HOUSTON — Dicky Maegle, the Rice running back tackled in the 1954 Cotton Bowl by an Alabama player who came off the bench in one of the most legendary plays in college football history, has died.
Rice University and the National Football Foundation said Tuesday that Maegle passed away Sunday. He was 86.
After leaving Rice, and playing with three teams over seven NFL seasons, he changed the spelling of his last name to the phonetically correct Maegle instead of Moegle.
In Rice’s 28-6 win on New Year’s Day 1954, Maegle took a handoff from the Owls 5 and went around the right end. After getting past Bart Starr, a defensive back and quarterback for the Tide, and the rest of the Alabama defenders, Maegle was near midfield when Tommy Lewis came off the bench and threw a blindside block that knocked him to the ground. Lewis then ran back to the bench, and officials awarded Maegle a 95-yard touchdown run.
Maegle also had TD runs of 79 and 34 yards to finish with 265 yards rushing on 11 carries in that Cotton Bowl. That is still a single-game Rice record for rushing yards.
Both players later went on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and other national TV shows to talk about the play. Lewis explained that he was “just too full of Alabama” to watch Maegle run for a touchdown. Maegle equated the tackle to running down an alley when someone suddenly opened a door. The bench tackle was named the sports oddity of 1954 by writers who participated in an Associated Press year-end poll.
Lewis, a fullback and co-captain of that SEC championship-winning Alabama team, died in October 2014.
A two-way player in college, Maegle was the 10th overall pick by San Francisco in the 1955 NFL draft and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie defensive back. He had 28 interceptions in 73 career games, with the 49ers (1955-59), Pittsburgh Steelers (1960) and Dallas Cowboys (1961).