NFF College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Art Still
ASN will profile all 17 new members in advance of the Dec. 8 NFF awards dinner in New York City.
Kentucky celebrated a two-year period in the mid-1970s when football was actually challenging basketball as the top sport on campus. One of the major reasons was the play of behemoth defensive end Art Still, who later starred with the Kansas City Chiefs for 10 seasons. A 6-foot-7, 253-pound unanimous All-America in 1977, Still cut such an imposing figure on the field, Prince Charles of England once noted upon introduction, “My word, you’re a big one, aren’t you?”
Over the course of his four-year career, Still registered 327 tackles. And his senior season (the only year in which tackles for loss were kept as statistics), he accounted for 22 tackles for loss, still a school record. Kentucky actually won its most recent Southeastern Conference football title in Still’s junior season of 1976 (9-3 overall). During the two-year period of football glory, Kentucky beat five ranked teams in a row: Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia, Penn State and LSU.
The Wildcats had an even better overall record (10-1) when Still was a senior and finished No. 6 in the final Associated Press poll. But Kentucky was on an NCAA football probation, so its 6-0 SEC record didn’t count toward the league’s 1977 football title that was claimed by Alabama. Going into the 2015 season, Kentucky has not posted 10 wins nor garnered that high of a final ranking during the subsequent 38 years.
The members of those great Kentucky football teams, coached by Fran Curci, still gather for reunions at Kentucky home games from time to time. Still is remembered for dominating defensive performances during those meetings of “Curci’s Cats.” The late LSU coach, Charlie McClendon, once said of Still: “He’s just a great player. He divides the field in half, and I tell my boys to run to the other half.”
One of Still’s greatest plays was during his final collegiate game in 1977 against Tennessee. In the closing minutes, Tennessee drove to the Kentucky 22 where Still caused the UT quarterback to fumble. The Wildcats recovered, preserving a 21-17 victory over the arch-rival Volunteers and stamping that team as one the Wildcats’ greatest. Only a road loss to Baylor blemished its record.
“The sports side was nice,” Still said. “But what I remember most are the relationships with my teammates. Where I came from in Camden (N.J.), it was predominantly African-Americans and Puerto Ricans. I learned how to deal with people from different environments, how to relate to people and treat people. We had players from all parts of the country, and we learned to treat people the way we wanted to be treated.”
Because of his size and versatility, Still actually played some offense at Kentucky, and the Wildcats used him at a tight end about 15 times a game on short-yardage or goal-line situations.
Picked second overall in the 1978 NFL Draft (only behind Earl Campbell), Still played in four Pro Bowls while with the Chiefs. He finished his career in Buffalo the final two seasons. Involved in numerous community service activities, Still and his wife Liz live in Liberty, Mo. They have 11 children, four adopted.
Above: Art Still was one of the biggest factors in Kentucky's last conference title. (Courtesy University of Kentucky Athletics)