ball toward the south end zone in front of his team’s bench, a would-be tackler reached for anything he could to stop The Cisco Kid, as Abilene Reporter-News sportswriting legend Bill Hart referred to Kent. The opponent came up with mostly air and a handful of the elastic waistband of Kelly’s athletic supporter. Undaunted, Kent continued downfield while that key piece of equipment unraveled for yards behind him. Once the play was over, Kent headed to the locker room with a trainer to look for replacement gear. The laughter from his teammates continued for most of the game.
  • Dewitt Jones hugs defensive coordinator Jerry Wilson after the 1977 Apple Bowl win in the Kingdome.

    Dewitt Jones hugs defensive coordinator Jerry Wilson after the 1977 Apple Bowl win in the Kingdome.

    Later that season, Kent ran for 200 yards in ACU’s national semifinal win over the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Shotwell. The visitors from up north had a first-team All-America quarterback, Reed Giordana, who had thrown for 10,000 yards and 74 touchdowns in his career. The poor fellow spent a good bit of the afternoon on his back, counting clouds after a sack or knock-down by Wildcat defenders like Ruben Mason, Ray Nunez, Harold Nutall, Glenn Labhart and others. Kent was named Offensive MVP of that game and the Apple Bowl which followed. Not a fan of air travel, he kept his mind off things by reading his Bible from his back row plane seat on the long return flight to Abilene. A little more than a year later, he died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 21.

  • The Wildcats won the national championship in 1977 with an 11-1-1 record, their tie taking place in Kingsville to No. 1-ranked Texas A&I and their only loss occurring at Homecoming in Shotwell the following week to longtime nemesis Angelo State. First-year ACU head coach Dewitt Jones righted the ship and led the Wildcats to the Apple Bowl and their title in the Kingdome in Seattle, Wash. I was on the sideline and it was a superb roller coaster ride of a season.

The food is always better in the press box but the on-the-field view will always be a fascinating angle from which to follow a game and gain the insights few fans get to see. I enjoyed the vista.

Senior linebackers Ray Nunez (55) and John Usrey (69) pose with the trophy for ACU's last national title in football, won at the 1977 Apple Bowl.

Senior linebackers Ray Nunez (55) and John Usrey (69) pose with the trophy for ACU’s most recent national title in football.

Many seasons have passed since the Wildcats’ heady days of the mid- to late-1970s when they were a small-college powerhouse. NCAA Division I and FCS are creating some growing pains for ACU football, but pro scouts still know to stop in Abilene each year for a look at the next Charcandrick West, Taylor Gabriel, Daryl Richardson, Bernard Scott, Clyde Gates, Mitchell Gale, Aston Whiteside, Tony Washington and others.

However, the sideline is no longer a place for a sportswriter who is pushing 60 (and pushing it really hard), with tight hamstrings, slowing reflexes and a distracting iPhone in his pocket. A fellow down there on Saturday without his head on a swivel could wake up in Hendrick Medical Center on Monday, or perhaps not at all.

I’ll take my spot for a media-row view in the last game in Shotwell this Saturday, and like my similar-age teammates there, look forward to an upstairs seat in Wildcat Stadium next September. It will have carpet, central air and heat, a loo without a view, and other amenities beyond anything experienced at the venerable stadium on East South 11th Street we’ve shared with local high schools since Eisenhower was president.

I’m convinced there are more memories to make, records to set, wins to describe, trophies to hoist. So make me a brisket and sausage sandwich, pour some sweet tea, login to the wifi and let’s get the 2017 edition of an on-campus, home-sweet-home football show on the road.

See ya, Shotwell. I’ll leave my can of bug spray on the counter and the bathroom window open, conveniences only a sportswriter in West Texas might appreciate.

Shotwell's restroom-with-a-view of the game below.

Shotwell’s restroom-with-a-view of the game below.


So long Shotwell: A son of Abilene’s reflections

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EDITOR’S NOTE: This Saturday at 6 p.m., Abilene Christian University will play its last home football game at Shotwell Stadium. The historic venue will carry on as the place where Abilene and Abilene Cooper high schools play, but next fall ACU moves into new Wildcat Stadium for its first season of on-campus football in more than 50 years. 

For a son of Abilene, P.E. Shotwell Stadium has always held a special place in my heart.

It was never the best. It was never the biggest. It certainly didn’t boast many of the most modern amenities. But it was our stadium. It’s where we went on Friday nights to watch the Eagles or Cougars and then on Saturday to watch the Wildcats.

I don’t remember the first time I saw a game in the stadium, but I remember a lot of the games I watched in the 57-year-old venue.

