By Dr. Ken 


I have often said that for a street smart teenager, I knew little about the world outside of the New York City area. The Sunday New York Times football scores and game write-ups were my window to the rest of the United States, augmented by the few collegiate or professional games that were televised on our small black and white DuMont set. My horizons expanded a bit upon entering college and meeting players from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kentucky but anything west of Illinois could have been on the other side of the earth. Certainly, the only information I had regarding college football in the western U.S. other than the major West Coast schools, came from Street And Smith Football Magazine or Sports Illustrated. Utah was one of the states that I had obviously viewed on a map but in truth, I couldn’t be certain of its exact location. I knew something of the college programs out there because of the success of Lee Grosscup [ see HELMET NEWS Nov. 2013  and Dec. 2013 ] Merlin Olsen, and the team that played in the 1961 Gotham Bowl. Utah State was one of the participants in that bowl game played at what was then a run-down and rat infested Polo Grounds in the Bronx. Having attended a number of New York Titans games at that same venue, I knew tickets would be available at the gate and wanted to see the undefeated, once-tied Utah State team with Olsen and a number of future NFL players that included Lionel Aldridge, Bill Munson, Clark Miller, Jim Turner, and Clyde Brock. Return man extraordinare and ’60 All American Tom Larsheid was often featured on newsreels at the local movie theater and was a key man on their attack. Despite a trip that entailed a train ride and two subway transfers, I enjoyed the game that was played against Baylor, featuring Don Trull and Ronnie Bull. The talented USU Aggies were impressive despite losing and I filed away the information that there was excellent football in what was to me an isolated part of the United States.

One of the fellows that played at a local high school had a cousin from upstate New York that was a member of the University Of Hawaii football squad. A girl I knew from the beach had decided to attend the school, but it was so far away and so exotic, that the possibility of knowing anyone who actually played there was beyond remote until our group met this fellow. Joining us for some of our summer training sessions, we were surprised that at only 190 pounds, he was one of their linemen, immediately marking him as a “tough guy” and we let him know that we were impressed. He in turn told us about a linebacker that he believed was the “toughest and strongest player in the country,” a Utah State Aggie that most opponents were actually afraid of. He was clear that while he won a letter, he was not a starter on the Hawaii squad and watching film prior to facing off against Utah State, “that was okay because (he) wanted no part of this guy.” The linebacker I would come to learn was MacArthur Lane.

The brief encounter and conversation that mentioned Lane sent me to my collection of football magazines and as the 1966 and ’67 seasons unfolded, it became obvious that Lane, now an All American candidate at running back, was that same frightening linebacker who had been vital to the 8-2 USU record in ’65. Hardly typical, MacArthur Lane came to his toughness through his Oakland upbringing, playing as an All City performer at Fremont High School, and a post-high school journey that took him from labor in a machine shop to the United States Marine Corps.

A big time running back at Oakland’s Fremont High School, Lane chose manual labor and the Marine Corps before enrolling at local Merritt Junior College where he was a JC All American in 1964


After his discharge and wanting to re-start his football career, Lane entered Merritt Junior College playing the unlikely combination of quarterback and guard but settled in to the linebacker and running back positions where he was a 1964 Junior College All American and eventual selection to the California Junior College Hall Of Fame. Choosing Utah State as a landing spot for the continuation of his college career was not so strange, not with the line-up that had represented the team in ’61 and not with a current roster that included Lane’s junior college backfield mate Roy Shivers and line stand-outs Bill Staley and Spain Musgrove. With Utah State relying on their recruitment of California high school and junior college players, Lane joined a number of JC players he had competed against. Less known as a player but a fierce competitor who was a full time starter, linebacker/middle guard Al Vermeil of Calistoga, California had been coached by his older brother Dick and later became known as one of the pioneers in the strength training field for athletes. With All American Staley, Musgrove, Vermeil, and right outside linebacker Lane, the Aggies were quite formidable and completed an 8-2 record in ‘65.


