1974 WFL Team Pages
In 1973, the World Football League announced its plans to field a "global" football league that would include teams in major U.S. cities and as well Europe and the Far East. R. Steven Arnold, a 36-year old San Francisco attorney and sports enthusiast jumped at the chance to become part of the league and to purchase the rights to a franchise in Tokyo, Japan. Steven Arnold was a figure head in the WFL since Gary Davidson first came up with the plan for a rival to the NFL. The possibility of owning a franchise in Tokyo startled the mind, and left the WFL founders with a feeling of invincibility.
When it became evident that the league would need more time for its global plans Arnold decided to move his franchise to the more domestic city of Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis for several years had tried to move into the NFL's good graces but was always left at the altar. When the NFL announced expansion plans in 1976, Memphis, along with Tampa, Seattle, Birmingham and Hawaii were on the leagues' list of possible sites. The Memphis football fans desperately wanted the pro game in town. While in Memphis, Steven Arnold scheduled meetings with Mayor Lewis Ellek and cotton magnet E.W. Cook. about financing a WFL franchise for the city. With Ellek's blessing and Cooks' business ties in the community, Arnold figured he had just wrestled down two "angels" who would make his football prayers a reality. The city of Memphis, swept off its feet by the NFL elite, found itself consumed by posh meetings with NFL executives, lavish dinners, and plans to form an investment syndicate that could handle the $16 million NFL price tag. Lost in this world of football politics was Arnold and his WFL Memphis franchise. The NFL had its microscope on Memphis and many NFL insiders claimed that Memphis was never going to receive the franchise (eventually the NFL decided on Tampa and Seattle) and they were simply using the city to hold the WFL hostage. Memphis wasn't planning a warm reception for Arnold and his fellow W.F.L. owners. As the city dragged its feet for a lease on Memorial stadium, Arnold began talking to other cities about relocating there. After months and miles of red tape, he announced in a Chicago meeting of the WFL board of governors that he would transfer the club to Houston, Texas. Oil money was as good as cotton money and suddenly the Houston Texans were born.
The Houston Texans arrived in the Name Lone Name Star Type State and started assembling an organizational structure. In an effort to create a media event, on April 10, 1974, Steven Arnold offered NFL coach Hank Stram $2 million to jump to the Texans and coach in the WFL. Stram turned him down. Houston later signed Jim Garrett to coach the team. Garrett had previously coached in the N.F.L. with the New York Giants, and in the college ranks, he also had experience in the minor leagues with the Orlando Panthers of the Continental League. The Texans also signed Richmond Flowers, the NFL cornerback of the New York Giants, as an executive to the president. Flowers would join the administrative staff as soon as his NFL contract expired in 1975. Flowers was the first player to sign a "future" contract with the WFL.
Coach Jim Garret brought on coaches Ralph Cavalucci (Defensive Line), Larry Catuzzi (Offensive Backfield), Bill Muir (Offensive Line), Dick Pesonen (Defensive Backfield), Bob Windish (Linebackers), Marshall Taylor (Receivers), George Miles (Special Teams), and Jim Milam (Equipment Manager) to coach the Texans.
In the preseason, Garrett assembled a veteran team of experienced players. 25 players on the Texans roster had either NFL or CFL careers. The Texan offense centered around quarterback Mike Taliaferro (the ex-New York Jet), and draft choice David Jaynes of Kansas. The Texans running game featured ex-NFL star Jim Nance. Nance rushed for over 1,000 yards in the NFL with New England. Virgil Robinson (of the New Orleans Saints) and Paul Gipson also added depth to the running game. Willie Frazier was penciled in as Garret's tight-end. The receiving corps was rounded out by Rick Eber, Jimmy Hines (Dolphins) and Paul Zaeske (Oilers). The Texans defense also took a veteran approach. Defensively, Garrett had linebacker Joe Robb, a veteran of 13 NFL seasons; Don Brumm, a 10-year pro; Alphonse Dotson, an eight-year pro; and at the linebacker positions, Garland Boyette, Bob Creech, Jim Kanicki and Cleo Walker. Chuck Latourette and Charlie Durkee handled the kicking game.
