Former OSU fullback Bill Enyart gets his due
Before Steven Jackson heck, before air helmets and wideouts and nickel backs there was a player in the Oregon State backfield who made life miserable for opposing defenses.
His teammates called him 'Buff,' as in buffalo. To everyone else, he was known as 'Earthquake.'
In 1967 and '68, there weren't many more important players in college football than Bill Enyart.
As a junior, making the switch from linebacker to fullback, Enyart rushed for 851 yards and eight touchdowns on an Oregon State team that went 7-2-1, finished the season ranked seventh in the nation and earned the 'Giant Killers' nickname.
That was just a warm-up for the 6-3 1/2, 240-pound Enyart. As a senior, the Medford native set school records with 293 carries for 1,304 yards and 17 TDs, earning All-America acclaim and leading the Beavers to a 7-3 record. OSU lost the three games by a combined six points.
Enyart will be inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday night at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, along with University of Portland soccer coach Clive Charles, ex-Oregon State and Benson High basketball player A.C. Green, pro golfer Peter Jacobsen, Portland State softball coach Teri Mariani and fencer Michael Marx.
'It is a great honor,' says Enyart, 56, who works as a case manager for Medicaid benefits for the state of Oregon in Bend. 'There are some tremendous athletes in there. I am glad this happened before I got so old nobody remembered I played football.'
Anyone who saw Enyart run over and through defenders won't soon forget the sight. He personified coach Dee Andros' power-T offense. There were other great players on that OSU offensive unit, including quarterback Steve Preece, wingback Billy Main and All-American center John Didion, but Enyart was the Beavers' calling card in Andros' fullback-oriented system.
'We used the belly series to set up the option, and I got the ball a lot,' Enyart says. No kidding. Against Utah in 1968, with Preece injured and reserve wingback Bobby Mayes filling in at QB, Enyart carried 50 times for 299 yards and three TDs.
'Bobby had very little time to prepare,' Enyart recalls. 'About all the plays he knew he had written on his arm. Dee said if you get in doubt, just give the ball to Bill. Our offensive line was maybe the best in the country. We didn't throw the ball a lot, and, in that game, they were having to put their nose on people every single play.'
Welcome to Corvallis
Enyart was born in Oklahoma and moved to Medford when he was 11.
'My dad and I were football crazy,' Enyart says. Former Oklahoma coach Bud Wilkinson 'was a legend, and Dee had played for him. The Oklahoma connection helped seal my decision to go to Oregon State.'
Nearly every Pacific-8 Conference school recruited Enyart, a first-team all-state basketball player with surprising athletic skills for a player with such size. On a recruiting trip to UCLA, 'the big-city lights made me realize I was an Oregonian and wanted to stay in the state.'
He narrowed his decision to Oregon and OSU.
'I loved the campus in Corvallis, felt I was the type of kid who goes to Oregon State,' he says. 'What really sold me was my visit there, when I met Preece and Jerry Belcher. (Assistant coaches) Sam Boghosian and Johnny Easterbrook took us to the Final Four in Portland, where we watched Bill Bradley score 58 points in a game. I just loved the idea the coaches were confident enough about Oregon State that they didn't have to keep you down there on campus.
'As I got to know Steve and Jerry, I said to myself, 'These are the kind of guys I want to play with.' '
When Enyart arrived, OSU had a fullback named Pete Pifer, who won the Pop Warner and Voit awards as the outstanding player on the Pacific Coast as a senior in 1966. As a sophomore, Enyart started at linebacker.
'I went to Oregon State wanting to be a fullback, but a lot of people thought my natural position was linebacker, and it probably was,' he says. 'I had to work a little harder to play fullback. Linebacker kind of came to me naturally. If you liked to hit, linebacker and fullback were the two positions to play.'
As a junior, with Pifer departed, Enyart asked Andros for a shot at fullback. He didn't have great speed, but Enyart registered high numbers on the Richter scale as he bounced off would-be tacklers en route to the goal line.
In time, he became known as 'Earthquake' Enyart, which didn't hurt when it came time for recognition by those who voted for all-star teams. John Eggers, then OSU's sports information director, tagged him with it, Enyart recalls.
'It could have come out of a cocktail party,' Enyart says. 'We had a coach named Earl Lunsford, who had been known as 'Earthquake' when he played at Oklahoma State. Johnny had made up nicknames for players in the past, like 'Mad Dog' O'Billovich, and figured the alliteration with the E-words would help drum up a little publicity.'
Civil War spree
Enyart says his biggest thrill was the much-acclaimed 3-0 victory over top-ranked USC and O.J. Simpson at Parker Stadium. He is just as proud that in his three years, the Beavers never lost to Oregon.
'Not many players get to win three straight Civil Wars,' he says. 'That was the biggest game for us. It still is for anybody who grows up in this state.'
Enyart also took pride in his academic achievement. He graduated with a 3.5 grade-point average in economics.
'I always felt that a healthy body and healthy mind go together,' he says. 'Not that I minded partying, but I made up my mind I wanted to get the most out of school. I did a lot of studying in the Memorial Union and the library, and I never cut class. I figured for every hour I spent in class, it would save me two hours outside the classroom.'
Enyart played only one year in the NFL, with Buffalo, before a knee injury cut short his career. No regrets, he says.
'College football was awesome fun,' he says. 'My years at Oregon State were the best of my life.'
Enyart remains in good shape, at about his playing weight in college. He is a divorced father of two daughter Eliza will be a senior at Bend High, son Ben is a fine basketball player who probably will play at a junior college next season and an OSU football fan who attended three games last season. His favorite player is, to no surprise, current Beaver running back Steven Jackson.
'He's tremendous,' Enyart says. 'He reminds me of the great Jim Brown, and I'm not kidding. He has speed, something I wasn't blessed with. He's able to wait for his blockers and accelerate. He seems to be a good person, and I'm glad he's a Beaver.
'I have a great deal of admiration for Ken Simonton, too. Jackson has all the tools, probably more than Simonton, but Simonton was so instrumental in getting the program over the hump. I met him last year and told him we owe a debt of thanks to him and his teammates. They brought pride back to Oregon State football. It was kind of missing for a lot of years.'