Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

The Gazette's All-Time Air Force Football Team list

by Jake Schaller, July 24, 2010

On the field after Air Force’s 23-16 overtime loss at Utah last season, a group that included several former academy players discussed the Falcons’ standout defense.

It had held the Utes to just 267 yards (with 90 coming on one play) and forced a pair of turnovers to continue what would become one of the best defensive seasons in Air Force history.

“Can you imagine,” one of the former players said, “if we had this defense with the offense we had in 2007?” Interesting to consider. And while we’re on the subject, how about the 2009 defense with the 1989 offense that was quarterbacked by Heisman Trophy candidate Dee Dowis and gained a program record 5,753 yards? Or that 1989 offense with the 1997 defense that allowed just 12.4 points per game?

Or, better yet, what about picking the best players from throughout Air Force’s history to form an all-time all-star team?

That’s just what The Gazette decided to do.

This past spring, we began the process of forming The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Team — 11 offensive players, 11 defensive players and three specialists (see the “How the team was chosen” box for details on how the team came together).

Some of the decisions were easy. Air Force’s five consensus All-Americans — offensive lineman Brock Strom, wide receiver Ernie Jennings, safety Scott Thomas, defensive tackle Chad Hennings and cornerback Carlton McDonald — were no-brainer selections that appeared on every ballot. And, while Air Force has a long history of standout signal-callers, Dowis was a unanimous selection at quarterback.

But many of the choices were made only after plenty of debate and head-scratching (see the “Toughest omissions” box for some of the most worthy players who were left off the team). With so many tough calls the natural inclination is to have a second team or honorable mention selections. But we felt that that would make things even more difficult. So we just went with 25. Enjoy. And please visit to cast your own ballot and join the discussion about the squad.

How the team was chosen

The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Football Team was formed in several stages.

First, ballots were solicited from six members of the Air Force football family who were promised anonymity. The group included players, coaches and sports information personnel from the program’s past and present, covering all eras from its 1955 start.

They were asked to submit a list of the top players at each position, taking into account overall ability, individual accomplishment and influence on their teams’ overall success. The only rule was players had to have graduated from the academy to be eligible (so, for example, Cormac Carney and Anthony Schlegel could not be considered).

After the ballots were collected by The Gazette, the shell of the initial team was formed. Players who were named as the top choice on all of the ballots immediately were put on the team. Then, The Gazette made calls to some of those who submitted ballots to hear arguments for players at various spots. And, finally, The Gazette sat down for a roundtable discussion with a selection committee that included several of the people who submitted ballots to put the finishing touches on the team. The Gazette — with input from the selection committee — decided to select an offense that included a fullback, a tailback, one wide receiver, one tight end and one hybrid receiver-running back to go along with a quarterback and five linemen. It also decided to go with a defense that included four down linemen and three linebackers. The linemen on both sides of the ball were selected without regard to specific position (i.e. there did not necessarily have to be a left defensive end, a left defensive tackle, a right defensive end and a right defensive tackle — just four down linemen).

Toughest omissions

Whenever an all-star team is chosen, there are worthy candidates left off because of a limited number of spots. And if it happens when The Gazette chooses an all-area prep team, imagine how many great players were passed over in the selection of The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Football Team, with more than 50 graduating classes of players to consider.

Here are the players who The Gazette’s All-Time Air Force Football Team’s selection committee found most difficult to leave off the squad.

Offensive Line: Dick Swanson (’69) Tight End: Travis Dekker (’08) and Trent VanHulzen (’90) Fullback: Pat Evans (’87) Defensive Line: Bryce Fisher (’99)

THE GAZETTE’S ALL-TIME AIR FORCE FOOTBALL TEAM OFFENSE QB – Dee Dowis (’90) OL – Brock Strom (’59) OL – Orderia Mitchell (’73) OL – Frank Mindrup (’99) OL – Dave Schreck (’84) OL – Joe Rodwell (’64) TE – Tom Jozwiak (’59) FB – John Kershner (’84) TB – Brian Bream (’72) WR – Ernie Jennings (’71) Slot – Chad Hall (’08)

DEFENSE DL – Chad Hennings (’88) DL – Eugene Ogilvie (’73) DL – Dave Phillips (’59) DL – Chris Funk (’85) LB – Chris Gizzi (’98) LB – Terry Maki (’87) LB – Vergil Simpson (’93) CB – Carlton McDonald (’93) CB – Tom Rotello (’87) S – Scott Thomas (’86) S – Johnny Jackson (’82)

SPECIALISTS P – Mark Simon (’87) K – Joe Wood (’92) Returner/Utility – Terry Isaacson (’64)
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