The Texans broke in their play book on the field of Name Rice Type University where the team held training camp. Garret and his staff were excited about promising rookie linebacker Ron Rydalch, as well as the running of NFL veteran Jim Nance and the passing of ex-New York Jet Mike Taliaferro. The Texans scrimmaged the Chicago Fire to help fine tune their playbook and prepared for their opener against the same Fire team.
The Texans traveled to Chicago for their WFL opener. At Soldier Field, the Texans took to the field prepared, but without their "Texan" logo on their helmets. The team resembled a green and gold version of Name Penn Type State as they battled the Chicago Fire. With the Chicago Fire limiting Houston's' Jim Nance to minimal yardage the Fire stole the game 17-0. Fire quarterback Virgil Carter was able to drive Chicago for two scores that provided enough offensive power to win. Houston was officially welcomed to the WFL.
In a United Press Interview, R. Steven Arnold, owner of the Texans, told the UP, "The future of our team will be determined by a solid base of veterans led by Cowboy quarterback Craig Morton in 1975." He also added, "By design we had put together a veteran team. Some of the players we have haven't played for a year or two. It's going to take them a few games to get back in the swing of things." When asked to comment on the Texans loss to Chicago, Arnold said, "We're going to get better as the season rolls along. The schedule favors us. We play five of our last six games at home. The signing of Morton gives us a lot of hope for the future. He's going to be more valuable to the Texans than Gordie Howe was to the Aeros (Houston Aeros of the WHA). "On money issues Arnold told the press that the Texans will have to average 30,000 to break even, and that he expected the team to lose $500,000 in its first season. He also said the WFL had been contacted by a group of local businessmen in Tulsa, Oklahoma regarding the possibility of the Tulsa Knights joining the WFL in 1975.
In Houston, the Texans dew 26,227 for their home opener, a lackluster 11-0 victory over the Philadelphia Bell. Houston Texan cornerback Daryl Johnson intercepted a "King" Corcoran sideline pass and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown and a 8-0 Texan lead. Neither team played well, nor neither offense could move the ball, as both contributed to over 23 punts in the game. Houston's' Charlie Durkee added a 28-yard field goal and Houston took a 11-0 lead into the locker room at half time, and kept the score for their first win of the season. The victory wasn't pretty. The Texan offense managed only 11 first downs to Philadelphia's 9. Quarterback Don Trull, playing for the injured Mike Taliaferro, passed for only 32 yards and completed 4 of 16 passes. Texan running game contributed 136 yards in the win. From the rafters of the top mezzanine was a home-made banner that said, "Houston Texans- A whole new world", and compared to the feeble Houston Oilers of the NFL, it looked as though Steve Arnold had possibly found a pot of gold at the end of the WFL rainbow.
In a strange scheduling move the Texans and Florida Blazers played back-to-back matches. In Orlando, the Texans fell short 15-3, as the Houston offense continued to struggle to move the ball or score points. Rain and red flags hit the Orlando turf in equal numbers as the Texans were penalized for 107 yards. Houston never got past midfield in the first half and never threatened to pull off an upset of the favored Blazers. At half time, the Texans had only two first downs (none in the first quarter). Florida's Tommy Reamon scored on a 15-yard run and caught an extra point pass to lead the Blazers. Mike Taliaferro completed 12 of 18 passes for 100 yards. Jim Nance, Virgil Robinson and Mike Richards added 84 rushing. In the silent locker room coach Garret told reporters, "Offensively we're just banged up. You can't lose players like Paul Gipson, Tom Bailey, Clyde Williams and Willie Frazier, and having quarterbacking problems like we've had and expect to score points." Gipson, the former Atlanta Falcon was out with a back injury and Taliaferro started his first game since being injured against the Chicago Fire. The Houston Texans were 1-2.
