Championship Chronicles Part 15: 1959 East Texas State Lions

The 50’s were truly golden for the ET Lions. Prior to the start of the 1959 season, ET had reached a position of national prominence. Since 1951 The Lions had won 8 Conference Championships, 3 Tangerine Bowls, and had notched 4 seasons with at least 10 wins. Firmly one of the best in the NAIA, the 1959 season would show that be the cap on a fantastic decade for Lion Football.

ET hosted Abilene Christian to open the season and shut out the Wildcats 21-0. Southeastern Louisiana visited Commerce the next week and were only 10 points better than ACU but still the Lions won 21-10. The Lions hit the road and headed east to Northeastern Louisiana and shut out the Cajuns 20-0. ET was 3-0 and had dominated every team. The next game was against a familiar and potent foe, the Texas A&I Javelinas in Kingsville.

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The Hoggies and the Lions fought back and forth until finally one team scored, and A&I put one touchdown on the board. ET was completely flustered on offense against a tough A&I team, but even the outstanding defense of the Hoggies who had scored early and often on everyone was not enough to prevent the one and only loss of the 1959 season.

The rest of the season was a walk in the park for the Lions. The next week the Lions defeated a rising Sam Houston State team in Commerce 14-0, then hammered Howard Payne 20-0 in Brownwood. Another long trip to Big Bend Country saw the Lions make easy work of Sul Ross State 45-0.

The season ended on a 3 game home stand as the Lions defeated Southwest Texas State 28-15, and finally took down Lamar for the first time in half a decade with a 14-3 over the Cardinals, and then closed the season out by wiping out Stephen F. Austin State 43-0. The Victory Bell, a signal of pride that had been with the College since it’s inception in 1889, had it’s clapper wear out after all of the wins of the past decade. It was taken back to Campus and put in the middle of campus and closely watched for a while. To this day, the clapper does not work and will not make a sound due to it being work out almost 60 years ago.

The Lions tied for first place with Texas A&I. Despite losing to the Hoggies, the Lions had run the table and A&I had been badly beaten by a Stephen F. Austin team 24-7. The NAIA had a decision to make as to who would go into the NAIA playoffs. When the final rankings came out, the NAIA selected A&I into the NAIA playoffs despite losing badly to a team that the Lions had beaten soundly. The Dallas Times Herald ran a piece saying the “the NAIA obviously will not forgive an East Texas team with a single 7 point loss to a conference co-champion, but will reward a team that was beaten quite badly by a middle tier team in the Lone Star Conference. It was a bitter pill to swallow, as Texas A&I would go on to beat Hillsdale in the national semifinals and then defeated Lenior-Rhyne in the National title game 20-7. One can only speculate if the Lions of Old ET had been selected would they have been national champions?

Sam McCord was named consensus All-American by the Associated Press and the NAIA, while Dee Mackey was named All-American also. Both would have their numbers called by the NFL draft during the Spring of 1960.

Joining Mackey and McCord on the first team All-LSC team was Offensive Tackle Bobby Parker. Jim Farmer and Jim Reed were both named to the LSC Second team, while Jon Gilliam, Bill Hopkins, Tony Mandina, Weldon McCord, Wallace Miller, and Jerry Peveto were all name All LSC Honorable Mention.

It was the end of a decade, and a truly golden one.

 

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