Today, very few college football teams don’t play in a conference. There’s Notre Dame, Brigham Young, Army and Massachusetts that are classified as independents.
But, back in 1967, there were a number of independents. Penn State, Florida State, Syracuse, Miami, Pittsburgh, Boston College, Houston and Rutgers were not in conferences and played an independent schedule.
There was also tiny West Texas State out in Canyon, Texas. The Buffaloes have since dropped to division 2 and been purchased by the Texas A%M system and they are West Texas A%M.
The Buffaloes had a couple of running backs that were not recruited by the big schools of the area of the time because of racial barriers.
Mercury Morris became famous later on with the unbeaten Miami Dolphins NFL team of 1972 that
finished the season with an unbeaten record.
Duane Thomas also played in a Super Bowl and may have been more famous for his moodiness than his actual talent. But, they both were really talented and helped the West Texas Buffaloes to an 8-3 record in 1967.
As a sophomore in 1966, Mercury Morris split time with fellow sophomore Albie Owens and ran for 543 yards which led the team. Owens ran for 526 yards to help the Buffaloes to a 7-3 record.
1967 was a different story with the mercurial one running for an outstanding 1,447 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Owens ran for just under 600 yards, but a newcomer was also impressive in Duane Thomas. During his sophomore season of 1967, Thomas ran for 596 yards.
Morris was a blur running by defensive players for 1,571 yards and 17 touchdowns. Thomas ran for 708 yards and was far too talented to leave on the sidelines very long. Their other running back, Albie Owens ran for 446 yards as the Buffaloes finished their season with an 8-2 record.
West Texas head coach Joe Kerbel recruited Mercury Morris from Pittsburgh’s Avonworth High School. Freshmen were not eligible in 1965, but Morris was a real record breaker for the Buffaloes. In 1968, he ran for 340 yards in a single game which was a national record. He also broke the season record by rushing for 1,571 yards, which was quickly broken by Heisman winner OJ Simpson.
He also broke the national record for rushing in a career with 3,388 yards. That record stood until North Carolina’s Don McCauley broke it, and I blogged about him earlier here: Don McCauley
As soon as Morris was finished dominating the college gridiron, the Miami Dolphins drafted him in the 3rd round. Pretty much an unknown nationally at that time, Mercury Morris became part of a legend with the Miami Dolphins.
Sharing carries with former Syracuse All American Larry Csonka and Wyoming’s Jim Kiick, those stars helped the Dolphins play in three Super Bowls and win two. Csonka and Kiick got most of the
publicity, but Mercury Morris provided the quickness and speed to the offense.
Sadly, Morris got into trouble for drugs, but then he served his time and was better for it and became a motivational speaker.
What a culture shock it must have been for Mercury Morris when he moved to Canyon, Texas. But, he was right at home in the backfield containing Morris, Albie Owens and Duane Thomas.
The Buffaloes recruited Thomas out of Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas. Even though he was from Texas, it was still a major change for Thomas and he brought a lot of physical ability to the Panhandle of Texas.
The super talented Duane Thomas was a bigger back at 6-1, 220 and the Buffaloes had him at fullback and playing along side the speedy Morris. With over 1,300 rushing yards going into his senior season, Thomas took over as the leading rusher in 1969. Thomas ran for over 1,000 that season and helped lead the Buffaloes to a 6-4 record.
The Dallas Cowboys noticed and took him with their first round pick. The Cowboys’ Calvin Hill had
been the rookie of the year in 1969, but Thomas replaced the injured Hill in 1970. Thomas helped the Cowboys make it the Super Bowl with huge performances late in the year and in the playoffs and the Cowboys had the rookie of the year for the second straight season.
My post is not intended to cover the controversial and moody Duane Thomas professional career, but he was seemingly not very interested in football.
Things changed with West Texas football for a number of reasons, but they eventually dropped down to a lower level.
I knew about West Texas State because one of my high school coaches was named Dagabert Azam and he was an offensive lineman for the Buffaloes and blocked for these talented runners. Azam was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams but didn’t make the team.
Purdue had a great backfield with Leroy Keyes and Perry Williams. Ohio State had Jim Otis, John Brockington and Leo Hayden and there could have been a couple of more teams with good running backs. But, little ole West Texas State either matched them, or bettered them.