Monday, July 16, 2012

Tough guys: staff picks for Kansas enforcers

Journal-World staff picks for Kansas University "tough guys."

Journal-World staff picks for Kansas University "tough guys."


All in all, we’re a pretty friendly group of reporters. We enjoy our jobs, love our families and like to have a good time away from work with a number of different hobbies.

The things we do and the places we go don’t necessarily conjure up images of trouble, but it’s a crazy world out there, and you never know when you might need a little help to get out of a sticky situation.

Luckily, for the next installment of our summer series, which takes a look back at some of the most memorable Jayhawks from the past, KU has had no shortage of tough guys come through Lawrence.

With that in mind, here are our lists of the top four Jayhawks we would pick to be our bodyguards in hostile territory. Whether it’s muscle, scrappiness or intimidation that’s needed get out of a tough spot, these guys surely have you covered.

Matt Tait

Joe Mortensen — You’ve heard of the saying, “If looks could kill?” Well, the former KU linebacker, who actually was one of the nicest dudes I’ve ever covered, has that down pat.

Jake Sharp — Not only is Sharp incredibly fast and strong, he’s also a little bit crazy — the good kind — which makes him a guy you want on your side every time.

Carl Nesmith — They called this man “The Butcher,” for goodness sake. And he loved to lower the boom from his spot at safety in the late ’90s.

Sheahon Zenger — There’s more to getting out of a tough situation than brute strength. I’ll put Zenger’s mind up against anybody.

Andrew Hartsock

Jeff Niemeier — Catcher on KU’s only College World Series baseball team (in 1993), Niemeier was built like a tank, and everybody knows you don’t jack with the catcher.

Dion Rayford — Former KU defensive end was big, fast and strong. Just mentioning the word “chalupa” would send him into a blind rage (or Taco Bell drive-thru window, whichever was closer).

Wilt Chamberlain — I’ve been around some big dudes and been made to feel awfully small, but I recall when Chamberlain returned to KU to have his jersey retired in 1998, and all I could think was, “That’s one large human.” Even the biggest big men get dwarfed inside Allen Fieldhouse, but not Wilt.

Mark Mangino — I’ve been around some big dudes and been made to feel awfully small, but … the thing that makes me want Mangino around me in a brawl is not his stature but his bulldoggedness. I would NOT want to cross him.

Tom Keegan

Keith Loneker — Running into him makes me think of massive retired slugger Frank Howard leaning against the batting cage in Anaheim Stadium while working as a coach for whatever team was visiting that mid-1980’s night. “Frank Howard, one of the nicest men in baseball,” then Angels manager Gene Mauch said before one of his long, signature pauses. “Thank God!” Keith Loneker, one of the nicest men in Lawrence. ... Thank God!

Bill Nieder — I used to type so much faster. Then I met Bill Nieder and shook his hand. More than 50 years after winning a silver medal in the 1956 Olympics and a gold in 1960 in the shot put, Nieder helped to subdue a terrorist on a commercial flight.

Al Oerter — Outstanding at throwing heavy metal objects, the late, great winner of the gold medal in the discus in four consecutive Olympic Games, Oerter certainly wouldn’t have any trouble throwing humans.

Aqib Talib — Just in case things get really out of hand.

Jesse Newell

Thomas Robinson — He probably has the best build of any KU men’s basketball player in the Bill Self era.

Jeff Spikes — I wouldn’t have any problems with Spikes — at 6-foot-6, 325 pounds — protecting my blind side.

Mason Finley — Pictures don’t do this KU shot put/discus thrower justice; rumor is that he’s approaching 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds, and from being around him, I would guess that’s not too far off.

Andrea Hudy — She is there for intimidation; with the glare she gives when she’s mad, I’d feel pretty safe.

Gary Bedore

Darnell Jackson — He’s big and strong and an immovable object

Keith Loneker — He’s a Hollywood actor, but no prima donna. He’d flatten anybody attempting to cause trouble.

Sherron Collins — I still think he should try boxing. He reminds me of the late Joe Frazier — similar build/bulldog attitude.

Scot Pollard — He’s big and looks menacing but has such a good personality he’d probably say something funny to calm any situation.


Mike Young 9 years, 11 months ago

Richard Scott. He was an undersized rebounder when Ku didn't have any.

Robert Brown 9 years, 11 months ago

When I saw the subject, Richard Scott was one of the first Person I thought of.

Patrick Leiker 9 years, 11 months ago

Richard Scott, you beat me to it. First guy that came to mind. Surprised nobody picked him.

