The 1966 football season was a great one for Lawrence High, a lousy one for six former Lions. They were on the Kansas University roster but sometimes wished they were back home enjoying the delights of LHS success.
Lawrence High bounced back from an uncharacteristic two-defeat season in 1965 to surge to 9-0 and capture the '66 state crown. Kansas in Jack Mitchell's final season as coach had a painful 2-7-1 mark.
KU's six ex-Lions who might have wanted to turn back the clock were lineman Ken Wertzberger, linebacker Ron Hopkins, lineman Steve Heck, end-quarterback Bill Trull, quarterback-flanker Halley Kampschroeder and lineman Rick Trapp.
We've lost Heck and Hopkins. Ron had a successful career with Hopkins Sheet Metal, with brother Terry. Heck became a well-known dentist. Wertzberger was the only one who reaped major rewards from his 1966 apprenticeship. He finished in 1968 as a key man on KU's Orange Bowl team. He and brother John were the instigators and patron saints of what became an outstanding sports medicine program for Jayhawk jocks.
Kampschroeder, a '66 senior, has long been active in the local legal field and Trapp posted an outstanding mark in the law enforcement and legal communities. Trull, nixed by injury, is retired in Pennsylvania after a long Proctor and Gamble career.
This fall finds three former Lawrence guys on the KU roster - running back Brandon McAnderson, defensive back Brian Seymour and linebacker Ian Handshy. Let's hope they enjoy more successes than those '66 Jayhawk-Lions.
Ron Hopkins' brother, Terry, was an LHS star who got away, to Arkansas. Terry became a starting center for terrific Razorback teams between '66 and '71 though he never weighed more than 205 pounds.
"Ron was better and faster," Terry recalls. "But he blew out a knee and never could be the linebacker KU wanted him to be. Me, I just tried to maneuver and duck those 260-pound guys. One fellow looked at me, asked if I was a halfback and laughed when I told him I was a center. I was too dumb to accept the sneer and too stubborn to quit."
As for that tremendous '66 Lawrence High team, it set 23 records and tied four more en route to the school's ninth state title. There may have been other LHS teams with personnel as good; none was ever better from scrub to superstar. All-state-or-higher honors were won by fullback-tackle Ken White, end Steve Oakson, halfback Dave Oberzan, quarterback Chip Maxwell and guards Ron Mann, Bruce Schweda and Ray Kincaid.
That doesn't even include the likes of Hal Crady and Ron Commons, who played college ball. The 57-man roster had an honest-to-god "who's who" look. Coach Al Woolard's staff included Darrell Falen, Harley Catlin, Lyle Sittler, John Forbes, Ray Wilbur and Bob Fulton.
People who shared in the family-like glory days of LHS football admit they've never been around more delightful and rewarding venues at any level.
l Lion trivia: LHS has had father-son, brother-brother and even grandfather-father-son gridders. But there's been only one father-daughter letter-winning combo - Don "Red Dog" Gardner and daughter Leslie, the dad a player, Leslie a student manager.
And Abby Vestal, LHS senior place-kicker, is the first female to letter as a player.