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Sugar Bowl Star Humphrey Inducted Into Hall of Fame

Nov. 15, 2006

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of features that will feature Baylor's 2006 Hall of Fame inductees.

Members of the 2006 class are former football standouts Buddy Humphrey, J.J. Joe and Mike Hughes; track All-American Deon Minor; ace baseball pitcher and current BU baseball coach Steve Smith; and women's basketball star Carol Reeves-Brandenburg. Also being honored is Weldon Bigony, who earned letters at Baylor in football and track in the early 1940s, then left for military service during World War II and returned to Baylor 60 years later to finish work on his business degree in 2003. He will be added to the "B" Association's Wall of Honor.

By Dave Campbell, Insider Associate Editor

On Jan. 1, 1957, in New Orleans' famed Sugar Bowl game, in tell-tale action in the fourth quarter, sophomore quarterback Buddy Humphrey squirmed one yard for the touchdown that became the winning points in Baylor's 13-7 victory over the undefeated, highly-favored and No. 2-ranked Tennessee Volunteers.

It was a victory that still stands as the most celebrated bowl triumph in the university's long football history.

Two seasons later, on Nov. 29, 1958, that same Buddy Humphrey, by then a senior, threw for 387 yards with 22 completions in 37 attempts against the Rice Owls. The aerial yardage he amassed that afternoon in a wild game played at Baylor Stadium that stood as the most yardage a Baylor passer ever accumulated in a single game until Shawn Bell's record-setting day against Kansas, Oct. 20, 2006.

And his 22 completions in that game left him as the national leader for the season in pass completions (112).

That game against the Owls was Baylor's season finale, the last game Humphrey would ever play for the Bears.

But he did have two more games on his personal schedule that season. Quarterbacking the South team coached by Texas' Darrell Royal in the North-South Shrine Classic played in Miami, Humphrey bombed his team to victory by throwing no fewer than five touchdown passes - a total that still stands as the all-time record for TD passes in a single game by a Baylor player.

"If I had a passer like that, I'd probably throw more (at Texas)," the infantry-minded Royal said after the game.

Humphrey was elected a co-captain of the 1958 Baylor Bears, a co-captain of the South team in the Miami Shrine game, and finally a co-captain of the winning South team in the Senior Bowl game that followed.

Mr. November? Mr. December? Mr. January? Buddy Humphrey, now deceased, had the credentials and the leadership qualities to qualify for any of the three nicknames you might want to reserve for him.

Fittingly (and would say tardily), he took his place among the spotlighted honorees when the 2006 class of the Baylor Sports Hall of Fame claimed center stage in enshrinement ceremonies on the evening of Oct. 27 at the Cashion Building on the Baylor campus.

Humphrey came to Baylor as part of the powerful one-two punch that then-Baylor coach George Sauer and his assistants recruited out of Kilgore High School following the 1954 season. Humphrey was the athlete with the marvelous physique who had played both quarterback and halfback at Kilgore, and Larry Hickman was the muscular, heavier halfback who had made similar waves on those same Kilgore teams.

History will assure you those Baylor recruiters did not waste those two scholarships.

Humphrey helped rescue the Bears late in their Sugar Bowl season after an injury to Doyle Traylor left the Bears with questionable backup help behind starting quarterback Bobby Jones, and then he set school and conference records and led the nation in passing as a senior in 1958.

Hickman was a consensus All-Southwest Conference choice as a 1958 senior when he led the league in rushing (670 yards) and ranked eighth nationally. The SWC record book lists him as a 6-2, 215-pound fullback, and that would make him the biggest or at least the heaviest All-SWC back to play in the league since its inception in 1915. (Three famed predecessors, All-America selections John Kimbrough, Jack Pardee and John David Crow, topped out at 210 to 212 pounds, according to the record book.)

Humphrey and Hickman, they go together in memory like two peas in a pod -- star members of the same Baylor teams, high school teammates as well, experiencing the same highs and lows at Baylor, going from the jubilation of a stunning Sugar Bowl triumph to a pair of last-place finishes in the SWC as juniors and seniors.

"We started together in the seventh grade in Kilgore and we went through junior high, high school and college together. Roomed together at Baylor. I was in his wedding when he got married," recalls Hickman, himself a Baylor Athletic Hall of Fame member (1973) who now lives in retirement in Tyler.

"I figured up one time," he continued, "we played in almost 100 football games together."

Their paths continued to parallel even after leaving Baylor. Both were invited to play in the College All-Star Football game (against the NFL champion at Chicago's Soldier Field) and both were drafted to play for the Los Angeles Rams. Humphrey would enjoy a 9-year career in the NFL, playing for the Rams, the St. Louis Cardinals and finally for one season as a backup quarterback for Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys.

