Originally published August 7, 2008 at 02:05p.m., updated August 8, 2008 at 02:10a.m.
During halftime of the Kansas football team's Sept. 6 home game against Louisiana Tech, former KU tackle Mike McCormack will become the 16th player named to the prestigious Kansas Football Ring of Honor. Here are the other 15:
Nolan Cromwell, Bobby Douglass, Ray Evans, John Hadl, David Jaynes, Bruce Kallmeyer, Curtis McClinton, George Mrkonic, Willie Pless, Gil Reich, John Riggins, Gale Sayers, Otto Schnellbacher, Oliver Spencer, John Zook.
Back before a Hall-of-Fame NFL career got in the way, Mike McCormack wanted to coach high school football.
Coming up through the Kansas University program in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the Chicago native always kind of figured he'd end up on a sideline somewhere, barking out orders and teaching the game.
Coaching was an admirable profession, after all, one that held a special appeal for McCormack.
"Most of the men that had any kind of meaning to me when I was growing up were coaches," said McCormack, who earned all-Big Seven honors in 1950. "So that's what I wanted to be."
Then one day, while he was working as an assistant to former Kansas coach J.V. Sikes in the spring of '51, a man showed up in Lawrence, met with McCormack and offered him $6,000 to move to New York and play professional football.
So instead of spending his days directing scatter-brained teenagers around dusty high school fields, as his plans originally dictated, he spent them opening holes for Jim Brown and Bobby Mitchell and piecing together the kind of NFL career that led to all sorts of accolades - pro bowls, titles, a spot in Canton, Ohio.
One more honor came about Thursday, when the KU athletic department announced that McCormack would become the 16th player inducted into the Kansas Football Ring of Honor during halftime of the Jayhawks' Sept. 6 home game against Louisiana Tech.
"I've never been one who sought honors," McCormack said Thursday. "I feel very fortunate that I've received a lot, but I figure that there have been a lot of guys that have worked just as hard. ... But it's a great honor."
When he first arrived in Lawrence, professional football was about a fourth-and-long from McCormack's mind.
This was back in the late 1940s, before HD JumboTrons and FieldTurf and $31 million training complexes that sprang from the dirt.
Back when the main function of Kansas' 60-odd freshman players was to provide the varsity team with punching bags.
"Every time they wanted some fresh meat, our freshman squad would go up and do it," said McCormack, who currently resides in Palm Desert, Calif. "At that time, we didn't even have freshman games, so our only competition was the competition we provided for the varsity."
The experience proved invaluable, though, as McCormack went on to become one of pro football's best offensive linemen with the New York Yanks and Cleveland Browns before moving on to a career as an NFL assistant coach, head coach, and, eventually, team president and general manager.
Over the years, he says, he has kept tabs on his alma mater, which last year pulled off the shocker of all shockers when it finished 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl.
During some of the rougher years, like many Kansas alumni, he worried about the program.
Today, however, he sees what's happening with this Mark Mangino-led team, with its fancy offense and its talented young quarterback, and he sees promise.
"What Kansas did last year, the feeling you got watching them play is that they were a team," McCormack said. "They were disciplined. They seemed to enjoy playing with each other. You were able to sense that just from television."
Rivera honored: Jayhawks senior linebacker Mike Rivera, an all-Big 12 honorable mention selection in 2007, is one of 45 nominees for the 17th annual Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which honors college football players heavily involved with community service.
The list of nominees, which also includes Texas' Colt McCoy and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, is expected to be whittled to a final 11-man team sometime in September.
"Mike embraces the unique opportunity he has as a KU student-athlete to make a positive impact on our community," said Mike Harrity, assistant athletic director/student-athlete development and community relations, in a statement. "... (and) the team has followed his lead, as they participated in more community service events this past year than ever before."
Rivera, a graduate of Shawnee Mission Northwest High, has also earned academic all-Big 12 first-team honors last season.