Glenn Buggs would have preferred happier circumstances for a small reunion recently with some of his ex-Iowa Hawkeyes teammates.
Buggs was asked to speak at the funeral of his former roommate, Dave Chambers, who had passed away in Florida.
Reminiscing afterward, one of his old teammates told Buggs, "I really enjoyed watching you play fullback. It was fun watching you block."
Buggs still winces when he hears that.
"I told him I hated that position," Bugg said. "When they told me they were switching me from tailback to fullback, I almost transferred. But I stayed and did it for three years for the good of the team."
He did it well enough to start and play in three major bowl games, including the 1981 Rose Bowl.
Of course in his hometown of South Beloit, older sports fans remember Buggs was one of the best athletes to ever wear the red and white of the SoBos. June 13, he will be inducted into the Beloit Historical Society's Elliott-Perring Sports Hall of Fame.
In the late 1970s, Buggs was the best running back in the Stateline as well as one of the best sprinters.
Born March 18, 1961, Buggs started setting records in track in junior high and by the time he reached South Beloit High School, freshman coach Greg Hatch talked him into coming out for football. When he graduated in 1979, he had amassed 4,337 yards rushing.
Buggs was the key man in the SoBos' attack, first under Larry Coots and then under Andy Trice. The team he played on his junior year was his best, finishing second in the SHARK Conference and defeating Hononegah and Harvard.
Buggs earned All-SHARK honors twice and Daily News All-Area First Team as a senior.
On the track, Buggs was also a star sprinter, finishing third in the IHSA State Championships as a senior.
That season, the very first Daily News Invitational meet at Turner also saw one of its best all-time showdowns between Buggs and Parkview flash Todd Phalin, arguably the best prep sprinter in Wisconsin that spring.
Phalin had run a 10.8-second time in the 100 while Buggs went 10.5. In the finals, Phalin finished in 10.9 with his SoBo rival one-tenth of a second behind. The 200 was a similar story. Phalin finished in :22.9 and Buggs second in :23.4.
"It bothered me because I lost and I thought I should have won," Buggs said. "But after the meet I wished him well and gave him a hug. That's the way it goes. You need to be humbled every once in a while. I just wish I could have had a rematch."
College recruiters were more interested in his yards-per-carry anyway. He was recruited by Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa and others.
"I think Iowa was the one school that stayed there consistently," Buggs said. "A lot of schools were a little shy of me because of the small school and small conference."
Buggs said he wanted to dispel any fears about his academic or athletic prowess so he attended Garden City Junior College in Iowa. His first season there in 1979 he rushed for 1,200 yards.
After taking recruiting visits to Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Iowa, he chose the Hawkeyes.
"I felt comfortable there and it's where I wanted to go," he said. "They had talked to me originally, but they weren't sure about me, mostly because of the small school. The competition wasn't all that strong. I needed that year of junior college ball to convince them."
He redshirted in 1980, learning how to play in a pro-set offense after earlier playing on option-attack teams. That season, he earned the Coaches' Appreciation Award as the most dedicated worker in practice.
"I got bigger, stronger and faster," he said. "I had to work out hard every day. In high school, you think you're working out hard, but you don't have the competition pushing you. In high school I could run three-quarter speed and outrun everybody. You do that over a period of time, you just become complacent. It's amazing when you step up to another level."
In 1981, the Hawkeyes tested the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Buggs' loyalty by switching him from tailback to fullback because they were thin at that position. While he wanted to be a feature back, he put his ego in check for the good of a team with Rose Bowl fever.
That season, Iowa beat No. 1-ranked Nebraska.
"That was the first game I played," Buggs said. "I was coming off an injury and I didn't think I'd play at all. I started returning kicks, had two good returns and I had some good plays at running back. I felt like I accomplished something and we won the game. When the game ended I was on the field. It was great."
Buggs had a 77-yard kickoff return against Northwestern that season.
As a sophomore, he rushed only seven times for 23 yards, but he did average 24.8 yards as a kickoff returner and played in the Rose Bowl in a 28-0 loss to Washington.
As a junior in 1982, Buggs was again listed as the team's second-team fullback on the depth chart.
"I was the quickest, fastest back on the team, but I was also one of the biggest," Buggs said. Hayden (Fry) liked the smaller running backs, the 185-pound scatbacks. Our top two fullbacks were injured. The coaches looked around and I was the closest thing we had to a fullback.
"(Football) is a team sport and you need team players who will make sacrifices in order to win," he said.
Buggs was essentially a blocking back both his junior and senior seasons. The 8-4 Hawkeyes beat Tennessee 28-22 in the Peach Bowl his junior year. The following season, he mainly blocked for Owen Gill and Eddie Phillips as the 9-3 Hawkeyes lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl, 14-6.
Buggs was a special teams star through-out his career. He received his team's MVP award after a win over Michigan State as a senior.
"That was my biggest game as a senior because I knew going in I was going to play the whole game," Buggs said. "We had a couple players hurt. I got to catch some passes, carry the ball a bit and I had a lot of good blocks. Plus I was on all the special teams."
On a pro day, he ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash for scouts from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions. But a pro career wasn't in the cards.
Twenty-six years ago, Buggs was working in Minneapolis as a branch manager for Terminex, the well-known exterminating business.
"I was out on a job," he said. "This lady started laughing when I told her my name. She said, 'Honey, with that name you shouldn't work for the company, you should be the company.'"
He did exactly that. Buggs Pest Control, based in Champlin, Minn., has been the largest exterminating business in Minnesota the past 16 years. Buggs, who has been married to Carrie Ann for three years, shares some of the managing of the company with his son, Elliot, who played football at Minnesota State.