NORTH LITTLE ROCK — More than 45 years later, the 1964 Razorback football team still created beautiful music and prompted a symphony of applause — much of it from folks who weren’t even born at the time of the feat.
After a Cotton Bowl victory over Nebraska in 1965, the undefeated team was voted the national champion in college football. Many of the players went on to greater heights in various fields, including Jerry Jones, who now owns the Dallas Cowboys.
Thursday night, Jones was watching figure skating in Vancouver. Friday night, he was at Verizon Arena as the major spokesman for the first team ever inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Before the team danced to the music, they had to beat it, which became the major theme of the 51st induction banquet.
Last year, to make the ceremony run smoother and to avoid rambling speeches, banquet organizers put a time limit on acceptances and instituted playing music that grew in crescendo over the PA system as soon as a speaker exceeded his time limit.
No problem last year.
Former Ole Miss All-America Charlie Flowers became the first major test of the new procedure and, like the bruising fullback he was in his playing days in the 1960s, he kept plowing through the noise as he kept adding "one more thing before I close."
Following that, former Southern Arkansas star and North Little Rock coach Jimmy Culp noted he wasn’t going to name everyone who helped him because "I don’t want that music to get me."
"I’m also not going to let that music start," said former Razorback star Scotty Thurman, who followed Culp.
The Razorback team, which gather about 38-strong for the event and did so in a lively mood, was last on the program.
Jones invited all of his former teammates to join him in front of the dais but begged Ray Tucker, executive director of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, to not start the clock until they all gathered.
"I don’t think Ray Tucker is going to call time on you," said David Grimes of Conway, the organization’s current president. "Speak as long as you like."
On an evening of celebration in which nine individuals were honored and Conway’s Vance Strange was presented a meritorious service award, that 1964 group, an icon in Arkansas history, furnished the cherry topping to the evening as they assembled to a standing ovation of a crowd of about 1,100. Friends and family scurried to photo the group that was once so young but now the greatest glimmer comes from gray and silver hair.
"We’ve lived a dream in a way for 45 years," Jones said. "There had to be some Krytonite for us to play with those guys. After we beat Texas, the No. 1 team in the country that year, we all decided, ‘We beat Texas, they’re the best. Let’s go ahead and take it all.’
"We lived it long, long after we got to be part of the great hour in our lives."
He pointed to coach Frank Broyles, whom he said had the vision "that put meat on the bone." He praised Broyles’ previous teams that build the foundation "that we could stand on their shoulders."
He praised an all-star coaching staff of assistants that included legends Jim McKenzie, Johnny Majors, Barry Switzer and a team of great coaches-to-be that included Ken Hatfield and Jimmy Johnson. The team also included legendary players such as Loyd Phillips, Jim Lindsey, Freddy Marshall, Bobby Crockett and Ronnie Caviness.
"We had some great players and some average ones who caught the vision," said Jim WIlliams in a tribute video.
"Know how much we appreciate you (the fans) of Arkansas for allowing us to be a part of this special team and accepting Frank Broyles and allowing him to develop this team," Jones said. "Santa Claus doesn’t put the tricycle under the Christmas tree. It’s there because of a lot of hard work."
As as example of how much he learned that team meant to Arkansans, Jones recalled when the Dallas Cowboys were invited to the White House for the traditional ceremony after a Super Bowl championship. Then President Bill Clinton spoke with Jones and recited three-deep of that 1964 team. "He got it exactly right and that was 30 years later," Jones said.
The scene in front led to one of the most interesting conclusion to an induction banquet.
That 1964 team hugged, shook hands, signed autographs, and posed for pictures as many in the crowd continued their applause.
Jones started to raise the commemorative plaque over his head, not realizing it was on a stand. The plaque tumbled off the lectern to the carpet below where it was recovered by a former teammate, saving the Dallas Cowboy owner from an embarrassing turnover.
"We see now why Jerry never played shortstop in baseball," quipped Bill Valentine, one of the emcees.
Despite Jones’ bobble, a football team hit a home run.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)