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From the Broadcast Booth with John Cox - “Big Nasty” and Curley Return

March 31, 2018

Two of the most fascinating figures in the history of Southern Miss football to have ever walked the sidelines did so during the 1980s, were Jim Carmody and Curley Hallman. Both will return to the sidelines for the upcoming spring football game at The Rock on April 21 as honorary head coaches.

It is all part of the Eagle Fest weekend that will also feature the annual pre-spring game youth clinic inside The Rock, the Champions Brunch and Golden Eagle baseball taking on Middle Tennessee, among many other things that day.

Carmody was the head coach of the Golden Eagles from 1982 to 1987 and served as the assistant head and defensive coordinator under Coach Bobby Collins from 1978 to 1980, while Hallman served as head coach from 1988-1990. Current Golden Eagle head coach Jay Hopson will tell you that both men have been mentors to him and he still picks their brains from time to time and about certain situations that might occur on the football field. Hop loves to have former players and coaches return to the campus and is excited to these two legends coming back to coach.

There is no question it will be a lot of fun to have the two of them back at Roberts Stadium for the spring game as Hopson and his team finish up their 2018 spring workouts. I am sure that the competitive juices will be flowing when “Big Nasty” and Curley square off at the Rock that day. I learned a lot about the game of football from both men during their time with the Golden Eagles and they were always willing to take time out to teach me or explain to me what I wanted to know. I am sure I drove them crazy sometimes by asking questions and seeking information, but for a young sports announcer you couldn’t have asked for two better people to help you learn the game. Working the radio broadcasts, the coaches’ radio shows and the weekly TV shows with both of them gave me a chance to see up close what made both men so successful at what they did. They were two of the most prepared coaches I have ever been around and would have their teams prepared for whatever might occur during a game.

Carmody will always be remembered as the architect of the original Nasty Bunch defenses. Defenses that were year in and year out among the best in the nation and that had a reputation for being ready to take on anybody that they faced, anywhere and anytime and they did.

How did he become known as “Big Nasty”? Well the story that has been handed down through the years is that it started with nose guard Thad Dillard back in Carmody’s first year as defensive coordinator in 1978. It seems that Dillard had a tendency to get really excited prior to a game and so would his stomach and prior to the first snap of a game while he was lined up over the football, he would proceed to get rid of his pre-game meal, and causing the start of the game to briefly be delayed. Dillard would be told by his teammates that he was being “nasty” and his teammates on the defensive side of the ball soon began to call themselves “The Nasty Bunch” and defensive coordinator Carmody became “Big Nasty” since he was in charge of that part of the team. The defense at Southern Miss has been known by that name ever since.

After three seasons as defensive coordinator he left for a year to coach the defensive line of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, but athletic director Roland Dale hired him the following year to replace Bobby Collins as head coach. In his first year as head coach Carmody led the Golden Eagles to a 38-29 victory over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and in the process snapped a 57-game home winning streak by the Tide in Bryant-Denny Stadium. His teams from 1982-1987 included some of the all-time Golden Eagle greats like quarterback Reggie Collier, linebacker Greg Kelley, wide receiver Louis Lipps, nose guard Jerald (The Space Ghost) Baylis, safety Bud Brown, running back Sam Dejarentte, defensive tackle Richard Byrd, linebacker Onesimus Henry and a young quarterback that he signed by the name of Brett Favre just to mention a few.

Another unforgettable game that he was a part of was a 28-24 win over Mississippi State in 1986 at Jackson’s Memorial Stadium. Down 24-21 with the ball on their own 2-yard line with just over four minutes to go they proceeded to drive 98-yards in 15 plays to score on a four-yard run by tailback Shelton Gandy with 29-seconds left to win 28-21. The Golden Eagle offense rushed for 386-yards that day, while the Nasty Bunch defense limited the Bulldogs to just 148-yards rushing that day. That game is immortalized today as “The Drive”.

That same season Carmody led the team to an unlikely last second win in Greenville, North Carolina against East Carolina. Down 23-21 the Golden Eagles had the ball on their own 18-yard line with eight seconds left when quarterback Andrew Anderson dropped back and threw a pass as far as he could downfield, and wide receiver Lyneal Alston went up in a crowd of Pirate defenders near the ECU 40-yard line and somehow caught the ball. Alston fought his way down to near the Pirate 10-yard line where he was about to be tackled but while he was going down, he lateraled to fullback Randolph Brown who raced in to end zone. But the officials ruled it a forward lateral, and according to the rules at the time, the defense had to take the result of the play or the penalty. ECU had no choice but to take the penalty and since the game could not end on a penalty, Southern Miss had one play left and Rex Banks kicked a 31-yard field goal to win it 23-21 in a game now known as “The Forward Lateral Game.”

