Honoring College Football Starts Part I

by Paul Morantz

I was at Ft. Ord and just 18 when a barrack’s mate, Don Clark Jr. (yes the coach’s son) told me in the fall sophomore Mike Garrett would be a better runner than Willie Brown. I didn’t believe him at the moment, but it was true.

When I was 19 and at SMCC Garrett was a TEP and was being helped in a class by a neighbor of mine who was a fraternity brother. When I was invited to meet him I was literally shaking. But Iron Mike was polite and kind.

At 20, l965, I entered USC and joined DT as Mike became the first USC Heisman winner. As a writer Mike was always a first interview and I became a friend. When he walked down campus he was always stopped by someone to say hello and Mike always stopped and was gracious. Mike signed autographs and didn’t charge.

The guy today who reminds me of Garrett is Maurice Drew. Garrett wasn’t as fast, but he could cut, had moves and was incredibly strong. Mike’s thighs were similar. Mike was first to stay in shape by running up and down the Coliseum stairs. He was a cross between a fullback and half back. Closest USC runner in style was Ricky Irvin. What he brought was playing his heart out every down. He won games, a trait OJ had and Reggie had. McKay shocked the world by giving the ball to Mike 20-30 times a game. That was unusual then. McKay quipped, “Why not? The ball isn’t heavy.”

In 1964 Garrett was one of the heroes in the 0-17 to 21-17 victory over No. l ND in last game. He set up winning TD, a drive against the clock, with a 20-yard punt return. Broke a tie with Stanford in 65 with a 65 yard TD run late in the game. At Berkeley he ran two punts for TD’s. The second one you put on an all-time highlight film He was being ganged tackled by about 8 players when suddenly emerged from the pile and went all the way untouched. Greatest Trojan feat, however, may have been hiring Pete Carroll. He was disappointed when Chow left.

Around 2002, I donated a 16 by 20 photo of him running against UCLA in l965 to Heritage Hall.. Mike carried a lot that day, it was his greatest game, went considerably over 200 yards, and was really hit hard all day. Unfortunately UCLA was kept in game by fumbles, including Mike’s, but the incredible happened when leading by 11 and running out the clock Troy Winslow fumbled. A Beban pass, onside kick, and another long Beban pass put Bruins in Rose Bowl, a place Mike never played (but has been a home since AD). Before this occurred I think UCLA had no first downs, but a long TD by Mel Farr to start the game. To Tommy Prothro’s credit, rather than just gloating on his TV show over the miracle win, he showed highlights of Mike running to state how incredible he was and how hard he was being hit.

Mike was drafted by Kansas City and started as a rookie. He played in the first Super Bowl (Pete Beathard was back up QB) against Bart Starr legendary Packers. I was there (still looking for those ticket stubs) with my brother. In the fourth Superbowl KC won big over Minnesota and Garrett shined, including a TD run on a draw.

In 2006 I met a Garrett again as he spoke to USC law alumni (said USC would beat Texas 9 out of 10 times). To my surprise he remembered me. And at practices since, he makes a point of saying hello and asking about my health. With all the people he knows, that he does that tells you a lot about the man.

