The Big 8 Conference was easily the best conference in college football in 1971 with Nebraska winning the national title and Oklahoma finishing ranked second. To top that off, third place Colorado finished also in third place in the final polls. Has that ever been done before, or after? Not to my knowledge, has it been repeated.
Who were some of the characters that made up those extra good teams that season? It’s best to find the best by looking at the all conference teams, sometimes.
QB: Jerry Tagge – Nebraska: Captain and leader of a very potent Nebraska attack. At about 6-3, 215, Tagge was a solid runner as well as passer and he was hard to tackle. The Green Bay, Wisconsin native led the Huskers to the national championship in 1971 and then was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 1st round. Great college player and an All American.
QB: Jack Mildren – Oklahoma: The Sooners first wishbone quarterback, Mildren was a tremendous athlete and leader that helped Oklahoma to lead the nation in rushing. Mildren set the standard for
wishbone quarterbacks and was super efficient running the option offense. Mildren was drafted to play defensive back in the NFL, but was a successful business man in the Oklahoma City area after his brief NFL stint. Mildren was an All State high school quarterback from Abilene, Texas.
RB: Greg Pruitt – Oklahoma: The speedy Pruitt was the first great Sooner halfback in the wishbone formation. He led the team in rushing for two seasons and had moves that only a guy like Johnny Rodgers might duplicate. He was a former wide receiver from Houston, Texas and not only an All American, but a good player in the NFL.
RB: Jeff Kinney – Nebraska: Tough, durable Kinney, led the Huskers in rushing in 1971. He wasn’t a fast running back, but made up for it with his toughness and grit. He was a first round draft pick, but never really did much in the NFL. He was an All American in 1971.
WR: Johnny Rodgers – Nebraska: Wide out Rodgers was not only a super receiver, but he was an all time great in the return game as well. His punt return against Oklahoma in 1971 was the difference in the game. Rodgers won the Heisman Trophy in 1972 and went on to play for the San Diego Chargers after a successful period in Canadian football which paid comparably to the NFL back then.
TE: John Schroll – Kansas: 6-4, 215 Schroll, from Hutchison, Kansas was the Jayhawks leading receiver in 1971 with 40 catches for 491 yards and 5 touchdowns. Instead of going to the NFL, Schroll entered medical school and became a successful doctor in the Kansas City area.
OL: Dick Rupert – Nebraska: Rupert was undersized even for his day, but possessed a huge heart and played like a man obsessed. Since he was not as big as some, he made up for it with outstanding quickness as well as that desire.
OL: Ken Jones – Oklahoma: Great wishbone run blocker and only about 6-4, 240. Very quick feet and a burst off of the football. The Sooners recruiting machine took him from the Huskers out of Omaha, Nebraska.
OL: Carl Johnson – Nebraska: Strange pick and the games I saw they had him splitting time with another player, but Johnson was still good and the 6-4, 260 right tackle out of Phoenix, Arizona was still really good.
OL: Marion Latimore – Kansas State: Mo Latimore was a beast considering his lack of great size and he was an All American. After graduation, Latimore played in Canada in the CFL and eventually returned to Kansas State as the defensive line coach. These were the years before Bill Snyder and the Wildcats team was less than impressive, so for Latimore to make All Big 8 and All American is impressive.
C: Tom Brahaney – Oklahoma: Brahaney versus Rich Glover of Nebraska in the game of the century was a heavyweight title fight with both sides winning many victories during the game. Brahaney was a first team All American in 1971, and he went on to a successful NFL career with the St Louis Cardinals. Brahaney was a native of Midland, Texas.
DE: Willie Harper – Nebraska: More of an outside linebacker, Willie Harper used his super
quickness to cause havoc with opposing offenses. Nebraska had the best defense in the nation in 1971, and their defensive line was the major reason. Harper, hailing from Toledo, Ohio brought an amazing amount of quickness to his position and he was later a 2nd round pick by the San Francisco 49ers. He played 11 seasons in the NFL with the 49ers and then the pay brought him over to the short lived World Football League, where he played 2 more seasons.
DE: Raymond Hamilton – Oklahoma: The Oklahoma City native brought similar speed and athleticism to the Sooners at defensive end much like Willie Harper. Hamilton had a little more size. Hamilton was a 14th round draft pick of the New England Patriots where he played 9 seasons. After football, Hamilton has coached in the NFL for years.
DL: Rich Glover – Nebraska: One of my all time favorite players for the big heart and disruption he caused in the middle for the Cornhuskers. Glover was a fearsome beast from Jersey City, New Jersey that was only about 6-0, 240. But, in spite of his lack of great size for a nose guard, Glover was outstanding. He won the Outland Trophy and the Lombardi Award a year later in 1972. Glover was
drafted in the 3rd round by the New York Giants but only played there a season before finishing up his football playing days in the World Football League.
DL: Larry Jacobson – Nebraska: The Sioux Falls, South Dakota native was 6-6, 250 and the winner of the 1971 Outland Trophy which is given to the nation’s best interior lineman. Also, an All American, Jacobson was a 1st round draft pick by the New York Giants. A broken leg ended his playing career in the NFL after 3 seasons. The Husker defensive line was just dominating in 1971.
DL: Herb Orvis – Colorado: Another tall defensive lineman, Orvis was about 6-5, 235 and a two time All Big 8 player. The Buffaloes probably should have had more players on the All Star team, but the Petoskey, Michigan native was one of the top linemen in the country. He was picked in the first round by the Detroit Lions and he played 10 seasons with the Lions and the Baltimore Colts.
DL: Derland Moore – Oklahoma: Originally a walk-on to the Sooners program, Moore quickly became one of their better players. From Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Moore was a big tackle for the time at 6-4, 255 and stuffed the middle for the Sooners right before the arrival of the other two Selmon brothers. Moore was a 2nd round selection in the NFL draft by the New Orleans Saints, and he played an incredible 14 seasons in the NFL. He may be one of the top walk-on football players of all time.
LB: Steve Aycock – Oklahoma: Out of Midland, Texas, Aycock was one of the better Sooner football players in 1971 which was a major complement. He roamed the line of scrimmage from sideline to sideline and led the team in tackles two seasons. He was All Big 8 in 1970 with an impressive 175 tackles and again in 1971 when he was a captain.
LB: Keith Schroeder – Iowa State: As good as the Big 8 was in 1971, the Cyclones were the 4th best team with an 8-4 record. Coached by future Pitt coach Johnny Majors, the Cyclones had one of their better teams that season. Schroeder was a team leader and a team captain.
LB: Kenney Page – Kansas: Dodge City, Kansas produced the other All Big 8 linebacker in Kenney Page. Page was a bigger and more physical linebacker for the times at about 6-3, 220.
DB: Bill Kosch – Nebraska: Kosch led the team with 7 interceptions in 1970 as his first season as a starter and he was All Big 8. He repeated in 1971 as a key member of the nation’s best defense. Kosch was a typical Nebraska player in that he was a native of the state and grew up dreaming of playing for the home state team.
DB: John Shelley – Oklahoma: Hometown boy, Shelley was a senior leader on the Sooner’s defense which was far overshadowed by the Oklahoma record setting offense.