Gordie Lockbaum ’88, two-time Heisman Trophy candidate and Holy Cross Hall of Famer, was recently the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 Short titled “The Throwback.” The documentary looks back at Lockbaum’s impressive career as a college football player who played both offense and defense — something that had gone out of vogue nearly 20 years before Lockbaum hit the college football field in the 1980s. Lockbaum’s coaches decided to turn back the clock after seeing just how talented he was.
“Gordie has torn the word ‘specialization’ out of the college football dictionary and replaced it with the word ‘versatility’,” one commentator said in the documentary, referring to the many positions Lockbaum played — from running back and slot receiver to cornerback and strong safety.
“He was just the best we had at both spots,” says Kevin Coyle, Holy Cross’ then defensive coordinator, about the two-way player. “Duff’s rational was ,‘Who’s to say he can’t do it’,” Coyle added about Mark Duffner, Holy Cross’ head football coach at the time.
As a student, Lockbaum drew national media attention, bringing major outlets to campus that wanted to tell his unique success story as a star football player and student.
“The theme was that this is what it’s supposed to be: doing great in school,” Coyle shares in the documentary. “He’s a humble guy; he just goes out and plays; he was all about doing the right things.”
Lockbaum was covered by outlets including ABC, CBS, the TODAY Show, People Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.
His success brought him all the way to being a Heisman Trophy candidate — not once, but twice — next to nationally ranked division 1-A players. Lockbaum, the documentary explains, finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting in 1986 and third in 1987. He was the first division 1-AA player to ever be named in the top five.
“I never did try a two-way player again,” says Duffner at the conclusion of the documentary. “We had enough depth that never really prompted me to do that, nor did I see the kind of player and the kind of character that Gordie represented that maybe would have allowed that to continue. That kind of stood alone.”
Holy Cross held a screening of the ESPN 30 for 30 Short on Nov. 28th in a filled Seelos Theatre. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Lockbaum and Gregg Burke ’80, the sports information director who led Lockbaum’s Heisman campaign. Mike Philbrick ’96, senior editor for ESPN, facilitated the discussion.
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