This Day in College Football History – April 20th

Steve Spurrier (born April 20, 1945) is a college football coach and former player. Spurrier is the current head football coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. He is also a former professional player and coach. Steve Spurrier is a native of Florida who graduated from Science Hill High School in Tennessee. He is a graduate of the University of Florida, where he played college football for the Florida Gators. Spurrier was a two-time All-American quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner for the Gators and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1986. He played professional football for ten seasons during the 1960s and 1970s with the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the National Football League (NFL). After retiring as a player, Spurrier served as a college assistant before being hired as the head coach of the United States Football League’s Tampa Bay Bandits in 1983. The Bandits had a successful three season run but folded along with the league after the 1985 season, and Spurrier moved on to Duke University, where he led his 1989 squad to the school’s first conference championship since 1962 and last to date. He returned to the University of Florida to become the Gators’ head coach in 1990. From then until 2001, he led his alma mater to its first six Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships and its first consensus national championship in 1996. After a brief and largely disappointing run with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Spurrier returned to the college game in 2005, when he became head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. At South Carolina, he has brought the program to unprecedented levels of success and has become the winningest football coach in school history.

 

Jon Arnett (born April 20, 1935) is a former American football player. He was a first-team All-American out of USC and Manual Arts High School.Arnett was the multiple recipient of the W. J. Voit Memorial Trophy as the outstanding football player on the Pacific Coast. Arnett won the Voit Trophy in both 1954 and 1955. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 as a member of the USC Trojans. Arnett was a five-time Pro Bowler with the Los Angeles Rams from 1958 to 1962 and played with the Chicago Bears from 1964 to 1966. He was known by the popular nickname of Jaguar Jon Arnett. Arnett runs a distribution service and supplies frozen foods to Costco, Sam’s Club, and Wal-Mart. After living for many years in Rancho Palos Verdes, Arnett and his family now live in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

 

Harry Agganis (April 20, 1929 – June 27, 1955), nicknamed “The Golden Greek”, was a former American first baseman and college football star who played two seasons with the Boston Red Sox of the American League (1954–1955), after passing a potential professional football career. Born in Lynn, Massachusetts from a large Greek family, Agganis first gained notice as a college football player at Boston University, becoming the first person in school history to be named All-American. He passed a professional career with the Cleveland Browns in order to play his favorite sport, baseball, close to his hometown. Agganis was signed to a bonus baby contract, and after one season playing minor league baseball, Agganis became the starter at first base for the Red Sox. In 1955, Agganis became gravely ill early in the season and was hospitalized for two weeks for pneumonia. He rejoined the Red Sox for one week before being re-hospitalized with a viral infection. After showing some signs of recovery, Agganis died of a pulmonary embolism on June 27. Agganis’ sudden death is considered one of the greatest tragedies to hit Boston’s sporting community.

Agganis’ family origins were from Longanikos near Sparta, Greece. Born in Lynn, Massachusetts from a large Greek family which includes four brothers and two sisters. He was a star football and baseball player at Lynn Classical High School as well as a strong student, being named as “All-Scholastic” from the state of Massachusetts. Aggainis enrolled at Boston University, where he became a starter, primarily at quarterback. After a sophomore season in 1949, when he set a school record by tossing fifteen touchdown passes, he entered the Marine Corps. Agganis played for the Camp Lejeune (N.C.) football and baseball teams. He received a dependency discharge from the Marines to support his mother and returned to college to play in 1951-52. Around the same time, Agganis was participating in summer baseball leagues in Augusta, Maine. Agganis became the school’s first All-American in football and Boston coach Buff Donelli named Agganis the “greatest football player he ever coached”. He also played basketball and baseball in the school.

Agganis set another Boston University mark by passing for 1,402 yards for the season and won the Bulger Lowe Award as New England’s outstanding football player. Coach Paul Brown of the Cleveland Browns thought he could be the successor to Otto Graham and drafted the college junior in the first round of the 1952 NFL Draft, offering him a bonus of $25,000. Boston Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey outbid Brown, however, and signed Agganis to play Major League Baseball for the Red Sox as a first baseman for $35,000. At the time of his death, Agganis was spending his off-season at his alma mater as an assistant coach, tutoring Tom Gastall, another quarterback who decided to play professional baseball and who died young.

Following his 1953 college graduation, Agganis played with the Triple-A Louisville where he hit .281 with 23 home runs and 108 RBI. He made his major league debut on April 13, 1954. Agganis had a modest rookie campaign, though he did lead American League first basemen in assists and fielding percentage. He hit 11 home runs that year, with 57 RBI and a .251 batting average. In 1955, Agganis lost his starting position to rookie Norm Zauchin but regained his spot not long afterwards. On June 2, he was hospitalized with pneumonia after complaining of severe fever and chest pains. Though he rejoined the Red Sox ten days later and played two games against the Chicago White Sox, he fell ill again in Kansas City on June 27. He was diagnosed with a viral infection and was flown back to Sancta Maria Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the doctor on duty stated that Agganis played too soon after his first illness, which probably was the reason for the second. The Red Sox placed him on the voluntary retired list until he recuperated, an early version of the disabled list. He began showing signs of improvement, before suffering a fatal pulmonary embolism on June 27, 1955. Baseball was in a state of shock upon hearing of Agganis death. Red Sox general manager Joe Cronin told the Associated Press that everyone related to the Red Sox organization was “grieved and shocked”, saying that Agganis was a “grand boy”, while stating that the team would be wearing for 30 black armbands to honor Agganis. American League president Will Harridge commented that his office was “saddened and shocked” by Agganis death, while Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey stated that he was “stunned” while calling Agganis a “man of great character”. Ten thousand mourners attended his wake, where his body was laid in state at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Lynn. Agganis was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974. Gaffney Street, near the former site of Braves Field in Boston, was renamed Harry Agganis Way in his honor on November 11, 1995.

In 2005, Boston University opened their new athletic facility, Agganis Arena, at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Harry Agganis Way on the Charles River Campus. The arena is arguably the crown jewel of the $325 million John Hancock Student Village complex, competing only with the 270,000-square-foot (25,000 m2) Fitness and Recreation Center next door. Agganis’ legacy has been kept alive by the Agganis Foundation, which has awarded more than $1.1 million in college scholarships to 780 student-athletes from Boston and the North Shore, including Lynn, his hometown. Scholarships are awarded for academic and athletic achievement. The Foundation was started in 1955 by the Boston Red Sox and owner Thomas A. Yawkey, the (Lynn) Daily Item newspaper and Harold O. Zimman, a mentor of Agganis for whom the football field at Tufts University is named. The Harry Agganis Stadium located on Camp Lejeune was named in his honor.

 

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