Ken Hatfield looked to be in a tough spot at the lettermen's tribute for retiring athletic director Frank Broyles. He wasn't on great terms with Broyles when he left his job as Arkansas head football coach to take the same job at Clemson.
But there he was, the fourth speaker out of nine at the fish fry Friday night before the football game with South Carolina. And, he had the former players under Broyles (and a crowd of around 550) rolling with laughter in the East side indoor club seats.
Hatfield, captain of the 1964 national champs, talked about the many highlights with the Hogs as both a player and head coach. He thanked Broyles for speaking at his high school banquet and for sending assistant Wilson Matthews to Helena to make a scholarship offer.
But the highlight was when Hatfield spoke about the high-octane way Broyles spoke of him as head football coach at Razorback Club banquets around the state. Finally, Hatfield recalls, he asked Broyles after one of those dinners, "Coach, you love me, but when we have a bunch of injuries, maybe we lose two quarterbacks, and we are 5-5, will you still love me then?"
Hatfield, with the place dead quiet, delivered the best punch line of the night. He said, "Frank told me, ‘I will still love you, but I will miss you, too.'"
Hatfield did turn to Broyles at his conclusion, they shook hands and embraced.
It was a remarkable night. Along with Hatfield, other lettermen returning to speak were Scott Bull, Doug Dickey, Chuck Dicus, Jesse Branch, Harold Horton, Jim Lindsey, Barry Switzer and Jerry Jones. Broyles capped the night with a 15-minute thank-you speech that included an introduction of his replacement, Jeff Long, followed by a quick acknowledgement of Broyles' legacy by Long.
As he's done so many times in his almost 50 years as coach and athletic director at Arkansas, Broyles said, "I've lived a charmed life. All my years have been very special, but my 17 years as head coach were the best of my life."
Broyles also covered other parts of his career, including his days as an assistant coach at Baylor, straight out of the military, actually, a few weeks early courtesy of an early-release.
"Bob Woodruff hired me and I was 22," he said, noting that it was just after war time with many older players on the Baylor roster.
"So I had a fake resume. I said I was 25," Broyles said. "I didn't want all of the players thinking they were older then I was. They all did think I looked very young."
That was the start of 61 years of coaching/athletic administration. Broyles wore his usual Razorback-red blazer, with a red tie. He seemed to enjoy every second. He seemed as excited at the end as he was for the start of an event that lasted well over three hours. He told stories about his famous relationship with Darrell Royal, one of the few close coaching friends not there. Royal has been ill with cancer and heart trouble.
"We were such great friends," Broyles said. "We never talked (football) during all of those golf matches over the summers. But, once he asked me, 'Were you stealing our offensive signals back in '71.' I told him, ‘I'll tell you if you tell me if you were stealing our offensive signals in '62.' He said, 'Yes,' and I quickly said, 'Yes' too. So help me, that was the only time we talked football."
Broyles mentioned two of those close to the lettermen, former trainer Bill "Groundhog" Ferrell and assistant coach Wilson Matthews, both deceased.
"Wilson had a great knack for motivating young people," Broyles said and the place erupted in laughter again. Then, Broyles admitted that there were more than a few times that Matthews' language was too salty.
Horton, who played and coached for Broyles, talked about his style as head coach. He said he joined his teammates in taking a peek of Broyles in his coaching tower.
"We looked up to see if he had dozed off," Horton said. "And, we thought he might fall out of the tower. We looked up there as assistant coaches, too, to see if he was awake."
Jones talked about his summer job as a campaign aide for Orval Faubaus. He said, "They told me about what I was going to do around the state, then introduced me to Billy Moore." What a summer, he said.
Switzer made reference to Moore, too. He said the All-America quarterback was responsible for both "good and bad" moments on campus.
Switzer, the former Oklahoma head coach, opened his remarks with references to the Hogs' 31-6 victory over the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.
"I talk to Larry Lacewell," Switzer said of his former OU assistant and Arkansas resident. "He tells me they celebrate that victory about every two years and it might go to every year soon. I told him I can't blame them. I tell you, I paid a helluva price that night.
"I am telling you, I am in this family. I look around this room and see all of you, I am in this family."
With that, Switzer called the names of a dozen or so teammates sitting in front of him.
"You are special," he said. "There are lots of great programs around the country, some elite places. But the one you were raised in, this one can't be replaced. It's a special family."
Switzer talked about joining the Army after graduation from the UA. He was offered a grad assistant's job, but wasn't scheduled to get out until well into the fall.
"I was one of those six-monthers," he said. "I got a call to come back and I told them I wasn't going to be out in time."
It worked out when he got an early release courtesy of Congressmen Wilbur Mills.
"Frank talked to Wilbur," he said. "What happened is I started a lifetime of coaching, thanks to Frank … if it hadn't been for Frank, I wouldn't be here (as a Hall of Fame coach). I would have traveled a much different road. You think about someone like Bob Stoops. His father was a coach, his brothers were coaches. He was pre-destined to coach. If I'd been like my father, I'd been a bootlegger in south Arkansas and ended up in the pen."
Among the throng were many former coaches, including Merv Johnson, the offensive line coach for many years under Broyles, including with the 1964 national champs. There was also Doug Dickey, the former Florida and Tennessee coach, the last assistant hired by Broyles for his Arkansas staff in 1958.
