Editor's Note: The Bootleg is proud to present this outstanding vintage article by the late local newspaper legend Walt Gamage as it originally appeared in Editor Peter Grothe's outstanding, but long-out-of-print 1952 compilation of essays, Great Moments in Stanford Sports. The Bootleg is profoundly grateful to our longtime friend Mr. Grothe for having given us specific permission to re-publish these wonderful, long-forgotten articles, refresh the memories of our veteran Stanford followers, and open the stories up to a new generation of Cardinal football fans.
Bill McColl…225 Pounds of Greatness
By Walt Gamage
Walt Gamage, sports editor of the [now defunct] Palo Alto Times, is a man very close to the Stanford athletic picture. Besides holding down his job at the Times, he is also Stanford sports correspondent for the San Francisco Examiner and the Associated Press. Gamage, a good friend of Bill McColl's, tells why the All-American end holds a special niche in Stanford athletic history.
First time I saw Bill McColl was back in the Fall of 1948 when he trotted out on the freshman football field to report to Chuck Taylor, who was then frosh coach on the Farm. From that initial look at McColl I knew I was viewing something extra-special in the way of football talent. You didn't have to be a football expert to know that this gangling 18-year-old kid was destined to carve a special niche for himself in Stanford sports history. You could tell by the way the young giant handled himself that he was going to be an all-American before he graduated from Stanford.
Before coming to the Farm, Bill made quite a splash as a football, basketball, baseball, and track star at Herbert Hoover High School in San Diego. It goes without saying that Bill could have taken his pick of about any college on the Coast as well as many schools east of the Rockies.
How did McColl happen to select Stanford? Was it because he got a 'special deal' from an enthusiastic old grad?
We put these questions to Bill himself. Here's what he had to say:
"I chose Stanford because I wanted a school with a small college atmosphere with a major athletic program. And mainly a college with a top-notch medical school. After sizing up all the other schools I felt that Stanford filled the bill perfectly as far as I was concerned."
Bill took his time in making his selection. In fact, Coach Chuck Taylor had given up hope of ever seeing him on the Stanford campus. When Bill did put in his unexpected appearance on the Farm all the athletic scholarships were exhausted, but someone in the athletic department noted that the San Diego youth was an excellent student in high school. So, he qualified for a scholastic scholarship on a competitive basis.
In his freshman year he not only lived up to his press notices as a super-prep athlete but he even surpassed some of the rave notices by San Diego sports scribes. The Stanford frosh team of '48 went through undefeated and McColl was a standout in each of the five games. He climaxed his first season by kicking a 35-yard field goal in the "Little Big Game" with the California greenies to give the Papooses a 30-0 victory.
As a sophomore he showed his versatility. When the tackle situation became acute because of numerous injuries midway in the 1949 season, Coach Marchie Schwartz in desperation moved McColl from end to tackle on defense in an effort to plug the hole in the line.
McColl, after a couple of games at the new post proved his greatness by developing into one of the best defensive tackles on the Coast by the end of the season. It was only after he tired late in the second half of the 1949 Big Game that Cal was able to get its attack rolling.
At the conclusion of the '49 season the records show he had caught 27 passes for a total of 308 yards and three touchdowns.
When the Stanford team visited Hawaii for a post-season contest, McColl gave the Islanders a real show in the "Pineapple Bowl" game. In this game he was introduced as a bal l-carrier and on six tries on end-around plays he netted 70 yards, an average of 11.7 yards per carry. He also lined up at fullback on one play and threw a touchdown pass which traveled 60 yards in the air.
The next season saw the big fellow, as a junior, blossom out into a real All-American. He did everything asked of him. In addition to doing sensational work as a pass-catching offensive end he was used as tackle, linebacker, or as a safety man on defense. His pass-catching record for the season showed 39 catches for 671 yards and four touchdowns.
In the Big Game, it was pass nabbing and defensive play which enabled the Indians to upset the dope sheets of the experts by playing the Rose Bowl-bound Californians to a 7 to 7 tie. In the dying minutes of the game McColl almost pulled off "the play to end all plays" when he dropped back to the fullback slot and heaved a mighty 65-yard pass.
The ball just slipped off the finger tips of Bob Bryan on the nine-yard line for what would have been a sure touchdown.
When Coach Chuck Taylor took over the head coaching job in 1951, he decided it was best that the Indians use the two-platoon system. He put McColl on the offensive unit to make full use of his talents as a receiver.
In practically every game it was the clutch-pass catching of McColl that proved the deciding factor in favor of the Indians. The Redskins, inspired by the big end with No. 3 on his back, rolled to nine straight victories and a bid to the Rose Bowl. Although Stanford finished off the year by bowing to California and Illinois, McColl was unstoppable as a receiver.
His record for the regular season gave him 42 passes caught for 607 yards and seven touchdowns.
His picture appeared on the covers of Colliers, Sport, and Sport Life magazines. The Helms Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles selected him as the College Football Player of the Year and United Press named him Lineman of the Year.
From a sports fan's viewpoint it was a pity that Bill had to limit his athletic endeavors because of his heavy pre-med classroom schedule. Jack Weiershauser, Stanford track coach, is convinced that he would have made an outstanding javelin thrower, while Bob Burnett, basketball coach, drooled when he thought of McColl as a cager, Everett Dean, baseball chief, also expressed the opinion that Bill would have been a mighty fine diamond prospect.
As a rugby player, McColl turned out to be one of the best ever to play the game at Stanford. This is the opinion of Dink Templeton, who is generally pretty critical of the way the present-day crop of athletes play the sport.
It was in a rugby game against Cal in the winter of 1950 that McColl proved he could take physical punishment. Bill got his hands on the ball in the second half of the game and started directly up the middle of the field, while Les Richter, twice all-American for Cal, gathered up steam to meet his rival. Richter left the game for repairs while McColl, slightly shaken up, continued.
The athletic career of McColl makes good reading but we think a better story will be written about him in fifteen years or so from now when he has become a great doctor. [Ed. – which of course Dr. McColl would prove to be following a fine, eight-year professional career with the NFL's Chicago Bears, during which he completed medical school at the University of Chicago and emerged as a leading orthopedic surgeon.]
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