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July 13, 2010

From Pall Malls to panty hose

We looked Sunday at the first three-generation football family in MSU history -- the Suhey-Higgins clan is the only known four-generation family of players in Big Ten annals -- the man who started it all and the grandson who will continue the tradition starting in the fall.

    Dig into something like this and there's always more. Dig into something like this with Hank Bullough and his stories on the other end, and there's always a lot more. So here are the Top Ten Things We Couldn't Fit Into The Paper On The Bullough Clan (this one has to count for two days, at least):

    1. The Rose Bowl fire. A couple days before the program's first Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1954, the players were lounging at their hotel pool when they noticed smoke coming from a window. Bullough and Bill Quinlan ran into the hotel and up the stairs to make sure they were clear while Bill Postula got on his stomach and started knocking on doors to roust anyone who might be asleep. Bullough and Quinlan found a man in a wheelchair on the sixth floor and carried him to safety.

    Three days later, Bullough received a note of thanks from the man, who wrote that a gift awaited the pair at the front desk. Bullough just knew it would be keys to a car.

    "Nope," he said 56 years later. "A carton of Pall Malls."

    Luckily, Quinlan smoked at the time.

    2. The Freezer Bowl. I knew a lot about Bullough before doing this story, but I was oblivious to the fact that he was Cincinnati's defensive coordinator for that famous 1981 AFC title game against San Diego. As you may recall, the Chargers were coming off one of the best games in NFL playoff history, the exhausting overtime shootout win at Miami (Kellen Winslow carried off the field, you remember. Great childhood memory). Now you're talking minus-59 wind chill. 

    Bullough, who got the "Doctor of Defense" tag from that team's line coach, Jim McNally, remembers that no one could even catch the ball during pre-game warmups. His game plan was quite simply to stuff and strip Chuck Muncie, and the Bengals executed. A key that day, Bullough said, was the use of panty hose. Head coach Forrest Gregg spent some time that week researching North Pole survival, and he had bags full of hose bought so his players could combat the cold with countless thin layers. Of course, some of the linemen still did the sleeveless thing anyway.

    3. Biggie Munn. As mentioned in the story, Bullough said Munn and Vince Lombardi were very similar people and coaches. It sounds like Munn was definitely a CEO kind of coach -- and athletic director, for that matter. He often kept to himself, Bullough said, but he always came around for the Michigan game. Bullough wasn't there for Munn's first Michigan game against mentor-turned-nemesis Fritz Crisler in 1947, but the story of the locker room flooded with sewage and Munn sobbingly promising revenge after the humiliating blowout loss is legend.

    That story would always re-emerge for Michigan week, Bullough said, and Munn would always say the same thing to Bullough and other MSU coaches at the time before the game.

    "Just remember," Munn would say, "a hundred isn't enough."

    4. More on Michigan. It probably wasn't any more contentious in this rivalry than when Crisler and Munn were involved. Michigan State had the clear upper hand in talent and success a few years into Munn's tenure, and Bullough claims that Crisler (then Michigan's AD) used his sway with the NCAA rules committee that he chaired for several years to change a key rule with the primary intent of hurting the Spartans.

    Two-platoon football started in 1941, a reaction to player shortages caused by World War II. But in 1954, the NCAA essentially mandated "one-platoon" football by limiting substitutions. That, Bullough said, minimized the depth of talent that had been built under Munn (the Spartans went 3-6 in 1954, Bullough's senior season and Duffy Daugherty's first as head coach), kept some very talented players on the sideline who were proficient on one side of the ball only, and closed the gap between Michigan State and other teams. Unlimited subbing returned for good in 1965, a 10-1 national title season for MSU to be followed by a 9-0-1 season.

    5. Preseason 1966. That great team, which took part in one of college football's most celebrated games, endured what Bullough remembers as one of his most extreme cases of making a point. Lackluster and getting beat by the offense in a scrimmage, Bullough told Daugherty that the first unit was done scrimmaging for the day. As he remembers it, those guys -- Bubba Smith, George Webster, Charlie Thornhill, etc. -- ran about 100 wind sprints. Bullough blew the whistle and said: "One more," over and over. By the end, guys were carrying each other to keep going and prove themselves to Bullough.

    "They became a team that day," said Bullough, who would stay with the players in Case Hall during camp. "Of course, later on a few of them told me they were thinking about having a blanket party for me that night."

