64 Reunion: Jim Lindsey

In the first part of our season-long look back at the 1964 Razorbacks, Ken Hatfield calls Jim Lindsey the MVP for every member of the national championship team. The '64 Reunion is set for the Alabama game in Fayetteville.

How do you describe Jim Lindsey? Ken Hatfield thought about the question for a good minute like he had his quarterback next to him thinking of the best fourth-down play on the goal line. He wanted the answer to be perfect, because that’s how much he thinks of his teammate from the 1964 National champs at Arkansas.

“Jim Lindsey was MVP for every player on our team,” Hatfield said of the man who became a millionaire many times over with his real estate business.

“Yes, he was a big part of our championship team, but he was a big part of 22 straight Arkansas victories. A lot of us weren’t there for the ride the next year. He was and that’s one of the reasons they kept winning.

“But what Jim Lindsey meant to us was everything, both on and off the field. He was in the chow hall, to see who needed lifting up or some guidance. He was in the dorm to check on guys. And he was there on the field in clutch time to make the big play when everything was on the line.

“And, he’s been everyone’s MVP all these years, helping people when no one knew it. If he knew you, he was thinking of a way to help you. Some never knew it and that’s how Jim liked it. But we all know how he worked and did for others.”

Lindsey was thrilled when a reporter sat down with him for almost three hours in late July for a discussion about the 1964 team, the perfect Razorbacks with the Cotton Bowl victory over Nebraska and the post bowl awards for the national title. But the ground rules were clear. It would be questions about his teammates. He loved every second and was disappointed when the reporter bowed out.

“Let’s keep going,” Lindsey said, raising up from his easy chair to walk the reporter to the driveway. “If we can’t, come back tomorrow and let’s do it again. I love this. I love talking about these men.”

Really, Lindsey loves talking about anything Razorback. He is quick to point out that all of those that came before him – and that great bunch from Forrest City – set the table for the 1964 team.

“I can’t say what we did is any more important than the championships or the victories from all those others that played before we got there,” Lindsey said. “It all goes together. Those that came before us built it at Arkansas and made it special for us.”

There was a quick tip of the cap to Frank Broyles and a wonderful staff, including long-time assistant Wilson Matthews.

“I’d rate what Coach Broyles had as good as any staff I saw in the NFL,” Lindsey said. “They took advantage of what I thought was an intellectual team and coached them to play greater than the football talent. You had some genius type IQ levels on our team starting with Jimmy Johnson.”

To say anyone saw it coming in the summer of 1964 would be a stretch. A look at the media guide reveals question marks following the 1963 record of 5-5 record, 3-4 in the Southwest Conference. Here are the words of head coach Frank Broyles:

About the offensive backfield: “We’ll be playing the same men we had last year, so I’m hoping for the improvement that comes from experience. We have no depth, however, except at quarterback and are lacking speed … we have very little experience at tackle and our guards lack depth.”

On the defense: “The prospects really worry all of us here. We have absolutely no experience at end or tackle, and we’ve had to build a new backfield. Only at linebacker does the situation look encouraging. (The secondary) is the most inexperienced group we’ve had at Arkansas. It’ll be a real challenge to develop their confidence. Not since 1958 has there been an Arkansas team with so little defensive experience. It is critical in the line and in the secondary.”

There were better remarks about the special teams, wide receivers and center. But, clearly, there were no thoughts that 11-0 was about to happen.

Lindsey admits that, but said he knew one thing about everyone on the ‘64 team: they would fight. And, he meant that in a football sense.

“We had fighters, every one of us,” Lindsey said. “I mean they would fight you on the field, individually and as a unit. The competitive fight was there everywhere you look. You had heart and we had a lot of football players.

“To me, a football player is someone who is going to fight the man across you from the snap until the whistle. He’s going to do what it takes to beat that man across from him and make the plays. We had that kind of fight everywhere.

“Loyd Phillips would fight you. There was no one going to block him and he played in a rage. He was mad all the time. You look at Jimmy Johnson as our nose man, he was going to fight. Jerry Jones in the offensive line, the same way. I could go on and on. Fighters everyone of them.

“We had a fight drill. All it was, just one-on-one a fight. It would turn into a physical battle. Jimmy and a lot of our guys like Mutt Jones, they would fight until the end of the drill and it was 100 percent of those great defensive players. You didn’t want to get in a fight with any of them.”

And, he did. Basically, he described the traits of every team member over that three hours. Hawgs Illustrated will run those comments as we roll through this season, with a different game and separate features for the entire 11-0 campaign.

Was there national championship talent?

“We did have some talent,” Lindsey said. “We were not terribly fast all the way around, but we did have some speed. Loyd Phillips had speed for the position. So did Jim Williams. In fact, I’d call Jim a race horse of a defensive tackle. He ran down people and could chase the quarterback. Harry Jones had great track speed at wingback and safety on defense.

“Loyd Phillips was a super player. I always say, you may get a player like a Loyd Phillips once every 15 years if you are a real good program. First time I saw him practice, he just wiped out the other side of the line, the entire side. One man. You stop to see who that was because it was unreal.

“Loyd played in a different gear and just rose up to the big situation. It was a giant moment, he was there and he might be scratching someone’s eyes out while he did it.

“But we were not overly fast. I’d say we did have quickness and, of course, the fight to go with it.”

Fight, heart, attitude, desire and all of those other intangibles are there at every position. Lindsey said it shows in the way all have prospered in business.

“Jerry Jones, you knew was going to be successful,” Lindsey said. “I knew our coaches, many who became great head coaches, were going to go on and do well. It was all there to see and we all knew it. Jimmy Johnson was as brilliant of a player as you would ever find. He was going to be a great coach.

