As we continue to try to switch gears from basketball season to football season (it's been difficult, considering all the recent basketball news), we now switch from our basketball hall of fame of sorts (The Rafters) to the second class of our Football hall, The Wall of Excellence.
Today we move to Tier II, the 1950s-1960s. As Don Faurot retired and ceded ground first to Frank Broyles, then Dan Devine, Mizzou's fortunes began to turn upward, leading to the most successful decade in Mizzou history, the 1960s. To say the least, plenty of talent moved in and out of Columbia in those years.
Below are your seven 1950s-1960s nominees. All of them are members of the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.
Harold Burnine (1950s)
He was to football in the mid-1950s what Norm Stewart was to basketball. They were both All-Americans, and while Mizzou wasn't great in his time (5-14-1 in 1954-55), he was.
Hall of Fame Bio: An all-America receiver for Coach Don Faurot in 1955, when he led the nation in receiving with 44 receptions for 594 yards. He led the conference in receiving in 1954 as well. The native of Richmond, Mo., was also all-Big Seven that year, and played in four all-star games - the Blue-Gray, North-South, Senior Bowl and College All-Star game. For his three-year MU career, Burnine caught 75 passes for 1,145 yards, figures that kept him in the Tiger top-ten until the recent passing accomplishments under Coach Bob Stull. He played professionally with the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.
Mel Gray (1960s)
An absolute burner, Gray was the perfect complement to the big, physical Mizzou style. The Tigers could rough you up on the inside, then Gray could burn you over the top.
Hall of Fame Bio: Came to Missouri from Santa Rosa, Calif., as MU's first "speed merchant," lettering in football and track from 1968-70. Was all-Big Eight in 1969, when he caught 25 passes for 705 yards and a school-record nine TDs. Held the school record for career receiving yardage - 1,491 -for 20 years, and still holds the MU career record for receiving TDs (14). He was chosen to MU's all-century team in 1990. Gray was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, and was an all-pro receiver during a career that lasted from 1971-82. In track, Gray was an all-American once indoors and twice outdoors. Was a Grand Slam winner in the 100-meter dash in '70, taking titles at the Texas, Kansas, and Drake Relays. He was a five time Big Eight Conference sprint champion, winning the indoor 60-yard dash (1970), and the 100 and 220-yard dashes outdoors in 1969 and '70. He is the co-holder of the MU records in all three races, with respective times of 6.0 seconds, 9.3 seconds and 20.4 seconds.
Danny LaRose (1950s)
Perhaps the most under-appreciated Mizzou players of all-time, LaRose was the best player on perhaps Mizzou's best team, the 10-1 1960 squad. People know that team was great, but not everybody knows just how dominant LaRose was at that time.
Hall of Fame Bio: One of the greatest two-way talents in Missouri history, LaRose starred from 1958-60, as an end who could dominate the line of scrimmage, and was also MU's leading receiver as a sophomore and senior. He also punted for MU in 1960. A native of Crystal City, Mo., LaRose won all-conference honors in 1958 and '60, and was a consensus all-America selection in 1960 (made 13 teams), when Missouri beat Navy and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino in the Orange Bowl. LaRose played in the College All-Star Game and Hula Bowl in 1961, then went on to a professional career with the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. He was also an accomplished weight man in track, who held Missouri's indoor shot put record for many years.
Francis Peay (1960s)
If LaRose is under-appreciated, Peay is straight-up unappreciated. Call it the lineman's curse (case in point: number-retiree and "best Mizzou lineman ever" candidate Darold Jenkins finished a distant third in the Tier I vote behind Harry Ice, a flashy runner with a flashy name). Along with players like LaRose and Justin Smith, Peay is one of Mizzou's best defensive linemen ever.
Hall of Fame Bio: Has completed six years as the head football coach at Northwestern University, after standout seasons as a tackle at Missouri and in the NFL. A Pittsburgh, Pa., native, Peay lettered in 1964-65, and won all-Big Eight and all-America plaudits as a senior when Missouri ranked third in the nation in rushing offense and won the Sugar Bowl over Florida, and Heisman Trophy QB Steve Spurrier. He was the Big Eight's "lineman of the week" following MU's 17-6 win over Minnesota that season, and later was a first-round choice of the New York Giants in the 1966 NFL Draft, and later played with the Green Bay Packers (1968-72) and Kansas City Chiefs (1973-75). He was named to MU's all-Century Football Team.
Johnny Roland (1960s)
Roland did whatever his team needed -- in an era where players no longer played both ways, he had to balance being Mizzou's best running back and defensive back. He did whatever the team needed, whenever the team needed it, and his number is retired because of it.
Hall of Fame Bio: A halfback from Corpus Christi, Texas, Roland lettered at MU in 1962-64-65, and was an all-Big Eight choice all three years. An outstanding two-way player, Roland was team captain and all-American in 1965. Following that season, he played in the Senior Bowl, Coaches All-American Game and College All Star Game. At MU, he led the Tigers in rushing and scoring in 1962, in punt returns in 1964-65, in kickoff returns in 1962 and '64, and in pass interceptions in 1965. Roland ranks 10th at MU in career scoring, and led the Big Eight in scoring in 1962. He played with the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL from 1966-72, earning the league's nod as "Rookie of the Year" in `66 and with the New York Giants in 1973.
Roger Wehrli (1960s)
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame not too long ago (kind of trumps simply having your number retired, eh?), Wehrli was Mizzou's best ever ball-hawk and one of its best ever athletes.
Hall of Fame Bio: "Roger the Dodger" made his mark out of King City, Mo., as a standout defensive back and kick returner during three seasons at MU. A letterman in 1966-67-68, Wehrli set eight MU records including most interceptions in as season (7 in 1968) and most in a game (3 vs. Oklahoma State in 1968) and led the nation in punt returns in 1968. Wehrli was all-Big Eight in 1967 and '68 and all-America in '68. He played in four all-star games following his senior year -the Senior Bowl, Hula Bowl, Coaches All-America Game and College All-Star Game. He then had a long career with the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL (1969-82), where he was a perennial all-Pro selection.
Mel West (1950s)
One of Mizzou's first two black players, along with Norris Stevenson, West is another rather under-appreciated Mizzou star. If LaRose was not the standout player on those 1958-60 teams, West was, leading Mizzou in rushing and repeatedly setting them up with fantastic field position.
Hall of Fame Bio: A native of Jefferson City, West ranks as MU's sixth-leading career rusher with 1,848 yards. He was all-Big Eight in 1960, when the Tigers achieved the only number-one ranking in school history. One of only two MU running backs (James Wilder is the other) to lead the team in rushing three straight seasons, and is the only Tiger running back ever to lead MU in total offense three times. Was MU's top kickoff return man in 1959 and '60, averaging more than 33 yards per return. Played in two bowl games for Dan Devine and was MU's leading rusher in each. Played professionally with the Boston Patriots and New York Titans of the American Football League.