Dicky Maegle, NFL great remembered for a legendary Cotton Bowl, dies at 86

1948 Cotton Bowl
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Dicky Maegle, an All-Pro defensive back who is best remembered for scoring one of the most controversial touchdowns in college football history, has died at the age of 86.

Maegle grew up in Taylor, Texas, and got a football scholarship to Rice, where he became one of the best players in college football as a junior in 1953. He led the nation that year with an average of 7.3 yards per carry, and in the 1954 Cotton Bowl, he turned in one of the greatest efforts in college football history, rushing for 265 yards on just 11 carries in a 28-6 win over Alabama. With an average of 24.1 yards per carry, Maegle’s performance in that game remains one of the all-time great bowl game performances.

But it was one particular play in that game that would follow Maegle around for the rest of his life. With Rice backed up on its own 5-yard line, Maegle got the ball and weaved his way toward Alabama’s sideline, where he turned upfield. As he crossed the 50-yard line, Alabama fullback Tommy Lewis got up off the bench, ran onto the field and dove into Maegle’s knees, knocking him down. Lewis then ran back to the bench and tried to hide behind a coach.

After a lengthy discussion, the officials awarded Maegle a 95-yard touchdown run, even though he had fallen 40 yards short of the end zone. With television rapidly gaining popularity in America, the highly unusual play became one of the first widely replayed sports highlights. Maegle and Lewis were invited on The Ed Sullivan Show to discuss the play, and although Maegle was a good sport about it, he would later complain that Sullivan made Lewis out to be a Cotton Bowl hero when Lewis had actually taken a cheap shot that could have injured Maegle.

In 1955 Maegle went to the 49ers as the 10th overall pick in the NFL draft. Despite being best known as a running back in college, Maegle distinguished himself in the NFL on defense, where he totaled 20 interceptions in his first three NFL seasons. Injuries would limit Maegle for much of his career, and he was traded to the Steelers in 1960, then traded again to the Cowboys in 1961, before retiring.

In retirement Maegle became a commentator on Houston Oilers broadcasts and also changed the spelling of his name, which had been “Moegle” during his playing days.

Despite playing very well at times in the NFL, Maegle will always be remembered primarily for his College Football Hall of Fame career, and for that one legendary day in the Cotton Bowl.