Dec. 9, 2008
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
One of the greatest athletes in University of Wyoming history, Jay Novacek will be honored on Tuesday night as one of 15 inductees in the 2008 College Football Hall of Fame Class.
The 2008 College Football Hall of Fame Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Class will be inducted at the National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9, 2008, at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The class will be officially enshrined at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., during ceremonies in the summer of 2009.
Novacek, who was a Consensus All-America tight end at Wyoming in 1984, still holds the NCAA record for highest average gain per reception in a single season by a tight end, averaging 22.6 yards per catch in 1984. The native of Gothenburg, Neb., also placed fourth in the decathlon at the NCAA Championships his senior season, earning All-America honors in track and field.
During his college career from 1982-84, Novacek had 83 receptions for 1,536 yards and 10 touchdowns, while playing in a wishbone offense.
Novacek will be one of 13 former college players and two former college coaches inducted into the 2008 College Hall of Fame class. He will be inducted with his former Dallas Cowboy teammate Troy Aikman (UCLA, QB, 1986-89). The other players being inducted are: Billy Cannon (LSU, HB, 1957-59), Jim Dombrowski (Virginia, OT, 1982-85), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern, LB, 1993-96), Wilber Marshall (Florida, LB, 1980-83), Rueben Mayes (Washington State, RB, 1982-85), Randall McDaniel (Arizona State, OG, 1984-87), Don McPherson (Syracuse, QB, 1984-87), Dave Parks (Texas Tech, SE, 1961-63), Ron Simmons (Florida State, NG, 1977-80), Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State, RB, 1984-87) and Arnold Tucker (Army, QB, 1944-46). The two coaches being inducted in the 2008 class are: John Cooper (Tulsa, 1977-84; Arizona State, 1985-87; Ohio State, 1988-2000) and Lou Holtz (William & Mary, 1969-71; North Carolina State, 1972-75; Arkansas, 1977-83; Minnesota, 1984-85; Notre Dame, 1986-96; South Carolina, 1999-2004).
Novacek was inducted into the University of Wyoming Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 1993 -- its inaugural class. He went on to win three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys at the conclusion of the 1992, `93 and `95 seasons. Novacek was twice named All-Pro (1991 and `92), earned All-NFC honors three times (1991, `92 and `95) and played in five Pro Bowls (1991-95).
He joins one other former Cowboy player and three former Wyoming coaches as members of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Eddie "Boom Boom" Talboom was inducted posthumously as a tailback in 2000. Talboom played for the Cowboys from 1948-60.
Former Cowboy head coach Bowden Wyatt was inducted posthumously as a player (Tennessee) in 1972 and then was inducted as a coach (Wyoming, Arkansas, Tennessee) in 1997, becoming only the third individual at that time to be inducted as both a player and coach -- the other two being Amos Alonzo Stagg and Bobby Dodd. Wyatt was the Cowboys head coach from 1947-52.
The other College Football Half of Famers from the University of Wyoming are former head coach Bob Devaney (Wyoming-1957-61, Nebraska), who was inducted in 1981; and former Cowboy head coach Pat Dye (East Carolina, Wyoming-1980, Auburn), who was inducted in 2005.
See below the story on Novacek that will run in the National Football Foundation Awards Dinner program. Also attached are the bios on all of this year's inductees.
JAY NOVACEK, TIGHT END 1982-84, UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING
By Steve Richardson, NFF Correspondent
Jay Novacek took an unlikely route to the College Football Hall of Fame. Born in Martin, South Dakota, and reared in rural central Nebraska (Gothenburg), Novacek played college football and participated in track and field at the University of Wyoming, far from the bright lights of college football citadels such as Columbus, Austin or Los Angeles.
In the early 1980s, getting to Laramie, Wyoming, to see Novacek wasn't always easy for scouts. Flight connections were difficult and airport rental cars often could not be found on football weekends. But scouts still came to see the promising Novacek in action.
"He looked more like a big, tall wide receiver," said Gil Brandt, formerly vice president of Player Personnel for the Dallas Cowboys. "He was very adept at getting open on the goal line and catching passes on the goal line."
Novacek played split end early in his Wyoming career for Coach Al Kincaid's wishbone offense and then moved to tight end. Over three seasons he had 83 receptions for 1,536 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"He was rather tall and lanky when he was here," said Kevin McKinney, now a senior associate athletic director at Wyoming and radio color commentator. "He started putting on weight when he was in Dallas (6-4 232 pounds)....I have been around here for 40 years and I would probably have to say, if he is not the best athlete, he is close to the best athlete we have ever had."
"I always had respect for him all through college," said Rany Welniak, a Wyoming quarterback during that era. "We all knew he was a special individual as a person and athletically. He was an exceptional athlete. It was amazing I would throw to him in practice and anything around him, he would go up and get. He was just a very smooth, athletic guy. He was the type who was down to earth, really kind of a farm kid from a smaller town in Nebraska."
Somewhat because of his obscurity at Wyoming and lack of flashy numbers, Novacek was selected in the sixth round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the then St. Louis Cardinals. He played five seasons with the Cardinals before becoming a Dallas Cowboy in 1990 as Plan B Free Agent. In Dallas, he became a star and one of the cogs in the Cowboys' three Super Bowl championships in 1992, '93 and '95 with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. Novacek played in five Pro Bowls from 1991-95.
"This isn't something that you expect from a skinny tight end on a Wyoming team that ran the wishbone offense, but it is a great honor and very meaningful," Novacek said of going into the College Football Hall of Fame. "I am proud to be going in with my teammate and friend, Troy Aikman."
In 1997, he returned to his roots to run the Upper 84 Ranch in Brady, Nebraska, guiding hunting trips on his 3,500-acre spread. He also operates football camps for kids across the country.
The 2008 Hall of Fame Class will be officially inducted at the NFF's Annual Awards Dinner, held at New York City's historic Waldorf=Astoria Hotel on Tuesday, December 9. The National Hall of Fame Salute at the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl follows on January 5, giving the class recognition on a national stage, and events culminate with the College Football Hall of Fame's Enshrinement Festival in South Bend, Ind., July 17-18.
The 2008 class includes Troy Aikman (UCLA), Billy Cannon (LSU), Jim Dombrowski (UVA), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Wilber Marshall (Florida), Rueben Mayes (Washington State), Randall McDaniel (ASU), Don McPherson (Syracuse), Jay Novacek (Wyoming), Dave Parks (Texas Tech), Ron Simmons (Florida State), Thurman Thomas (Oklahoma State), Arnold Tucker (Army), Coach John Cooper (Tulsa, ASU, Ohio State) and Coach Lou Holtz (William & Mary, NC State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame, South Carolina).