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Senior Bowl History - Game Recaps: 1950's
 >> The Senior Bowl -- A Look Back At 57 Years Of Football Excellence

The 1950s was a decade of historic firsts for the Senior Bowl: the first games, the first game in Mobile, the first Heisman Trophy winner, the first crowd over 30,000 and first nationally televised contest.

Illinois’ Ray Nitschke breaks a tackle while playing fullback during the star-studded 1958 Senior Bowl. He went to enjoy a Hall of Fame career as a linebacker during the Green Bay Packers’ glory years of the 1960s.


MVP: Travis Tidwell, Auburn
NORTH COACH: Bo McMillin, Lions
SOUTH COACH: Steve Owen, Giants
TOP PLAYERS: Doak Walker, Travis Tidwell, Charlie Justice, Eddie LeBaron

When Nashville businessman Jimmie Pearre decided to stage the first Senior Bowl all-star game in Jacksonville, Florida's Gator Bowl on January 7, 1950, he not only laid the groundwork for a contest which would immediately become the most unique football game in the nation, but one that would soon develop into one of the nation's premier sporting events. It was decided that this game would be unique in that it would feature college football's finest senior stars being coached for the first time in their careers by coaching staffs from the National Football League. The event was also structured so that those same players would also receive a percentage of the game's proceeds (a practice which was eventually discontinued in 1989). SMU's Doak Walker, Charlie Justice of North Carolina and Tulane's Eddie Price entered the inaugural contest as the game's most highly touted stars, but it was Auburn's Travis Tidwell who emerged as its MVP as the South took a 22-13 victory before 16,487 fans. Tidwell threw for two touchdowns and set up a third as he completed 13 of 19 passes for 227 yards.


MVP: Bucky Curtis, Vanderbilt
NORTH COACH: Bo McMillin, Lions
SOUTH COACH: Steve Owen, Giants
TOP PLAYERS: Bob Gain, Kyle Rote

Because of poor attendance at that initial event, however, a group of Mobile businessmen, headed by Finley McRae, was then able to lure the contest to the Port City where, after a less than spectacular attendance turnout in 1951, it has flourished ever since. In the 1951, game, Vanderbilt's Bucky Curtis put on a dazzling exhibition of pass catching and rushing to earn MVP honors as he caught two touchdowns, set up a third and was on the receiving end of seven of the eight passes the South completed and 140 of the 141 passing yards as the South won by the narrowest of victories 19-18.


MVP: Al Dorow, Michigan St.
NORTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
SOUTH COACH: Steve Owen, Giants
TOP PLAYERS: Babe Parilli, Frank Gifford

The 1952 game, the first to be played under the sponsorship of the newly-formed Mobile Arts and Sports Association, the non-profit organization which still puts on the contest each year, featured the passing of Wisconsin's John Coatta and fine play by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Frank Gifford of USC and MVP Al Dorow of Michigan State as they led the North to its first win, 20-6. Dorow had the game's biggest play -- an 87-yard interception return for touchdown off a pass thrown by Vanderbilt All- American Bill Wade, while Coatta connected with Gifford on a three-yard scoring toss for the final 20-6 margin.


MVP: Harry Agganis, Boston
NORTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
SOUTH COACH: Steve Owen, Giants
TOP PLAYERS: Harry Agganis, Joe Schmidt, Dick Modzelewski

Two more North wins -- 28-13 in 1953 and 20-14 in '54 -- gave the Yanks a 3-2 series edge after the first five games. In 1953, Harry Agganis of Boston University led the North's passing attack as the slingin' southpaw outshone Maryland's All-American passer Jack Scarbath by passing for two touchdowns and setting up a third while also doing double duty on defense and intercepting two South aerials.


MVP: Gene Filipski, Villanova
NORTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
SOUTH COACH: Steve Owen, Giants
TOP PLAYERS: Zeke Bratkowski, Vince Dooley, Max McGee

Coach Paul Brown's Yanks scored a thrilling come-from-behind 20-14 win in 1954 before a crowd of 28,174 as Villanova's Gene Filipski and Maryland's Ralph Felton led a devastating North ground attack which accounted for 266 yards rushing. Alabama's Tommy Lewis set up the South's first score in the second quarter on a 26-yard run capped off by a 50-yard TD pass by Georgia's Zeke Bratkowski, but the North countered with two scores to lead 13-7 at the half. The South then scored on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, when Bratkowski hit Tulane's Max McGee for 60-yards and a 14-13 lead. The North took the victory by driving 95 yards on 18 plays in the game's final moments on 17 rushes and one pass play to give Brown his third straight Senior Bowl win.