During the first weeks of the WFL season, the Texans had to use a makeshift offense because of injuries. The offensive line had to be completely reassembled. Paul Gipson, a former standout running back at the University of Houston, played well in preseason but was consistently injured in the regular season. This was a crushing blow to Jim Garrett and his staff who planned on Gipson's speed. Other problems surfaced even before the WFL season began. Garrett had designed the Texans' offense to make use of former Tennessee star quarterback Eldridge Dickey. On the first day of training camp workouts, Dickey was nowhere to be found and the Texans quickly abandoned hopes of having him in uniform. Coach Jim Garret and his staff assembled a football machine out of spare parts, and hoped for the best.
Sports enthusiasts called the Houston Astrodome the "Eight Wonder of the World". Reporters claimed they were referring to the Texan offense. Under the roof, the Texans defeated the Florida Blazers 7-6 when John Mallory returned a 59-yard interception to the Blazer one yard line and running back Jim Nance "bulled" his way over for the only touchdown of the contest. 16,286 Fans watched as Don Brumm, Al Dotson, Jim Kanicki and Joe Robb rolled into the Florida backfield, sacking quarterback Bob Davis twice and forcing two interceptions. Once again the winning score was set up by a defensive play. The game was marred by the lack of offense, now becoming a Texan trait. Houston managed only 145 yards on offense to Florida's dreary 75. Houston sports writers were claiming the Texans' playbook consisted of; "lull the opposition to sleep and get the defense to score touchdowns". It wasn't far from the truth. The Blazers and Texans were hit with an incredible 217 yards in penalties. The Texan offense had scored only 21 points in four games, but the team was 2-2.
The Texans traveled to Portland, Oregon to play the Storm. In the Western Division, the Southern California Sun and the Texans were tied for first with 2-2 won-lost records. The Texans roster had 33 of 37 players on it with prior NFL football experience, and the Texan defense was on of the WFL's best. Names like Al Dotson, Joe Robb, Jim Kanicki and Garland Boyette were familiar professional names. Before the game Portland head coach Dick Coury said, "Houston had the best defense in the league. Houston also has a lot of professional experience on defense. That is the ways to build a good winning team on any level- have a strong defense. A strong defense makes things happen and that is just what Houston is doing. Their defense has been responsible for both of their victories." While the Texan defense shook Portland to the core, the offense seemed to be lost, rolling among the Texas tumbleweeds. The offense had gained only 657 yards in four games, and scored only one touchdown (a one-yard run by Jim Nance off a John Mallory interception). In the second quarter, under the threatening gray skies in Portland, the Storm scored an 8-0 lead as Marv Kendricks dove over from the one yard line. Mike Taliaferro led the Texans back on a offensive march down the turf of Civic Stadium, that surprised the Texan coaching staff more than it did the fans. Texan running back Jim Nance slammed over from the one to tie the game at 8-8. After a scoreless third quarter, Taliaferro hit receiver Rick Eber on a 12-yard touchdown play that gave Houston a 15-8 lead. The action point (a pass) failed. The Storm, before 15,686 fans came charging back. Quarterback Ken Johnson threw a pass over the out-stretched hands of Don Brumm and into the hands of Sam Dickerson for a touchdown and a 15-15 tie. The Storm lined up at the 2 yard line for the action point and the win. Ken Johnson called the signals and handed off to Rufus Ferguson who was tackled by a legion of Texan defenders. As the final gun sounded, and the players walked among each other, the Storm and the Texans had battled each other and came up with the WFL's first and only tie 15-15.
With a 2-2-1 won-lost record, the Texans prepared to face the Southern California Sun back in Houston. The Portland game gave the team reason to be hopeful. Texan quarterback Mike Taliaferro completed 11 of 22 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. Big Jim Nance added 83 yards and Mike Richardson added 54. For the first time in their WFL season the Texans had moved the ball well. Despite being ranked dead last in offense in the WFL, Coach Jim Garret was optimistic. Off the field, Texan management arranged several promotions to improve on the low turnout (16,000) for the game against the Blazers.
