College Sports

December 6, 2013

A good old Baylor lineman will bid Floyd Casey adieu

Bill Glass, an All-American and later an All-Pro, is an evangelist who will be neutral in his pregame prayer but always rooting for the Baylor Bears.

Bill Glass has given serious thought to the invocation he will deliver Saturday afternoon before the final game at Floyd Casey Stadium.

Baylor’s first unanimous All-American and a former four-time All-Pro in the NFL embodied the ideals of good sportsmanship, but he won’t trivialize the pursuit of victory by saying it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.

Nor will his amplified prayer before a sellout crowd be a lie.

“I can’t honestly pray ‘May the best team win,’” Glass said.

The Bears (10-1) are playing archrival Texas.

At least a share of the Big 12 Conference title is at stake.

A big easy grin lit his face.

“I’m a Baylor Bear as much as one can be. I want Baylor to win.”

Glass, 78, has offered that unapologetic prayer since the day the Corpus Christi teen first strapped on a gold helmet and ran onto the grass field of what then was Baylor’s “new” football stadium in the 1950s.

He prayed for Baylor to beat Texas and Texas A&M and TCU and SMU.

He prayed to win every game and the Bears won two-thirds of them from 1954-56 when Glass became one of the most dominating linemen in Southwest Conference history.

“Glass was fantastic. The best, or certainly one of the best, lineman Baylor has ever had,” said Dave Campbell, former longtime sports editor of the Waco Tribune Herald and founder of Texas Football magazine.

Doubling as offensive guard and middle guard on defense, No. 55 anchored both sides of that good old Baylor line, celebrated in the school song.

In his senior year, the Bears put an exclamation mark on their 9-2 season when they upset unbeaten No. 2-ranked Tennessee, led by the original Johnny Football — triple-threat All-American tailback Johnny Majors — in the Sugar Bowl 13-7.

Glass set the tone on the opening kickoff when he sent the wind-aided ball sailing beyond the end zone and deep into the bleachers. He ended the day with a personal gesture that said more about who he is than all the tackles he made and honors he received.

In the third quarter, Baylor’s Larry Hickman lost his temper and kicked a Tennessee lineman in the head. Hickman, remorseful, was banished to the bench. The injured player was carried off on a stretcher and hospitalized with a concussion and facial cuts.

When the game clock expired and the Baylor celebration began Glass headed directly to the opponents’ locker room. Admitted inside, he apologized to the Vols’ players and coaches and the Tennessee governor for the incident on behalf of his teammates and his university.

Devoting his life

On the night this year’s Bears dominated the Oklahoma Sooners in Waco, the school paid tribute to members of the All-Floyd Casey Team.

No. 55 was an obvious selection.

But Glass who lives in Waxahachie with wife Mavis — his college sweetheart — chose to spend that evening at Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth where he spoke to more than 800 men and women who had signed up to participate in one of the world’s largest prison ministries.

“We need to be fired up, ready to go!” Glass said with pep-talk verve.

Urged by friend Billy Graham to devote his life to evangelism, Glass founded Bill Glass Ministries — now called Bill Glass Champions for Life — after retiring from pro football following the 1968 season.

That weekend his CFL volunteer “teammates” went into 19 facilities and engaged inmates in a dialogue about the gospel.

Glass visited Texas Department of Criminal Justice facilities in Bridgeport, Jacksboro and Venus.

This tireless man who lives his faith and feels blessed beyond measure has a humorous comeback when asked about his 40-plus years commitment.

“I’ve been in so many prisons,” Glass joked, “I’ve got one free crime coming.”

Meeting Bear

Baylor was the only school in the country that boasted two No. 1 picks in the 1957 NFL Draft. Del Shofner and Bill Glass.

Glass opted to play one season in Canada (Saskatchewan) before he signed with the Detroit Lions where he spent four seasons. Traded to Cleveland he became the 6-foot-5, 270-pound starting right defensive end on a Jim Brown-led team that beat Johnny Unitas and the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 27-0 to win the 1964 NFL championship, a precursor to the Super Bowl.

Afterward, one of the game’s most durable players and fearsome pass rushers left the Cleveland Municipal Stadium field and headed up the tunnel to the locker room with sons Billy, 7, and Bobby, 5, grinning ear to ear, washed in cheers, riding atop their dad’s broad shoulders.

Those proud sons later played high school football and starred at Baylor.

Bobby was an offensive tackle on the SWC championship team that faced Alabama in the 1981 Cotton Bowl. One evening before the game Glass stepped onto an elevator in the Anatole Hotel in Dallas. He found himself in the imposing presence of a 67-year-old legend, the most famous coach in college football, Paul “Bear” Bryant.

Before going to Alabama, Bryant had coached the Texas Aggies back when Bill Glass played at Baylor.

The elevator doors closed.

They were alone then, just the two of them.

Trapped, Bobby said he “froze,” not knowing what to say.

Bryant, arms folded across his chest, gave his fellow passenger a cursory glance.

The elevator car began to climb.

Finally, to the player’s surprise, that deep voice that sounded like a slow ride over a gravel road broke the growing silence.

More than 30 years later Bobby Glass still can recite the words.

“You got a long way to go,” Bryant drawled, “before you’re as good as your daddy, boy.”

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