"Buddy played quarterback at Kilgore at a sophomore, and as a junior they moved him to fullback. I was at left half. Then in our senior season they just switched us; I was at right half, he was at left half, and our coach, Ty Bain, put in the run-pass option as our basic offense. Buddy was 6-2, 195 and a pretty nifty runner. But when recruiting time came, Buddy told them he wanted to play quarterback in college, and Baylor told him, sure, come on," recalls Hickman.

"Buddy was really a great athlete -- football, baseball and basketball. For awhile he held the two-game record for free throws made in the state basketball tournament. He had never played golf, but one day we went to the Longview Country Club -- this was after he had started playing in the NFL -- and on the first hole he had ever played he drove the green and made a par.

"That's the kind of athlete he was," summed up Hickman.

One of Grant Teaff's long-time assistant coaches at Baylor, Bill Lane, will endorse that thought.

"I was a junior in college at Stephen F. Austin and I remember the Kilgore High School baseball team came to town to play Nacogdoches," Lane said last week. "I went out to see the game. That was the first time I had ever seen Buddy Humphrey, and I thought he was the best-looking high school athlete I'd ever seen. Such a physical specimen. And I remember one of his hits really rattled the outfield fence."

Years later, Lane would come to know Humphrey much better. In 1968, as head coach of the Daingerfield Tigers, Lane directed his team to the Class 2A state championship (Daingerfield 7, Lufkin Dunbar 6 in the title game) and Humphrey was a member of his staff. And when Lane moved on, Humphrey succeeded him as head coach of the Tigers and won several district titles there.

Buddy also coached at Victoria Stroman, Longview Pine Tree and at his old hometown of Kilgore (head coach, athletic director and then principal) before retiring from coaching, going back to college and earning a Master's Degree at what is now Texas A&M-Commerce, and then taking a non-coaching position (purchasing director for the school) at Kilgore Junior College.

He was working at Kilgore JC when he was struck down by the brain tumor that was to take his life.

"Buddy was really a neat guy," Bill Lane remembers. "You know, every member of the staff I had at Daingerfield is now dead. Cancer got every one of them."

While Buddy Humphrey without question was a splendid athlete, I believe if he were still alive he would tell you that an assistant coach who tutored him as a senior at Baylor transformed him from being merely a good passer into being an outstanding one. That assistant coach was Chuck Purvis.

In 1957, following their Sugar Bowl victory the previous season, the Bears were expected to accomplish even greater things. Instead, they lost all their conference games except one (a 7-7 tie with Texas) and finished last in the SWC standings, and as a result the wolves started howling. The Bears simply had no offense, critics said.

In an effort to calm troubled waters, head coach Sam Boyd hired Purvis off the U. of Illinois staff. Purvis was introduced as a master of offensive football, and especially a marvel at turning out great passers. He gave Humphrey his full attention that summer of 1958 (Buddy later estimated he threw "at least 10,000 passes that summer"), and the rest is history.

Purvis would serve as an offensive coach first on Boyd's staff and then on John Bridgers' staff in 1958 and '59, and then he became almost an exclusive quarterbacks coach and turned out some fine ones: Ronnie Stanley, Bobby Ply, Don Trull, Terry Southall -- the list was a long one. Trull was the one who won All-America recognition in 1963, but not even Don ever threw for five touchdowns in a single game, or for 387 yards.

Buddy and his future wife, Jean, met in Kilgore; they were high school sweethearts. Then he came to Baylor and she went to the junior college there and became one of the famed Kilgore Rangerettes.

They made plans to get married after his junior season at Baylor. "They had won the Sugar Bowl the year before and we all felt sure they would go to another fine bowl at the end of his junior season," Jean now recalls. "And the custom in those days was that the team would carry wives with them when they went to a bowl. We planned to get married and make the bowl trip our honeymoon, with all expenses paid."

Alas, the bottom dropped out well before the 1957 season ended. No bowl trip for the Bears that year.

Yes, Buddy and Jean did get married, as planned, "but our honeymoon was a two-day trip to Shreveport," she recalls. And that was before Shreveport offered the attractions it does now.

Jean didn't get to see her husband throw those five TD passes in the Shrine game in Miami. Didn't see it on TV, either. "I stayed home because I was pregnant. I had to find out about it when he phoned me after the game.

"But my, I'll tell you, Buddy was really something."

He was 52 years old when he died in 1988. "When he became ill (with the problem that was diagnosed as a brain tumor), they told him he would live no more than 10 months. He was in such great physical condition, he beat that by six months. Tom Landry was so nice to us. He helped get Buddy admitted to a special cancer treatment center in California, and maybe it was the treatment Buddy got there that got him those six extra months.

"I know until the day he died, Buddy was always so appreciative and thankful for getting the scholarship to Baylor. He thought that was the greatest thing," Jean said.

Yes, she definitely plans to attend the Hall of Fame induction banquet on Oct. 27. Her son, Mike, who now lives in Dallas, also will be here, and so will her daughter, Holly, who now, like Jean, is a resident of Daingerfield.



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