At the start of the WFL season, the Texans formed their team by signing NFL veterans rather than rookies out of college. They signed offensive names like Jim Nance, a former all pro running back with the Patriots, and Mike Taliaferro, who played behind Joe Namath with the New York Jets for four seasons. Defensive stars like Jim Kanicki, Don Brumm, Joe Robb, Willie Parker and Al Dotson were signed. Through the first four weeks of the WFL season the Texans had the leagues' best defense. Then things began to change, and Jim Garrett felt new faces had to be added. With the lack of offense, Garrett searched the NFL and CFL for talent. He finally worked out a trade with the Detroit Wheels for running back Warren McVea, the former All-Pro running back at the Type University of Name Houston. McVea had refused to report to the Wheels training camp and was suspended. With the WFL season five weeks old, and the Wheels suffering for financial problems, Garrett acquired McVea for $15,000 cash. McVea had the chance to give the Texans what they desperately needed- an outside running threat.
In the Astrodome, the Texans hosted the Sun before an enthusiastic crowd of 31,227 on "Nickel Beer Night". Early in the first quarter, Texan quarterback Mike Taliaferro launched a 51-yard space shot into the hands of John Odom, who beat cornerback Jack Conners, to give the Texans a 7-0 lead. The Sun wouldn't respond until the third quarter, when the same Jack Conners split coverage and ran 91-yards with a punt past the Texan bench for a 7-7 tie. The Sun would eventually add a Fleming Jenson field goal and a David Williams touchdown to beat the Houston club 18-7. The game was to be the debut of star running back Warren McVea, who played professionally with Cincinnati of the NFL, but the debut was short lived as the Sun defense sent McVea to the sidelines with broken ribs after just two carries.
On August 21, 1974, the WFL reported that the Florida Blazers were looking into a possible move to Atlanta due to dwindling fan support. The Detroit Wheels were considering Charlotte, North Carolina for their new home and that the New York Stars were for sale for the price of $6 million. As the landscape of the WFL threatened to change the Texans prepared for the New York Stars. Houston also made headlines, as the team announced the signing of ex- New York Jet wide receiver Don Maynard. Maynard, an All-Pro, was released by the Jets and quickly picked up by the Texans in hopes that his ability to make the big play and provide veteran leadership in the locker room would improve the team.
New York City loomed in the background as underneath the Name Triborough Type Bridge the Stars and Texans went through their pregame warm-ups. Receivers ran routs and caught passes from the quarterbacks, kickers limbered their legs, linebackers stretched and running backs went through wind sprints. In the stands, 12,042 fans sat under the din of the poor lighting system of Downing Stadium, and the grinding sound of traffic above on the bridge, and watched as the players ran from shadow to shadow. The opening kickoff fell from the Manhattan skyline to the hard dirt field and from that moment the Stars ruled the Texans. Houston entered the game with one of the WFL's best defenses, but was humbled under the stampede of ex-Notre Dame star running back Bob Gladieux. Gladieux ran for 84 yards on 20 carries, and scored an amazing four touchdowns to lead New York to a 43-10 rout of the Texans. The Stars capitalized on three turnovers to build a 21-3 lead by half time. In the Texan locker room Garrett exploded at his players and promised there would be a "purge" to drive out undesirable players who weren't making an adequate effort. The Texans were 2-4-1, and offensively had only scored a total of 53 points in seven games (an average of 7.5 points a game). On the flight back from New York, Houston coach Jim Garret pondered how to get his offense moving the football. Wide receiver Don Maynard would certainly help the situation, and with a healthy Warren McVea and Jim Nance the offense should be able to get the ball moving. Houston management also had another plan to help the team.
Once again the Texans played a home-and-home series with the New York Stars. In the Astrodome, a disappointing crowd of 10,126 fans witnessed what would become the Texans' most infamous game. "New" Texan Richmond Flowers (originally signed for delivery in 1975) ran back the opening kickoff 30 yards to set the tone of the game. Quarterback Mike Taliaferro (12 of 23 for 187 yards) threw two touchdown passes; a 6-yarder to Willie Frazier and a 25-yard pass to Rick Eber, uncovered in the end zone. The Texans rushed for 140 yards and had 187 yards passing as the Houston squad avenged last weeks' rout, 14-11. Stars coach Babe Parilli told reporters after the game, "We embarrassed them last week and teams don't take that lightly." Despite the Texan victory, the game would be remembered in football history not for the score, but for an incident in the second quarter.
