Bowling Green, Ky. — Dale Lindsey, a first-team Associated Press All-America linebacker on Western Kentucky University football teams of the early and mid-1960s, will become just the fourth former Hilltopper to have a jersey retired in his honor in ceremonies at this weekend’s home game against Eastern Kentucky.
Kickoff for that contest is set for 2 p.m. (CDT) at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium on the WKU campus. The ceremony will take place at halftime on Jimmy Feix Field.
Lindsey, a Bedford, Ind., native, who grew up in Bowling Green and starred on the prep level in football, basketball and track at Bowling Green High School, was a key element in building the 1963 Toppers’ run to a 10-0-1 record, the Ohio Valley Conference title and the championship of the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
He played two seasons in the red and white, helping the Hilltoppers win 16 games against only three losses and a pair of ties — an 81 percent success ratio.
Lindsey was a cornerstone of a defensive unit that allowed an average of less than 7.5 points a game over that two-year span. In fact, the ’63 club surrendered only 484 yards (just 44.0 yards per game) on the ground in all 11 games that fall — both figures are still WKU school defensive records.
Lindsey was a seventh round draftee of the Cleveland Browns in 1965 and opted to forego his final year of college eligibility to give the National Football League a try. That was a decision that paid off for the hard-hitting, aggressive linebacker.
He went on to play nine outstanding seasons at middle linebacker for the Browns. Those Cleveland teams never had a losing season, won five division championships, participated in the playoffs six times (and were eliminated by the eventual NFL or Super Bowl champ three times and by the other Super Bowl participant on two more occasions). During that stint, he also played in the first-ever ABC Monday Night Football game, a 31-21 Cleveland win over the New York Jets on Sept. 21, 1970, in Cleveland.
He retired from the playing field following the 1973 season and immediately began what would become a 32-year career in the football coaching ranks, remaining with the Browns as linebackers coach in 1974. Lindsey spent the vast majority of his time in pro coaching working with linebackers, although he put in four seasons as a defensive coordinator and one coaching the defensive line.
In 28 of those 32 seasons, Lindsey coached on the professional level — 20 years in the NFL with San Diego (seven seasons), Washington (5), Chicago (3), Green Bay (2), Cleveland (1), New England (1) and Tampa Bay (1); four years in the Canadian Football League with Toronto; three years in the United States Football League with New Jersey (2) and Boston (1); and one year in the World Football League with Portland.
The other four seasons were split between the high school and college ranks. He returned to Bowling Green and spent two years as head coach at Warren Central High School (1977-78). In 1988, he left Green Bay to follow Forrest Gregg to Southern Methodist where he spent two seasons as the Mustangs’ defensive coordinator before returning to the pro ranks with New England in 1990.
During the first of his two stints with San Diego (1992-96), Lindsey helped guide the Chargers to two AFC West titles, three playoff appearances and one AFC championship (1994). He returned to San Diego in 2002 and spent two seasons as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator.
In 2001, he helped the Chicago Bears post a 13-3 mark on their way to the franchise’s first NFC Central title in 11 years. That club led the NFC — and was second in the NFL — in defense against the run, limiting its opposition to just 82.1 yards per game on the ground.
Lindsey, a member of the WKU Athletic Hall of Fame, was a two-time all-OVC pick and is a member of both the OVC Half Century Team and the OVC 40th Anniversary Team.
The other Hilltopper greats whose jerseys have been retired are: quarterback Jimmy Feix (’49-52), quarterback Willie Taggart (’95-98) and defensive back Virgil Livers (’71-74). Lindsey’s jersey will join the others at the stadium next season due to the renovations in progress at the facility and the potential relocating of the jersey recognitions to the interior of the Stadium.
Lindsey and his wife, Eva, live in San Diego, Calif., and they have five children — Blan, Jennifer, Kim, Johnny and Derek.