By Dr. Ken


My wife was born at the University of Minnesota Hospital when her father was completing his PhD at the University and then raised in West Lafayette, Indiana where he taught at Purdue University and served as Director of Grain Research. By any standard, her family, even with the interplay of six siblings, would have fallen within the category of “normal.” My long-time friend and fellow football fanatic Richard Landsman and I always believed that we lived within the confines of “normal families” and it wasn’t until gaining decades of perspective, observation of my wife’s family, and later conversations with Rich where we frankly discussed the many events of our childhood that we realized that “maybe we didn’t grow up that normally.” I believe that every male child I grew up with was punished in a manner that today, would no doubt be considered “abusive” but corporal punishment at home in the form of physical correction and paddling at school was standard. None of us blinked or thought about it, getting smacked or punched at home and paddled in front of one’s class in school was “the usual.” We believed that everyone’s family laid claim to someone who had been accused of, indicted for, gone on trial and/or was convicted of a crime that sent them to prison. We believed that everyone old enough to attend high school knew the local bookmakers, was on a first name basis with real-live Mafia members, accepted that high school coaches bet on the outcome of their games, and understood the quid-pro-quo of doing business in order to prevent a mishap like fire bombing. It took quite a number of decades to figure out that this might have been standard for us but not necessarily normal. I do however hold the belief that growing up in the manner which we did gave us many advantages.


For those like me who do not gamble, allow me to digress and provide a quick lesson in how that end of the world works. At the racetracks located in the United States, perhaps with some alterations due to specific state regulations, Internal Revenue Code Section 3402(q)(3)(c) is the order of the day and states that “a gaming facility is required to withhold from proceeds of more than $5,000 involving ‘a wagering transaction in a pari-mutuel pool with respect to horse races, dog races, or jai alai if the amount of such proceeds is at least 300 times as large as the amount wagered.’” This legalese translates to “Yes Virginia, you have to pay income taxes on money won at the race track.” One advantage of knowing all of the bookies and at times, going to New York City’s Aqueduct Race Track with my father who was a compulsive gambler, was the responsibility of serving as the day’s runner. I did not necessarily like going to the race track, certainly not on a Saturday where like every other ten or eleven year old I just wanted to be on the street playing ball. However, this was one of the best paying jobs anyone could have, even for an adult so I never complained, not that my objections would have been considered. As per the tax code, when a lot of money was bet and a lot of money was won, the group of men I was with which was truly a conglomerate of hard core gamblers and those they bet with, some “connected” and some not, could never go to the windows to collect their winnings. Fill out forms? Pay taxes? The bookmakers and bad guys at least lived under the radar and even the normal citizens within the group were not going to claim wins or losses from their daily or weekly gambling runs. Thus, a youngster, me in this instance, would be given thousands of dollars, have it stuffed into my shirt with written instructions, and provided with the directive to go only to one or two specific windows and insure that “Vincent, John, or Pat” was the pari-mutual clerk on duty. Bets were made, tickets returned to the men in the group of box seats by the finish line, and if there were winning tickets, I would return to pick up the earnings, at times placing a paper bag containing up to $25,000.00 or more into my jacket or shirt.


Of course the clerk handling the bets would keep $50.00 or $100.00 from each pot but my reward “tips” could have totaled $100.00 or more in any afternoon and my father often allowed me to keep most of it, at times needing the rest to get through his own day of gambling. The greatest advantage of knowing the bookies however was being allowed to browse through and often keep items from their collection of football guides and programs. If gambling on football is your business, it was only smart business to have access to as much information about every team as was possible. Their offices or “fronts” always had out of town newspapers, media guides, and programs from games one or two weeks prior to whatever day I came in to pay off my father’s bets. I would sit, glued to the game programs, reading every word in the advertising as well as rosters, line-ups, and coaching biographies. When I went off to college, one of the bookmakers used to give his programs to my father who would dutifully construct a package and mail them out to me. Although it arrived in November, I can recall receiving the October 3, 1965 Detroit Lions vs. the Washington Redskins program. Joe Don Looney, the Lions’ running back who had provided me with my first written, organized strength training program, was featured in that issue’s “Lions ACTION Photo” on page forty but it was the roster and line-ups that caught my attention.





I still enjoy perusing college and pro football programs from the 1950s and ‘60s, not for the memories as much as the reminder that from my perspective, it was a “better” game. However, even today my recall of reading that specific program is as clear as if it occurred yesterday. I first looked at the depth chart line-ups. Even though this game was now weeks old, I wanted to know week-to-week who was playing, who wasn’t, and which players might have been cut or traded. I of course noted the usual outstanding players and while being a Giants fan, always liked the Redskins with Don Bosseler, who had retired prior to the ’65 season, as a particular favorite. Going to the two and three-deep line-ups, I noted that the older star Rick Casares was not listed but instead, the ‘Skins were starting George Hughley at fullback, backed up by Bob Briggs. While wondering if Casares was again injured, I worked my way down the Redskins roster and noted that Briggs had attended “Central State, Oklahoma.” I looked further and almost audibly said, “Okay, wait. What? Huh.” The college listed for fullback George Hughley was also “Central State, Oklahoma.” Central Oklahoma, really, what the heck went on out there to have both of the Redskins fullbacks, both rookies, listed as one and two in the line-up, in this game.






