Stanford Football "All-70s Team": Fullback

The Bootleg is proud to present the second position unveiling for our "Stanford Football All-1970s" team. Aware that we may cause a mild storm of Cardinal constituent controversy, we have given a lot of thought and consideration to our various selections, which we admit came after no small amount of internal anguish and second-guessing. Feel free to tell us how we are right or wrong!

The Bootleg's "Stanford Football All-70s Team": Fullback

Sometimes a project blows up into something bigger than originally planned. I started compiling a list of candidates for a series of Stanford Football All-Decade Teams several months ago and since that time have had conversations and correspondence with countless former players in order to get critical feedback, anecdotes and suggestions from multiple sources. In making the choices, we tried to consider a player's individual contribution in a particular decade, which for this particular purpose we defined as years '0 through ‘9 (e.g. 1970 through 1979). Some outstanding players straddle more than one decade and unfortunately that may have worked against them in a few instances.

The selection criteria are subjective, but include minutes played, letters won, statistical production, records set,  prime-time performances, national and all-conference honors,  contributions to team success, demonstrated leadership skills, respect commanded from fellow teammates and various other factors. Good fortune or ability to avoid of injury was clearly a factor. There are a lot of "should- have-been" stories, some of them disappointing, some sad, some truly tragic. Some players inevitably gain some grade inflation from the success of their teams and teammates, but some players who played on less successful squads, nevertheless deserved credit and consideration. We know there are many talented student-athletes who have played their hearts out for Stanford University. We apologize in advance if we offend any deserving former player or former player's family members, teammates and friends. This series is designed to stimulate discussion, encourage debates, and surface forgotten anecdotes for the enjoyment of our readers.

Let's continue with the "Fullback" position.  We chose to break out the "fullback" position as a separate group from "running backs/tailbacks". The year shown in parentheses are to remind our readers of a player's primary years as a player during the decade, not necessarily the exact years they were technically on a team, while redshirting or waiting for playing time.

The "All-70s" Fullback:


First Team: Phil Francis (1976-78)

Second Team: Hillary Shockley (1970-71)

Honorable Mention: Scott Laidlaw (1972-74)

When selecting a fullback for our All-70s team, a selection of one player over another must take into account the player's ability to perform in the role he is asked to fill. Some fullbacks are strictly blockers and short-yardage specialists. In other systems, a fullback can be a featured ball-carrier. It is important that the fullback pair well with a running back, to be complimentary weapon and offer a definite change of pace. Ball security is usually valued at a premium.

Honorable Mention: Scott Laidlaw (1972-74)

If you consider powerful and quick Robert "Scott" Laidlaw a true fullback, which he was in 1973 and 1974, and if that was what your offense needed in a particular year, then a compelling argument could be made to go with the rugged former Dallas Cowboy. Laidlaw, who grew up in Inglewood near Los Angeles and later moved to Menlo Park, was a heckuva football player as would be evidenced by his long and accomplished career in the NFL. He could be a feature back or a short-yardage man. A capable receiver, the three-time letterman Laidlaw probably could have been more of a star in a different offensive system. #33 led the team in rushing in both 1973 and 1974 and would finish his career as Stanford's fourth all-time leading ground-gainer with a 4.4 rushing average, very respectable numbers for a fullback in those days. A great teammate who rarely complained, he just did his job.

As a senior in '74, Laidlaw was eighth in the Pac-8 in rushing as a 12-game starter at fullback, as the Cardinal finished last in the conference in rushing and nevertheless finished #2 in the final conference standings, with only a 34-10 loss to eventual 1974 UPI national champion USC (quarterbacked in competent fashion by current Trojan AD Pat Haden, who threw for just 51 yards, but handed off to Tailback U's Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, and various other really fast guys for a total of 295 yards rushing) preventing the otherwise unscathed Indians from a third Rose Bowl appearance in five years. Unfortunately, USC and UCLA for the most part, were dominating the conference in the immediate post-Ralston years and because of that, Laidlaws' teams would never manage to finish in the national Top-20.

We spoke with Laidlaw's teammate, tight end Brad Williams (1973-74), who offered the following: "Scott was a really tough runner and a ferocious blocker. He had soft hands out of the backfield and was fast and very smart.  A good leader who was voted a team captain of our '74 team that finished in second place in the Pac-8 Conference that year. He was a tremendous competitor."

