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Wednesday, 16 October 2013 16:51

Hank Bullough

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          When the Michigan State Spartan football team kicked off their 2013 season this fall, a familiar name appeared on the roster. A name that was part of the program six decades ago when MSU began play in the Big Ten.  That name is BULLOUGH.  This year, eyes will be focused on State’s All-American middle linebacker candidate, Max Bullough and his brother Riley, a projected starter as a running back.

           But make no mistake about it, Spartan football is still about their grandfather—Henry Bullough.

          Henry “Hank” Bullough played on Michigan State’s first Rose Bowl team, served as defensive coordinator for the 1965 and ’66 National Championship teams and today at the age of 79 working Spartan strong as the Executive Director of the Michigan State University Football Player’s Asssociaton. (www.msufpa.com)

           Founded in 2004, the Association is open to all former MSU football players, coaches and managers.  There are no membership fees and you need not have lettered in order to join.  Our mission is “to support where we can, the current MSU Spartan Football program, along with helping those who have fallen on hard times. Our motto “Spartans Helping Spartans” goes a long way of telling who we are.  Through fundraising and donations we continue to help our own, and support the current football team in many ways.” 

And while the motto of our Association is “Spartans Helping Spartans”, the slogan that appears on our membership cards, “YOU ARE THE PROGRAM!” is a great way to describe Hank Bullough.  Although, it would be more accurate to state that Hank Bullough has been the program, is the program and probably will always be the program at Michigan State.  Here’s why.

          Born the son of a coal miner from Lancashire, England, Hank’s father, migrated to Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1933 to find work.  Hank told me his father lived in a car for several months and worked for free in order to prove he was worthy of a job.  At the age of five, the Bullough family left Scranton and moved to Canton, Ohio where Hank started playing football.  “It was an Ohio football hotbed,” Hank recalls.  (And today the site of the NFL Hall of Fame where several Bullough-taught pupils have been enshrined).  

           Hank was an outstanding offensive guard and two way player at Canton Timken High School. Good enough to earn a scholarship offer from Michigan State’s coach Biggie Munn.  “Coach” Bullough (this former team manager still respectfully addresses him as “Coach”) was a part of Munn’s undefeated National Championship that shutout both Notre Dame and Michigan.   “It was a great thrill being part of that team,” Hank told me.  But freshman were unable to play for the varsity until 1972.  Hank did, however, play on both sides of the ball for Biggie’s second straight undefeated National Championship squad in 1952.

          The year 1953 marked MSU’s first season of competition in the Big Ten.  State’s 27 game winning streak was snapped by Purdue.  The 6-0 loss to the “Spoilermakers” was the only blemish on their record.  The Spartans finished at 8-1 and earned their first trip to the Rose Bowl.  They beat UCLA by two touchdowns. “Playing on our first Rose Bowl team was probably my biggest thrill as a Spartan,” Hank stated.   

          The usual overflow crowd of over 100,000 (mostly west coast fans) certainly didn’t faze the Spartans, and especially “Coach” Bullough.  Not after the real action that took place prior to the game when Hank rescued an elderly lady, confined to a wheel chair, from a fire at a Pasadena Hotel before boarding the team bus. 

“Probably the second biggest highlight of my career was coaching in the ’66 “Game of the Century.”  The historic game, which ended in a 10-10 tie after Notre Dame’s head coach, Ara Parseghian, decided to run out the clock on the final drive and settle for the draw in the epic battle at Spartan Stadium. The game that prompted State’s head coach, Duffy Daugherty’s post-game quip to the press: “A tie is like kissing your sister.”

Legendary Spartans like George Webster, Bubba Smith, Charlie “Mad Dog” Thornhill, Harold Lucas and Jess Phillips spearheaded the Spartan defense during those back to back championship years.  Several key recruits were the product of Duffy Daugherty’s pioneer decision to fully integrate the football team and offer scholarships to athletes from the south when programs like Alabama and Texas were segregated.

          No doubt, this was a talented group.  But talent is one thing. Teaching them to play together and win consecutive championships is quite another.  Games are won and lost on the practice field and that’s where Coach Bullough  molded his crew from diverse backgrounds into a hard hitting and disciplined defensive juggernaut.  The same type of hard hitting defense that MSU has made great strides of recapturing under the leadership of Mark Dantonio. 

          Practices under Coach Bullough were always tough and sometimes brutal.  Case on point:  Pat Gallinaugh, described by Hank as “his biggest surprise, a guy who worked his butt off to become an All-Big Ten player.
This former manager can recall seemingly endless “belly floppers” (a drill that begins in the standing position while shuffling your feet, hit the ground with your belly, get back up and continue) and “gassers”  (minute long wind sprints that came before concluding practice).

          But what Pat Gallinaugh withstood to become a starter, by today’s standards, would be labeled a cruel and unusual practice.  Here’s how Gallinaugh (who went on to become a Michigan Hall of Fame High School Coach) described the drill:  “We used a 4-man defensive sled.   There would be 4 down linemen up on the sled and a “white rock” with a football 10 yards behind the sled, facing the 4 down linemen.  Hank would ride the sled, and on his foot movement his 4 linemen would hit the sled and do a seat roll and then scramble to their feet to pursue and tackle me.

“I would have to run laterally, in either direction, Gallinaugh explained, “and turn up the field and all four linemen would gang tackle me.
Can you imagine what it was like to get hit by Harold Lucas, Bubba, Bob Viney and Dan Bierowicz all at once?”  (Actually, I can’t imagine being hit by those guys-- because they would have carried my dead body off the field or  rushed me to the hospital had I survived!).