The Ags fell off to 4-6 in 1966, in part due to injuries which scuttled their passing attack. Lane too was injured after being moved to running back but his late season rushing for 558 yards was highlighted by a 7.6 yard per carry average and four touchdowns. Head coach Tony Knap, who had been an exceptionally successful high school coach before developing John Ralston’s lines at Utah State, took the head position when Ralston left for Stanford prior to the ’63 season. His four year run included two 8-2 seasons but he had some detractors in the school’s administration and his decision to kick a field goal while down 21-0 to arch rival BYU and then punting on fourth down late in the game instead of trying to better the existing 27-7 score, had some fans turn against him. Thus, at the conclusion of the ’66 season, Knap left for the CFL and later returned to become head coach at both Boise State and UNLV, completing his college head coaching career with an excellent .725 winning percentage. New USU head coach Chuck Mills was hired from the Kansas City Chiefs staff and looking at a backfield of 6’1”, 220 pound Mac “Truck” Lane, future Detroit Lions back Altie Taylor, and stout Frank Nunn, installed a Power-I offense.



Lane was an early advocate of strength training and physical conditioning



The 1967 record improved to 7-2-1 with Lane injured in the season’s sixth game, yet he had 207 yards against West Texas State, completed the season with a 6.4 yards per carry, and was chosen to play in the Chicago College All Star Game. Lane participated on the Aggie track and field team during his college stay, mimicking the Billy Cannon combination of sprinting and throwing the shot put, marking a throw that was only two inches short of Olympian Jay Silvester’s school record. Always a hard worker and one who pursued the extremes of physical conditioning, Lane was drafted number thirteen overall by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968. He was underutilized his first two seasons in a crowded backfield that included Johnny Roland, Willis Crenshaw, Cid Edwards, and juco and college teammate Roy Shivers, but hit his stride in an All Pro performance in 1970, rushing for 977 yards and adding another 365 on receptions with an NFL high thirteen total touchdowns. As usual, he was considered to be one of the toughest athletes in the NFL and maintained a very high level of fitness and rigorous training.

The Cardinals were very much an up and down team under head coach Charley Winner, and his push to an 8-2-1 late season record in ’70 unfortunately ended with a series of losing games that led to his firing. Bob Hollway was hired from the Vikings staff for the 1971 season and Mac Lane’s team leading 592 ground-it-out yards weren’t enough to prevent the team’s losing effort. At the end of the season, Hollway traded both of his starting running backs, sending Cid Edwards to the Chargers and Lane to the Packers for the ill-fated Leon Burns and Donny Anderson. The latter contributed to the Cardinals in a positive manner through the ’74 season while Lane extended his career through 1978, first with the Packers, and then with the Chiefs during his final four years.

Lane is probably best known for his time with the Packers, a surprisingly brief three year stint among his eleven in the NFL. When teamed in the Green Bay backfield with John Brockington, Lane’s hard-nosed approach to running the football and his previous work as a linebacker held him in good stead as a blocking back, paving the way for Brockington’s performances. Although Brockington was the primary rusher, Lane’s 1711 yards in his Packers career proved to be an effective counter-punch to any attempt to focus exclusively on one rusher or the other. When Bart Starr took the reins prior to the ’75 season, Mac was shipped off to the Chiefs.


Brockington’s production fell immediately and while some attributed this to a change in offensive philosophies that was not well suited to Brockington’s running style and the punishment he endured as a straight-line, inside runner his first few years, he was clear that “We didn’t really have anyone like him after trading Mac. I think I sulked a little bit about Mac.” Lane was doing an excellent job, providing the blocking for Kansas City’s Woody Green who racked up 611 yards, but injury limited Lane’s appearances to nine games. There were knocks against Lane about his age entering the ’76 season, but he surprised everyone by leading the NFL in pass receptions and rushing for another 542 yards on KC squads that finished 5-9 his first two seasons with them.  Age did in fact finally catch up to Lane and in his final year of NFL football, he finished the ’78 season with only fifty-two carries for 277 yards.


Mac kept his hand in the game, later working for the Oakland Raiders but his love for physical fitness had him owing a health studio in his native Oakland, California area. In addition to his induction to the California Junior College Hall Of Fame, he and his brother Sidney, a long tenured educator, were also inducted into the Utah State University Athletics Hall Of Fame. MacArthur Lane’s eleven years in the National Football League were productive but not memorable to many fans. Yet, he was an outstanding athlete who stepped off into his adult life with limited possibilities, and then utilized his intelligence, toughness, and abilities to take him to a path that allowed him to positively affect his community and fans with his athletic performances and many charitable and community based activities.