Dallas’ all-everything high school players

HIGH SCHOOL football. For a time, it was the event in a teen-ager’s life, whether he was playing or just rooting. It was somewhere to go, a place to take a girl, an excuse to get Dad’s Hudson for the first time. It was thrill-a-minute action, plenty to scream and shake your fist at without having to think of something to say to your date. Plenty to brag about at a downtown victory celebration or commiserate over at the Pig Stand or Sivil’s Drive-In.

Some great players have roamed the grassy (and often muddy) fields of Fair Park Stadium, the old baseball diamond in Oak Cliff, Dal-hi Field and finally the neighborhood facilities in use today. While some of the old-timers (uh, veteran observers) are still around, we decided to capture the lore of the day when cotton was stuffed in team jerseys for padding and football helmets were about as thick as shoe leather. We decided to find out, once and for all, who the greatest high school players in Dallas history are.

In undertaking such a monumental task we chose to limit our field of candidates to those who played for schools in the Dallas public school system. (This eliminates Bobby Layne, Doak Walker and Jack Collins of Highland Park; Bobby Boyd of Garland; Charlie Taylor of Grand Prairie Dalworth; Paul Rice of Lewisville; J.D. Roberts of Jesuit; and Bill Montgomery of Carrollton Turner.) But since we’re looking at 60 years of football, we still have several thousand players to choose from.

We also limited our selections to the players who were great while in high school. If they were also great later on, all the better, but right now we’re looking for high school heroes, not sleeping giants. This eliminates Harvey Martin (he didn’t even start at South Oak Cliff until the third game of his senior year) and Dwight White (later a terror for the Pittsburgh Steelers) who displayed none of the tendencies at Madison High that would later earn him the nickname “Mad Dog.”

Some players failed to stand out in high school through no fault of their own. Samuell coach Harrell Shaver believed that if God had intended for the football to be thrown, he would have built it in the form of a Frisbee. Consequently, Steve Ramsey, who rewrote the NCAA passing records while at North Texas State and quarterbacked the Denver Broncos lor several years, spent most of his time at Samuell handing the ball to the speedy runners and pointing them toward the goal line. Pete Layden, the great Texas Longhorn running back who knocked John Kimbrough and the Texas Aggies out of a trip to the Rose Bowl, spent all but his last few games at Adamson playing end.

Until 1967, when black and white schools were placed in the same district, a player really had no chance to become a legend if he was black. Before then, the black high schools were in a separate district; until 1956 there were only two black schools in town. The black high school teams played on Wednesday nights at Dal-hi Field because that was prayer meeting night and the administration didn’t want to take a chance with the white boys’ souls. And the white kids who played for Honey Grove and Van Alstyne got more coverage in the Dallas papers than the black kids at Lincoln and Washington.

We found that some of the legendary high school players, such as Bud Sprague, get better and better as the years go by. (His name was used for decades in the context of “This kid is the best tackle since …”) Sprague was indeed a great tackle in college, but we discovered that at Oak Cliff High he didn’t play enough to earn a letter.

Those who assisted us in the selection of the all-time greats include Ewell D. Walker (Doak’s dad), who started coaching at North Dallas the day it opened in 1922, and Wade Thompson, who coached at Woodrow Wilson when it opened in 1928. We also talked to Rufus Hyde, who coached for 34 years at North Dallas High, and Jim Riley, who played for Sunset and then coached and taught for 38 years at Woodrow. From Sunset we solicited the advice of Byron Rhome, who was head coach there from 1945 to 1963. Perry Fite, who coached for many years at Tech, also helped, as did Cotton Miles, Bob Cowsar and Harrel Shaver. And for the lowdown on modern history, we went to people like Norman Jett at South Oak Cliff (SOC) and Harold Hill at W.T. White, who have been winning most of the district championships lately. All in all, we talked to 25 coaches and sportswriters, including David Holland, who publishes an annual magazine devoted to local high school football. Between them, the coaches who helped us have won a total of 31 district championships.