I remember as a boy of 7 years old being in the stadium on Oct. 16, 1976, when Ove Johansson kicked a world-record 69-yard field goal and Wilbert Montgomery broke college football’s all-time rushing touchdown record with the 67th score of his remarkable ACU career. Of course, instead of watching the game, I was undoubtedly playing one of the many games of “touch football” being contested on one of the berms on the north or south end of the stadium.

A couple generations of sons of Wildcats have played touch football on the grassy berms of Shotwell Stadium.

A couple generations of sons of Wildcats have played touch football on the grassy berms of Shotwell Stadium, as Nick Boone and Rex Fleming demonstrated in 2012.

So I can say I was “at” the game when those two things happened, but I can’t say I remember “seeing” either one of those plays.

I remember just about one month later watching Abilene High play Abilene Cooper as the teams slogged through a 14-0 Cougar win in a driving snowstorm that had already piled several inches of snow on the field by the time the game started.

I was there in 1977 when the Wildcats beat the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in the NAIA Division I semifinals to earn a bid to the Apple Bowl in Seattle, Wash., where they beat Southwestern Oklahoma State University to win the national championship.

I remember the night in 1981 when the Eagles snapped Cooper’s 15-year winning streak, thanks in large part to the “Pekowski Special,” a guard-around play that helped the Eagles get off to a fast start and an early lead they never relinquished in a 17-7 win that freed the north side of town from the bonds of that divisive spell the Cougars held over the Eagles.

I remember watching my favorite college team – the ACU Wildcats – win big game after big game at the stadium, all in front of huge crowds on bright, sunny days that seemed to last forever. I remember Kelly Kent and Chuck Sitton. Jim Reese and John Mayes. Wilbert and Cle. Anthony Thomas and Boo Jones. Kurt Freytag and Mike Funderburg. Mark Wilson and Bob Shipley. Loyal Proffitt and Rex Lamberti. Mark Jackson and Arthur Culpepper. Dan Remsberg and Dan Niederhofer. Greg and Grant Feasel. And so many others.

I remember the coaches who prowled those sidelines on Saturdays and ate almost daily at my father’s barbecue restaurants, first The Smoke Pit on Highway 351 (where the Allsup’s is now, just west of the Coca-Cola plant) and later, Danny’s Bar-B-Q in the old gas station on Ambler Avenue in front of Bill Agnew’s Superette.

I would see those men in his restaurant when I was there either after school or working there in the summer. Men like Wally Bullington and Dewitt Jones. Ted Sitton and Don Smith. Jack Kiser and Dr. Bob Strader. Don Harrison and Jerry Wilson.

Those players and coaches are part of the memories of my youth, and many of those memories occurred in the confines of Shotwell Stadium.

I was fortunate enough to work for the Abilene Reporter-News for 10 years from 1987-97, and for the last five of those I was a full-time sportswriter covering Abilene High and Cooper athletics. That meant that most Friday nights I was either at Shotwell Stadium or one of the other venues in West Texas where the only thing hotter than the hot chocolate was the head coaches’ seat after a loss.

I was fortunate to cover several great games in Shotwell – including Cooper’s first home playoff victory in decades – as well as players like Dominic Rhodes, John Lackey, Ahmad Brooks and Justin Snow, to name just a few from the Abilene ISD. There were great players from other teams as well, like Roy Williams from Odessa Permian, Cedric Benson from Midland Lee, and many others.

I was there in 1993 when Cooper hosted Permian on a night when the temperature plummeted about 40 degrees 30 minutes before kickoff, turning a brisk fall evening into a frigid winter night. The wind – howling out of the north at about 40 mph – actually blew a PAT attempt into its teeth back onto the field of play in the Panthers’ narrow win over Cooper.

That night in the press box – which has never been outfitted with heating or air conditioning and still only has one restroom for men and women – ­the sleet, wind and cold weather combined to keep the windows of the press box fogged over so badly that we could barely see the field. So who spent the game wiping the windows in the press box so we could see the field? Legendary former Brownwood head coach Gordon Wood, because why wouldn’t he?

Rex Fleming was a constant companion of his father in Shotwell and stadiums across Texas.

Rex Fleming was a constant companion of his father in Shotwell and stadiums across Texas.

I was hired at ACU in August 1998 as the new sports information director after the great Garner Roberts resigned as SID after 25 years in the role. As an ACU journalism student from 1987-92, I had covered plenty of ACU football games for The Optimist, and I still believe Garner thought I was more trouble than I was worth as a student.

Thank goodness he took pity on me when I got the job here and showed me the ropes. It took about two years before I felt like I was approaching knowing what I was doing. Some would probably still question, even after 19 years on the job, if I know what I’m doing.

