His name was Walter Mack. He was an obscure running back for Kansas University's football team, and he claims a singular distinction in my memory.
Mack (1979-81) was the only KU football player I ever interviewed who said he came to Lawrence to win the Heisman Trophy.
No Jayhawk has ever won the Heisman, so you're probably wondering why the unheralded Mack thought he could win the Heisman in a KU uniform.
The answer lay in Mack's past. The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder had transferred to KU from City College of San Francisco -- the same school, incidentally, that produced current KU quarterback Jason Swanson -- where he had put together the best rushing stats at that two-year school since O.J. Simpson, who went on to Southern California and captured the 1968 Heisman.
Obviously, Mack was no Simpson. In fact, he couldn't even beat out the semi-luminous Garfield Taylor for the starting tailback job on the Jayhawks' 1981 Hall of Fame Bowl team. At least Mack had a dream. He simply didn't have the tools to deliver.
Over the years, many KU football players have possessed the skills and wherewithal to be Heisman contenders, and yet not a one of them has come close.
Gale Sayers? He didn't finish in the top 10 among votes cast during his halcyon days of 1964 and 1965.
How about Bobby Douglass? All Douglass did was lead the Jayhawks to their last league title and their last New Year's Day bowl game. But in the 1968 ballot, Simpson was first, Purdue tailback Leroy Keyes second and Notre Dame quarterback Terry Hanratty of Notre Dame third. Douglass was nowhere to be seen. Miami's Ted Hendricks, a linebacker, received more votes than Douglass.
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Nolan Cromwell? The fleet-footed Cromwell was way back in the pack despite establishing NCAA rushing records for a quarterback in 1975 while operating the Jayhawks' wishbone attack.
John Riggins? Tony Sands? June Henley? Frank Seurer? Not even a sniff.
Only two KU football players, as a matter of fact, ever have wound up in the top 10 in Heisman Trophy balloting.
David Jaynes, a gifted passing quarterback, was fourth in 1973 behind John Cappelletti of Penn State, John Hicks of Ohio State and Roosevelt Leaks of Texas.
So Jaynes is the answer to the trivia question about the former Jayhawk who came closest to winning the Heisman. John Hadl ranks No. 2. He was seventh in 1961. No other KU player has made the top 10.
Of course, Kansas isn't alone in failing to produce a Heisman winner. Half the Big 12 Conference schools, for instance, have never had one, while three others can claim only one apiece.
The other Big 12 goose-eggers are Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri, Baylor and Texas Tech. Colorado had Rashaan Salaam in 1994, Oklahoma State Barry Sanders in 1988 and Texas A&M John David Crow in 1957. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has had four Heisman winners, Nebraska three and Texas two.
Salaam, Sanders and Crow proved that you don't have to come from a tradition-rich program to claim the Heisman, so when it comes to Kansas, never say never.
-- Sports writer Chuck Woodling can be reached at 832-6348.