Reusse: 50 years ago, Johnnies played in unique championship showdown

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2013 - 12:30 AM

A four-team NAIA showdown 50 years ago showcased St. John’s, which rose to the occasion against Prairie View.

hide

File photo provided by St. John’s • Star Tribune illustration St. John’s (in white) overcame a physical mismatch when it faced Prairie View A&M and its roster dotted with future NFLers in the 1963 Camellia Bowl.

The NAIA began using a four-team playoff to determine a national champion in 1958. St. John’s had gone unbeaten in 1962 and was hopeful of an invitation to the playoff that never came. ¶ “We had heard some things late in the season that, if we stayed unbeaten, we were going to make it,’’ John Gagliardi said. “We were following what was happening around the country closely. And nervously.’’

Gagliardi was in his 11th season at Collegeville in 1963. He would last 60, before retiring after 2012 with more wins (489) than any coach in college football history.

St. John’s had closed its second consecutive 8-0 regular season with a 32-7 victory over archrival St. Thomas on Nov. 2. It took until the middle of the month for St. John’s to find out that it had been selected for the NAIA playoff and would play Emporia [Kan.] State in a semifinal.

Arrangements were made to play the game Nov. 30 at Met Stadium. The other semifinal was Prairie View A&M of Texas playing at Kearney State in Nebraska on Dec. 7.

The Johnnies blew out Emporia 54-0 on a bitterly cold day in Bloomington. A week later, Prairie View defeated Kearney 20-7.

The NAIA came up with this money-saving plan to get the two winners to Sacramento, Calif., to decide the national title in the Camellia Bowl: The Panthers from Prairie View would hang tight in Nebraska and the charter flight that carried St. John’s out of Minneapolis would stop and pick them up.

Prairie View was a historically black college from near Houston. St. John’s was a bastion of whiteness in the woods of central Minnesota.

“Remember, this was two weeks after President Kennedy was assassinated,’’ said Ken Roering, a standout end for the Johnnies. “There was unrest over civil rights, and then the president was shot … it was such a crazy time.

“We were a bunch of white kids from Minnesota who hadn’t seen much of the world. And now we would be going up against a team from a black school in the South. We had no idea what to expect, and I’m sure the Prairie View players felt the same way about us.’’

The Johnnies staked out a portion of the plane, flew to Nebraska and then waited for the opponents to board.

“They came walking down the aisle and there were so many big guys I didn’t think we were going to be able to take off,’’ Gagliardi said.

Gagliardi was getting started on his status as the legend of St. John’s. Coach Billy Nicks was already that at Prairie View. The Pittsburgh Courier, a famed black newspaper, had named Nicks’ Panthers as the national black college champions in 1953, 1954 and 1958, and would do so again in 1963 and 1964.

“We didn’t have too much interaction as coaches,’’ Gagliardi said.

“We were both trying to prepare for a game against opponents we didn’t know much about.’’

It was probably a good thing the Johnnies did not know many specifics about the players they would be facing.

There were eight players from that Prairie View team drafted by the NFL and/or AFL: quarterback Jim Kearney, defensive backs Ken Houston and Leon Carr, receiver Otis Taylor, halfback Ezell Seals and linemen Ray Scott, Ray Johnson and Carl Robinson.

Houston became a Pro Football Hall of Famer as a safety. Taylor was a great wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs. Kearney was a longtime starter as a strong safety for the Chiefs, including in the 1970 Super Bowl.

Taylor had six catches for 81 yards in that game, including a relentless run on a 43-yard touchdown late in the third quarter that basically clinched the Chiefs’ 23-7 upset of the Vikings.

  • related content

  • Chart: NAIA had football playoff idea early on

    Friday December 13, 2013

    NAIA HAD PLAYOFF IDEA EARLY ONThe National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics was formed in 1952 to oversee small college athletics....

  • NDSU players braced for Saturday's early playoff start

    Friday December 13, 2013

    Kickoff for Saturday’s Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal playoff game against Coastal Carolina is 11 a.m.

  • The coaches in the 1963 Camellia Bowl: Billy Nicks of Prairie View A&M and John Gagliardi of St. Johns.

  • St. Johns quarterback Craig Muyers had a throwing lane on one passing play. His fourth-quarter TD pass settled the game.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - WP: N. Martinez 7 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Gray 2
Boston - LP: B. Workman 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: G. Cole 3
Toronto - LP: A. Sanchez 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 3
Washington - WP: G. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Hand 2
Los Angeles - WP: P. Rodriguez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: N. Ramirez 4
Cleveland 2 Top 13th Inning
Houston 1
Milwaukee 2 Bottom 13th Inning
St. Louis 2
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 6 FINAL
Colorado - WP: L. Hawkins 7
Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick 3 FINAL
San Diego - WP: R. Erlin 7
Seattle 0 Bottom 8th Inning
LA Angels 0
Tampa Bay 14 FINAL
Atlanta 56
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close