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Remembering TCU Legend Don Looney, '41

The last surviving member of TCU's 1938-39 National Championship team has left us. Here's a look back at Don Looney, 1916 - 2015

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Don Looney, TCU Class of 1941, and the last surviving member of TCU's 1938 National Champion football team, passed away at age 98 on April 5th in Fort Worth. Looney was born September 2, 1916 in Sulpher Springs, TX, where he was a high school all-state player. Looney was recruited by coach Dutch Meyer for both football and baseball, and was part of a freshman squad that Sammy Baugh used to joke was the only team the then TCU seniors could not beat. Baugh thought that group had a good chance to win it all. He turned out to be right about a team that included 1938 all-Americans Davey O'Brien and Ki Aldrich. Davey O'Brien was also the Heisman, Maxwell, and Camp trophies winner that year, throwing 1,457 passing yards and outscoring opponents 269-60. Another national trophy for quarterbacks is named after O'Brien. Don Looney was O'Brien's receiver of choice, and lettered at TCU three years 1937 through 1939. He was the team's co-captain and an All-Southwest Conference selection as end in 1938 and 1939. He additionally led the nation with 415 receiving yards and was named the Frogs' MVP his final year.

The National Champion 1938-39 Horned Frogs went 11-0, including dealing a devastating loss to Temple which was coached at that time by Pop Warner, and TCU won the Southwest Conference. This set the Frogs up to play the Carnegie Tech Tartans in the January 1939 Sugar Bowl.  Carnegie Tech had so far lost one game all season, by a score of 7-0 to Notre Dame. This was the 5th Sugar Bowl, and the first one not played in rain and mud. TCU had beaten LSU in the 2rd Sugar Bowl in 1936 by a score of 3-2, and both teams had walked off the field caked in New Orleans soil. The 1939 game against Tech went scoreless throughout the first quarter, at which point both teams put in their second squads for the next quarter. TCU only punted once the entire game, in that second quarter, into the corner at the 6 yard line.  After getting hardly any yardage, Carnegie punted out. The Frogs put their starters back in and went 48 yards on 11 plays for the first touchdown of the day, but failed to get the extra point. Carnegie also scored in the second quarter, including a good kick, and the half ended with TCU down 7-6.  Tech never scored again. On the Frogs' first drive in the second half, they went 80 yards in 5 plays to score, but again missed the extra point kick. In the fourth quarter, Davey O'Brien added an insurance field goal from the 9-yard line that went into the stands with seven minutes left, and TCU won 15-7.  When previously undefeated and un-scored-on(!) Duke fell to USC 8-2 in the Rose Bowl, the AP Poll named TCU #1 in the country and National Champions of the 1938 season.

At his passing in April, Don Looney was also the oldest remaining former NFL player. He was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles as pick #63 in the eighth round of the 1940 draft, who had also drafted Davey O'Brien as quarterback. Looney led the NFL in receptions (58) and receiving yards (707) his rookie year, and was also third in touchdown catches. He was the first player in NFL history to post 100 yards in each of his first two games - a feat not equaled until 2008 by another Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. Looney was also a Pro Bowl selection in 1940. He played the 1941 and 1942 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers before serving in WWII. His total stats for his three NFL Seasons were 75 receptions, 952 yards, and 7 touchdowns. After the military, Looney became an NFL official until 1963, and was also an oil company executive in Texas. With Looney's passing, there is no Horned Frog player still alive who has ever been part of a National Championship team (although a few dozen who have come dadgum close). It's time to go get another one, Frogs!!!