Clay Henry is the publisher and executive editor of Hawgs Illustrated. He is a voter for the Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
One of a kind: Former QBs praise Broyles for innovations
Arkansas coach Frank Broyles (center) and quarterback Bill Montgomery (10) interact with an unidentified assistant coach during a 1969 game in Little Rock.
Fred Marshall didn’t waste any time coming up with one word to describe Frank Broyles: Genius.
The dictionary would suggest that’s a reference to someone with “exceptional intellectual or creative power.”
Gathering the thoughts about Broyles from some of his greatest quarterbacks, that definition might work.
Marshall (1962-64), Bill Montgomery (1968-70) and Scott Bull (1972, 1974-75) provided wonderful thoughts of their coach last week after Broyles, 92, died Monday.
They all made on-target references about special gifts or rare intellectual powers they saw in their coach, who became a close friend in later years.
Marshall used that word because of the way Broyles changed as a coach through the years, hired coaches, built facilities and recognized the changing landscape of college football with the move to the SEC. He noted that of the quarterbacks contacted for this story, all played in different systems. All took advantage of innovations orchestrated by Broyles with different coaching staffs.
Interestingly, all three became much closer to Broyles after their playing careers were finished. They relied on Broyles for key business decisions and grew closer when invited as guests to play at his golf club, Augusta National. Those are among their most treasured memories.
Bull loved to talk about meeting Sean Connery with Broyles at Augusta National during the height of the James Bond movies. Broyles introduced Bull, Mark Miller and Bull’s brother to Connery as if he was just another guy.
Marshall was the quarterback for the 1964 Razorbacks, who won the program’s lone national championship with an 11-0 record. He said the key was the move to two-platoon football, something that most schools didn’t try with the change in rules for that season.
“We did it in the spring as soon as the college rules were changed,” Marshall said. “He changed with the times, every point there was a major breakthrough in systems or in rules. He adjusted. He knew football changed all the time.
“Coach Broyles sent his staff to every spot to learn something, whether it was NFL or college. If something new happened, he’d get it. He would hire a coach from that staff if it was needed. He wanted to be ahead of everyone else and we were in 1964.
“Texas didn’t go to two platoon until ’65. No one else we played had two platoon in ‘64. We had an incredible advantage. It’s how we went 11-0.”
Basically, two-platoon football is what is played today. Players specialize on offense or defense. Before 1964, the rules forced players to go both ways, with only a few players substituted after a punt. Most teams around the country played their best players both ways that season. Broyles beat them to the punch when the rules allowed an entire unit to be subbed.
“What it did is change the way you practiced,” Marshall said. “Just think about it, you play both ways, you practice only two hours and it has to be spent 50-50. You’d practice one hour on offense, then one hour for defense.
“What we did in ’64 was practice two hours of offense while the defense got their two hours. It just allowed you to get twice as much time. You get twice as much coaching and we had the best coaches.
“We went 5-5 in ’63. We changed to two platoon and we went 11-0 in ‘64. Coach Broyles just outsmarted everyone else with the rule changes. It was the same players with better preparation.”
The Hogs didn’t commit turnovers and were rarely penalized. Starting with the Texas game, they were almost perfect. They lost two fumbles in the last six games and won the final five of the regular season by a shutout.
What about the game plans handed down by Broyles? Marshall wasn’t aware of any game plans.
“I guess we had them,” he said. “But they weren’t talked about. We just ran the plays in the games that we’d practiced that week.”
The offensive keys were simple.
“I had the ability to audible at the line,” Marshall said. “Coach Broyles wanted quarterbacks to have that freedom. I probably changed 30 percent of the plays.
“What we did was pretty simple. We just ran the play to the defensive weakness. Our wingback was the strength of our formation. If the defense shifted to the wingback, we’d go the other way. If they lined up balanced, we ran the play to the wingback.”