Earlier in the week, Texan owner Steven Arnold had been secretly meeting with hard-hitting Houston Oilers linebacker John Matuszak about joining the Texans. Arnold and the Texan lawyers claimed they had found a loop hole in Matuszaks' contract that allowed him to sign with the rival league. John Matuszak, a 6-foot-8, 285 pound defensive giant, who was the number one pick of the 1973 NFL draft, signed a $1 million, multi-year contract with the Texans and suited up for the game against the New York Stars. After a defensive series in the second quarter, Matuszak was called to the sidelines. As the crowd grew silent, several members from the local law enforcement agency emerged from the sideline. Escorted by Texan owner Steve Arnold, he walked over to the sheriff's deputies where he was served a restraining order forcing him from playing another down. Matuszak accepted and signed the paper, waved it to the fans, and watched the game from the Texan bench. NFL owner Bud Adams told the media, "We wanted to serve it (the restraining order) before Matuszak got on the field. But they left the sheriffs' office too late to issue it before the game started." Matuszak told reporters, "I guess I expected them to do something. I would expect anything from them. My plans now are to go to Hawaii with this team and become as much a part of it as possible."
The Texans traveled to Hawaii, without Matuszak, and were bombarded 33-15. After the loss to Hawaii, a disgusted Jim Garrett told the media, "I can only conclude that we can't win in this league with the roster we have now. I have in mind to change the make up of the team little by little." Almost daily, new players were brought into the Texans' camp for workouts. Some of the players were signed, others released. In an effort to shake up the team, coach Garrett released two of the more prominent names on the roster- defensive tackle Al Dotson and safety Art McMahon.
On September 6, 1974 the Texans boarded a plane for a trip to Memphis, Tennessee to play the Southmen. In the deep south the Texans again faltered. The Southmen scored quickly in the first quarter, as quarterback John Huarte threw two touchdown passes to Ed Marshall for a 16-0 Memphis lead. As the 15,000 Southmen fans grew louder the Memphis club struck again. After taking over on downs, the Southmen drove downfield and straight threw the Texan defense as JJ Jennings caught a 21-yard pass from Huarte to make it 24-0. The rout was on. The Texan defense was no match for the Memphis juggernaut, as the Southmen took a 31-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. Memphis quarterback John Huarte completed 8 of 16 for 113 yards and three touchdowns in two quarters. The Texans' deepest penetration was to the Memphis 16 in the fourth quarter behind David Mays' quarterbacking. Memphis linebacker Emery Hicks stopped the drive when he stole the ball as Mays went back to pass. Garrett, who was never been one to mix words, went on record as blaming his teams' poor star on "a lack of effort from the players". He went on to add, "Five years ago, we would have had one of the super teams in the WFL. I'm afraid we have players who just don't have enough steam left in the old boiler. Most of our players are playing only in a shadow of what they once were." Houston was 3-6-1 at the halfway point of the WFL season.
In a state known for its long riders, "black gold" and tumble weeds, the Texans were highly dependent on the running of veteran Jim Nance. James Solomon Nance was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania and grew up playing football in vacant lots and fields of his hometown. Nance went on to star at the Type University of Name Syracuse and later played for the New England Patriots. Nance twice led the AFL in rushing, and held the single season rushing record of 1,458 yards in a season. Nance entered the 10th week of the WFL season with 330 yards on 108 carries and two touchdowns. He led the Texans in rushing. He also added 7 catches for 43 yards, and led the team in scoring. On the defensive side of the ball, Garland Boyette led the team in tackles with 60, followed by John Mallory with 50 and Ed Mooney with 43. Jim Kanicki and Ron Rydalch led the team in sacks with 4.