Laidlaw won the prestigious "Frank Rehm Award" as the outstanding Cardinal back in the 1973 Big Game, scored Stanford's first touchdown in the dramatic last-second 1974 Big Game victory, and later played in the 1974 Blue-Gray All-Star Classic. He would be drafted by Dallas in the 14th round of the 1974 NFL draft, eventually proving that selection to have been a pretty nice steal, playing five seasons for the Cowboys and one year with the New York Giants (1980).

Second Team: Hillary Shockley (1970-71)

At 6-1, 220, Hillary Edwin Shockley
had good size to go along with his speed and Roger Craig-style high-knee action. Looking back, it is pretty hard to believe that the future three-time Stanford letterman was not recruited heavily. He ended up making it to Stanford University on his own, coming on an academic scholarship. Shockley had made the All-Southern League team at Los Angeles High in 1967, where 20 years before Stanford "How Boy" end Jack Rye had achieved the very same distinction. Coincidentally, Los Angeles High School, the oldest high school in Los Angeles and one of Stanford University's all-time athletic "feeder schools" produced two of the greatest athletes in school history - Stanford Athletics Hall of Famers Phil Moffatt, an All-American defensive back in 1930, and his multi-sport high school teammate and pal Harlow Rothert! And if that wasn't enough, LAHS also sent us Mowatt Mitchell, captain of the 1909 rugby team, his younger brother Stan Mitchell, who lettered from 1908 to 1910, Louis Cass, captain of the 1912 rugby team, halfback Guy Dennis, who lettered in 1922 & 1923, halfback Ed Garnier, who lettered in 1936 & 1937, halfback "Wow Boy" Al Cole, who lettered in 1940 and 1941 (and who was at LAHS at the same time as the great singer Mel "The Velvet Fog" Tormé), and pass-catching end Joel Freis, who lettered three times from 1956 to 1958! Pretty amazing legacy. Interesting to note that the popular 1970s television show Room 222 was filmed at LAHS. Anyway, back to the talented Mr. Shockley...

#38 had a quick start and was a tough guy to bring down. With his speed and fluidity, he could have easily passed for a tailback. As a freshman, Shockley did not lose a single yard while leading the 1969 freshman team in rushing. He was the outstanding offensive player on that squad. He was certainly more of a "play-maker" than most fullbacks of his day, as evidenced by his memorable momentum-sparking 43-yard TD run on national television against Arkansas in 1970, part of a spectacular day that saw him rush 23 times for 117 yards and three TDs! Man, Shockley sure liked season-openers! His 52-yard, tackle-breaking score in the 1971 season opener at Missouri, when he literally bowled over Tigers defensive back Lorenzo Brinkley at the 30-yard-line, sparked the Bunce-led Indians to an impressive tone-setting road win over the host Tigers.

As a junior on the 1970 Rose Bowl team, Shockley would share the load evenly with his backfield buddy Jackie Ray Brown, a fellow junior from Davis High in Yakima, Wash. The two were nearly inseparable on campus and remain close friends to this day), but would still manage to finish fifth in the Pacific 8 Conference in rushing with 642 yards (he had only a 3.6 yard average since he was often called upon in short-yardage situations and for the "blast" and sweep plays of which offensive coordinator Mike White was so fond). "Shock" and Brown, who is also on our All-70s squad at running back (sorry, we can't reveal which team quite yet), were a dynamic duo, a touchdown machine tandem with each scoring eight rushing touchdowns that year. Shockley was also the team's fourth-leading receiver in 1970 with 22 catches and a score.

That Stanford's two starting running back had such success in 1970-71 was all the more remarkable because the heavy emphasis the Indians offensive line coaches placed on pass-blocking. Shockley, who got up to 230 and could bench-press 400 pounds by his junior year (more than most of the offensive linemen). Brown and Shockley had to become outstanding blockers in their own right and indeed they learned to enjoy blocking for each other. Shockley feels the two had a special bond as backfield mates: "He would block for me, I would block for him. That is how we would get our yards."

