North Carolina State

1950-57 Wolfpack 
(Authentic Reproduction)





Never a football hotbed in a region of the country where basketball was and remains the most popular of sports, The “Farmers And Mechanics” of the North Carolina State football program had the uphill battle of going head-to-head against their closely situated rivals at the University Of North Carolina and Duke. Fighting for fan support and in corralling talented players, it was a battle rarely won by State. As the 1920’s began, the Farmers And Mechanics nickname was dropped in favor of the “Red Terrors”. In 1922 a reader’s letter of complaint was sent to the student newspaper stating that “as long as State’s players’ behaved on and off the field like a wolfpack, the school could never have a winning record.” While the other NC State athletic teams kept their Red Terrors moniker, the football team was flattered by the reference to a wolfpack and adopted the name. The Wolfpack nickname remained with the football team until 1946 when North Carolina State Chancellor J.W. Harrelson requested that a new name be chosen, writing that “the only thing lower than a wolf is a snake in the grass.” This slur seemed to galvanize the student body which proposed that the entire athletic program be called the Wolfpack and perhaps in a spirit of rebellion, the name was in fact officially assigned to all of NC State’s teams in 1947. Unfortunately, the Pack football squad rarely lived up to the name that gave a picture of a fierce wolf. In 1944, former Tennessee and Chicago Bears halfback William Beattie Feathers was hired as the Pack’s head football coach. Feathers, a College Football Hall Of Famer, was an All American halfback at Tennessee in the early 1930’s. Playing for the Bears, he was the first NFL player to rush for 1000 yards in a season. After his pro football career, Feathers was the head coach at Appalachia State for two seasons and then took the NC State job. Coming off of a number of poor to mediocre seasons, he was blessed with the presence of Howard “Pee Wee” Turner who from 1944 through ’46 was one of the best players in the region and a three-time All Southern Conference choice. The Pack posted a 7-2 record in 1944, slumped to a more familiar 3-6 in ’45, and then had Turner lead them to the Gator Bowl and an 8-3 season in 1946. 1947, ’48, and ’49 were more typical NC State type of seasons with eleven victories totaled in those three years. In 1950, Feathers introduced his players to the Riddell plastic RT helmet. He emphasized the school color of scarlet and highlighted it with a one-inch white center stripe. The team looked better and played better, improving to a 5-4-1 mark. All Southern Conference TB Ed Mooney was the focus of the offense, running behind the blocking of Second Team All American tackle Elmer Costa and end Tony Romanowsky. 1951 found the Wolfpack mired at 3-7 even with Costa performing at All Conference caliber. Young TB Alex “Big Red” Webster led the Southern Conference in scoring with seventy-eight points, teamed with running mate Ted Potts.  Feeling that a change was needed, Feathers and State parted ways. Feathers remained in the area, becoming the head baseball and assistant football coach at Wake Forest and stayed there for twenty-four years.

The new head man would be Horace “Horse” Hendrickson, a former Duke standout who had been the head football, basketball, and baseball coach at Elon College until athletics were suspended at the outbreak of World War II. He then joined George Munger’s staff at Penn where they worked with the Navy V-12 program and “physically unfit for service” freshmen in putting a viable team together. Hendrickson’s two seasons at State were marked by frustration as his alma mater put a 57-0 and 31-0 pair of beatings on the Pack and he totaled but four wins in those two years. Alex Webster remained the standout in 1952 and headed for the CFL before becoming one of the N.Y. Giants all-time great running backs in his ten-year playing career. Webster served the Giants as an assistant and then as head coach into the early 1970’s. Other than QB Eddie West and end Henry Lodge, talent was lacking and at the end of the 1953 season, the first of the new Atlantic Coast Conference, Hendrickson was relieved of his duties and it would be time for yet another coach to try to elevate NC State to football respectability.

