Billy Michael, a senior co-captain and lineman on Coach Frank Broyles' first Arkansas football team in 1958, died Friday. He was 81.
Michael, a Blytheville native, had a long career in college coaching, including a stint as Texas-El Paso's head coach from 1977-81, before retiring after the 2000 season. He was an assistant coach at Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas-El Paso, Southern Mississippi and North Texas.
Michael was a teammate of Barry Switzer's at Arkansas and coached with him at Oklahoma.
"I called him Billy Gene Michael," said Switzer, who as a head coach won three national championships at Oklahoma and a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys. "He not only was a great player, but he was an outstanding football coach and person. I really loved him. He was as close as a brother to me."
Switzer said Michael had been suffering from cancer and Parkinson's disease and died in hospice care in Columbia, S.C., where he was living with his daughter. His funeral will be in Columbia.
Michael, who played noseguard and offensive guard for the Razorbacks, began his coaching career at Port Arthur (Texas) Thomas Jefferson High School, where his players included Jimmy Johnson.
Switzer said Michael convinced Arkansas' coaches to recruit Johnson, who became a starting noseguard on the Razorbacks' 11-0 team in 1964 that won a share of the national championship. Johnson later coached the University of Miami to a national championship and won two Super Bowls as the Cowboys' head coach.
"As a player Billy was big for that era, about 225 pounds, but he could run," Switzer said. "He also was very mentally and physically tough."