We didn’t ask the panel to vote; it wouldn’t work. A lot of today’s coaches weren’t even born when Davey O’Brien was playing for Woodrow, and some of the early observers have better things to do now than hang around Forester Field. Instead, we asked for recommendations, cross-checked the names with the other panelists and conducted our own independent verification of the actual records.

These are the greatest Dallas high school players ever:

Roy (Father) Lumpkin. For good old-fashioned blood-and-guts football, Roy Lumpkin was your man. He was a knee-churning, stiff-arming menace of a running back who scored 25 touchdowns for Oak Cliff in 1926 in a seven-game schedule. During a playoff game with Cisco when two opponents were coming at him in an open field, he threw the ball down and stiff-armed both of them. Howard Allen, his high school coach, once said Lumpkin was “the toughest hombre to ever set a cleat on a high school turf.” Sportswriter Harold Ratliff, who covered Texas high school football for nearly 50 years, once said Roy was better than such Texas high school greats as Kyle Rote, Glynn Gregory and Steve Worster. Lump-kin led Georgia Tech to a Rose Bowl victory, then played pro football for several years. He refused to wear a helmet in the pro league and liked to show off a sizable lump planted on the back of his head when he tackled Bronco Nagurski.

Davey O’Brien. Davey was about as tough as Roy, but there was a lot less of him. He was a Roger Staubach in an Eddie LeBaron body. Though he weighed only 138 pounds while at Woodrow Wilson, he was rarely injured. In 1934 he was the best passer in the state, a fine kicker and could stiff-arm an opponent or fake him to his knees with a sidestep. As a quarterback he may have been the greatest field general and team leader to ever play football. Wade Thompson, who coached Davey at Woodrow, says that while the other boys were hovering around the water bucket after practice, Davey would be on the chinning bar. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1938, after leading TCU to the national championship. After a couple of years as an all-pro for Philadelphia, O’Brien quit the $10,000-a-year gravy train for a $3,200-a-year job with the FBI. He died in 1977.

John Washington. The greatest pass catcher in Dallas high school history, John Washington was consensus all-state for Roosevelt in 1972 and 1973. His senior year he caught 59 passes for 1,331 yards – 254 yards in a single game against Woodrow. Robert Thomas, the Roosevelt coach, says Washington is the best player he’s ever seen. In 1974 Washington was one of two unanimous blue-chip prospects in a poll of Southwest Conference coaches; Earl Campbell was the other. Washington had perfect moves and a stretch like Plastic Man. At Arizona State he changed his name to John Jefferson. In each of his first three years with the San Diego Chargers he caught passes for more than 1,000 yards and 10 or more touchdowns, which no one else has ever done.

Wayne Morris. When Wayne Morris was at SOC in the early Seventies, he was the best all-around high school football player in Texas. As a junior he made second team all-state on defense; as a senior he made first team all-state on offense. Morris could run up the middle, hit a hole and not be seen again until the try for the extra point. During his senior year he carried the ball 172 times for 1,493 yards (an average of 8.7 yards per carry) and scored 16 touchdowns. He rushed for more than 3,000 yards at SMU before becoming a running back for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Gordy Brown. At Bryan High School (later known as Crozier Tech) in the Twenties, Gordy Brown was the Roy Lumpkin of defense. This 172-pound tackle (a pretty good-sized boy in those days) was indomitable. Field Scovell, who played for North Dallas, and Abe Barnett, who played for Forest, both say Gordy was the toughest guy they ever tried to block. Though Bryan finished no higher than third in the four-team city race during Brown’s career, Brown was such a standout that he made all-state three years in a row. He became a star tackle at Texas and was the first Longhorn to play in the East-West All-Star Game.

Larry George. A one-man team for Crozier Tech in 1953 when he was an all-state running back, George led the state in rushing with 1,513 yards and scored 19 touchdowns. “He was about all that Tech had,” says ex-Tech coach Perry Fite. “They’d stack their defenses on him, but he’d still get his yards.” Rex Stults, head coach at Tech in 1953, says that when George went down to Austin for spring training with the University of Texas, he had the whole campus abuzz. Then George tore up his knee in the Coaches’ All-Star Game in the summer of 1954, and his career was over. “He would have been an All-American,” says Stults.

