West Texas State

1969 Buffaloes
(Authentic Reproduction)


In the mid-1960’s, before the current distinctions of Bowl Championship Series, Football Championship Series, Divisions II and III, there were “big schools” and “little schools.” Some of the schools designated as “little” had healthy enrollment numbers and played football against the major universities when given the opportunity, as well as anyone could. Some of these “minor” outfits, like San Diego State, Cal State at Los Angeles, and Grambling churned out as many or more pro prospects than the glamour schools of the major conferences. Some were saddled by whispers of being “an outlaw program” with the inference that their eligibility and/or academic requirements were not quite up to the standards of the universities in the Southwest, Southeastern, or Big 8 Conferences. Despite the ridicule of some, the two programs that in time, were to be avoided at all costs by major college teams, were Don “Air” Coryell’s at San Diego State and Joe Kerbel’s at West Texas State in Canyon, Texas. Kerbel was a legend in the Southwest, a former Marine officer who served during World War II and a former Bud Wilkinson Sooner. When he entered the Oklahoma high school coaching ranks, his teams became known for their toughness, discipline, and high level of physical conditioning although the 300-plus pound Kerbel was never considered a bastion of fitness. Moving to Texas, he coached State Championship teams in what was perhaps the toughest high school conference in the nation with future college and pro great Jerry Tubbs leading his squads at Breckenridge High School in West Texas. After a stint at Amarillo High School, Kerbel became an assistant at Texas Tech and in 1960 took over the reins at West Texas State. His first “name” player that gave the school national attention was 1962's NCAA sixth ranked rushing leader “Pistol” Pete Pedro. Kerbel’s salesmanship allowed him to go into Pennsylvania to recruit the raw but talented Eugene Morris and under his tutelage, the great “Mercury” rushed for NCAA records with 340 yards in one game, 1571 in a season, and 3388 in his varsity career.

Eugene “Mercury” Morris as a hard charging Buffalo


Sharing the backfield with Morris was fullback Duane Thomas and when Morris graduated to the Miami Dolphins, future Giants number-one draft choice Rocky Thompson filled in. If the West Texas State Buffaloes, dressed in their white helmets with a one-inch maroon center stripe and the very distinctive and unique buffalo horns at the front of the shell became internationally recognized for one fact, it was the proliferation of professional wrestlers that entered school, played football and for the most part, played extremely well, and then entered the “rasslin’” ranks. While Jerry Logan, Ralph Anderson, Morris, Thomas, Thompson, Jim Weatherwax, and Hank Washington (see author John Maxymuk’s fine article in the
Professional Football Researchers Association newsletter, Vol. 30, No. 5 of 2008) carried the Kerbel-inspired Buffs legacy into the pro football ranks, the wrestling roster looks like a Who’s-Who of that sporting genre. Tackle Dory Funk, Jr.; Guard Terry Funk; Guard “Dusty” Rhodes; the late Frank Goodish better known as Bruiser Brody, another tackle who went to camp with the Redskins and subsequently played in the CFL; Linebacker Stan Hansen who was signed by the Colts; Tackle Bobby Duncom who spent time with the Cardinals; Quarterback Tully Blanchard; Defensive Tackle Ted “The Million Dollar Man” DiBiase; and Merced Solis, better known to his fans as Tito Santana. The West Texas State Buffaloes became part of the Texas A&M system on September 1, 1990 and continues to play an excellent brand of football in the Lone Star Conference but it was their uniform of the mid-Sixties and wonderful helmet design that gives them a sartorial distinction that ranks with their burst of gridiron glory.