Lots of attention is flowing toward Conner Teahan as the 6-foot-5 Kansas University basketball reserve tries to make the football team as a quarterback, a position where he earned district honors at Kansas City’s Rockhurst High.
Not likely he’ll make the final cut for the top three, but you have to admire his self-confidence. His challenge should be much more palatable in the lower-key, profanity-banned atmosphere of coach Turner Gill than it would have been during the blue-light specials under fiery Mark Mangino.
But even if the scholarly Teahan somehow should become the No. 1 quarterback, then earn a starting spot on next season’s KU basketball team, he’d still be far in arrears of numerous earlier Jayhawk multi-sportsters. I can’t cite all the masters of versatility, but one of the first all-league, All-America Jayhawks was Dutch Lonborg in football, basketball and baseball around 1920. You have to go a long way to top Jim Bausch in the early 1930s — all-everything footballer, a basketballer under Phog Allen and a superior trackman. Oh, yes, Jim also won the Olympic Games decathlon title in 1932.
Pete Mehringer was a football great, played as a pro and won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling in and around 1931-33.
When seasons didn’t overlap so much, KU had two-sport stars running out its ears in the 1930s and early 1940s. The first to come to mind are All-Americans Ray Evans and Otto Schnellbacher in football and basketball. Yet there were some wondrous others of their caliber.
Solid sources still contend that Ralph Miller of Chanute was the greatest all-around athlete ever turned out in Kansas high schools — all-state in football, basketball, track (hurdler) and golf for starters. Some think Parsons’ Dale Hall, later at West Point, was Ralph’s equal, but I’m sticking with Miller.
At Kansas, despite a horrible knee injury, Ralph sparkled in football when KU was pretty bad, then was a brilliant basketball player when KU made the NCAA finals in 1940. Not a bad coach, either, at Wichita, Iowa and Oregon State.
Along came Charlie Hoag, 1950-52 football-basketball whiz and an Olympic cage gold medalist. Got a third letter as a discus thrower. Army transfer Gil Reich, football All-American and 1953 basketball starter, is the greatest one-year (1952-53) producer in KU history. At the same time, Hal Patterson starred in football and basketball, lettered in baseball, then became a Canadian football hall-of-famer.
Such guys had a lot of multi-sport comrades. Gale Sayers, the football great, also lettered in track. (Don’t forget Charlie Moffett, football, basketball, baseball.) Probably the last Jayhawk to start in three categories — football, basketball, baseball — is Steve Renko, middle ’60s.
Kurt Knoff was a footballer, baseball pitcher and played some basketball at the Jayhawk JV level in the early 1970s. I think Renko was the last three-sport starter, though.
The odds of Conner Teahan making much of a mark in football and basketball combined are long. But his attempt to cut it two ways does serve to remind us just how many truly all-around athletes Kansas University followers have been able to observe, enjoy and admire.
Specialization and obscene amounts of money have tainted the scene for fans who appreciate all-around excellence more than brilliant one-trick ponies.