Fullbacks need to be tough and Shockley certainly was, playing the first four games of his junior year with a broken bone in his right hand and recurring knee problems. In bone-chilling 25-degree weather during a November, 1970 31-14 loss at Air Force's Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Shockley was a true warrior in defeat, somehow managing to gain 112 yards on 28 carries and score two first-half touchdowns in utterly miserable, frozen-field conditions as the Indians had a 14-10 led at the half. Despite battling injuries much of the season, Shockley was named Honorable Mention All-Coast in 1970 and was expected to emerge as a star for the Tribe in '71.

Wait a minute... Shockley teamed with Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame running back Jackie Brown to help Stanford put together the program's only two consecutive Rose Bowl-winning seasons, right? So how does Shockley end up "only" as The Bootleg's second-team choice on the "All-70s Team"? Well, it is a bit complicated. His playing time and production dropped precipitously in his senior season of 1971 as he was called upon only 38 times for 160 rushing yards. 22 of those 38 carries would come in the first two games, including that previously-mentioned 52-yard touchdown run against Missouri. That was the Indians' first touchdown in a season that would end in a dramatic 13-12 Rose Bowl win against Michigan.

As the 1971 season progressed, touches started going more and more to Brown, Reggie Sanderson (including a memorable 80-yard touchdown romp against USC!), and expected superstar speedster John Winesberry (later known as "Shaheed Nurridin" and who sadly succumbed to cancer in July of 2005). Fortune would not be on Hillary's side in '71. As he struggled with injuries, even back-up and fellow senior Jim Kehl, an earlier transfer from the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, Calif. and the blocking back who handed the ball forward through Jackie Brown's legs on the famously successful fake field goal run Brown made in the fourth quarter of the 1972 Rose Bowl against Michigan, would get more carries than "Shock" in his final year. 

But to be honest, it was more than a question of playing time... Shockley would battle what was reported to be an ankle sprain, which later turned out to be a serious and painful bone chip in his ankle. Second-year offensive backs coach Dave Currey and Shockley did not always see eye-to-eye and there were clearly some communication problems. In the end, he was asked to play on his weakened wheel before he felt he was reasonably capable and this led to the generation of some negative feelings within the proud young Philosophy major, who was not alone on the Indians team in feeling that African-American players occasionally were treated as "machines" and expected to come back from injury more quickly than white players. 

The early 1970s were a time of great change and a certain amount of social turmoil. Shockley was a bright, independent-minded young man. It must be remembered that he was not even on an athletic scholarship at the time. He elected to leave the Stanford football team just two days before the 1972 Rose Bowl, despite a last-minute appeal from head coach John Ralston, a rather unfortunate, premature ending to his often brilliant football career at Stanford. 

Without question, we would take Hillary Shockley as our first choice in goal-line situations. He had a nose for the end zone and refused to be denied. If one were to extrapolate his career's touchdown productivity, taking into account the games he missed with injuries, he more than likely would have set a new school mark for rushing touchdowns and held onto it for a long, long time. We asked Shockley about his TD-producing prowess and he summed it up for us: "I admit I took great pride in getting into the end zone. To be honest, I was never stopped on the goal line - you can look back at the films - never!"

First Team: Phil Francis (1976-78)

It was a close vote, one of the closest at any offensive position, but in what may be viewed by some as at least mildly controversial, our choice as "First-Team Fullback Of The 70s" is Phillip Kevin Francis because he was so remarkably versatile and dangerous as a "triple-threat" (rushing, receiving and blocking) and because he provided exactly what his team needed from him, both on and off the field.  

As a 6-1, 205-pound sophomore in 1976, the native of Beaverton, Oregon was the second-leading rusher on the Indians Varsity (behind only starting fullback Don Stevenson) with a 4.5-yard average and two touchdowns. As a junior in 1977, #37 split time with another mighty-fine fullback, John Finley, starting just four of the 12 games that season after suffering a concussion early in the opener at Colorado (Bill Walsh's first game as head coach) and battling persistent tendonitis in his hip. Still, he contributed significantly, finishing third in rushing and fourth in receiving on a team that would finish #15 in the final AP Poll. Francis scored the Cardinal's first and second touchdowns in 1977's 80th Big Game, a 21-3 victory for the good guys, but it would be Phil's superb senior season that would turn heads and redefine the fullback position at Stanford.

