July 10, 2012
A pair of starters on the Rice football team will honor two legendary Owls of the past by switching to those players' numbers when the team opens its 2012 Training Camp on August 4.
Turner Petersen and Cameron Nwosu will change from their previous numbers to those worn by King Hill and O.J. Brigance. Petersen will change from #18 to #26 to honor former Owl All America, while Nwosu will trade in his #34 in exchange for the #57 that O.J. Brigance made famous while setting the Rice career record for tackles.
"We have made an effort for our players to embrace the great history here at Rice and a part of that process is to learn more about the players who have worn their numbers in the past," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "These two men are tremendous examples of the expectations we place on any young man who comes to Rice. They were outstanding players at Rice who have continued to be outstanding representatives for Rice throughout their professional lives."
Hill earned All America honors in 1957 after leading Rice to a Southwest Conference title and a berth in the Cotton Bowl. His defining moment that season came when leading Rice to a 7-6 upset over #1 ranked Texas A&M at Rice Stadium. Hill intercepted a pair of passes, scored all seven of the Owls' points and his punting continued to pin the heavily favored Aggies deep in their own end of the field. After his senior year, the Chicago Cardinals made Hill the first overall selection in the 1958 NFL Draft.
He played 11 seasons in the NFL and then went on to a successful 17-year run as an offensive coordinator with the Houston Oilers (1970-80) and New Orleans Saints (1981-86). He joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986 to coordinate their scouting in the Western United States and Canada before retiring in 1992. After his retirement from the NFL, he went into private business, most recently serving as the Director of Marketing for several area golf courses.
Brigance overcame the perception of being undersized as a player to become Rice's career leader in tackles and a two-time All Southwest Conference linebacker for the Owls. He earned his first All SWC honor despite playing most of the year with a broken hand. Despite his accomplishments on the field, he was undrafted after college and began his pro career in the Canadian Football League where he quickly became a standout and won a Grey Cup Championship with the Baltimore Stallions in 1995. He eventually earned his chance in the NFL, making his debut with the Miami Dolphins in 1996. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and earned a Super Bowl ring when the team won Super Bowl XXXV.
He was an active member of Lovett College as well as the entire Rice community during his years on campus. In what would be a precursor of his own post-football pursuits, he served as the team's liaison to Career Services, spearheading efforts to encourage teammates to position themselves for life after Rice football.
After he retired as a player, Brigance joined the Raven's front office as Director of Player Development and was twice honored by the NFL for his programs to help fellow players with all aspects of managing their career and post-career plans.
When he was diagnosed with ALS, Brigance immediately set out to work on research and a cure for the disease, partnering with the Johns Hopkins University Packard Center for ALS Research and becoming their ALS ambassador. As the honorary chair of the Fiesta 5K run four times (2008-11), Brigance saw the event raise $800,000 for research. He also established his own foundation, the Brigance Brigade Fund brigancebrigade.org), which raises awareness and money for ALS research and patient services.
Brigance was honored by Rice University as one of its 2012 Distinguished Alumni as part of the 2012 Association of Rice Alumni 2012 Laureates Dinner.