Mike Livingston. As a SOC senior in 1963, Mike was indeed a Golden Bear. Big, good-looking and the epitome of the high school hero, he was the most versatile football player in Dallas high school history. His senior year he completed 70 of 1ll passes (63.6 percent) for 1,102 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also ran for 12 touchdowns, kicked 23 extra points, punted and was a superb defensive safety. His last-minute heroics helped SMU gain a rare conference crown in 1966. Though not a great passer by NFL standards, he played 10 years for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Howard (Red) Maley. A triple threat like Livingston, Howard Maley was a good runner, a super punter and one of the best passers in the state. Maley went from Fowler Orphans’ Home to Woodrow Wilson High School, where he teamed with end Sid Halliday to form an awesome passing combination. His career at SMU was interrupted by a hitch in the Marine Corps during World War II. When he returned, SMU had Doak Walker to do its triple threatening. “Red was a quiet boy,” says Wade Thompson, his coach at Wood-row. “I don’t think SMU ever got all out of him that he had to give.” Maley was the leading punter in college football his senior year, and for the Boston Yanks, he kicked one ball that stood for a long time as the longest punt in pro history.

Howard, Johnny and Charley Sprague. As we mentioned, Mortimer (Bud) Sprague didn’t do much in high school, though he became a great tackle at Texas and later at Army, where he made All-America. (He played college ball for eight years.) But Bud had three brothers who were superstars at Oak Cliff High: Howard, Johnny and Charley. Howard was a bone-crushing fullback and linebacker; Charley and Johnny could play anywhere in the line. All three were shoo-ins for all-city. The four Sprague brothers went on to become college football captains; Bud at Texas, the other three at SMU. Bud was an insurance executive in New York until his death a few years ago. Johnny was killed in action at Salerno during World War II. Howard lives on a farm near Azle and Charley is president of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas. George, father of the foursome, was mayor of Dallas during the Texas Centennial. Sprague Field was named for the family.

Brian Blessing. When Brian Blessing reported for football practice at Hillcrest in 1965, he had to introduce himself to his teammates – not because he was new, but because they were. “We had two lettermen that year,” recalls Wendell Shelton, Blessing’s coach. “But Brian was one of the greatest clutch players in Dallas history. The tougher things got and the more pressure there was, the better he played. At times I think his performance exceeded his ability.” Blessing and Scott Henderson formed the greatest linebacking tandem Dallas has ever seen. The green Hillcrest team made it to the state quarterfinals that year. Then Blessing made a big mistake; he went to Baylor. There’s nothing wrong with Baylor football now, but there was then – Baylor couldn’t win a game, except maybe once or twice a year. Blessing and his old linebacking mate Henderson are attorneys in Dallas now.

Paul Delfeld. In 1953 Dallas had two consensus all-state running backs, Larry George of Tech and Paul Delfeld of North Dallas. Neither played for the city champion (Woodrow). Delfeld, a personable guy, gained 1,078 yards for an 8.8 yard average and led the state in scoring with 23 touchdowns. In 1954, at about the same time that Look magazine was doing a five-page spread on Delfeld, his career ended with a leg injury. He played a little college football, then went into the plumbing business. “He loved to play football,” says Rufus Hyde, Paul’s coach. “You sure like to coach a boy like that.”

Jerry Rhome. “You’ve got to have Jerry Rhome in there,” says Bill Morgan, a sportswriter who covered high school football in the Fifties. Byron Rhome took a lot of gaff at first for playing his boy Jerry at Sunset, but Byron wasn’t the type to take a popularity poll to see who ought to be playing. By the time Jerry had thrown 18 touchdown passes on the way to becoming all-state in 1959, most of his detractors had gone underground. But Jerry was not to escape controversy so easily. When he quit SMU (after leading the Southwest Conference in passing) and transferred to the University of Tulsa, his critics said it was because SMU wouldn’t let Byron call the plays. Then he got caught up in Tom Landry’s infamous quarterback shuttle with Craig Morton. Rhome is now offensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.