Despite missing two games with injury in 1978, Francis was an invaluable "chains-mover" catching 49 balls for 378 yards during his senior season…as a fullback, mind you. He finished third on the squad in receptions, behind only Margerum's 53 catches and Darrin Nelson's 50. Margerum and Nelson would each make First-Team All-Pac-10. The highs for receptions by a fullback would be just 12 and 15 the next two years after Francis graduated. He was selected Honorable Mention All-Coast, but somehow was left off the All-Pac-10 team in the initial year of the expanded conference. The Cardinal's outstanding 1978 team may have been as talented as either Rose Bowl-winning squad. The Cardinal lost by just six to the final AP Poll's #1-ranked USC, by six to the final AP Poll's #3-ranked Oklahoma on a last-play interception, by just one point to #12 UCLA, and finally by three to Washington, 34-31, on a field goal with just 14 seconds left. All together, that meant William Walsh & Co. were just 16 points away from an undefeated regular season and possible national championship.

Anyway, back to Francis - there may have been better "traditional" fullbacks during the decade and he was never the scoring sensation Shockley was, but one of the main reasons Phil Francis makes our "All-70s" first team, despite having just one 100-yard rushing day (when he almost single-handedly carried the Card with 135 yards and a score on 28 carries in a 22-16 win at WSU in 1976), is his demonstrated ability to meet the team's specific need, to excel in the emerging "West Coast Offense" that Bill Walsh would develop further at Stanford and later perfect with the San Francisco 49ers. He made a very good 1978 team darn near great. He probably would have carried the ball a lot more had it not been for the presence of record-breaking All-American tailback Darrin Nelson in the same backfield.

Francis was chosen, along with quarterback and 1978 NCAA passing champion Steve Dils and middle linebacker and Bluebonnet Bowl Defensive MVP Gordy Ceresino, to play in the 1979 Shrine East-West game and played in a fairly obscure 1978 all-star game known as the "Challenge Bowl", which we are admittedly "challenged" to recall many details about. He would be drafted in the seventh round of the 1979 NFL draft by the Walsh-coached San Francisco 49ers (who also signed Ceresino, Gene Engle, Mitch Pleis and Savann Thompson as free agents), and played two seasons, but despite a truly outstanding mustache, did not stick in the pros.

1977 consensus All-American quarterback Guy Benjamin couldn't disagree with our choice  "We never had anyone truly dominant [like a Brad Muster in the 80s]
Francis certainly isn't a guy you would depend on to ‘carry' the offense, like some of the top QBs, receivers, and tailbacks, but if asked which 'fullback' you would want on your team, you're right, I would pick Francis."

Francis' backfield mate during the 1977 and 1978 seasons, all-purpose phenomenon Darrin Nelson (who has a decent shot of getting picked as part of this "All-70s Team" at running back), had this to say about his former teammate: "Needless to say, Phil Francis was perfect for the 'West Coast Offense'. He had great hands, was probably one of the quickest fullbacks in college football, and he could block as well. Phil had a knack of always getting me to relax during my freshman year. I guess he could see I was a little nervous freshman year and made a point to always tell a joke and get me to laugh before games. He always seemed calm, cool and collected during games and that was something I wanted to emulate. Phil was ridiculously funny and sarcastic and made my first two years at Stanford truly enjoyable!"

Francis, whose nick-name on the team was "Face" (the origin of which apparently requires a couple of cold ones at Zott's) was a really "cool character" as well. All-American wide receiver Ken Margerum recalls how Francis went a bit against the mainstream grain. "Phil was the only teammate I ever saw smoke a cigarette on the sidelines when the defense was on the field. We would be sitting on the bench resting and when the other team punted, 'Face' would put out his cigarette, twist it in the grass, and go play the next series. Then we would come off the field after a touchdown drive and he would go back and sit at the same place on the bench, light up the same butt and finish it!" Only in the 70s!

In the end, we could have gone with any these three outstanding fullbacks, in interchangeable order. As always, some difficult, gut-wrenching decisions had to be made, and fortunately, The Bootleg is just the crew to make those tough calls!

Reiteration of Our Special Request: Please do us a favor and refrain from engaging in "pre-debate" our remaining "All-Decade" choices before we publish each position. We considered releasing the entire "All-70s" team in one fell swoop, but decided it would be more fun and less overwhelming to do it by individual position. At one point during fall ball, a well-meaning Bootie started polling people on this very subject, but we were already deep into the project and didn't want to spoil things.

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