Dyer was always tough to catch


POSTED: Monday, July 06, 2009

Combine Gary Allen and Chad Owens and what do you get?

Many old-time Hawaii football fans would say Skippy Dyer.

Perhaps no greater all-around running back ever wore the green and white than Dyer of the 1955 and 1956 teams.

First, he was tremendous on kickoff and punt returns, demoralizing opponents and thrilling the crowd like Owens did nearly a half-century later.

But unlike Owens, Dyer bit off large chunks of yardage from scrimmage as a halfback.

Owens and Allen probably had the edge as receivers. Dyer could play defense, and was good on pass coverage because of his speed rather than size (5-feet-7, 160 pounds).

If Allen was the best Rainbows back ever seen at Aloha Stadium, Honolulu Stadium fans can say Dyer could do more with the ball.

“;They were around the same size, but Skippy was more muscular,”; said retired UH sports information director Eddie Inouye, who saw plenty of both. “;(Dyer) seemed like he played on skates, because he would just glide.”;

Local fans first saw Dyer in 1954 when he was a standout for the Hawaii Marines football squad from Kaneohe Bay.

UH coach Hank Vasconcellos also liked what he saw. For a few seasons the Marines—after they arrived at Kaneohe from Korea—gave UH spirited competition, as the university lacked the funds to enjoy a college-only schedule.

Out of the Marines and into the UH backfield, Dyer paid immediate dividends as Hawaii earned a heroic fourth-quarter victory 6-0 over Nebraska on a hot afternoon in Lincoln to open the 1955 season.

“;I did have expectations of winning, but it was intimidating,”; teammate Charles Araki said. “;We went in awed, the stadium so big compared to Honolulu Stadium. A sea of red in the stands. They were warming up goal post to goal post, about 90 players. We had less than 30.”;

The Huskers played in platoons, the Rainbows were forced to go both ways. So Nebraska's plan seemed sound: pound away.

Vasconcellos, thinking about this all winter, anticipated it. He fielded an eight-man defensive line against the Huskers.

“;Our basic defense was a six-man front, but the linebackers jumped up,”; said Araki, who played both sides of the line in that game.

Vasconcellos gambled that with Dyer's speed he and one other back (Ed Kawawaki) would cover the rarely used Nebraska receivers, just two rovers alone behind the eight-man wall. Don Botelho was the lone safety, Araki said.

Nebraska ran at will in a 50-0 win in Honolulu against the 1954 team.

Nebraska ran nowhere in Lincoln in 1955.

The Huskers spent the whole afternoon gaining 2 yards at a crack, three and out.

“;There were no gaps, they couldn't run. It was amazing they didn't pass (earlier),”; Araki said.

In the fourth quarter, Nebraska finally tried to pass. The Huskers were inept and Dyer was too fast.

Brian Christopherson recounted the game for the Lincoln Journal Star. He quoted Don Bryant, who was then the senior sports editor.

“;Nebraska was never really in the game,”; Bryant told Christopherson.





        1. Hawaii 6, Nebraska 0

        (Sept. 17, 1955)

2. Hawaii 10, Washington 7
        (Sept. 15, 1973)


3. Hawaii 28, Nevada 26
        (Nov. 16, 2007)


4. Hawaii 42, San Jose State 35
        (Oct. 12, 2007)


5. Hawaii 45, LaTech 44
        (Sept. 8, 2007)


6. Hawaii 24, Oregon 21
        (Sept. 5, 1992)


7. Hawaii 68, Fresno State 37
        (Oct. 14, 2006)


8. Hawaii 20, SMU 0
        (Oct. 2, 1999)


9. Hawaii 21, Cal 7
        (Sept. 17, 1994)


10. Hawaii 31, Fresno State 21
        (Oct. 25, 2002)


Ranked by Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon; does not include games at neutral sites.




Christopherson wrote that Dyer “;made the Huskers look foolish,”; with a long kickoff return to open the game and several long jaunts from scrimmage. Hartwell Freitas punched in the only points on a 1-yard run.

On quick hits off the guards in Vasconcellos' T-formation, Dyer was noted for his shifty eyes and quick fakes. He was something of a ghost, making quick changes of direction and then, he was gone.

Dyer closed his career against San Jose State in 1956.

Two prep teams tore up the Honolulu Stadium turf in the afternoon game played in a steady downpour. Only 6,000, mostly Dyer fans, showed up for the night game. The wind was howling out of Manoa, the light towers did a dance, bulbs popping as fans ducked flying glass.

Worse yet, the Ewa end had primitive drainage. Water covered the end zone and out to the 25. Vasconcellos needed a pickup truck full of towels. Spotting by the refs at that end was almost impossible. Footballs float.

Disgusted, San Jose, probably expecting a cancellation, took the field in swim trunks with pads taped to the knees and thighs.

On that miserable night, Dyer looked great and carried Hawaii to a 20-0 win.

That was the last most of those fans and many of his teammates saw of Dyer.

“;We've tried and tried, but can't locate him,”; Araki said. “;The last we know is someone thought he was with the L.A. parks and recreation department in the '60s. But they had no record of him.

Araki said Dyer was beloved by his teammates and had many friends at UH and throughout the state.

“;We have many get-togethers over the years, and the question is always, 'Where's Skippy?' He was a real nice fella, got along with everyone on campus. You would think somebody like that would come back.”;

No one seems to know where James “;Skippy”; Dyer is, or even if he is alive.

But everyone knows where he was Sept. 17, 1955. He was in Lincoln, Neb., making Cornhuskers miss and making UH football history.


Retired Star-Bulletin reporter Lyle Nelson covered sports in the 1950s and '60s. Tomorrow we unveil No. 24.