The Texans returned home to face the Hawaiians. Only 9,061 fans sat under the roof of the Astrodome during the game. As the scattered noise of the fans echoed throughout the Astrodome, Arnold saw the writing on the wall. Three disappointing crowds (totaling only 35,000 in gross ticket sales) and high expense of running the organization was taking its toll on his checkbook. Hawaii defeated the Texans 24-17 on the passing of ex-Houston Oilers QB Edd Hargett. Despite a 131 yard rushing performance from Jim Nance the Texans fell behind Hawaii 16-7 and never caught up. Privately, Steven Arnold confided in WFL official and friend Gary Davidson, that the club was experiencing "difficulties" meeting the financial obligations on a weekly basis. Arnold had run through all his personal finances, and there weren't any rich oil tycoons lining up to invest in the team. The Texans, dying a slow death in Houston, were 3-7-1.
The team began to show visible signs of financial difficulty. Owner Steven R. Arnold was reportedly in debt over $200,000 (although media reports claimed the figure was twice that amount). During the week, a Houston bus driver refused to transport the club to Name Rice Type University for practice, claiming the busing company hadn't been paid in weeks- the team had to cancel practice. Several small business' in the Houston area were calling the Texan offices in regard to unpaid bills. Badly in need of financial help, Arnold began talks with officials of Shreveport, Louisiana about a possible sale of the franchise. The local merchants of the city pooled their funds and made Arnold an offer to sell the team outright. He jumped at the chance. The transfer of the Texans was kept private until ownership could be finalized and the agreement that materialized allowed the team to be "held" by Louisiana banker Bill Bernard until he could raise the needed cash for the purchase of the team. Steven Arnold would be allowed to walk away from the Texans and the WFL.
The Texans' sale to the Shreveport investment group hit a snag when Judge Arthur Lesher ordered the Texans to play one more game in the Astrodome. The temporary restraining order blocked the WFL's attempt to have the Texans first home game in Shreveport against the Memphis Southmen. L.A., Frey and Company, a New Orleans meat products concern, sought the order contending such action would damage a ticket promotion it was sponsoring. The promotion permitted fans to get an $8 ticket for $1 and four labels from Frey products. The WFL moved in quickly to try to settle the suit and eventually, the WFL would win an injunction to have the game moved to Shreveport.
Amid the confusion and the mounting financial problems of Arnold and the WFL, the Texan players were gathered together at a team meeting and told about the sale and transfer of the club to Shreveport. The announcement was not a popular one with some of the players. Mike Taliaferro, the Texans starting quarterback, refused to go to Shreveport. Taliaferro told reporters, "I will not go due to personal reasons. The only way I could stay in professional football was to stay in Houston." Coach Jim Garrett was suspended after reportedly urging the team not to report to Shreveport, calling the city "rinky dink". Public relations man for the Texans, Jack Cherry, said Garrett's' suspension came for a "number of reasons." Many of the Texan players were privately against the move. Houston was a major city, a professional sports city, and some players didn't think that playing on the banks of the river at the foot of "Twelve mile Bayou" was where their professional careers would take them. Later in the week, the chaos reached a pinnacle when a national college football ranking company rated Houston/Shreveport as the worst college football team in the country. In the Houston Chronicle it was reported, "The Texans left town the same way they came, broke, disorganized and unwanted."
The next week the Louisiana WFL franchise, as they were referred to, lost to Birmingham 42-14. The game was the TVS "Game of the Week" and referred to the Texans as "Louisiana" throughout the game. The press and media referred to the team as the " Louisiana Purchase" due to the fact that they were the first WFL team to change cities. On the field, " Louisiana", coached by Henry Lee Parker (in place of suspended Jim Garrett), trailed the Americans only 15-14 at the half. In the third quarter, the Americans erupted for 11 points and continued into the fourth with another 16 points to put the game out of reach. "Louisiana" was 3-8-1, scoring an average of 10.27 points a game, and seemingly lost in a storm of confusion and discontent but the storm was about to pass.
In Shreveport, the Louisiana WFL franchise was represented by Shreveport banker Bill Bernard. Bernard organized a group of local investors for the team. It was also announced that Bernard would also be offering public stock in the team in hopes to raise about $2 million for the franchise. On September 25, 1974, the town of Shreveport held a parade welcoming the Houston Texans to their city. A local "Name the Team" contest came up with the moniker, "The Steamer", after the city's rich riverboat heritage. Amid the marching bands, the city streets lined with fans and the carnival-like atmosphere, Shreveport had its team, and Houston had the ghost of the WFL and a legacy of empty Astrodome seats.
