By Mark Janssen
When one thinks of great Kansas State quarterbacks, it becomes a conversation of eras.
For those in their 20s, Josh Freeman comes to mind; for those in their 30s and 40s, it might be Michael Bishop; but for those in their 50s and beyond, there's only one name ... and that name is Lynn Dickey.
Today, the 61-year-old Dickey says of his teams, "Looking back, we were very, very average. But we were such a contrast to what it had been, people seemed to think we were pretty good. But how good we were is certainly something that I don't talk about today. I'd like to say we were great, but we weren't."
Chuckling at the thought, and how different the recruiting process is today compared to 1967, Dickey said, "You're not going to believe this, but I had no idea that Kansas State had not won a football game in two years. Was I a little naive? Yeah, you might say that."
Dickey grew up a huge Kansas Jayhawk fan. But under Pepper Rodgers, the plan was to run quarterback sweeps and they already had Bobby Douglas.
"I gave an oral commitment to Missouri, but after a conversation with my dad, he explained how they were going to run an option offense, so why would I want to go there?" reflected Dickey.
So, it came down to Dickey's third choice as he fell victim to the razzle-dazzle recruiting of first-year Wildcat coach Vince Gibson.
"He promised me three things," said Dickey, who today is based in Kansas City and works for "Serve You," a pharmacy benefit management company. "He said we would have a new stadium, he said we would have a new dorm to live in, and he said we would throw it 40 times a game. I said, 'That's good for me!' "
It would also be good for K-State. When his career was done, he held career records for attempts (994), completions (501), yardage (6,208) and touchdowns (29). Today, he's second to Josh Freeman in attempts (1,151), completions (680) and yardage (8,078), and sixth in TDs.
To such passing standards, Dickey said, "I always wanted to play on a team that ran the football. You look at teams that throw it 45 and 50 times a game, those teams win some games, but it just doesn't work to win a championship. A few weeks ago (Collin) Klein threw the ball four times and they beat Texas. Is it best to have a mix? Sure. But if you can't run it, and have to throw it ... that's just not going to work in the long run."
During the Dickey years at K-State, he had three different leading rushers, but all with modest numbers: 1968 - Larry Brown, 402 yards; 1969 - Mack Herron, 506 yards; and 1970 - Bill Butler, 497 yards. In those same years, Dickey passed for 1,569 yards, 2,476 yards and 2,163 yards, respectively.
Dickey's right. K-State did not win titles during his time, but there were some of the most memorable games in K-State history.
In 1968, K-State defeated Nebraska, 10-0, in Lincoln: "We were playing something like 10 sophomores. We were so young I'm not even sure we knew what we did," said Dickey.
After this win, the 'Cats would not defeat Nebraska again until 1998.
What Dickey does remember about that game was this: "I walked into that stadium for the first time and just said, 'Wow, that's a lot of red.' "
Idolizing Joe Namath at the time, Dickey entered the 1969 season wearing white shoes.
"I remember going into Vince to make sure it would be ok, and he just said, 'Why? Why in the world do you want people to make fun of you ... laugh at you'," Dickey said.
Dickey said he couldn't find any white shoes, so he took black ones - one for turf and one for grass - and had them dyed white.
K-State opened the season with a 48-15 win at Baylor.
"Early in the game I heard comments about my 'girly' shoes," said Dickey. "After a while I just said, 'Hey, can you guys see the scoreboard. These white shoes are whipping your butt.' "
At mid-season K-State whipped Heisman Trophy winner Steve Owens and his band of No. 11-ranked Oklahoma Sooners, 59-21.
"That game meant a lot to the fans, but really, Vince had us convinced that not only could we win, but we could whip them," said Dickey, who passed for 380 yards in the game. "In all honesty, the game the next year in Norman (a 19-14 win with 384 passing yards) was more fun for me because it came down to the last minute, and I threw a touchdown to Henry Hawthorne to win the game."
K-State lost the next game to Missouri in 1969, 41-38, which is a game he remembers most in his career: "In the huddle, I remember telling someone, 'Man, I wish I was in the stands watching this one.' That's probably the most fun I've ever had in a game."
Dickey passed for 394 yards and three TDs against the Tigers.
Another memory game came later in a 45-32 loss at Colorado, which was a game that concluded in near darkness. Dickey rifled the ball a school-record 61 times for a Big 8 record of 439 yards. It was a game that was tied 7-7 just 28 seconds into the game.
But Dickey would repeat, "When you're throwing it that many times it means you're usually getting beat."
Dickey would be drafted by the Houston Oilers in the third round following his K-State career, and ended up passing for a whopping 23,322 yards in 15 seasons in the NFL with Houston and Green Bay.
Through all of those seasons - K-State and the NFL -- there is one player who stands tallest of all when it comes to talent. That is wingback Mack Herron, who was listed at 5-7, but that was on tiptoes.
"He's absolutely the best at any level, anytime, anywhere," said Dickey. "He's the most amazing person I have ever played with. What, 5-4, 180 pounds? He had such balance, speed, toughness and hands. He would catch a pass, get throttled by a defender, put a hand on the ground to keep his balance, and be back at full speed in one step.
"He was one who you just said, 'Oh my God, I can't believe what he just did. He was a difference maker," said Dickey. "Mack was absolutely the most freakish player I've ever seen on the field."