MVP: Bobby Freeman, Auburn
NORTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
SOUTH COACH: Steve Owen, Giants
TOP PLAYER: Alan Ameche

A record crowd of 30,030 for the 1955 Senior Bowl saw Auburn quarterback Bobby Freeman win overall MVP honors and lead two long touchdown drives in the second half to end the North's three-game winning streak with a 12-6 victory. The North took an early 6-0 first-half lead paced by Heisman Trophy winner Alan Ameche of Wisconsin, before the South finally got on track with a bruising ground attack led by Frank Eidom of SMU and Maryland's Dick Bielski, which accounted for 260 yards. The two second half touchdowns -- each on short runs by Eidom and Bielski -- gave the South the win and evened the series at three wins apiece.


MVP: Don Goss, SMU
NORTH COACH: Buddy Parker, Lions
SOUTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
TOP PLAYERS: Sam Huff, Howard Schnellenberger

A little deja vu was in the cards for the 1956 contest, as another Auburn star, Joe Childress, again played a major role in the South victory as he scored the team's only two touchdowns before another record crowd of 31,782 as the South again scored 12 points to win 12-2. However, Don Goss, SMU's mammoth tackle, earned the game's MVP award for a sterling defensive performance for the Southerners. The first South TD was set up by fine running by former Alabama Governor Fob James of Auburn and SMU's Don McIlhenny before Childress took it in from the two. The South closed out the scoring on another two-yard Childress run in the fourth period. Coach Paul Brown also scored his first victory as South coach, after coaching the North the previous four years.


MVP: Don Bosseler, Miami
NORTH COACH: Joe Kuharich, Redskins
SOUTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
TOP PLAYERS: Len Dawson, Jack Pardee

The South used a hard-nosed running attack that accounted for a Senior Bowl record 370 rushing yards which still stands, as Miami running back Don Bosseler scored two fourth period touchdowns to carve out a 21-7 South win in 1957. Future Pro Football Hall of Famer Len Dawson of Purdue got the North on the board first with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Michigan's Terry Barr. The lead was short-lived as the South drove 73 yards after the ensuing kickoff, highlighted by Bosseler runs of 32 and 12 yards, and capped off by a three-yard scoring run by Georgia's Del Shofner. After a scoreless third period, the South then exploded for the two fourth period touchdowns for its third straight win and a 5-3 series lead.


MVP: Jim Taylor, LSU
NORTH COACH: Joe Kuharich, Redskins
SOUTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
TOP PLAYERS: Jim Taylor, Jerry Kramer, Jim Phillips, Charley Krueger, Ray Nitschke, Chuck Howley, Gene Hickerson, Alex Karras

Fans were treated to one of the most exciting games in the event's young history in the 1958 Senior Bowl, as the North squad squeaked out a 15-13 nail-biter in the first game which was broadcast on national television. The contest is best remembered, however, for its outstanding cast of future NFL stars which included Jerry Kramer, Charley Krueger, Jim Phillips, Gene Hickerson, Chuck Howley, Alex Karras and Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Taylor of LSU, who was named the game's MVP, and Illinois' Ray Nitschke, who starred in a running/linebacking role for the North. Trailing 15-13 in the game's final moments, the South drove to a first down on the North's seven yard line. The drive stalled on the North two and Auburn's Billy Atkins came on for the potential game winning field goal attempt with just 28 seconds left. But the kick just missed to the left, and the North had its first victory in four years.


MVP-TIE: Theron Sapp, Georgia / Norm Odyniec, Notre Dame
NORTH COACH: Joe Kuharich, Redskins
SOUTH COACH: Paul Brown, Browns
TOP PLAYER: Alex Hawkins
Notre Dame's Norm Odyniec and Theron Sapp of Georgia each scored two touchdowns to tie for the overall MVP Award (a Senior Bowl first), but Sapp's South squad pulled out a 21-12 win in the 1959 contest. Odyniec rushed for a Senior Bowl record 192 yards which still stands, and added two scores, while Sapp gained 158 for the South and also added two TD's. But it was South quarterback Buddy Humphrey of Baylor who made the difference, as he threw one TD pass in the first quarter and then connected with Mississippi State's Billy Stacy on a 52-yarder which set up the South's second touchdown and a 14-12 third quarter lead which they never relinquished.

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Last Updated: Thursday, February 01, 2007.