It is easy to recognize the fact Nick Saban lifted the LSU football program to an elite level, Les Miles grabbed the baton and managed a pair of BCS title game appearances so far including one championship trophy on the mantle since his arrival.
Long before Saban and Miles, a man was hailed as the savior of Tiger faithful set to lead LSU into the post-Charlie McClendon era. His name was Robert Edward "Bo" Rein.
Rein was hired as LSU's new coach in 1980, but his tenure in Tigertown was tragically short lived. It ended while on a recruiting trip aboard a Cessna 441 aircraft. Along with pilot Louis Benscotter, Rein died in the plane which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on the last leg of the flight. The bodies were never found.
There was so much hope and anticipation from the purple and gold faithful upon Rein's arrival. He was a fiercely motivated individual. Sound familiar?
Rein followed Lou Holtz to North Carolina State in 1972 after serving under Holtz at William and Mary. Holtz eventually moved onto to Arkansas where Rein served as the offensive coordinator for one season (1975) before heading back to Raleigh for the head coaching position at North Carolina State. At the time, he was the youngest football head coach in the NCAA at age 31 .
Leading the Wolfpack for four seasons, Rein went 27-18-1 with a pair of bowl wins. He tutored a pair of outstanding student athletes including an Outland Trophy winner, center Jim Richter, as well as a future NFL linebacker and Super Bowl-winning head coach, Bill Cowher.
Rein was the consummate competitor. The Woody Hayes disciple was a legendary star athlete at Niles High School, a national power out of Ohio. He went onto to become a dual sport star at Ohio State.
As a baseball standout, Rein helped the Buckeyes win the College World Series as a slick fielding shortstop, left fielder and dependable hitter. He was the team's jack of all trades, adding 49 career stolen bases. He was chosen All Tournament for his performance in Omaha.
In 1965, the Buckeyes lost in the championship game to Arizona State but won it all in 1966 by beating Oklahoma State. Rein had a double to contribute in the title game. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians , reaching Triple A before Achilles tendon and hamstring problems cut short his professional baseball career.
On the gridiron, Rein led the Buckeyes in receiving in 1965 with 29 grabs for 328 yards. Remember, this was a Woody Hayes team that prided themselves on the power running attack. The offense only attempted 191 passing attempts for the entire campaign. The following season, the Rein contributed 22 catches out of the team's total 192 throws.
During his senior year in 1967, Rein made the switch to the backfield and paced the Buckeyes in rushing with 456 yards. During his time at Ohio State, he shared the locker room with the likes of future pros Tom Barrington (Saints), Dave Foley (Jets) and Mike Current (Broncos).
That '67 group at OSU set the table for the undefeated 1968 National Champion Buckeyes.
Bo Rein was a man Woody Hayes greatly admired. Hayes gave his eulogy.
LSU hired Jerry Stovall immediately following Rein's untimely death. The legendary ex-Tiger led his alma mater to a 22-21-2 record, eventually giving way to Bill Arnsparger.
The college football world never witnessed Bo Rein reach his full potential as football coach. He was thought to be an innovator, a trend setter, one that others wanted to emulate.
One thing is certain, North Carolina State was blessed with three successful coaches during the 1970's and early '80's.
As Bo Rein was exiting, the basketball program was welcoming in their new savior, Jim Valvano., who would capture a National title for the ages in 1983. Like the Rein tragedy, cancer took Valvano from us much too soon.
Bo Rein would be 68 years old now. Who can say where he would have guided the LSU program had the fateful flight from Shreveport, La. on January 10, 1980 had never taken place.
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