Damian Glaze 9 years, 11 months ago

Absolutely! Richard Scott was a tough mofo and the first person that popped into my mind when I read this headline. Worked hard and moved people out of the way to get rebounds.

Spencer Goff 9 years, 11 months ago

Man, I just logged in, saw the article, and scrolled down to type out Richard Scott. Good call.

Pbbut 9 years, 11 months ago

If the word warrior hadn't existed, they would have made it up for Richard Scott/

hawk316 9 years, 11 months ago

Scott was one of my favorite jayhawks of that era because he did so much with so little...height, that is. What a bulldog underneath.

Brendan Connolly 9 years, 11 months ago

Great point....well except that the University itself sometimes refers to itself as Kansas University.

How about this, as soon as the University stops using it, LJW will. Heck there is a sign on campus tht reads Kansas University.

JayHawkFanToo 9 years, 11 months ago

If you are gong to mention a link, at least cite the correct link: The link you posted is not the official web site of KU Endowment .

741hawk 9 years, 11 months ago

Ronnie Marsh +1. Toughest 167 lb guard ever. Marsh on one side; 169 lb Pfitsenrooter (sp?) on the other side. Early '60s if I remember correctly. Didn't they block for Hadl, Coan, McClinton, Schick?

Larry Smith 9 years, 11 months ago

The Aqib Talib comment made me laugh. That's some funny stuff.

hawk316 9 years, 11 months ago

Actually, this entire article was a fun one and one of the better of the series.

Lance Hobson 9 years, 11 months ago

Of course Jeff Graves. But is it possible that he just seemed tougher because Roy Williams' teams were generally softer? Ironically he didn't do much for and with Self.

kellerman411 9 years, 11 months ago

Jake Sharp was the man, I went to camp with him when we were about 11 or 12. He was a beast back then too, he showed up plenty of the older kids. When he transferred to Salina, we all thought he was gonna be in the league for sure. I think he still could.

kingwm67 9 years, 11 months ago

Bill Nieder,s football career lasted one game before a bad knee injury. After that he wore a knee brace. He set shot put records be fore the windup style used today. He probably could not have thrown with this style.

Bill Bridges was a good person to have one your side in a fight, He went up into the Missouri stands to assist Wayne Hightower in a fight with MO fans.

Martin Rosenblum 9 years, 11 months ago

Two obscure candidates:

Carl Henry

Jerod Hasse

Robert Brown 9 years, 11 months ago

That was an underrated KU team in 1981, my senior year. Art Housey was a physical specimen with limited offensive skills but was a tough defender underneath. I'm not sure I have ever been more depressed after a KU basketball game than I was after the one point Sweet 16 loss to Wichita State in 1981.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

Thanks HouTex - I could have gone a long, long time without being reminded of that game!

Robert Brown 9 years, 11 months ago

I think when you are younger, you take these losses a lot harder. I remember another heartbreaking loss- KU vs Arizona in 1997. I was living in NY and there was an active younger KU alumni group watching the games. I thought some of these guys were going to drive off a bridge after the game. I was stunned and upset, but not nearly as much as some of the younger guys. Part of it may be that those who went to school during the Williams era experienced a lot more success than those of us who were there during the Owens era. We were surprised when we beat a superior opponent while the William/ Self era people expected to beat a superior opponent.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

Yes, I'm sure you're right about that. I still don't like a tough loss, but I've figured out that there actually ARE a few things more important than a basketball game. (I'm hoping nobody else sees this and you won't tell !! lol)

I lived in Houston at the time of the Wichita State game. My brother in law and I drove over to New Orleans and were just sick at the outcome of that game. We almost made it worse because I was just a tad mouthy towards the folks in black and yellow down on Bourbon Street that night ( I don't drink any more, so the chances of an altercation are a lot less now!)

Now I'm usually only in a bad mood for a day or two after a bad loss. VCU and UNI were a couple of exceptions to that though!!!

Justin LoBurgio 9 years, 11 months ago

We had season tickets during the Housey era. Loved him!

ccarp 9 years, 11 months ago

Alonzo Jamison and the offensive line from 2007 - 2008. Man, that O-line was legit!

Lance Hobson 9 years, 11 months ago

Ok, I wasn't going to mention him but since you did - YES.

Chris Shaw 9 years, 11 months ago

3 guys I thought of which have already been mentioned are Riggins, R. Scott, and A. Jamison.

