North Carolina State
With expectations high among fans, Edwards
realized the graduating eight of eleven starters would strip him of much of
‘57’s talent and he was right as the Pack finished at 2-7-1. Some of the
returnees had what Edwards called “senioritis” during spring ball so he
opted to play a lot of sophomores, and the final record reflected this.
However, with the team donned in a new white Riddell RT helmet with a
one-inch scarlet center stripe, the coach believed that the level of play
was in fact superior to the disappointing won-loss mark. North Carolina went
down for the third straight time and five games were lost by seven points or
less. End Bob Pepe was again a standout and All ACC. The ’59 season found
the Pack still running a version of the Single Wing in addition to a Split T
Formation, Edwards realized that he needed to put the ball in the air to
take advantage of the shotgun arm of soph QB Roman Gabriel. The youngsters’
penchant for contact made him an exciting runner and a hard-tackling safety,
one of the few QB’s in the collegiate ranks who wasn’t pulled when the team
went to defense. Gabriel completed 60.4% of his passes but there was little
rushing to speak of and the defense broke down frequently. After defeating
Virginia Tech in the opener, the Wolfpack absorbed nine straight losses,
though five were by five or fewer points.
In 1960 improvement to 6-3-1 came on All American QB Gabriel’s arm and legs. With 1182 passing yards and 1356 in total yardage, he led the team in scoring and was a one-man offensive show although HB Claude Gibson gave All ACC support. Gibson played two seasons with the AFL Chargers and three with the Raiders as a DB and led the league in punt returns in both 1963 and ’64. He later was the head coach at Tulsa and Mars Hill (NC) College. The line was anchored by All Conference performers Alex Gilleskie and Collice Moore. An 8-8 draw with South Carolina gave them a co-ACC Championship with Duke. The defense came up with eighteen INT’s and tackle Bert Wilder was solid. With All American QB Gabriel still at the controls for 1961 more than 4-6 was expected but the offense was flat and scored only 129 points for the entire season. The future LA Ram and Eagle great passed for 937 yards and ran for 196 which was only thirty-six yards behind the team’s leading rusher Jim D’Antonio. Tackle Wilder, despite being a “futures pick” of the Rams entered the military service before mid-season, leaving ends John Morris, an All ACC pick and Don Montgomery as the best the Pack had up front.
SPOTLIGHT ON ROMAN GABRIEL:
Watching the very popular, very cool, very confident professional quarterback who was the undisputed leader of his teams with the L.A. Rams and Philadelphia Eagles, one would not have guessed that he spent most of his time as a quiet and shy member of his college team. In a fifteen-year acting career portraying everything from comedy on Gilligan’s Island to a serious police officer on Ironsides, Roman Gabriel did not seem the type who would have needed to take speech improvement courses to overcome his reticence to talk in public. Yet the All American quarterback with the overwhelming athletic talent was and remained the “boy next door” who won over everyone with his shy and sincere nature. Gabriel, at 6’4” and 200 pounds was a highly-sought all-around athlete at New Hanover High School in Wilmington,, N.C. but only NC State offered the opportunity for him to play both offense and defense. Gabriel, a serious student, was also impressed that Head Coach Edwards was able to graduate ninety-percent of his football players, an amazing statistic considering that many came from the coal mining communities of Pennsylvania where education wasn’t emphasized. What was lost in his gaudy offensive and passing statistics was that Gabriel was a tough, hard-nosed football player who longed for contact. His teammates loved him in part because he would assume lead blocking duties on halfback sweeps while as a far-ranging defensive back, tattoo opponents when he made contact. As a freshman, he established himself quickly as the leader on the football, basketball, and baseball teams. He led the nation in passing completion percentage as a sophomore while completing over sixty percent of his passes. He blossomed in 1960 and while the new substitution rule had the quarterback legally leave the field when the team went to defense, Gabriel would try to stay on in order to play safety. An All American in both his junior and senior seasons, he was also an Academic All American, the first two-time ACC Player Of The Year, and in his senior season the ACC Athlete Of The Year based upon his football and baseball accomplishments. He left NC State with twenty-two school and nine ACC records, many of which stood for more than twenty years and entry to the College Football Hall Of Fame. He became a superlative pro player for sixteen seasons, the first eleven with the Los Angeles Rams and the final five with the Eagles. Life after football included acting and more sports as Gabriel served as the owner of minor league baseball teams and head coach of the Raleigh-Durham entry of the WLAF. He remains active in many charitable organizations.
After defeating UNC in 1962’s opener, the
Pack dropped five straight as they adapted to life after Gabriel. Four of
those losses were by eight points or less and the team closed strongly in a
3-6-1 season. Despite the poor record, end Don Montrgomery was excellent all
season and was rewarded with All ACC recognition while QB Jim Rossi moved
his rushing total to over 1000 career yards. Joe Scarpati was a solid
If interested in any of these NCS helmets please click on the
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