Hearing 76,000 Spartan football fans chanting “kill, Bubba, kill” was a bit disconcerting for opponents’ offensive ends as they lined up across from Michigan State University’s Charles “Bubba” Smith in the mid-1960s.
Sportswriter and author Tom Shanahan includes that tidbit in his new book “Raye of Light: Jimmy Raye, Duffy Daugherty, the Integration of College Football and the 1965-66 Michigan State Spartans.” He also mentions the “Game of the Century,” the famous 1966 MSU/Notre Dame 10-10 tie and the inclusion of a barefoot kicker from
Hawaii in the lineup as some of the era’s highlights. Shanahan, 59, takes a different approach in evaluating those powerhouse teams of Hugh “Duffy” Daugherty, which culminated in 1965 and 1966 when MSU shared national championships, and in 1967 when eight players were drafted by the National Football League, including Smith who was the number one player selected overall.
Shanahan is an MSU graduate and Big Rapids native who lives in North Carolina. The book focuses on what he calls the “passengers of the modern Underground Railroad,” which brought 44 black players from the South to play football at MSU between 1959 and 1972. That included Raye, from Fayetteville, N.C., who would become the first black quarterback from the South to win a national championship for a major college. Shanahan and Raye will be at MSU for the Homecoming Game Sept. 26.
Shanahan believes that the Raye story holds special social significance. Raye played for the Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1968 and 1969, respectively, and has worked at every level of the sport from college and professional assistant coach to being one of the first black coordinators in the NFL with the 1983 Los Angeles Rams. He recently became a special assistant to the NFL reviewing proposed rule changes.
MSU recruited black players extensively from Michigan factory towns beginning in the 1950s. All-American Don Coleman (1951) and at least six black players were on the 1956 MSU Rose Bowl championship team, which elevated Daugherty to Coach of the Year and an appearance on the cover of Time Magazine. Before that, Pittsburgh native Willie Thrower led the team to the national championship in 1952 and became the first black professional football quarterback.
Daugherty also hosted clinics all over the country for high school coaches. Shanahan said the first year Duffy held clinics in the South, no black coaches were allowed to attend so in the second year he began hosting clinics for black coaches.
“They began to trust him and sent kids his way and as history shows it worked well for both the players and the school,” Shanahan said in a phone interview.
The famed 1966 team had 20 black players on its roster, including 11 who were starters, and a few Hawaiian players, including Dick Kenney (the barefoot kicker) and Bob Apisa. Shanahan dedicates two chapters in the book to what he calls this “Hawaiian Pipeline.”
Shanahan said Duffy’s commitment to the integration of college football is likely tied to his playing days at Syracuse when, in 1937, Maryland refused to play Syracuse
on their home field when it was discovered that the Syracuse quarterback Wilmeth Sidat-Singh was black and not “Hindu,” as Syracuse had portrayed him. Syracuse officials caved and Singh was benched for the game. (In 2013, Maryland formally apologized to the descendants of Singh.)
Playing a position normally reserved for a white man, Raye said he understood the tremendous pressure he was under.
“At 18, I had no thoughts of ‘pioneering,’” Raye said in a phone interview from his home in New York. ”Obviously coming from the South I was aware of the civil rights movement, but I thought of myself as a football player.”
He remembers Duffy telling the team that their names would be “written in indelible ink.”
“The words were proven to be prophetic,” Raye said. “And then, we’re most famous for the game we (tied).”
Ernie Pasteur, who played briefly for MSU in the 1960s before an injury sidelined him, recalls being attracted to MSU while watching “Jumpin’ Johnny” Green play basketball for MSU.
“I saw all these black guys running around and I knew that there was a lot more (black athletes) at MSU than any other school,” Pasteur said. “This story has never been told and it should have been. And there was a 70 percent graduation rate. We wanted to make our parents proud.”
Although Pasteur played only a short time for MSU (1964-‘65), he received three degrees and went on to an impressive career in education.
“I owe MSU,” he said. Ken Hines of East Lansing was an Oklahoma athlete when he met Daugherty one day as he was walking home from school.
“This white, beat-up station wagon pulls up and I had no idea who Duffy Daugherty was, but he gave me a ride home,” Hines said. “I’d probably (have) been stuck in a small town. There were no role models for me. Duffy changed the face of football.”
Hines, Raye and Pasteur each said they didn’t understand they were part of something bigger.
“I wasn’t radical, I was a football player,” Hines said.
“Raye of Light” book signing with Tom Shanahan and Jimmy Raye
Presented by Historical Society of Greater Lansing 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25 Capital Area District Library 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing FREE (517) 282-0671, lansinghistory.blogspot.com