1975 WFL Team Pages
When the World Football League resurfaced in 1975, the league was hoping for a return to Shreveport, Louisiana. In the "Port City", businessman John B. Atkins Jr., a Shreveport banker, organized a local investment group to take on the task of running a WFL franchise. Atkins, a member of one of the city's oldest and foremost families, was one of the pioneer members of a group christened the "Steamer Starters" by the local media that was instrumental in bringing the WFL to Shreveport in 1974. Atkins and his associates in the community raised $750,000 and secured a lease at State Fair Stadium for the upcoming 1975 season. Despite having the same name as the franchise in 1974, the Steamer featured many new faces. Joining Shreveport in the front office was Al Lange. Lange, the club's new General Manager came south after the Chicago Fire folded in December of 1974. Lange's first move was to retain coach Marshall Taylor, and bring in the personnel to improve a club that finished the 1974 WFL season at 7-12-1.
Steamer coach Marshall Taylor brought in Bill Muir as the team's offensive coordinator; Joe Robb (a former Houston Texan and Steamer linebacker in 1974) as the teams' defensive coach; Harry Theofiledes to coach Quarterbacks and running backs; Tommy Brasher to coach the defense; former New York Jet and Houston Texan Don Maynard for receivers and John Mallory as a player coach for the defensive backfield.
On the eve of the 1975 season Marshall Taylor was quoted as saying, "Our strong suit will be an experienced defensive unit. John Mallory, Richmond Flowers, Darryl Johnson and Leon Jenkins give us one of the strongest secondary’s in the WFL. The return of Garland Boyette, middle linebacker, Bob Creech, a strong linebacker, will give us toughness at linebacker positions. Ron Rydalch, Willie Parker and Mike Walker, and the new addition to our defensive line of scrimmage, Robert Barber, the Grambling Ace, will give us quickness, strength, and experience on our defensive line of scrimmage." Taylor then informed reporters that, "I feel we have outstanding receivers with Rick Eber (second leading receiver in the WFL in 1974), John Odom and Doug Winslow, who joined Shreveport for the last eight games last year, and Ricky Scales, who had 116 catches in three years of college football at Rod Milburn. Donnie Davis is a big play tight end, and our offensive line should be improved with returnees Joe Miller, Sam Holden, and Clyde Williams, and newcomers Glenn Holloway and Mike Taylor. We will go into this season with experience at quarterback with the return of D.C. Nobles, and the addition of Edd Hargett (Hawaii '74) and Bubba Wyche (Detroit Wheels and Chicago Fire '74). Jim Nance will be our biggest offensive threat at running back, and Paul Gipson, Virgil Robinson and Henry Brandon will give us more experience at running back and fullback." Marshall added, "There is no question that we have an excellent blend of youth and experience with size and quickness. This, together with a high moral character and an intense competitive spirit makes the 1975 Steamer squad a winner."
Monday, July 21st, 1975 the Shreveport Steamer players lined the sidelines of State Fair Stadium under the big lights and a dusky sky. On the field the Steamer and the "new" Birmingham Vulcan's went through their warm-ups- running sprints, catching passes, and engaging in small talk. Several of the players walked the field, getting a feel for the turf and waiting, in anticipation, for the opening kickoff. A crowd of 13,264 sat in the stands and watched as the Birmingham Vulcans laid a 31-30 loss on the Steamer. Shreveport suffered from several mistakes. Five turnovers, three fumbles and two interceptions, and all led to Birmingham scores. The Vulcans benefited from playing their third exhibition game of the WFL season while Shreveport played their first (Birmingham had beaten Memphis and Charlotte). Steamer quarterback Edd Hargett was nailed from behind and fumbled at the Steamer 27, and six plays later Vulcan running back Johnny Musso plunged over for the go-ahead score. Despite the loss, Steamer coach Marshall Taylor was pleased with the play of Hargett, running back Henry Brandon and rookie Ricky Scales.
20,168 fans packed State Fair Stadium for the second game of the exhibition season against Memphis. While the fans, media and the cameras strained for a glimpse of Larry Csonka. Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield- the heralded "Big Three" of the Southmen, the fans cheered at the defensive effort put forth by the Steamer. In the end, Paul Warfield, one of the infamous "Big Three" burned Shreveport for two touchdowns, leading Memphis to a 14-7 win and sending Shreveport into the WFL regular season after a 0-2 preseason. Coach Marshall Taylor and his assistants went back to the drawing board to try to repair the erratic offense, and hopefully prepare the team for their regular season opener in San Antonio.
