Spring football has evolved over last 90 years

April 15, 2013

By John Hirn
Author of Aggies to Rams

Saturday the 2013 CSU Rams will complete their annual spring practices with the traditional Green and Gold Game at Hughes Stadium beginning at noon. The tradition of spring drills dates back nearly 90 years at CSU when Coach Harry Hughes adopted the idea from other schools around the nation to keep players fit and active when the game was not being played like it is in fall.

Hughes’s earliest spring drills date as far back as 1924 and continued throughout his career. The practices were frequently held in the school’s first indoor practice facility at the field house on College Avenue when spring snow prevented outdoor drills.

In the Hughes era, the spring drills were commonly nothing more than players suiting up and running football drills in springtime. The idea to scrimmage among the team was not as widely publicized, but the purpose of spring football to train the men that would take the field in fall evolved from this period of football.

After WWII more focus was placed on football around the country and when Coach Bob Davis arrived in 1947, he formalized the first official “Greens versus Golds” game to be played on Memorial Day, 1947.

A look at the Collegian and other newspaper clippings from the 1947 Green and Gold game is not that much different than what is seen today. Players faced off against one another with assistant coaches acting as head coaches for each team. They played hard, hit hard and had a purpose; a steak dinner for the winners and hamburgers for the losers. Coach Bob Davis was the observer to see what kind of talent he had for the 1947 season and alumni, fans and boosters came out to support the team.

Line coach Bob Sneddon took charge of the Green team with backs coach Mark Duncan as the head coach of the Golds. The Greens had quarterback Bob Hainlen, Joe Folsom and legendary end George Jones while the Golds had two eventual CSU Hall of Fame inductees Don “Tuffy” Mullison and Fum McGraw.

In the end the Greens won 13-6 and were awarded the steak dinner. However, Coach Davis found a way to get all of his players a steak dinner.

As the tradition of spring football marched on, some new traditions came about that created legendary stories from 1950s CSU football lore.

A new kind of spring game emerged in the 1950s that instead of just the current players battling against one another, they ended up playing former Aggies and Rams in a charity game. The Varsity vs. Alumni games of the late 1950s have become legend in CSU football history. They featured several players then playing in the NFL, pitted against the varsity players, some of whom ended up in the NFL.

The 1957 game was played on May 18th at 7:30pm at Colorado Field and it was a fund raiser to help the Lyle Stucker Scholarship Fund. Stucker, a member of the 1949 Raisin Bowl team, had been killed in the Korean War and his former teammates came back each spring to help raise money for a scholarship in his name.

The 1957 game program reads like a who’s who of CSU football greats on the Alumni team. Don Burroughs, defensive back for the Los Angeles Rams at the time, played his old quarterback position. At right halfback, Chicago Cardinal Alex Burl played alongside left halfback and Detroit Lion Jack Christiansen. Pittsburgh Steelers guard Dale Dodrill was the fourth NFL player on the Alumni team while end Jim David of the soon-to-be 1957 World Champion Detroit Lions was the fifth Ram legend still in the NFL in 1957.

The sixth NFL player was one of three brothers on the Alumni team. Gary Glick, who had just completed his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, joined his older brother Ivan and Leon to play against their youngest brother and CSU’s starting quarterback for the 1957 season, Fred Glick.

In a 2008 interview, Gary Glick remembered this game well because his mother told him and his older brothers, “You big boys go easy on your little brother Freddy.” So the older Glick brothers went out in the Alumni game pitted against their little brother only to have young Freddy hit his NFL-employed brother Gary so hard it nearly knocked his teeth out. Fred Glick went on to play in the NFL with the Cardinals and the AFL with the Oilers.

The 1958 and 1959 Alumni game programs continued to feature some of the greatest players, whether in the NFL or not, that had graced Colorado Field during the Bob Davis era. Bob Weber, George Jones, Harvey Achziger, Jerry Callahan, Frank Faucett, Larry Barnes and of course their head coach and eventual Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Jack Christiansen. Eventually the game had to be discontinued to prevent injuries.

Spring football is a rite of passage for many players and fans. It is a time when many former players come back to visit and fans enjoy getting out to the stadium to see the team that will be on the field in the fall. It is also the time to renew Ram Club memberships, season tickets and get ready for the next year of Rams Football.