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Xavier Magazine | April 30, 2017

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Xavier Football: The Three Musketeers

Michael Barras

Fordham had its “Seven Blocks of Granite.” Notre Dame had its “Four Horsemen.” In the 1950s, Xavier had the “Three Musketeers” of Mike Conaton, Jim Brockhoff and Steve Junker.

Their battles on the gridiron prepared them well for later life. Conaton became vice chairman of The Midland Co. as well as chairman of the Xavier Board of Trustees for 17 years. Brockhoff became Xavier’s longtime tennis coach. Junker went on to the National Football League and is still one of the most beloved sports icons in Detroit history and the only Xavier player to earn an NFL Championship ring.

The three played during a challenging era for Xavier football, but came away with some great stories. In 1952, for instance, Conaton was on the kickoff team when Xavier played the University of Louisville. A bandy-legged sophomore in black high tops shot past him on his way to returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. This sophomore was also Louisville’s quarterback, safety/linebacker and punt returner. After a great career for a weak Louisville program, which never beat XU, he was a ninth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was cut by the Steelers but picked up by the Baltimore Colts, where he went on to become “Mr. Quarterback,” Johnny Unitas.

In 1954, the three were all members of a team that won just two of its 10 games, although one of those wins was quite memorable.

“We were hammered by UC, 33-0,” says Brockhoff. “The offense was invisible as we only posted a few first downs in the whole game. Even worse we had to play an undefeated Boston College team in Boston the following week that was in the driver’s seat to win the mythical Eastern Football Title and maybe even the National Championship. We were all just dumb kids and we got over the UC shelling pretty quickly. We were excited because we were flying to Boston and most of us had never been on a plane. The game was going to be broadcast back to Cincinnati on WSAI and the game, because of BC, was getting national coverage. But the Boston press was as nasty in 1954 as it is today. They called Xavier a ‘Dress Makers School.’ I guess they were calling us girls. They rightfully did not give us a chance to win the game.”

Fenway Park was cold and rainy. Predictably BC got out to a 14-0 lead, but XU halfback Bob Konkoly exploded for a 63 yard TD run to make the score 14-6, and halfback Fritz Bolte bolted for a 29 yard TD to make the game 14-13. In the fourth quarter, Xavier got the ball on its own 18 yard line. Facing the No. 1 defense in the country, and time ticking down, the Muskies relentlessly drove the ball down the field. With less than three minutes left in the game, Xavier pushed the ball to within four feet of the goal line. Boston College held Xavier on the first three plays, but on fourth down, fullback Don St. John pushed the ball over the goal line. With 1:30 left in the game, Xavier held on for a thrilling 19-14 victory.

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