It turned out that there was quite a lot going on at Central Oklahoma College, also noted in some places as Oklahoma Teachers College. The 1963 Sports Illustrated College Preview issue said it best:

     Last year OKLAHOMA CENTRAL vandalized the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference, winning all of its games by an average margin of 28 points. When it demolished NAIA rivals by similar scores and won the small-college championship, people everywhere were suddenly impressed. They had better stay that way. Nineteen of 22 regulars return and the team will be "at least three-deep with capable hands" in 1963. Passer Mike Rollins (50% completions and 12 touchdowns last year) has gone but experienced sophomore C.B. Speegle is a good replacement. Backs R. L. Briggs (1,126 yards), George Hughley (601) and Bobby Williams all averaged six or seven yards per carry in 1962. They are back and so are Ends Billy Jones and Jim Davis, Clyde Frolics and Val Reneau in the line.


While the ’63 and ’64 versions of the Central State Bronchos were not quite the powerhouse of the 1962 NAIA National Champions, they had accumulated a lot of truly talented football players. Coached by Al Blevins who had been successful as the head coach at both John Marshall High School in Oklahoma City and Edmond (Oklahoma) High School, he first came aboard in 1957 as the head basketball coach before taking the reins of the football Bronchos for the ’58 season. He stayed through the ’63 season compiling a 82 – 46 – 6 record, still the best winning percentage among Central State coaches, and won two Oklahoma Collegiate Conference championships in addition to the 1962 National crown.




Jubilant players carry Head Coach Al Blevins off the field during the undefeated 1962 National Championship season

After choosing to leave Central State, he returned to the Oklahoma high school ranks, leading the Guthrie High School program for four seasons and then trying the minor leagues with a stop at the Oklahoma Plainsmen of the Continental Football League in ’68. He hit the minor leagues a second time in ’73 taking the Oklahoma City Wranglers to a 9 – 1 mark in the Southwestern Football League while coaching with Brooks Mosier, a former Central State star who later became a coaching legend on the Oklahoma high school circuit. Over time, Blevins career unfortunately ran off the rails. On April 29, 1981 after being stopped by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol on suspicion of impaired driving, 2,500 Valium tablets, three dozen Diazapam pills, $10,000, and 604 silver ingots were discovered in his vehicle. There was a second incident on October 14 after again being stopped on a drunk driving complaint, pulled over after driving backwards on a state highway. Blevins’ car carried marijuana and Diazapam and after being found incompetent to stand trial in his first incident in January 1982, he was arrested a third time in March, this leading to a charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. These latter incidents also led to competency hearings which were the only plausible explanations for what his former players considered to be such aberrant behavior. None were surprised that he was in fact, declared incompetent to stand trial.



Robert Louis Briggs was a bruising 6’1”, 200 pound Amarillo, Texas athlete in high school, played at 215 at Central Oklahoma State, and filled out to a solid 228 when drafted by the Washington Redskins


Briggs and Hughley however, did enjoy success, however brief, beyond their time at Central Oklahoma. Robert Louis “Bob” Briggs made his mark early as a sophomore on the segregated George Washington Carver varsity team, with his performances frequently noted in the Amarillo, Texas newspapers. The Golden Dragons of Carver were under the tutelage of legendary coach John Allen who produced a number of professional athletes. Typical reportage was “Allen will depend upon the passing of quarterback Willie Watson and the bull-like running of fullback R. L. Briggs to carry his offense. Watson completed six of 12 passes against Synder. Brigg's, a 200-pound sophomore, is a real power runner and has speed to go all of the way. He won the district spring championship last spring in track.” Thus early in his high school career, Briggs was tagged for stardom and he did not disappoint. This brought him to Central Oklahoma State in 1961 where he took up residence as a four-year starter. George Hughley’s route to Edmund, Oklahoma was a bit longer and circuitous but typical for California high school players who often honed their skills on the junior college level prior to entering a four year program.


Fullback George Hughley starred at Santa Monica City College in California before his play at Central Oklahoma State


Hughley was a graduate of California’s Santa Monica High School and then was outstanding as a junior college player at local Santa Monica City College leading excellent Corsair teams in both 1959 and ’60. There has been a long standing though unsubstantiated rumor that when Glenn Dobbs ascended to head coach at the University of Tulsa he attempted to integrate his first squad and had Hughley on the field during spring practice prior to the1961 season. However, those in power within the administration supposedly did not approve the decision and the Tulsa varsity would not be integrated until 1964. Hughley did however remain in Oklahoma for a truncated collegiate career, joining the very effective Central State group and becoming an integral part of the 1962 National Championship squad.


Part Two to Follow