    6. The 10-10 tie. It's never far from memory, it seems, for anyone who took part in it. Bullough said he's still never encountered a pre-game atmosphere with such electricity. He also made a move in that game that helped stifle Notre Dame's offense. Bullough had Bubba Smith and Phil Hoag at end, but he wanted to get reserve end George Chatlos into the game more. He also wanted the Irish guessing about Smith. So he had Smith at nose tackle for about a quarter of the game, with Hoag and Chatlos on the outside. Can't argue with the results.

    7. Bubba Smith. Coaching him, Bullough said, was "a tough go, but they respect you more as they get older." (Coaching George Webster, meanwhile, was "the easiest thing in the world" according to Bullough). The difficulty of dealing with Smith as a player is well-chronicled at MSU, and he'll still have pointed words about Daugherty and many others from that era -- along with various MSU head coaches since who have offended him in some way. But in my phone interview with Smith about Bullough, it was pretty much all praise.

    "He was always working, always finding an edge for us," Smith said of Bullough. "A lot of times, other coaches were busy practicing their golf swing, but not Hank."

    Smith said he put in a good word for Bullough with the Colts, who hired him as linebackers coach for what turned out to be the 1970-71 world champions. For as much respect as Smith had for Bullough, he was OK with not playing directly for him that season.

    "He liked to chew tobacco and scream, and I was just glad he wasn't over with the defensive linemen," Smith said.

    8. Max's development. He appears to be physically ready as a freshman to compete for some playing time. Max also has some pretty good sources to tap for football knowledge. Dad Shane and uncle Chuck both took advantage of Hank's mental library.

    "Dad never pushed it on us, but all that stuff rubs off on you after a while," Chuck said. "We were football-a-holics."

    Understandably, no one in the family wants to put undue pressure on Max or compare him to Shane and Chuck as players, but Chuck -- who lives in California as UCLA's defensive coordinator and doesn't get to see Max much -- is admittedly impressed with his athletic ability.

    "I remember by the time Max was a sophomore, I had to out-physical him to beat him on the basketball court," Chuck said. "Going into his junior year, I knew it was over. I faked an injury to get out of it and I haven’t played him since.”

    9. The Izzo connection. There's always an Izzo connection. He and Steve Mariucci used to attend a football camp in the Upper Peninsula that featured Hank Bullough. As MSU's head basketball coach, Izzo has gone to Bullough for help with outreach to former players -- one of Bullough's specialties as executive director of the MSU Football Players Association. And for stories.

    "You talk about covering the gamut, from 18 to 70-something," Izzo said of Bullough. "He's covered the whole freaking gamut."

    10. Other MSU families. Some of the top ones are listed and detailed in an info box that accompanies the main story. Thornhills, Brandstatters, Breslins, Zindels, etc. Here are several other father-son combinations:

Ed Budde and John Budde
Chuck and Toby Fairbanks
Paul and Pete Hrisko
Michael Decker and Adam Decker
James and James A. Hinesly

Tony and Joe Kolodziej
Greg (father) and Greg and Steve Montgomery
Herb and Jeff Paterra
George and John Perles
Richard and Chris Salani
Brad and Bradlee Van Pelt
Frank “Muddy” Waters and Frank Waters III
Pat, John and Thomas Wilson (brothers), and Pat’s son John


And several brother combos:
Jimmy and Craig Raye
William, Robert and Charles Carey
Ron and Rich Saul
Tico and T.J. Duckett
Bill and Scott Greene
Ray and Renaldo Hill
Jim and Steve Juday
Tony and Ron Kumiega
Robert, Patrick and Terrence McClowry
Tupe and Domata Peko
Victor, William and Lou Postula
Richard and James Proebstle
Andrew and Walter Schramm
James and Michael Sciarini
Gari and Jerramy Scott
Gary and David Van Elst

Finally, some unconfirmed possibilities, mostly from long ago:

Herman and Ed Klewicki

Oscar and Frank Kratz
Henry and Walter Kutchins
Frank and H.B. McDermid
Edward and Parnell McKenna
Bert and Ward Shedd

Tuesday update: Our Dan Kilbridge caught up with MSU's first football recruits from Wisconsin in a long time.

Also, U2 is set for June 26, 2011 at Spartan Stadium! See you there.

Another update: I missed the Kolodziej family first time around, they have been added.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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