On Friday, the National Football Foundation (NFF) announced former ASU linebacker Bob Breunig will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in the class of 2015.
Breunig anchored ASU's defense in the early 1970s when the program was at its best and helped pave the way for the program's future successes. He went on to have a 10-year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys, which included a Super Bowl championship.
The State Press talked to him on Friday.
The State Press: Obviously it’s been quite a few years since you played and you’ve been on the ballot a few times before. Did you ever think you were getting into the Hall of Fame?
Bob Breunig: Well I didn’t know. Justin, you never know that. I think you can review your credentials and probably give a comparison look and say, ‘Well we might have similar credentials’ so you know it’s possible but you don’t know until you’re actually put in the Hall of Fame and the powers of being have included that you’re worthy. I’m just very grateful they think so and just glad to be a part of it. Really a great time. You know, Justin, when you’re in school for four years and now it’s been 40 years ago (since ASU), but when you think back when coach Frank Kush offered me a scholarship to play football at Arizona State, I didn’t know that I was going to play four years of top-10 ranking, Fiesta Bowl-winning, 10-win seasons every year football. I didn’t know that I was going to have great coaches and great teammates and I didn’t know that I was going to get a degree in business when I left my high school, which helped me for the rest of my life. I didn’t know that I was going to meet Mary Matthews and be married for now 39 years, four kids and grandkids. I didn’t know that I was going to give my life to Christ my senior year when I was there, so just so many great things happened at such an intense time of life for students and characters to know during those years and life trajectories are developed and so it’s a great reminder, it’s a great recognition of what a wonderful time it was and I feel gratified and honored by the whole thing.
SP: Did you find about this today or know about it beforehand and how did you find out?
BB: Actually Steven Hatchell, who is the Chairman/CEO of the National Football Foundation (NFF) called me about a week ago and on purpose, he knew I was in Dallas and because the national championship game is here in Dallas and they wanted me to be a part of the festivity and media assembly this year, he called me early and asked me if I wanted to be one of the four that would represent (the others). So there were four of us here to in a sense, present the inducted class.
SP: The ASU teams that you played on were some of the better ones in history and include some of the (program’s) all-timers in Kush, Danny White, Mike Haynes, yourself. What was it like to play with some of those players and personalities?
BB: I don’t think you know it at the time, but as much as you do later when you reflect back. We just had some really great teams and once again, it takes a lot of great players and a lot of great coaches to make that happen. Danny White, as you may know, he and I went on to play with the Cowboys for 10 years, and I think he might of played 11, and we were captains on the team in college and we were also co-captains on the team in Dallas for at least a year or two. So that was kind of cool, being able to continue to play with him, but I went to Phoenix Alhambra High School on the west side and I would routinely during high school come out and watch the football games. I was watching guys like (linebacker) Ron Pritchard, (receiver) J.D. Hill, (wingback and returner) Steve Holden and some of these great players that were before me and (tackle) Curley Culp and others. It was really something to watch them go because they were really coming into their own. In fact, my senior year in high school, Arizona State was 12-0 and played in the Peach Bowl, ranked sixth in the nation and had a really great team and that was part of the reason that I sensed that Arizona State was on the rise bigtime and it was really an attractive option for me to go to school there.
SP: When you look back at your ASU career, what do you remember the most?
BB: You know I think the relationships. We refer to some of the guys that played in the early-mid 70s as a brotherhood, one of the brotherhoods I guess, and a lot of these guys I’ve just kept up with, lifetime friends and it’s just been a real blessing to know those guys for years, and again like I said earlier, the foundations overlaid in those years of life and marriage and football and business and scholarship, all that sort of thing. I loved going to Arizona State and it really suited me and I was a beneficiary of all of that.
SP: What do you attribute your success as a college/professional athlete to?
BB: This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. First, the good lord has to give you a body that’s tough enough, fast enough and strong enough and durable enough to play. I had a lot of good buddies that maybe didn’t have the size and speed, but they certainly had the heart and the mind for it and wanted to play, or maybe not able because they weren’t quite big enough or fast enough. So that’s a blessing and a gift. The second thing is it just takes a team. It takes a system, it takes circumstances, it takes arrangement of leadership, coaching, all those things for it to happen… The reality is it’s a whole bunch of ingredients that have to go into that that’s way beyond our control.
SP: What are you most proud of that you accomplished at ASU?
BB: You know, I would say it differently. I’m just so pleased that I was able to get a degree and be able to play championship football at the same time and make great friends. And finally, come to faith in a genuine faith with Christ and that happened in my senior year and thanks to some professors and some good friends. I think all of those things kind of add up to what I’m most pleased with.
SP: You got your degree a couple years after you were in the NFL. So were you taking classes and playing or how did that work out?
BB: I came back after my rookie year with the Cowboys for a semester and Mary and I got married in that spring actually and then I had to actually take five hours out of residency in Dallas. That completed my degree, but the university was kind of nice enough to let me finish up with the last five hours out of residency… When you’re playing football it’s hard to fit it all in. It’s a full-time job and so it took me four and a half years and one more month to get it done, but sometimes these guys will go into the NFL and they won’t finish because it’s hard to blend it, that last bit. Sometimes it’s just the last 10 percent to get it finished, but I’m glad I did. I was able to stay with it and get it finished and be able to say I got a degree.
SP: How much do you keep up with the current ASU team and what Todd Graham has done lately?
BB: You know, quite a bit. Todd Graham is from Dallas. He grew up in Dallas and so when Danny White and I were playing…When he was in high school we were playing, so he knew who were and was a big Dallas Cowboys fan… Players want to be welcome when they come back and remembered and it’s nice to be able to come back to Arizona State now, and this is true for all former players, you walk up to that front desk and you’re welcome to come in, look around, be part of the locker room, be part of the tunnel before the games and it keeps that continuity of the old players and the current players. So I really appreciate that a lot and I think there’s been a lot of initiative like they’ve really pushed the Ring of Honor lately in the last five, six years maybe and I was inducted myself, so that Ring of Honor brings all the football players back together for celebration. We have a few reunions, like the 40-year festival reunion, but Todd and (senior associate athletic director of football) Tim Cassidy and the athletic department have been primarily responsible for that. He seems to be doing a great job. He’s winning 10 games, he’s knocking on the door for Pac-12 championships, getting closer every year. It’s great to see. He’s building the program on character and work ethic and I think it’s awesome what’s going on there.
SP: One last question. You’re going to be at the national title game, so who are you picking between Oregon and Ohio State?
BB: Well I got to go with Oregon because they’re Pac-12, but not just because they’re Pac-12, I’m glad it is, but I just think they’re unbeatable. They got so much talent and their offensive schemes – I have a hard time imagining trying to defend the things they do so I think Oregon will win the game. No slight against Ohio State, but my pick’s Oregon.
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