Induction Year: 1999
By Jim McLain The Shreveport Times
When the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame induction weekend begins with a Friday afternoon press conference June 25, there’ll be one 1999 inductee who should be completely comfortable in front of the cameras.
Former Shreveporter Pat Studstill, a three-time All Pro in the 1960s with the Detroit Lions, didn’t fade away after his 12-year NFL career.
The ex-wide receiver/punter got a taste for acting when he played himself in the 1968 movie Paper Lion, which was based on George Plimpton’s book of the same name. He went on to act in dozens of movies and TV shows and do hundreds of TV commercials.
“I had a pretty good (acting) career,” said Studstill, who resides in the Los Angeles suburb of Bel-Air. “I’m kind of retired now. I never became a great big star actor, but then I never wanted to.”
If you ever watched the TV series “Magnum PI” starring Tom Selleck, “The Dukes of Hazzard” or the football drama “First and Ten,” which featured O.J. Simpson, you might have seen Studstill. He had a recurring role in both “Dukes of Hazzard” as Huey Hogg’s bodyguard and in “First and Ten” as a coach.
He was a commercial spokesman for Toyota trucks for several years and did a Circuit City commercial that ran for five years.
His wife Rita, a talent agent, helped him get his Hollywood career started. He and Rita met when Pat was playing for the Los Angeles Rams.
The former Shreveport Byrd High star’s life is as full of twists and turns as many of the films and shows he appeared in. His sports career might never have happened if not for the intervention of a long-time Shreveport coach.
“Woodrow Turner saved my life,” he said of the man who then was head track and assistant football coach at Byrd. “I got in some trouble. I was a wild kid. I failed my freshman year and had to go to summer school. He got me back into football and groomed me for the track team.”
After a great prep career in both football and track, where he ran a 9.9 100 yard dash, he signed with the University of Houston.
He made a name for himself with the Cougars as a receiver and punter and was getting inquiries from a number of NFL teams during his junior year.
He ran afoul of one of coach Hal Lahar’s rules when he got married before his senior season, however, and Lahar benched him his senior season.
University of Houston assistant coach Red Conkright came to his rescue after he went undrafted as a college senior in 1960.
“He called the Lions and said they ought to give me a try,” Studstill recalled. “The Lions told me, “We’ll give you $6,500. Take it or leave it.’ “
It turned out to be a heck of a bargain for the Lions.
Studstill, one of the most versatile players of the two-platoon era in the NFL, gained 1,266 yards receiving to lead the league in 1966. In addition, his 67 receptions was second only to the 72 of Washington’s Charley Taylor.
In addition, he punted and returned punts and kickoffs.
He averaged 15.8 yards per punt return in 1962 to lead the league. He was also one of the league’s top punters.
For his career, he averaged 15.7 yards per catch and 25.7 yards per kickoff return. As a punter, he finished with a 40.7 yard average.
Studstill, still trim at 61, has one NFL record that can be tied but never broken – unless they lengthen the field. He had a 99-yard pass reception against the Baltimore Colts.
He also returned a kickoff 100 yards against the Bears.
Studstill helped the Rams gain the 1969 Western Conference championship game but they lost to Minnesota 28-20 in the title game.
He played the 1972 season at New England.
Long overlooked by voters, Studstill will give the state shrine one of its most versatile football players ever.