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Cowboys, Jets & Walt Michaels

An interesting connection occurred last week in Houston, where Washington and Lee’s Board of Trustees was holding its winter meetings at the Houstonian. Turns out that the board of the University of Wyoming also happened to be meeting at the same hotel, and the two universities share a bit of a history.

In 1951, W&L and Wyoming met in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. Behind quarterback Gil Bocetti ’51 and fullback Walt Michaels ’51, the Generals had compiled an 8-2 record and were unbeaten at 5-0 in the Southern Conference. Wyoming was the undefeated champion of the Mountain States Conference. As it happened, the Cowboys wound up handing the Generals a 34-18 defeat, and some W&L fans will always point to Walt’s having to miss the contest because of appendicitis. It was the first game Walt had ever missed, and conspiracy theories circulated because the doctor who treated Walt was from the University of Virginia.

More than 60 years later, Walt was back in the news, when New York Times writer George Vescey tracked him down at his home in Pennsylvania last month to talk about Walt’s seven seasons as coach of the New York Jets prior to the Jets’ playoff game at Pittsburgh. If you missed the column, you can read it here. It has a lot of good stories, including about the battles that Walt used to have with Oakland Raider owner Al Davis, whom he always suspected of spying on Jet practices.

Asked what has changed about football since he was playing and coaching, Walt’s response was typical: “Nothing. If you hit people, you can win.”

If you know any W&L alumni who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.