Nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota stands a monument to four of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen, a tribute to their accomplishments as leaders of the United States. Imagine for a moment that nestled among the nonexistent hills of Abilene stood a monument to ACU’s elite – a Mount Rushmore, if you will, of ACU sports.
The faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln stand watch over America, a reminder of the greatness of our past. So too should the faces of the greatest athletes to ever don the Purple and White be etched in immortal stone – a testament to their legacies. As one of the nation’s elite athletic programs, ACU sports has seen some tremendous athletes during the last century; however, four stand out as the greatest among Wildcats:
Naimadu (’08) may be the youngest member of our “Mount,” but he’s certainly no less deserving than any other athlete. Naimadu is the only NCAA athlete in any division to win four consecutive national titles in cross-country. During his four-year career, Naimadu led the Wildcats to four Lone Star Conference titles and a pair of Division II national titles in 2006 and 2007.
Ennis-London (’99) is one of the most decorated athletes in ACU history. She is the only woman in NCAA history to win eight national titles in hurdles. She represented her home country and summer Olympic powerhouse Jamaica at three Olympic Games, with a fourth-place finish in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Ennis-London has won three medals in the women’s 100-meter hurdles at the World Championships: silver in 2005 and a bronze in both the 2007 and 2009 championships. She was inducted to the ACU Hall of Fame in 2009, her first year of eligibility.
During his four years in Abilene, Montgomery compiled one of the greatest careers in ACU and NAIA history as a running back. From 1973-76 he set the NAIA record for touchdowns with 76 and helped lead the Wildcats to the 1973 National Championship. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the sixth round of the 1977 NFL draft and he went on to play eight solid seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, attending two Pro Bowls. Montgomery rushed for 6,789 yards in the NFL, scoring 57 touchdowns. He served as running back coach for the St. Louis Rams from 1997-2005, where he helped develop two all-Pro backs, Marshall Faulk and Stephen Jackson. Montgomery is now the running back coach for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens moved up to the No. 4 rushing team in the NFL during his first season as a coach, after ranking No. 16 the season before. Montgomery was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Morrow is possibly the greatest athlete in ACU history and by far its greatest Olympian. Morrow graduated from ACU in 1958 but left his mark on the world of track and field during his time in Abilene. Morrow was the most dominating athlete on the planet in 1956, capturing three gold medals at the Olympic games in Australia. Sports Illustrated named him the 1956 Sportsman of the Year, placing him among greats like Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods. He set the world record in the 200-meter and 4×100-meter relays in 1956. During his time at ACU, he collected 14 sprint national chanpionships. He was inducted into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975, the ACU Sports Hall of Fame in 1988 and the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1989.
These four athletes stand alone as the greatest among greats, the cream of ACU’s crop. The Wildcats have won 62 team national championships; only USC, UCLA and Stanford have won more titles. The Lone Star Conference was created in 1973, and ACU has won 143 conference titles, more than twice as many as the school with the second-most LSC titles.
Thus a monument to the all-time greats is a fitting tribute, a reminder of what a privilege it is to walk the same halls as some of the worlds most amazing athletes.
This story is by Jeff Craig and Brandon Tripp