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Baylor Football Legend: Don Trull

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Oct. 20, 2013


Don Trull had a "rude awakening" when he showed up at Baylor in 1959. The all-state quarterback from Oklahoma was fourth on the depth chart on the freshman team.

But from those humble beginnings, the Oklahoma City native became one of the most productive quarterbacks in college football history. A first-team All-American who was fourth in the 1963 Heisman Trophy balloting, Trull twice led the nation in passing and threw for more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in his Baylor career.

"I think the only thing that would have been more fun is if they had the offenses today back then," said Trull, a 2013 College Football Hall of Fame inductee who will be honored during today's game along with other greats from the 1960s. "We were ahead of our time with the offense that coach (John) Bridgers brought from the pros. We were throwing a lot of passes. But goodness gracious, now with the hurry-up offenses, it's just amazing what they can do."

Trull credits Baylor assistant coach Charles Purvis for helping him "become the passer that I became."

"That summer (1960), I stayed there and worked out at Rena Marrs McLean Gymnasium five days a week in the evening, throwing the football," he said. "Coach Purvis was there working on his master's and worked with me on the art of throwing the football."

After redshirting in '60 and playing behind Ronnie Stanley and Bobby Ply the next year, Trull threw for 1,627 yards as a junior and topped that with a national-best 2,157 yards, a school record that held up for nearly a quarter century.

Of course, it helped having an All-American receiver in Lawrence Elkins.

"We spread it around pretty good, but of course Lawrence was the No. 1 guy," Trull said. "Lawrence had the ability to break off a cut and catch the ball and just separate from a defender better than anybody I ever threw the ball to. He didn't have that blazing 9.9 speed (in the 100-yard dash), but he was pretty darn fast. He was one of those guys that with pads always seemed to outrun the guy that was trying to catch him."

For all the memorable wins that he had at Baylor, including being named MVP of a 14-7 win over LSU in the '63 Bluebonnet Bowl, Trull said "you remember the ones the most that hurt the most, which are the ones you lost."

Fifty years later, the one that still sticks in his craw is the 7-0 loss to eventual national champion Texas on Nov. 9, 1963. After overthrowing a wide-open James Ingram in the end zone to kill one drive, Trull got another chance at the end of the game, but his pass to Elkins was intercepted by the Longhorns' Duke Carlisle.

"If you look at the film, we moved the ball up and down the field," Trull said. "I believe Carlisle had just been inserted in the middle safety back, because he didn't normally play on defense. He was too valuable at quarterback. But he made a great interception, and that was it."

Drafted by both the Houston Oilers and Baltimore Colts, Trull played six years in the AFL and NFL with the Oilers and Boston Patriots and also played in the Canadian Football League, the World Football League and even one game in the Continental Football League.

"Not many people can say that they played in five pro leagues," he said.

A toothy Trull appeared on the Aug. 17, 1964, cover of Sports Illustrated before his rookie season with the Houston Oilers. But he had to bide his time behind veteran quarterback George Blanda.

"There was the old quarterback controversy the first couple years between Blanda and the young kid from Baylor," Trull said. "I thought I had a better chance in Houston, because Blanda was getting up in years and (the Colts' Johnny) Unitas wasn't. And lo and behold, I retired and Blanda retired, and Blanda was still playing."

In his final year of eligibility, Trull was finally elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in May and will be formally inducted at a Dec. 10 ceremony in New York.

"It was long in coming," he said. "But like they say, anything worth waiting for is worth having. I feel like this is not only an honor for me, but also to my teammates and the coaching staff and Baylor University for the opportunity they gave me and seeing it culminate in being selected to the College Hall of Fame."

 

 

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