Richmond Flowers
By Paul Morantz
The year OJ ran away with the Heisman, l968, I was so ever impressed with the other All American back although he was far back in numbers—Richmond Flowers. I also watched him in hurdle duels with Earl the Pearl. Something about him I loved and he was a favorite, although he seemed to live so far away. But it was not until many years later when I saw the TV movie on his life that I understood how special he truly was. And thus I add him to my honoring series, though he was not a Trojan. But he is one of CF’s greates stories.
But his father, Richmond Flowers Sr., who in the 1960s was the most hated public official in Alabama. As the state’s attorney general from 1963 to 1967, Flowers Sr. became a target for segregationist Governor George Wallace.
Flowers Sr. had urged compliance with federal anti-segregation laws and condemned and prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan. He endured family death threats and burning crosses, eventually arrest. Richmond decided to get even…not only would he go to Tennessee but he vowed to beat Bama. Honor Thy Father.
“I really wanted to get out of Alabama and get it behind me,” he said in 1997. “I didn’t want all that heavy stuff laid on me about politics and segregation and civil rights. I was a kid who wanted to be a kid.”
Born on June 13, 1947, one could say his legend was one of the parts for Forrest Gump. RF, Jr. was dyslexic, asthmatic and anemic. He had flat feet which caused him to walk on his ankles and grew up wearing with heavy orthopedic shoes with reinforced arches. Golf was his game, shooting an 82 at 13.
In the fall of 1962, Flowers’ asthma was gone. “One day the light switch just went off, and it went away,” he said.
As a HS junior he set state records in the 120-yard high hurdles, the 180-yard low hurdles and the long jump. During his senior year, Flowers Jr. was a standout running back.
Bear Bryant wanted Flowers Jr. at Alabama. But after his father, the attorney general, was booed while being introduced at a meet, RF, Jr said, “That’s why I’m not going to stay in this state.” Despite Bryant’s overtures, Flowers Jr. picked Tennessee.

In his junior season, he was the Vols’ leading receiver (41 receptions for 585 yards and four touchdowns) and was named first-team All-America by the Football News. As a senior, he moved to tailback and rushed for 375 yards (3.4 average), caught 25 passes for 180 yards and scored seven touchdowns. In the sweetest moment of his football career, and a personal triumph few then understood, he scored Tennessee’s touchdown in its 10-9 win over Alabama.
In track, he was 3-time All American. He set an NCAA record in the preliminaries by running the 120 highs in 13.4.
Flowers was favored for gold at the 1968 Olympics at Mexico City, but he blew a hami during a workout.
He played safety with the Cowboys (1969-71) and New York Giants (1971-73). He then played one season in the World Football League (1975) before going to law school at Alabama.
On line it is said: “He became a commodities trader in Chicago. His time as a trader was tumultuous, creating a luxurious life for himself and then losing it.
“He gambled $10 million of his clients’ money with an ill-timed investment in soybeans in 1983. “I lost $3 million in a week,” he said. “I lost $2 million of my own money and $1 million that I didn’t have.”
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission censured him for exceeding trading limits and fined him $2,000. By then, he and his first wife, Lucia Chew Flowers, had divorced and she moved to Florida with their three children. Flowers ended up broke in Dallas.
“It wasn’t until he re-established contact with Dowdy and eventually married her that his life he got primary custody of his three children. In August 1992, regained direction. He moved to Florida in 1988 and a year later, after Hurricane Andrew damaged their house, the family moved to Birmingham, where Flowers has worked selling nutritional products.”
RF, Sr. was convicted in 1969 of extorting money from savings and loan operators and applicants who sought licenses to sell securities, serving 18 months of an eight-year federal sentence before being paroled. Eventually, he received a pardon from President Jimmy Carter. Flowers Sr. insists he was framed by his political enemies and that was how it was played in the TV movie. But by the time of the conviction his son had already stood up for him, laying it all on the field to beat the Crimson Tide.

he greatest “prep track and field athlete” to hail from the state

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Charles White

By Paul Morantz

Charles White, 1976-1979, said his coach, John Robinson, was the buddy you wanted next to you in a fox hole. If you were wounded, he would somehow get you to safety. He was small, around 185, not as compact as Garrett, yet he, too, could tear through the line like a fullback. But he could also shake free on sweeps and was dangerous in the open field. Near the goal line, he scored frequently with over-the-line leaps and ran with determination on every play. His style was to hit the defender first, then spin out of tackles. He was right up there with Bell and O.J. on student body right. In his senior year (then players of his caliber played their senior years) he was unforgettable in willing the Trojans on that desperate, last-chance drive to defeat undefeated Ohio State in a classic Rose Bowl. Robinson also called him the toughest player he ever saw. USC went 42-6-1 during White’s career. He set or equaled 22 NCAA, Pac-10, USC and Rose Bowl records (3 appearances) and finished as NCAA’s second-leading career rusher (5598 regular-season yards) and Pac-10’s top rusher (6245 yards). He is also starred 79 Rose Bowl Game and scored the winning “Phantom” touchdown.

