Spotlight of Former Athlete: 1968 Championship Football Team - 50th Anniversary of Historic Season
Doyle, Preis recall
1968 GSC champs
By Bruce Brown
“There's no such thing as a bad day,” said Jim Doyle. “You swing your feet out, you stand up, it's a good day.”
Doyle spoke from experience.
“I was given 6 months to live 11 ½ years ago”
The former USL Ragin' Cajun offensive tackle beat the odds after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2007 and undergoing months of treatment in Little Rock that included transplanting his own stem cells to promote recovery.
He will turn 70 on New Year's Eve and plans to retire after 45 ½ years of success in the chemical industry that included Coastal Chemical.
“At this point,” Doyle said, “you wonder 'how did I get here?' There are thousands of decisions you make along the way, any one of which can change everything.
“This was the perfect environment for me. The discipline was great, I got my degree in four years and I got to live in Abbeville the whole time.”
A Milkwaukee product, Doyle was a raw 6-foot-5 prospect who had never lifted weights when he arrived at USL in 1967. By the time he was a sophomore, he was a starter on a team that posted an outstanding 8-2 record and reigned as Gulf States Conference champions at 5-1.
It's been 50 years since that championship season, and many of the moments seem like they took place yesterday.
Coach Russ Faulkinberry's squad opened with a 28-0 pasting of Louisiana College. They stayed on the road in Week 2 for a meeting with Pensacola Navy, which happened to be quarterbacked by 1963 Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer-to-be, Roger Staubach.
“Nobody who was there will ever forget it,” Doyle said. “I remembered watching Staubach on TV when I was in high school. I played offense, but I watched him from the sidelines. On average, those Navy guys were 4-6 years older than we were, more mature.”
Freshman Mike McDonald ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, and the duel was on. Eventually, Staubach and Friends prevailed 39-35.
“We knew we had to perform,” said Lafayette attorney Edwin Preis, who played left tackle as one of the team's senior leaders. “I had been there three years, and understood what it takes to win. We had a bunch of seniors on offense, especially in the line.
“The game was shifting gears. My first three years, we could score 10 and count on winning by 3. So, yes, we felt we had to score (to beat Staubach).”
Two weeks later, the Cajuns hosted another legend, Terry Bradshaw and Louisiana Tech, at McNaspy Stadium. This time they held on for a 28-24 victory.
“I remember it was 21-7 at half and they kicked off to us,” Preis said. “We ran a play with Jimmy Barton. We got to the line, and they shifted into something we had never seen before.
“Jim McKay was the left guard. We looked at each other, and said 'shift', I took his man, he took mine, and Barton ran 85 yards for a touchdown. That was not an athletic play. That was intelligence, knowing what to do.”
“In the third or fourth quarter, Bradshaw scrambled, his foot was on the sidelines and we hit him out of bounds,” Doyle recalled. “A personal foul was called, and he was out of the game for 3 or 4 minutes.
“If he had stayed in, I'm not sure we would have beaten them.”
“We were running out the clock,” Preis said. “We ran a quarterback rollout, and I made my block so we could run it out.”
Bradshaw got the last laugh when Tech was invited to the 1968 Grantland Rice Bowl over the Cajuns, despite USL's head-to-head win and GSC crown.
“They invited them because of Bradshaw,” Doyle said. “They needed a draw. That just shows you that life is not always fair. It's one of those lessons you learn in football.
“The bowl was played in Tennessee, it was snowing and no one was there. I must admit I didn't mind that.”
The Cajuns rolled to a 5-1 start, were upended at UL Monroe 20-7, then stormed home with three more victories. In 10 games, the defense held five foes to under 10 points – including the finishing kick of Arkansas State, 20-9; Northwestern State, 14-7; and arch-rival McNeese, 12-7.
“McNeese was driving to beat us late in the game, and (linebacker) Mike Neustrom made a hit on their running back on the goal line and caused a fumble,” Preis recalled. “We recovered and were able to win.”
Barton led the team in rushing (600 yards) and scoring (78 points), George Roussel threw for 1,163 yards and 8 touchdowns and Mickey Bergeron caught 17 passes for 302 yards to lead the aerial game.
Neustrom spearheaded the stingy defense, along with a small but swift secondary paced by McDonald's 8 interceptions for 160 yards.
“We had great senior leadership on the 1968 team,” Doyle said. “The more senior starters you have, the better you'll be. You have better leaders, more success. They put the team on their shoulders.”
For Preis, that meant a major shift for his final USL campaign.
“I had been on defense my first three years, and they moved me over to offense,” said Preis, who had played linebacker. “Don Smith was the offensive coordinator. I had a lot of respect for him. And Bobby Banna coached the line.
“I was feeling pretty good about myself until Glen LaFleur came along. I had been a starting inside linebacker and they moved me outside (before going to offense).”
Two years later, Doyle's senior class led the Cajuns to the 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl in Baton Rouge against Tennessee State's collection of NFL-ready talent like Ed “Too Tall” Jones and “Jefferson Street” Joe Gilliam.
USL fell, 26-25, closing out a 9-3 campaign that was the zenith of Faulkinberry's years running the program.
Three years later, the 1973 Cajuns were 0-9 and Faulkinberry was fired with one loss to go.
“I had no problems at all playing under Coach Faulkinberry,” Preis said. “I was one of the pall bearers at his funeral.
“I came from Newellton in Tensas Parish, a Class C school. There were 1,200 people in the town. I couldn't have played in the SEC, but LaFleur, Neustrom and Brad Hamilton could have.
“It was mentally tough, but also very rewarding. I had always done well in school. I was a happy guy when I came down here. They taught us how to do things right, discipline, taking care of the little things.”
“Those were shifting times,” Doyle said. “We were Pavlovian. They told us to do something, we did it. But kids came along who wanted to know 'why.' Russ didn't change. The game changed.”
Now, 50 years later, some of those 1968 Cajuns have passed away. Those who remain may not remember details of every game, but they remember the bond that made them successful.
“We have a group that has kept in touch,” Preis said. “We've started talking about homecoming this year."
* * * * * * Click here for the photo gallery of the 1968 Championship Football Team.
Click here for the Tribute to Coach Russ Faulkinberry.
His tribute is located in the Tribute to Louisiana Coaches (banner on the right side of the News Box). It contains the Living Memorials of both Jim Doyle and Ed Preis. Former Faulkinberry players are encouraged to email email@example.com so their LM can be included in his tribute.
Please click photo gallery when on www.athleticnetwork.net , Football, then any of the years - 1961-74 - for photo galleries of each of the Faulkinberry years.
1968 Senior Football Players Reunion at 9/23/2016 Tulane game
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Click here for the chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.