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Archive for Monday, January 21, 2008

Keegan: KU great relished 12-1 year

January 21, 2008

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He was named All-Pro nine times. He blocked for Jim Brown, the greatest football player ever, and for Otto Graham, one of the game's most famous quarterbacks. He was inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame.

He was the head coach of three different franchises and the president and general manager of two organizations. When those teams, the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, met in the NFC title game a couple of years ago, he was asked to present the trophy to the winner.

With all Mike McCormack has accomplished in the NFL, and with all the years that have passed since he played football for Kansas University, it was worth asking how closely he paid attention to the school's remarkable football joy ride this past fall.

The answer: very.

McCormack, 77, took great pleasure in his alma mater's 12-1 season. He has a neighbor in Palm Desert, Calif., who is a Nebraska alumnus.

"That was a wonderful game," McCormack said by phone. "I had a lot of fun with that one. I called him several times, every time Kansas had a drive. They scored about seven drives in a row, didn't they?"

Actually, the Jayhawks scored on 10 consecutive drives on the day Todd Reesing tossed six touchdown passes.

"I think he's an amazing kid," McCormack said. "Lot of talent. Lot of ability. His leadership was very evident."

Given the hits Kansas has taken recently, with the early departures of Aqib Talib and Anthony Collins to the NFL, and with Mark Mangino's staff getting raided by Miami (Bill Young) and Nebraska (Tim Beck), a feeling of uneasiness has crept into the minds of some, but not McCormack. He sounded a voice of optimism on KU's staying power this time.

"We're in a retirement community with mostly USC and UCLA people, and they were really impressed with the team aspect," McCormack said. "They all play as if they like each other, and that was really good to see. It came across on the television set and impressed our friends. I think he'll keep recruiting that type of person. The kids he wants are going to see that on TV. What that should do is perpetuate the idea that football at Kansas has those type of kids. More kids are going to want to be a part of that."

Gale Sayers and John Riggins join McCormack as the only KU players enshrined in the pro football Hall of Fame. McCormack would like to attend the induction ceremonies of a fourth who has not yet made it. John Hadl belongs, McCormack said.

"I've been wondering about that for a long time," McCormack said. "You study John's credentials, and they are as good as a whole lot who are in the Hall of Fame."

McCormack, Hadl and the rest of the KU football family had a thoroughly enjoyable season. McCormack, praised by many for eulogizing in touching fashion former Cleveland Browns teammate and KU great Galen Fiss, in the summer of 2006, expressed one regret.

"It's kind of sad Galen didn't get to see the success of Kansas this year," McCormack said. "He was a real Kansas booster. I thought of him while I was watching the Orange Bowl on TV. I'm sure he would have been there."

He certainly would have enjoyed the outcome.

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