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Archive for Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Woodling: KU’s Ring of Honor too small

September 27, 2005

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Three former Kansas University football players - Gale Sayers, Mike McCormack and John Riggins - are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Three more former KU football players - Hal Patterson, George McGowan and Willie Pless - are in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

Of those six, do you know how many were first-team All-Americans?

The answer is one. That's all. Just one.

Sayers, an electrifying KU running back in the early 1960s, didn't miss a beat with the Chicago Bears and was immortalized in 1977 in Canton, Ohio. At the same time, that makes Sayers the only man simultaneously in a pro football shrine and on the Ring of Honor in the north end zone at Memorial Stadium.

Sayers' name is in both places because he earned first-team All-American while wearing a KU uniform. He and 11 others have qualified for the Ring of Honor under that criterion.

Yet McCormack, Riggins, Patterson, McGowan and Pless do not qualify. They were not first-team college All-Americans. Pless, however, was a preseason All-America pick by Playboy Magazine in 1985, and, some believe, that in itself should be enough to place him in the Ring of Honor.

Some precedence is involved. Curtis McClinton was added to the Ring of Honor last season based on being named a first-team All-American by Collier's, a magazine defunct for decades.

And yet if you add Pless, who incidentally will be inducted into the Canadian shrine Saturday night, to KU's Ring of Honor, how can you possibly leave McCormack out? Or Riggins?

McCormack was an All-Big Seven tackle for the Jayhawks and an all-pro tackle with the Cleveland Browns. Later, he became a respected NFL coach and general manager. In fact, no KU football player has had such a wide-ranging impact on the pro game as McCormack.

Riggins, meanwhile, was a remarkable combination of speed, size and durability. He was built like a fullback, but ran like a tailback. At the same time, Riggo also listened to different drum beats and seldom followed paths widely traveled.

You may recall that soon after Riggins was named MVP of the 1983 Super Bowl, KU officials announced plans to retire the jersey No. 32 he had worn at Kansas from 1968-70. But then came the infamous Sandra Day O'Connor incident ("Just relax, Sandy baby," Riggins uttered semi-soberly at a public function) and, well, No. 32 is still worn by KU football players today.

Should Riggins be penalized for a flap that happened more than two decades ago? I don't think so. It's not like he did something heinous like desecrating Allen Fieldhouse with graffiti, rappelling the Campanile or parking in the chancellor's spot behind Strong Hall.

Without doubt, Patterson and McGowan also were two of the most talented football players ever to wear a KU uniform. Yet both were junior-college transfers who weren't on Mount Oread long enough to make a lasting impact.

Although both had long careers as wide receivers in the 12-man, 110-yard game north of the border, Patterson and McGowan would deserve inclusion on the KU Ring of Honor only if the qualifications were expanded to include pro football enshrinees.

Hmmm : maybe that isn't such a bad idea. Five more names can't take up that much space.

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