Gale Sayers Baby!

texashawk10 9 years, 11 months ago

I know he never attended KU, but I wouldn't mind having Victor Ortiz on my side in a fight. John Riggins would probably be good in a bar fight. Aqib Talib would defend you at all costs. Mark Mangino in a rage is probably similar to the Incredible Hulk.

Ian Sadler 9 years, 11 months ago

Joe Mortenson - one bad mutha (hush yo mouth!)

Tony Bandle 9 years, 11 months ago

Bob Probert, Bob Plager, Tony Twist, Dave "The Hammer" Schultz....none of them went to Kansas and none of them played football or basketball, but if I'm in an alley fight, I'll take these four over anybody named here.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

"Bulldog" Bob Brown, Jesse "The Body" (formerly "Surfer") Ventura, Rufus R Jones, Handsome Harley Race.

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

Football linebackers, any one of them, plus Riggins.

Why linebackers?

Because they like to injure people for sport.

Why Riggins?

Because he liked to injure linebackers for sport.

Give me a special forces platoon of former linebackers and Riggins in their primes, plus a year of special forces training, and I will overthrow any dictator in the world in 6 weeks.

Woody Cragg 9 years, 11 months ago

Junior was a badass too, although maybe not quite as crazy as John. Musta been the "Don't Tread on Me" pedigree.

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

P.S.: Even in the age of XTReme Muscle Ball, mentioning a basketball player for top enforcer is an insult to the game of basketball, and an insult to linebackers.

P.S.S.: Nieder and Oerter, along with Steve Wilhelm and Karl Salb, I will move to the front of the line, if throwing things is required. :-)

Jeff Suther 9 years, 11 months ago

How does no one pick Jeff Graves??? Biggest thug/bully in ku bball history

Robert Brown 9 years, 11 months ago

I like that Oerter and Neider were mentioned just to remind everyone that KU used to be force in track and field. As the Olympics approach, all KU fans should watch this video of the only American to win the 10,000 meters.

fourthrowrocks 9 years, 11 months ago

That brought tears to my eyes. Thank you!

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

P.P.P.S.: And back in the day, defensive ends could be pretty cruel and vicious, but even the most vicious of them have always been compromised by having to develop a mentality of covering short occasionally, of pulling up to cover screens, and of having the presence of mind to try to turn the option and the sweep inside, rather than simply going for the kill all the time.

P.P.P.P.S: Some would argue for strong safeties, because in some defensive schemes these require the psychological profile of a serial hit and run sociopath. Think Kurt Knoff, or on a grand scale, Ronny Lott. But it is linebackers that live every play for the kill, that pursue the ball like hungry lions pursuing a weakened impala. It is line backers that stare into the eyes of the opponents across the line of scrimmage not to intimidate them, but in a wild frenzy of legally condoned killing instinct. Dick Butkus never had to fake his look. He could probably have been declared criminally insane during the snap count. It is the linebacker that thirsts to fight through the blockers, to injure the blockers, if possible, and to then to knock the brains out of the ear holes of the ball carriers helmet each play. Big defensive line men? They just like to get to fall on guys a hundred pounds lighter than them and listen to them groan, gasp and cry out. Big linemen would have no taste for attacking someone 50 pounds bigger than them. A linebacker? Prey is prey to a linebacker. The bigger the better frankly. Greater size justifies even more violence. Dropping off for coverage is serious business for a strong safety, because getting beaten could mean a touchdown. But a linebacker dropping off for coverage only means he has a greater running start to try to knock the brains out of the ear holes of the helmet of an opponent. A great line backer is as awesome and fearsome as a great white shark, and in the moment of impact just as single minded. Ask any running back that has met one either head on at full speed, or been blind sided by one as he was staggering in the grasp of another. Great linebackers are the last hold out of the wild human animal in sport. Skill and technique are important to linebacking to get 9/10s of the way to the ball carrier, but the last tenth is a truly savage journey into the heart of human darkness. I know. I played some a little line backer when I was in junior high and high school, and I have met some great ones at KU and in adulthood over the years. It does not matter what they look, or act like, in street clothes. It does not matter what they do in the 9/10s of the play on the field. It is what they do in the last tenth that defines them all. Some of them, like Dick Butkus, could play almost 10/10thss this way. Most are busy with technique for 9/10s, but all become adrenal savages for the last tenth and that makes all the difference in the world. Enforcers? Linebackers. Definitely. They don't just like to kill the prey. They like to tear it to pieces.

jaybate 9 years, 11 months ago

Clarification on Kurt Knoff: he was the nicest and most admirable football player off the field that I ever met while at KU. I wished I had been good enough to play college football just so I could have played defense with him. But on the field, few have ever hit with the kind of explosiveness that he did in a KU secondary.

