Monday, June 18, 2012

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Table set for summer series

If you could invite to dinner four people, living or dead, from KU football history, who would they be? Members of the J-W Staff selected the folks above for their dinner parties. They are, clockwise from top left, Don Fambrough, John Hadl, James McClinton, Chuck Long, Steven Johnson, Mark Mangino, Aqib Talib, Terry Donahue, Tony Sands, Phog Allen (with basketball), Chris Harris (No. 16) and John Riggins, smack dab in the middle (where else?).

If you could invite to dinner four people, living or dead, from KU football history, who would they be? Members of the J-W Staff selected the folks above for their dinner parties. They are, clockwise from top left, Don Fambrough, John Hadl, James McClinton, Chuck Long, Steven Johnson, Mark Mangino, Aqib Talib, Terry Donahue, Tony Sands, Phog Allen (with basketball), Chris Harris (No. 16) and John Riggins, smack dab in the middle (where else?).


Inspired by a question posed in one of our weekly Kansas University football chats, we would like to introduce the first installment of a summer series that will take you on a trip down memory lane.

From the top players and coaches ever to come through KU to those who gave the best quotes, which guys were underrated and which guys you’d like to have on your side in a dicey situation, the following lists will provide not only an off-the-beaten path look at some of the biggest and brightest names in KU sports history, but also give you some insight into the guys who cover them for the Lawrence Journal-World and — good or bad.

We’ll run a different list of four names from each guy every week throughout the summer months with input from sports editor Tom Keegan, who is preparing to begin his eighth year of covering KU sports; associate sports editor Andrew Hartsock, whose time covering KU dates back to the late 1980s and includes all of the ups and downs of the past three decades; KU football beat writer Matt Tait, who has been with the paper since 2007 but also can draw on his experiences as a KU student in the late 1990s; and online editor Jesse Newell, who also has enjoyed two separate stints of covering the Jayhawks.

Up first, the question that inspired it all: If you could invite to dinner four people, living or dead, from KU football history, who would they be?

Let’s get on with the lists.

Matt Tait

Don Fambrough — Really, he’d be all you needed. And saving him a place would ensure that the dinner party would go deep into the night.

John Riggins — Pretty sure this one needs no explanation. Besides, could you imagine Fam and Riggo at the same table?

Chuck Long — Say what you will about his coaching, but Long’s two years in town were loaded with great stories. I’d love to hear more.

Chris Harris — One of my all-time favorites sharing Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning stories? Yes, please. Of course, with this crew (myself included) it could be tough for Chris to get a word in.

Andrew Hartsock

Forrest C. Allen — I imagine ol’ Phog would want a break from talkin’ hoops. I’d like to pick his brain about that magical 1920 season, when he went 5-2-1 in his only year as a football coach at KU.

Don Fambrough — Honestly, I grew a little weary of his anti-Missouri schtick, but darned if he didn’t make the world — or at least our little corner of it — a more interesting place.

Tony Sands — I was a cub reporter for his 58-carry, 396-yard tour de force against Missouri in 1991. Though I recall him to be an awful conversationalist, I’d like to hear Tuxedo Tony say “It’s all about the kids” one more time.

John Riggins — I seem to recall a story about Riggo livening up a dinner party with a certain U.S. Supreme Court justice; surely he’d provide a spark at mine. Dinner party, that is. I don’t have a justice.

Tom Keegan

John Hadl — To watch him out anywhere in Lawrence is to see every person at the table with him having a great time. Joe Namath stories, Jack Mitchell stories, John Wayne stories.

Terry Donahue — An assistant coach at KU under Pepper Rodgers, Donahue’s as smart a football guy as there is on the planet. And he knows how to tell a story, too. The youthful former UCLA boss was the most underrated college football coach of the 20th century, and if he could be talked into giving it another shot would figure out a way to win in today’s game.

James McClinton — He’s funny and with any luck his passion for life would rub off on everybody. Such a dominant force for KU, his body type didn’t translate to the NFL, which is a shame because he was an energetic team-changer in college.

Aqib Talib — As long as he’s not packing.

Jesse Newell

Mark Mangino — I like good storytellers, and this foursome would make for an entertaining night. Mangino would have lots of good stories to tell.

John Riggins — Riggins seems like a character when I see him on TV.

Don Fambrough — Fambrough was a character from the times I talked to him in person.