When White reached the pros, he made a dangerous discovery—cocaine—that led to a disappointing pro start in Cleveland. It drove him out of football and kept him out until Robinson and Marv Goux, who had moved on to the Rams in 1983, signed him six years out of USC in l986. Little was expected of White. Los Angeles already had Eric Dickerson, the best runner in the game, but Robinson took pity and offered his old tailback a spot on the team, even though they both knew his position would be on the bench. Then, as usually only happens in the movies, l987 started with Rams going 1-5. Eric then demanded to be traded and was a few days later sent to the Indianapolis Colts in a 3 team trade in which the Rams acquired 6 draft picks. With no running back, Robinson turned to his former Trojan warrior, the guy he once called the toughest football player he ever saw, remembering those gallant years they battled together at USC, and asked him to prove that he was still the player Robinson always believed him to be. The press reacted predictably, calling it the whim of an old coach, a favor to a favorite son. For White, it was the second chance he feared he would never get. Once again, the tough guy put on his helmet and returned to the Coliseum gridiron where he had roamed for four years, placing second in the Heisman balloting in l978 and then winning it in l979. The Rams won the next five games. White ended up winning the NFL rushing title over Dickerson, gaining 1,374 yards, and made the Pro Bowl where he always belonged.

He drifted into obsucrity after that year. But what a sight to see him rising like a Phoenix in 87. Charles White once again spining and driving. To USC alumini pouring
in, it was like we cried on every carry.

Willie Brown

By Paul Morantz

My first images of Trojans as a small child were John Arnette and C.R. Roberts, Willie Wood, Angelo Coia, Mckevers etc., but the one I loved the most, and still do, is Willie Brown.

What was he like? Think Reggie Bush. Ran 98 yards (or was it 92) for touchdown as sophomore. Trojan record. Ran back kickoffs for TDs. As a junior led USC to NC in 62. Ken Del Conte ran, too, as two running back formation but Del Conte was known more as great blocker for Willie.

Wisconsin players in 63 Rose Bowl said Brown was what made USC great. Everyone knows 4th quater Badger comeback from 42-14 to 42-37, but there was another still another Badger drive that last quarter saved by Willie’s interception in the end zone, thus saving the game. He was probably the best defensive back in the country. He saved USC 7-0 victory at Iowa in 62 with a jarring tackle on 4th down that left Badgers inches short in a drive into USC territory late in game and kept USC undefeated. He became the first back McKay would send out in motion to catch passes from Beathard and became the role model for the future of running backs as pass receivers out of the backfield.

When Garrett arrived in 63 Brown became more of a flanker, possibly the first one for USC. He played all 3 positions in the pros that he played at USC. Running back, receiver and d-back. He played for L.A. Rams so we all got to go and chear him on.

Later he became a coach at USC and every game I looked for him and remembered the kid in me that once idolized him and still does.

So here is to Willie –arguably the most complete all around player in USC history (but keep in mind two-way players ended shortly after he graduated).

Jimmy Gunn

By Paul Morantz

In the McKay era, USC played 5 up front with 2 LB and a rover who choose to be a 3rd LB or DB after he saw the formation (Troy P. had this freedom too under Carroll). Jimmy Gunn and Charles Weaver were a new breed of DE at the time. Part of McKay’s genius. They were built like big linebackers but played defensive end with need for speed. They were faster then most opposing teams running backs and on sweeps could come around from behind and catch them before they cut up field. Also there was some identity confusion because they could play like linebackers at time shifting to 3DL and 4lb. These McKay type Defensive ends all played linebacker in the pros.

Gunn was the first as a sophomore in l967. Then on opposite side was Tim Rossovich a senior All American who was the more convential type. Big, strong and nasty to Qb’s. He is a legend too, and that’s another story.