In Shreveport, 21,357 fans came out to watch the debut of the "new" Shreveport Steamer. After falling behind the Memphis Southmen, the Steamer charged back but lost in the end 17-3. In the rain, the Shreveport faithful cheered on their new team which just came up short from the win. Steamer quarterback D.C. Nobles led an option offense that seemed to give the mighty Southmen fits in the second half. The improvement was evident on the State Fair Stadium scoreboard, this was the same team that had lost 45-0 to the Southmen in Memphis.
In the locker room the players of the new "Steamer" sounded their appreciation of their new fans and their new home. "Fantastic," shouted back up quarterback David Mays, "there were 20,000 here tonight and it sounded like 30,000! To come here with the record we had and get this support is an inspiration. They (management) kept talking to us about 30,000 fans, but I doubted it because a lot of them didn't know if we would play here this week or not. " D.C. Nobles added, "I can't tell you how happy we are. Everyone is so pleased with the city, the people, the whole thing. We couldn't ask for more. When they first said we were going to Shreveport, a lot of the players took a nonchalant attitude toward it. But the rest of us said we would go and make the best of it. This week a lot of them told me, "We can be something in this city-let's give them our best!""
Steamer linebacker Garland Boyette also added, " Shreveport has a chance to be another Green Bay and we have the basic ingredients for a fine ball club." The Steamer players seemed overwhelmed by the applause when they did something well and the patience when they didn't. In Houston they had neither, the team died a slow death
During the week, new Steamer coach Marshall Taylor put his team through drills and patterns to perfect their timing. Running back Warren McVea, injured for most of the season, was back in the game plan to offer another weapon along with Jim Nance. The Steamer had a 3-9-1 record as was looking to improve that against the Detroit Wheels. At State Fair Stadium the Wheels rolled into town. The Wheels were unwanted by Shreveport, Charlotte and any other city and seemed to be drawing their last breath. The financial situation in Detroit was impossible. The team averaged about 10,000 a game, had lost about $2 million and the players were abandoned by the team's owners- and many went unpaid. The WFL desperately tried to find a solution, but it was obvious that the team was about to crumble. In the game program the club was listed as the "Wheels" which further fueled speculation that it wouldn't return to Detroit, or any other WFL city. 22,012 fans came out to the stadium as the Steamer defeated the Wheels 14-11. David Mays, a second string quarterback, hit tight end Willie Frazier with an 8-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter for the win. Suddenly, a town of pool halls, bars and drive-ins had a professional football team and the community responded by buying tickets and rallying behind their "heroes". The Steamer was 4-9-1.
The town of Shreveport was electrified by its new professional sports team. Fans were eager to support the club by laying down their had earned money on $8 tickets for the games. The players seemed happy with the new city and the team faced the season with a renewed enthusiasm. As the turnstiles clicked in Shreveport, the team prepared for a two-game road trip that would take them to Anaheim, California to play the Sun, and then to Philadelphia for a game against the Bell. Coach Marshall Taylor was optimistic about his teams' chances to turn the season around after the Detroit win and continued fan support for the Steamer.
The Steamer embarked on a road trip that would take them from one coast to the other. The first stop was Anaheim, California for a game against the Sun. After a loss to Southern California the Steamer fell to 4-10-1.
In the rain at Philadelphia's JFK Stadium, the Steamer defeated Philadelphia 30-25, in front of only 750 fans- the smallest crowd ever for a WFL contest. The field was a mud pit as players slid around like cartoon characters under the lighting towers. Steamer running back Jim Nance ran for 104 yards, and D.C. Nobles threw for two touchdowns and wide receiver Rick Eber caught two touchdown passes. After the game, a reporter interviewing Steamer wide receiver Rick Eber noticed that he had taped tacks on the inside of his hands. When questioned about them Eber calmly explained, "They don't even break the skin. I know they're illegal but they allow the ball to drag, and besides, we really needed the win." The Steamer was now 5-10-1.
