Although the Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl will not be played on December 31st, here are some of the game’s players and coaches who later went on to achieve greatness in the NFL.


Sid Gillman

Gillman coached Miami of Ohio in the 1948 Sun Bowl. Gillman later coached the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and the AFL’s Los Angeles and San Diego Chargers before ending his career as Houston Oilers head coach. With the Chargers, Gillman won the 1963 AFL Championship and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.


Don Maynard

Maynard played for Texas Western in the 1957 Sun Bowl. After his rookie season with the New York Giants, Maynard later teamed up with quarterback Joe Namath to form one of the top passing attacks in the AFL. In 1969, the Jets upset the Baltimore Colts to win Super Bowl III, and Maynard retired with virtually every receiving record. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987. 


Merlin Olsen

The talented defensive tackle was the star of Utah State’s 1960 Sun Bowl team, and Olsen held the NMSU Aggies to just 44 yards of rushing in the game. Olsen was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1962 and became a key member of their “Fearsome Foursome” defense. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.


Tony Dorsett 

A year after leading Pittsburgh to a win in the 1975 Sun Bowl, Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy and was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. He won a Super Bowl his rookie season and he finished with 12,739 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns over 12 NFL seasons. In 1994, Dorsett was enshrined into the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fame.


James Lofton and Bill Walsh

Both Lofton (wide receiver) and Walsh (head coach) came to El Paso with Stanford in 1977 and defeated LSU 24-14. In 16 NFL seasons, Lofton became the first player to record 14,000 yards receiving and the first to score a touchdown in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Walsh led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles and is widely considered one of the game’s greatest coaches. Both Lofton and Walsh entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. 


Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders

The running back tandem helped lead Oklahoma State to a narrow 35-33 win over West Virginia in the 1987 Sun Bowl. Thomas scored four times in the game, earning Sun Bowl MVP honors, but Sanders was used primarily on special teams. Both Thomas and Sanders starred in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions, respectively.  Thomas played in three Super Bowls while Sanders trailed only Walter Payton for the most rushing yards in league history (he was later passed by Emmitt Smith). Sanders was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004, while Thomas joined him in 2007.


Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at His column appears periodically in El Paso Inc.’s B-Section.


Since 1997, Steve Kaplowitz has hosted “Sportstalk” from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays on 600 ESPN El Paso. You can email him at

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