Q&A: Neill Armstrong Talks About Bob Fenimore

The picture of the two All-Americans shaking hands is a college football classic. Two-time All-American Bob Fenimore, the Blond Bomber of Oklahoma State fame that dominated college football in the mid-1940s with his prowess on offense and defense passed away from cancer at age 84 on Wednesday, is shown shaking hands with former college teammate and longtime friend Neill Armstrong.

The two shook hands before every kickoff and it is a memory frozen in the minds of many Oklahoma State fans and college football historians. The school was known as Oklahoma A&M at the time and Fenimore would go on to own some 60 school records and many conference and national marks.

Playing tailback in the Aggies' single-wing offense, Fenimore accumulated 1,758 yards to lead the nation in total offense in 1944 while also finishing in the top 10 in rushing (899 yards), passing (997 yards) and scoring (77 points). Nicknamed the "Blond Bomber," he finished ninth in the Heisman voting that season.

During the Aggies' undefeated season in 1945, Fenimore was the nation's leader with 1,119 yards rushing and 1,641 yards of total offense. He ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in the Sugar Bowl, which pitted Fenimore against Herman Wedemeyer of Saint Mary's -- who finished fourth in the Heisman voting. Army's vaunted duo of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis finished first and second that year.

We spoke with Neill Armstrong about his teammate and friend.

GP: We know you thought so much of Bob Fenimore.
Armstrong: He's just a great part of Oklahoma State, just the best of all time. I was talking with one of my sons yesterday and telling him about Bob passing away and he said, ‘Well he didn't have a big ego.' Everybody was always happy to see Bob get the accolades that he got because he didn't wear it on his sleeve and everybody had a lot of respect for him.

GP: What was it like playing in those days because you all went to the Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl and racked up so many wins? You all truly were Saturday heroes.
Armstrong: Well, it was a lot of fun when Bob and I went there. We got there on the same day in 1943 as freshmen. We were all 17-year-olds and playing as freshmen, so our freshman year I think we only played about seven games. We jelled as a team and we had some good coaches there in Jim Lookabaugh, Jack Baker and Toby Greene. Of course, we were all just thankful to be there and glad to have a scholarship to play football at Oklahoma A&M.

GP: With the Sugar Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, you all played in the biggest stadiums college football offered.
Armstrong: We thought they were and, of course, it was down at the Sugar Bowl and then down at the Cotton Bowl it was great thing to do that, to be able to play in two bowls in a row. We had a great bunch of guys that we played with, and Bob and I both felt fortunate to have played on teams of that nature.

GP: Bob Fenimore was so versatile as a player, wasn't he?
Armstrong: He was. He returned punts too and punted. I think some of those records may not ever be broken. Of course, his running records have been broken but Bob did everything. He threw the ball and he ran, and he was a good forward passer. He would say he wasn't a good passer, but he was. I caught a few of them and I always thought they were good. At times, he made me look good. He always told me I made him look good because I would go up high and catch them one-handed. It was always there or I wouldn't have been able to catch them at all.

GP: I know you recently had a chance to see him one last time when you were in Oklahoma for a special event.
Armstrong: That was a real good drive that we made up there. It was the wedding of our granddaughter in Oklahoma City and we thought we needed to drive up there and see Bob, and we had several hours that we visited with him and he seemed to enjoy it and so did we.

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