Robert Paul (Bobby) Crockett (1943–)
Bobby Crockett was a star wide receiver on the 1964 and 1965 University of Arkansas (UA) football teams, which rank among the school’s all-time great squads. As the team’s leading receiver, he earned All-American honors in 1965 before he embarked on a short-lived professional career with the Buffalo Bills.
Robert Paul (Bobby) Crockett was born on April 3, 1943, in Briggsville (Yell County) to Robert Roy Crockett and Frances Annette Crockett. He attended Dermott High School, graduating in 1962. The 6’3″, 200-pound wide receiver then went on to UA in Fayetteville (Washington County), where he played a critical role in the best two-season run in the university’s history.
At UA, Crockett was a three-year letter winner on the 1963, 1964, and 1965 Razorback teams. He was a starter on the undefeated 1964 team, and the following season he was named an All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, and he also earned All-Southwest Conference honors for catching thirty passes for 487 yards and three touchdowns.
His even better performance in the 1965 season earned him All-Southwest Conference and All-American honors. The 1965 team was undefeated in the regular season, but after the 1966 Cotton Bowl game against Louisiana State University (LSU) game ended in a 14–7 loss, the Hogs finished the season ranked second in the United Press International (UPI) coaches’ poll and third in the Associated Press (AP) poll. At the same time, Crockett finished his career with an exceptional effort, catching the Cotton Bowl record at that time of ten passes for 129 yards and the team’s lone touchdown.
Crockett endeared himself to the Arkansas faithful by gaining a reputation as a “Texas killer.” In 1964, Crockett made seven catches for 121 yards with his thirty-four-yard touchdown reception being the go-ahead score that helped the Hogs earn a 14–13 victory in Austin over the University of Texas. The following year, in a match-up of undefeated teams, Crockett not only caught an early touchdown pass, but on Arkansas’s final drive, he caught five passes for a total of sixty-eight yards, an effort that was capped by a diving catch at the one-yard line that set up the winning touchdown in the 27–24 win in Fayetteville. He was selected for the University of Arkansas’s All-Century Team in 1994 and inducted into the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor in 2002.
Following his UA career, Crockett moved on to professional football, playing three seasons in the National Football League (NFL). Before the merger of the American Football League (AFL) and the NFL, both leagues held drafts, and Crockett was drafted in the tenth round, the ninety-first player overall, by the Buffalo Bills of the AFL, while the NFL’s New York Giants selected him in the nineteenth round, where he was the 282nd overall pick. Choosing to go with Buffalo, he played for the Bills in 1966, 1968, and 1969.
Despite his rookie status, he was a major contributor to the 1966 Buffalo Bills team, which won the league’s Eastern Conference title championship with a 9–4–1 record while seeking its third straight AFL championship. Playing in all fourteen regular season games, Crocket caught thirty-one passes for 533 yards. The wide receiver averaged 17.2 yards per reception while scoring three touchdowns for a team that lost the AFL championship game to the Kansas City Chiefs, who then lost to the Packers in the first Super Bowl.
In the 1966 AFL championship game against the Chiefs, Crockett was the intended receiver on a play that was arguably the game’s turning point. Behind 14–7 with less than a minute left in the first half, Bills quarterback Jack Kemp attempted a pass to Crockett in the end zone. While Crockett’s defender had fallen down, Chiefs linebacker Johnny Robinson managed to come over from the other side of the field, intercept the pass, and then return it seventy-two yards. The play set up a last-second field goal that changed the game’s momentum and helped fuel the Chiefs’ second-half run and their eventual 31–7 rout.
After this stellar rookie season, he tore ligaments in his right leg in the first exhibition game of the 1967 season, an injury that forced him to sit out the whole season. Returning to the team in 1968, he played in nine games, catching six passes for a Bills team that finished 1–12–1. He played in only five games for the 4–10 Bills the following season. He then retired and returned to Arkansas.
Back in Arkansas, he settled into a low-key life. In 1987, he bought a store in Harriet (Searcy County) that he renamed Crockett’s Country Store. The establishment, which Crockett later sold to his son, was decorated with memorabilia from the historic 1964 Arkansas season. Much of that history was lost, however, in an October 2017 fire that almost consumed the store.
Crockett and his first wife, Michelle Williams, had three sons and a daughter before divorcing. Crockett and his second wife, Laurie, live in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties).
For additional information:
“Arkansas Razorback Football History: The Texas Rivalry.” Arkansas Razorback Football History. https://www.hawg-tales.com/hawg-tales/category/1965%20texas%20vs%20arkc34fcdc4e8 (accessed October 5, 2018).
Jenkins, Dan. “Arkansas on Top of the World.” Sports Illustrated, October 25, 1965. Online at https://www.si.com/vault/1965/10/25/607384/arkansas-on-top-of-the-world (accessed October 5, 2018).
William H. Pruden III
Last Updated: 02/03/2020