The Wolfpacker

January 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 28 of 107

JANUARY 2018 ■ 29 WHEREARETHEYNOW? BY TIM PEELER T he joking complaint NC State running backs Willie Burden, Charley Young and Roland Hooks always had about team- mate Stan Fritts is that they ran the ball up and down the field to put NC State's offense in scoring position and then Fritts would take over for the final 10 yards to the end zone. It's true that Fritts, a hard-running full- back from the early 1970s, had a particular knack for crossing the goal line. In 1972, Lou Holtz's first year as head coach, Fritts was a sophomore who scored 17 touch- downs and four two-point conversions for a season total of 106 points. He's still one of only two running backs in school history to score more than 100 points in a season. T.A. McLendon also did it with a school-record 108 points in 2002. Fritts' 41 rushing touchdowns in just three seasons are second only to ACC ca- reer rushing leader Ted Brown (49) in ca- reer rushing touchdowns, which Brown recorded over four seasons. But just as Fritts had a nose for the end zone, fullback Young and halfbacks Burden and Hooks had talents and speed for setting him up, churning out big rushing numbers on some of the most offensively productive seasons ever recorded by the Wolfpack. Collectively, they were known as "The Stallions," perhaps the finest group of run- ning backs in the country for two seasons and certainly among the best in NC State history. They were a big reason that Holtz won his only ACC title in 1973, when the team rushed for 2,995 yards in 11 contests, a 273.2-yards-per-game average that re- mains the best in school history. A year later, when the ground attack averaged 246.6 yards per game, Fritts and Hooks helped the Pack to the highest final ranking in school history (No. 9 UPI and No. 11 AP). The well-traveled Hall of Famer Holtz says the four players — all of whom played professional football in the NFL and/or the Canadian Football League — "were as fine as I've ever had anywhere." An Interchangeable Backfield All were initially recruited by head coach Earle Edwards, guided for one sea- son by interim coach Al Michaels in 1971 and ready to explode under Holtz, the pro- gram's third leader in three years. Burden and Young, both Raleigh natives who played at Enloe High School and NC State's first African-American football scholarship recipients, were a year older than Fritts and Hooks. "There was talent here," Holtz said about his arrival in 1972. "All they wanted was a little bit of direction and somebody to say 'sic 'em.' My coming to NC State didn't make a difference. They could have brought in Sister Mary Joseph, and she could've won here." It didn't hurt, of course, that Holtz didn't have much confidence in his receivers of the time and vowed to stick to running the ball with his innovative twin-veer offense. "We knew we could pass the ball," Holtz said at the time. "We just didn't know if we could catch it." Fritts gained the most attention early on because of his nose for the end zone, but Burden wasn't far behind. As a senior in 1973, Burden became the first running back in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season with a league-leading 1,014 yards. That year, the Wolfpack went undefeated in the ACC, and he was named ACC Player of the Year. As a senior in 1974, Fritts followed with the program's second consecutive 1,000- yard season, gaining a conference-best 1,169 on 250 carries. They were the first two players from NC State to lead the ACC in rushing yards. Young and Hooks were complementary cogs in the backfield, but they both caught the eye of NFL scouts. Young was a first- round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 1975 whose career was cut short by a knee in- jury. Hooks spent more time than the other three in the NFL, playing the entirety of his seven-year career with the Buffalo Bills, where he eventually was a teammate of All-Pro center and NCSU Hall of Famer Jim Ritcher. An all-purpose back during his tenure, Hooks gained more rushing yards, more re- ceiving yards and more special teams yards in the pros than he did in college. "We were interchangeable, four quality backs that you could substitute for," Young said. "We were fortunate to have Lou Holtz come in and take over when he did. "It was all about timing and good per- sonnel, in the backfield and on the offen- sive line." More than four decades after their col- lege careers ended, they are still among the best backs in school history. And they maintain now what they said back then: there was no jealousy among them, just a desire to put points on the scoreboard under Holtz's ground-oriented offense. They've stayed in touch spottily over the years, but it took Burden's tragic death two years ago to bring them together. Fritts, Young and Hooks all traveled to Atlanta in the summer of 2016 with other teammates for a fundraiser in Burden's honor, with Holtz as the featured speaker. It was the first time the three of them were together since leaving NC State. Willie Burden (July 21, 1951-Dec. 4, 2015) Career rushing stats: 491 carries, 2,529 yards, 22 rushing TDs, 55 receptions, 646 receiving yards, 1 TD Honors: Two-time first-team All-ACC, 1973 ACC Player of the Year, 1975 Cana- dian Football League Player of the Year, Calgary Stampeders Ring of Honor, 2001 CFL Hall of Fame, 2009 North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame Hall of Fame head coach Lou Holtz said that the backfield of (from left to right) Stan Fritts, Charley Young, Roland Hooks and Willie Burden was "as fine as I've ever had anywhere." PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS The Four Stallions Football (1971-74) Did you know? The quartet of running backs Willie Burden, Stan Fritts, Roland Hooks and Char- ley Young combined to rush for 8,096 yards and 91 touchdowns in their careers, and each played professionally. In 1973, Burden became the first NC State player to run for over 1,000 yards and lead the ACC in rushing yards. He was also named the ACC Player of the Year and later inducted into the Canadian Football League Hall of Fame. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolfpacker - January 2018