1979 - 88  Bears
(Authentic Reproduction)




1979 began with a slight helmet change as a black mask was substituted for the standard gray on the old gold shell with dark “Baylor green” one-inch center stripe with one-quarter-inch white flanking stripes. The white outlined “BU” interlocking letters that had become synonymous with Baylor’s football squad and helmet design remained on both sides of the helmet. The season began on a low note as popular defensive back and Dallas native Kyle Woods suffered a catastrophic cervical spine injury during a pre-season practice that left him a quadriplegic. The team regrouped but there was a cloud hanging over them. The leaders of the offensive line were Billy Glass who spent the next season on the Bengals’ roster and Keith Bishop, a transfer from Nebraska who played a big time game at center all through the ’79 season. Bishop became a leader on the Denver Broncos offensive line from 1980 through ’89.  Despite the success of primary RB Walter Abercrombie, Frank Pollard was the man the defense voted for as the hardest to practice against and he played with the Steelers from 1980 through 1988. 5’8” Dennis Gentry added 511 yards to the rushing total and was dangerous on returns. The much improved 8-4 record included a 24-18 Peach Bowl victory over Clemson, a game dedicated to the injured Woods. Team success was very much due to the inspired play of LB Mike Singletary, the MVP of the Southwest Conference, with help from DB Vann McElroy. For Baylor, winning the 1974 Southwest Conference title was the equivalent of a national championship and assured Head Coach Grant Teaff a permanent place in Bears football lore. Upsetting the common thread of logic in the SWC that dictated that the private schools could not compete with the large state supported universities, Baylor was undefeated in 1980 conference play and finished as SWC Champions again with a 10-1 record, the only loss coming in a mid-season tilt against San Jose State. Six opponents were held to single digits primarily due to the linebacking play of two-time All American Singletary who became a College and Pro Football Hall Of Famer, Lester Ward, and Doak Field who had a brief run with the Cardinals. Singletary’s tackle statistics were off the charts. All SWC defensive back Vann McElroy was the conference’s interception leader and secondary mate Cedric Mack showed exceptional ability. It was the offense however that carried the day and the running backs were stocked. Abercrombie set a new Baylor rushing mark with 1187 yards and he was ably assisted by Dennis Gentry, the wicked return man, and frosh Albert Anderson. Abercrombie won national honors and posted eight 100-plus yard games. In 1974 it was Neal Jeffrey at the QB controls and in ’80 it was All SWC Jay Jeffrey running the show, often throwing to tiny 140 pound Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil who also set new punt return records for the school. The Bears, finishing in the top ten in both rushing and rushing defense, lost to powerful Alabama in the Cotton Bowl but as it was in’74, the Waco fans were ecstatic.     




Known for his intensity and focus, NFL Films has often used extreme close-up shots of Mike Singletary’s eyes to suggest violence, mayhem, and the anticipation of fierce combat. Those descriptions can very well describe the effect of Singletary’s play at Baylor and with the Chicago Bears but they belie the soft-spoken manner of the man off of the field. The youngest of ten children, Singletary’s father was a Pentecostal minister who would not allow his children to engage in athletics but Mike and his brothers would often do so without their parents’ knowledge. At Houston’s Evan Worthington High School, Singletary was considered to be too small by some of the Southwest Conference powers, a decision they would regret as the 6’, 230 pounder produced three All Conference, two All American seasons, and two Davey O’Brien Awards as the Most Valuable Player in the Southwest Conference. Credited with breaking or cracking sixteen of his own helmets during his time at Baylor, his incredible tackle numbers should be no surprise. His sophomore total of 232 tackles paved the way for a career record 662 and he was the heart of a very good defense that brought Baylor to the 1980 Conference Championship. Baylor presents the Mike Singletary Award to the senior player who brings distinction to the university “both on and off the field.” With the Chicago Bears, Singletary was a wrecking machine, named as an All Pro eight times, to ten Pro Bowls in his twelve year pro career, was an NFL All Rookie Team selection, and started 172 games as a Bear, the most in team history. His 1488 career tackles included 885 solo hits and despite his limited size, he was recognized as a hard hitter with a wide range. Noted as the team leader, he took the Bears to the 1985 Super Bowl win just as he had taken Baylor to the 1980 SWC Championship. A member of both the College and Pro Football Halls Of Fame, Singletary has served as an assistant coach in the NFL since 2003 and was named the San Francisco Forty-Niners head coach on December 28, 2008, having previously refused the Baylor job reputedly because his son was playing on the squad at that time. Singletary remains a sought after motivational speaker and an all time favorite of NFL fans.