"That was my first job," Dickey said. "He got me out of the Army, got me an early release. Actually, he got me transferred to the Arkansas Army National Guard. We weren't at war so I could serve my time there as easily as the Army.
"Frank was a great, great person to work for. What I can tell you, he was an innovator, but he stuck to the techniques. He had a booklet on techniques.
"There were 10 or 12 basic techniques he believed in. First, he coached the coaches. And, if we were at practice and he was there with you and you weren't coaching it right, he taught you again that night. He let you coach, but he made sure you were coaching it his way."
Dickey was a defensive coach along with Jim Mackenzie and Wilson Matthews on that six-man staff. He recalled the scheme the Hogs used late in the year to knock off SMU and quarterback Don Meredith.
"We added a fifth defensive linemen, and pulled both tackles," he said. "We basically had all of our defensive ends on the field, our best pass rushers. That did it. We put a lot of pressure on Meredith. It worked pretty well."
That was a trying season for the young staff. The Hogs lost their first six games, then won their last four. Broyles opened his remarks to conclude the night by thanking the seniors from the '58 team "for not quitting on me. You stuck with me and I am grateful. Our seniors, led by our captains, Richard Bell and Billy Michael, are the reason I'm here. They believed in us."
Lindsey was proud that 32 members of the '64 team were there. He reminded the group that they "probably weren't very good, but we did win 22 straight games. We did shutout the last five opponents to end the '64 season. That may never be done again, five straight shutouts."
Many talked of the physical buildings built during the Broyles time as athletic director, with several pointing down into the stadium from the indoor club. What a place, they all said.
However, Scott Bull pointed a different direction. He pointed at the crowd, including the Broyles family.
"Building all these facilities is an awesome part of your legacy, Coach Broyles," Bull said. "But that's not what I'll remember. I'll think about all the lives you touched, all across the country.
"Leadership, honesty, integrity — he taught us all of those things. We left here and went across the country representing him and Arkansas. He brought pride to our university, the Razorbacks and to our state. That's what he means to me."
Many top former players did not speak, but were glad to share thoughts with reporters.
"What I remember was that Coach Broyles gave the players great assistant coaches, let them coach and then was right over their shoulder to help if they needed it," said Tommy Trantham. "You think of who I had, Johnny Majors and Hootine Ingram, those were great coaches. Coach Broyles got them here and let them do their thing.
"This is just an awesome night for Coach. I think what you know as a former player of his, you go anywhere in the country and you are going to hear great things about your coach. It's a great feeling. And, then to think you might have had a very small part in all of that, and what has happened here, that's awesome."
Joe Ferguson said, "This is a lot of players; to have this many players come back is great. There are a wide range of ages here so you know he covered a long time and impacted a lot of people. What a turnout. People appreciate him. You can feel that.
"I recall when he recruited me. There were a lot of others coming to see me, but the class you felt with Coach was above all of the rest."
Fred Akers, an Arkansas player later to serve as Texas head coach said, "Nobody else in the country would command this reaction. I'm so proud to be here. Coach Broyles has helped so many people through the years. He helped me throughout my career. He was available always for me. He was a great, great mentor for me. I was at Texas, but I could call and he could call me. Sometimes he called to tell me he'd seen something he didn't think was right and wanted to help me. So I really didn't have to ask sometimes.
"You see these facilities and you have to realize that it's not just automatic for them to happen. Go around the country and see what they have other places. No one, not any school, has it all together like this. Every sport has the best here. Some have it nice for one or two, but not every sport. He ignited it. He brought it together and then took them and made them better. He's represented our state in a wonderful way all of these years."
Lindsey talked about the low debt of the athletic department compared to others around the SEC, noting that those with higher debt will take 40 years of amortization to cover the price of their facilities and the Hogs will have their buildings paid for in another 12.
Hatfield said the most important thing Broyles gave his players was confidence that they were well prepared. Others mentioned the same thing.
"The first thing that comes to mind is the confidence that there was no doubt if we did what you said, we'd win," Hatfield said. "We all knew that if we played the way we were coached, we'd win and be champions."
Many noted the large numbers in their class, but the low numbers of seniors. At least one mentioned, "Coach, your graduation rate wasn't great," to the roars of the crowd.
"There were 50 that came in and only 14 stayed around," Hatfield said.
Jones said, "Everyone wanted to come here, but I saw some great, great athletes leave the room. I will say, the best did stay."
Jones said he understands that football is big business as a professional owner, but he said Broyles understood it quicker than most at the college level.
"We saw what he was doing, he was a multitasker," he said. "He'd be coaching one minute, then gone the next to go to Pine Bluff or someplace to raise money. You'd have to be blind not to have seen it. And, you also knew that no one was his peer at designing offensive football. But with all of that, he saw the big picture. He knew he had to have financing."
Then, Jones talked about the future with Broyles as a mentor for new AD Jeff Long.
"Some would view this as a setback," Jones said. "But with this new AD, he's going to absolutely get a great assistant. And, if he doesn't hear what he needs to do from you, he'll hear it from us. Your influence over us will influence him."
Players from Broyles era pay tribute
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