There have been many great games and great players roll through Shotwell during my tenure in ACU Athletics, some that won’t soon be forgotten. The 2002 Wildcats won a share of the Lone Star Conference South Division title out of nowhere under the direction of then-head coach Gary Gaines.

Then Chris Thomsen rolled back into town in January 2005 and the program changed completely. With offensive coordinator Ken Collums calling the plays, quarterback Billy Malone at the controls and a plethora of big-play players at their disposal, the Wildcats let loose the fury of a here-to-fore unseen offensive attack on the Lone Star Conference.

Games where the Wildcats posted as many as 50 points were commonplace with the likes of Bernard Scott, Jerale Badon, Johnny Knox, Mitchell Gale, Clyde Gates, Taylor Gabriel, Daryl Richardson, Darrell Cantu-Harkless and others roaming the field for the Wildcats. No one will ever forget the November day in 2008 when the Wildcats put up 93 points in a 93-68 win over West Texas A&M University in the NCAA Division II playoffs, a game that still stands the test of time as, arguably, the greatest in ACU history.

ACU senior quarterback Mitchell Gale stops to visit with his young friend before the Wildcats’ – and Rex's – final home game of the 2012 season.

ACU senior quarterback Mitchell Gale stops to visit with his young friend before the Wildcats’ – and Rex’s – final home game of the 2012 season.

On a personal note, I’ll not soon forget two days in the life of Shotwell: Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010, when the Wildcats hosted the University of Central Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. Just five days before, my then-8-year-old son, Rex Fleming, had been diagnosed with a golf-ball size brain tumor and was going to be undergoing surgery the next week to remove what we would later learn was a cancerous tumor.

I couldn’t stand sitting at home, so I made my way out to the stadium where I found my comfort zone for about three hours. I hadn’t been at the office at all during the week after we learned of Rex’s condition, so my trusty assistant at the time, Phillip Dowden, along with Garner Roberts and Ron Hadfield, ran the press box for me that day. I stood on the sidelines, not able to muster the courage to be in the press box or stands and answer the hundreds of questions about Rex I knew were headed my way.

But one moment I didn’t expect nearly sent me scurrying for the nearest place for a long, quiet cry. As he walked onto the field, my friend Chris Thomsen walked over to me, wrapped me in a tight bear hug, said a few words and walked away with tears streaming down his face. We lost that day to the Mules, 55-41, but for the only time in my ACU career, I couldn’t have cared less.

The second day was Nov. 3, 2012, when Collums – who had become ACU’s head coach in December 2011 after Thomsen left for an assistant coaching job at Arizona State University – asked Rex to be in the pre-game locker room, call the coin flip, call the first play and stand on the sidelines with him for as long as he wanted during ACU’s final home game of the season against the University of West Alabama.

Rex’s play call of choice – the deep ball – went for a 33-yard completion from Gale to Gabriel on the first play of the game, and the Wildcats went on to a 22-16 overtime win. That turned out to be the last game of any type Rex ever attended. Five days later, he suffered a seizure that put him into hospice care and 22 days after helping coach the Wildcats to the win over the Tigers, Rex went home, cured forever of cancer.

I greatly anticipate the first game at Wildcat Stadium and can’t wait to see my team run out onto the field of a beautiful new facility that will be the best in the Southland Conference and one of the best at the FCS level. We’ll have plenty of amenities, including heating and air conditioning, and more than one restroom in the press box.

ACU head coach Ken Collums had Rex call his team's first offensive play in the Nov. 3, ____, win over West Alabama.

ACU head coach Ken Collums had Rex call his team’s first offensive play in the Nov. 3, 2012, win over West Alabama.

But the memories I leave at Shotwell aren’t negative. I spent a good portion of my youth there watching thousands of young men play a game we love and numerous great men I’m blessed to call friends coach those games.

So as I leave Shotwell Saturday night, I’ll take a look at the berms on each end and remember the good times and great friendships forged on those grassy hills.I’ll also take a look over at the fair grounds, close my eyes and see the lights of the West Texas Fair and Rodeo twinkling again, just like they’ve done during every September home game most of my life.

I’ll take a look at the scoreboard on the north end of the stadium and remember seeing the numbers “93” and “68” on the board and wishing we could have scored 100 against the Buffs.

I’ll take a look down the sideline and think about the great men and players who have roamed the home sideline for the past 57 seasons and I’ll ask them to make sure their ghosts make the drive north on Judge Ely Boulevard and take up residence at our new digs.