San Antonio, Texas. 10,411 fans at Alamo Stadium watched the WFL expansion San Antonio Wings play like anything but an expansion team as they steamrolled Shreveport 19-3. Despite the score, the game was more one-sided than it appeared. A fumble recovery stopped one San Antonio drive on the Steamer 15, and a penalty nullified a fourth quarter Wings touchdown. San Antonio's defense held Shreveport to 50 yards rushing, and countered with 165 of their own. Steamer quarterback Edd Hargett was harassed throughout the game completing only 13 of 29 passes for 131 yards. One of the few bright spots for Shreveport was receiver Doug Winslow who caught five passes for 60 yards. In a post game interview Shreveport's Marshall Taylor claimed, "They beat us. San Antonio has a good team, a real good football team." Hargett said, "They just whipped us. They beat us in every aspect of the game- offence, defense and special teams." The loss, the third straight for the Steamer, dropped them to 0-1 in the WFL regular season.
Coach Marshall Taylor looked for ways to correct an offense that had scored only 10 points in its last two games. The Steamer went through two-a-day practices, and quarterbacks' coach Harry Theofiledes put starter Edd Hargett through his sessions and kept a close eye on D.C. Nobles and Bubba Wyche in case Hargett faltered. The Steamer hosted the Chicago Winds, who brought to Three Mile Bayou wide receiver John Gilliam and former WFL star quarterback Pete Bethard. Despite marquee names like Gilliam and Bethard, it was another player who received top billing- Ricky Scales. In the fourth quarter, Scales broke free in the Chicago secondary and hauled in a 47-yard pass from Edd Hargett to put Shreveport at the Winds 5. Two plays later, Virgil Robinson made it 24-11 Steamer. Scales then caught a 26-yard pass from Hargett on the next series and dashed to the Chicago 11, where, three plays later, the Virginia Tech rookie caught a nine yard touchdown pass to make it Shreveport 31, Chicago 11. Later in the game Mel Daniels intercepted a Bethard pass and zig-zagged 77 yards for a touchdown that capped a 38-18 win for the Steamer before an excited hometown crowd. Running back Virgil Robinson rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries and Scales led the team in receiving. After the game center Robinson told reporters, "Our offensive line moved the ball at will. It all starts with the offensive line (center Clyde Williams, guards Sam Holden and Glenn Holloway and tackles Joe Miller and Mike Taylor)."
Receiver Ricky Scales added, "It was a case of us getting things together. The running game was going, that opens up the passing game. Each compliments the other- last week it wasn't like that." Scales also added, "The ball came right down in my arms- a perfect pass," he said of the 47-yarder from Hargett.
Steamer coach Marshall Taylor summed up the victory, "I feel strongly the offensive line has lots of confidence. I felt we could stay with the running game we'd be better off. Robinson did a very good job running with power inside and out, and Hargett did a good job running the offense and the plays we needed to get the job done."
Shreveport, at 1-1, hosted the Philadelphia Bell at State Fair Stadium on August 17th. The Steamer once again took to the running game and handed the Bell a 10-3 loss. Jim Nance rumbled through the Bell defense en route to 104 yards in 24 carries and was the bedrock of Shreveport's ball control offense. After the Bell went up 3-0, Edd Hargett found Doug Winslow alone on the sideline for a 43-yard completion down to the Philadelphia 2. Virgil Robinson dove over and gave the Steamer an 8-3 lead. Philadelphia drove back. In the final minutes, King Corcoran The Shreveport defense stifled a late Bell threat with ten minutes remaining when Daryl Johnson intercepted a King Corcoran pass in the end zone. Johnson made the leaping catch in front of the Philly receiver who appeared to be wide open. "In a goal line situation like that you can't play the man, you play the football. In the stands it may look like he's wide open but the ball's got to get there. He can't score without the ball," said Johnson. Late in the game, defensive end Robert Barber would tackle Bell quarterback Bob Davis for a safety with three minutes remaining to make it final, 10-3.
In the dressing room, winning coach Marshall Taylor greeted Johnson with "the biggest play of the game! My big play man!" referring to Johnson's interception. He added, "I told Jim (Nance) at halftime he'd probably get the ball 15 times in the second half. He said, 'I'm ready'. Jim was hitting hard inside and breaking tackles. And we didn't give him much of a blow either. He's probably as quick as or quicker than he's been the last four or five years."
