This Day in College Football History – May 15th

Desmond Howard (born May 15, 1970)  is a former wide receiver, punt returner and kickoff returner and currently a college football analyst for ESPN. He played football for the University of Michigan from 1989–1991 and won the Heisman Trophy in 1991. He played professional football in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins (1992–1994), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995), Green Bay Packers (1996, 1999), Oakland Raiders (1997–1998) and Detroit Lions (1999–2002). Howard was voted the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXI and is the first and currently the only special teams player to win the award. He is one of only four players to win both the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP; Roger Staubach, Jim Plunkett and Marcus Allen are the others. Howard was ranked the ninth Greatest Return Specialist in NFL History by NFL Network’s NFL Top 10 Return Aces. On July 16, 2011, Howard was inducted into the 2011 Class of the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio and earned All-American and All-Ohio honors as a tailback during his senior season at St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Ohio, scoring 18 touchdowns with a record-breaking 5,392 rushing yards, as well as 10 interceptions on defense. He earned three varsity letters each in track and football, as well as one in basketball. During his college career at the University of Michigan, Howard set or tied five NCAA and 12 Michigan records. He also led the Big Ten Conference in scoring with 138 points during the 1991 season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award, earning first-team All-American honors. Howard captured 85 percent of the first-place votes in balloting for the Heisman, the largest margin in history at that time. Howard also earned a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1992. In 2011 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and he was honored as the inaugural Michigan Football Legend, a program honoring former players equivalent to a retired jersey number. Each Michigan player to wear Howard’s No. 21 jersey will wear a patch recognizing Howard, and dress at a locker bearing a plaque with his name and time of tenure at Michigan.

After college, Howard was selected by the Washington Redskins in the first round, fourth overall in the 1992 NFL Draft. The pick was considered a luxury for the Redskins, who had just won Super Bowl XXVI and had receivers Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders on the roster. The Redskins, worried that the Green Bay Packers were going to draft Howard in the fifth spot, leapfrogged above them by dealing their two first-round picks – 6th and 28th – and their third-round choice (84th) to the Cincinnati Bengals for their first-round pick (4th) and their third-round pick (58th).[6] Howard was the highest Redskins draft pick since they took Hall of Fame receiver Charley Taylor with the third pick in 1964. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs remarked of Howard “This guy doesn’t have any flaws. We’re excited.” Howard’s performance as a receiver was secondary to his skills as a punt and kick off returner throughout his 11-year career. Though he recorded 92 receptions in his first four seasons, he excelled as a punt and kickoff returner throughout his career. Howard played one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995, having been selected in the 1995 NFL expansion draft with the 55th pick. He had 26 receptions and one touchdown, with 10 kick returns.

His most notable professional season was in 1996 for the Green Bay Packers. He led the NFL in punt returns (58), punt return yards (875), punt return average (15.1) and punt return touchdowns (3), while gaining 460 kickoff return yards and catching 13 passes for 95 yards. His 875 punt return yards were an NFL record, easily surpassing the old record of 692 yards set by Fulton Walker in 1985. During the 1996 NFL postseason, Howard had a punt return for a touchdown in a game between the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. The Packers reached Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots.

The Packers led 27-14 at halftime, but Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe led his team on a short drive that ended with Curtis Martin’s 18-yard touchdown run to pull the Patriots within six late in the third quarter. With new life, the Patriots boomed the ensuing kickoff to the one-yard line, but Howard effectively shattered the Patriots’ hopes for a comeback with a 99-yard kickoff return for a Packers touchdown. His return and the Packers’ subsequent two-point conversion closed out the scoring of the game, and the Packers eventually won 35-21. Bill Parcells, the Patriots’ head coach, commented after the game: “We had a lot of momentum, and our defense was playing better. But [Howard] made the big play. That return was the game right there. He’s been great all year, and he was great again today.” Howard totaled a Super Bowl record 90 punt return yards and 154 kickoff return yards with one touchdown; his 244 all-purpose yards also tied a Super Bowl record. His performance won him the Super Bowl MVP award, making Howard the only player to ever win the award based solely on a special teams performance.

Howard became a free agent after the season and signed with the Oakland Raiders. He led the NFL in kickoff returns (61) and kickoff return yards (1,381). Howard spent the 1998 football season with the Raiders before re-joining the Packers in 1999. In the middle of the 1999 season, Howard was cut by the Packers after subpar perforamnce and multiple injuries. He was signed by the Detroit Lions four days later, where he spent the rest of his career until his retirement after the 2002 season. In a special homecoming, he scored a special teams touchdown in his Lions debut. In February 2001, he made his first and only Pro Bowl appearance as the NFC’s kick returner.

