Louisiana State University
1958 - 1964 Tigers "National Champs"
THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON OF 1958:
The final record of 5-4-1 for 1960 didn’t leave the rabid Tiger fans happy but
it was almost predictable as Dietzel played a total of eighteen soph starters
across his three units. The Chinese Bandits defense, first in the nation against
scoring was led by DT Fred Miller and was consistently amazing, especially close
to their own goal line. The offense, even with big-time sophomore left HB Jerry
Stovall in Cannon’s former position and talented Wendell Harris where Robinson
used to be, was inconsistent and at times ineffective. In a four game stretch
the defense gave up a paltry total of but two touchdowns yet the Bengals lost
all four games! Soph QB Lynn Amedee won the starting position part way through
the season and that allowed for better play behind guard Roy “Moonie” Winston
and the 6-6 tie against number one ranked Ole Miss was an LSU highlight that
underscored their top of the heap ranking against scoring. Among the lesser
known players, three-time All SEC tackle Bo Strange who also won All Conference
notice as a baseball player and whose father “Pop” Strange was an assistant on
the LSU staff, was considered by many to be “the toughest LSU player of all
time” and put his Academic All American honors to good use in becoming an
orthopedist. The green sophomores of ’60 were battle-tested by 1961 and a 10-1
surge that included a decisive 25-7 conquest of Colorado in the Orange Bowl put
an exclamation point on a season that placed the Bayou Bengals at number four by
the end of the year. Despite the presence of offensive stars Amedee, Stovall, FB
Gros who was the Packers number one draft pick and played nine seasons with four
NFL teams, and Harris who became an excellent DB and kicker for the Colts and
Giants, it was the defensive tradition of LSU that buried number one Mississippi
10-7 in their annual showdown and sent All American guard/LB Winston on to pro
stardom with the Vikings where he was a force from 1962 through ’76, and Bandit
DB Tommy Neck to the Bears. G Monk Guillot, a bit unheralded, was All
Conference. The respected defense was number four against the rush and scoring
and number six overall, making the Chinese Bandits and the overall level of play
a continuing Southern tradition.
As Orange Bowl preparations were being made, the word became public that Dietzel and officials at West Point were talking. It didn’t affect the Tigers performance on the field but the fans and school officials were outraged. On January 5, 1962 Dietzel was released from his contract to take the head coaching position at Army as he proclaimed that this was his “dream job.” Dietzel found the sledding tough at West Point as the glory years of Red Blaik began to slide toward mediocrity and there was an inability to attract top players due to the war in Viet Nam. He moved to South Carolina as head football coach and AD in 1966, won the Gamecocks first ACC football championship in 1969 and later became AD at Indiana. In a move that surprised many, Dietzel returned to LSU as their athletic director from 1978 through ’82 and then was President of the American Football Coaches Association and the Fellowship Of Christian Athletes. He retired to focus on producing his watercolor paintings. No one looked far to find LSU’s next head coach. Charles McClendon was from the small hamlet of Lewisville, Arkansas and entered the U.S. Navy after high school during the Second World War. He was a scholarship basketball player at Magnolia JC in Arkansas before playing defensive end for Bear Bryant at Kentucky and then remained on Bryant’s staff as an offensive coach. Bryant pushed him to take an assistant’s job at Vanderbilt where he became the mentor to the defensive line and from there he joined Tinsley’s staff at LSU. Dietzel kept McClendon on as his defensive coach and he masterminded the stingy five man front alignments that brought so much glory to Tigertown. As Dietzel was negotiating with Army, Kentucky fired Blanton Collier as their head football coach and began talks with McClendon. LSU stepped in quickly and “Cholly Mac”, extremely popular with his players and the fans, took over the helm for the 1962 season. Coach Mac’s first staff was excellent and the majority progressed to head coaching jobs in future years: John North at the New Orleans Saints, Bill Beall at Baylor, and Dixie White at what became Louisiana Monroe. McClendon was saddled with the constant claims of the departed Dietzel that LSU “was loaded”, putting additional pressure on the team but they delivered. The number seven ranked Bengals had a fine season, suffering only a 6-6 tie with Rice and a 15-7 loss to Ole Miss to finish at 8-1-1. They earned the Cotton Bowl slot and faced undefeated number four ranked Texas but were treated like an afterthought by the media and Texas public. Bowl game MVP Amedee who later became a well-traveled collegiate offensive coordinator, HB’s Danny LeBlanc and the terrific Jerry Stovall, teamed with DT’s Fred Miller, an All American, and Remi Prudhomme, and offensive linemen Don Estes and Dennis Gaubatz to not only defeat the Longhorns 13-0 in a huge upset, but post defensive statistics that left them as the best in the nation against scoring as the yield over eleven games was but thirty-four points! Stovall was the centerpiece of McClendon’s first squad, the MVP of the SEC, an All American, and the first-round draft choice of the Cardinals. Estes played for the Chargers and Oilers and center Gaubatz was a LB for the Lions and Colts from ’63 through 1969. Miller became a standout on the Colts’ defenses of the Sixties and early ‘70’s. McClendon freely admitted that this was “Dietzel’s team” but he had done his usual great job of coaching.
