Fifty-three years later, most veteran fans don't remember the final score (Rice 28,
Alabama 6) or the game itself. But they do remember the play, and they should. Its only
rival for bowl game weirdness is Roy Riegels' 60-yard wrong-way dash on a recovered fumble
that doomed his California team in the 1929 Rose Bowl.
Watching Lewis' Cotton Bowl gaffe on TV 25 years later, Riegels was as aghast as any other
spectator. He said Lewis must feel "like a sap," and no one disagreed.
"I'm reminded of the play frequently," Lewis told the San Antonio Express-News
last year. "But anyone who knows me, and all my old teammates, would never dare bring
it up. They know that play devastated me, and I have to live with it. I can't take it
Why did Lewis make his mistake? Who knows? Yet the wonder is that something similar
doesn't happen more often. Football is a game of emotion, and it's easy for a player to
get caught up in the frenzy of a moment even a player who isn't on the field.
It wouldn't have been surprising if Lewis had changed his name to avoid further
embarrassment but, in fact, it was Maegle who did so. During his playing days, the running
back's name was pronounced that way but spelled "Moegle." Some years later, he
changed the spelling to make it more phonetically correct.
Newspapers around the country ran the accompanying wire service photo that showed Maegle
sprawled almost out of sight after being flattened. Nowadays, Maegle has forgiven his
unexpected assailant, sort of.
"The only reason I gave him the benefit of the doubt that the tackle was
spontaneous was that he didn't have time to strap on his headgear," said Maegle, now
72 and living in Houston. "I could have accidentally kicked him in the head while I
was running wide open, and he would have gotten the worst of the deal."
Just before Lewis hit him, Maegle cut one step to his left to avoid a head-on collision.
"If I hadn't done that, I might be in a wheelchair ," Maegle said. Counting that
95-yard play, the 19-year-old junior gained 265 yards rushing on just 11 carries and
scored three touchdowns.
As the teams left the field at halftime, Lewis jogged up to Maegle and put his arm around
his shoulder by way of apology.
"At first I thought it was one of my teammates," Maegle recalled. "He had
tears streaming down his face. He apologized and apologized, and he said, 'I don't know
what got into me. I hope they don't string me up on these goalposts.'"
As often happened in that era, the two appeared together on Ed Sullivan's popular TV show
two days later. When Sullivan asked Lewis why it had happened, the culprit replied,
"Mr. Sullivan, I guess I was just so full of Alabama."
It sounded good, but 50 years later Lewis said Sullivan, a noted showman and newspaper
gossip columnist, had put him up to the line. The player added, "That's not something
that would normally come out of my mouth."
Magele did not enjoy the trip to New York, especially when he learned he and Lewis would
be sharing the same hotel room.
"Mr. Sullivan, I don't want to room with this guy," Maegle told his host.
"He might have a nightmare and try to throw me out the window."
Decades later, Maegle added, "After what Lewis had done in the Cotton Bowl, I didn't
know if he was all there ."
Back then, it was no great surprise to see Rice bushwhacking Alabama. Red Drew was in his
sixth season as the Crimson Tide's coach, but 'Bama was hardly the power it became after
Paul "Bear" Bryant took over four years later. Meanwhile, Rice had emerged
briefly as a factor in the Southwest Conference title chase.
Maegle sparkled as a senior during the 1954 season, rushing for 905 yards, averaging 6.3 a
carry and scoring 11 touchdowns. After being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, however,
he sat on the bench behind Hugh McElhenny and Joe Perry for most of a seven-year pro
career. Lewis was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals but never played in the NFL.
And for Lewis, there was definitely a deja vu moment. Years later he was coaching high
school football in Alabama when one of his players also leaped off the bench to tackle an
opponent. Lewis draped his arm around the player's shoulder sympathetically. "I
knew just how he felt," he said.