RICK CLEVELAND: After battling Big Daddy, Rebels’ Khayat pondered options

Rick ClevelandJACKSON – The NFL preseason begins every year, as it did this past Sunday night, with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. It was not always so.

Once upon a time – actually 42 times, ending in 1976 – football began each season with the College All-Star Classic at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

It would match the defending NFL champions against college all-stars, about to begin their pro football careers.

As you might guess, the games often were more mismatch than classic: NFL champs against rookies-to-be.

Recently, on a warm, humid Sunday at the Neshoba County Fair, former Ole Miss football star-turned law professor- turned-Chancellor Robert Khayat told of his “defining moment” experience in the 1960 College All-Star Classic, played 53 years ago this week. There were eight of us sitting around a table and seven of us about to fall out of chairs laughing.

“You have to remember now that I was a 22-year-old white kid from Mississippi and I weighed 220 pounds if I weighed that,” Khayat said. “College football was one-platoon back then. You had to play both offense and defense so players weren’t nearly as heavy.”

Khayat was slated to play offensive left guard for the college all-stars, alternating with a player from a Big 10 Conference, whom Khayat refuses to name all these years later.

“He was supposed to play the first and third quarters,” Khayat said. “I was supposed to play the second on the fourth. But on the first play from scrimmage, he lined up against a freak of a man named Eugene ‘Big Daddy’ Lipscomb. Big Daddy almost killed him, knocked him backwards and the guy never got up. He started crawling and crawled back through the end zone and out of the stadium. He just left.”

Khayat put on his helmet, fastened his chin strap and dutifully took the field and listened to Dandy Don Meredith call the next play. And then Khayat took his position.

“In the SEC, I was used to getting in my stance and looking eye to eye with the guy I was lining up against,” Khayat said. “In this case I was looking eye to sternum. I kept looking up and up and there was Big Daddy’s dark face with dark, piercing dark eyes, and this thick black beard. He was 6 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed over 300 pounds. He was an ex-Marine, never went to college. There was not an ounce of fat on him. I don’t think, at that time, I even shaved.”

Khayat said Lipscomb looked down at him, smiled and said, “Boy, does you mama know you are out here tonight?”

Answered Khayat, “Yes sir.”

Not a match
The ball was snapped, Meredith handed to a running back, Big Daddy flung Khayat aside like a sack of potatoes and tackled the runner for a loss.

“For Big Daddy Lipscomb, I was like swatting a fly,” Khayat said.

To his credit, Khayat went four quarters, never quitting, always holding.

“I held him every way a man can hold,” Khayat said. “No way I could block him.”

Almost every time Lipscomb knocked him down, Khayat said, he would reach down and help him back up. “Nice try, Sweet Pea,” he’d say.

The Colts won 32-7 (Khayat did kick the extra point), and Big Daddy hugged Khayat afterward, presumably to congratulate him on his survival.

Said Khayat, “And that’s the night I started thinking seriously about law school.”

Rick Cleveland is the executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. He can be reached at rcleveland@msfame.com

Click video to hear audio

  • ostrogoth

    Outstanding Rick! RK is a legend.