Memphis Southmen vs. Shreveport Steamer
September 14, 1975
Memphis Memorial Stadium
World Football League Programs
Rare program from the 1975 Memphis Southmen from the final weeks of the World Football League (1974-1975). The Southmen got loads of press attention (including a Sports Illustrated cover story) after team owner John Bassett convinced Miami Dolphins stars Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick, and Paul Warfield to jump leagues for the 1975 season.
Although the ex-Dolphins were the top headline makers in the failing WFL, it was actually a pair of anonymous holdover players from Memphis’ 1974 squad who outperformed them, at least statistically. Willie Spencer, an unusually tall running back (6′ 4″) who never played college football, outrushed both Csonka and Kiick and led the club with 581 yards on the season. And former All-Pro Paul Warfield’s modest output (25 catches for 422 yards and 3 TDs) was overshadowed by small college product Ed Marshall (31-582-9 TDs).
Spencer was pictured on the cover of this September 14, 1975 program for a Memphis home game against the Shreveport Steamer and would score the game’s first touchdown on an 8-yard run. (Csonka was on the sidelines, missing his second straight game due to injury).
This game was notable as the first professional start at quarterback for Danny White, a second year player out of Arizona State whose primary role on the Southmen was as the team punter. As a rookie in 1974, White backed up 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte and passed for over 1,000 yards, but it wasn’t until late in the 1975 season that White finally unseated the elder quarterback. With White under center, the Southmen raced out to a 26-0 halftime lead and then held on as Shreveport back-up quarterback D.C. Nobles came off the bench and threw three second half touchdowns as the Steamer mounted a furious comeback. It wasn’t quite enough. Memphis held on to win 34-23.
The World Football League folded just over a month later without completing its second season. Csonka, Kiick and Warfield all returned to the NFL. Willie Spencer and Danny White managed to latch on as well. Spencer saw limited time as a reserve back with the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants from 1976 to 1978. White signed with Dallas Cowboys as a punter and Roger Staubach’s back-up in 1976. He took over the starting QB job after Staubach retired in 1980 and ran the offense for most of the 1980’s, taking the Cowboys to three straight NFC championship games but never making it to the Super Bowl.