Kelly Hanrahan 9 years, 11 months ago

His hit on Oklahoma States 2-time All American Robert Miller (runner-up to Earl Campbell in the Heisman voting) was the loudest-hardest hit I ever witnessed. The hit occurred along the West sideline around the Southern 30 yard line & could be heard throughout the stadium.

Kelly Hanrahan 9 years, 11 months ago

Correction - OSU's running back was Terry Miller (Robert Miller was a KU fullback)

VaJay 9 years, 11 months ago

As I recall, Kurt was a little woozy after the loudest hit I've ever heard, but the OSU player had to be helped off the field.

Stan Crown 9 years, 11 months ago

Glad somebody thought of him. Did his enforcing in basketball and football, including, if I'm not misremembering, the '69 Orange Bowl.

REHawk 9 years, 11 months ago

I'll keep my picks to basketball in the Bill Self era: Graves, Collins, Robinson, Jackson. They can all back up Andrea Hudy, who could bounce a step or two ahead of them in crucial tough situations!

1timbob 9 years, 11 months ago

Jake Sharp? No way Matt. That guy would fall on the first hit. What about Dana Stubbelfield or Gilbert Brown, Chris Maumalanga, L.T Levine, June Henley, Cornish, John Riggins, Kevin Kane, Jeff Graves, Nolan Cromwell, Alonzo Jamison, Bill Whittemore and Duhh the toughest guy we know Don Fambrough.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

Why don't you hit Jake first and see how that works out for you?

NJHAWK 9 years, 11 months ago

Raef Lafrentz.....just for taking down Jason Sutherland of Missery

Scott Smetana 9 years, 11 months ago

Played football at KU in the early 90's and the toughest hitter to me by far that was like hitting a brick wall was safety Gerald McBurroughs. I believe he played for the Cardinals for awhile. He gave me 3 concussions and I'm not sure he even felt my hits as a fullback.

ku_foaf 9 years, 11 months ago


I got a big kick out of the mention of Rufus R. Jones! What about Bob Geigle?? Rufus was from "Amarillo, Texas" they'd announce, but no one in Texas knew him. KC area celeb.

I was in Birmingham in '97. There was severe shock and ladies crying. No one thought we'd lose. Arizona bragged, and backed it up! I will always recall the Providence fans being jerks & yelling stuff at us, also at Chattanooga. We didn't even play them! We went back to cheer for AZ and at least enjoyed seeing PC get beat in the Regional Final. I still hate them.

packywacky88 9 years, 11 months ago

I got money in my pocket, and poke chops on the table!!! - R.R. Jones.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

lol - LOVE it! I forgot all about the "poke chops"!!

Hozzy11 9 years, 11 months ago

Even though he was a nice guy and all, I think Brandon McAnderson could do some damage to some people if he wanted too! At 5-10 235 that's a brick wall.

justinryman 9 years, 11 months ago

NIck Collison

Thomas Robinson

Darnell Jackson

and if they survive those three guys they can take on my ultimate degender,

Gilbert Brown.

1timbob 9 years, 11 months ago

Jake Sharp sucked! Nuleafjhawk I wouldn't have the guts to hit him in fear of him crying. However I would allow him to hit me just so he can feel like a big man.

nuleafjhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

I'm pretty sure you've never met him. I watched him play 4 years in High School and everyone that knows him - the first word they use to describe him is tough.

qringer 9 years, 11 months ago

Morris twins - at least good for throwing a football player or two down the stairs.

packywacky88 9 years, 11 months ago

Willie Pless. He was not very big, but he was scary tough. I was in the band during his time, and we were even afraid to step on the field with him.

HAWKS1 9 years, 11 months ago

Art Housey - 6'10", 7th degree Blackbelt and one bad mofo. Not a great basketball player but tougher than anyone I've ever seen personally. No player ever started anything with Housey 'cause they knew they would end up on the floor in severe pain. Victor Mitchell was a giant who was tough too, but I'd still take Housey. I'd say Danny Manning was a lot tougher than he got credit for too - not aggressively so but he stood his ground well. On the football field, I'd have to go with John Riggins.

ltownatrain 9 years, 11 months ago

Mike McCormack Gilbert Brown Steven Johnson I like John Riggins but for the sake of originality I will go with Brandon McAnderson as I am quite sure he could steam roll just about anybody.

