Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of Xavier football.
It was a turning point in the history of the University. Agree with it or not, one thing can’t be argued: Xavier produced some quality players—and people. We tracked down some of them to see what they’ve been doing in the years since they left campus.
[divider]Tim Dydo ’74 [/divider]
A quarterback takes risks. A placekicker doesn’t. And that is what Tim Dydo spends his days doing as a financial consultant with Country Financial in the northern Chicago suburb of Libertyville, Ill.—figuring out who’s a quarterback and who’s a kicker; that is, who likes to take risks with their investments and who likes to play it safe.
Dydo, an honorable mention All-American quarterback during his time at Xavier, also keeps a steady hand in football, serving as a wide receiver and defensive backs coach for the last 15 years, first at Libertyville High School and now at nearby Vernon Hills. He also likes to keep track of his former players who went on to college and the NFL, including Kevin Walter of the Houston Texans; Evan Spencer, a wide receiver at Ohio State; and DaVaris Daniels, a wide receiver at Notre Dame.
Dydo almost didn’t make it to Xavier. He was recruited out of high school by several Ivy League schools, including Brown. One of the assistant coaches there was Dick Selcer, who continued to recruit Dydo when he got the head coaching job at Xavier for the 1970 season. Dydo ended up throwing for 3,690 yards, second-most in school history to Hall of Famer Carroll Williams. He helped the Musketeers to wins in the final three games of the program’s history, with wins over Northern Illinois, Villanova and Toledo to end the year 5-5-1. But Dydo, who was inducted into the Xavier Hall of Fame in 1992, sounds wistful nearly 40 years later. “It was not enough to keep the program,” he says.
[divider]John Shinners ’69 [/divider]
Athletes and the media have always had a tenuous relationship. Except with the Shinners family. They seemed to love them both. After a standout career at Xavier, John Shinners became a first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints and spent eight years butting heads with players in the NFL. After retiring in 1977, Shinners followed in the footsteps of his father, a former minor league baseball player who began the Hartford Times-Press in 1933. In 1954, he became the co-owner of the Menomonee Falls News in Wisconsin, and in 1969 he bought several weekly newspapers in the Milwaukee area. “That is the environment I grew up in,” says Shinners, a liberal arts graduate. Shinners eventually became president of Shinners Publications before selling the company in 1997. He now lives in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., works as a business consultant and does work with a local radio station. Shinners was the 17th overall pick in the NFL draft—a move that even surprised him. “Being drafted in the first round was exciting,” he says. “I was not highly recruited out of high school, let me put it that way. I never thought I would play professional football.” He was playing golf with NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer when he learned he got traded to the Baltimore Colts prior to the 1972 season. There, he got to snap the ball to Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. He then played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1973-1977 and was roommates for several years with quarterback Ken Anderson. In all, Shinners played in 97 games in the NFL, 66 with the Bengals.
[divider]Bill Howe ’74 [/divider]
The last game in Xavier football history saw Bill Howe reach a personal milestone. “I got an interception that set a school record for career interceptions,” Howe, a defensive back, says of that home win over Toledo the day after Thanksgiving in 1973.
That team was 3-0-1 in its last four games, all at home, to finish the year 5-5-1 overall. It was the only non-losing team that Howe played on at Xavier. “We put up a lot of offensive numbers and we needed them because of our defense,” Howe says with a laugh.
But Howe says it was team play and not individual milestones that stays with him nearly 40 years later. “It was a good lesson in teamwork. Football helps you deal with people and get along with people, since you spend so much time together,” he says. “For the most part your best friends are in that college environment.”
Howe received his bachelor’s degree from Xavier, a Master of Law in taxation from New York University and a JD from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He has been practicing business and tax law since 1978 and for nearly 20 years has been with Cincinnati’s DeVita and Howe, where he is a partner.
Howe enjoys tennis, classic rock and spending time with his family at a favorite vacation spot in Destin, Fla. He and his?wife, Janie, have five children and one of them, Patrick, was a long snapper for Ohio State and ended his college career in the 2010 Rose Bowl.