The win against the Philadelphia Bell was an important road victory but nothing would match the next Steamer contest. 24,617 fans packed into State Fair Stadium to watch the Steamer play the first-place Birmingham Americans.
After a scoreless first quarter, Shreveport's Jim Nance ran over the Americans defensive line for a 7-0 Steamer lead. The crowd erupted into a thunder that shook the building to its foundations. Minutes later, Steamer kicker Charlie Durkee booted a 44-yard field goal and the home team had a 10-0 half time lead. In the locker room coach Marshall Taylor rallied his troops. "No mistakes, keep the pressure on the quarterback, we can win this one!" The Steamer players ran back onto the field as the cheers from the hometown faithful echoed throughout the Louisiana night. The fans sounded as if there were 50,000 in the stands. In the third quarter, after an impressive drive, Paul Gibson ran for a one yard touchdown through the blue and red American defense for a 17-0 Shreveport lead. Birmingham searched for answers as quarterbacks Matthew Reed and George Mira were unable to move the offense. In the fourth quarter, David Mays ran an option play and found a streaking Doug Winslow for a 15-yard touchdown pass and a 24-0 Shreveport lead. The noise in the stadium was deafening, the Steamer defense started to throttle the American running backs with punishing gang tackles. Late in the game, Doug Winslow ran 13 yards as the Steamer routed the Birmingham Americans 31-0. The team had avenged its 42-14 loss to the Americans. Shreveport was 6-10-1.
The win over Birmingham was a huge game for the Steamer. The WFL announced a new playoff format that would feature team with the best second half record, along with the division winners. With this plan, the Steamer held a 3-4 second half record and could easily make it into the playoffs if they continued to win. With hopes of a WFL playoff spot still possible the Steamer met the only team that stood in their way, the Portland Storm. Another spectacular crowd of 20,402 came out to State Fair Stadium. The fans cheered on their heroes but the Steamer fell to Portland 14-0. Shreveport played flat the entire game as Storm quarterback Pete Beathard threw for two touchdowns to Rufus Ferguson for the victory. As the WFL season came to a close, the enthusiasm of the Louisiana fans did as well. The city had supported the team (averaging over 20,000 a game) but the club posted a 6-11-1 mark and the WFL was starting to suffer from its own bad press.
The Steamer played its last home game against the Charlotte Hornets, who started the season in New York, and drew a disappointing 10,697 fans for a 19-14 win. The Steamer clinched the win on Jim Nance's two yard touchdown in the fourth quarter but the loss to Portland meant the team was eliminated from the WFL playoffs.
In the Shreveport papers under the heading, "WFL Soap Opera" the woes of the league were detailed. It was reported that attendance figures for the Steamer were inflated- the ghost of "Papergate" had come back to haunt the WFL. The owners of the team were involved in a difficult stock transaction plan and, under advisement of the league, inflated the gate figures. It was announced that the gate for the Steamer game against Memphis on September 25th actually drew a paid attendance of only 13,199 and not 21,357 as announced. The game between the Steamer and the Detroit Wheels attracted 10,792 and not the 22,012 that was announced. Several thousand tickets had been offered at reduced prices as well. Whether the figures were inflated or not, the fans of the team were excited and proud of the club. Many fans looked with hope to the 1975 season, if there was one. The article went on to detail the financial woes of the Florida Blazers (who hadn't been paid in months), the possible purchase of the Jacksonville Sharks for the 1975 season, the mounting financial problems of the Charlotte Hornets and the Portland Storm, and the "bailout" of the Chicago Fire and owner Tom Origer by other WFL owners. The stage was set for the final curtain on the WFL in its comic tragedy.
The Steamer played their last game of the WFL season in Birmingham, Alabama. The Americans, tuning up for the WFL playoffs, routed the punch less Shreveport team 40-7. Shreveport ended the '74 season at 7-12-1.
* Mike Taliaferro was released from the Texans when he refused to report to Shreveport and D.C. Nobles was named the starting quarterback of the Steamer.
NOTE: The 1974 Houston Texans team page was researched and written by Jim Cusano. This page appeared on the former World Football League Hall of Fame Website and is used with permission.
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