SPOTLIGHT ON JERRY STOVALL:
One of LSU’s all-time greatest players, Jerry Stovall’s contributions were less in the statistics than in the versatility and dependable play he brought to all phases of the game. An All State player out of the well-known West Monroe High School program, Stovall was often compared to Billy Cannon and in many ways, came close to fulfilling that awesome burden. He excelled as a runner, receiver, return man, and especially as a defensive back. In his senior season, he was an All American and the MVP of the Southeastern Conference, coming up with the heroics when needed in a 9-1-1 season in 1962. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Terry Baker and became the St. Louis Cardinals’ number-one draft choice where in a nine-year pro career he was named to the Pro Bowl three times. Stovall teamed with DB’s Larry Wilson and Pat Fisher to provide a blanketing secondary for the Cardinals. Upon retirement from pro ball, Stovall rejoined Paul Dietzel as an assistant at South Carolina, and then returned to LSU as an assistant under McClendon. When LSU hired Bo Rein from NC State as their head coach in 1980, he tragically died in an airplane accident and Stovall was quickly named as LSU’s new head coach. In 1982 he was National Coach Of The Year as he led the Tigers to the number eleven spot in the final polls and just lost the Orange Bowl game to Nebraska by a 21-20 score. After leaving coaching, Stovall served Louisiana Tech as athletic director and was successful in the banking business.
Already facing extensive rebuilding for ‘63, the Bayou Bengals were hamstrung by the NCAA’s new substitution rules which in effect completely eliminated the opportunity to use the specialized Chinese Bandits defensive unit and called for every player to be evenly schooled in offensive and defensive skills. The offense was scuttled by a rash of injuries that included a separated shoulder suffered by QB Pat Screen in the season’s fourth game against Miami. Hard-charging HB Danny LeBlanc and soph FB Don Schwab provided a contrast to the speedy Joe Labruzzo, noted as the smallest HB in major college football at what might have been an exaggerated 165 pounds. The line was tough with two-way end Billy Truax named as All American and tackle Remi Prudhomme and end/kicker Doug Moreau very effective. Truax had an excellent career as a TE with the Rams from ’64-1970 and then finished as a pro with three years in Dallas. Despite a 7-3 record, the Tigers were invited to the Bluebonnet Bowl but came a cropper against Don Trull and Baylor’s fine passing attack 14-7. During the off-season heading into the 1964 season, Coach Mac agonized over the numerous QB injuries produced by his offense that required the signal caller to also serve as a frequently used blocking back. Switching to a Pro-Offense to take advantage of QB Screen’s return from injury and to hopefully keep him safe, the staff was forced to press back-up Billy Ezell into service as they had in ’63 because Screen was once again limited by a number of physical ailments. The 1964 squad was solid everywhere though and battled to an 8-2-1 record with the 11-10 victory over rival Ole Miss and the nothing-to-be-embarrassed about 17-9 loss to eventual National Champion Alabama as highlights. Remi Prudhomme, the strongman out of Opelousas whose cousin Paul gained a large measure of fame as the world-renown Cajun chef, was an All American, excelling at OG, OT, and DT. He played with the Bills, Chiefs, and Saints and as he had at LSU, filled roles on both the offensive and defensive lines. As per usual, the defense was highly ranked, third in total D and number four against the pass with under rated LB Mike Vincent All SEC. HB White Graves did a fine job in the secondary and did the same in the pros for the Patriots and Bengals. Tackles George Rice, a fine shotputter, and Dave McCormick came into their own as did John Demarie who moved from center to guard. Schwab and Labruzzo made up for the loss of LeBlanc who had left school and Moreau who was moved to flanker in the new offense, blossomed as a receiver. When seventh ranked LSU faced off against the Floyd Little-Jim Nance led Syracuse team in the Sugar Bowl, Moreau’s receiving and kicking acumen provided the heroics in a 13-10 victory.
If interested in any of these LSU helmets please click on the photos below.