Bohls: College Hall of Fame keeps football on the mind, close to heart


There are 83 days until kickoff, but who’s counting?

Me, for one. It’s almost three months until Charlie Strong’s South Florida team takes on 2017 Longhorns opponent San Jose State on Aug. 26 to christen the new college football season. That’s three very long months that barbecue, a vacation in Jackson Hole and Michael Connelly novels can’t fill.

I’m a college football junkie. Have been since I ushered at now Royal-Memorial Stadium as a Boy Scout in my teens. We helped fans to their seats for a quarter and then were free to roam the stadium in search of a good seat. For me, any seat was a good seat.

After all, I was watching college football.

And have for six decades.

So I needed a fix. After covering the Masters and spending a week with my son Zach in Atlanta, I spent two hours in a cathedral to college football in downtown Atlanta. An afternoon at the College Football Hall of Fame served as a nice interlude between Clemson’s improbable comeback win over unbeatable Alabama and the Texas-Maryland kickoff at 11 a.m. Sept. 2.

It’s way cool. You can check out the 977 players and 211 coaches who have been inducted into the Hall, which make up less than 0.02 percent of the estimated 5.2 million players and coaches in this grand game. That’s powerful, and Texas’ Mack Brown might be part of next year’s class as one of six coaches and 75 players nominated on the ballot. Can’t imagine Mack not making it after changing the Longhorns’ culture and winning a championship.

There are oddities such as bizarre conditioning tips, intricacies like the reasons for rule changes. There are interactive displays including a Q&A with Heisman winner Doug Flutie. There are helmets galore, more than 750 of them on a majestic wall in the lobby that individually light up when there’s a registered alumnus inside the three-story building. There are pictures of All-Americans and reminders of all-awful stuff like the shameful exclusion of black players.

There’s a movie theater and a 45-yard field where dads and kids can camp out and 95,000 square feet of one wonderful memory after another. You’ll learn a lot, maybe even some history you wish you didn’t. It’s the perfect place to learn that …

Drake quarterback/halfback Johnny Bright, a Heisman candidate in 1951, got knocked unconscious three times by Oklahoma State’s Wilbanks Smith and finally elbowed in a dirty, jaw-breaking hit. When the Missouri Valley Conference refused to sanction Oklahoma State, Drake and Bradley withdrew from the league. It had nothing to do with the Longhorn Network. …

Before 1950, you could count the number of black players on the All-America teams on one hand; blacks now number more than 75 percent of all All-Americans. You can partially thank Michigan State for their proper inclusion because it blazed the segregation-busting trail that others tardily followed when the Big Ten school first fielded a roster with nine blacks, including Beaumont defensive end Bubba Smith, who wanted to play at Texas but tragically was not allowed to at that time. …

Jerry LeVias, another Beaumont graduate, broke the Southwest Conference color barrier at SMU but later called his college days “a living hell” because opponents taunted him, spit on him and tried to injure him, and some Mustangs supporters didn’t want him either. And he was an All-American in 1968 and wore No. 23 because of Psalm 23. …

That nine-time national champion coach Eddie Robinson used to make sandwiches for his Grambling State players and also coached baseball and girls basketball. ….

That Clemson was the first team to wear orange pants in 1980 and that Maryland was the first to don God-awful, multicolored, multioffensive uniforms that make me cringe when I think of what the Terps might wear at DKR next September. …

That Mississippi State’s cowbell tradition began after a cow wandered onto the football field in a game in the 1940s. ….

That Alabama’s mental conditioning coach — you read that right — Trevor Moawad uses a concentration drill in which he has Crimson Tide players write down a long sequence of numbers, then try to repeat it with teammates loudly insulting them as a distraction. …

That Hayden Fry, the coach who recruited LeVias, painted the visiting locker rooms a mellow pink. …

That Tennessee’s Butch Jones prepared his team for noisy road games by piping in tapes of car horns and crying babies at practices. …

That Teddy Roosevelt instituted rule changes to make the game safer after his son came home from a Harvard practice with a black eye. …

That the value of a touchdown was raised from five to six points in 1912, but I’m betting the Big 12 would like to bump it to nine points. …

That the first penalty flag was thrown in 1941, probably by an SWC ref. …

That the two-point conversion was added in 1958, and Chip Kelly went for two 20 minutes later. …

That St. John’s (Minn.) coach John Gagliardi banned tackling in practice, made weight training optional, never had a practice longer than 90 minutes and let his quarterback call his own plays. Oh, and he won 489 games and four Division III national championships.

That the average Georgia player uses more than 100 miles of athletic tape in his career. …

And you can roam around and see …

A football from the longest NCAA game ever played, Arkansas’ 58-56 win over Ole Miss in 2001. …

A picture of Sul Ross’ Mike Flynn on the 2007 team. That would be 57-year-old Mike Flynn. …

Doug English’s Longhorns helmet from 1974 and Gen. Neyland’s first tearaway jersey and Bo Jackson’s uniform. …

A ripped canvas on an Indian war drum that went to the winner of the Kansas-Missouri game from 1891 to 1937. Yeah, I don’t think they play anymore because, well, you know. …

Red Grange’s jersey from the day he scored six touchdowns against Michigan in 1924. Grantland Rice called him the “Galloping Ghost.” I miss colorful nicknames like that. …

The very chicken soup bowl and spoon that Joe Montana used to combat the flu at halftime of Notre Dame’s classic 35-34 win over Houston, a 1979 Cotton Bowl game I covered. The lone restroom in the press box froze over. It was the coldest I’ve ever been covering an event. When Montana threw the winning touchdown in the final minute to finish a 23-point fourth quarter, we ringed the end zone and were jumping up and down to stay warm. …

The trombone that Stanford’s Gary Tyrrell played just before he got whacked in the back by California’s Kevin Moen in the end zone at the end of the famous, five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown. It was “The Play.” OK, maybe Grantland would have had a more clever name. …

And a reminder of the Rutgers-Princeton game in 1869, the very first college game ever played. Rutgers won 6-4, and its students promptly ran the Princeton players out of town. And they say rivalries don’t matter.



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