LSU Football Players of 1950’s to 1970’s Meet Twice a Year to Fellowship and Reminisce

Twice a year, the greats and near-greats of LSU football from the 1950’s to 1970’s gather for a reunion.  It’s a time for the players to see one another, reminisce, and tell stories, “some of which are actually true,” according to Mark Lumpkin, who organizes the event.

Lumpkin was the leading scorer on the LSU team in 1968, 1969 and 1970. He earned those points in pressure situations kicking much-needed extra points and field goals.  He also won the national championship throwing the discus.

Lumpkin is like the rest of the former Tigers in attendance.  They are genuinely humble men who seek no adulation. They don’t bring family or friends, and they don’t invite the media. Rather, they just enjoy the chance to be around the others who also had the experience and the honor of wearing the purple and gold and running onto the field at Tiger Stadium as an LSU football player.

This year Mark Lumpkin decided to bend the rules in order to create a permanent record of the reunions in the form of photos and a video.  I was honored to be invited to come and record the event.

Most former players are too humble even to tell your their accomplishments. They are happy just to be regular people, not icons or celebrities.  Conversations go something like this:

REPORTER addressing Dr. Tommy Casanova: Tommy, you were an All-American when you were at LSU, weren’t you?

CASANOVA: I played with some of the greatest players in the history of LSU and some of the best men I ever met.

REPORTER: But you were All American, right?

CASANOVA: It’s all about the team.

REPORTER addressing great All American Jimmy Taylor: Jimmy, you were All American at LSU and then played for the Green Bay Packers, one of the greatest football teams of all time, right?

TAYLOR: To be honest, my favorite sport at Baton Rouge High was basketball.  I felt I was a better basketball player than football player. I wish I had stuck with it!

And so it went.  They are eager to tell the exploits of their teammates and friends from other generations but too modest to brag about themselves.

The spiritual faith of the former players is obvious.  Former LSU great quarterback Jimmy Field led the group in prayer, and the heartfelt expressions of faith by Field and many other players were inspirational.

Their devotion to family is also important.  Everyone spoke about their children and grandchildren, and many were quick to say that they have been married 50 years or more.

Under intense questioning, Jimmy Taylor finally broke down and told what it was like to play for the Green Bay Packers under Coach Vince Lombardi with quarterback Bart Star and running back Paul Horning.

Taylor explained that when he arrived at Green Bay from LSU, Lombardi had not yet been hired. The Packers went 1-9 that first year. Then Vince Lombardi came and everything changed.

Lombardi’s first year with the Packers resulted in a 7-5 season, and the next year they won the NFL championship.

Asked how much he made playing in the pros, Taylor said it was never more than $24,000.

Is he resentful when he sees professional athletes today making tens of millions of dollars?  Not at all, he said, but there is something that bothers him deeply and it is related to the money. He sees so many athletes who seem to put themselves first.  “It should be all about the team,” Jimmy Taylor said.  “That’s why LSU was so successful, because we put the team first.  Every great team knows that. I learned it playing basketball at Baton Rouge High. There were five of us on the court but only one ball! What to do? We had to learn to work with one another, and when we did, we were successful.”

The featured speaker at the reunion was Dr. Clyde Lindsey, former LSU great and one of only a handful of four-sport athletes in LSU history. Lindsey, who played under Coach Bernie Moore, is the only athlete in LSU history who was voted into the LSU Hall of Fame upon graduation!

Dr. Lindsey was called up by Robert Ryder who played in the late 1960’s. Ryder introduced Dr. Lindsey and guided him through a series of questions.

Lindsey roomed with the fabled LSU All American quarterback and pro star Y. A. Tittle. The two had come together from Texas, and Dr. Lindsey was asked if it was true he recruited Tittle to come to LSU.

Lindsey had been the outstanding high school athlete in Texas and was recruited by schools like UCLA, Kansas, and Texas. When LSU came knocking, he asked for a commitment that he could play all four sports, and they agreed. Tittle had signed with the University of Texas. But Dr. Lindsey and coach Bernie Moore devised a plan to lure Tittle to LSU. What they did to lure him will have to stay sealed for another 50 years, but suffice it to say that Y.A. Tittle did in fact come to LSU and did room with Clyde Lindsey.

The last LSU game of Lindsey’s career was the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 1947.  At that time, he had the choice of playing professional football, playing professional baseball, or going into coaching. That question was answered on the Cotton Bowl field because Big Fuzzy and Little Fuzzy Brown of Istrouma High were waiting on the field with an offer for Lindsey to come teach and coach at Istrouma High. He stayed there 20 years before going to LSU and then becoming superintendent for East Baton Rouge Parish.

Today at age 91, he is still in relatively good health. He stays active tending to family business.

The reunion was an incredible event, and I was honored to be one of the few non-players ever to be allowed to come.

The men I met remain role models for their communities and a credit to LSU!  Watch the video at

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