“Now I didn’t know that Jerry Jones would ever be back in football because I felt he was going to do well in business. But maybe I’d have predicted that he would find a way to get back to football by 35. I might have said that.”

There were gems sprinkled in about many of the other standouts, like Bobby Crockett. Lindsey said, “He’d dive on a gravel road and come up with the ball.”

On assistant coach Barry Switzer, a man Lindsey called a great guy, “He kept so many of us out of trouble. He was always there in the dorm, our go between to the rest of the staff. He was a suck up, but smart as hell, more of a teammate than our coach.”

On Matthews, he said, “Real smart, who delivered spontaneous love — and you could feel it when he screamed it across the field!” And, maybe those words weren’t always delivered lovingly.

On Hatfield, Lindsey raised his eyebrows for emphasis and said, “The punt return with Kenny, a thing of beauty, north south for five yards to make the first wave miss, then, a cut to leave ‘em laying on the grass, then quick as a blink to the wall and GONE!”

Hatfield said wait a minute, maybe a bit much.

“I wasn’t the best punt returner,” he said. “I wasn’t even supposed to be the punt returner in ‘64. All I was trying to do was catch them all. You let them hit, it comes out to an average of 16 yards in lost yardage. Today, with explosive offenses, you can make that up. In our days, that’s a lot of yards.

“There were better punt returners than me, like Lance Alworth. He led the country. Joe Adams was better. I’m not in that category.”

Yet, when Lindsey got to the Minnesota Vikings, the first thing famed head coach Bud Grant asked, “Tell me about that Hatfield. Tell us how to make one of our guys run back a punt like that.”

Lindsey was quick to point out that there weren’t any Ken Hatfields with the Vikings.

“I never saw another one,” Lindsey said. “Ken was the best, no one like him. He was fearless as that first wave got there. It didn’t bother him to have everything blowing up around him. He caught it and then made them miss. I told Bud, ‘Find one that will go north and south first and that’s the first step to match Kenny.’ They all want to run to the sideline to get to the wall.

“Kenny could freeze the first man. But I told Bud, the first thing Kenny was going to do was catch it every time.”

Hatfield – with five returns over 70 yards – blushed when told all of that. But he did say going north-south was his advantage.

“They have you if that’s where you go first,” Hatfield said. “That first wave is spread out and they will run you into the sideline and have you.”

But the Arkansas way was clear, there would be great speed on defense to provide the right blocking.

“You did have linemen who could get back and block on the punt return,” Hatfield said. “We worked so much on punt returns. That’s how you lead the nation in punt returns.

Back to Lindsey, Hatfield said, “If you go back to the national title game, there were the two big catches in the winning drive, the last for 28 yards to the 5-yard line. You see that play, he outran all of the Nebraska guys.’

Some called it a miracle catch, miracle in that Lindsey turned just at the last instant to grab Fred Marshall’s pass just as it came over his shoulder as he ran down the middle of the field.

“I don’t know how, but I could reach up and grab those at the last second,” Lindsey said. “I caught a lot of balls like that. You knew it was going to be there. Freddy could put it right in that perfect spot and you’d just reach up as it came over your shoulder. I guess I was blessed with quick reaction.”

One of those that came before Lindsey who knows him best is Harold Horton. He got to know him as a head coach at Forrest City when Lindsey would winter during his Vikings years.

“What you need to know first about Jim Lindsey, he’s going to buy lunch,” Horton laughed. “Don’t try. He’ll probably get the check at the tables around him, too, if he can get to them.

“I saw Jim play in high school, college and in the pros. He kept getting better and he was always good. He got better and stronger athletically, it seemed like, every year.

“I think he played at 202 as a sophomore and that was big for then, but he got bigger. And he was a big back.”

Lindsey may not have been as coveted coming out of high school as his older brother Bee, a pro baseball signee. Horton has heard the story about his commitment to the Razorbacks many times.

“I think Jim told it to me first, but I’ve heard it from about all in his family,” Horton said. “He committed to Coach Matthews when he was offered. But they asked him to come for a visit anyway. Jim’s dad said, ‘I don’t know if that’s a good idea, son, I’m afraid when they see you, they will take back the scholarship.’ That one has been told a bunch and I’m sure it’s true.”

It would have been the biggest mistake anyone at Arkansas ever made.

“Jim made it big and he’s helped the entire state of Arkansas every step of the way,” Horton said. “Jim has been the angel who has helped so many, including me. He may not remember all of them because there are so many.

“It goes back to the way he was raised. That’s just in him. And, he’s a Razorback through and through.”

Arkansas coaches have been asking Lindsey to talk to their teams for many years. Bobby Petrino was in tears after Lindsey delivered his speech during a spring meeting about what it means to be a Razorback. Lindsey delivered the same message for Bret Bielema’s team in the last few months. Houston Nutt thinks the world of Lindsey, noting his quick action when a new weight room and team meeting facility was needed.

“Coach Broyles wanted to know what we needed and Mr. Lindsey was on it the next day,” Nutt said. “It was always that way with Mr. Lindsey. Ask and you will receive.”

Horton said Lindsey could have been a great coach.

“He was a GA for Coach Broyles, maybe during the off months with the Vikings,” Horton said. “He was a great recruiter. I went with him to Norman, Okla., to get Bill McClard. Jim signed him.”

Lindsey loved the thought of coaching, but knew he would not be able to abide by NCAA rules.

“I would have given players anything they wanted,” Lindsey said. “I know I wouldn’t have made it.”

That’s Jim Lindsey, looking for a way to be MVP to everyone.

Jim Lindsey and Barry Switzer

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