Also I don't get why people keep saying Sayers...He's one of the last I want in a fight because if I was in a brawl I want to make sure I am faster than everyone else because then I could just outrun the others if we start losing.

Woody Cragg 9 years, 11 months ago

If a guy entered the lane to score on Big Clyde, he went DOWN!

justinryman 9 years, 11 months ago

Toben Opurum

Both sides of the ball he punishes people. And he does it for the name on the front of the Jersey not his own.

Bruce Brock 9 years, 11 months ago

Wow, I had somehow missed the story about Bill Nieder and the airplane wacko. Nieder helped take down a would-be terrorist at the age of 77, and with a bad hip to boot? As far as I'm concerned, everybody else mentioned here is competing for second place on the all-time KU tough-guy list.

Here's a link to the story, in case somebody else missed it too:

Dirk Medema 9 years, 11 months ago

“I was one of three guys who threw him down, but I’ve had problems with my hip, so I wasn’t one of the ones holding him down,” Nieder said. “Three guys were holding him down until the flight landed. He was well taken care of. I went back to my seat to sit down and his head was under my seat.”

He was well taken care of. Classic!

Dirk Medema 9 years, 11 months ago

No one mentions DZ. Didn't he lead the team in pancakes last year? Probably a result of his wrestling background. I seem to recall hearing that he is just a little crazy too.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 11 months ago

I'm forgetting which Penny it was, but one of them was a thrower for KU in the 50's (?). He was unassuming but use to make extra money during the off season working for his dad's ready mix plant. The extra money wasn't so much from a salary as it was from winning bets with the masons about being able to pick up the 1 cubic yard blocks of extra/waste concrete.

Dan Cook 9 years, 11 months ago

Good call on Pierre Russell to themole. Anyone remember Tommie Smith from hoops circa-1974? That guy is on my tough team.

buckleyhawk 9 years, 11 months ago

Moran Norris for sure. To this day strongest man by far I've ever seen in a weight room. Did triceps with 90-lb dumbbells -- Bill Bradsky-esque.

Also, Scott Russell, the big Canuck thrower for track and field. That guy is pretty much Mason Finley size.

jayhawkintexas 9 years, 11 months ago

For the life of me I can't remember the name but in there was a linebacker in the '70s (I think) that went up and punched Ralphie the Buffalo in the kisser at the University of Colorado. He also had a "greaser glove" that he used to use on guys with long greasy hair. That was one tough, mean dude!!

jayhawkintexas 9 years, 11 months ago

The name SteveTowle seems to be about right but I can't be sure if that is who I am thinking about.

Lance Hobson 9 years, 11 months ago

Kieth Loneker really was a nice guy, and is from what I hear. I assume he's still doing his acting gigs.

So, the only tough guy in the Roy Williams era is Jeff Graves. Roy coached the rest of them too softly. It's no coincidence that we nearly won a title with Graves roaming the lane.

Under Bill Self, well I'd say the list is too long to mention. I will say that I yelled "Rock Chalk" at Andrea Hudy while holding up my 4-month-old as she was getting on the bus to go to the Ohio State game in New Orleans. She looked up at me for about a half a second with an all business look that still gives me chills. Don't mess with her. Seriously.

Steve Hilker 9 years, 11 months ago

John Zook. Just a pure badass. Bobby Douglas. Have him for kickin in the door. Ray Evans. Took time off for WWII then came back. My dad. Teamate of Evans as a Freshman. Tight End. Played one year. Enlisted as a paratrooper. Wounded three different times. Never played again. Definitely had the skills you would want if things went South!

Justin LoBurgio 9 years, 11 months ago

Glen Mason Gilbert Brown Thomas Robinson Chris Maumalanga

scrumizzou 9 years, 11 months ago

Don't forget Ron Warner. Sacked QB to beat MU. Total stud.

Joe Ross 9 years, 11 months ago

Jeff Graves should be at the top of every list. Period. Travesty that he was left off.

UncleMiltyN 9 years, 11 months ago

Big Dub would certainly make my list.

I have a very vivid memory of him grabbing a held ball in the tourney and throwing the other guy into the seats.

mikehawk 9 years, 11 months ago

I don't really know the football players, so I can't comment there. Aside from that, I'll go with Sherron Collins, who if nothing else, could verbally AND physically intimidate anyone heading off most rumbles before they ever occured. If it came to blows, I think he would be a tough out there, also. But, Thomas Robinson had some sort of deep drive, chip on shoulder, "I'm trying to save what is left of my family" attitude. Wth his physical presence and size, I'll take Thomas Robinson.

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