A look back at the perfect season
This column is brought to you by the number 50.
It's been 50 years since Mt. Pleasant football celebrated its best-ever season: an unbeaten, untied, and even unscored upon season.
There are only a few Iowa teams that have done it in more than a century of football, and even fewer that have done it in a nine-game season.
The 1963 Panthers were one of them.
An anniversary like this affords the opportunity for former team members, their fellow students, fans and citizens to look back.
The anniversary also gave me an opportunity do a little digging, to read up on the team and to talk to former players.
I've not lived in Mt. Pleasant long, and I *ahem* certainly wasn't alive in 1963.
I don't think I understand exactly what the team meant to the town back then. But I've seen a big Mt. Pleasant celebration; I was here when the Panthers took their first basketball title in 88 years and got to experience the way the town celebrates together.
I’ve also heard stories about that famed football season, lots of stories — too many to fit into just one article. It comes with the job, and it's my favorite part of the job.
Another part of my job is sharing those stories, and I really enjoyed putting together the article on page 5 of today’s paper. But there are so many more stories out there, and I’d like to share those, too. In fact, that's what I'd like to do here — share just a few more of the stories from that season — most from former players — in their own words.
Bill Calloway: I remember when we were getting ready to play Washington, it was just after Jefferson, and we thought we were pretty good — and Coach Evans noticed. We had to run 72 wind sprints that night, and it was brutal. But it got our attention, and we didn't need to do that again.
Mike Riepe: (The season) was a whole team effort, and we had the whole school behind us. I remember that all the football players went to the district competition to support the band, because the band showed so much support for us.
Bill Calloway: Tom Bell and I were good friends. I walked in his house before the season started, and he had a sign that read “MPHS football will go undefeated and be No. 1 in the state.” I said, “Remember, we do play Cedar Rapids Jefferson....” But I learned from that not to be afraid to be confident.
Kent Thomson: We were at the old high school, and we practiced at McMillan. Back then, in the last class period, all the athletes were excused to go to practice. There used to be races to see who could get from the high school to the practice field first. At the time, the horse stables out there were in use (all year), and a couple of caretakers, who were big Panther football fans, told Evans, "We've seen a lot of teams drive out here, but none drive so fast — if they play football like they drive, you'll have a good team."
Chuck Evans: I was eight years old, but I remember quite a bit because it was so special. I remember the night we beat Jefferson, mom and I were sitting in a cafe uptown when the score came in. We won 7-0, and my mom said, “This could be a very special season.” I remember going down to Keokuk — Proctor had a bad shoulder, and not too many people knew, but he could finally throw the ball that night. He made a couple passes, and that really brought the offense together. I was there when they played against Monmouth, and I remember that the last play, they got down to the Mt. Pleasant one- or two-yard line, and it came down to the last play. But it was the perfect season.
One final story comes not from 50 years ago, but rather is just about a year old.
Bill Calloway: I was with Coach Evans a couple weeks before he passed. We had a couple heart-to-hearts. We were talking all eras of Mt. Pleasant football, and one of the last things he told me was, “Bill, never let them forget about the '63 team.”