A Look Back: Reggie, Sammy, and the 1981 Southern Miss Golden Eagles
By: Tony Thomas
August 23, 2019
The 1981 season saw a pretty good football team emerge from the small college town of Hattiesburg, MS. That year, The Southern Miss Golden Eagles, coached by Bobby Collins, would post a 9-2-1 record and post some gawdy offensive numbers, while playing lights out defense.
Southern Miss would be ranked in the AP Poll for 5 weeks, moving into the Top Ten at #9, but they lost to unranked Louisville 13-10 and dropped to #18 by the end of the regular season. They would play in the Tangerine Bowl, where they lost to Missoui 19-17 and finished out of the AP Poll.
That Golden Eagles team would be led on the field by QB Reggie Collier, a dual threat player before dual threat was even a thing. Also on that team were 2 future NFL players in RB Sammy Winder and WR Louis Lipps.
The USM offense scored 305 points that year, averaging 28 points per game. They tied the #7 ranked Crimson Tide of Alabama 13-13, and beat #20 Florida State handily 58-14 on their own field.
During that season, Collier would become the first college QB to run AND pass for over 1000 yards in the same season. He ran for 1005 yards and 12 TD’s, averaging 6.6 yards per carry; and passed for 1004 yards, 6 TD’s and 4 INT’s. His 6.6 yard per carry average would lead all college independents in 1981. Reggie finished 9th in the Heisman voting in 1981, and in 1982 he would account for over 2000 yards from scrimmage. Reggie would go on to be drafted in the 6th round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Cowboys. His NFL career would last only 2 years.
Sammy Winder rushed for 1029 yards and 12 TD’s that year. His USM career rushing numbers are 3114 yards and 39 TD’s. He would be drafted in the 5th round of the 1982 NFL Draft by the Broncos. He would go on to be a 2-time Pro Bowl player, play on 4 teams that would win AFC West titles, and play in 3 Super Bowls. His career NFL numbers are 5427 yards rushing and 39 TD’s in 9 years with the Broncos.
The defense allowed only 108 points that year, less than 10 points per game. They recorded 11 INT’s, with DB Danny Jackson recording 5 on his own. The defense pitched 2 back-to-back shutouts, against Memphis and North Texas; allowed only 114 yards passing per game, and 125 yards per game rushing resulting in a paltry 2.9 yards per carry average.
Coach Bobby Collins would leave the program at the end of the season to take the head coaching job at SMU. SMU, already on probation for recruiting violations, would later receive the NCAA “death penalty” in 1987 for paying players. Even though Collins was not punished by the NCAA for events leading up to the issuing of the death penalty, he could not produce a reasonable explanation as to why players were still being paid after the school told NCAA investigators that the payments to players had stopped. His reputation ruined, Collins never coached in college again.
The 1981 Golden Eagles were a good football team from a small town and they were fun to watch.
Thanks for reading.