Goble Bryant. Goble was the cornerstone of the best line Sunset ever had. He was tough and talented and equally adept at offense and defense. He made all-state in 1942, leading Sunset to the state finals. After high school, Bryant enrolled at Texas A&M, where word of his prowess soon reached Red Blaik at Army. Blaik called Homer Norton, A&M’s head coach, and threatened to have Bryant drafted if he didn’t transfer to West Point. Bryant took the hint and moved to West Point, where he made All-America.

Bill Forester. A devastating 215-pound fullback for Woodrow in 1948, Bill Forester was a fine athlete-strong enough to throw the discus in track, but agile enough for basketball. Fast for his size, he was one of the hardest men to bring down since Roy Lumpkin. Sportswriters loved to catch shots of Bill running the ball with everyone else in sight on the ground. Jim Riley says that in the state playoff game against Fort Worth’s Arlington Heights, Woodrow quarterback Bunny Andrews was running Bill every down. “Then I had to do a little coaching,” Riley says, “wide sweeps and all that. If I’d left Bunny alone, we’d probably have won that thing.” Bill made all-conference for SMU, then all-pro for Green Bay, where he played 11 years. He’s now a salesman for Stephens Sports Equipment. His older brother, Herschel, an all-city guard for Woodrow, played for the Cleveland Browns during the Otto Graham years. Forester Field is named for the boys’ father (also named Herschel), a great coach at Forest and Woodrow.

The Higgins boys. The Oak Cliff alumni discovered the Higgins boys living on a farm near Waxahachie and moved them to Oak Cliff, getting their father a job as a city cop. Clen Lafayette “Ox” Higgins was captain of the Oak Cliff team in 1923. He became a great tackle for Texas and later an Austin sporting goods dealer. Jimmy Higgins was a center and linebacker for Oak Cliff, and although he wasn’t as big as Ox, it was almost impossible to knock him off his feet. Jimmy became a football official. Michael Frank Higgins, the third brother, was a crackerjack running back at Oak Cliff, but later switched to baseball, where he was known as “Pinky.” He played major league ball for 14 years; he once got 12 hits in a row, a record that still stands. After his playing career ended, Pinky managed the Boston Red Sox for several years. Higgins Field in Dallas is named for the boys.

Martin Lindsey. This big Tech tackle was the best lineman in Texas in 1932 and is one of the greatest in Dallas history. Lindsey was an all-around athlete-a basketball star, a shot-putter and a baseball catcher. But football was his real calling. He was an awesome power in the Tech line, encouraging a lot of business for the tackle on the other side. After high school, Lindsey went to Temple University (in Philadelphia), but he didn’t stay long. “That was just too far away for an old Texas boy,” says coach Perry Fite. Lindsey went to Schreiner College for a while, then to Texas A&M. In 1931 and ’32 Lindsey starred for the Dallas all-city team.Joe Boring. In 1950 Boring led Sunset to the State Big City Championship with his running, kicking and passing from the tail-back position in the single wing. Joe could do it all. One of his most lethal weapons was one that is rarely employed anymore: the quick kick. Joe made all-city in 1949, all-state in 1950 and then made all-con-ference at safety for Texas A&M. He’s now a football coach in Garland.The Goodrich brothers. Bobby Good-rich was a marvelous pass snatcher at end for Woodrow where he made all-state in 1961. He was tall and agile and played to win. In the playoff game against Fort Worth’s Paschal in 1961, Bobby took a cast off his fractured wrist the day of the game and caught five passes for 63 yards. He was also a fine punter, blocker, defensive safety and kick returner. Four years later Paul Goodrich led Woodrow to a 10-0 season and made all-state, all southern and high school All-America as an offensive end. Paul made all-city as a junior on defense. Bobby is now executive producer of ABC Sports and Paul is a Methodist minister in Mabank, Texas.

Alcy Jackson. This 6-foot-3, 180-pound SOC super hero could play any position on the team. As a sophomore in the playoff game against Fort Worth, he threw one touchdown pass and caught another one. As a junior quarterback he led SOC to the state semifinals; as a senior defensive back in 1972, he made all-state. Strictly a blue-chip ballplayer, Jackson went to Baylor, but injured a shoulder there. He now works for the Dallas Fire Department.

