Dec. 31, 2008
By BILL KNIGHT
El Paso Times
How often do you get to say farewell to a legend?
Legend is one of those words -- like superstar -- that is so overused it can give you a headache. But there are special people walking among us, people who do enough great things, sometimes even miraculous things, that they truly earn the label.
El Pasoans, 41,622 of them, and a large CBS national television audience, saw Texas legend Grant Teaff pull one last rabbit out of his hat on the final day of 1992. It was the stuff of ... well, the stuff of legends.
Teaff brought his Baylor Bears to the 1992 Sun Bowl to face favored Arizona, to face the Desert Swarm defense, to face the top defense in the nation. Nothing new. Teaff and his Bears seemed to be forever underdogs. Yet he always got his players to find a way, find a way to win. The man not only knew Xs and Os, he knew B. He made his players Believe.
How amazing was this man?
Grant Teaff became the head coach at Baylor University, the small, private school in Waco, a prettylittle town right there on the Brazos River, in 1972. Baylor went 7-43-1 in the five years prior to his arrival. In fact, Baylor hired Rudy Feldman from New Mexico first. He stayed one day. Perhaps he looked at the history -- and Baylor football history was a scary sight. Baylor began playing football in 1899. When Feldman took the job, the Bears had been to a grand total of seven bowl games in 72 years. Then came Teaff.
His legend began in 1974 with what became known as "The Miracle on the Brazos." Baylor trailed Texas 24-7 at the half -- and won 34-24. It was Baylor's first win over Texas in 17 years. No one should have been surprised, though. The Bears trailed Florida State 17-0 at the half earlier that year -- and won 21-17. They went on to win the Southwest Conference, went to the Cotton Bowl and Teaff was the National Coach of the Year.
In all, Teaff took Baylor to eight bowl games in his 20 year coaching career in Waco. Baylor has gone to just one bowl since he left, losing to Washington State in the 1994 Aloha Bowl. So, if you tally the numbers, that makes Teaff with eight bowls, all the other coaches in the other 89 years of Baylor football with eight bowls.
The man coached football and made his players Believe.
And so on that New Year's Eve afternoon in the Sun, why should anyone have been surprised that Baylor found a way to win one more football game? Even when Arizona took a 10-0 lead, why should anyone have been surprised? Arizona's defense lived up to its reputation, holding Baylor to just 12 first downs, just 249 yards total offense.
But, somehow, someway, Teaff and the Bears scrambled back. They found a way to get Melvin Bonner open for a pair of long touchdown passes. Bonner caught one for 61 yards in the second quarter and one for 69 yards in the third quarter. Baylor added a pair of field goals in the fourth quarter and walked off with a win, 20-15.
It was Teaff's final game. He retired after that 1992 season. But sometimes, just sometimes, special men do enough special things to be remembered forever. Of course, Teaff not only won football games, he did it in the right way, did it fairly and honestly and with style and class. He was perhaps the best known member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in the country.
And he found special men, men who would believe. He found men like that undersized linebacker from Houston, Mike Singletary, and won Southwest Conference championships with them.
Teaff remained at Baylor as director of athletics until 1994. He then became executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and remains one of the nation's most powerful sports administrators.
But he said goodbye to a very special coaching career on the final day of 1992, walking off the Sun Bowl's artificial turf and up the old tunnel.
And El Pasoans were able to say farewell.
To a legend.