The Southland Conference, as part of its year-long 50th Anniversary commemoration, has announced its All-Decade Football Team from the 1960s. The team includes stars from its member institutions from the league’s inaugural 1964 season through 1969.
A total of 36 student-athletes are on the 1960s All-Decade Team, including honorees from each of the five institutions that made up the league during its first six years. The all-decade team includes 10 student-athletes from Lamar, eight each from Abilene Christian and Arkansas State, seven from Texas-Arlington and four from Trinity.
“From the very beginning of the Southland Conference, the league proved very competitive in football and those teams, coaches and student-athletes set standards of excellence that have carried through our five decades,” league commissioner Tom Burnett said. “There were certainly a number of great stars that went on to perform successfully at the next level, as well as hall of fame coaches that have left a lasting legacy in the Southland.”
Abilene Christian quarterback Jim Lindsey was selected as the player of the decade. Lindsey was a three-time first-team all-conference selection (1968, 1969 and 1970), and was named a first-team All-America by both the Associated Press and the American Football Coaches Association as a senior. Lindsey was the conference Player of the Year in 1970 and led the conference in passing and total offense all three seasons. When he graduated, his 8,521 passing yards were the most in NCAA history and he still ranks among the top 10 quarterbacks in conference history in offensive plays (1,460), total offense (8,385 yards), passing yards (8,521), passing attempts (1,237), completions (642) and touchdowns (61).
Seven of Lindsey’s teammates who earned two-time first-team all-conference honors join him on the all-decade squad, including linebacker Chip Bennett (1968-69), offensive linemen Larry Cox (1964-65) and Bob Rash (1967-68), running backs Pat Holder (1968-69) and Mike Love (1964-65); defensive lineman Jack Kiser (1969-70) and wide receiver Ronnie Vinson (1969-70). Bennett was a 1969 AP and AFCA All-American and a third-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1970. Cox, a 1965 AP first-team All-American, was drafted in the 10th round by the Denver Broncos. Vinson led the Southland in receiving in both 1969 and 1970 and was the league’s scoring leader in 1969. He was drafted in the eighth round of the 1972 draft by the New Orleans Saints.
Holder is still fourth in ACU history with 155 receptions, while Kiser was an all-America performer who later went on to become the defensive coordinator and then head coach for the Wildcats.
Arkansas State’s Bennie Ellender was named the coach of the decade while leading his teams to three consecutive Southland Conference championships in 1968, 1969 and 1970. The four-time Southland coach of the year (1964, 1968, 1969 and 1970), had an overall record of 39-14-4 (.765) and a conference record of 14-7-3 (.652). His 1970 squad finished undefeated at 11-0 to claim the Southland’s first-ever national championship with his 1969 and 1970 teams winning the Pecan Bowl as the Southland representative. Ellender’s players earned 35 first-team All-Southland honors during his tenure.
Eight of his players were named to the all-decade team, including offensive lineman Bill Bergey, who was a first-team All-American in 1968 by the AP and AFCA. Also, as a defensive standout, Bergey still holds the single-season Southland record with 196 tackles in 1968. He went on to become a second-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals. The 12-year NFL veteran was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles and played in Super Bowl XV.
The Red Wolves also placed a pair of three-time first-team all-conference selections in defensive back Dick Ritchey (1965, 1966 and 1967) and defensive lineman Clovis Swinney (1967, 1968 and 1969). Swinney was a first-team All-American in 1969 by both the AP and AFCA. He was the conference defensive player of the year in 1968 and 1969 and was a third-round pick of the Saints in 1970. Other two-time first-team all-conference selections on the all-decade team include center Dan Buckley (1968-69) and offensive linemen Jack Smith (1968-69), Dan Summers (1964-65) and Ron Worthen (1966-67). Buckley was an AP first-team All-American in 1969; Summers was a two-time AP first-team All-American in 1964 and 1965 and Worthen was a 10th-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1968. Running back Frank McGuigan also made the all-decade team. The 1968 offensive player of the year and first-team all-conference selection led the league in rushing and scoring that season.
Other three-time first-team all-conference players on the all-decade team include Texas-Arlington kicker Skip Butler (1967, 1968 and 1969) and running back Danny Griffin (1967, 1968 and 1969) as well as Lamar defensive lineman Dick Croxton (1965, 1966, and 1967). Butler led the Southland in scoring in 1969 and played eight years in the NFL with the Houston Oilers, New York Giants and New Orleans Saints. Griffin was a seventh-round selection of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970 NFL draft.
Of Lamar’s 10 selections on the all-decade team, nine were twice named first-team all-conference and four – safety Johnny Fuller, linebacker Anthony Guillory, offensive lineman Ed Marcontell and running back Tom Smiley – played in the NFL. Fuller was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 1968 draft and played in the league eight years, also playing for the Saints and Chicago Bears. Guillory played in the NFL four years after the Los Angeles Rams drafted him in the seventh round in 1965. He also played with the Philadelphia Eagles. Marcontell was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 11th round of the 1967 draft and Smiley was a second-round pick of the Bengals in 1968.
Trinity’s four selections include three two-time first-team all-conference picks in running back Jackie Hall (1965, 1966), defensive lineman William Hines (1967 and 1968) and defensive lineman Marvin Upshaw (1966 and 1967). Upshaw also was a first-team AFCA All-American in 1967, the same year he was the league’s defensive player of the year. He was a first-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns in 1968 and played nine years with the Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and St. Louis Cardinals. The fourth player is Obert Logan, who led the Southland in scoring in 1964, is distinguished as the last NFL player to wear a single “0” as a jersey number during his three-year career with the Dallas Cowboys and Saints.
The other Texas-Arlington selections on the all-decade team are quarterback Mike Baylor, offensive linemen Bob Diem and Ken Riley, defensive lineman Ken Ozee and defensive back Robert Willbanks. Diem, Riley and Willbanks earned first-team all-conference honors in 1966 and 1967. Ozee earned the same honor in both 1965 and 1966, while Baylor was a first-team all-league pick in 1967, the same year he was named the conference’s offensive player of the year and lead the Southland in total offense. Willbanks was named a first-team All-American in 1967 by both AP and the AFCA. Ozee was an AP All-American in 1966, when he was the league’s defensive player of the year and Diem was a first-team AFCA All-American in 1967. Riley was a 17th-round draft pick of the Giants in 1969.
To best assess the candidate pool for the all-decade team, the Southland Conference developed a metric that analyzed numerous elements of a student-athlete’s performance and value within the league at the time. Most notably, the conference honored “real-time” factors such as all-conference selection by coaches and a player’s statistical performance among his peers at the time. Further, other components of selection including a player’s effort toward helping his team win a championship or finish near the top of the conference, whether he earned individual honors from the league, if he participated in postseason bowls, and if he was drafted by or participated in the NFL.
Information for this story provided by ACU Athletics.