College Days: Lance Alworth

College Days: Lance Alworth

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Each week throughout the 2013 season, recaps the college days of a pro football legend.

Lance Alworth
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1978

There is only one player in the history of the NFL who can pull off having the nickname “Bambi.” That’s Lance Alworth. But before the graceful wide receiver with gazelle-like speed picked up the handle with the San Diego Chargers, he earned worthy praise and national acclaim for his play at Arkansas.

Lance is one of two Hall of Famers to play at Arkansas. Dan Hampton is the other.
Alworth was an all-around athlete at Brookhaven High School in Mississippi. While there he earned 16 varsity letters playing football, basketball, baseball, and track. He initially wanted to stay in-state and play football for Ole’ Miss but the football team had a policy of not recruiting married football players. Alworth had wed his high school sweetheart, Betty. So, he took his talents to Arkansas where he would play as a halfback.

He immediately created a buzz on campus when he helped lead the freshman Razorbacks team to an undefeated season in 1958. NCAA rules at the time prohibited Alworth from playing varsity football as a freshman. Later that year he exhibited his athletic versatility when he lettered in baseball and track. He even set Razorback sprint marks in 100- and 200-yard events. 

As a sophomore, Alworth started on offense and defense, returned kicks and served as the team’s punter. His play helped the Razorbacks win nine games (the most in school history) including a triumph over Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl. The 14-7 victory, just the second Bowl win in school history, lifted the team to number nine in the year-end national rankings.

Alworth led the Razorbacks in rushing as a junior and eventually ran them to the Cotton Bowl. Despite a 7-6 loss to Duke, Alworth was named the game’s outstanding back.

During his senior year in 1961 he became the first Razorback athlete to win letters in three sports (football, baseball and track) in the same school year. He earned All-American honors after he led the team in rushing (110 carries for 516 yards), receiving (18 receptions for 320 yards), punt returns (28 for 336 yards) and kickoff returns (13 for 300 yards). Alworth’s great play also continued to lift the team as Arkansas had an 8-1 regular season record before losing to No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Alworth was in high demand in two pro sports. He was offered baseball contracts by the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees and was selected by both the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL and the Oakland Raiders in the AFL in both league’s respective 1962 drafts. He eventually selected football and chose the AFL after the Raiders traded him to San Diego. He enjoyed nine incomparable years in San Diego before shifting to Dallas for two final years (1971-72) with the Cowboys. 

See Alworth’s HOF Bio>>>
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