"I had to knock a couple of them over in the last minute," Nance said after the game. Shreveport improved to 2-1, holding its position of second place of the WFL Western Division.
With two straight wins under their belt the Steamer traveled to Portland, Oregon. The Thunder, wrapped in rumor that the franchise was in financial trouble (management was look for ways to improve attendance at Civic Stadium, and improve the teams' 0-3 record) came into the game without a win on the season. That would soon change. The Steamer ran a ground against 5-foot-5, 190 pound, Rufus Ferguson. Ferguson rushed for 131 yards on 18 carries and led the Thunder to a 33-24 win before 6,574 Portland fans. Ferguson's effort wiped out one of Shreveport’s longest scoring plays of the season; Paul Gipson's electric 73-yard kickoff return. Gipson found a seam in the Portland kickoff coverage near the 50 shook away a tackler at the 40 and cruised into the end zone for the touchdown, but it wasn't enough. Portland's Don Horn completed 17 of 24 passes for 210 yards and completed several crucial third-down attempt. The Steamer was now 2-2.
The Shreveport Steamer ran into trouble waters after the Portland game, and tumbled into a three-game losing streak. The Birmingham Vulcans thrashed the Steamer 21-8 on the arm of Matthew Reed. The Steamer had tied the game at 8-8 on a simple 53-yard touchdown bomb from Edd Hargett to Ricky Scales, but Reed led Birmingham back with a critical 24-yard pass on third down to Bob Brown that led to a Johnny Musso touchdown. Reed scrambled throughout the game, dodging tackles and completing crucial passes to keep the Vulcans moving and allowing Birmingham kicker Ron Slovensky to add three field goals to the total.
Marshall Taylor told Shreveport reporters, "We just made too many mistakes." The Steamer committed six turnovers- four interceptions. "We made too many mistakes to beat a team like Birmingham, particularly away from home," added Taylor. "We made several key breakdowns. I felt the biggest play came when we were down 13-8 and let them hit that post out (pattern to Bob Brown at the Steamer four). We were in a 4-3 defense and they hit a 30-yard post. It was a big play because I thought if we stop them we could make a comeback." Taylor vowed to improve the team and not repeat the turnover-riddled performance.
The rain poured and poured in Louisiana, and the Steamer crowd of 13,638 watched in dismay as the Steamer repeated their fumbling and bumbling performance- five turnovers, and lost to the Jacksonville Express 22-15. The game winning score came off of a fumble by wide receiver Doug Winslow, a mid-air bobble that was recovered by Chip Myrtle, at the Steamer 33. Veteran quarterback George Mira took six plays to lead the Express to paydirt as Alfred Haywood rammed over from the 2 for the win. The Steamer came up with streaks of brilliance of both offense and defense but the club, sapped by a week of unrest due to salary relocations of some key players, couldn't overcome the raft of turnovers.
Shreveport had fallen to 2-4 and the mood around the Steamer camp was waning. In the front office, Steamer officials were concerned over attendance that had averaged about 14,000- a far cry from the planned 20-25,000 needed to break even. Rumors had the Steamer losing $65,000 a week and the front office management almost helpless to stop the bleeding. Estimates had the team losing close to $300,000 so far in the season. Al Lange discussed the possibility of reducing ticket prices to draw fans to the stadium, and also had to approach several key players about renegotiating contracts and reducing salaries to keep the team operating.
On the field the Steamer were searching for answers. A road trip to Memphis and a 34-23 loss sent the team to a 2-5 record. Coach Marshall Taylor went with backup quarterback D.C. Nobles who led the Steamer to 23 points in the final quarter. "We're still a team making a lot of mistakes." said Taylor after the game. Taylor also said it would take time to evaluate the performance of Nobles. "I certainly don't want to blame Edd. He had some key plays where passes were dropped. I feel D.C. gives the defense a lot of things to worry about. He runs the bootleg and passes. He gives us more variation on offense than we've shown. He puts pressure on the defense," said Taylor.
Marshall Taylor decided to start Edd Hargett against the Southern California Sun, and by the time he and Rick Eber were finished Shreveport ripped the Sun 38-29, before 18,777 in Shreveport. Hargett threw for a club record 369 yards and Rick Eber caught seven passes for 170 yards, lifting the Steamer to 3-5 on the season. The onslaught held off Sun running back Anthony Davis, who rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries.
