Certain athletes just never really get their due. For all sorts of reasons, they are overlooked while they play, underappreciated once their playing days are done, and then largely forgotten.
Aye. ‘Tis enough to bring a tear to the eye.
All professional franchises and college programs experience this phenomenon and Texas Tech is certainly no exception. So here's one man's nomination—based on 34 seasons of viewing and/or reporting—for the Red Raider football players most undeservedly unsung and prematurely relegated to the dusty corners of Tech football history.
Defensive Tackle—Chris Hudler: Before there was Colby Whitlock there was Chris Hudler. Like Tech's most recent stalwart on the interior of the defensive line, Hudler was a lunchpail and hardhat kind of a guy. Not flashy, but very tough and dependable. His play was a key to the defense's resurgence after the dreadful days of 2003.
Defensive Tackle—Fred Petty: Texas Tech has had few football players from Chicago. Indeed, Fred Petty may be the only one. And if Petty is any measure, perhaps Tech had better return to recruiting the Windy City.
In 1990 and 1991 this JUCO transfer was not only a solid tackle, he was an exceptional pass rusher. To this date he still remains among the school's top 15 in total sacks, and he accomplished that feat in only two years.
Defensive End—Calvin Riggs: Virginia Tech has had tremendous success with undersized pass rushing defensive ends. See Jason Worilds, Corey Moore and Darryl Tapp as exhibits A, B and C. Texas Tech had somebody cut from that same mold with Calvin "Schoolie" Riggs in the mid-80s.
Riggs was recruited out of Midland to play fullback but quickly moved to defensive end where he flourished. At no more than six feet tall and 215 pounds, Riggs nevertheless bedeviled opposing quarterbacks from his defensive end position in a 4-3 alignment.
Defensive End—Mike Kinsey: Gordon Wood's legendary Brownwood program cranked out its fair share of SWC stars and Texas Tech's Mike Kinsey was one of his better pigskin emissaries.
During his Red Raider days in the early 80s, Kinsey played linebacker and defensive end equally well. He was a rough old cob against both the run and the pass.
Linebacker—Jonathan Hawkins: In the years following Zach Thomas' departure from the High Plains, Texas Tech had two linebackers who successfully overcame seemingly chronic injuries. They were Mike Smith and Jonathan Hawkins.
Hawkins, a Wichita Falls product, openly admired Thomas and patterned his game after the Pampa legend. Unfortunately, Hawkins was never healthy until his senior year of 2001. But once healthy Hawkins shined as just the sort of rugged, instinctive linebacker that Thomas was.
Linebacker—C.M. Pier: My first experience of C.M. Pier came in March, 1981 as a 13-year-old boy watching Texas Tech football practice. One of my buddies and I were watching the linebackers hit the tackling sled. Player after player hit the sled with no noticeable result.
Then came C.M.
Despite being on the smallish side, Pier blasted into the sled, thrust it off the ground and sent it skidding. We simultaneously looked at each other with eyebrows raised and mouthed, "Oh. My. God!"
And that's the way Pier played the game. Hard and physical. Just as a linebacker should.
Linebacker—Don Kelly: Pier's immediate predecessor as an undersized but hard-hitting linebacker was Don Kelly of Blooming Grove, Texas. Kelly also had a knack for making the big play whether it be forcing a fumble or making a key stop on third down.
Cornerback—Eric Everett: This cornerback from Daingerfield, Texas had a very famous older brother in Baylor All American and Pittsburgh Steeler safety Thomas Everett. The younger Everett, however, was no slouch himself. He was a smooth, quick coverage corner along the lines of Joselio Hansen. And like Hansen, Everett had a solid NFL career, playing five years and logging eight interceptions.
Cornerback—Roland Mitchell: Lining up across the field from Everett for much of his Tech career was former Bay City Black Cat, Roland Mitchell. The 180-pounder was not quite as quick as Everett, but was very physical and athletic. (He once cleared seven feet in the high jump.) The Buffalo Bills selected Mitchell early in the second round and he went on to an eight-year NFL career.
Safety—Merv Scurlark: Several headhunters have come out of the Texas Tech secondary over the years. Most recently was Dwayne Slay. And in the early 80s there was Ted Watts who was a first round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders. But equaling their ferocity was Monahans product Merv Scurlark.
Scurlark, who came to Tech as a receiver, was the primary mallet in a group of excellent defensive backs who called themselves the Hammerheads. He delivered one of the hardest hits I ever saw in the 1986 Independence Bowl when he crushed an Ole Miss tight end on the sideline and literally lifted him off the ground with the blow.
Safety—Brian Dubiski: Rarely has Tech had a better all-around free safety than walkon Brian Dubiski. The six-foot-two 180-pounder from Grand Prairie was fast, active and had a nose for the football. In Tech's 49-21 win over Duke in the 1989 All American Bowl, Dubiski had an interception and a fumble recovery.