Those were just a few of the great wins he was a part of as head coach put proved how well-prepared his teams were and how they never quit playing until the end and never believed a game was ever over.

Coach Carmody was someone that taught all his players to play game the right way. He always wanted them to go out on the field and have fun, but to be aggressive and physical in all phases of the game. He cared about his players and had a great impact on not only our players but players all over the state and taught an entire generation of young football players many of whom followed his footsteps and became coaches. We were lucky to have him at Southern Miss and he left an everlasting impact on the success of our football program.

Former Texas A&M assistant coach Curley Hallman took over the head coaching job at Southern Miss in 1988 and quickly led the Golden Eagles to a 10-2 record in his first year losing only to Florida State and Auburn. That team led by sophomore quarterback Brett Favre went on to play UTEP in the Independence Bowl and won that game 38-18. Hallman’s teams would also be led by some all-time greats at Southern Miss like Favre, wide receiver Darryl Tillman, center Marty Williams, defensive end Maurice Oliver, cornerback and kick return specialist James Henry, linebacker William Kirksey, safety Kerry Valrie, wide receiver/running back Tony Smith and defensive end Pat Jackson, among others.

I will never forget that when Curley arrived he wanted to do the weekly senior player features that we did for “The Curley Hallman Show”. So each week you might find us in the University Union with James Henry and Curley shooting pool while he interviewed him or Curley and Darryl Tillman sitting in the stands at The Rock discussing what was coming up for the Golden Eagles. It was a lot of extra work but a lot of fun as well. It’s neat to go back and look at those shows today and remember how much fun it was.

Hallman would win 23 games in his three years as coach that included wins over Alabama, Florida State and Louisville. The Eagles opened the 1989 season against Florida State in Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl in a contest televised nationwide on WTBS-TV, the Atlanta Superstation. The Eagles would defeat the No.6 Seminoles that day when Favre hit tight end Anthony Harris with a two-yard touchdown pass with 23-seconds left, a victory long time sports information director Ace Cleveland said at the time he considered the biggest win in school history.

That same year the Eagles defeated Louisville on the final play of the game on the Cardinals home field 16-10 on what is now known as “The Miracle of Louisville”. As the clock ticked down the game’s final seconds Favre rolled right and fought off Louisville defensive end Ted Washington before lofting a Hail Mary pass that was tipped by wide receiver Michael Jackson and caught behind the Louisville defenders by Tillman, who raced into the end zone as time expired to give the Golden Eagles the win on the 79-yard touchdown pass. Hallman had told the team on the sidelines just before the play, “We still have a chance to win.”

In 1990 Hallman helped to lead the Golden Eagles to wins over Alabama and Auburn. The Golden Eagles defeated the Crimson Tide 27-24 on a late field goal by Jim “Stump” Taylor in Birmingham’s Legion Field in the second game of the season, then beat the War Eagles 13-12 in the final regular season game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. That win helped get the Golden Eagles a bid to the All-American Bowl, where they would face North Carolina State.

That win over Alabama was special to Curley because he beat his former head coach at Texas A&M, Gene Stallings who was coaching his first game as head coach of the Crimson Tide that day. Curley who had grown up in Northport, Alabama, right outside of Tuscaloosa, had loved Coach Bear Bryant and Alabama growing up but they didn’t recruit him, but Stallings had signed him to play for the Aggies. Curley would eventually coach for Coach Bryant from 1973 to 1976.

I wonder if Hallman, who always wore a dress shirt, a tie and a Southern Miss hat on the sidelines will wearing that again on April 21 and give the team one of his spirited pre-game talks in the locker room that he was famous for when he led the Golden Eagles? He had his own special way of motivating the Golden Eagles during his three years as head coach and it would fun to be in the locker room and watch his pre-game talk and instructions to his team.

You will not want to miss the two of them on the sidelines and see the competitive juices flowing again. Both men loved to win and both hated to lose. So you can be sure when they square off in the spring game, they will pull out all of the stops to try and gain a victory.

So on April 21 as Coach Jay Hopson and his Golden Eagles play the annual Black and Gold Spring game be sure to look to the sidelines and watch two of the coaching legends back on the sidelines and I bet you will see them doing all the things you remember seeing them do during their time with the Golden Eagles.

Make sure you tell them thanks in your own special way for their unique contributions and what they have done and are still doing to make football so successful at Southern Miss. Jim Carmody and Curley Hallman back on the sidelines of Roberts Stadium, I can’t wait to see them again. They did so much for Southern Miss and Southern Miss football in their years of being a part of our family. Thanks Coach Carmody and Coach Hallman for making Southern Miss football special and helping to take Southern Miss to the Top.

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