LEVERAGING THE GAME

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Marcus Allen and Mike Garrett were speakers at the event.
Marcus Allen and Mike Garrett were speakers at the event.
Billy Sims, center, and Barry Switzer, right, enjoy time together during the 2013 tournament,
Former OU and Detroit Lions running back Billy Sims,second from left, shares memories with friends during lastyear’s Langston University golf tournament.
Former Pittsburgh Steeler great “Mean” Joe Greene putts for birdie at lastyear’s fundraising event.
Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson congratulates a teammate during the 2013tournament. Henderson starred at Oklahoma City’s Douglass High School andLangston University before being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1975.

LEVERAGING THE GAME
Langston Athletic Director makes golf tournament huge success with big names

By Tim Farley

Mike Garrett has never backed down from a challenge and he’s not going to start now.

Whether he was playing college or pro football, attending law school or working as the athletic director of a major college athletic department, the Los Angeles native always had a point to prove and life is no different today.

In the early 1960s, critics said he was too small – 5-9, 190 pounds – to play football on the big stage. He proved them wrong by winning the 1965 Heisman Trophy as the star tailback at the University of Southern California. The following year, he was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs of the former American Football League and played in Super Bowl I with the Green Bay Packers winning, 35-10. Three years later, the Chiefs captured their first world championship with a 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings as the little guy from Los Angeles was the game’s leading rusher with 39 yards and a touchdown.

Garrett played five seasons with the Chiefs, and then went to San Diego where he played four years before retiring from the NFL in 1973.

Along the way, Garrett made a lot of friends. It just so happens many of them wound up in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Decades removed from his playing days, Garrett is now in his second year as athletic director at Langston University, a small NAIA school located 10 miles east of Guthrie.

Although Langston is far away from the national spotlight Garrett often enjoyed at USC and in the pros, he isn’t backing away from some grand plans he has for the historically black university. His idea is to put the Langston Lions on the national athletic map, but to do that he needs extra funding.

Using his network of friends and the lifelong bonds created by the NFL, Garrett has reached out to former teammates and other celebrities in the sports world to help him with his mission at Langston. Last year, the athletic department hosted its first golf tournament fundraiser, which generated $100,000.

Former NFL greats like “Mean” Joe Greene, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and Billy Sims were among those who helped make the tourney a financial success.

“When I tell them what I’m doing with sports here at Langston, they all ask what they can do to help me,” Garrett said. “These guys I knew they would do it because we do favors for each other.”

This year, the list of celebrity golfers reads like a Who’s Who of NFL Hall of Famers and Heisman Trophy winners including OU greats Jason White, Sims, Steve Owens and Oklahoma State University legend Barry Sanders. Interestingly, Sims, Owens and Sanders all played their entire NFL careers for the Detroit Lions.

The list doesn’t stop there. Already committed to the tournament are former Chicago Bears middle linebackers Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary, former Tulsa University and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Steve Largent and OU coaching legend Barry Switzer. Some of Garrett’s former Kansas City teammates also will play. They are Bobby Bell, Ed Podolak, Jan Stenarud and Curley Culp.

Major League Baseball Hall of Famers Joe Morgan, who starred with the Cincinnati Reds, and Ozzie Smith, of the St. Louis Cardinals, also will participate in the May 12 event at the Cherokee Hills Golf Course in Catoosa. The lone pro basketball player will be Otis Birdsong, who spent 12 seasons in the NBA with the Kansas City Kings, New Jersey Nets and Boston Celtics.

Well laid plans

Prior to coming to Langston, Garrett worked as USC’s athletic director, which wasn’t an easy job at the end due to NCAA investigations of star tailback Reggie Bush and basketball hero O.J. Mayo. Garrett was replaced as AD in 2010 by former USC quarterback Pat Haden.

Garrett landed back at his alma mater USC in 1993 and later hired Pete Carroll as head football coach in 2001, a move that was often criticized, but later heralded when the Trojans returned as a dominant football power for several seasons.

In an interview with ionOK.com, Garrett said his goal is to bring that same high level of athletic success to Langston.

“It’s no different than when I got to USC,” he said. “They hadn’t won in 30 years. For us at Langston, the key part is to get football going. That allows us to fundraise. I hope to turn Langston into one of the best small colleges it can be. We also want to educate people like never before with athletics and academics working together.”

Switzer, who guided the Sooners to three national championships during his 16 seasons at OU, has been a friend to Garrett since he arrived in Oklahoma two years ago.

“He asked me to personally get involved with him and Langston. He is a man with great vision and he’s a class individual,” Switzer said.

The former OU coach admits he’s not a golfer, but enjoys socializing with the Hall of Famers.
“This will be the greatest array of NFL talent you’ve ever seen,” Switzer said of the celebrity golfers. “This year’s talent is coming because of what people think of Mike Garrett. Mike Garrett is the draw for all these people. It’s a tribute to him more than anything.”

More than anyone, Switzer understands Garrett’s push to succeed. When Switzer took over as OU’s head coach in 1973, the Sooners were less than a national powerhouse at the time.