Then I’ll squint really hard and see if I can still see my boy, Rex, down on the sideline or running around under the stands with his friends – Jaden Bullington, Nathan Watts, Connor Mullins and others – playing their own games of touch football.

And, finally, I’ll take one last look around the place, hopefully feel a cool early November breeze against my face and thank the old yard for being such a good home.

Farewell, Shotwell.

Grant Boone (’__), voice of the Wildcats, works on his WC with Rex Fleming.

Grant Boone (’91), radio/TV voice of the Wildcats, works on his WC with Rex Fleming.


ACU Remembers: Dr. Brent Green

Brent Green 1997Former Abilene Christian University art and design department chair Dr. William Brent Green, 86, died in Abilene on Oct. 22, 2016, following a long illness.

A memorial service will be held at University Church of Christ (733 E.N. 16th, Abilene, Texas 79601) on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 1:30 p.m. Visitation is Friday from 5-7 p.m. at Piersall Benton Funeral Directors (733 Butternut St., Abilene, Texas 79602).

Born Dec. 4, 1929, in Dawson, Texas, he grew up in Wooster, northwest of Houston. Green attended Robert E. Lee High School in Baytown, and earned an A.A. from Lee College in 1949, a B.F.A. in art from The University of Texas at Austin in 1953, an M.F.A. in painting from the University of Oklahoma in 1962 and a doctorate in art education from The Ohio State University in 1973. He also did graduate work at the University of Houston.

As an 18-year-old undergraduate student, he was hired by Humble Oil and Refining as the company’s first assistant draftsman. At UT-Austin, he studied under the renowned Texas painter Boyer Gonzales Jr., sculptor Charles Umlauf and muralist Seymore Fogel.

Brent Green with sculptureHe graduated from junior high, high school and Lee College with Ina Lynch (’63). They married May 29, 1949, and later taught together at ACU for years before retiring together in 1998; she as professor emerita of psychology and he as professor emeritus of art and design.

He was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso while serving in the U.S. Army from 1953-55. Afterward, he worked in Houston as a draftsman for Tidelands Exploration Company.

Brent joined the ACU faculty as an instructor in 1958, becoming an associate professor in 1969, a professor in 1978 and chair of the Department of Art and Design in 1980. He was director of ACU’s Shore Art Gallery and taught classes in painting, drawing, ceramics, art theory and art education.

In Abilene he was an elder at University Church of Christ for 18 years and a deacon at Hillcrest Church of Christ, and the Fishinger and Kenny Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. He taught Bible classes, made numerous mission trips to Poland and participated in the Zambia Medical Mission.

Brent Green on Ad Bldg lawnHe held memberships in the American Society for Aesthetics and Art Criticism, College Art Association, National Art Education Association, Texas Art Education Association. He also was a member of the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of the Texas Fine Arts Association.

His paintings are displayed in ACU’s Brown Library, Westex Drilling in Abilene and Texas Instruments in Dallas. In 1981 he was commissioned by the Abilene chapter of the American Association of University Women to create a mural commemorating the Abilene centennial; it remains on display at the Abilene Civic Center.

He was preceded in death by his parents, William Cazzle Green and Georgia Elizabeth (Bogle) Green, and a brother, Billy Earl Green.

Among survivors are Dr. Ina Green, his wife of 67 years; a son, Bill Green (’77); and a daughter, Heather (Green ’80) Wooten; four grandchildren; and sister, Mary Beth (Green) Woods.


Long Story: How Ove got a leg up on history

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Johansson signals his field goal to the student body as teammates begin to celebrate.

The man who kicked the world’s longest field goal had never so much as seen an American football game six weeks before.

On Abilene Christian University’s Homecoming weekend in 1976, Ove Johansson (’77) booted a 69-yarder through Shotwell Stadium’s south end zone uprights, eclipsing the record set earlier in the day and establishing one that may never be broken.

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats

But what Johansson did that October would’ve never happened without April.

Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, Johansson grew up playing music and soccer with equal skill. At age 15, his father began telling him he needed to take his talents to the United States.

“I used to watch the merchant marine ships sailing in and out of port,” Johansson remembers in his still thick Swedish brogue, “and I would think, ‘One day, I will be on a boat to the U.S.’ ”

His ship came in, so to speak, when he joined the Swedish navy at age 20. A teammate on the crew’s soccer team had played professionally for the Dallas Tornado and invited Johansson to join him in the Metroplex to help him begin an area league. He accepted and soon was coaching and playing for an amateur team in Irving. While there, the course of his life would be recharted by one person whose eye he caught and another who caught his.

