With the Pennsylvania Big 33 team beginning practice on Sunday for the 61st annual Big 33 Football Classic against a team of Maryland high school football all-stars that will be played June 16 in Central Pennsylvania, I wanted to flashback to 1965 which was the second meeting between the Keystone State and Texas. It was the second of four straight meetings between the two teams in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania won the first meeting in 1964 between the schoolboy football powers in a game that most said would determine the best state for high school football in America. Coming off the 12-6 loss in ’64, the powers that be in Texas weren’t very happy, according to Bill Bradley, who played for the Texas all-stars in the 1965 game before going on to the University of Texas and a Pro Bowl career with the Philadelphia Eagles. Bradley said that the Texans still felt the sting of the 1964 game and nobody felt it more than Texas’ head coach, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Layne. Joining Layne on the Texas coaching staff was fellow Hall of Famer Doak Walker.
“Bobby was fit to be tied because he had lost the Big 33 game the year before,” said Bradley, who played at Palestine High School and despite leading his school to a state championship the previous fall as a quarterback, was picked to play safety and punt for the Texas Big 33 team.
In addition to making sure that the Lone Star State all-stars were coached by the best, state officials changed the date of the sacred Texas High School Coaches Association’s North-South All-Star game, so that all of the top players could participate in the 1965 game. Layne was upset the ’64 game was impacted by the fact that many of the state’s top players couldn’t play in the Big 33 game because the North-South game was played the same weekend.
On the field, Bradley was quickly inserted at quarterback after Texas fell behind 3-0 in the first quarter. With Bradley at the controls, Texas grabbed a 7-3 lead on Pennsylvania when Bradley, who was nicknamed “Super Bill,” connected with Jerry LeVias, who would become the first African American player to receive a scholarship in the Southwest Athletic Conference when he played at Southern Methodist University. That Bradley-LeVias touchdown marked the first time that Pennsylvania had surrendered a point against an out-of-state team in the history of the Big 33 game that started with Pennsylvania shutting out an all-USA All-Star team in 1958 and 1959.
Earlier in the week, Bradley and LeVias made history by being roommates for the game. While such a statement doesn’t seem like a big deal today, back in 1965 Texas was still a segregated state. Hebert, who played in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers, was one of the fastest players in the nation.
With over 24,000 fans watching, Bradley and LeVias connected on a second touchdown pass to give Texas a 14-3 lead on the way to a 26-10 victory. Bradley was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Texas also won in 34-2 in 1966 and 45-14 in 1967.
Below you can listen to Bradley talk about the game with me. I interviewed Bradley for my upcoming book High School Football in Texas — Memorable Moments from the Lone Star State’s Greatest Players like Earl Campbell, Eric Dickerson, “Mean Joe” Greene, Ken Houston, LaDainian Tomlinson and many, many more.
You can pre-order the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble online below:
The book will be published by Skyhorse Publishing on September 4.