In today's college football world, I'm not sure Bubba Smith would have come to Michigan State. Good as he was, MSU hardly recruited him. The Beaumont, Texas product's dad was his head coach and he asked Duffy to take him. The southern schools didn't recruit many minority athletes in the mid 60s. Bubba struggled his first two years with head coach Duffy Daugherty-- but once he matured and the Spartans added other good players-- the 1965-66 teams were spectacular and Bubba became MSU's only first pick in the NFL draft-- by Baltimore in 1967.
He hasn't played at MSU in 45 years, but his name is still special and clearly he goes down as one of the school's all time best. He indeed was a happy go lucky guy and he was warmly received by the Spartan Stadium crowd when his number was retired in September, 2006. He wore number 95 and it is displayed over the East upper deck railing today. Bubba's passing is tough on his teammates and now five key members of those -65 and -66 teams are gone-- George Webster, Harold Lucas, Charlie Thornhill and Don Japinga are the others. But their feats won't be soon forgotten for those of us who remember watching them play those two glorious fall seasons in East Lansing.