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Regional hall of fame to induct Kelly Kent

Kelly Kent, who helped lead Abilene Christian University to its last national football championship before dying tragically at age 21, will be inducted May 7 to the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame.
A hometown high school star in nearby Cisco, Kent was a three-year letterman for the ACU Wildcats from 1977-78 and part of an all sophomore backfield – with quarterback John Mayes and tailback Alex Davis – who helped head coach Dewitt Jones’ (’65) team to an 11-1-1 record and a win in the 1977 Apple Bowl in the Kingdome in Seattle, Wash.

Kelly Kent (left) and Greg Newman celebrate ACU's 1977 Apple Bowl win in the Kingdome.
Kent will be honored at an induction banquet in the Abilene Civic Center along with former Abilene Cooper High School baseball coach Andy Malone, golfers John Paul Cain of Sweetwater and Judy Casey of Abilene, sprinter Bruce Land of Hawley, former Haskell High School and Abilene Cooper High School football coach Ray Overton, and Joe Crousen, a longtime football coach and native of Breckenridge.
A tailback at Cisco High School, Kent was named all-state as a sophomore and was selected three times to all-district and all-area teams while running for 3,500 yards and 45 touchdowns for the Loboes.
“When the late Kelly Kent graduated from high school, the Cisco Loboes made the ‘quail offense’ obsolete. Apparently no one else could make it work like he did. But then, not many running backs could run with the football like he did,” wrote Bill Hart (’53), longtime Abilene Reporter-News sportswriter and editor, in naming his all-Hart Big Country Class 3A team. “Kent’s back was to the defense and when he got the football, it was hard to figure out what he was going to do and usually he wound up in the end zone. The first high school football game I covered for the Reporter-News was Cisco versus Ranger, and Kent, then a sophomore, was starting his first varsity game. All he did was touch the football on about seven plays and he scored five touchdowns in the Loboes’ 35-0 win. One of those touchdowns came on a kick return. One year, he scored six touchdowns against Eastland and another time, he had four scores. The Mavericks were glad to see him graduate – as were many other opponents. They may have stopped him on offense, but then he’d hurt opponents by returning a kick.”
As a freshman fullback at ACU in 1976 for head coach Wally Bullington (’53), Kent blocked for future NFL all-pro tailback Wilbert Montgomery (’77) on a team that finished 9-2, was runner-up in the Lone Star Conference and won the San Jacinto Shrine Bowl. As a sophomore, Kent ran for 1,184 yards and 16 touchdowns, was named the Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game in the NAIA semifinal game (200 yards rushing) and the NAIA championship game (158 yards rushing). His junior year, Kent ran for 743 yards and scored nine TDs, and was named second team academic all-America.
He died Feb. 7, 1979, of a heart attack between his junior and senior seasons. Kent was later named to ACU’s all-decade team of the 1970s, and inducted to the 2003-04 class of the ACU Sports Hall of Fame.
For tickets to the induction banquet, call 325-668-3685 or email