The Story of Kansas

July 31, 2011

Kansas' 150 greatest athletes: Wichita has a grand history of top-flight running backs

The thing with 150 athletes over 150 years of Kansas is that this exclusive fraternity of competitive greatness doesn't make for close ties.

The thing with 150 athletes over 150 years of Kansas is that this exclusive fraternity of competitive greatness doesn't make for close ties.

Many played for the same colleges, but in different eras. There are only a handful of instances where teammates on a high school or college team reached The Eagle's Kansas 150.

But there's Linwood Sexton.

Sexton, the University of Wichita football star from the 1940s, is part of the second 50 athletes we're revealing today (51-100).

No Shocker teammates join him on the list, but he taught another top 100 member, Chiefs running back Curtis McClinton, at L'Ouverture Elementary in the early 1950s.

He attended the same church as Jeff Smith, Southeast's premier running back of the 1970s and a top 150 member.

And he saw enough of four other Wichita tailback greats — Don Calhoun, DeAngelo Evans and Rashad Washington — to be as insightful about their careers as anyone.

(That's only three? Right. Well, here's a clue on the fourth: He's a Heisman Trophy winner who'll be in next Sunday's top 50. No more hints.)

There are 45 athletes in the Kansas 150 whose dominant sport was football, and seven — including Sexton — were Wichita rushing stars.

At least 52 backs rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a City League season, but these six (and next week's seventh) stand out:

* Washington rushed for 1,327 Southeast yards in 1998, but was just as good a defensive back and was named All-State. He was All-State in basketball, too, and is one of the best male all-around athletes to come out of the city in the past 15 years.

* Evans rushed for 8,473 yards in four years at Collegiate. That's more than 2,000 yards than anyone else in Kansas, and it was fourth for a career nationally when he graduated. His 131 touchdowns is third nationally, and he was part of two state championship teams.

* Smith was also part of two state champions at Southeast. The featured tailback topped 1,000 yards in 1978 and 1979 before an All-Big Eight career at Nebraska.

"He'd stop on a dime," Sexton said of Smith. "It was fun watching him return punts or go on a sweep because he could stop and change directions."

* Calhoun was an Eagle Top 11 pick in 1969, rushing for 1,104 yards at North before a standout career at Kansas State and nine-year NFL career.

"He didn't get the recognition that some of them got," Sexton said. "Just a hard-working guy. Not real flashy, but consistent and he ran hard. Could do anything."

* McClinton was a North standout, but at end. He became a fullback at Kansas, topping 1,000 yards in 1961, and with the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Curtis was just a big strong kid," Sexton said. "Great talent."

* It's hard to get Sexton to talk about himself during his mid-1940s career at East. He credits a talented, deep team and older mentors who taught him hard work would pay off.

"He was big and he was fast," said Jerry Squires, a former local standout baseball player who's watched Wichita high school football for decades, too. "He was a one-man wrecking crew."

Wichita's had a few of those.

Related content