World Football League (1974-1975)
Born: September 18, 1974 – Houston Texans relocate to Shreveport, LA.
Folded: October 22, 1975
Stadium: State Fair Stadium (50,400)
Team Colors: Green & Gold
Major league professional football came to the unlikely outpost of Shreveport, Louisiana in September 1974. The upstart World Football League began play two months earlier, seeking to challenge the hegemony of the NFL much as the American Football League had during the 1960’s. The WFL’s Houston Texans franchise were a bust in nearby Houston, drawing fewer than 10,000 fans a night in the Astrodome. Just eleven games into the WFL’s debut season, Texans owner Steven Arnold ran out of hope and money. He handed the franchise over to the league and the club hastily fled across the border to Shreveport on September 18, 1974. The Texans clearly were in need of a new name as well. By the end of September, the former Texans were known as the Shreveport Steamer.
The mid-season move was unpopular among key Texans players and staff. Starting quarterback Mike Taliaferro, long-time AFL veteran, retired rather than follow the team to Louisiana. Texans head coach Jim Garrett dismissed Shreveport as a “rinky dink” town and was swiftly replaced. Under new head man Marshall Taylor, the Steamer finished out the 1974 season with a 4-5 record following the move.
The WFL lost $20 million in 1974 and nearly folded. Chris Hemmeter, owner of the league’s Hawaii franchise, led a massive re-organization and the league managed to stagger into a second campaign in July of 1975. The league quickly encountered the same problems that doomed the league’s inaugural season. The WFL’s new Chicago franchise folded just a few weeks into the season. Small crowds and missed payrolls bedeviled the other cities as they had in 1974. The Steamer had a 5-7 record through 12 weeks of play when WFL owner voted to shutter the league permanently on October 22, 1975.
The Steamer’s biggest name was running back Jim Nance, who came along in the move from Houston. The bruising fullback was a star with the AFL’s Boston Patriots during the 1960’s and won the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1966. Nance was 31 years old when he signed with the WFL in 1974 but still had power left in his legs. He rushed for 1,240 yards and 8 touchdowns with Houston/Shreveport in 1974. In 1975, Nance returned to Shreveport and put up 767 yards on 5 yards per carry during his final pro season.
The other “name” to emerge from the Shreveport Steamer era was the team’s color commentator, Larry King. The same suspender-clad Larry King who later became an icon of the Cable news/talk industry with Larry King Live on CNN from 1985 until 2010.
Shreveport Steamer Programs
Former Steamer lead investor John B. Atkins died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at age 53 on April 6, 1978.
Steamer running back Jim Nance passed on June 17, 1992 at the age of 49.
Offensive lineman Glen Holloway, who played for the Steamer in 1975, died of liver cancer on December 20, 2011 at age 63.