[divider]Mark Pfeiffer ‘73 [/divider]
Mark Pfeiffer knows the drill, so to speak. He tells people what he does for a living and then sits back and waits for the groans and bad jokes. “What a painful job.” “That job’s like pulling teeth.” “Your job must be filling.” Truth be told, the former Xavier wide receiver is part of a family business that many people want to have no business with. He has a doctorate in dentistry and has an office in Fort Thomas, Ky., that he now shares with one of his four sons. Their motto: “We cater to cowards.”
Pfeiffer never ventured far from his roots. He played football at neighboring Covington Catholic High School and is in the school’s Hall of Fame. “I am still married to my high school sweetheart. I wanted to stay local,” says Pfeiffer.
Pfeiffer clearly remembers the first game of his junior season. The game was against Marshall, which lost 37 players in a Southern Airways plane crash in 1970 after returning from a game at East Carolina University. In its first home game after the crash, Marshall beat Xavier, 15-13, for the first win for the new program. A few years ago, Hollywood turned the game into a movie.
But that’s not what Pfeiffer remembers the most about football at Xavier. It was the people. His teammates. Like Ben Ballard who was the best man at his wedding. That’s what made Xavier football special. And still does.
[divider]Mike Dennis ’73 [/divider]
A little romance helped Mike Dennis end up at Xavier. A football standout at St. Mary’s High School in Sandusky, Ohio, Dennis was recruited by Navy, Penn, Case Western and Toledo, among others. But none of the others stood a chance.
“I met a girl down there on my visit to Xavier,” he says. “She lived near Toledo.”
So is that girl now his wife? Does the story have a fairytale ending? “No,” he says with a laugh. She was just a girl. But she was enough to land the center at Xavier.
Dennis was also attracted to the Xavier program by Dick Selcer, the head coach in 1970-1971 who later went on to be a longtime assistant coach in the NFL. “He was an excellent salesperson and very charismatic,” says Dennis.
Dennis graduated from Xavier with a bachelor’s degree in physics and then got a master’s degree in radiological physics from the University of Cincinnati in 1974. He followed that with a doctorate in medical physics/biophysics from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Science in San Antonio in 1979, and he is now an associate professor of radiology at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.
He has a son who is an engineer in Arizona, an older daughter who has a doctorate in bioengineering and a younger daughter who has a nursing background and is a captain in the Air Force.
[divider]Herman “Buck” Motz ’54 [/divider]
Herman Motz collapsed in his home on Sept. 8, 2011. It was his 82nd birthday. “I was passed out,” he says. “I had a bleeding ulcer and was in the hospital for a week.” After 14 pints of blood, Motz was released and cleared to attend a ceremony honoring his 25 years of coaching high school football in Denver. Thomas Jefferson High School, where he prowled the sidelines as head coach from 1976-1989 and accumulated an astonishing 135-30-1 record and two state championships, was naming its football field after him.
“It is kind of strange,” he says. “You expect someone has to be dead for such recognition. But it was really great. A lot of the players came back that day. It was just wonderful.”
Motz, who taught Latin, English and even some sciences at Thomas Jefferson from 1967-1992, was in ROTC when he graduated from Xavier with a degree in business administration. As he finished up his military commitment in Fort Collins, Colo., “I met the most wonderful girl. She was from Pueblo [Colo.]” Motz married her and never left the state. That was 56 years ago.
Interestingly, Motz came to Xavier despite two challenges: He didn’t play high school football because his school in Newtown, Ohio, didn’t have a team. And his mother wanted him to attend medical school. “I told my mom I was going to a school where I can get a different education. She didn’t like it very much.”
With football and teaching now behind him, Motz has become a master gardener and volunteers at the Denver Botanical Gardens. “I work inside with our wildflower collection,” he says. “We have 48,000 species.”
