|Date of birth||March 9, 1945|
|Place of birth||Knoxville, Tennessee|
|Height||6 ft 4 in (193 cm)|
|Weight||210 lb (95 kg)|
|High school||Fulton High School|
|NFL Draft||1967 / Round: 4 / Pick: 81|
Green Bay Packers
|Career highlights and awards|
George Ronald "Ron" Widby (born March 9, 1945) is a former American basketball and football player. Widby was the last four-sport letterman at the University of Tennessee to date, becoming an All-America in football and basketball and also earning one letter in both baseball and golf. In his two best sports he received All-America honors, as the nation's leading punter in college football and as a basketball wing.
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.
When 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 first-team All-American in both sports, 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 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, who released him after he couldn't beat rookie undrafted free agent Tom McNeill.
New Orleans Buccaneers (ABA)
Widby signed with the Dallas Cowboys after his release from the Saints, and remained on the team's taxi squad through the 1967 season. In 1968 season he became the starting punter and recorded a franchise and a NFL record, with an 84 yard punt against his former team the Saints.
In 1970 he set a Super Bowl record with nine punt attempts, while playing against the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl V. In 1971 he played in Super Bowl VI and became the second Cowboys punter to be named to the Pro Bowl (Sam Baker was the first).
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. Even so, his greatest professional fame would come from his time with the Cowboys, where he never averaged under 40 yards.
Green Bay Packers
He 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 and eventually would end his career. 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 now 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. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
- 1967 ABA Draft at BasketballReference.com
- Ron Widby page at BasketballReference.com
- ABA statistics @ basketballreference.com
- Ron Widby Led the Vols to the SEC Title in 1966-67