RIP: Bobby Crespino, a splendid gentleman

Rick Cleveland 2007.jpg

Bobby Crespino, Ole Miss and NFL great and Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer and all-around great gentleman, died this morning following a long illness. What follows is a piece I wrote about Bobby for this website on his 75th birthday, Jan. 11. We will post details of services, which are pending.

Funny the way your mind works. Fifty-two years ago this month I saw the first football play that registers in my mind. I was eight years old at the time, and had seen plenty of football, but this is the first play I vividly remember.

Maybe it was because it was seen from the sidelines at Ladd Memorial Stadium in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. And, maybe, it was because it was just so magnificent.

My dad had arranged for my brother and me to be managers for the North team. That was the day Bobby Cleveland turned around right into an NBC camera and zipped up his pants. My mama saw it on national TV, but that’s a story for another day.

Today’s story: The play happened on the other side of the field. Norm Snead, an All American quarterback out of Wake Forest and later a first-round draft choice, dropped back to pass. He surveyed the field and then let loose what seemed like an incredibly high and long pass down the other sideline. I just remember the perfect spiral against the blue sky and how it kept going and going. It seemed, in my mind’s eye, that it would stay in the air forever.

And then, I saw this tall, long-limbed receiver gracefully running down the other sideline. He didn’t seem to be running so fast, but he was leaving everyone else behind, looking over his left shoulder for the ball at the same time. Sixty yards from Snead and yards ahead of the nearest defender, Bobby Crespino gathered in the pass and glided into the end zone. My God, it was beautiful.

Crespino, out of Ole Miss and also a first round draft choice, caught a Senior Bowl record nine passes for 214 yards that day. I had to look that up, but I remember that gorgeous pass. I will never forget it.

Years and years later, Bobby Crespino and I became friends after we both had moved to Jackson. I am forever grateful. He is such a gentleman, so kind and caring. I remember first telling about my memory of that play years and years ago. I don’t know who enjoyed the telling more, him or me.

Bobby lives in Atlanta now, and he turns 75 today (January 11).

Happy birthday to you Bobby. And thank-you, as always, for the memory.

3 thoughts on “RIP: Bobby Crespino, a splendid gentleman”

  1. My favorite story of Bobby is when The Crespinos came to our wedding announcement party with the Dotys. I turned to my wife and said, “That kind man played with Jim Brown.” My wife, the classically-trained flutist (and just warming to sports fandom) asked, “Oh! A musician! What does he play?”

    I said, “The sideline, Dr. Collins. Sideline to sideline.”

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