TERRE HAUTE —
They’re all still pretty hale and hearty, the boys of the fall of 1972 who returned to campus over the weekend to honor their former football coach.
Jerry Huntsman called the 1972 Sycamores the best team he’d ever had at Indiana State. Their 7-3 record in NCAA’s Division II included at least two losses to Division I opponents, one of those — the season-opening home game against Cincinnati — on a dropped pass in the end zone in the final seconds by the receiver (Glenn Damato) with the best hands I’ve seen on a Sycamore.
They won their last five, four of them absolute routs, and coach Huntsman — I called him “coach” then and I’m not stopping now — retired with a 43-24-1 record, a .639 winning percentage that’s ISU’s best.
They were also an easy team to love because, to be as corny as I can possibly be, they seemed to love each other — a team in the truest form of the word. The big man on campus in the fall of 1972 was an offensive guard, for example, and one of its All-America players — maybe its only one, memory fails me here — was a linebacker smaller than I was.
That offensive guard, Bobby Poss, and defensive tackle Dave McKenney were the driving forces behind a 40-year reunion that occurred during homecoming weekend, and with it a fundraising effort resulting in the naming of the “Jerry Huntsman Coaches Locker Room.”
Members of the Huntsman family joined several dozen returning players for the naming ceremony before the game against Missouri State. One of the boys I remember as youngsters — Brent, I think — told the group that one of the secret to his father’s success was recruiting men of character. Very true.
Poss — whose nickname was “Psych” and whose speech at the naming ceremony had the old guys ready to take the field (for a play or two) — mentioned, however, that coach Huntsman allowed his players to be themselves. Also very true.
Work responsibilities kept me from attending the get-together Friday night at Johnny Barro’s house, where stories and possibly a few beverages were shared. Luckily, however, a Saturday evening assignment left me with time to make a rare homecoming appearance of my own and join the guys for more stories before the game on Saturday.
Coach Huntsman’s seven-year head coaching career coincided exactly with my first seven years at ISU, and I found as many ways as I could to be close to the program. By 1972 I had graduated from the Statesman to helping Ed McKee in the Sports Information office, had helped recruit two of the players on the freshman team that year (yes, that’s probably a violation, but I think the statute of limitations has passed) and had plenty of memories of my own to share Saturday morning (not all that many felonies that I can recall, but probably a misdemeanor or two).
My recruits — Charlie Drewry and Rufus Sharkey, who played American Legion baseball for me at Lowell — didn’t make it, and neither did Damato (I’ll have to ask somebody where he might be by now).
The All-America linebacker, my fraternity brother John Karazsia (you folks at Linton know his non-identical twin brother Charlie), isn’t smaller than I am anymore, although part of that is because I’m in better shape now than I was then.
Offensive linemen like Poss, Phil DeLong and Danny Galbraith aren’t as big as they used to be. “Don’t need to be,” Danny explained, although Bobby credits the nutrition company he’s involved with for his own fitness. Their line coach, Larry Van Der Heyden, was there with his wife and looking great, by the way.
DeLong some of you might recognize as a former principal at Castle High School and former president of the Indiana High School Athletic Association Board of Directors. Center Bill D’Andrea — certainly one of the men of character who were allowed to be characters — is poised, I’m told, to be the next athletic director at Clemson if the administrators involved have any sense about them.
That last line may have come from someone who knows about school administrators because Bob Pychinka, another assistant coach for the 1972 team after a stellar career of his own as an undersized linebacker (note to self: put another bug in the ears of ISU Hall of Fame nominators), has a Ph.D. in that field. Bob Proctor, another linebacker and fraternity brother, doesn’t have a doctorate, but his son Brooks is working on one at Brown.
(Leslie Proctor — Mrs. Bob — told me she didn’t realize she was that smart.)
McKenney promises me this column will be circulated around the country, and I can’t name everybody I shared a man-hug with over the weekend. Suffice it to say it was one of the best days I’ve had in awhile seeing you all — I only screwed up a couple of identificatons Saturday — and it would be great to do it again sometime.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at 812-231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742, Option 4; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at 812-231-4321. Follow TribStarAndy on Twitter.