By Dr. Ken


Central Oklahoma State had taken on the role of a teachers’ preparatory college and was in fact named Central State Teachers College from 1919 through 1939 but even with the official title of Central State College, the oldest university in the state maintained its responsibility of providing the state with educators. Thus, despite their relative obscurity outside of the Southwest, they maintained solid academic and athletic standards and attracted many outstanding football players. Head Coach Al Blevins had put his mark on the Central Bronchos and his 1961 squad rolled to a 9 – 1 record. The addition of Briggs and a number of other gifted athletes made the ’62 season legendary. Linebacker Val Reneau was a former First Team All State quarterback and defensive end, Murray State transfer Ed Rowlin who would be named a First Team NAIA All American and Little All American at the conclusion of the ’62 season, was skilled enough as a two-way player to have also been a two-time All Conference performer who filled in at running back as well as offensive end. Central was also a popular transfer destination for a number of players who began their collegiate careers at Oklahoma University and found the school to be a bit too large for their rural backgrounds and/or their on-field position groups too crowded with the cream-of-the-crop from Oklahoma and Texas. Typical was Billy Stone, a star at Lindsay High School who transferred to Central after playing freshmen ball at OU. He was in fact expected to be the number one fullback ahead of R.L. Briggs but was instead switched to linebacker where he was a team leader of a defense that notched five shutouts, leaving Briggs to have his tremendous season as a ball carrier. 




The 1962 Central Oklahoma State Bronchos, NAIA National Champions. R.L. Briggs is number 32 in front row, George Hughley number 42 in top row. Many believed this squad would have been competitive in the Southwest Conference


By 1962 Blevins had constructed the 800 pound gorilla! Al Jones, currently the Director of The University of Central Oklahoma Stampede Club, the athletic booster and fund raising organization for all of UCO’s athletic teams, was a student trainer and manager for the ’62 squad and noted how close the team members were to each other. Al, who provided a number of insights for the author, noted too that most of the players were successful upon completion of their Central States education, and that in his case, Central certainly fulfilled its mission. He served in the U.S. Military and became an effective long time teacher and school administrator before entering private business and then working for the university. He spoke highly of Coach Blevins and his ability to motivate, the cohesiveness of the team brought about in part by racial discrimination demonstrated towards them while traveling to away games, and of the soft spoken but “hard-nosed” Briggs.

As the first entire team to be inducted to the University of Central Oklahoma Athletic Hall of Fame in honor of the national championship they secured in their 28 – 13 winning performance over Lenoir Rhyne University, they also shut out five opponents, gave up a total of fifty-seven points for the season, and scored 350 themselves. Nine team members were named to the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference First Team All Conference squad and seven have been inducted to this same Hall of Fame. Briggs, Hughley, and Bobby Williams, a two-way back who played six seasons with the Cardinals and Lions as a defensive back and kickoff returner made it to the pros. Briggs, the starting fullback from 1961 through ’64 and ’62 season’s MVP, still ranks third in career rushing for the Bronchos with 3208 yards and a 5.1 yards per rush average. He missed half of his freshman season with a knee injury which plagued him throughout his career and in time terminated it, yet he was a multiple time All Conference stalwart, Second Team All American in 1964,and left Central State having scored 211 points.



Halfback George Hughley ran with power and speed. Note the two single bars making for a two-bar mask


George Hughley had contributed more than 600 rushing yards to the cause in ’62 and had proven his toughness by playing the entire Camellia Bowl NAIA Championship Game with a broken hand. He decided to forego the remainder of his college eligibility and signed to play with Toronto of the Canadian Football League for both the 1963 and ’64 seasons. The Argonauts utilized his 6’2”, 223 pound speed and power combination to not only rush, but return kickoffs to the tune of a thirty-one-plus yards per return. In 1963 Hughley averaged a solid six yards per carry and with an increase of work in ’64, rushed for 333 yards on seventy-three attempts. Good fortune, happenstance, or a plugged-in scout brought both Briggs and Hughley together on the 1965 Redskins with Hughley signing as a free agent and Briggs the team’s tenth round draft choice. Unfortunately it was not a propitious time to be a Washington Redskin!



Despite having the most distinctive, beautiful, and iconic “feather helmets” in the NFL with a handful of bona fide stars like quarterback Norm Snead, the early Sixties Redskins were most often losers


Head Coach Bill McPeak had been a terrific end at Pitt and then played at an All Pro level for the Steelers from 1949 through ’57 [see HELMET HUT College section http://www.helmethut.com/College/Pitt/PAXXUP4848.html] serving as a player-assistant coach in his final two seasons. The Redskins had taken quite a tumble from their glory days in the formative years of the NFL and had suffered through a succession of failed coaching regimes. Mike Nixon, a Skins assistant who was also a Pitt graduate, moved to the head coaching position for 1959 and quickly hired McPeak to his staff. After a dismal ’59 performance of 3 – 9, McPeak was promoted to the position of First Assistant, “a sure indication that Nixon was on probation” according to Washington Post beat writer Dave Brady. Unfortunately Nixon’s inaugural record plummeted to a 1 – 9 – 2 disaster in 1960 and Redskins owner George Marshall paid him off and promoted McPeak to run the team. The new head coach stressed fundamentals and had an eye for talent. He had a sound basic approach noting “We’re going back to the fundamentals. We’re going to follow the Paul Brown theory that execution is the main thing. We’re going into detail in teaching the boys how to do simple things like blocking and tackling and we’re going to teach them why so they’ll believe it’s the only way.” McPeak’s approach of simplifying things and building fundamental skills from the ground up was probably correct and he had a knack for targeting players who were better than those the team had fielded in previous years. Unfortunately, the results were brutal, beginning the season with a nine game losing streak, managing a tie with the second year of expansion Dallas Cowboys and again losing before finally securing a win in the season finale, again at the expense of the Cowboys. The 1 – 12 – 1 record was actually worse, if that is possible, than the win/lose percentage of .107 as the hapless offense produced but twelve points per game and the defensive yield of 392 points was exceeded only by the 407 of the brand new Minnesota Vikings.  

