Jan. 8, 2013
The following story appeared in Tuesday's edition of K-State Sports Extra.
By Mark Janssen
Some wearing well-worn K-State letter jackets, and for certain all dressed in purple, nearly 200 former Wildcat football gladiators – the “Golden Cats” – were on hand in Phoenix last week for the Fiesta Bowl.
“We’re a fraternity,” said several former K-Staters, while others used the term “brotherhood” to define not only their relationship with past teammates, but also the club of past Wildcats playing for a singular cause for a singular school.
“Forever a Wildcat,” announced Lynn Larson, who was a volunteer for the Fiesta Bowl committee. “I spent two wonderful years at K-State.”
Laughing, he somewhat corrected himself by saying, “Wonderful years, but let’s also say I survived two years at Kansas State. Those (1968 and 1969) were some of Vince’s (Gibson) first years. My goodness, it was unbelievable … blood, guts and puke all over the place. That’s what’s wrong with the NFL today … they’re a bunch of babies. No one works like we did for Vince.”
After few survived Gibson’s first year in 1967, Larson was in a class that included 17 junior college signees with 16 of those ending up as starters.
Out of Phoenix Community College, Larson said, “The national powers didn’t recruit me, but I thought if I went to K-State it was going to be a chance to play in the Big Eight and play against the best teams in the country. If I showed what I could do playing against Nebraska and Oklahoma, that was my ticket into the NFL.”
Today, Larson is the answer to this trivia question: Who was the first Wildcat to play in a Super Bowl?
Larson accomplished that feat in a most remarkable way. Drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 1970 draft, he says, “I bounced around like an old piece of luggage.”
Starting with the April draft, Larson went to Chicago, was traded to Atlanta, was traded to Denver, and finally sent packing to the Baltimore Colts in early November.
Two months later Larson was in uniform for the Colts and today proudly wears the championship ring from Super Bowl V.
Laughing, Larson said, “Just proves that the good Lord watches after fools and babies. He was looking after me.”
Larson, who works today as a testing administrator of the Arizona law enforcement agency in Phoenix, was a 6-foot-5, 245-pound left tackle, who increased his bench press 30 pounds and went from 5.2 in the 40 to 4.8 in just one offseason conducted by Gibson.
All-Stars on the team included Mack Herron, who Larson said, “He reminds me of (Darren) Sproles, but faster and runs with more force,” and quarterback Lynn Dickey, who he quipped, “Lynn never got hit until he was in the NFL. We protected him well.”
HILL STILL A SNYDER-CAT: “I owe so much to K-State,” said tight end Thomas Hill, who played for the Wildcats from 2001-03. “Under coach (Bill) Snyder is where I became a man. Kansas State University is where I matured into a man. I am blessed to have gone through the hard work that he demanded, and that ‘Cat Time.’ Today, I’m never late for anything.”
While playing in 28 winning games, the Tulsa native said, “My favorite memory was beating up on those Oklahoma boys for the (2003 Big 12) championship.”
But overall, he added, “I just remember the closeness of the teams and all the fighting, banging, crying and laughing that we did together. I just have all positive memories.”
Today Hill lives in Anthem, Ariz., where he operates the Bounce Boot Camp, which is a sports fitness academy designed for 5- to 14-year-olds.
“We’re trying to fight the obese epidemic,” said Hill. “Statistics say that one in three children is obese. I’m trying to fight this epidemic the best that I can.”
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