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Deaths bring back memories

December 7, 2010 - Neil Rudel
Two news items moved on the sports wire in succession Monday that hit home for me.

Both were deaths of sports figures. One was "Dandy Don" Meredith, the old Dallas Cowboys quarterback and former announcer on Monday Night Football, and the other was ex-Marquette coach Hank Raymonds.

Until I was old enough to know better, and before the Steelers evolved into a playoff team, I grew up as a Dallas Cowboys fan in part because my dad worked for an insurance company, Southwestern Life, based in Dallas.

I still remember the gold pens he'd give us with his name inscribed on them. Anyway, at that point, he started rooting for the Cowboys and as the oldest of his three boys (and five kids), so did I. For the record, I think he would have allowed us to stay in the same room if we chose to root for the other team, but I'm not 100 percent sure.

We loved the speed of Bob Hayes and the durability of Don Perkins and the Doomsday Defense with Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh, Cornell Green and Lee Roy Jordan.

My first disappointment was Dallas' 34-27 loss in the 1966 NFL championship game to the Green Bay Packers. A berth to Super Bowl I was on the line. The Cowboys froze in the Ice Bowl, losing 21-17 to the Packers and Vince Lombardi the following year as well.

Meredith was the flamboyant QB who later made his mark working with Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, where he'd sing, "turn out the lights, the party's over..."

I was a junior at Penn State in 1977-78, covering the basketball team for The Daily Collegian, when Raymonds brought the Marquette Warriors to Rec Hall.

Marquette was coming off its national title under Al McGuire and Raymonds, a former McGuire assistant, was in his first year as head coach. The Warriors had future NBA players Jerome Whitehead and Butch Lee and were able to survive a scare from Penn State, which was led by Jeff Miller, who is still one of the best shooters in Nittany Lion history.

Rec Hall was packed that night, but Penn State couldn't put away Marquette after leading at halftime (in that regard, not much other than the venue has changed).

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