After the history making conference title year of 1974, the Bears fell off to a 3-6-2 record. With the graduation of many of the stars of the ’80 championship squad, the 1981 season reflected a slip to 5-6, primarily because of the loss of Mike Singletary and his pack of linebackers. DB’s Cedric Mack and Vann McElroy were still on the field however, keeping order and McElroy became a key member of the Raiders secondary from 1982 through ’89 and played one more season with Seattle before retiring. All Conference DE Charles Benson anchored the line. On offense, QB Jay Jeffrey was back for another solid season, often tossing to Gerald McNeil but the key was TB Walter Abercrombie who became the number one pick of the Steelers and played from ’82 through ’88. Alfred Anderson was the scoring specialist, taking it into the end zone when the Bears got close, to the tune of seventeen TD’s in two seasons. With OT Mark Addickes to run behind, the offense remained potent except for its mid-season tilt against Houston.



Walter Abercrombie was Waco born and bred and had established himself as a noteworthy local star while in high school. Though difficult to stand out on consecutive 2-8 teams and injured for part of his junior season, Abercrombie displayed enough to have Waco University High School head coach describe the 6’1”, 195 pounder as “an outstanding back with excellent hands and truly an all state candidate.” Fulfilling his potential as a senior Abercrombie was named to first and second team All Texas squads and was considered to be a gem in Baylor’s 1978 recruiting class. Unfazed by the lineage of Bears backs in recent seasons that had included Steve Beaird, Cleve Franklin, Frank Pollard, and Greg Hawthorne, Abercrombie accepted the challenge of “staying local” and became one of Baylor’s best. The ’78 SWC Freshman Of The Year and three-time All Conference choice, he finished his Baylor career with 3,665 rushing yards and was the 1980 Southwest Conference Player Of The Year. He was the Pittsburgh Steelers number one draft choice for the ’82 season but knee injuries hampered his professional career. After six seasons in Pittsburgh and a final one with the Eagles, Abercrombie retired having gained 3,357 yards as a pro. A consummate professional, Abercrombie eventually completed a Masters Degree at Baylor, was named to their Athletic Hall Of Fame, was the Director of Education And Special Projects for the American Football Coaches Association and gave long time service to his beloved university as the Executive Director of The “B” Association.   