But It was Jimmy who to this day deserves the Trojan all time Blood and Guts award. Every one knows about OJ’s winning run for NC over Beban Bruins in 67. But forgotten in lore was the real hero of the “greatest game.” UCLA outplayed USC that day for 3 quarters. One of the reasons was that Gunn tore ligaments in the first quarter and was on the bench replaced by 6-9 Bill Hayhoe. And QB Steve Sogge got knocked out of the game in the 2nd half. What kept USC in the game was an interception for TD by Pat Cashman and a long reverse of 50-some yards by Earl McCullouch. O.J. was stopped most of the day. USC had only one com pleted pass. USC”S defense however made stops when time and time again Beban drove Brins into USC territory. UCLA’s soccer style kicker (doubt I spell this right) Andrusyhsan, one of the best, if not the best, in the land, missed three times trying to clear Bill Hayhoe. Bill blocked one. After the Bruin last TD the kicker added a missed extra point. That would decide the NC championship.

With Sogge out it didn’t look good and then with about 8 minutes left on 3rd and long, 64 yards away, QB Toby Page audibilized to a draw and the famous O. J. run. 21-20 but plenty of time for Beban.

While everyone cheered, few realized there was plenty of time for Beban who was having a great game.

Jimmy Gunn knew. When Beban passes moved Bruins into Trojan territory Gunn walked up to Coach McKay and asked to be pu back in, torn ligaments and all. He promised McKay he would get Beban. McKay put him in and Jimmy kept his promise. Three times he sacked Gary Beban on that possession forcing a punt. The USC OL now dominated a smaller and worn out Bruin D line and USC OJ led a clock run out drive, with Page adding on keepers. With a minute left the game was won, but then Toby fumbled and everyone remember 65. (Then USC had 11 point lead and the ball and was running out the clock with Garrett. Troy Winslow fumbled. Then Beban through a TD bomb on first play. UCLA recovered onside kick and Beban won game on second bomb). This time, 67, there would be no bomb. On first Play Beban was dropped for a huge loss and the game was over. The man who got him, Jimmy Gunn, made his 4th sack in the last 7 ½ minutes, playing on one leg.

Today his image is bronzed with 69 Wild Bunch statue outside Heritage Hall. Look at him the next time you pass by. His courage won USC a NC in 67 though surgery kept him out of 68 Rose Bowl. He played in 69 and 70 RBs. In the last one Wild Bunch held Michigan to 3 points.

Jimmy Gunn, one of the noblest Trojans of all.

Charles Phillips

By Paul Morantz

Mention USC safety and most say RONNIE LOTT and TROY POLAMALU, with Taylor Mays rising.

Not me. The best USC safety I ever saw was Charles Phillips who stated all three years. He is no. 6 all time with 13 interceptions and played on 72 (greatest team ever) and 74 NCs. When Phillips got the ball either by fumble (two for TDs I think in same game) or IT it usually meant touchdown. When he hit someone they dropped the pass. If they caught it first, then they fumbled. Like Groots, he also had the knack for falling on fumbles. There will be some best is Trop P., but Troy as great as he was really didn’t have senior year. Lott was a sub his first year. Phillips won two NC and was in 3 Rose Bowls.

Nonbelievers, just watch the 2nd half of the infamous 74 USC ND game. He is everywhere. He lead the defense in great comeback that led to the title.

He made a great Raider and played in SB XI.

Phillips holds the school record in defense return yards of 365.

In high school he was a wishbone quarterback who handed off to the famous
Blair Pair. But he would emerge as the best football player of that team.

As to l972, How just picking them all for USC’s all time secondary: Steve Fate, Marvin Cobb, Artemus Parker and Charles Phillips. If you do, remember they all played on 72 dream team which had 28 interceptions. Or try Phillips, Cobb, Dennis Thurman. Ron Bush (no relation) and Danny Reece in 74 (how did anyone complete a pass that year against Troy….answer not many….maybe slightly more than they caught combined…key to shut down of ND and OSU). 74 team had 29 ITs, school record. Or Lott, Smith and Fisher (boo) in 80.

By the way in Hackett’s last year USC only had 7 interceptions, a feat only outdone by 6 in 57. The next year after Hackett, Carroll’s D got 20.

Best safety, in my opinion, I ever saw who ever played, college or pro, however, was Kenneth Easily who played for Bruins opposite Lott, and then for Seattle before his great career was terminated by injury