By Tom Crosby
John Howe & Tulane’s (Early Days) Ultimate 15
One of the most colorful rugby characters to ever come out of the Deep South area was John Howe. He started his rugby playing at Tulane as an undergraduate in 1968. When I met John in 1972, I was constantly amazed at his “style”. He was already a legend for his play, singing, and having been escorted out of the Bahamas locked to a ball and chain. I remember one morning during the Tulane Mardi Gras tournament on the university’s football practice field in the shadow of the old Sugar Bowl Stadium. John showed up 5 minutes before kick-off with cigarette in mouth, beer in hand, and a look like he hadn’t been to sleep yet. He played an inspiring match against Waterloo University and went on to lead the party that evening. He went on to play in London for London Irish in ‘73, Denver Barbarians, Aspen RFC, Beacon Hill RFC (Boston), SUD and Washington RFC…a self-avowed rugby whore.
In 2000, almost 30 years later, I found myself sleeping on the floor in a hotel in Paris with John and 8 other rugby players. Following a Tulane Old Boys match John and I had arranged to meet in Paris for a France v Scotland 6-Nations match. John takes a group of current players and old boys from the American University sides he coached for 14 years to a 6-Nations match every year. After meeting up for a morning beer we found our way using Paris public transport to a remote field in a suburb where the France v Scotland women’s match was being played. Following the match we headed to the St. Michel section of Paris where John took us straight to the ‘rugby’ bar. Within 10 minutes of walking in the bar he had tickets at face value for the sold-out men’s match the next day. A late night of sampling French wines and incredible French fries and hot dogs ended up with us curled up on the floor of the other tour members’ hotel room – flashbacks to college rugby days. In 2007 John and I met up in Montpelier for USA v Tonga. John, who is now publisher, editor, and a writer for www.rugbycan.com, was looking successful. The twinkle was still in the eye and the joy of good rugby and fine wine still in his heart. The website is a fascinating and captivating interactive site devoted to all aspects of rugby from forum debates on current national and international rugby issues to limericks and drink. He, also, is the spirit and presenter behind rugby radio at www.rugby-radio.com.
John and I exchanged emails about our different websites. I sent John an article I was writing about first decade New Orleans players who also played for Tulane. John misread my article as being “The Early Days Best Tulane Side”. Below is his reply in his wonderful stream of consciousness style, and his Tulane “Early Days” Ultimate 15:
How we see things so differently?
stan never played on the first side hooker at Tulane only if we were desperate (he was the great song leader) dial was a prop forward along with edmonson, charlie monnot in the backrow and sometimes center … actually I thought you were a pretty good backrow…if I were making my selections they would be the way they do it in the press from the wing on through burns, nick Anderson, ?,?, mike ellis, b.kennedy, arnold dupisani, randy starett, george stollings, peter maud (he was a fantastic player), jay scully, bill daniels, bob edmonson, bruce hughes, and pat dial… wings and centers I can’t recall too many who played with me other than salliman and ancira but I would definitely have you and davies and laird and tyrone as reserves and even jack adams and brian travis and fred ??? and mike keyes as reserve scrumhalf … on my reserve davies roommate jan was also a helluva backrow player until he killed himself, eric rocstroh was a good front ranker but perhaps the best center was a KA with a french surname (he was called Chip) who must have graduated in 1970 and the best front row player Tulane ever had was another KA, I think, who Edmonson would know who graduated in 1969, yes, his name was Bob Chapman, and I don’t know whether he dropped out or graduated … he could have played internationally … Bob E would know him as they played together before dial made his appearance. There was another guy your era, a SAE by the name of Wagner and he wasn’t too shabby either playing or singing. Underated players in my era would be Steve Sallman, Bob Urann (but he was no match for Dupisani), an SAE by the name of Ron Bertucci, who died in his sophomore year from some tropical disease, was one helluva backline player, another SAE who sang quite a bit by the name of Bob Wagner(prop), Braun had the talent to play but he didn’t develop any real rugby skills while I was there, Jack Adams had a little what we call ‘mongrel’ in him. He wasn’t a bad player in the engine room. Either was Jan ???, he committed suicide, the former SEAL and roomie of Davies.
But the boiler house, is where Tulane always excelled…Chapman, Edmonson, Monnot started off as a hooker too, Dial, Wright, Bob Wagner, Eric Rocstroh (a talent scout in San Antonio and a former KA,) the list is long…because , as you know, all winning rugby starts in the front row.
John Howe’s Tulane University Early Days Ultimate 15
15..Nick Anderson and kicker , Medical School, Notre Dame
14. Peter Burns, our era, just for sheer speed
13. Mike Ellis, he had a job but was from Memphis as I recall.
12. Charlie Monnot, he wasn’t skillful but he was a bulldog.
11. Chip Henderson, a KA, was easily the best wing and maybe centre.
10. Barry Kennedy, our era, New Orleans kid, nice boot, good delivery, quiet, don’t remember him playing much after 71…..he’s a little hazy buthe was very good.
9. Arnold Dupisani, South African Consul, was the best player ever to play for Tulane at 9, 10, 12….he was the Captain and the real thing. Mike Keyes, Medical School, alumnae?, was an awfully good player at 9 or 10 but his style and mind conflicted….but to many he may have been a better player than Kennedy. He was a student of the game and actually started Stan interested in refereeing.
8. Bill Daniels or Steve Davies, when given the opportunity, had better overall skills than Brian Travis, Medical School, alumnae.
6. Peter Maud was easily the second best player but by a long shot to Dupisani, he was rough aggressive and technically knew his stuff. Randy Starrett, Law School, Duke University was very close. Fred King, Law School, I think Georgetown University wasn’t far behind either but he preferred soccer and did the rugby thing also. I think his heart was in the soccer.
7. My idol at the time was our openside, George Stellar, Medical School, Air Force Academy…he was great but I only had one year with him.
4. Jay Scully, Medical School, Man Mountain of Georgetown University.
5. Jim Wright, I never played with him but met him on campus. He was rumored to have played linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a tossup between Laird Canby, Bill “Red” Daniels, and Steve Davies. They were all so valuable it is hard to distinguish amongst them in terms of importance. Laird was probably the most athletic, Davies was a natural, and Red, believe it or not, was a rugby thinker. Red knew just what he could and what he could not get away with.
3. Bob Chapman, KA, could player either side or the backrow too. One of the most talented players I ever had the privilege to watch get better and better. Marc Elliott of the Denver Barbarians played one year commuting from Baton Rouge.
2. Bruce Wallace, Medical School, Furman University. He was a better hooker than Stan Smith because he was simply better and better than Tyrone Yokum because Tyrone played ‘football rugby’. Remember at that time the wing threw the ball in, maybe even the scrumhalf. Tries were worth 3 points and the conversion 2.
Bruce Wallace was subtler.
1. Pat Dial, but he could play any position form 1-14. Fortunately not fullback because I don’t think he could kick worth a damn.
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