The win over Southern California gave the Shreveport team a lift. The following week the Steamer defeated Hawaii 32-25 on Daryl Johnson's finger-tip interception in the end zone off of Hawaii star receiver Tim Delaney to preserve the Steamer victory. 21,349, the largest crowd of the year to see a Steamer game, watched as Hawaiian quarterback Rick Cassata completed four straight passes to take the ball to the Steamer 19 with 40 seconds to play. But on the next try Johnson darted over from his strong safety spot for the interception and returned the ball to the Steamer 28. Edd Hargett and the offense killed the remaining 32 seconds to seal the win and improve to 4-5 on the season. Johnson, usually a cornerback, was forced to play safety due to an injury to John Mallory, the regular strong safety.
"I'm a cornerback," Johnson told reporters after the game, "It's tough to play back there at safety." "There's a Helluva lot more action at safety. You watch for passes, runs, screens, draws." When the Steamer needed it, Johnson answered, just as he did earlier in the season against the Philadelphia Bell.
"Two things hurt us today," claimed Hawaii coach Mike Giddings, "Hargett's pinpoint passing and the bull-like running of Jim Nance." Jim Nance came away with 113 yards, and Edd Hargett completed 14 of 20 for 241 yards and two touchdowns- including a 60-yarder to Ricky Scales to open the scoring.
The Steamer defense also held off another Hawaii threat when Bob Creech, Kenny Lambert, safety Richmond Flowers and defensive end Alan Aldridge helped the Shreveport club hold the Hawaiians on four downs inside the Shreveport seven yard line and as deep as the three. Steamer quarterback Edd Hargett completed 14 of 20 passes for 241 yards.
Marshall Taylor told reporters from the Shreveport Times after the game, "It was one of the most physical games we've played with both clubs making big plays and taking advantage of breaks... the fans got their money's worth."
The Steamer was back on track and the front office was optimistic with the turnout (over 18,000) for the Southern California Sun. During the week the players prepared for the Charlotte Hornets, and the media reported on the troubles with the Portland and Philadelphia franchises. Attendance is both cities were dismal. Portland was attracting about 7,500 a game and Philadelphia was hovering around 4,000. Both teams went unnoticed by the local media and there were several reports that the WFL would (1) fold the franchises or (2) shift or merger the two teams. As the week pressed on, fans and officials waited for the word.
In Shreveport, under sunny skies, a crowd of 20,470 fans watched as the Hornets stung Shreveport 39-14 in a shocker. The two teams, Charlotte led 16-7 at halftime, lazily played through a third quarter and then Charlotte exploded in the fourth for 23 points. The Hornets got the lead before halftime when the visitors blocked a Dave Strock punt and returned it to the three, where quarterback Tom Sherman hit Tim George for a touchdown. Sherman completed 17 of 20 passes, and hit George again in the third quarter for a 23-7 lead. Then, as the boos echoed down from the State Fair Stadium stands, Hornet Randy Rhino intercepted a D.C. Nobles pass and returned it 84 yards to put Charlotte up 31-7. After a Steamer score, the Hornets struck again with Jerry Ellison blocking a Dave Strock punt and Dennis Turner returning it for a final 39-14 score.
"We probably didn't stay with the basic offense enough," said coach Marshall Taylor after the game, "we didn't do a good job of executing or reading on offense." Taylor added, "Charlotte is a good football team that takes advantage of you....it beats you and you don't even realize you're getting beaten. This is the most disappointing game we've played. I feel sick because we can't start it over. It's sickening the way we played, didn't execute, didn't perform."
A dejected Edd Hargett added, "We took the first kickoff and we were doing the things we do well. Then we got away from it and tried to do too much junk. We had some bad plays called. Some were mine, and some were sent in. We didn't make the plays when we needed it."
Ricky Scales added, "The last two weeks we capitalized on the other team's mistakes. This week we didn't and they (Charlotte) did."
The Steamer seemed to be on track after taking the opening kickoff and marching 70 yards on 17 plays as Jim Nance bulled over for a score with 7:25 left in the quarter- it was all down hill from there. The Steamer fell to 4-6.