The new coach for 1954 was not Maryland’s Jim Tatum who was vigorously pursued but Earle Edwards who had most recently served as line coach for Biggie Munn’s superb Michigan State teams. The former Penn State end had been the line coach at his alma mater for thirteen seasons and after five in East Lansing with the Spartans’ National Championship team, he felt he was ready for a head coaching position. Edwards had considered previous offers but was seeking the “right” spot and one that offered a challenge. He later admitted that he received much more of a challenge than he had anticipated! There were tangible reasons why NC State had needed twenty-three head football coaches prior to the arrival of Edwards. Basketball ruled everything. The athletic department’s budget and ancillary support was directed towards the hardwood. Typically, no football scholarships would be promised and none offered until the beginning of each August, making the recruitment of good players close to impossible. The available football scholarships were very limited relative to those offered by other conference schools and the money reserved for football was rather small compared to the basketball budget. With only seven wins in the three seasons prior to his arrival, Edwards was faced with the uphill struggle of trying to first build a winning tradition, a winning spirit, and then winning over a small fan base. Spectators were abundant for basketball and almost absent for football, allowing the administration to believe that upgrades to any of the football facilities, including the antiquated stadium, were unnecessary.

Despite the apparent problems, the offensive minded Edwards believed he could put a winning and exciting team on the field and devoted most of his time to constructing a workable offense. He left the defense to his friend and defensive coordinator Al Michaels who remained with Edwards for his entire seventeen-year tenure. Assistants Bill Smartz and Cary Brewbaker were also with Edwards throughout his entire NC State career. The debut season of ’54 featured an inconsistent offense and a porous defense despite increased enthusiasm among players and fans. 170-pound soph HB George Marinkov rushed for 419 yards and seemed to return every kickoff and punt that came the Wolfpack’s way. Leading the team in rushing, receiving, scoring, and interceptions in addition to his special team duties made him a one-man team who unfortunately could not overcome a 2-8 record. The 1955 defense repeated the 193-point yield of ’54 but the offense picked up markedly with the addition of sophomore backs Dick Christy and Dick Hunter. Christy managed 7.1 yards-per-carry and 602 total rush yards while Hunter provided some outside speed, 399 yards on the ground, and shared return duties with Marinkov who added his six yards per rush to the mix. The final tally of 4-5-1 featured a mid-season three game winning streak.

1956’s opening game 26-6 victory over rival North Carolina was the first since 1942 and brought jubilation to the campus with many believing that the win was worth the three consecutive losses that followed! The backs again were steady and often spectacular with Christy rushing for nearly 600 yards and the 155-pound Hunter almost as dangerous. Bob Pepe played well at end but the line had lapses and the end product was a 3-7 finish. 1957 started off in great fashion, again defeating North Carolina for the second consecutive season. This would have been reward enough for some long-suffering supporters but Edwards brought things together and won the ACC Championship with a 5-0-1 conference record and went 7-1-2 overall. Only a 7-6 loss to William And Mary in the season’s eighth game marred the record and the season finished on a high note as senior halfback Christy kicked the winning field goal with no time showing on the clock and scored all twenty-nine points in the 29-26 wrap-up against South Carolina. Ironically, the successful forty-six yard attempt was the only time in his career that he tried a three-pointer! Christy was named an All American based upon is 626 rushing yards, eighty-three points scored, and his off-the-charts kickoff return average of 45.4. Christy was one of the early stars of the N.Y. Titans after first playing in Pittsburgh and Boston. His three-year wheel mate Hunter added 475 rushing yards and his usual share of great returns. Tackle Darrell Dess was an All Conference performer and went on to a stellar twelve-year pro career, most of it with the great Giants teams of the early 1960’s. With the defense giving up but sixty-seven points for the entire year, Edwards had a terrific squad. A bid to the Orange Bowl was withheld because the NC State basketball program was on NCAA probation and under the rules of the day, punishment was extended to all of a university’s athletic teams if one was punished for illegal activities. Taking some of the sting out of the bowl snub was Edwards’ pick as the ACC Coach Of The Year.

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