ACC Legends Week: Boston College's Bob Hyland
Nov. 13, 2012
Bob Hyland (Boston College, 1964-66) lettered three consecutive years for Boston College under head coach Jim Miller at center and offensive guard. He helped lead the Eagles to a three-year 16-13 record and earned an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco. Selected in the first round and as the ninth-overall pick of the 1967 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers and their legendary coach Vince Lombardi, he became the first Eagle offensive lineman to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. He played 11 years in the National Football League, the first three seasons with Green Bay, and saw action in Super Bowl II. He then played one year for the Chicago Bears (1970), five with the New York Giants (1971-75), returned to Green Bay for one year (1976) before finishing his career with the New England Patriots (1977). He was inducted into the Boston College Varsity Hall of Fame in 1988. He currently resides in his hometown of White Plains, N.Y.
What took you to Boston College from White Plains?
I was recruited by quite a few different schools. My senior year, BC had a very good club. They went 8-2, and back in those days they had the ECAC standings. BC was one of the top schools in the East. It was only about two or three hours from my home, and it had a very good academic reputation. When I made my visit, I really liked the type of students that were there. I was very impressed with the coaching staff and the campus and everything about it. I pretty much knew right away that was where I wanted to go.
You had a huge win over a nationally ranked Syracuse team in your very first varsity game in 1964 ...
It was one of the highlights of my career there. I remember it like it was yesterday: September 19, 1964. It was a fabulous game for us. In most polls, Syracuse was number one in the country at that time. They had a lot of All-Americans; Floyd Little was the halfback, Jim Nance was the fullback, a guy by the name of Walley Mahle was the quarterback. They just had a terrific team.
They came into our little stadium. I think it only held 28 or 30,000 people at the time. We played way over our heads and got a little of bit of luck and beat them 21-14. That Syracuse team wound up playing in the Sugar Bowl at the end of the year, so it was really quite a win for Boston College.
It sounds like that game must have had a pretty exciting finish.
It was a 14-14 tie with about a minute left. Jim Miller was our coach at the time and ran a couple of dive plays. It looked like we were going to be settling for the tie. I know I was starting to hear some boos from the stands. But Miller had something on his mind, and on either second or third down we faked the dive play. Our quarterback, Larry Marzetti, faded back and threw a 55-yard pass for a touchdown to Bill Cronin with about 20 seconds left in the game. The stadium went absolutely crazy. We had very short fences then, and the field was completely covered with our fans. It took them about 25 or 30 minutes to get everyone off the field so we could kick the extra point.
Any other memories or games stand out from your time there?
I remember going down to Tennessee, and we played them very tough. I think we had twice the offensive yardage that they did, but they beat us 16-14. As we were moving into field goal range, we got a couple of mysterious penalties. The guys from Tennessee, they were telling us how, "You old boys took a hosin'." We really got some bad calls. But in a way it was kind of satisfying for me because I played against a really good football player that day by the name of Steve DeLong. Steve was the Outland Trophy winner that year, and I thought I did quite well against him. That let me know right there that perhaps there was a place for me in college football.
When you look at how things have evolved, is it kind of unreal to see Boston College as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference?
I've always followed the big-time schools and big-time conferences. I am kind of a sports junkie - I own a sports bar and restaurant we call The Sports Page Pub, and the reason for that is the first thing I do every morning is reach for that old sports page. I love sports and I I've always followed college football very closely. That includes, of course, the ACC. But I never would have guessed that BC would eventually be part of it.
Do you think it has been a good fit?
Yes, and I think the vast majority of BC grads I know are very happy about the move to the ACC.
To be drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1967 - the NFL champions at the time - was that as exciting as it seems like it must have been?
It was very exciting and it was unexpected. I knew I was going to be a pretty high draft choice, but I had gotten a lot more attention from the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, and at an early date started to show quite a bit of interest in me.
So on draft day you must have been really surprised?
Draft day was quite a bit different in those days. Now they go to Radio City and all of that business. I had a 9 o'clock class and went back to my room because I heard the draft was going to be at about 10 o'clock. At about 10:20 I was drafted. I picked up the phone and said hello to Coach (Vince) Lombardi and told him I looked forward to meeting him. And after that, I picked up my books and went on to my next class. It was a different world. What they've built the whole thing into these days is quite different from what we could have surmised back in the `60s.
What was it like to play for Coach Lombardi?
I loved every minute of it. I had been a big fan of Coach Lombardi right from the start. Being raised in the New York area, I was a big Giants fan. We had the unusual circumstances of having a great offensive coordinator in Lombardi and a great defensive coordinator in (Tom) Landry. I remember when the Packers selected Coach Lombardi to be their new head coach and general manager, we were all taken aback by it. But obviously, he went out there and had full reign. He did everything, from making the personnel decisions to changing the uniform colors. He really put his imprint on the Packers. He went there in 1959, got them to their first NFL championship game in 1960 and seven years later made me his No. 1 draft choice.
It was exhilarating, but at the same time it was intimidating because you understood how much this guy wanted from you. But when you're a young kid, you're willing to give him everything you have. That's what I did, so I got along with him quite well. I was able to start a number of games my rookie season, which he didn't do very often, and I felt like I earned my Super Bowl ring that year.
You made several NFL stops at some great football towns.
Yes, I was lucky - I played for some of the old, historic franchises - the Packers, the Bears, the Giants. My fourth team I wound up with was the New England Patriots, which certainly wasn't one of the more historic teams at that time, but there was kind of a Boston College connection there. I had played (college football) in New England, and going back there was a great experience as well.
Did you continue to follow BC during your pro days and beyond?
Oh yes, definitely. (Doug) Flutie is one of my favorite players ever, and I've always kept tabs on them and followed what they were doing. I've always loved watching their offensive lines. I don't know how many people refer to BC as "O-Line U," but my friends and I do because we've had so many offensive linemen in the NFL.
What took you into the restaurant business?
I've been in the business since 1973. I really had no intention of going into the restaurant business, but I had a guy I had played with at BC who was the freshman coach at Columbia. He used to say, `Listen, why don't we open up a bar and restaurant?' I said OK - I was with the Giants at the time - and he brought a guy down from Boston who was a really good operator. We did open a place and it started off pretty well. Then the other two guys left, and here I had the whole thing thrown into my lap. That's how I got into it.
And now you must feel like a veteran.
I've been at it for 39 years now. It's not the only thing I do - I've been an agent with Mass Mutual for 20 or 22 years. The restaurant business has always been kind of a sidelight for me. When you live in New York, sometimes you feel like you need more than one income. But this is my third restaurant. The Sports Page Pub was in one location (in White Plains, N.Y.) for about 25 years. Then the lease ran out and we relocated downtown. It's still going well. We seem to be learning something new every day, but we're an established business with a pretty loyal clientele. And it's a great place to watch sporting events.