"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Big is Beautiful

When hearing tales of Bubba Smith
You wonder if he’s man or myth.
He’s like a hoodoo, like a hex,
He’s like Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Few manage to topple in a tussle
Three hundred pounds of hustle and muscle.
He won’t complain if double-teamed;
It isn’t Bubba who gets creamed.

What gained this pair of underminers?
Only four Forty-niner shiners.

Ogden Nash, 1969

If you missed Allen Barra’s tribute to Bubba Smith last week, do check it out.


1 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 11, 2011 5:31 pm

Legend has it that Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty had a top notch quarterback prospect that wanted to sign with him but couldn't pass the admission requirements due to poor grades (the kid was smart but just didn't try very hard in high school). So, Duffy called his coaching buddy Bear Bryant at Alabama and said, "You need to take a look at this kid, you won't be disappointed". Well, Coach Bryant did take a look and the rest is history...the player was Joe Namath.

Fast forward a year or so and Bear Bryant is the guest speaker at the Roanoke Touchdown Club where they had just awarded the high school player of the year award to Charles Thornhill (the first black player chosen for the award). Coach Bryant knew that he couldn't sign Thornhill (due to segregation) so he steered him to his buddy Duffy Daugherty at Michigan State. Bear also knew that Duffy was willing to accept more black players than most coaches at that time. Around this time Bubba Smith called Texas coach Darrell Royal and asked about playing for the Longhorns. Coach Royal was in the same boat as Coach Bryant since Texas wouldn't accept black players either. Bear Bryant had a lot of contacts in Texas from his days as the coach of Texas A&M and informed his friend Darrell Royal that Duffy Daugherty was taking several black players at Michigan State. Bubba ultimately signed with the Spartans and joined various other Southern blacks (like George Webseter, Jimmy Raye, Gene Washington & Charlie Thronhill) in a football version of the "Underground Railroad" as coaches like Bryant and Royal continued to "refer" black players to Michigan State.

As the article mentioned, the loss in Super Bowl III was the worst day of Bubba Smith's career. But, I wonder if he ever realized his connection to that the brash quarterback for the Jets who had "guaranteed" victory that day. I doubt Bubba ever knew about how Joe Namath's inability to get into Michigan State might have indirectly helped pave the way for him and others to attend the school.

2 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 11, 2011 6:23 pm

[1] That is such an awesome story, I'm gonna make a movie with big explosions and lots of slow-motion and CGI effects and call it "Bama Yankee's Awesome Story" (with narration by Samuel L. Jackson)

3 Chyll Will   ~  Aug 11, 2011 6:29 pm

[2] Or Morgan Freeman, your choice >;)

4 Bama Yankee   ~  Aug 11, 2011 11:18 pm

[2] Thanks, I thought it was a pretty cool story myself...I'm not saying it's 100% accurate (I've researched it and have never gotten all the details verified, but the vast majority of it factual...the rest might just be a well worn out legend. )

[3] Either one will work, but I think Morgan Freeman would be the best choice.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver