FRISCO, Texas – The Southland Conference, as part of its year-long 50th Anniversary commemoration, has announced its All-Decade Football Team from the 1970s. The team includes stars from its member institutions from the 1970 season through 1979.
A total of 67 former student-athletes make up the 1970s All-Decade Team, including honorees from each of the eight institutions that were members during a period when Southland teams won four national championships and originated the Independence Bowl that continues today in Shreveport, La. Arkansas State won a college division national championship in 1970, and was followed by three consecutive national titles (1972-74) taken by Louisiana Tech, including the first-ever NCAA Division II crown in 1973.
“One can certainly look at the 1970s as a golden era of Southland Conference football,” league commissioner Tom Burnett said. “It’s definitely difficult to find a more concentrated period of individual and team success for the conference when you look at the national championships won by the Southland during this stretch, the startup of the Independence Bowl, and the great number of professional players produced by the league.”
The 1970s all-decade team includes 19 former student-athletes from both Louisiana Tech and Arkansas State, 10 from Texas-Arlington, six from Lamar, five from both McNeese State and Louisiana-Lafayette, two from Trinity, and one from Abilene Christian.
Louisiana Tech defensive lineman Fred Dean was selected as the 1970s player of the decade. The first four-time All-Southland first-team selection was also the league’s 1972 and 1974 defensive player of the year, and was a first-team All-American in 1974. After being selected in the second round of the 1975 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers, Dean went on to a stellar 11-year professional career with the Chargers and 49ers. He was named the NFC’s 1981 Player of the Year, was a four-time bowler and played on San Francisco’s Super Bowl XVI and XVIII championship teams. Dean was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008, the only Southland player enshrined in Canton, and followed that with induction into the College Football Hall in 2009.
Dean is joined by numerous Louisiana Tech alums on the 1970s All-Decade team, including others that enjoyed prosperous NFL careers such as defensive back Larry Anderson, end Mike Barber, defensive lineman Johnny Robinson, and receivers Roger Carr, Billy Ryckman and Pat Tilley. Other Louisiana Tech players named to the All-Decade team include linebackers Joe McNeely and Jimmy Blackshire, quarterbacks Denny Duron and Ken Lantrip, offensive lineman Pat Greer, defensive lineman Ardis McCann, kicker/punter Jerry Pope, defensive backs John Causey, Donnie Perry and Wenford Wilborn, and running backs Charles McDaniel and John Henry White.
Maxie Lambright, who led Louisiana Tech throughout most of the period, was named the 1970s Southland coach of the decade, accumulating a 73-17-2 overall record and a 34-6-1 league mark during his league tenure (1971-78). Lambright’s Southland teams that won three national championships and an Independence Bowl, and included 56 first-team All-Southland players and nine NFL draft picks.
Arkansas State’s representatives on the all-decade team include running back Calvin Harrell, a three-time (1969-71) all-Southland choice, leading the league in rushing all three years, and earning first-team All-American honors in 1970 and 1971. A 1972 draft choice of the Miami Dolphins, Harrell went on to excel in the Canadian Football League for five seasons, and helped the Edmonton Eskimos win the 1975 Grey Cup.
Other Arkansas State players include running back Leroy Harris, who went on to a five-year NFL career with Miami and Philadelphia, defensive linemen Dick Dixon and Dave Muckensturm, and Robert Speer, quarterback David Hines, end Steve Lockhart, linebackers Mike Malham, Jerry Muckensturm and Wesley Williams, defensive backs Dennis Meyer and Roy Painter, kicker Joe Duren and a cast of offensive linemen: Jerry Castor, Ken Jones, Wayne Dorton Doug Lowrey, T.J. Humphries and Bill Phillips.
Texas-Arlington’s 1970s contingent is led by running back Dexter Bussey, a two-time first-team All-Southland (1972-73) choice that was drafted by Detroit in the third round of 1974 NFL Draft. He went on to a superb 11-year career with the Lions, rushing for more than 5,100 yards and 18 touchdowns as a pro. Another outstanding UTA running back, Derrick Jensen, was also a two-time All-Southland choice (1976-77) and a third-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1978. He was a valuable member of the Raiders’ Super Bowl XV and XVIII championship teams.
Other UTA players on the all-decade team include quarterback Roy Dewalt, a two-time Southland Offensive Player of the Year who went on to play nine years in the CFL, leading the B.C. Lions to the 1985 Grey Cup. Also, linebacker Cliff Odom, a 13-year NFL veteran, defensive back Ernest Baptist, wide receiver Ron Barnett, offensive linemen Bob Beckner and Dewey Wakefield, and linebackers Hiram Burleson and Willie Thomas round out the Texas-Arlington selections.
Six Lamar representatives include defensive back Rondy Colbert, a three-time all-league pick who went on to a three-year NFL career, end Joe Bowser, offensive lineman Victor Enard, and defensive linemen Gary Crockett, Donnie Davis and Leon Babineaux. McNeese players on the all-decade team include defensive backs Charles Jefferson and Billy Blakeman, tight end James Moore, and offensive linemen Ray Martin and James Files.
Louisiana-Lafayette players include kicker Rafael Septien, a two-time all-Southland pick and 10-year NFL veteran with the New Orleans and Dallas, offensive lineman Don Blair, defensive back Ron Irving, kick, and defensive linemen Les Vogel and Keith Walker. Trinity representatives were linebacker Bruce Jackson and offensive lineman Bill Keresztury, while Abilene Christian was represented by offensive lineman Wayne Walton, a second round NFL pick of the New York Giants.
Among the many storylines for Southland Conference football in the 1970 seventies was the league’s attainment of Division I football status in 1975 (and I-A status in 1978). Following Arkansas State’s undefeated 11-0 record in 1975 when no bowl was available for the team, the Conference and officials from Shreveport petitioned the NCAA for a new postseason bowl game following the 1976 season. The Independence Bowl, named for the commemoration of the nation’s Bicentennial that year, was the home of the Southland Conference champion through the 1980 season.
McNeese State defeated Tulsa, 20-16, in the inaugural game, followed by Louisiana Tech’s 24-14 win over Louisville in 1977. East Carolina defeated Tech, 35-13, in 1978, and Syracuse topped McNeese, 31-7, in 1979. In the 1980 Independence Bowl, the final game with the Southland champion as the host, Southern Miss nipped McNeese State, 16-14, before a record crowd of 42,000.
To best assess the candidate pool for the all-decade team, the Southland Conference developed a metric that analyzed numerous elements of a student-athlete’s performance and value within the league at the time. Most notably, the conference honored “real-time” factors such as all-conference selection by coaches and a player’s statistical performance among his peers at the time. Further, other components of selection including a player’s effort toward helping his team win a championship or finish near the top of the conference, whether he earned individual honors from the league, if he participated in postseason bowls, and if he was drafted by or participated in the NFL.
The Southland Conference will continue to recognize all-decade teams throughout the 2013 season.
For a complete list of the 1970s all-decade team,
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