Countdown to Kickoff
Aug. 18, 2010
17 DAYS TO KICKOFF: With the grand opening of newly-renovated Provost Umphrey Stadium only a little less than a month away, Joe Lee Smith can relate directly to the buzz accompanying Lamar University's return to football this year.
Smith was beginning his second season as Lamar's sports information director when the Cardinals opened Cardinal Stadium with a game against East Central Oklahoma on Sept. 19, 1964.
"We were so busy making sure that everything went as smoothly as possible on opening night that I don't remember a lot about the first game other than that Darrell Johnson scored the first touchdown in stadium history and that we won (21-0)," said Smith, who put in 16 years as Lamar's SID and 33 total years with the university before retiring in 1996. "What I remember most, though, is our second game that next week.
"Abilene Christian came to town favored not only to beat us handily but to run away with the (Southland) conference championship. It never happened.
"Anthony Guillory (Lamar's All-America offensive guard/defensive tackle) dominated both lines of scrimmage, especially defensively. I don't remember Anthony's number, but Abilene Christian's center still has it tattooed to his nose. I bet he still remembers Anthony's number."
The 1964 Cardinals defeated Abilene Christian 14-3 that night and went on to win their first of three-successive SLC champions.
"That was a special time in Lamar's football history," said Smith, who remains Lamar's most authoritative athletic historian. "Moving out of South Park's old Greenie Stadium and into Cardinal Stadium made a world of difference, not only for (coach) Vernon Glass and the players but for Lamar University. It made us legitimate.
"Vernon and I came to Lamar at the same time in 1963 - him from an assistant's job at Baylor and me from a sports writing job at The Beaumont Enterprise. At that time, we had only 44 players on the varsity roster, and Vernon had only three other coaches on his staff.
"We were a closely-knit group. You became a part of the team, whether you were a player, coach, the SID, the trainer, a student manager or the team doctor. That was a special time for the football team, as it was going through the transition from the Lone Star Conference to the Southland Conference.
"We were moving up in football, and we were moving up as a university. It was both exciting and rewarding to be a part of it, although my part was a small part."
While all of the players who played football at Lamar during Smith's watch were special, he regards a certain few to have been extra-special. Phillip Primm and Doug Matthews are two who fall into that category.
"Primm came to Lamar the same year Vernon and I did," said Smith, now living in Bullard near Tyler. "He was a skinny, little, red-headed kid who didn't appear to have a lot of talent, but he developed into an outstanding quarterback.
"He was a born leader, and he willed us to a lot of the wins we enjoyed during his years on the team (1963-1966). He was our leader in passing and total offense for four-straight seasons.
"Doug came to us as a 5-foot-8 or maybe 5-foot-9 -- on his tiptoes - running back out of Galveston Ball who no one else seemed to want. He was an outstanding student and leader for us throughout his career.
"He led us in rushing for three-straight seasons, and he later helped lead the university as a member of the board of regents. Ironically, he was on the board when the decision was made to discontinue football (in 1989), and I know it hurt him deeply when that happened."
In further reviewing his days as Lamar's SID, Smith singled out a 1966 football game played against Arkansas State in Jonesboro.
"Arkansas State was 5-0, ranked No. 1 in the College Division poll and averaging 39 points a game," said Smith. "Our entire defense - in particular, (defensive back) Richard Bjerke - came to play that day.
"We shut them (the Indians) out 17-0. It was quiet in that stadium throughout that game. Their fans were in a state of disbelief. Our coaching staff had the players so energized that day."
The Texas State University System Board of Regents approved an athletics fee to restore the program in February of 2008 and named former NFL player Ray Woodard its eighth head coach on June 19, 2008.
Lamar will play an 11-game schedule this season, with six games being played in the newly renovated Provost Umphrey Stadium. The first home game will be against Webber International on Sept. 11.
Tickets for this historic season are currently on sale and can be purchased by calling the Lamar athletics ticket office at (409) 880-1715 or by visiting the athletics Web site at www.lamarcardinals.com/tickets/footbl-s-tickets.html.