Big 12: Bam Bam Bigelow

Memories of Hall of Famers Mongo and Wistrom

April, 30, 2009
4/30/09
4:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

I can't think of two more deserving inductees for the College Football Hall of Fame than the two defensive players who were named earlier today.

Steve "Mongo" McMichael of Texas and Grant Wistrom of Nebraska epitomized defensive excellence during their respective eras.

McMichael was a terror -- on and off the field, I might add -- during his time in Austin. He enjoyed the bright night lights along "The Drag" with the same fervor that he enjoyed pulverizing opposing opponents on the field.

He still ranks among the top 10 in career tackles, sacks, quarterback pressures and forced fumbles for the Longhorns.

His persona became bigger than life during his tenure with the Chicago Bears. He was actually drafted in the third round by New England in 1980 before ending up in Chicago the following year.

McMichael was a quote machine in post-game interviews for the great Bears teams in the mid-1980s. He later carried that same verbosity during his wrestling career.

I still remember how he and several other football players kept wrestlers out of the ring for the storied Lawrence Taylor-Bam Bam Bigelow match at an early WrestleMania.

And I also recall how he was kicked out of the press box after singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" at a Chicago Cubs game back in 2001. Earlier in the game, home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called Cub base runner Ron Coomer out at the plate on a controversial call. After finishing his song, McMichael questioned Hernandez's call and said that he'd be waiting for him after the game.

Hernandez then ejected McMichael from the press box after he sang.

Wistrom wasn't nearly as colorful, but was a similarly effective defensive force during his time with the Cornhuskers. He was a vital cog in three Nebraska national championship teams in 1994, 1995 and 1997, earning the Lombardi Award during his senior season.

Back in those days, veteran defensive coordinator Charlie McBride really had things going for the Blackshirts. And Wistrom was the key player, leading the team in sacks and tackles for losses during his senior season. He was the Big 12's defensive player of the year in both of the first two seasons of the conference.

He carried that strong play over to his professional career where he was a key player on the St. Louis Rams' victorious Super Bowl team in 1999.

But I'll always remember him as a Blackshirt, developing into one of the most dominant defensive players during the Big 12 era.

And I also admired his creation of a foundation that strives to allow pediatric cancer patients opportunities to just be children.

"Grant Wistrom was an ideal representative of University of Nebraska athletics," former Nebraska coach and current Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said.

His former coach couldn't have been more correct on that assessment.

SPONSORED HEADLINES