Told that Montgomery had already been interviewed, Marshall provided the introductory paragraph. He called Montgomery “the greatest” of the Arkansas quarterbacks.
“I will say that I wasn’t nearly as good as Bill, just with a better team,” Marshall said. “His teams were great, too. I tell him to his face that he was better than me, the best of all of our quarterbacks. But I’m the only one with the (national championship) ring.”
Montgomery doesn’t argue, but he looks back on his Arkansas days with unbelievable fondness.
“I had as good of an experience as a player as you could possibly have,” Montgomery said. “Those are the best three years of my life.”
Backfield coach Johnny Majors always took credit for signing the two great quarterbacks from the 1967 class, Chuck Dicus and Montgomery.
“Coach Majors always said, ‘I was two-for-two in Dallas,’ with me and Chuck, but we all know that Coach Broyles handled our recruitment,” Montgomery said. “I always thought that was funny.
“I came to Arkansas to play for Coach Broyles. He convinced me that Arkansas was going to the offensive system that they were running at Alabama and Florida State, where the quarterback was going to be involved in almost every play. Coach Broyles sold me.
“There would be passing, some quarterback runs in the option and a little play-action. It was a fun offense and it was perfect for me.”
Broyles was always called “a CEO-type coach.” Montgomery, Marshall and Bull agreed with that assessment and none thought he was anything close to a taskmaster.
“No, there was never any yelling from him,” Marshall said. “He coached from the tower. He had trained his coaches. They coached and reported to him. So if players needed correcting, assistants did it. It was chain of command and it was never broken.”
The discipline and conditioning was mostly handled by assistant coach Wilson Matthews, clearly a taskmaster.
“In my time, Coach Matthews did the heavy work,” Montgomery said. “The fourth quarter class in the winter was where that was done and it was all Coach Matthews.”
None of three quarterbacks thought they were particularly close to Broyles as players, but other players always suggested that Broyles did have a tighter relationship with quarterbacks.
“I guess he did take more interest in me,” Montgomery said. “But I don’t think you’d say he was a hands-on coach.”
Montgomery recalls being called aside during a film session on the Sunday morning after the 39-29 loss to Texas in 1968, the only loss of his 10-1 sophomore season. It was a great offensive shootout in Austin.
“Texas had a great defensive line and they really shellacked me,” Montgomery said. “He came in and said, ‘Bill, I’m proud of you. You took a helluva beating last night. It’s not ever going to happen again.’ And, it didn’t.”
Marshall said the public perception of Broyles is mostly accurate.
“It’s been said that he was not a player’s coach,” Marshall said. “I know where that comes from. He could be elusive to players, but I know why. He wanted it all to go through his coaches to him.
“He did coach from the tower. He’d yell to our backfield coach, Bill Pace, ‘Tell Marshall this, tell (Jim) Lindsey this.’ It was how he ran it, like the CEO of the largest company in the country.
“Other coaches like Lou Holtz might have run things, coached every player. The problem you get is when the guards and tackles start talking to him after every play. The head coach doesn’t need that. It should be assistants. That’s no reflection on Holtz, but I think Coach Broyles had the proper chain of command.”
Montgomery said it wasn’t often that he saw Broyles get involved during games. He let assistants do their jobs.
“It was obvious that he had hired great assistants,” Montgomery said. “I think our game plans were usually pretty good. We didn’t lose much.”
The Hogs were 28-5 in Montgomery’s three years as a starter.
“But he would change things,” Montgomery said. “I do recall the Stanford game to start the season in ‘70. The defensive game plan wasn’t working. We were blitzing Jim Plunkett. You couldn’t blitz him anymore than you could blitz us.”
Stanford led 27-0 in the first quarter, but had to hold on for a 34-28 victory.
“We had the ball on their 3-yard line when it ended,” Montgomery said. “Coach Broyles got us out of the blitzes and into the base defense for the last three quarters. I will say that generally his game plans worked.”
