NEW YORK - Former Texas Longhorns defensive back Johnnie
Johnson and former Houston Cougars defensive tackle Wilson Whitley
find themselves in rare company today.
A native of Brenham, Texas, Whitley played at Houston from 1972-76 and led the Cougars to the 1976 Southwest Conference championship in Houston's first season as a SWC member. He also was named a Consensus All-American and the 1976 Rotary Lombardi Award winner. He was presented the award by former President Gerald Ford at the ceremony in Houston.
That season, he anchored a defense that held opponents to 10 or fewer points in five games during the regular season. One of those games included a 30-0 victory at Texas, where the Cougars held the Longhorns to eight first downs and 24 yards rushing. Despite being doubled or tripled team on almost every play, Whitley led the Cougars in quarterback sacks (5), fumbles caused (3) and fumbles recovered (3). He also ranked second on the team in tackles with 50, including 15 assists.
Whitley led Houston to a 30-21 victory over an undefeated Maryland team in the 1977 Cotton Bowl, recording eight tackles, five of which were unassisted, and two tackles for losses of 12 yards.
Following the Cotton Bowl, Whitley was the eighth overall player taken in the 1977 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He played six seasons with the Bengals, and five alongside 1977 Lombardi Award winner Ross Browner from Notre Dame a year later. Whitley and Browner were members of the 1981 Bengals team that won the AFC Championship and played in Super Bowl XVI. He played one more season with the Houston Oilers before becoming the national director of sports marketing for Holiday Inns, Inc.
In Oct. 1992, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 37. He was inducted into the University's Hall of Honor in 1998, the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 1985, and was a member of the Texas Football Magazine's Silver Anniversary Team as both a high school and collegiate player.
They join Doug Flutie, Ahmad Rashad and 13 others in this year's
class elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
They'll be inducted at the National Football Foundation's awards
banquet in December and enshrined at the hall in South Bend, Ind.,
during the summer of 2008.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno, elected to the Hall of Fame last
year, will be inducted and enshrined with this year's class.
Paterno's induction was postponed last year because he was still
recovering after breaking his leg during a game against Wisconsin