Saturday, December 03, 2016

Fred Cone & the Single Wing Attack

In 1946, Hazel Howard sent her brother a note about her next door neighbor.   “Brother, I have you a good football player but he’s never played football.”

Imagine that.

The potential "good football player" had just returned from the Pacific Theater in WW II where he served in the U.S. Army with the 11th Airborne Division.  Hazel's brother , by the way, was Frank Howard, the legendary Clemson University football coach.  Coach Howard knew he had 39 names on the list for the upcoming season and he needed 40 to fill up the football team barracks.  So just like that with the stroke of a pen, he added Fred Cone from Pine Apple, Alabama to the list. 

“And that’s how I got probably one of the best, if not the best, football player I ever had,” said Coach Howard.

Hazel turned out to be a pretty good judge of talent.  Her neighbor finished his college career at Clemson with eight 100-yard career rushing games, 31 touchdowns and 189 points. He was also the team kicker and did a little punting on the side.  Not bad for a guy who grew up in a town of 100 and attended a one room school from kindergarten through high school and never played a down of football in his life until he arrived at Clemson.

Incredibly, I recently had the honor to visit with Fred Cone and his lovely wife Judy in their home in Pickens, SC.  
I discovered that Fred first met Judy in Wisconsin when Fred was playing football for the Green Bay Packers. Judy was dating a high profile quarterback on the Packers by the name of Babe Parilli when she met her future husband.  It didn't work out for Judy and Babe but it worked out really well for Judy and Fred.  I can personally testify that this couple is still going strong almost 60 years later. Good looking professional football players have a way of getting the gorgeous ladies, you know.  

The boy from Pine Apple, by the way, was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the third round (27th overall) of the 1951 NFL draft.  Fred received his first contract in the mail, signed it and mailed it back before ever leaving the post office.  He didn’t even need to pray about it. 

Fred Cone scored 50 points as a rookie with the Packers and led the team in scoring in five of the next six seasons.  In 1957 he played in the inaugural game at what would become the historic Lambeau Field and scored the second touchdown ever scored there.  Two years after retiring from football, in 1960 he was recruited to come back for another season as a kicker by a brand new franchise by the name of the Dallas Cowboys. He scored the first points ever scored for that franchise.

Fred and Judy were tickled pink when their grandson was named Bart, after another famous Packer quarterback and close family friend with the last name Starr.

Hazel's neighbor has also received more than a few accolades over the years.  Among them is the fact that Fred has been inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame, the Clemson Hall of Fame, the Clemson Ring of Honor and the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame.

But I think the accolade he got the biggest kick out of was the one he received from country comedian Jerry Clower when he added the  story about Clemson’s Single Wing attack to his repertoire.  Sounds like, at least from Jerry Clower's perspective, Fred Cone was definitely the single in the wing.

Sometimes I am in the right place at the right time.  Being in the home of Fred & Judy Cone would be one of those times.

Listen to Jerry Clower below as he tells the story of Fred Cone and the Single Wing Attack.

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