When you think of great two-sport stars, Larry Isbell might be among the greatest. Isbell garnered All-America honors in both football and baseball while at Baylor in the early 1950's. A graduate of Stephen F. Austin high school in Houston, Isbell arrived on the Baylor campus, ushering in a golden era of Bear football, including a trip to the 1952 Orange Bowl.
He led the Baylor freshman team to an undefeated season before stepping into the varsity spotlight as a sophomore. The 1949 Bears rose to 6th in the AP poll before late-season injuries derailed their season. The 8-2 Baylor squad finished 20th in the final rankings. Isbell helped the 1950 Bears to a 7-3 finish. The 1951 Baylor team was one of the best the University offered in school history. A tie to eventual conference champion TCU kept the Bears from a Cotton Bowl birth, and instead, they headed to Miami to face Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Isbell made the 1951 All-American team, posing a threat as one of the best all-around players in college football. As a quarterback, Isbell threw for over 1,400 yards and also played exceptionally as a runner and a kicker. The Chicago Sun Times called him a "runaway mule" with the ball in his hands. We think that was a good thing.
After Baylor, the Redskins drafted Isbell in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft, but Isbell opted to sign with the Boston Red Sox of Major League Baseball. Isbell played a couple of seasons of minor league baseball before going on to an All-Star career in the CFL for the Saskatchewan Roughriders as a defensive back, quarterback, and specialist.
A member of the Baylor and Texas Sports Halls of Fame, Baylor still hands out the Larry Isbell Award to the most valuable player on the Bear baseball team.
Isbell passed away far too young, at age 48 of a heart attack.