Emmitt Smith (born May 15, 1969)  was a running back in the National Football League (NFL) for fifteen seasons during the 1990s and 2000s. Smith played college football for the University of Florida, where he was a unanimous All-American. A first-round pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, he played professionally for the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals of the NFL, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. During his long professional career, he became the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, breaking the record formerly held by Walter Payton, and played for three Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys teams. Smith is the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl championship, the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award all in the same season (1993). He is also one of only four running backs to lead the NFL in rushing three or more consecutive seasons, joining Steve Van Buren, Jim Brown and Earl Campbell. Smith led the league in rushing and won the Super Bowl in the same year three times (1992, 1993, and 1995) when to that point it had never been done. Smith is also one of only two non-kickers in NFL history to score more than 1,000 career points (the other being Jerry Rice). Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, and is the first player from the 1990 NFL Draft to be inducted. While playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Smith, quarterback Troy Aikman, and wide receiver Michael Irvin were known as “The Triplets,” and led their team to three Super Bowl championships during the 1990s. 

Smith was born in Pensacola, Florida, the son of Mary Smith and Emmitt James Smith, Jr. He attended Escambia High School in Pensacola, where he played high school football and ran track for the Escambia Gators. During Smith’s high school football career, Escambia won the state football championship, and Smith rushed for 106 touchdowns and 8,804 yards, which was the second most yardage in the history of American high school football at the time. Emmitt rushed for over 100 yards in 45 of the 49 games he started for Escambia (including the last 28 in a row) and finished with a 7.8 yards per carry average. Twice, he broke the 2,000-yard rushing mark in a season. In track & field, Smith competed as a sprinter and was a member of the 4x100m (42.16 s) relay squad.

For his efforts, Smith was named the USA Today and Parade magazine high school player of the year for 1986. In 2007, twenty years after Smith graduated from high school, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) named Smith to its “All-Century Team,” recognizing him as one of the thirty-three greatest Florida high school football players of the last 100 years. Despite his accomplishments and accolades, some college recruiting analysts opined that he was too small and too slow to succeed in major college football when he signed to play for the University of Florida. ]Smith accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played for coach Galen Hall’s Florida Gators football team for three seasons from 1987 to 1989.  He did not start the first two games of his college career in the fall of 1987, but made the most of his opportunities in a second-week rout of Tulsa in which he gained 109 yards on just ten carries, including a 66-yard touchdown run. That performance earned him a spot in the starting lineup the following week in the Gators’ SEC opener against Alabama at Legion Field.

In his first collegiate start, Smith promptly broke Florida’s 57-year old all-time single game rushing record, carrying 39 times for 224 yards and two touchdowns as the Gators upset the Crimson Tide. Smith went on to break the 1,000-yard barrier in the seventh game of his freshman season, the fastest any running back had ever broken that barrier to begin his college career. He finished the 1987 season with 1,341 yards and was named Southeastern Conference and National Freshman of the Year.  He also finished ninth in that year’s Heisman voting.  Smith and the Gators began the 1988 season strong as Smith averaged over 120 yards per game, leading his team to 5-0 start. During the sixth contest against Memphis State, Smith injured his knee and was forced out of action for several weeks. The Gators lost the game in which he was injured plus their next three games, and with starting quarterback Kyle Morris also injured, they were unable to muster a single touchdown over 14 quarters of play. Once Smith returned to the lineup, they rebounded to finish the season 7-5, including a win in the 1988 All-American Bowl in which Smith ran for a 55-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage and was named the game’s MVP.  Smith rushed for 988 yards on the year (not including the bowl game) at 110 yards per game, the lowest totals of his college career.

