TIM PEELER: Pioneers from '57, '67 return to NC State
BY TIM PEELER
More than 60 players from the Wolfpack’s 1957 and ’67 squads will attend a reception Friday night at the Brownstone Inn on
Among the players that will attend are elusive halfback Dick Hunter, the captain of the ’57 squad, which brought NC State its first ACC Championship in Edwards’ fourth year as head coach, and Steve Warren, the Academic All-America offensive lineman who was captain of the Wolfpack’s 1967 squad.
The 1957 team, despite having 10 starters returning in its 11-man first platoon, was expected to be a middle-of-the-pack ACC squad, primarily because NC State had little tradition of football excellence at the time. In its first three years of competition in the ACC which almost didn’t invite NC State to join when the original schools broke away from the Southern Conference because of the Wolfpack’s lack of gridiron success the school won just two conference games.
So it was for anyone to imagine that Edwards, a
But behind the running of undersized halfbacks Dick Christy and Dick Hunter “NC State’s Shetland-sized thoroughbreds,” declared Bruce Phillips of The Raleigh Times and a defense that held five of the team’s 10 opponents scoreless that season, Edwards pulled off a miracle. He won four and tied one of those opening road games, went 1-1-1 in back-to-back-to-back home games, then closed out the season with road wins over Virginia Tech and
The final game, of course, is when the incomparable Christy scored all 29 points, including the game-winning field goal after time expired, to clinch the school’s first ACC title. The Wolfpack, which had tied fourth-ranked Duke earlier in the season, got a little help on the way, thanks to a
Alas, the Wolfpack was unable to celebrate its first conference championship in 30 years the 1927 team won the Southern Conference title behind All-America back Jack McDowall with a post-season bowl appearance. The entire athletics department was serving a harsh four-year NCAA probation for recruiting violations committed by Everett Case’s basketball staff. Duke took NC State’s place at the Orange Bowl, which had an agreement to take the ACC and Big Eight champions at the time. The Sooners, which was ranked No. 1 throughout the season, beat the Blue Devils, 48-21, and even today the Wolfpack has never qualified to play in one of the four traditional New Year’s Day bowls.
“It was a disappointment, not getting to go to a bowl, because we earned the right to go there,” admitted guard Fran Tokar.
The Wolfpack’s bowl history actually began more than 60 years ago when Coach Beattie Feathers took his 8-3 team to the Gator Bowl in
After winning outright or sharing three more ACC titles in 1963, ’64 and 65, Edwards saw his dream of opening a new stadium for the Wolfpack realized in October, 1966, when the Wolfpack hosted South Carolina in gleaming new Carter Stadium. The Wolfpack finished second in the ACC that season with a 5-2 record. Edwards knew his 1967 team would be his finest to date at NC State, with All-America defensive tackle Dennis Byrd up front, linebacker Chuck Amato in the middle and All-America defensive back Freddie Combs in the secondary leading the “White Shoes Defense,” so named because Amato convinced his teammates on defense to paint their shoes white for the team’s season-opener against North Carolina.
Like the team 10 years before, the 1967 squad opened its season with a victory over the Tar Heels. After wins over
The Wolfpack was in line to take over the No. 1 ranking in the nation after the two teams ahead of it stumbled in early November. All Edwards had to do was take his team to
Still, Edwards and his staff accepted the school’s third bowl bid, going to
Saturday, many of the players from both teams will return to NC State to commemorate those ground-breaking accomplishments. They will also honor Edwards, the coach who did so much with so little during his 17 years as head coach. He envisioned the Wolfpack becoming an ACC contender and regular post-season participant.
With his players’ help, he saw both of those dreams come true.
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.