The list of inductees into the 2021 College Football Hall of Fame included a few names that should be familiar to Big 12 football fans. Texas defensive tackle Kenneth Sims, Kansas State running back Darren Sproles, and Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops were elected along with North Carolina offensive tackle Harris Barton, Arizona defensive back David Fulcher, Miami linebacker Dan Morgan, USC quarterback Carson Palmer, Eastern Illinois quarterback Tony Romo, Clemson running back CJ Spiller, Notre Dame offensive tackle Aaron Taylor, Iowa defensive end Andre Tippett, Tennessee linebacker Al Wilson, and Florida A&M coach Rudy Hubbard. Let’s take a closer look at the inductees with ties to the Big 12.
Kenneth Sims never played in the Big 12, but he played on a great Texas defense during his time with the Longhorns from 1978-1981. He anchored the middle of the defensive line with Steve McMichael, which must have been great to watch. A two-time all-Southwest Conference selection, Sims won the Lombardi Award in 1981 and finished 8th in the Heisman voting that same year. He was the number one pick in the 1982 NFL draft by the New England Patriots and played his entire career with New England, from 1982-1989, including an appearance in Super Bowl XX.
Bob Stoops was the head coach at Oklahoma from 1999 to 2016, winning one national championship and finishing his career as the all-time winningest coach at Oklahoma. Stoops was on the K-State football staff when I was in school there and I met him one time. I had a friend that worked for the athletic department and he was doing a project researching building a new press box. I met my friend over at the football offices one day and as we were walking out Bob and Mike Stoops were leaving the facility. He was friends with them and introduced me and we had a brief conversation. Bob seemed really quiet and reserved to me and he let Mike do all the talking. After they left, my buddy told me that the Stoops brothers were up and comers in the college football world and everyone from the athletic director on down to Bill Snyder raved how great they were. I didn’t think much about it at the time and surely had no idea that I had just met a future national championship head coach and college football Hall of Famer. At the time, he was 32 and I was a college kid. In the next few years, K-Staters watched the Stoops brothers help build and coach some great defenses in Manhattan. Bob went on to do great things at Oklahoma, finishing with a 190-48 overall record and winning 10 Big 12 championships.
Darren Sproles‘ induction into the college football hall of fame is a no-brainer. Although I’ve never met Darren, I do have some connections to him. We both went to the same high school, Olathe North, and my kids went to the same elementary school that he did. It was neat talking to some of the teachers at the school about Darren and they still talk fondly of him. Darren is one of those people that is liked by everyone, so he is a Hall of Famer in more ways than one.
To this day, Kansas State fans can recall famous runs by Darren Sproles. The long screen pass for a touchdown in the 2003 Big 12 championship game and the run against Nebraska in Lincoln where he dragged a Nebraska defender from the five-yard line into the end zone to score a touchdown are two Sproles plays of note. A lot of times people can’t remember specifics and it goes something like “do you remember that run against USC where he faked five guys out of their jocks and ran for 30 yards?” Or “do you remember that run against Kansas where he was a human pinball machine running through their entire defense and ran for a touchdown?”
There is one run in particular that I remember and it came in the 2003 Big 12 championship game. I was there in person and have watched it on video many times and the video doesn’t do it justice. Since the game ended in a 35-7 victory for K-State, a lot of people don’t remember that the K-State offense struggled mightily early in that game and didn’t even pick up their first first down until late in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, K-State was down 7-0 and one run by Sproles lit a fire under the Wildcats. It was a pitch play behind the line of scrimmage and the Oklahoma defensive back read the play and had what was sure to be an eight-yard tackle for loss. Instead, Sproles spun out of the tackle and juked his way through the OU defense for a 55-yard run. K-State never looked back and Sproles ran for 235 yards and had 88 yards receiving for one touchdown in the game. If you’re ever looking for some entertainment, search “Darren Sproles highlights” on YouTube and you might be distracted for hours. Sproles continued his spectacular play in the NFL and ended his career with the 5th most all-purpose yardage in NFL history. He might make the NFL Hall of Fame next.
Congratulations to Kenneth, Bob, and Darren on your induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
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