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Rice's First NFL Champ

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Larry Izzo, no stranger to Super Bowls as a player thanks to his timely stint as a special teams superstar with the New England Patriots, is back in the NFL's multi-media championship spectacular in a new role as a coach and on the opposite sideline of his former team.

 

Izzo will be looking to collect a fourth Super Bowl ring, a total that no other Owl can match, but the purpose of this entry is to take a look back at the beginnings of the NFL's championship hunt and to take the best stab at determining the first Owl to play in the league's title tilt.

 

Research shows that Shirley Brick was the first Owl to play in the NFL. Brick, who lettered for Rice from 1915-17 and again in 1919, played one game for the Buffalo All Americans in 1920, the very first season of the fledgling National Football League. All that needs to be said about football at that time versus now is that Brick, all 5-8 and 165 pounds of him, was listed as a tight end.

 

Seaman Squyres (1933 Cincinnati Reds) and Ralph "Primo" Miller (Cleveland Rams 1937 & 38) were the next Owls to take the field in the league, but neither enjoyed great success. Squyres was on a Reds team that scored only a total of 48 points in 18 games the franchise existed (folding after 10 points and eight games in 1934).  Miller was on the team that first brought the NFL to Cleveland, but found only limited success in his two years.

 

In the early days of the NFL, Curly Lambeau had assembled a powerhouse team in Green Bay. The Packers won the title from 1929-32 and again in 1936.  In 1939, a former Rice end, Frank Steen, joined a team that featured the immortal Don Hutson.  Steen was listed as a tight end, and shows credit for three games in a season that saw the Packers go on to defeat the New York Giants 27-0 to win Lambeau's sixth NFL title.

 

 

Thumbnail image for Steen 1939_GreenBayPackers.jpg 

While there are no records of which three games Steen played in that season, he does appear in the official team photo and roster, thus we will anoint him as the first Rice Owl to become an NFL champion.  If he was a member of the winning team, Steen pocketed the princely sum of $703.97 as a winner's share that year, which was his only year in the NFL.

 

The years immediately after World War II saw an infusion of Owls into the league. Some (Fred Hartman and Bill Blackburn) had been standouts in the early 1940's and moved on to the pro ranks after returning home from the war, while others (Weldon Humble, John Magee, Hamilton Nichols and Virgil Eikenberg) saw their college careers interrupted by the war, careers they were thankful to pick up after surviving the war.

 

Blackburn and Nichols became the first pair of Owls to play for an NFL champion, as the Chicago Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Eagles.  It marked the first NFL title appearance for both franchises, and it remains the only NFL title for the Cardinals franchise through the end of the 2011 season.

 

One year later Blackburn and Nichols were back on the field, facing the Eagles again and looking to repeat as NFL champions.  But this time, there were two Owls on the opposing sideline as Magee was in the starting lineup and Hartman was a backup lineman.  

 

The game was first NFL title game to be televised, but the new technology was certainly not prepared for the challenge that Mother Nature had in store The Eagles prevailed 7-0 on a Steve Van Buren touchdown run in the last minute.

 

In the years since that landmark game, other Owls have been a part of NFL title celebrations, including Humble with the Cleveland Browns in 1950, Tobin Rote with the Detroit Lions in 1957,  J.D. Smith with the Eagles in 1960, Frank Ryan with the Browns in 1964, Rodrigo Barnes with the Oakland Raiders in 1977, Earl Cooper in 1982 and 1985, Daryl Grant with Washington in 1983 and again in 1988, O.J. Brigance with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and Izzo's run of good fortune with the Patriots.   Outside the NFL, Rote lead the San Diego Chargers to an AFL title in 1963, becoming the only quarterback to win championships in the rival leagues, while Orville Trask was a member of the Oilers when Houston captured the first two AFL titles (1960-61).

 

 

 

 

UTEP at Rice on Sunday at 11 a.m.

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UTEP at Rice Televised Carriers Get Acrobat Reader

The Rice women's basketball team (11-11, 5-4) hosts Conference USA-leading UTEP (19-2, 8-0) on Sunday, Feb. 5 at 11 a.m. inside Tudor Fieldhouse. The above link shows all of the television channels in the nation that will broadcast the Owls and Miners on Sunday. Ron Thulin will do the play-by-play with Debbie Antonelli providing the color commentary.

The 2012 Rice Baseball alumni game has been cancelled because of the heavy rains that hit the area this morning.

