San Antonio  WFL

Wings  - 1975

Bevan hired Perry Moss as Head Coach. He had spent 1974 as the Packers quarterbacks coach but had, in a long and successful career, coached at a number of levels. He was an assistant with the Bears and had made his mark as a head coach with both Charleston and Orlando of the Continental Football League, in the CFL with Montreal, and at both Marshall University and Florida State. He was the quarterback and leader of the mid-1950s University Of Illinois teams that won Big Ten, Orange and Rose Bowl titles, and then sent numerous players on to successful coaching careers. Defensive coordinator was Larry Grantham, the former linebacker who had been the defensive leader and captain of the Jets for over a decade. He retired in 1973 but signed to play with the Blazers in 1974, serving as a de facto player/coach. Offensive line coach Del Williams was another former NFL player, a seven-year starter at offensive guard for the New Orleans Saints. He had joined the Blazers during the 1974 season to complete his playing career. Long time N.Y. Giants defensive back Dick Pesonen had coached the defensive backfield for the Houston Texans in 1974, assuming the defensive coordinator’s role when the team relocated to Shreveport. He had coached under Moss previously with the Orlando Panthers and took over their head coaching position when Moss moved on. Pesonen was also head coach of the Atlantic Coast Football League Long Island Bulls and had been an assistant at Idaho State.


The key to what was a very high-powered offense was quarterback Johnnie Walton. A native of Elizabeth City, North Carolina, he quarterbacked Elizabeth City University and then divided his time in 1969 between the Indianapolis Capitols of the Continental League where he was named League MVP and the L.A. Rams although he did not see any NFL game action. He remained with the Rams, most often on the taxi squad between 1969 and 1972. In the off-seasons Walton was a teacher but felt he could still play ball and was the Canadian League MVP in 1974. This success led to his try-out with the Wings in the spring of 1975. He won the starting position over Jim Ettinger who played a back-up role at Memphis in 1974 and this allowed expected starter Bob Davis to be dealt to the Bell. Walton was somewhat of an oddity as his longevity won him a legion of fans and he became the answer to numerous trivia questions. He played with the Eagles in 1976, 1978 and 1979 and showed up once more as the starting quarterback for the USFL Breakers both in Boston and after the franchise was moved to New Orleans in the 1983 and ’84 seasons. Walton’s favorite Wings’ target was Eddie Richardson, the team reception leader who had been no more than an afterthought in 1974 with the Blazers. Billy Sadler who had played well for the Detroit Wheels in ’74 filled one running back slot with former Saints and Oilers back Jim Strong in the other. Strong had been the Blazers leading receiver in ’74 and again proved to be a potent threat running or catching in ’75. They signed NFL vet Willie Frazier who had spent a good part of his career with the Oilers and who worked for the City Of Houston in the off-season, to bolster the tight end position. He had signed with the Fire in 1974 but was traded to the Texan franchise and wanted to remain in Texas. After the demise of the Chicago Winds, the Wings picked up their leading rusher Mark Kellar but his contribution was minor. The offensive line was led by Tim Brannan, another Blazer holdover who played sparingly as a free agent in 1973 with the Lions but was a key to the impressive Blazer rushing attack in 1974. The former Maryland star teamed with a group of little-known linemen to provide a very effective offensive attack.



Defense was where most of the better-known players resided but they did not deliver as expected, certainly not well enough to play better than the final 7-6 record. Lonnie Warwick who had started with the Vikings and who had been a key member of the Purple People Eaters defense for nine years, had most recently played with the Falcons for two seasons. He was penciled in as the middle linebacker immediately after signing his contract. Bill Hobbs, the Blazers 1974 Defensive Player Of The Year was a Texas homeboy who had played at Tascosa High School in Amarillo and then starred at Texas A&M before putting in three years with the Eagles and another with the Saints. Emery Hicks had been an all conference pick at Kansas but did not quite make the cut with the 1970 Raiders. He had played with the Southmen in 1974 and at 230 pounds, could run with most backs and receivers. Putting these three behind another Texas star from a revered football family seemed to be a sure fire way of winning games and putting fans in the seats. The roll call for the Louise, Texas High School and University Of Houston football teams include Robert, Gus, Bernie, Greg, Steve, and Butch Brezina. Robert played with the Oilers in 1963, and Greg enjoyed a long and productive career spanning 1968-1979 with the Atlanta Falcons. Butch was a defensive end and tackle at Houston from 1969 to 1971 and was the MVP in the Bluebonnet Bowl. He played with the Birmingham Americans in 1974 and like Warwick at linebacker, was a presumed starter for the Wings before they had even assembled a full team.  NFL journeyman Rick Cash who was with the Bell in ’74 and Andy Rice, a thirty-five year old vet of the United States Football League, the Continental Football League, six years in the NFL (with Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego, and Chicago), and most recently the Chicago Fire of the WFL filled out the defensive front. Rice, as a Texas Southern star would be another attraction for the team. The most recognized face in the defensive backfield was Joe Womack who had done well at LSU and then played under Coach Jim Spavital with Winnepeg in 1973 before joining his coach with the Chicago Fire in ’74.


The Wings got off to a terrific start, highlighted by a defensive stand against Memphis in their second game of the season. Huge underdogs to the experienced Southmen, they held Csonka and company four straight times on a goal line stand and made a punt return for a touchdown by defensive back J.V. Stokes to hang on to a 7-0 victory. Whatever success the Wings had in the shortened 1975 season, the enthusiastic response of their loyal fans made them a viable choice for a USFL team and then a Canadian Football League expansion franchise twenty years later. 


The Wings uniform looked terrific. The white helmet had an unusual stylistic “sky blue” wing across the front of the helmet that matched the beautiful blue jerseys, trimmed in silver and white. Theirs was a simple yet effective uniform design, clean looking and pleasing.  BACK...


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