It was after a road game in Colorado that a coach from Davis & Elkins College recruited Johansson to play for the small Presbyterian school in West Virginia but with no guarantee of a scholarship. He went back to Texas to consider the possibility but was soon distracted by a young woman he spotted in the bleachers at one of his games, April Bankes (’77).

Johansson is mobbed by teammates on the field at Shotwell Stadium.

Johansson is mobbed by teammates on the field at Shotwell Stadium.

“I knew about 24 words of English at the time,” Johansson says with his mother tongue partially in cheek. “But five of them were, ‘What is your phone number?’ She gave it to me and I called her. ‘Don’t you remember me? The Swedish soccer stud?’ And she didn’t, which was very disappointing.”

But she agreed to see a movie with him anyway, and they dated for the next several months until his visa expired and he had to return to Sweden. Shortly thereafter, Johansson received both a visit from April and a most welcome piece of mail from the Davis & Elkins coach. April informed him her family was moving to West Virginia so her father, R.H. Bankes (’50), could take a preaching job. The coach’s letter included a scholarship offer. West Virginia’s country roads took him away from home.

Johansson played one season at Davis & Elkins, earning all-conference honors and helping the Senators reach the NAIA national championship game. But when April had the opportunity to enroll at ACU in 1975, Johansson encouraged her to go and followed her to Abilene.

He didn’t miss a single home football game that year but never saw a play. (“I couldn’t understand why grown up people would lie around in the mud,” Johansson recalls.) He would arrive in time to see April play clarinet in the Big Purple Band at halftime then leave when it was over.

But by January 1976, Johansson was short of green. With money running out, he was facing a return to Sweden when he noticed someone kicking field goals on the practice football field and decided to give it a try. April was his holder, his tee was the cap of a can of shaving cream. It wasn’t long before he had ACU players in a lather. When tight end Greg Stirman (’75) saw Johansson practicing, he told head coach Wally Bullington (’53), who agreed to an audition.

“The very first kick went all the way into the parking lot,” Johansson remembers. “From that point, I was on the team.”

To strengthen his leg, Johansson made the footballs heavier by soaking them in water. It also strengthened his confidence. He asked a fellow student in The Bean what the longest field goal ever kicked was. At the time, Tom Dempsey of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints held the record at 63 yards.

Heading into Homecoming, there was another record that had ACU fans buzzing. Superstar running back Wilbert Montgomery (’77) was sitting on 66 career touchdowns, tied with former Jackson State University superstar Walter Payton for the most at any level of college football.

“The day before the game, Wilbert told me he would be setting a record,” Johansson says. “I told him, ‘Wilbert, we’re going to set two records.’ ”

Montgomery’s task was a touch easier if only because by 1976 Payton had moved on to the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Johansson, meanwhile, was trying to hit a moving target. Tony Franklin of Texas A&M University set a new NCAA mark of 65 yards that very Saturday, Oct. 16, in a game against Baylor University that began before ACU took on East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University-Commerce).

Late in the first quarter with ACU ahead 7-0 and the Wildcats facing fourth down at their own 48-yard line, Bullington, having seen Johansson make a pair of 70-yard attempts before the game, sent him onto the field with a 15-20 mile per hour breeze at his back. The snap from center Mark McCurley (’77) was high but catchable, the hold from Dean Low (’78) was perfect and the attempt – spotted at the 41 and kicked by a player wearing that same number – cleared the crossbar and landed in the record books where it remains all these years later.

Montgomery would get his record in the second quarter, a 1-yard touchdown plunge, making that game still one of the most memorable in ACU’s 95-year football history.

Johansson's teammates celebrate with him after a 53-yard field goal he kicked during a 2001 halftime exhibition.

Johansson’s teammates celebrate with him after a 53-yard field goal he kicked during a 2001 halftime exhibition.

Just for kicks, Johansson returned to ACU on the 25th anniversary of his world record to boot (at the age of 53) a 53-yard field goal at halftime of the 2001 Homecoming game.

Johansson’s one and only season as the ACU placekicker ended with all-America honors. Montgomery went on to score nine more touchdowns and finish with 76. Incredibly, the two were reunited the following year as teammates with the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom Montgomery played eight seasons (leaving as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher) and Johansson one before retiring to begin a successful career as a financial advisor in Amarillo where April and he raised their two children, Stefan and Annika (Johansson ’06) Spalding.

From the Swedish navy soccer team to a patch of West Texas turf and a piece of college football history, in the United States’ bicentennial year, no less.

“It’s amazing,” Johansson says. “I really am the poster child for the American dream.”

Johansson and Montgomery will be honored Saturday at a noon event during Homecoming, the 40th anniversary of their record-setting game in 1976. Purchase tickets here to the ACU Football Legends Luncheon.