QB: Jim Plunkett – Stanford: 1970 Heisman winner. Stanford tried to move Plunkett to Defensive End, but he held firm with his desire to play Quarterback and he wound up starting at Quarterback in 1968. Plunkett improved yearly with his best season coming during his Heisman year of 1970. He led the Cardinal, then the Indians, to a Rose Bowl bid and an upset victory over the highly favored Ohio State Buckeyes. Plunkett was picked with the first pick of the NFL draft by the Boston Patriots. Plunkett spent 5 seasons with the Patriots and then was sent to San Francisco where he played a couple of seasons. Then, he played for the Oakland Raiders and led them to 2 Super Bowl victories. In his first Super Bowl, he was named MVP. Plunkett played 15 seasons in the NFL before retiring
with over 25,000 passing yards.
RB: Don McCauley – North Carolina: I wrote about this Tar Heel legend here: McCauley
As a sophomore, McCauley ran for only 360 yards. But, he busted the 1,000 yard barrier in 1969 with 1,092 yards and 8 Touchdowns. In 1970, McCauley was really impressive with 1,863 yards rushing and 22 Touchdowns. McCauley was picked in the first round by the Baltimore Colts. With the Colts, McCauley was a very dependable Running Back and especially on 3rd downs. In the NFL, he only ran for 2,627 yards and 40 Touchdowns. He caught 333 passes for 3,026 yards and 17 Touchdowns. McCauley played 11 seasons with the Baltimore Colts.
RB: Steve Worster – Texas: Worster was a super highly recruited Running Back out of Bridge City, Texas who became the very first Wishbone Fullback and helped Texas win the national championship in 1969 and then win 30 straight games and another national championship in one poll. Worster ran for 2,353 yards at Texas with 898 yards coming during his senior year of 1970. He scored 36 Touchdowns rushing while at Texas. Worster was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 4th round but he went to Canada where he only played one season.
WR: Tom Gatewood – Notre Dame: Gatewood signed with Notre Dame out of Baltimore and he turned into one of their all time greatest Wide Receivers. As a sophomore in 1969, Gatewood caught 47 passes. In 1970, Gatewood really had a good season with 77 receptions for 1,123 yards and 7 Touchdowns. Over his 3 seasons at Notre Dame, Gatewood caught 157 passes for 2,283 yards and 19 Touchdowns. Gatewood was drafted by the New York Giants in the 5th round but was almost a total bust in the NFL after having so much college success.
WR: Ernie Jennings – Air Force: The Air Force Academy has been an option offense over the last 30 plus years, but they were a passing team back in these days. Jennings is still their all time leading pass receiver. In 1970, Jennings caught an amazing 74 passes for 1,289 yards and 17 Touchdowns. Over his 3 years of eligibility, he caught 148 passes for 2,392 yards and 28 Touchdowns. Jennings was drafted, but fulfilled his obligation with the Air Force and he never played.
WR: Elmo Wright – Houston: Wright actually had a better season in 1969 than in 1970. Wright was maybe more well known as the guy that started the End Zone dancing craze. In 1969, Wright caught 63 passes for 1,275 yards and 14 Touchdowns. As a senior, in 1970, Wright caught only caught 47 passes for 874 yards and 9 Touchdowns. Wright was a 1st round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs
where he played for only 4 seasons before finishing his NFL career at Houston with the Oilers.
OL: Dan Dierdorf – Michigan: Ironically, Dierdorf was born and raised in Canton, Ohio and now he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. Growing up there, he decided to leave the state and attend Michigan. At Michigan, Dierdorf was a multi year starter and made All Big 10 during his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, Dierdorf went a step further making the consensus All American Team. As a 2nd round pick by the St Louis Cardinals, Dierdorf was an instant star in the NFL. He teamed up with Conrad Dobler, Bob Young and a few others to form a seriously good Offensive Line. Dobler was one of the dirtiest players of all time and Young was one of the strongest. Dierdorf was steady as a rock up front for the Cardinals. When he retired, he got into broadcasting.