McPeak enjoyed the benefits of Redskin owner Marshall responding to the arm-twisting of both potential investor Edward Bennett Williams and the Federal Government and the long delayed integration of the team. That affront ended in the off season when electrifying Bobby Mitchell and first round draft choice Leroy Jackson came from the Browns, and All Pro guard John Nisby from the Steelers. Four starters, including running back Billy Ray Barnes, arrived in trades with the Eagles, as did a very promising defensive lineman, Ben Davidson, from the Packers.


McPeak’s first bold move was the conversion to flanker of halfback Bobby Mitchell. This immediately made quarterback Norm Snead in tandem with the speedy Mitchell, a potent offensive weapon. The result was a fast 4 – 0 – 2 start but this was followed by Y.A. Tittle’s seven touchdown pass performance against the exposed Washington defense and the season collapsed to a final 5 – 7 – 2 after closing with a five game losing streak. Losing the final ten of eleven contests destroyed any hope of success in ’63 and 3 – 11 was very much the result of a feeble defensive effort. Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff were signed for the 1964 season while five of the team’s top seven draft choices for 1965 were traded for what was hoped would be immediate help. A lot of offense behind Mitchell at receiver and Rookie Of The Year Charlie Taylor at halfback and an improved 6 – 8 finish bought McPeak another season but fan unrest was the order of the day entering ‘65’s kickoff. Huff and 1964’s outstanding rookie Paul Krause led a defense that was expected to hold their own, and the offense was certainly dangerous. McPeak had enhanced his “we must master the fundamentals” philosophy with a “1965 playbook full of exotic maneuvers.” As was noted, “the offense runs from a spread formation, and on every play the Redskins shift into eccentric spacings. Often both ends are split wide, with the two running backs set tight. ‘The beauty of this,’ said McPeak, ‘is that the defense cannot pick out a pattern to key on. The rushers have to hesitate before committing themselves, and this gives our blockers an advantage.’”




Bob Briggs plunges over the Chicago Bears for a touchdown in 1965, his only pro season


One more missing ingredient for ’65 was a fullback, one that could take some of the attention away from Taylor and the passing game. They traded for the Bears Rick Casares, a five time Pro Bowl choice and certainly nothing less than a great player in his years with Chicago. Unfortunately, he would not be a factor due to injury but the Redskins had loaded up, drafting Briggs in the tenth round, signing Hughley out of Canada, and still had J.W. Lockett on the roster. The latter did not make the final cut and finished his pro career in the CFL. The hopes were on Briggs, described as "a run-'em-down type, quick enough to run wide and agile enough to catch safety-valve passes and to turn the corner. These assets make him a most valuable mate for running back Charley Taylor.” A horrible 0 – 5 start highlighted by being outscored 133 – 47, led to chants of “Week after week, we suffer with McPeak.” New team owner Edward Bennett Williams described the team’s performance as “a horrendous disappointment” and called for a closed door, players only meeting with him. The squad responded with a three game winning streak but flattened out, finishing again at 6 – 8 and McPeak was shown the door. Big backs Briggs and Hughley? Bob Briggs continued to be plagued by the knee injury suffered early in his collegiate career and was limited to appearances in but seven games, totaling only ten rushing yards in six carries, a major disappointment after a promising pre-season. He spent many years working for the city of Oklahoma City and unfortunately passed away on November 30, 2017. New Redskins head coach Otto Graham cleaned house in the off season and the two Central Oklahoma State backs were shown the door after camp opened. Hughley’s departure was a surprise to some as he had shown promise. He appeared in every game of the ’65 season and as he did in Canada, he returned kickoffs, thirteen of them for 295 yards. He rushed for a respectable 4.7 yard per carry average and added nine receptions for over ten yards a catch with a touchdown. He retired, eventually returned to California, and became a respected police officer for the City of San Fernando. He was also well known as one of Jim Brown’s closest friends and backgammon partner. Hughley tragically died after more than twenty years of law enforcement service as a result of injuries suffered while on duty as a motorcycle officer, serving as part of a special Southern California Drug Task Force unit.


George Hughley was considered by many to be Jim Brown’s closest friend and was a highly respected police officer after the completion of his football career. Here, the Hall of Fame fullback goes against the former Redskins fullback in a hotly contested game of backgammon



With the induction of the entire 1962 Central Oklahoma football team into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame for their National Championship achievement and individual honors for Bob Briggs with his continual ranking on the school’s “all time” lists, the term “legendary” is legitimate. That the one and two players at the same position on an NFL team came from a small, obscure NAIA college was not only an anomaly, but a great accomplishment, one that certainly remains in the mind of the author.