• Comment

Thiel, lineman on Tech's 10-win 1976 team, dies at 57

Posted: January 1, 2014 - 9:45pm  |  Updated: January 2, 2014 - 3:00am
Get your A-J Media Digital Subscription now!
Get your A-J Media Digital Subscription now!

Those who knew him say Kenny Thiel was a big guy from a small town — not just in his physical stature but in the way he treated others.

Thiel, a former New Deal standout who was an offensive lineman on Texas Tech’s 10-2 team in 1976, died Tuesday at age 57.

“I just remember him being a heck of a player, having a lot of tenacity as an offensive lineman,” said former Red Raiders quarterback Rodney Allison, Thiel’s teammate in the mid-1970s. “He was one of the most well-liked people on the team.”

Thiel played tackle and guard for the Red Raiders and was a regular in the rotation starting in 1975. He was listed at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds in 1977, his senior season.

The year before, the Red Raiders won their first eight games and reached No. 5 in the national rankings. They ended the season with a 27-24 loss to Nebraska in the Bluebonnet Bowl and finished No. 13 in the final Associated Press poll.

Thiel graduated from New Deal in 1974. Recently retired New Deal coach Ron Mayo said he was entering junior high at the time and was awed when Thiel regularly made the short drive back to support his hometown team — even the kids much younger.

“When you’re a junior-high kid and a Tech football player shows up and comes to watch your game and talks to you, that’s pretty special when you’re a small kid,” Mayo said. “He always did that. He was always around, always very congenial. Even the last time I saw him, just a couple of weeks ago, he was such a great guy.”

Mayo said he another mutual friend remembered Thiel helping them into the stadium the day after games.

“We used to go up there on Sundays and he’d let us in Jones Stadium and we’d play flag football,” Mayo said. “He could get us in, and we’d have a flag football game on Sunday. Everybody liked him, and he would do anything if you ever asked. He was that type of guy.”

Allison and Mayo said they were both told Thiel suffered an apparent heart attack a few days ago.

“He was just a great person,” Allison said. “Just a good New Deal kid.”

A rosary for Thiel is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the Broadway Funeral Directors Chapel, located at 1901 Broadway. in Lubbock. Funeral mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church, located at 2316 Broadway.

don.williams@lubbockonline.com

• 766-8734

Follow Don on Twitter

@AJ_DonWilliams

  • Comment