Smith stayed healthy throughout his junior season in 1989 and found success again. He finished the campaign with Florida records for rushing yards in a season (1,599), rushing yards in a single game (316 versus New Mexico in October 1989), longest rushing play (96 yards against Mississippi State in 1988), career rushing yards (3,928), career rushing yards per game (126.7) and career rushing touchdowns (36), among many others. In all, Smith owned 58 school records at the conclusion of his Florida career despite playing on Florida teams with virtually no passing game, which made him the focal point of opposing defenses. At the conclusion of his junior season in 1989, Smith was named a first-team SEC selection for the third year and SEC Player of the Year, was a unanimous first-team All-American, and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting.  On January 1, 1990, Florida hired Steve Spurrier to coach the Gators. Smith, concerned about his potential role in Spurrier’s reportedly pass-first offense, decided to forgo his senior year at Florida and enter the NFL draft  (Smith’s school rushing record would be broken by Errict Rhett, Spurrier’s first starting running back at Florida, albeit over four seasons instead of three and on 173 more rushing attempts).[12] Smith returned to the university during the NFL off-season and completed his bachelor’s degree in 1996. Smith was subsequently inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a “Gator Great” in 1999,  the Gator Football Ring of Honor and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. As part of a series of articles written for The Gainesville Sun in 2006, he was recognized as the No. 3 all-time player among the top 100 from the first 100 years of the Gators football program. Despite his collegiate success, some NFL teams still felt that Smith was too small and slow for the pro game.  He fell to the 17th pick in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft, when he was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys, who traded up to draft him. Smith was the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,400 rushing yards or more in five consecutive seasons. Smith, Jim Brown, and LaDainian Tomlinson are the only players with seven straight ten-touchdown seasons to start their careers. With 1,021 rushing yards in 2001, Smith became the first player in NFL history with 11 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and the first to post eleven 1,000-yard rushing seasons in a career. He is the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing attempts with 4,409. Smith is the only player to post three seasons with nineteen or more touchdowns. He also holds the record for most games in a season with a touchdown and most games in a season with a rushing touchdown (15), set in 1995. 

Fan banner honoring the NFL’s all-time leading rusher banner at Texas Stadium.Smith currently holds the NFL record in career rushing yards with 18,355, breaking the previous record held by Walter Payton, on October 27, 2002. He leads all running backs with 164 career rushing touchdowns, and his 175 total touchdowns ranks him second only to Jerry Rice’s 208. The total of his rushing yards, receiving yards (3,224) and fumble return yards (−15) gives him a total of 21,564 yards from the line of scrimmage, making him one of only four players in NFL history to eclipse the 21,000-combined yards mark. (The others being Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell and Walter Payton)  Smith also accumulated several NFL postseason records, including rushing touchdowns (19), consecutive games with a rushing touchdown (9), and 100-yard rushing games (7). His 1,586 yards rushing is also top on the NFL postseason chart, and he shares the total playoff touchdown mark of twenty-one with Thurman Thomas. With the Cowboys, Smith won three Super Bowl rings and rushed for over 100 yards in two of those games, Super Bowl XXVII (108 yards and a touchdown, and six receptions for twenty-seven yards), and Super Bowl XXVIII (132 yards and two touchdowns, and four receptions for twenty-six yards). Smith received the Super Bowl MVP award for Super Bowl XXVIII, becoming the only Cowboys running back ever to win that award. He also scored two touchdowns in Super Bowl XXX. In 1995, Smith broke two of Tony Dorsett’s Dallas franchise rushing records. The first, he had 100+ yards rushing in each of the first four games of a season. And second, Smith rushed for 1773 yards, breaking Dorsett’s single season rushing record of 1646. Both records would hold for 19 years, until in 2014, DeMarco Murray rushed for 100+ yards in each of his first eight games. Murray also broke his single season rushing record with 1845 yards. In his last season, Smith became the oldest player in NFL history ever to throw his first touchdown pass, throwing a 21-yard touchdown strike on a halfback option play. It was the only passing attempt of his career. Smith is one of only five NFL players who have amassed over 10,000 career-rushing yards and 400 career receptions. Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice are the only two non-kickers to score 1,000 points in a career.

Clark Shaughnessy (March 6, 1892 – May 15, 1970) was an American football coach and innovator. He is sometimes called the “father of the T formation”, although that system had previously been used as early as the 1880s. Shaughnessy did, however, modernize the obsolescent T formation to make it once again relevant in the sport. He employed his innovations most famously on offense, but on the defensive side of the ball as well, and he earned a reputation as a ceaseless experimenter. Shaughnessy held head coaching positions at Tulane University, Loyola University New Orleans, the University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of Maryland, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Hawaii, and in the National Football League with the Los Angeles Rams. Shaughnessy also served in advisory capacities with the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins. He reached the height of his success in 1940, in his first season at Stanford, where he led the Indians to an undefeated season that culminated with a Rose Bowl victory. That year, he also helped prepare the Chicago Bears for the 1940 NFL Championship Game, in which they routed Washington, 73–0. Shaughnessy’s successes showcased the effectiveness of the T formation and encouraged its widespread adoption. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968. Shaughnessy also coached college basketball at Tulane University. He played college football at the University of Minnesota.

 

 

 

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