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Know Your KU History: Bobby Douglass

Everyone around Jayhawk nation knows the names Chamberlain, Sayers, Self, and Simien. But there is a sizeable chunk of names that we know in passing - we know of their greatness but not necessarily what made them great. This column is intended to shed some light on past KU greats.

I have a friend that told me recently that the best way to get under his father’s skin when talking football is to bring up the name Bobby Douglass. You see, my friend’s father is a Kansas State alum from the late 1960’s and KU quarterback Bobby Douglass was terrorizing opponent’s defenses with his strong left arm and his quick feet at that exact time. But it wasn’t for anything that he did on the field, although Douglass was a perfect 2-0-1 against the Wildcats. The event that irked my friend’s dad happened after a basketball game.

Long after the Jayhawks and the Wildcats finished a basketball game in Manhattan, the Wildcat faithful made their way to the local watering holes to drown their sorrows after yet another loss to their in-state rivals, this time in basketball. My friend’s dad was no exception. But those days were different apparently, because while this particular gentleman was indulging in his favorite post game beverage, KU football star Bobby Douglass and some teammates apparently decided to drop by that exact bar.

Now, according to the story, and remember this is coming from a Wildcat fan, outside of the bar, Douglass, while driving his Corvette and parking it on the sidewalk, decided to gesticulate wildly and taunt the Wildcat fans before getting back in the car and returning to Lawrence. Excessive engine revving may have also been involved, according the memory of the Wildcat alum in question. He even admits to the details being somewhat hazy. No one was hurt, no one was touched, and the incident was over within minutes. I don’t begrudge my friend’s dad one bit for hating Douglass, and for this reason alone, it instantly vaults Douglass into that pantheon of greats that I never got to see. But can you imagine if something like this happened today? If Collin Klein showed up at Harbour Lights an hour after the Wildcats beat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse? I have a feeling that it would end slightly differently than just becoming a fun story to tell each time the Jayhawks and Wildcats line up on the gridiron or square off on the basketball court.

Bar related shenanigans aside, Bobby Douglass was a heck of a quarterback at Kansas. In his two full seasons as the Kansas QB (1967 and 1968), Douglass racked up 2642 yards passing and 19 touchdowns. These numbers are not outrageous, but keep in mind two things. One, the Big 8 was a run first league with the likes of Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Missouri totaling massive amounts of yardage on the ground on a weekly basis. Two, Kansas was among those teams. They had John Riggins who rumbled to 866 yards in 1968 alone. Heck, even Douglass rushed for 495 yards and 12 TDs in that magical 1968 season. If you add his 12 touchdown passes to that total, you have a dynamic player whose touchdown total was unrivaled in 1968. Even, Heisman trophy winner O.J. Simpson "only" scored 23 TDs for USC that year. Douglass finished seventh in the Heisman voting.

The two time All-Big 8 selection was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the second round of the 1969 NFL draft. Although he was never the star passing quarterback the Bears needed at the time (36 touchdowns compared to 64 interceptions), he changed the position by using his feet. In 1972, which you have to remember was when the NFL played 14 regular season games instead of the 16-game schedule currently in use, Douglass rushed for 968 yards and eight touchdowns. That was a record for rushing yards for a quarterback at the time and stood for 34 years until Michael Vick broke it in 2006. Vick went for 1039, an NFL record, and 2 TDs in 2006. But, if you extrapolate the numbers that Douglass put up in 1972 to a current 16-game schedule, he would’ve put up 1106 yards and be the single season rushing record holder at his position to this day.

For all of his achievements including leading Kansas to the 1969 Orange Bowl, Bobby Douglass is one of just 16 KU football players to be on Memorial Stadium’s prestigious Ring of Honor, a well-deserved honor.