Wrapping up our series on Dan Whitehurst, we spotlight his partner in mayhem at linebacker: the equally hard-hitting Larry Strickland. This personal account of the colorful Strickland -- including his infamous bite -- is courtesy of Garnet & Great reader Al Washington, who played with Larry at Rickards and knew him well at Florida State. Al graduated from FSU in 1972, then served 30 years in the Marines, retiring as a Colonel. Thanks for the memories, Al.
In the fall of 1967, Larry Strickland was being recruited by several Southern football powers. Larry's reputation as a relentless, hard-nosed linebacker---(his football motor NEVER stopped during games or at practice)---quickly spread throughout the North Florida area. I was his teammate at Rickards High School in Tallahassee. Before the start of a scheduled scrimmage in early September 1967, our head coach approached me and asked me to play running back in a special drill (3-on-1) in which Larry as the defender would face two offensive lineman with the back running for the open hole. After the first whistle blew, I realized that Larry wasn't going to allow for an open hole, in fact, he plowed through lineman after lineman to tackle me in the backfield. After 5 straight losses carrying the ball and eating a lot of dirt, I staggered away and saw for the first time that college scouts from Georgia Tech, Auburn, Florida, Miami and FSU were on hand to watch the drill. Larry completed the season in a starring role (All Big Bend, 1st Team All State AAA) and led Rickards to our first state playoff berth. Coach Bob Harbison handled Larry's FSU recruitment.
In a 1972 away game at Kansas, as Bill McGrotha noted in the Tallahassee Democrat that "Suddenly a Kansas player came shooting out of a pile-up as though rocket-propelled---he had, it turned out, been bitten---in the REAR. The protagonist was Larry Strickland, the exceptionally aggressive and talented FSU linebacker." Again, Larry Strickland's "motor" never stopped, whether on special teams or in the starting line-up, he was FSU's answer to "JAWS". During 1971- '72 seasons, I also witnessed Larry breaking down two-to-three men backfield alignments on kickoffs and punt blocking schemes with his kamikaze style of "throwing" his body against FSU opponents---he instilled fear throughout the ballgame.
While at FSU, Larry was also a social animal known to actively practice an "open door policy" at several Fraternity Houses, especially on Friday/Saturday nights. I happened to occupy the role of official host in my Fraternity when Larry appeared at a Rush event one Friday night in 1971. He was uninvited but I welcomed him in the door, when three of my less than intelligent Brothers wanted to show "this football player" the street---BIG MISTAKE, as Larry sorted out all three in about 10 nanoseconds (planting one on his head behind our kitchen milk dispensing machine). Larry, always the jovial soul, later apologized during the evening, explaining to the three that he was just out for some good clean fun and meant no harm.