“He wants everyone to know there are four universities in Oklahoma. There’s OU, OSU, Tulsa and Langston,” Switzer said. “He wants to build a program and needs the resources to do that. You need quality coaches and athletes to accomplish this. Mike understands all that.”

Hollywood comes to Oklahoma

James Dunavant, Langston’s vice president for institutional advancement, is a firm believer that Garrett’s successful career in athletics and his passion to win eventually will put Langston on top.

“He’s going to bring some consistency to athletics and winning at a high level,” he said. “This tournament is designed to elevate the program, its athletes and the university. We’re bringing in the who’s who of the athletic world. What he (Garrett) has done is bring Hollywood to Oklahoma.”

Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the athletic department and the university’s sports medicine program, Dunavant said.

The goal for this year’s tournament is $150,000 with university donors playing alongside the celebrity athletes. Dunavant estimated the tournament field will involve 120 golfers on about 24 teams.

Langston, originally started as a land grant university, has not had the funding in the past to build new training facilities or hire more coaches, two moves that could aid in the school’s recruiting efforts for all sports, particularly football, Dunavant said.

“Mike’s goal is to win national championships at whatever level,” the school’s VP said.
Garrett, 69, admits he would like to end his career by turning Langston into an athletic powerhouse.

“It would be nice to have as my swan song a big success story at a black institution just as I did at a major institution at USC,” he said. “I’m dying to see how far we can get this institution to grow.”

Coming to Oklahoma

For Garrett, coming to Oklahoma was not on his radar until a national search firm contacted him about the AD’s opening.

“He definitely saw an opportunity,” Dunavant said. “Getting Mike to come here was huge. We have to give our (university) president (Kent Smith, Jr.) some credit. He had the foresight to hire the right search firm that had done searches at big D-1 schools. When Mike visited here, he fell in love with the community.”

Garrett admits many of his past mentors and coaches in California were transplanted Oklahomans who left the Sooner state in the Dust Bowl era.

“They really changed my way of thinking,” he said, referencing his high school and college playing days. “Because of their influence, when I heard about the opening I wanted to come here and get a feel for Oklahoma. I’m finding it wasn’t an anomaly. It’s a great place to raise my kids.”

He’s also discovering that challenges at any age provide a rich source of strength and courage.
“I was always told I was too small to play so I had something to prove in college. The same thing happened in the pros. I went to two Super Bowls, but it was always a challenge to prove I could do something they didn’t think I could,” Garrett recalled.

Langston supporters are hoping he’s victorious once again.


Celebrity golfers

  • Barry Sanders (tailback, 1988 Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma State; Detroit Lions. Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, 2004)
  • Dick Butkus (middle linebacker, Chicago Bears. Hall of Fame inductee, 1979)
  • Steve Largent (wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks. Hall of Fame inductee, 1995)
  • Bobby Bell (defensive end, Kansas City Chiefs. Hall of Fame inductee, 1983)
  • Ken Houston (defensive back, Houston Oilers and Washington Redskins. Hall of Fame inductee, 1986)
  • Eric Dickerson (running back, Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Raiders, Atlanta Falcons. Hall of Fame inductee, 1999)
  • Ed “Too Tall” Jones (defensive end, Dallas Cowboys)
  • Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson (linebacker, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Oilers, San Francisco 49ers)
  • Mike Haynes (cornerback, New England Patriots, LA Raiders. Hall of Fame inductee, 1997)
  • Mike Singletary (middle linebacker, Chicago Bears. Hall of Fame inductee, 1998)
  • Ed Podolak (running back, Kansas City Chiefs)
  • Jan Stenarud (kicker, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings. Hall of Fame inductee, 1991)
  • Curley Culp, (defensive end, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Oilers, Detroit Lions. Hall of Fame inductee, 2013)
  • Billy Sims (running back, 1978 Heisman Trophy winner at OU, Detroit Lions)
  • Steve Owens (running back, 1969 Heisman Trophy winner at OU, Detroit Lions)
  • Jason White (quarterback, 2003 Heisman Trophy winner at OU)
  • Tinker Owens (wide receiver, New Orleans Saints)
  • Joe Washington (running back, San Diego Chargers, Baltimore Colts, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons)
  • Greg Pruitt (running back, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Raiders)
  • John Huarte (quarterback, 1964 Heisman Trophy winner at Notre Dame; New York Jets, Boston Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Memphis Southmen of World Football League)
  • Barry Switzer (head coach at OU, Dallas Cowboys)
  • *Adrian Peterson (running back, Minnesota Vikings)
  • Terrell Owens (wide receiver, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals)
  • Ozzie Smith (shortstop, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, 2002)
  • Joe Morgan (second base, Houston Colt .45s/Astros, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, San Francisco Giants, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland A’s. Hall of Fame inductee, 1990)
  • Otis Birdsong (shooting guard/point guard, Kansas City Kings, New Jersey Nets, Boston Celtics)
  • *Active player

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