Tennessee Tech was a bear on defense in the 1970s — almost literally.
The Golden Eagles were anchored by Jim Youngblood, described by the Associated Press as "a bear-rasslin’ mountain of a middle linebacker."
Youngblood, a South Carolina native, started four years at linebacker at TTU. He was twice named the Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was named to eight different All-America teams, including six following his senior season.
That year, in 1972, he led the Golden Eagles to the sports moment judged the greatest in school history. The Golden Eagles won the OVC championship with a 7-0 record and played in the Grantland Rice Bowl, a bowl game in NCAA's College Division for smaller universities and colleges. It's the last time TTU has appeared in the postseason.
Youngblood still ranks as TTU’s all-time leader in tackles with 476, and his school records still stand for most tackles in a game, in a season and in a career.
And while he was the backbone of TTU's defense, the OVC championship was not a singular achievement.
Nine players from OVC Coach of the Year Don Wade's team earned first-team all-conference honors. Defensive back John Fitzpatrick set school and conference records with 12 interceptions as assistant coach Tony Stone's "bumble bees" led the nation with a conference-record 30 picks.
Linebackers Mike Hennigan and Dan Winningham combine with Youngblood to hold opponents to 84.2 yards rushing per game, best in the OVC. TTU also held opponents to 10 points or less in eight of 12 games.
On offense, guard Howard Cochran helped pave the way for numerous school records, including most rushing attempts in a single game (83 vs. Morningside).
The team also set the conference record for most rushes in a season with 773, shattering the previous mark of 534 set by Morehead State. TTU also logged second-most rushing yards in school single-season history with 2,593.
Today, all of them are in TTU's Hall of Fame. Henningan and Youngblood played in the NFL.
In 1979, Youngblood was named to the Pro Bowl in 1979 after helping the Los Angeles Rams turn around their season and win a seventh consecutive NFC West title. Super Bowl XIV was the culmination of his career.
The Rams led the Pittsburgh Steelers 19-17 in the fourth quarter before Terry Bradshaw rallied the Steelers to a 31-19 victory. For his efforts, Youngblood was selected 35th in ASN's Super Poll 50.
• Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame
On the cover and above: Jim Youngblood led Tennessee Tech to the 1972 Ohio Valley Conference championship. (Courtesy Tennessee Tech Athletics)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: Stephen F. Austin and UT Martin
• Tuesday: Tennessee State and Tennessee Tech
• Wednesday: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UTEP
• Thursday: Texas Rio Grande Valley and UTSA
• Friday: The Citadel and Toledo