[divider]Steve Bailey ’68 [/divider]
His playing days are long gone. But Steve Bailey of Cincinnati is still involved in football on and off the field as president of the local chapter of the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame.
“What we do is we honor from 13 to 14 student-athletes each year in southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky for their football, scholastic achievements and extracurricular activities,” he says.
Bailey has been impressed with the credentials he has seen over the years from these young men, be it their status as first-team all-state players on the field or their leadership as student council presidents off the gridiron. Each year the organization at the national level has a dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.
Bailey, a partner with The Drew Law Firm, also finds time to get on the field as an assistant coach for the varsity football team at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, where his son, Steve, is a center.
Bailey, who’s been called Beetle since eighth grade, played at Newark Catholic in Ohio. “I came to Xavier as a running back,” he says. “Those were the days that you went both ways. I got redshirted my second year and then became a cornerback. I started three years.”
And, like many of his teammates, once he came to Cincinnati he never left. “I came here and loved the city. Playing football at Xavier opened doors for me. The first law firm I went to, the managing partners were guys who followed the football program. When I applied, I got a return letter in two days that said come on in.”
[divider]Carroll Williams ‘69 [/divider]
As top executive for the Golden Eagle Mediation Group and Victory Coach Inc. for the past 15 years, Carroll Williams’ South Florida consulting service has focused on offering team-building exercises and self-esteem classes for individuals, athletes and corporations. “I counsel people about gaining confidence.”
As starting quarterback at Xavier, Williams didn’t lack in confidence. He set 12 school football records and, in his junior year, led the University team to an 8-2 season, its best in 15 years. Williams was selected to the All-Catholic All-America Team that year and was also chosen as the 1965 Catholic College Player of the Year.
Williams played professional football for five years in the Canadian Football League, with the Montreal Alouettes and British Columbia Lions. He then returned to his hometown of Miami to begin a three-decade career as an educator, high school principal and coach with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system.
In his role as life coach, Williams works with people on organizing, prioritizing, and developing positive chemistry. A client “may want more success, more money, closer relationships, a deeper meaning in life [or to] break down prior actions to get to the root of those processes and behaviors that get in the way and set goals relating to self-esteem, relief of anxiety and confidence building.
“Many believe that there is a price to pay to get what you want. This price can be poor health, unbearable stress, strained relationships or lessened productivity. The unfortunate consequence of hanging onto this belief is that it hinders focus on individual goals.”
[divider]Bob Pickard ’74 [/divider]
Bob Pickard wants to set the record straight. He has heard and read that he scored the first touchdown in the history of the Pontiac Silverdome as a member of the Detroit Lions in 1974. Pickard shakes his head. Nope. His claim to fame was that he caught the first pass in the first exhibition played in the domed stadium. Pickard played in 14 games for the Lions and caught eight passes for 88 yards and one touchdown in 1974, his lone season in the National Football League.
But Pickard said it was providential that in his only season in the NFL, his wide receiver coach was Raymond Berry, who was a Hall of Fame wide receiver for the Baltimore Colts. “He was my boyhood idol,” says Pickard. “It was the highlight of my life. He is such a quality person.”
Berry, a committed Christian, would give note cards to Pickard with Bible verses and other motivational sayings. “He wrote some of them when he was playing. I still have those cards to this day,” he says.
Years later, Pickard’s son, Brian, was an all-state wide receiver at Dublin [Ohio] High School and went on to play at the University of Kentucky under head coach Guy Morriss, who, ironically, played on the offensive line for the New England Patriots when Berry was the team’s head coach. Apparently the Berry doesn’t fall far from the tree either.
Off the field, Pickard has built a life as president of Interior Supply Inc., a business he started in the late 1980s that now has locations in seven cities in Ohio. The company sells building material such as drywall and ceiling supplies—materials that weren’t in high demand when the real estate bubble burst. But, as any good wide receiver would, Pickard knew where to find the openings.
“We have been able to weather the tough times,” he says. “We have done pretty well.”