Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Going By the [Jersey] Numbers, Drake's Johnny Bright Receives National Honorable Mention for Wearing No. 43. Walker Death Shocks, Saddens Ferentz

Johnny Bright, considered one of the greatest athletes ever to have played in Iowa, received honorable mention by senior writer Ivan Maisel is his listing of the best college football players ever to wear a jersey number.

Bright [right] wore No. 43 during his distinguished career in which he led the NCAA in total offense in 1949 and 1950, setting a then-NCAA record of 2,400 yards in 1950 for a per-game average of 266.7, which also was an NCAA record.

He also set an NCAA career total offense record of 5,983 yards. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native finished fifth in balloting for the 1951 Heisman Trophy. Hw played in the East-West Shrine All-Star game and the Hula Bowl.

Terry Kinard, a defensive back who played at Clemson from 1978-82, was named the best player to wear jersey 43. He led Clemson to the 1981 national championship. Terry Miller, who played tailback at Oklahoma State from 1974-77 ,and Troy Polamalu, who played safety at Southern California from 1999-2002, also received honorable mention.

Bright is the only Drake player inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame being recognized in 1984. He also is the only Drake football player to have his jersey number retired.

In celebration of the centennial of collegiate football in 1969, Bright was named as the top Drake football player of all time.Bright set 20 school records at Drake in football, basketball and track.

Drafted No. 1 by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1952, Bright elected to play in the Canadian Football League with the Calgary Stampeders. He led Edmonton to the Grey Cup championship in 1954, 1955 and 1956 and retired in 1963 as the Eskimos leading rusher with 9,966 yards. He was inducted into the Canadian Foootball League Hall of Fame.

The new football field will be known as “Johnny Bright Field at Drake Stadium” with formal dedication ceremonies planned during a Sept. 30 homecoming game with Morehead State.

* * *

“I was shocked and saddened to learn of Randy Walker’s passing," Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said today following the death of the Northwestern coach.

"He was an outstanding, well-respected coach who did a tremendous job at Northwestern. He was a credit to his university and collegiate football. My condolences go to his wife and kids and the entire Northwestern football family.”

Walker [left] died of an apparent heart attack Thursday night. He was 52.

Walker died after feeling chest pains around 10 p.m. at his suburban Chicago home, said Mike Wolf, the school's assistant athletic director for media services.

"This is a devastating loss, not only for our athletic program, but for the entire Northwestern community," athletic director Mark Murphy said in a statement early Friday. "Randy truly embraced Northwestern and its mission, and cared deeply for his student-athletes, both on and off the field."

Walker was the first Northwestern coach to lead the school to three bowl games. The Wildcats lost to UCLA, 50-38, in the Sun Bowl last December.

In October, 2004, Walker checked himself into a hospital after experiencing chest pains. He was diagnosed with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle; the condition is not a common ailment, and is usually caused by a virus.

Walker was out of the hospital in two days, and said he was taking a new approach to his diet and work schedule.

"I've really taken my doctor's orders to heart, because frankly, I want to see my grandkids someday," he said at the time.

Two months ago, Northwestern gave Walker a four-year extension through the 2011 season. He joined the school in 1999 after nine years at Miami of Ohio.

Walker's Wildcats posted 37 wins, going 7-5 last season. He led the team to three bowl games since 2000.

Northwestern shared the Big Ten title in 2000 and went to the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats also went to the 2003 Motor City Bowl.

Walker was the first Wildcats coach to guide the team to four seasons with at least six wins since C.M. Hollister in 1899-1902.

He is survived by his wife, Tamara, and two children, Abbey, 28, and Jamie, 25, who is the school's football recruiting assistant.