Steven Johnson — Steven Johnson just seems like the kind of guy I would hang out with outside of football because of his laid-back and up-front nature.


ukanjhox 6 years ago

Keegs actually writes a line I enjoy? Woah. But that Talib line was priceless. (Not sure he'd be one of my FOUR dinner guests though.

hawk316 6 years ago

Fun stuff! Especially liked Keegan's comments, as well.

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years ago

Turner Brock Berglund The cry baby who's hands got burnt on the turf by Mangino Terry Allen

Menu would be chicken on the bone, shell fish, peanuts, lots of dairy, and anything with gluten in it.

RJ King 6 years ago

Phog - wrote a letter to my grandfather to say what a "clean, fine young man" my father was. (Dad was some kind of team manager and sports editor for the KU paper.) I'd thank him for taking the time to write, his kind words, his mentoring, his vision, and his impact on so many individuals, and ask what he thinks of the game these days.

Riggo - Freshman year, a guy pulled up on his motorcycle and offered a ride. He was persistent. I finally agreed but, "only if I can wear your helmet." I had no idea who he was, but he removed his helmet to reveal a Mohawk. I instantly recognized him, as the LJW had recently run photos of the evolution of his hairstyles. I didn't know whether to be flattered, embarrassed, or intimidated. Would find him quite amusing now. "Lighten up, Sandy baby" was a classic!

Dana Stubblefield - he's nearby, and a friendly guy.

Pepper Rogers - he's well, pepper-y.

mojayhawk 6 years ago

Don Fambrough John Riggins John Hadl GALE SAYERS!

Saguaro_Jayhawk 6 years ago

Steve Renko, Delvin Williams, KUrt Knoff and Keith Loneker

mojayhawk 6 years ago

Don Fambrough John Riggins John Hadl Gale Sayers!

Vince Brown 6 years ago

None of the professional sports people, the authorities, picked Gale Sayers. Are you kiddin' me?!

TulsaJayhawk 6 years ago

I agree 100 %. Sayers should be the first on all lists.

Geezer 6 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Gary Wirsig 6 years ago

James Naismith Nolan Cromwell Jim Ryun Wayne Simien

Gary Wirsig 6 years ago

OK, how do I hit the recall button? Although the first two people still work as football contributors. Naismith invented the football helmet, and wasn't he involved with KU football for a while?

Gary Wirsig 6 years ago

All right, here's a do-over. The entire backfield during my freshman year at KU.

Nolan Cromwell LaVerne Smith Billy Campfield Norris Banks

Bill Kackley 6 years ago

Never knew Jim Ryan or Wayne Simien ever played football.

Displayhawk 6 years ago

They only used Jim Ryun for those "Third and a mile" situations!

captku 6 years ago

now that's funny right there. we would have used him plenty last year.

Mark Anderson 6 years ago

Love the addition of Nolan Cromwell. However, I'd add his mom too. Used to work with her in Wakeeney, KS, and she used to tell stories about when Nolan was in high school in Ransom. She used to roam the sidelines when he played, and said whenever Nolan would break a long run, she'd race him to the end zone, and often beat him. What a great lady, and it's easy to see where Nolan got all his athletic ability!

Tim Bingaman 6 years ago

I went to school way after Riggins graduated and had already developed a deep hatred of him and all of the Redskins. It would be like Johnny Drama playing golf with Tom Brady...
List: Dana Stubblefield Chip Budde Mark Mangino Todd Reesing

John Dalke 6 years ago

Gale Sayers, Don Fambrough, Nolan Cromwell, David Jaynes.

actorman 6 years ago

Nice to know that you at least included ONE actual football player on your FOOTBALL list!

John Mueller 6 years ago

Riggins, Wilt, Jo Jo (why doesn't anybody ever remember Jo Jo?), Dr. Allen

Stunned that nobody has mentioned Wilt yet???

Honorable mention: Galen Fiss (played with Jim Brown), Bert Coan (big time player in an interesting time in the history of Kansas football), Nolan Cromwell (23-3 is the best final score in the history of Kansas football) and Darnell Valentine (arguably the best Kansas bball player of my childhood) with apologies to Booty Neal, Donnie Von Moore, David Magley and Art Housey.

RJ King 6 years ago

Actually one of my dogs is named JoJo. But this is a FOOTBALL list, even tho we all know that Chamberlain kid could really go long.!

chalked 6 years ago

My aunt dated Riggins once or twice while he was at KU. She said he was nuts. Funny thing, her first husband was even crazier. Guess she knows how to pick 'em.

