DODGE CITY DAILY GLOBE
By Keith Jenkins
“Kansas Sports Hall of Fame honors area royalty”
June 23, 2009
DODGE CITY —
On Oct. 4, Harold Patterson will celebrate his 78th birthday. Coincidentally, that will also be the day the Rozel native and former Garden City Community College three-sport athlete will become a member of his third hall of fame.
The Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in Wichita recently introduced its 14-member 2009 induction class, and Patterson is included. "It's an honor," Patterson said. "It's pretty cool, I guess, that it's on my birthday. It's my third time in a hall, so it's nice." An All-American center for the GCCC Broncobusters basketball team in 1952, Patterson lettered in football, basketball and baseball while in Garden and earned an induction into the school's athletic hall of fame in 1993.
Patterson went on to the University of Kansas, where he played baseball, football and basketball and was a starter for the 1953 Jayhawks basketball team. The team lost to Indiana University 69-68 in the national championship — a highlight, which Patterson said he remembers most about his time at KU.
But it was in Canada where Patterson played his way to his most prominent athletic achievements, won a selection to his second hall of fame and earned the nickname "Prince Hal." The Philadelphia Eagles selected Patterson in the 14th round of the 1954 NFL draft, but for $6,000, the 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound offensive and defensive performer declined to play in the States and took his talents up north to the Canadian Football League. "My style of play was more built for the CFL," Patterson said. "I mean, the NFL wasn't what it is now. They ran a lot. They hardly passed."
In 14 seasons in Canada, Patterson was a five-time All-Eastern defensive back and a seven-time All-Eastern and All-Canadian offensive end. From 1954 to 1960 with the Montreal Alouettes, Patterson formed a prolific tandem with quarterback Sam Etcheverry, and in 1956 the two combined for a 109-yard passing play, the longest possible play in Canadian football.
That same year, en route to winning the league's most outstanding player award, Patterson set the records for the most receptions in a season (88) and the most receiving yards in a game (338). The latter record still stands.
In 1960, the Alouettes traded Patterson and Etcheverry to the last-place Hamilton Tiger-Cats, which was highly controversial and caused quite a stir in the streets of Montreal, said Harold's nephew, Texas Christian University football head coach Gary Patterson. "I remember seeing scrapbooks of pictures of cars burning in the streets," said the 49-year-old, who attended Pawnee Heights High School and played football and baseball for the Conquistadors at Dodge City Community College. "People hated that trade."
Gary also recalled he and his family traveling to Dodge to watch Harold play because it was the only place they could go to get Canadian football on television. After three failed attempts with the Alouettes, Patterson helped lead the Tiger-Cats to three Grey Cup victories.
Patterson scored 75 touchdowns, caught 460 passes for 9,473 yards and tallied an average of 20.6 yards per play during his CFL career. He still holds the record for the most receiving yards (580) in Grey Cup History. Patterson was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1971. "I enjoyed all of it," Patterson said of his time in Canada. "I will always remember it. I had a lot of good things happen to me up there."
At 35, Patterson's career was prematurely cut short after he ruptured his spleen. He said he would have had to play two more years in order to be eligible for the league's pension. In November 2006, Canada's The Sports Network unveiled its list of the top 50 players in CFL history, and Hal ranked 13th. Two years later, the Alouettes retired his No. 75 jersey.
Harold's younger brother Ray said he acquired the nickname "Hal" from an old sports writer, then the people of Montreal added "Prince" because Harold was so beloved and well liked, almost like Canadian royally. Ray, who was an All-American defensive back for the Conquistadors football team and a starter for the college's basketball and track squads in the early '60s, said he was very proud of his older sibling's latest hall of fame induction.
"I'm very pleased with his honor," Ray said. "He's definitely deserving of such a prestigious recognition." Today, Patterson lives in Burdett and moves about slowly with a cane, since his hip and knees are ailing from the years of punishment they sustained out on the playing field. But on Oct. 4 — for one day at least — that pain will be minuscule as Patterson will celebrate his 78th birthday and his third hall of fame induction.