Dickey Morton. The proverbial scat-back, Dickey Morton was the scourge of the city while at Kimball in the late Sixties. In one game against archenemy Sunset, Morton made 278 yards rushing on 18 carries and scored four touchdowns. In 1969, his senior year, he gained 1,327 yards on 161 carries for an 8.3 yard average. He was also a great kick returner. Morton migrated to Arkansas, where he was involved in some real barn burners against Texas. He had speed, power and could shoot through a hole in the line like a cricket through a crack.

Joe Shearin. One of the finest physical specimens to ever play football in Dallas, Shearin was built like Bob Lilly. At 6 feet 3 inches tall and 240 pounds, he made the opposition think twice before running a play toward his side at Woodrow, where he played tackle. He could do the 40 in 4.8 in high school (he graduated in 1977), which made the college scouts drool. Shearin was loaded with talent and ability. Then he suffered a mysterious and debilitating illness at the University of Texas. He lost 30 pounds before recovering. This could be the year, though, that we see what Joe can really do.

The Huffman family. The Huffmans are the modern-day counterparts of the Higginses and the Spragues. Three of Vic Huffman’s sons have played for Thomas Jefferson, one is playing there now and one is in junior high. David was the first, a fine all-district tackle in 1975 who played for Notre Dame and is now with the Minnesota Vikings. Mike, who followed a year after David at Thomas Jefferson, played for Arkansas until he injured his knee. Now he’s in medical school. The best of the bunch (in high school at least) was Tim, an all-state tackle in 1977. We asked Allen Stumbo, Tim’s coach at Thomas Jefferson, if he could remember any particularly great games that Tim played. He said he couldn’t remember any that weren’t great. Tim was 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 245 pounds, was quick and would take on a Cape buffalo if one came his way. He went to Notre Dame and is now a rookie with the Green Bay Packers. Vic says the boys have done better than he did. (Vic played a little at Ohio State, but didn’t shine like his sons have.) “I was long on desire and short on execution,” says Vic.

Bruce Gaw. A great defensive tackle who played on Bryan Adams’ crackerjack teams in the Sixties, Bruce Gaw was a very discouraging sight for an offensive lineman to see across the unprotective openness of the line of scrimmage. He was tough to block and tough to run on. Gaw was a consensus all-state tackle in 1968 and was highly recruited by the colleges. He tore up his knee at the University of Texas and had to give up football. He’s now in the wholesale furniture business in Houston.

The Foldbergs. Hank Foldberg was tall and lanky, a fine pass receiver and a good all-around football player. He led Sunset to the city championship in 1940, and made all-city. Hank went to A&M where he was swooped up by Red Blaik along with Goble Bryant. At Army he made All-America and played on the greatest team in West Point history with Blanchard, Davis and company. Dan Foldberg was au-city at Sunset in 1945, a fine all-around athlete and a superb pass grabber. He also went the A&M/Army route; Red Blaik said Dan was the best offensive end he ever had. Hank had an unspectacular coaching stint at A&M, and when last heard from, was selling lake lots in Arkansas. Dan pursued a military career.

George (Red) Ewing. Red Ewing played left wingback in the double wing. At 155 pounds, he could really scoot and was a whiz at eluding tacklers in the open field. He could also pass and was one of the best punters Tech ever had. On the way to the state finals in 1933, Ewing intercepted six passes against Highland Park to seal the fate of the Scotties in the quarterfinals. He never really took to college football, though he made passing shots at it at Schreiner College, Paris Junior College and SMU. He worked for the post office in Dallas for many years and is now retired.

John Paul McCrumbley. As a fullback/ linebacker at Woodrow, John McCrumbley was a top-of-the-line ballplayer who was better than almost anyone else on offense or defense. In 1969 he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and was co-offensive player of the year in Dallas. In 1970 he was named defensive player of the year in Dallas and was consensus all-state. It was hard to stop him once he got rolling; he weighed 220 pounds in high school. After graduating from A&M, he played for a couple of years for the Buffalo Bills. “He got up to around 260,” says Cotton Miles, his high school coach. “That’s a little heavy for a linebacker.”

