Certain athletes just never really get their due. For all
sorts of reasons, they are overlooked while they play, underappreciated once
their playing days are done, and then largely forgotten.
Aye. ‘Tis enough to bring a tear to the eye.
All professional franchises and college programs experience
this phenomenon and Texas Tech is certainly no exception. So here’s one man’s
nomination—based on 34 seasons of viewing and/or reporting—for the
Red Raider football players most undeservedly unsung and prematurely relegated
to the dusty corners of Tech football history.
Tackle—Chris Hudler: Before there was Colby
Whitlock there was Chris Hudler. Like Tech’s most
recent stalwart on the interior of the defensive line, Hudler
was a lunchpail and hardhat kind of a guy. Not
flashy, but very tough and dependable. His play was a key to the defense’s
resurgence after the dreadful days of 2003.
Tackle—Fred Petty: Texas Tech has had few football players from
Chicago. Indeed, Fred Petty may be the only one. And if Petty is any measure,
perhaps Tech had better return to recruiting the Windy City.
In 1990 and 1991 this JUCO transfer was not only a solid
tackle, he was an exceptional pass rusher. To this date he still remains among
the school’s top 15 in total sacks, and he accomplished that feat in only two
End—Calvin Riggs: Virginia Tech has had tremendous success with
undersized pass rushing defensive ends. See Jason Worilds,
Corey Moore and Darryl Tapp as exhibits A, B and C.
Texas Tech had somebody cut from that same mold with Calvin “Schoolie” Riggs in the mid-80s.
Riggs was recruited out of Midland to play fullback but
quickly moved to defensive end where he flourished. At no more than six feet
tall and 215 pounds, Riggs nevertheless bedeviled opposing quarterbacks from
his defensive end position in a 4-3 alignment.
End—Mike Kinsey: Gordon Wood’s legendary Brownwood program cranked
out its fair share of SWC stars and Texas Tech’s Mike Kinsey was one of his
better pigskin emissaries.
During his Red Raider days in the early 80s, Kinsey played
linebacker and defensive end equally well. He was a rough old cob against both
the run and the pass.
Linebacker—Jonathan Hawkins: In the years following Zach Thomas’ departure from the High
Plains, Texas Tech had two linebackers who successfully overcame seemingly
chronic injuries. They were Mike Smith and Jonathan Hawkins.
Hawkins, a Wichita Falls product, openly admired Thomas and
patterned his game after the Pampa legend. Unfortunately, Hawkins was never
healthy until his senior year of 2001. But once healthy Hawkins shined as just
the sort of rugged, instinctive linebacker that Thomas was.
Pier: My first experience of C.M. Pier came in March, 1981 as a 13-year-old
boy watching Texas Tech football practice. One of my buddies and I were
watching the linebackers hit the tackling sled. Player after player hit the
sled with no noticeable result.
Then came C.M.
Despite being on the smallish side, Pier blasted into the
sled, thrust it off the ground and sent it skidding. We simultaneously looked
at each other with eyebrows raised and mouthed, “Oh. My. God!”
And that’s the way Pier played the game. Hard
and physical. Just as a linebacker should.
Linebacker—Don Kelly: Pier’s immediate predecessor as an undersized but hard-hitting
linebacker was Don Kelly of Blooming Grove, Texas. Kelly also had a knack for
making the big play whether it be forcing a fumble or making a key stop on
Everett: This cornerback from Daingerfield, Texas had a very famous older
brother in Baylor All American and Pittsburgh Steeler safety Thomas Everett. The
younger Everett, however, was no slouch himself. He was a smooth, quick
coverage corner along the lines of Joselio Hansen.
And like Hansen, Everett had a solid NFL career, playing five years and logging
Mitchell: Lining up across the field from Everett for much of his Tech
career was former Bay City Black Cat, Roland Mitchell. The 180-pounder was not
quite as quick as Everett, but was very physical and athletic. (He once cleared
seven feet in the high jump.) The Buffalo Bills selected Mitchell early in the
second round and he went on to an eight-year NFL career.
Safety—Merv Scurlark: Several
headhunters have come out of the Texas Tech secondary over the years. Most
recently was Dwayne Slay. And in the early 80s there was Ted Watts who was a
first round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders. But equaling their ferocity was Monahans product Merv Scurlark.
Scurlark, who came to Tech as a
receiver, was the primary mallet in a group of excellent defensive backs who called themselves the Hammerheads. He delivered one of
the hardest hits I ever saw in the 1986 Independence Bowl when he crushed an
Ole Miss tight end on the sideline and literally lifted him off the ground with
Safety—Brian Dubiski: Rarely has Tech had a better all-around free
safety than walkon Brian Dubiski.
The six-foot-two 180-pounder from Grand Prairie was fast, active and had a nose
for the football. In Tech’s 49-21 win over Duke in the 1989 All American Bowl, Dubiski had an interception and a fumble recovery.