Dicky Maegle Dies at 86; Football Star Remembered for a Bizarre Tackle
Dicky Maegle was an all-American running back at Rice University. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. And he was a Pro Bowl defensive back in his first season in the NFL.
But when Rice announced that Maegle had passed away at the age of 86 on Sunday, he was mostly remembered for one moment: one of the most bizarre episodes in college football history, witnessed by some 75,000 fans at Cotton Bowl from 1954 in Dallas and a television audience.
Taking a transfer to Rice’s 5-yard line in the second quarter of his clash with Alabama, Maegle cut to the right and ran to the sideline. When he passed the Alabama bench through the midfield, en route to a virtually certain touchdown, Crimson Tide full-back Tommy Lewis interrupted his break and, without a helmet, jumped onto the pitch and equalized Maegle with a blind block over the Alabama 42 yards. line.
The referee ruled Maegle was entitled to a 95-yard touchdown. Rice, ranked No. 6 in the nation by the Associated Press, earned a 28-6 victory over 13th-ranked Alabama.
Maegle, a junior that season, also scored on 34 and 79 yard carries in that Cotton Bowl game and gained 265 yards on 11 carries.
Lewis apologized to Maegle at halftime.
“I’m too emotional,” he said at the end of the match. “When I tackled him, I jumped up and got back on the bench. I kept telling myself, ‘I didn’t.’ But I knew I had done it.
The following Sunday, Maegle and Lewis were reunited, so to speak, as guests on Ed Sullivan’s popular CBS variety show.
“I saw him when he was about a step and a half away from me,” Maegle told the Dallas Morning News in 1995. “I veered left, and that helped cushion the blow. wasn’t far from him, I really think he would have broken both of my legs.
Maegle was an All-American as a senior in the 1954 season, when he ran for 905 yards and 11 touchdowns and finished sixth in the poll for the Heisman Trophy, presented annually to college football’s most outstanding player. The trophy was won that year by Wisconsin full-back Alan Ameche (who rose to fame with the Baltimore Colts for scoring the overtime-winning touchdown in the 1958 NFL Championship game against the New Giants. York).
The San Francisco 49ers drafted Maegle in the first round of the NFL Draft in January 1955. He was a 49er for five seasons, playing mostly safe and at times as a running back, then concluded his professional career with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1960 and the Dallas Cowboys in 1961. He intercepted 28 passes, fending off one for a touchdown.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
Richard Lee Moegle (he later legally changed his last name to reflect his correct pronunciation) was born September 14, 1934 in Taylor, Texas, about 30 miles northeast of Austin. He played football in high school, then received an athletics scholarship for Rice.
After leaving football, he pursued real estate interests and managed hotels in Houston.
Maegle’s wife Carol told the Houston Chronicle that he died at their home in Houston and had been in poor health since falling several months ago. (Complete information on the survivors was not immediately available.)
Tommy Lewis, who played in the Canadian Football League, coached high school football and worked in insurance in Alabama, died in 2014 at the age of 83.
Roy Riegels, the University of California center who ran 69 yards the wrong way after picking up a Georgia Tech fumble in the 1929 Rose Bowl game, leading to Cal’s 8-7 loss and winning the Wrong Way nickname Riegels, watched the Maegle – Lewis’ drama unfolds from his California home.
He had advice for Lewis the next day:
“Laugh with them, that’s all you have to do. What difference does it make? It’s just a football game.
Maegle wasn’t laughing at that Cotton Bowl game over time; he believed the Lewis episode had eclipsed his considerable achievements in football.
“People still don’t understand,” he noted some 40 years later. “I led the nation in the punt returns. I led the nation in yards per carry. I led the conference in racing and scoring. But when people introduce me, all they mention is what happened in that game.
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