Montgomery said there was a fiery side to Broyles, but mostly what players recognized was that their coach was “a man who carried himself with grace at all times. He had a heart as big as anybody. He did know when to put the needle down and compete.”
Montgomery called the 1969 loss to Texas “a devastating moment for all of us, Coach Broyles included. It hurt him the same as anyone, but he handled it with such grace.”
Marshall, Montgomery and Bull all became regular golf partners with Broyles in later years.
“One of my great memories was an invitation to go to Augusta National (Golf Club) when Coach Broyles became a member,” Marshall said. “I was working for Jack Stephens, another Augusta member. Coach Broyles said I would be his first guest, along with Darrell Royal.”
Marshall said it was an incredible set of days and nothing like he expected.
“You play golf with Frank and Darrell, you better be in shape,” he said. “It was marathon golf. They’d play until they called you in for dinner. We didn’t stop for lunch. They got peanut butter crackers at the turn. It was race horse golf.
“They would let you take a cart, but the caddie had to carry the bag. It was just the three of us. The caddie had to sprint with the bag to keep up. They all had to be treated for blisters that night.
“I think we started by playing the par three course, then played round after round on the championship course. We were called in at about 4 o’clock to get ready for dinner. You had dinner with Cliff Roberts every night.
“The incredible part was that Coach Broyles and Coach Royal were such good friends, but they were playing each other in football, competing as gentlemen. We’d be in the locker room and there would be one phone. They would take turns making recruiting calls. They would be calling the same players and knew that. They were perfect gentlemen in the way they did it.”
Bull’s golf trip to Augusta, a gift from his wife Becky on his 40th birthday, was incredible, too. He said it’s never easy to play golf with Broyles. The intimidation factor had to be overcome.
“It got better through the years, but Coach Broyles was really intimidating to me as a player,” he said. “He was just bigger than life.”
The time with Connery at Augusta was bigger than life, too.
“We met him at lunch,” Bull said. “He was at the table next to us. Then, that night, we were in the same setting again and there were conversations about the Bond movies. Those were incredibly fun times.”
One of Bull’s favorite stories involves the meal the night before the Texas game in 1974.
“We were in Austin,” Bull said. “We went to a famous steak house. Normally, you had roast beef and mashed potatoes and green beans for the night-before meal. This time Coach Broyles got us steaks.”
The funny part involved an empty spot at the table next to Bull. Miller was on the other side of Bull.
“So they bring a salad to put in the empty spot,” Bull said. “Miller said, ‘Eat it, they might bring another steak, too.’ And they did.
“I wasn’t finished with my steak, so I put the plate on my lap so no one would get it.”
The funny part came when Broyles sat down in the empty spot next to him, then ordered a steak.
“I just kept that steak in my lap the rest of the dinner,” Bull said. “It wasn’t until years later that I could tell him about it. I was just so intimidated by Coach Broyles. Coach thought it was hilarious.”
The next year Bull helped give Broyles one last great season, including the great victory over No. 2 Texas A&M to earn a Cotton Bowl trip, where the Hogs beat Georgia in Dallas.
Asked to provide his comments of Broyles the man, Bull put his thoughts on paper, then read them. I can’t write a better conclusion.
“Coach Broyles was one of a kind,” Bull said. “I don’t mean like everybody is different. I mean he was special.
“God highly gifted him. He did not squander one gift. He used everything he was given to excel as a coach, as an administrator, as a broadcaster but more importantly as a mentor, a friend, a father, a husband and an advocate.
“Long before he became an advocate for Alzheimer’s, he was an advocate for Jesus Christ. His faith was a huge part of who he was and he used his gifts, his influence and time to honor God.
“Coach Broyles was a great example to his players and coaches of the way a true gentleman was. His influence in my life so permeates me that I do not know where my life begins and ends. My respect for him is off the charts.
“I know a lot of great men, but I don’t know any who did more with what they were given.”
Clay Henry can be reached at email@example.com .
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