The autograph session with the 2012 Owls in Fox Gym as well as season ticket pickup will take place. We will introduce all the alumni who came in for the game at 11 a.m. so you'll still have a chance to catch up with some of your favorite Owls from the past.

Rain or shine, this Friday & Saturday (Feb. 3-4) is the weekend for Rice Baseball Alumni. Here are updated items for the weekend, including the ones that are contingent on the weather.

All non-game activities including all alumni introductions, autographs with the 2012 Owl team, and season-ticket pickup will be at Fox Gym due to weather expectations. Fox Gym is the indoor facility adjacent to the front entrance of Reckling Park (and west of Tudor Fieldhouse).

  • Fans should plan on going to Fox Gym first (not Reckling Park) by 10 am
  • Baseball Alumni should plan on registering at Reckling Park beginning at 9 am.
  • The alumni-vs.-alumni game could be cancelled due to weather. That determination could be a game-time decision (11 am), and will be considered a final decision.
    If the weather cancels the game all activities remain in Fox Gym.
    If the weather is satisfactory, fans ans alumni can move over to Reckling Park and play ball!
    If the weather is satisfactory, the teams for the home run derby have been set. The Rice varsity team will consist of junior Jeremy Rathjen and freshman Skyler Ewing. The Rice alumni team for home run derby will consist of Matt Lorenz ('97), Adam Zornes ('08) and Anthony Rendon ('11).

    Season-tickets will be available for pickup and ticket staff will be on-hand to take new orders. Free posters and baseball schedule cards will be available.

    As part of Alumni Game weekend, Centennial historian Dr. Melissa Kean will deliver the second Rice Baseball Alumni Lecture on Feb. 3 (Fri.) at 6 pm in the Rice Stadium R Room. The topic of her speech will be "The Early History of Rice Athletics and Why It Mattered." Those interested in attending Dr. Kean's Friday lecture should RSVP here.

    Online Alumni Game registration form for the Rice baseball alumni is still accessible through the Rice University Baseball Players Association (RUBPA) website: here

  • Participating alumni with questions should email Steven Herce.
  • Old Rivals, New Teammates

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    Dillard and Farimond.jpgAs a high school junior, Darik Dillard had to avoid James Farrimond, but this fall, they will be teammates at Rice.  Farrimond joined the Owls last fall as a walkon, while Dillard will join the team this fall after signing his letter of intent on Wednesday.  This photo was taken in San Antonio, Texas on October 8, 2010 John Albright / Special to the Express-News.

    Darrion Pollard of Gilmer NLI has been successfully delivered into the proper hands and he is the 24th and final member of the 2012 Rice football recruiting class.

    Presser at 2:30, free on OwlVision and we will post player videos at that time.  Hope to see you tonight at the Signing Day party.

    Next stop, Spring Practice!

    Signing Day 2012: Canadian Calm

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    Luke Willson on a decidedly different atmosphere on signing day in Canada...

     

    "I got up early and signed my Letter of Intent at home so my Dad could get it faxed to Rice. When I got to school, it was more like 'so, how was your morning?  Guess what I did today?' It wasn't a big deal at school.  We did a little press event after school that my summer league coach had arranged, but that was about it."

    Signing Day 2012: Where do you find the time?

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    One look at Darik Dillard's extracurricular activities and you wonder when he slept.  In addition to taking teams to the regional quarterfinals in both football and basketball and running track, he placed first in an art show and a state architecture competition while also serving as the treasurer for both the National Honor Society and his senior class.....and I think there are some other things we might have missed...

    Signing Day 2012: Tell it to the Judge

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    Offensive line recruit Brandon Dawkins brings a well-rounded athletic resume to Rice, including swimming the 50 meter freestyle for the state champs and playing water polo.  He also has  served as a clerk for a pair of Dallas County Criminal Court judges.

     

    Signing Day: Don't hang up too quickly

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    Owls' offensive line coach Ronnie Vinklarek on the day he thought he scored a major recruiting coup

     

    "I was at UH working for John Jenkins and I was recruiting ND Kalu. We were coming down the stretch to  to signing day and I get a call from ND.  He tells me that he's coming to Houston. I hung up quick and went to tell the other coaches about it. I was fired up that we had him.  The next day, his high school coach called me and said in my excitement, I didn't hear the whole conversation.  ND was coming to Houston, no doubt, but he was coming here to play for Rice. It's a lot funnier to tell now than it was at the time."

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