Sept. 11, 2013
Michigan State will induct five new members into its Athletics Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 12. In the third of a five-part series this week on msuspartans.com, online columnist Steve Grinczel profiles Henry Bullough.
By Steve Grinczel, MSUSpartans.com Online Columnist | @GrinzOnGreen
At 79, Henry Bullough considers his induction into the Michigan State University Athletics Hall of Fame a great honor that comes with matching responsibility.
Through his work with the MSU Football Players Association, the Varsity S Club and other organizations, Bullough has long been the de facto gatekeeper of the school's illustrious football past in addition to being the patriarch of a family that has delivered sons Shane and Chuck, and grandsons Max and Riley, to Spartan football prominence.
Bullough is a living connection between the great names and games written on the pages of history books and today's athletes and young fans.
Biggie Munn? Bullough played three seasons for the legendary coach from 1951-53, starting at guard as a sophomore and junior. The '52 team was second in the nation in total offense with 429 yards per game.
Duffy Daugherty? In '54, Bullough finished out his playing career under the beloved Irishman, who inherited a nationally acclaimed powerhouse from Munn, and then coached under him for 11 seasons.
The 10-10 tie? Bullough was a part of the infamous deadlock between No. 2 MSU and No. 1 Notre Dame in 1966 as an assistant coach on Daugherty's staff.
National Championships? Bullough played on the Spartans' 1951 and `52 national championship teams and helped coach the '65 and '66 squads that were recognized at the No. 1 team in the country.
Big Ten membership? Bullough was there as a player in '53 when the Spartans won the conference championship in their first season of eligibility. He also played on MSU's first Rose Bowl team, which defeated UCLA, 28-20.
Throw in a four-year professional playing career, a 26-year coaching tenure as a defensive guru in the NFL, including Super Bowl championship with the Baltimore Colts and a stint as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and it's easy to see why Bullough is considered a walking, talking encyclopedia of Michigan State knowledge and wisdom.
And his induction into the Hall of Fame makes him the embodiment of all those Spartans he played alongside and coached in a bygone era.
"When I started as a sophomore, we were on a 28-game winning streak, so that was three years of winning," Bullough said. "So this isn't about me as much as the people I'm representing and how lucky I am to do that. I never had the goal to be in the Hall of Fame, so it's not about what you accomplished, it's what the people accomplished that you were with.
"What I think about is how lucky you are to be the one chosen from so many."
Among Bullough's favorite things to do is organizing reunions of Michigan State's greatest teams so long-time fans can get reacquainted with noteworthy former players while a new generation of followers can meet them for the first time. It doesn't take long to realize that Bullough's favorite adjective is the word "great."
"I like to bring the great teams back to campus," he said. "I was so fortunate to coach in the 10-10 game against Notre Dame. I believe what Ara Parseghian said, too, that if it wouldn't have ended up in a tie it wouldn't be such a great thing, but it still is a great spectacle because of what it came to represent.
"For the kids nowadays, it's important to let them know who George Webster was," Bullough said of the player regarded the greatest in MSU history, and who died in 2007. "When I talk about a Leroy Bolden, I don't know if people know he was one of the greatest backs who ever played here at Michigan State. You bring up Eric Allen, `The Flea,' who rushed for 350 yards out of the wishbone (against Purdue in 1971). Even my youngest son (Chuck), who's still the leading tackler in one year with 175 (in 1991). That's not going to be touched for a long time.
"I think keeping people of today up-to-date with those players is really important, I really do. But it's hard to do because there aren't many people in positions of prominence that know those players. You mention a guy like Don Coleman and they say, `Who?' Well Don Coleman is probably the greatest lineman who ever played here."
Bullough can take people back to a halcyon time when Michigan State inspired a generation with its gridiron success, helped break down color barriers with the unrestricted integration of minorities and ushered in, with Notre Dame, the modern age of college football.
Television coverage, media attention and fan popularity was forever changed by the 1966 game in Spartan Stadium.
"When we were winning 28 straight games, we were automatically expected to win all the time," he said. "The 10-10 tie is a great big thing in my memory because of what it accomplished. It was the first time a college game was broadcast overseas and to Hawaii, and it changed the game. There were 36 guys who played in that game who went on to play professional football ─ Notre Dame had 20 and we had 16.
"But when we beat them 35-0 in '51, after all their national championships in the '40s, that has to be a key game in Michigan State football."
While Bullough could have earned induction into the Hall of Fame for his MSU bloodline alone, his body of work speaks for itself to anybody willing to listen.
"When I look back upon it, I've been able to do everything than you can imagine in football," he said. "I played on college championship teams. I played on national championship teams. I played on a Rose Bowl championship team. I coached national championship teams. I coached a Rose Bowl team.
"I was able to accomplish just about everything a guy in my profession can accomplish. Regardless of whether I would have gotten into the Hall of Fame or not, I think one of my roles here is to keep the here-and-now and the future up with the past, and that takes a lot of work."
And even though Bullough is now in the Hall of Fame, advocating the accomplishments of the greats in Spartan history is something he won't stop doing anytime soon.