OL: Larry DiNardo – Notre Dame: From Queens, New York DiNardo was the older brother of Gerry DiNardo who was the head coach at Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana. DiNardo was a long time starter for the Irish at Offensive Guard in spite of being only 6-1, 235. In 1970, DiNardo and the Fighting Irish offense was something of a juggernaut for that time period and he was rewarded with All American recognition.
The New Orleans Saints picked DiNardo with their 7th round pick in 1971, but he was cut before the season began. He returned to Notre Dame and achieved a law degree and has been a big time attorney in Chicago for years.
OL: Chip Kell – Tennessee: Kell was also on the 1969 consensus All American team which you can view here: Kell These were vastly different times and like DiNardo of Notre Dame, Kell was greatly undersized compared to today’s players at 6-0, 240. He was still a 3 time All SEC Offensive Lineman and a 2 time consensus All American. After he was finished in Knoxville, Kell was picked by the San Diego Chargers in the 17th round. Instead, he went to Canada and played two years. After football, Kell became a coach.
OL: Bob Newton – Nebraska: Newton was only at Nebraska for two seasons, because he was a transfer from Cerritos Junior College transfer. The 6-4, 250 Tackle started both seasons at Nebraska and was a big part of their first ever national championship in 1970 under head coach Bob Devaney. After his senior season with the Huskers, Newton was drafted in the 3rd round by the Chicago Bears. Newton was with the Bears for 5 seasons and then joined the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976. He played for the Seahawks another 6 seasons. Newton developed a drinking problem along the way, but he beat the problem like he beat defensive linemen while playing football. After those times, he
went to work for the Betty Ford Center helping others beat the addiction.
OL: Don Popplewell – Colorado: The Raytown, Missouri native found the lure of playing in Colorado hard to decline. As a Buffalo, he was part of some very good teams. In 1969, the Buffaloes lost to an outstanding Penn State team in their second game and then they lost to Big 8 powerhouses Nebraska and Oklahoma. They did recover to beat Alabama and Bear Bryant in the Liberty Bowl pretty impressively. The senior season for Popplewell and his teammates did not go so well as they fell to 6-5. Popplewell played Center for Colorado and was 6-2, 240. He was picked by the Los Angeles Rams in the 10th round, but he never played in the NFL.
OL: Bobby Wuensch – Texas: Wuensch played Tackle opposite of All American Bob McKay in 1969. Texas coach Darrell Royal was into quickness over size and Wuensch was only 6-3, 235. But, in spite of his lack of size, Wuensch was an excellent run blocker. Texas had a 30 game win streak going before they lost to the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl after beating them the previous year. Wuensch was a member of the famous Worster recruiting class of 1967.
He was drafted in the 12th round by the Baltimore Colts, but Wuensch never played and he returned to Houston to work at his family’s business.
DL: Bill Atessis – Texas: Another member of the recruiting class of 1967, Atessis was a celebrated three year starter at Defensive End for the Horns. He was the highest rated Lineman recruit in the state of Texas for the 1967 recruiting class and that definitely showed up on the field. At 6-3, 240, Atessis was great against the run, but he also possessed the quickness to rush the passer.
He was drafted in the 2nd round by the Baltimore Colts but he was injured in camp and he was cut in the middle of the season. He bounced around the league with the Boston Patriots, St Louis Cardinals and the New York Jets but never really caught on.
DL: Dick Bumpas – Arkansas: Bumpas was Atessis’ chief rival for Defensive Line honors in the old SWC. They both were consensus All Americans in 1970. Bumpas was a rough, tough Defensive
Tackle who was a bit undersized. Instead of the NFL, he played a little in the World Football League with the Memphis Southmen and he played in the Canadian Football League with the British Columbia Lions. After football, Bumpas got into coaching and he just recently retired from the Defensive Coordinator position at TCU.