Tony Bandle 6 years ago

Dr. James Phog Adolph Dean

I guess we'd talk a little basketball. Wilt, Clyde, Jo Jo and Danny would be at the next table.

JayHawkFanToo 6 years ago

Don Fambrough - He is KU Football Mark Mangino - I would love to hear his side of the story on his firing. Lou Perkins - I would love to hear his side of the story on the firing of Mark Mangino, as well as the inside scoop on how he got KU to the Orange Bowl. Todd Reesing - He led the team to perhaps KU's best season ever. The last three were part an integral of one of the better (if not the best), albeit short, stretches of football at KU.

Stan Unruh 6 years ago

John Zook (one of the best linemen in Jayhawk history) Riggins (for obvious reasons) Nolan Cromwell (what a player) Pepper Rogers (what a mouth) just in case we had time... Glenn Mason (I want a rewind on his change of heart at U of Georgia)

Tony Bandle 6 years ago

I would invite the four losingest coaches in Kansas Football History:

Glenn Henry 9-27, '39-'42, -16 games below .500 Chuck Mather 11-26, '54-'57, -15 games below .500 Turner Gill 5-19. '10-'11, -14 games under .500

and now the shocker,

Don Fambrough 36-49, '71-'74, '79-'82 tied with two others at -13 games below .500

Believe it or not, Kansas football from 1891 thru the 1920 team [coached by Phog Allen to a 5-2-1 record....yes, that Phog Allen!!], had an overall record of 104 games over .500!!!!!

If nothing else, Don would rip a new one for the other three!! :)

HawkTronic 6 years ago

Bob Valesente? Where did he stack up??

Tony Bandle 6 years ago

-13...tied with Don but he did it in a much shorter time!!

actorman 6 years ago

It doesn't make sense to use games under .500 to determine the "losingest" coaches. It makes much more sense to go with percentages, in which case I assume it would be close between Turner Gill and Bob Valesente for all-time losingest coach. (Of course that would also move Fambrough out of the "top" 4, which I'm guessing is why you chose your method.)

As for Fambrough, I can understand why virtually everyone is including him, but it's a shame he was such a lousy coach. It would have been nice if his coaching ability had matched his love and passion for KU.

The four KU football people I would choose? Bill Whittemore (I'm surprised no one has mentioned him), Willie Pless, Gale Sayers, and Phog.

Andy Tweedy 6 years ago

For my dinner party, I'd take Dion Rayford to the Lawrence Taco Bell, just to see the tension mount as he ordered his Chalupa! As for the other three, I guess it probably wouldn't matter...they could come along next time.

dynamitehawk 6 years ago

Jaybate Jesse Newell Samantha Ryan Charlie Weis

dynamitehawk 6 years ago


Tom Keegan and Matt Tait... Who have multiple personality disorder in any combination of the people above, and I get the ability to switch their personality when I look at them and say the word "testicle" with Russian accent. Probably go for some burgers at the Yacht Club.

justinryman 6 years ago

Gale Sayers John Riggins Gilbert Brown Kerry Meier

Tony Bandle 6 years ago

The Lord Jesus Muhammed Buddha Hugh Hefner

I guess I know who'd be stuck with the tab!!

Eric Williams 6 years ago

No love for John Randle?

Modern players:

Darrell Stuckey Nick Reid Kerry Meier Johnny Beck - gotta ask how he could hit a 60 yarder in pre-game but shank a 20 yarder in the game

Carter Patterson 6 years ago

Gale Sayers Wilt Chamberlain James Naismith Gary Woodland

VaJay 6 years ago

I think the title of this article is misleading. I was actually hoping they would get some sit down interviews with some great Jayhawks of the past so we could enjoy their stories & get their insight on the goings on today. As soon as I saw dinner with Fambrough I realized it was just another list. Enough already - Go actually talk to some of the great Jayhawks still living!!

Titus Canby 6 years ago

Old timers: Don Fambrough John Riggins Bobby Douglass John Hadl

Really old timers: Fielding Yost Red Hogan Galen Fiss Ray Evans

Youngsters: Steven Johnson Nolan Cromwell Bucky Scribner Kerry Meier

DrGraydog 6 years ago

Don Fambrough Max Faulkenstein John Hadl Nolan Cromwell

TulsaJayhawk 6 years ago

Gale Sayers Dutch Lonborg John Riggens Franklin King (best DJ the 'Hatter ever had)

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