Joe Rust. Hollywood couldn’t have cast a better high school hero than Joe Rust: blond-headed, with a Huck Finn smile; brash and cocky. He quarterbacked Carter to the state semifinals when the team wasn’t even supposed to win district. He ran for 16 touchdowns that year and made all-state as a defensive back. Rust was too stubborn to lose -he did whatever it took on the field to get his way.

Bill Blackburn. Bill was a stocky little speedster who did a 9.9 in the 100 on the track team during the off season, but didn’t run like a sprinter. He made most of his yards smashing through the line, then breaking loose before the defensive secondary could react. He was one of the best backs Sunset ever had; he led the team to a 10-0 season in 1941 and a trip to the quarterfinals and made all-state.

Derek Davis. Derek was a money ballplayer who played with a passion. He was a great pass receiver while playing end for Bryan Adams in the Sixties; after he caught a ball, he was as fine a runner as any of the backs. He was also an excellent punter and punt returner. Derek was a savvy kid who knew the game and would give the big effort – the kind of player who kept coaches in the game “for just one more year” hoping that another one like him would come along. He made all-state in 1966, then all-conference at Baylor. Davis is now an attorney in Corsicana.

Mal Kutner. Kutner was a remarkable athlete who led Woodrow to a city championship in football in 1937 and the state championship in basketball in 1938. He played center and linebacker in high school, but switched to end at the University of Texas, where he made All-America. Kutner went on to become an all-pro for the Chicago Cardinals, one of the last players to star on both offense and defense. He’s now in the oil business in Houston.

Johnny Johnson. Talk about an all-around athlete-we don’t know of any Dallas athlete who has more impressive all-sport credentials. While a senior at Samuell, Johnny was the best football player in Dallas at running back. He was also the leading hitter on the state champion baseball team, making all-state as a center fielder. He was a part of the sprint relay team that set a national record, and he was a starter on a fine Samuell basketball team (even though he was always late reporting because of football). Johnny had a chance to be a great defensive back after high school, but nothing went right. He couldn’t get into the Southwest Conference because of his grades and ended up at Wichita State just as the school was getting wiped out by NCAA sanctions. He finally wound up playing semipro football for El Paso, and then quit the game altogether.

Abe Barnett. Abe was probably the best all-around athlete Forest ever had. (Forest became an all-black school in 1956, and the name was changed to James Madison.) When Forest went to the state finals in 1925, Abe was the best pass catcher in the state; in fact, he was one of the best anybody had seen. He was also a fine kicker. In those days, it was legal to build up a mound of dirt to place the ball on for the kickoff, and Abe could knock it through the goal posts. He was at his best in the tough games, and in 1925 he beat Oak Cliff almost single-handedly with his pass catching and kicking. Abe was at Sunset for 40 years, coaching baseball, helping in football, and teaching. He is now retired.

Zed Coston. Zed, an outstanding center and linebacker for Tech during the early Thirties, became a monster when inspired. In the regional playoff game against Fort Worth Central in 1933, Zed blocked a punt to set up Tech’s winning (in fact, only) touchdown, then intercepted a pass to kill a last-minute threat. “We were going out to San Angelo,” recalls Perry Fite, one of Tech’s coaches in 1933. “They had a hotshot center, and I told Zed it was too bad he was going to be playing in theshadow of the other boy. They couldn’tkeep old Zed out of their backfield, andwhen the game was over, there was nodoubt that Zed was the all-state center.”

Mike Dossett. Mike has no business onthis list, but don’t tell Cotton Miles. Milescoached a whole swarm of super greats atWoodrow and Skyline, but when askedfor a list of his greatest players, Mike wasthe first player he mentioned. Dossett wasslow of foot and wasn’t a great passer, buthe is the first string quarterback on theall-desire team. He made things happen.Bobby Ewell, who coached at Hillcrestand Woodrow, remembers an incidentfrom the Coaches’ North-South All-StarGame. “Cotton was helping coach, andthe other coaches kept asking him whatDossett was doing on the team,” Ewellsays. “Cotton told them that if they wouldput Dossett in there, they’d find out. Well,finally they got desperate and put him inwith about seven minutes to go in thegame. He took them right on down thefield and won the game.”


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