The following week the Steamer suffered a tough 39-30 loss to Southern California in Anaheim. The game, marred by questionable officiating, left the Steamer lost and searching for answers. The biggest concern was the fact that starting center Sam Holden was thrown out of the game, forcing rookie Rory Best into action. Best, a tight end, played center for the first time and the result was some mishandled snaps that the Sun capitalized on. The Steamer was at its own 10, after Doug Winslow's punt return was nullified due to a clipping penalty, and Edd Hargett dropped back and hit Ricky Scales for a 30 yard completion. The pass was brought back due to another clip and left Shreveport at their own 8. Two plays later, Hargett bobbles a snap and Jim Baker recovers at the 5. Anthony Davis comes in to score a touchdown that puts the Sun up 29-15. Hargett brought the Steamer back completing five in a row and hitting Doug Winslow for a 7-yard score with 9:59 remaining, making it 29-22.
Mistakes seemed to haunt the Steamer as Hargett was nailed by Cleveland Vann and fumbled the ball which was recovered by Charles DeJurnett. Seven plays later, Gary Dixon made it 36-22 Sun. One of the bright spots for Shreveport was the running of newly acquired Jimmy Edwards. Edwards, obtained from Birmingham, rushed for 34 yards but scored two touchdowns. Shreveport managed a late score when Edd Hargett nailed Doug Winslow with a 87-yard bomb to cut the lead to 39-30.
The game was another high point for Sun running back Anthony Davis who rushed for over 100 yards to reach 1,091 for the season. Marshall Taylor told reporters after the game, "We had to contain Davis to have a chance plus play a mistake-free game. He sits back there eight yards, gets the ball with plenty of vision and can go outside or inside."
Shreveport gained only 91 yards rushing- Jim Nance accounting for 67 yards on 11 carries. Jimmy Edwards scored twice on runs of five and 12 yards and gave the Steamer a glimpse of hope, and quarterback Edd Hargett completed 18 of 31 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.
The Steamer was now 4-7 and tied with Portland for last place in the WFL West.
Shreveport came home to play the San Antonio Wings. The Wings, 7-5, had lost three games in a row and were looking to improve on the WFL season. Shreveport had its sights on climbing out of the Western Division cellar. On a beautiful Louisiana day, 8,500 fans sat in the stands and watched the Steamer erupt for a 41-31 win. The Steamer defense had an incredible game intercepting five passes off of former NFL veteran Jerry Tagge, all of them leading to scores. The Steamer opened up a 15-0 lead at halftime off of touchdown runs by Jimmy Edwards and Jim Nance. Edwards ended the game rushing for 82 yards on 20 carries, and Nance added 54 on 17 carries.
The Steamer defense gave up only 59 yards on the ground and Tagge was rushed hard most of the afternoon, being sacked twice for a total of 17 yards by defensive end Robert Barber and once by nose guard Willie Parker for minus eight yards. Tagge was playing in place of injured starter Johnnie Walton who sat out the game with bruised ribs.
The Wings, trailing 41-8 entering the fourth quarter, mounted a comeback attempt. Tagge hit John Tuttle for a 20-yard touchdown pass to end an 80 yard drive and then dove over from the one to cap a 89-yard march. With :40 remaining, Wing cornerback Joe Womack intercepted a Bubba Wyche pass and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown to make it a 41-31 game. As the gun sounded, the Steamer walked off the field under the Louisiana sun unaware that this was their last WFL game. The players and the fans simply enjoyed the moment.
"The defense has been catching hell lately," admitted Sonny Jenkins, one of the league leaders in interceptions. "Today we played well and were just breaking on the ball well."
"The defensive line had a good game and the linebackers were making their drops real good," said player-coach John Mallory who had two interceptions, his first setting up the third touchdown of the game and opening up a 26-point third quarter for the Steamer which took the game out of reach and broke the previous club scoring high of 39 points in a single game.
Edd Hargett added, "We scored 26 points and probably didn't have 100 yards of total offense in the third quarter."
When asked if the turmoil surrounding the WFL had played a part in the San Antonio let down, Shreveport coach Marshall Taylor was quick to state, "Their game shouldn't have been. Our situation is in the same light as theirs. Our players played today knowing full well what could be and what couldn't. You're more affected by the way you start and play early- we were on top of 'em."
On October 22, 1975, John B. Atkins, Jr. traveled to New York to meet with the other WFL franchise owners. The mood of the meeting was less than optimistic. The Steamer had lost about $450,000 and attendance (hovering around 13,000) had not averaged what Atkins and his associates had expected. Faced with the prospect of even bigger losses, a questionable ticket base and no national television contract, Atkins voted to fold his franchise rather than continue on a road of financial ruin. With that vote, the town of Shreveport said goodbye to its first professional football franchise.
NOTE: The 1975 Shreveport Steamer 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.