DL: Rock Perdoni – Georgia Tech: Renso Guido Perdoni was born in Italy but as a 6 year old his family migrated to the United States and settled in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Somewhere along the way, Perdoni picked up the nickname Rock. From Wellesley, Perdoni attended Ferrum Junior College where he was named the national Junior College Lineman of the Year. The 5-11, 280 Perdoni was a one man demolition machine and in 2 seasons he totaled 210 tackles which is still one of the best for Defensive Tackles in the history of Georgia Tech. Perdoni played in Canada after Georgia Tech.
DL: Jim Stillwagon – Ohio State: Another undersized Defensive Lineman and a member of the Buckeyes Super Sophomores. http://collegefootballcrazy.com/814/ At his biggest, Stillwagon was probably not bigger than 6-0, 240. But, what he lacked in size he made up with quickness. The Buckeyes were 27-2 in the 3 seasons the Super Sophomores were on the varsity and Stillwagon was one of their better players. Stillwagon won the 1970 Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy. After Ohio State, Stillwagon was drafted in the 5th round by the Green Bay Packers, but he elected to go to Canada to play. With the Toronto Argonauts, Stillwagon was a 3 time All Star in 5 years.
DL: Charlie Weaver – USC: Weaver played Defensive End for the Trojans and was only 6-2, 220, but he was super athletic and really fast. The Trojans had a talented team in 1970 and especially in the Defensive Line which consisted of Weaver, Tody Smith, Bubba Scott, Jimmy Gunn and Al Cowlings.
Weaver was a 2nd round pick by the Detroit Lions in the 1971 NFL Draft. The Lions moved him to Linebacker which he played for 10 seasons in Detroit. He finished up with Washington with the Redskins in 1981.
LB: Mike Anderson – LSU: Home town Baton Rouge guy, Anderson decided to stay home and play for the Tigers. After making consensus All American Anderson was not drafted and started a restaurant. He filed a lawsuit against the NCAA for head injuries that happened to him while playing at LSU.
LB: Jack Ham – Penn State: One of the best Linebackers to ever play the game, Ham was a 3 year starter for the Nittany Lions. At 6-2, 225 Ham was plenty big enough and he not only could run, but he could diagnose plays almost immediately. After a stellar career at Penn State, Ham was taken in the 2nd round by the Steelers. With Pittsburgh, Ham was a member of the Steel Curtain defense and a winner of 4 Super Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988.
DB: Tommy Casanova – LSU: Great name, better football player. He was a consensus All American in 1970 and 1971 and a 3 year starter at LSU. He played Running Back, returned Punts and Kicks,
plus Cornerback and then Safety. He was an outstanding athlete, obviously. There will be more about Casanova and his NFL career and his life after football in the 1971 version.
DB: Dave Elmendorf – Texas A%M: The Houston Westbury product was much like Casanova in that he played some Tailback, returned Kicks and played Safety. He was not only an All American in football at Safety, but he also excelled in baseball where he was a 2 time All American. The New York Yankees drafted him, but he was also drafted in the 3rd round by the Los Angeles Rams. He decided on football and played 9 seasons in the NFL. After football, Elmendorf got into radio and television broadcasting and then he got into golf course management.
DB: Jack Tatum – Ohio State: Another member of the Super Sophomores and an incredible athlete. He signed with Ohio State as a high school Running Back and Woody Hayes moved him to Defensive Back and he never looked back. He was a 3 year starter for the Buckeyes and in 1968 the Buckeyes won the national championship. After high college days were over, the Oakland Raiders picked him in the 1st round. Tatum and his story are well known particularly the hit on Daryl Stingley. Tatum passed away in 2010.
DB: Larry Willingham – Auburn: Birmingham products usually end up at Alabama, or Auburn. Willingham was a receiver in high school, but Auburn turned him into a Defensive Back. After making consensus All American in 1970, Willingham was drafted in the 4th round by the St Louis Cardinals where he played for 2 seasons. Like so many others from this time period, he gave the World Football League a try and he played with the Birmingham version of this league for a couple of years before the league folded. Willingham is currently a real estate agent in Gulf Shores, Alabama.