           “Anyhow, I was the “white rock” and I decided if I was going to take a beating, I may as well do my best to give one back,” Gallinaugh (who has become a ‘poet laureate’ for MSU football)  continued. “So I decided I would be a human bowling ball and aimed full speed, right for the knees of the first man to get there.  There was a tremendous collision, but we all got up.  After about three times, Hank stopped the drill and to my knowledge we never did it again.”  That’s how I proved to the coaches that I was too tough to quit,” Gallinaugh concluded.      

          That was just one example of Hank Bullough’s smash mouth, no nonsense old school approach to preparing his defense for Saturdays. And not surprising, considering Hank played pro ball under Vince Lombardi.
“There were only 12 teams in the NFL when I played,” Hank reminisced.
“It was a tougher game with tougher players.  I had to face guys like Deacon Jones, Sam Huff, Rosey Grier and Andy Robustelli, who could start for any modern day club,” Hank added.

          Hank Bullough defenses played with an edge.  Or as Duffy would often tell his team:  “Go out there and play with a reckless abandon, but under control and keep the hits on the field, not after the play.” It was that kind of edge that led to some pre-game locker room fights featuring Gallinaugh versus Bubba as the main event. The fights were never taken personally.  They were the result of intense and physical practice sessions.

           To a man, all the players respected Hank and admired him for helping them reach their potential.  If anything, Hank’s every day hard nosed work ethic inspired players, coaches and managers alike to keep up with his full speed “don’t look back cause someone may be gaining on you” practice pace.

          Hank’s vocal and intense temperament on the practice field (in my sleep I can still hear him shouting “hit, shed, pursue and tackle!) is a  total contrast to his off the field demeanor.  “As tough as Hank was on the field, he truly cared about his players,” Pat Gallinaugh said.  “An example: we have no dues for our MSUFPA because a few former players had fallen on hard times and couldn’t afford to join the club, so Hank said there would be no dues to join.”  Coach Bullough was also in the forefront when it came to raising money for George Webster when he was dying from cancer.  Since then, Webster’s memory has been honored with a scholarship named after him.

Another Spartan from Ohio, John Shinsky, who had a street gangster mentality and played like he had a chip on his shoulder, today, thanks Coach Bullough for treating him like a son.  “He was my most influential coach and had an exceptional understanding of the game,” said the former defensive tackle and 1972 team captain. In spite of several knee injuries, Shinsky is still considered one of the toughest players in MSU history.  

          Shinsky was raised in an orphanage and talked about how Hank became a father figure to him.  “He still loves and supports all his players,” Shinsky told me from his home near Lansing. “He was a hard nosed coach and taught us how to become leaders.”  And without a doubt the tough kid from Ohio, Dr. John L. Shinsky, has become a community leader and fulfilled his lifelong dream of opening up his own orphanage in Mexico.

          As a fund raising event for the orphanage, Shinky (battered knees and all) along with former teammates Joe DeLamiellieure (NFL Hall of Famer) and Eljay Bowron (former head of the Secret Service under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton) and Dick Comar (former coach) bicycled their way out of Spartan Stadium en route to Matamoris, Mexico on a 2000 mile journey to raise a half million dollars at the half of MSU’s 2009 spring scrimmage.

          Those are the type of players and citizens Hank Bullough helped develop during his years at Michigan State.  In between stints as a Spartan, Hank enjoyed a successful career in professional football.  He won a Super Bowl ring when he served as the linebackers coach for Baltimore.
The game was a defensive struggle and ended with a game ending field goal as the Colts defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13. 

          Coach Bullough is also credited with introducing the 3-4 defense to the NFL while working as defensive coordinator for New England and earned the nickname “Dr. of Defense” for the schemes he put together as an assistant in Cincinnati and head coach in Buffalo during the 80’s.  It was also in the 80’s when his two sons, Shane and Chuck, were tough All-Conference linebackers at Michigan State.   

“I’m an earning type of guy, not a giving kind of guy,” was probably the most telling statement Coach Bullough made during our conversation. 
It’s a statement every single Spartan whoever played for him can confirm.  Even this former manager in his other job as an attorney can attest to Coach Bullough’s working class mentality as a negotiator when I sent him a few prospects while he was head coach of the Buffalo Bills.  I always heard the same refrain:  “Well if this kid busts his butt, he may be able to play on our special teams,” he would skeptically say and before I could get to the topic of money Hank would beat me to the punch.  “I’ll give him minimum salary!”        

          So while the 2013 edition of the Michigan State Spartans tightened up their chin straps for opening night against Western, a familiar name appeared in the line-up.  A name that has become synonymous with MSU Spartan football—that name is BULLOUGH. 

Gerald Sternberg is looking for more players, managers and coaches who are interested in having a "Where Are They Now" article written about them. Contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information. You can see a few examples of these articles here: http://www.msufpa.com/members/information/where-are-they-now

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The MSU Football Players Association (MSUFPA) is an organization that was formed in midyear 2004 and was given its birth by Head Coach John L. Smith. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2005 that the association got functioning, but when it did a strong force was created within the family of Spartans and a tradition had begun. The purpose of the Association is to perpetuate the Spartan football tradition and to enhance the success of the MSU football program. Our goal is to sustain a working relationship and to provide a network of communication to link the membership with the existing football program.

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