Jim Mooty: Razorback Legend with Cause

Jim Mooty is one of the legendary Razorbacks who had ability that would probably still translate to today's game. He was quick, fast and a tough runner. He's excited to help the Arkansas Health Center with a celebrity golf tournament in early June.

If there is anyone in the world capable of telling a good Jim Mooty story, it's Barry Switzer. He's got them back to grade school when Switzer – believe it or not – went to grade school in El Dorado.

"We were not in the same grade school," Switzer said. "But we walked home along the same country road."

Switzer finished his schooling at Crossett, then they hooked up again at Arkansas where Mooty was first team All-America in 1959, joining the Associated Press picked backfield with Billy Cannon (LSU), Charlie Flowers (Ole Miss) and Don Meredith (SMU).

"I think the amazing thing about that, all of them grew up within 250 miles from each other," Switzer said. "Cannon was from Baton Rouge, Flowers from Forrest City and Meredith from Mount Vernon. The deal in those days was to make the AP team and they were the four first teamers in the backfield."

Mooty and Meredith would play together later with the Dallas Cowboys, but surgery after torn quadriceps reduced his effectiveness and he quickly went into lucrative private business, often times with Switzer. They now are involved in clinics, some with MRI technology and another in radiation cancer treatment in El Dorado.

If you want to see Mooty become emotional, talk to him about bringing cancer treatments to his hometown so patients don't have to drive to Little Rock or Shreveport any longer. Or, bring up his involvement in the Chipping in for Arkansas Health Center golf tournament set June 2 at Hurricane Country Club in Bryant.

Mooty's son Wes is a patient at Arkansas Health Center after sustaining paralysis when a limb fell. Mooty is honorary chairman for the tournament. The tournament benefits the residents of Arkansas Health Center and is sponsored by Friends of AHC. Friends is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed to encourage and support the residents and employees of Arkansas Health Center (AHC). The tournament is the primary fundraiser of Friends.

Proceeds from the 2012 and 2013 fully funded the construction of a new pavilion on the campus of AHC. The 2500-square foot pavilion will serve as a outdoor gathering place, host social events, house large activities, and provide space for residents to enjoy the outdoors much more often.

"You want me to tear up?" Mooty said, when asked what the tournament means. "I am in the health center most days to see my son. You can't believe the kind of care this facility provides. To see everyone turn out for the golf tournament, you just can't imagine what it makes me feel. Sometimes you think people don't care, they care."

It's a who's who of Arkansas sports, including many from the glory days of Arkansas football.

"It started out as a lot of our lettermen," said Billy Joe Moody, a blocking back for Mooty at Arkansas. "You have people like Barry Switzer and Lance Alworth and so many others coming back. But it's just reached out past Razorback sports."

Tournament director Tom Mitchell now expects over 90 celebrities on June 2 for the 2014 event, many who don't play golf.

"Barry doesn't play," Mitchell said. "But he wouldn't miss it. We have a lot of fun."

Switzer said he knew the Razorback family would arrive in force when word spread about the cause for the tournament.

"I don't think Jim realized how many did care about him and Wes," Switzer said. "The Razorback family is great and they love Jim Mooty. We stand by our family. Razorbacks are always great at that when they realize need."

Switzer loved talking about his former teammate. He contends Mooty, along with Alworth and Wayne Harris, are three from the early Frank Broyles teams that would still play today.

"Most of us wouldn't be able to play, but those three could, because they had great quickness, speed and athletic ability," Switzer said. "I've always maintained that. Jim had great speed and footwork, and he was so tough."

Mooty's reputation was that he could make you miss, but wouldn't go out of bounds to avoid contact. He could split a pair of defenders with wiggle, but he also would run off tackle.

"Mooty was a north-south runner," Switzer said. "He took the ball up the field and got as much as he could and at the end, he'd hurl his body airborne. He would take the shots to get another yard. He threw his body around and made special plays."

One of the great ones was the clinching touchdown run on an off tackle play against Texas A&M in 1959. There was also the winning touchdown, a 17-yard run against Georgia Tech in the Gator Bowl, a storied play in Razorback history.

"That may be one of my favorite plays," Mooty said. "It was at the end of my college career, so I remember it best. I went off right tackle, had to cutback and there were two defenders. I made them miss."

There are other storied plays. He wads part of back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns with Billy Kyser against Hardin-Simmons. They are called 100-yarders, but both were taken about six yards deep in the end zone.

"What I remember is going to the bench after Jim's, the second one," Switzer said. "He was kind of cocky. We are sitting there and he leans over to me and says, ‘Barry, mine was better than Billy's. I had to make more people miss.' I started laughing and was afraid I'd get in trouble with the coaches. I finally told Jim, ‘Everyone was tired from chasing Billy!' He liked it."

Mooty could play, but he had plenty of talent around him. None were better than Harris, the famed inside linebacker dubbed "The Thumper," another El Dorado product.

"Wayne was two years behind me in school, but we played together when I was a senior and again at Arkansas," Mooty said. "No one hit like the Thumper. I don't know what Wayne had that others didn't, but it was different. He was not the fastest, but he was quick.

"There were some incredible hits. The one he put on Don Meredith might have been the best. I was on the field and you could hear the crack anywhere in the stadium."

Meredith was done for the day and so was SMU.

"Wayne just uncoiled when he hit you, like a snake," Mooty said. "You thought he was just going to glide into you and pull you down. That's the way most tackled. Not Wayne. He never just dragged you down. He exploded into you and cracked you. It was an explosion."

Harris felt it once, in a charity game after their playing days were done.

"We went home to El Dorado for a game," Mooty said. "We'd always played together and I guess Wayne always wanted to hit me. I was going down the sideline and here he came. He got me, just exploded. I couldn't believe it, in a charity game.

"I got up and said, ‘No more of that!' I think I was returning a kickoff down the right sideline and he got me. We'd never scrimmaged against each other all those years. He finally got me."

The idea that Mooty, Alworth and Harris could still play today fascinates Mooty.

"I kinda do," he said. "I played a little bit for the Cowboys and I wish I'd tried it for four or five more years. I was there under Tom Landry at the start, but I had a chance for a good job and starting a business. It was the right thing to do. I know that now, but it still would have been fun to play some more.

"I know Alworth and Harris could play today because of their quickness. I think that's what I had, God-given speed and quickness, maybe better quickness than speed."

Alworth and Mooty also were multi-sport stars. Both were outstanding baseball players. Mooty had a chance to sign a professional contract during his time at Arkansas.

"I wondered how that would have gone, maybe I could have played a long time," he said. "But it worked out right for me with business."

Switzer and Mooty started a packaging business that they eventually sold. And they've stayed together in many other ventures. There's no one better to tell a Switzer story than Mooty, but he said most shouldn't be in print.

"There are some good ones," Mooty said. "He was our center. You know how coaches would try to show the quarterback a move and step under center to take a snap? You shouldn't do that with Barry, because he'd get them. I guess you can print this. He'd pass gas when the coach would stick his hand under his butt, then take off down the field like he was going for a pass. He thought it was hilarious, but we didn't.

"I knew Barry was going to make a great coach. He analyzed everything. We just played. He knew the other team better than anyone on the team. He could tell us the stats on every player in the Southwest Conference, what they did and their weaknesses and strengths. He was like a coach as a player.

"I knew he would be a Hall of Fame coach. He was a motivator even as a player, and a realist. He always told it to us exactly like it was. What you see is what you got with Barry."

If you want to hear a few of those stories, make it to Bryant on June 2. There are shotgun starts in the morning and afternoon. Chippingin4ahc.com is the website. It's a promise that not all of the stories can be printed.

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