1982 brought small improvement to 4-6-1 as Coach Teaff tried to overcome graduation losses. Anderson’s 837 rush yards became the centerpiece of the offense with the conference leading receiving of Gerald McNeil who pulled in fifty-two throws for 822 yards. Once again it was Mark Addickes who paved the way up front. LB Ervin Randle and DE Charles Benson led the defensive wall while DB Cedric Mack was reliable in the secondary, continuing with a pro career that covered 1983-’90 with the Cardinals, and then playing another three seasons divided among the Chargers, Chiefs, and Saints. The 1983 version of the Baylor Bears jumped to a very good 7-3 mark that fell to 7-4 after losing their tangle with Oklahoma State in the Blue Bonnet Bowl. The offense had firepower with QB’s Cody Carlson and Tom Muecke alternating and Carlson leading the nation in passing while Muecke came in behind Carlson as the 1-2 passing statistics leaders in the SWC. Once again, Gerald McNeil was a prime target. He had a decent pro career, playing in the USFL with the Houston Gamblers in 1984 and ’85. He then went to the NFL with the Browns from 1986 through ’89 and hung in for one more season with the Oilers. TB Alfred Anderson could look back on his Baylor career and be proud that he logged time as a quarterback, wingback, tailback, and return man, all with good results. He played with the Vikings from ’84 through 1991 and did very much the same fine versatile job for them. OG Mark Adickes also chose the USFL, spending 1984 and ’85 with the LA Express, 1986-’89 with the KC Chiefs, and 1990 and ’91 with the Redskins. Teaff went to a 4-4 defensive alignment, moved LB Ervin Randle to defensive end with All SWC results, and left the linebacking duties to Kevin Hancock. Tinkering with the offense and going to a Split Back attack from the I in order to open up the field a bit, the defense unfortunately forgot to show up in the early part of the ’84 season and the 5-6 tally came from losing four of the first five games. Included in that were forty-seven and thirty-four point yields to BYU and Oklahoma, that more or less killed things emotionally for the battered defense. Inexplicably, the formidable QB duo of Cody Carlson and Tom Muecke that was so effective in ’83, was way off the mark in 1984. Center John Addickes took over the leadership of the O-line that his brother Mark had held before him, opening the way for leading rusher Ron Francis. The defense was helped by DB Thomas Everett who had ninety-nine tackles. DE Randle was moved back to his LB position with fine results and he played with the Bucs from 1985 through ’90 and then with the Chiefs in 1991 and ’92.


As the suspension helmet era ended, Coach Teaff continued to put representative teams onto the field with consecutive 9-3 seasons in 1985 and ’86, and bowl appearances in those years as well as in ’91 and ’92 before retiring. He continued to attract quality players who went on to solid pro careers, individuals like offensive lineman John Adickes, linebacker Ray Berry, and heralded DB Thomas Everett. Teaff  made a lasting mark in the game of football. His productive career which had begun in the 1950's as a player at Snyder, Texas High School, wound its way through San Angelo Junior College, and McMurry College and eventually led to the profession of coaching reflected a statement he had often made.  As a sought after speaker, one of his favorite statements was, "I fell in love with football. At age 14 I said my life goal was to be a football coach." He certainly succeeded at his life’s goal. His record showed head coaching positions that began in 1969 at Angelo State, made a six year stop at McMurray, and finished with twenty-one seasons at Baylor with the consistent ability to positively touch many lives. His thirty year coaching record was an impressive 170-151-8 having taken some poor teams towards vast improvement. The Baylor job earned him national recognition. When he arrived, the Bears were considering dropping out of Division I football, having won but seven games, while losing forty-three in the preceding five year period. Teaff persuaded the administration to keep trying. His Bears won two Southwest Conference titles and participated in eight bowl games. Not as obvious due to Baylor’s second-citizen status relative to Texas and Texas A&M, Teaff was also named the Conference Coach of the Year six times and of course, was 1974’s National Coach Of The Year with his “Miracle On The Brazos” squad. He was on the sidelines coaching post season all star contests a dozen times and was also Baylor’s Athletic Director for a year. After leaving Baylor, he became the Executive Director of American Football Coaches Association and spent a good deal of time addressing groups of coaches and athletes. After Teaff departed, defensive coordinator Chuck Reedy was named as Baylor’s new head coach. Despite two solid seven-victory seasons, a bowl appearance, and guiding Baylor into the new Big Twelve Conference alignment, Reedy was fired after four seasons to the chagrin of many fans and alumni. The reigns of Dave Roberts, Kevin Steele, and Guy Morriss represent a down period for Baylor football but the exciting offense of Art Briles, enhanced facilities, and the enthusiasm of loyal fans has made for much optimism on the Waco campus.

If interested in any of these Baylor helmets please click on the photos below.