|No. 12, 10, 20|
March 9, 1945 |
|Height:||6 ft 4 in (1.93 m)|
|Weight:||210 lb (95 kg)|
|High school:||Fulton (TN)|
|NFL Draft:||1967 / Round: 4 / Pick: 81|
|* Offseason and/or practice squad member only|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
George Ronald "Ron" Widby (born March 9, 1945) is a former American football punter in the National Football League (NFL) for the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. He also was a member of the New Orleans Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association. He played college football at the University of Tennessee.
From his childhood in Knoxville, Widby showed tremendous athletic promise. One retired Knoxville sportswriter, Marvin West, recalled for a 2011 story on Widby that "he was good for his age. Every step of the way in his career, he was smooth for his age." Widby himself would recall, "I grew up with the idea I was going to win a scholarship to the University of Tennessee."
He did just that, signing with Tennessee after starring as a quarterback, safety, and punter at Fulton High School in Knoxville. However, near the end of his senior football season at Fulton, he broke his arm and shoulder. Widby recovered well enough to have a strong senior basketball season.
After arriving at his hometown university, Widby initially decided to concentrate on basketball due to his high school injury. Even though he did not attend spring or fall practice with the freshman football team—at the time, freshmen were not allowed to play NCAA varsity sports—the football team kept him on scholarship in hopes he would change his mind.
As it turned out, the football coaching staff went to head basketball coach Ray Mears, telling him they needed a punter. Mears had no problem with Widby playing that position, and as Widby himself recalled in 2011, "I always enjoyed punting a football." He also played on the freshman team in another of his high school sports, baseball, hitting nearly .400.
The following year (1964–65), he had won starting positions in both football and basketball. He also hit nearly .300 in what would be his only varsity baseball season, but felt bored by that sport. He then met Tennessee's golf coach, who upon finding out that Widby had also been on Fulton's varsity golf team invited him to try out for the team. Widby would go on to earn a letter in golf in his junior year.
Sportswriter Ron Higgins would say in 2011, "Few athletes in SEC history enjoyed a better senior year in 1966-67 than Ron in both football and basketball." In football, he led the nation in punting average at 43.8 yards, while in basketball, he averaged 22.1 points and 8.7 rebounds while leading the Volunteers to a conference title. He was named a second-team All-American in basketball, and was also the SEC's basketball Player of the Year. He also thought about continuing with golf, but decided against it because it interfered with NFL contract negotiations.
New Orleans Saints
Widby was selected in three professional drafts in two sports. The New Orleans Saints selected him in the fourth round (81st overall) of the 1967 NFL Draft. In the same year, he was chosen by the New Orleans Buccaneers in the ABA Draft and was selected in the 12th round of the 1967 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls. Although basketball was his favorite sport, he signed with the Saints for a $50,000 bonus, who released him in August when couldn't beat rookie undrafted free agent Tom McNeill.
New Orleans Buccaneers (ABA)
After failing to make the Saints' inaugural season roster, he signed with the New Orleans Buccaneers of the American Basketball Association, playing with that team during the 1967-68 American Basketball Association season.
On September 13, 1967, he was signed by the Dallas Cowboys after his release from the Saints. He was assigned to the Oklahoma City Plainsmen of the Continental Football League before returning to the team's taxi squad in December.
In 1968, he became the starting punter and finished tied for fifth in the league with a 40.9-yard average. He also recorded a franchise and a NFL record, with an 84-yard punt against his former team the Saints (also had a 56-yard punt in the same game).
The next year, he voluntarily gave his #12 jersey to future hall of famer Roger Staubach, who had resigned his naval commission to join the Cowboys. He finished second in the league with a 43.3-yard average.
To make room for rookie punter Marv Bateman who could also place kick if needed, he was traded in September 1972 to the Green Bay Packers along with cornerback Ike Thomas, for a 1973 second round draft choice. The Cowboys would use the draft choice to select Golden Richards.
Green Bay Packers
Widby played two seasons for the Packers before suffering a ruptured spinal disc in a freak accident, that would cost him the last two games of 1973, all of the 1974 season, ending his career and leading to his release on July 18, 1975. He averaged 41.8 yards per punt in 1972 and 43.1 yards in 1973.
He later became a club pro at a country club in Texas, and once he turned 50, he entered the qualifying school for the Senior PGA Tour twice, just missing out on his second attempt. As of 2011, he is semi-retired and living in Wichita Falls, Texas.
- Higgins, Ron (May 20, 2011). "Ron Widby – A man of four seasons for simple reasons". SEC Traditions with Ron Higgins. Southeastern Conference.
- "Most Versatile' Tennessee Athlete Best Sec Hoopster". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- "Vols Dominate All-SEC". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- "A rich man is odd man out". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- "1967 NBA Draft". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- "Ron Widby ABA Stats". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- "Cowboys Trade Widby". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- "Widby Fails Physical; Waived by Packers". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
- ABA statistics @ basketballreference.com
- Ron Widby Led the Vols to the SEC Title in 1966-67