John Briscoe: Posthumous Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame Induction
This is a re-print of an article on John Briscoe From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by George Guideo
John Briscoe won't be around to accept his Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame induction.
But longtime friend Ed Houston will make sure he's not forgotten.
Briscoe, an Oakmont High School and University of Arizona football standout, died Jan. 19, 2018 about a month after being informed he will be part of the hall's 49th induction banquet May 19 at New Kensington Quality Inn.
Houston will give the induction speech on Briscoe's behalf.
“I met John at age 12 when we were both at Oakmont Junior High,” Houston said from his home in Columbus, Ohio. “He was a great football player and a great guy. We both graduated from Oakmont in 1960 and stayed close.”
Briscoe grew up in the Indianola section of Indiana Township. Prior to 1961, a student from Indiana Township had a choice of several high schools to attend on a tuition basis. Briscoe chose Oakmont.
He played as a blocking quarterback in Oaks coach Elmer “Tuggles” Gross' double-wing offense. In the double wing, there are two tight ends, two wingbacks facing the backfield, a fullback and the quarterback.
“We might have been the only school in the country that had the double wing,” Houston said. “Teams had a hard time preparing for us.”
The scheme worked as Oakmont compiled a 21-5-2 record from 1957-59 with Briscoe at quarterback and at linebacker.
Houston said the biggest thrill in high school for the duo was in 1958 when Oakmont defeated Gateway, which was in its first year, though the Gators were in the largest enrollment classification. The Oaks had one loss and narrowly missed the WPIAL title game.
After Briscoe's senior season, college offers rolled in. North Carolina, Idaho, Bucknell, Dayton and Arizona were among those offering Briscoe a scholarship. He decided to head for Arizona, then a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
When he arrived in Tucson, he was a blocking guard and linebacker on the Wildcats' undefeated 1960 freshman team. At the time, freshmen were not eligible to play varsity football.
After a redshirt 1961 season because of a broken leg, Briscoe excelled, starting all Arizona games from 1962-64. Until 1963, individuals were required to play offense and defense.
In 1964 as strictly a linebacker, Briscoe played for a Wildcats team that went 6-3-1 and tied for the WAC title with New Mexico and Utah.
Arizona named Briscoe its most outstanding and most inspirational player. He was a Kodak honorable mention All-American and was named Western Athletic Conference Lineman of the Year by conference coaches.
Briscoe was drafted by the Cleveland Browns (NFL) and the Buffalo Bills (AFL) by the competing leagues. Briscoe signed with the Browns for a then-generous bonus of $10,000. At training camp, he suffered a neck injury that ultimately ended to his football career.
The Los Angeles Rams expressed interest in 1966.
“The Rams needed a linebacker,” Houston said. “They had Mike Henry, but Henry retired to play Tarzan in three movies. But John said he had enough football by then.”
After heading to San Francisco, Briscoe worked for U.S. Steel and Ryerson Steel. After retiring, he became an usher for the San Franciso Giants and the 49ers.
George Guido is a freelance writer.
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