One-on-one with George Amundson

Alex Halsted

George Amundson was a two-sports athlete at Iowa State during the 1970s, playing football while also part of the track and field team. In 1971 as a tailback, Amundson helped lead the Cyclones to their first bowl game in school history. At one point, Amundson also held the ISU discus record.

In the 1973 NFL Draft, Amundson was selected 14th overall, and he remains the only Cyclone in school history to be a first-round pick.

You remain the only Cyclone to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft. What does that mean to you?

Right off the top, it probably means that I’m an answer to a trivia question for Iowa State. Certainly on the other hand, it was quite an honor being drafted in the first round. I’m just a product of a great coaching staff and great teammates, as well as a university that was on TV a lot with bowl games and being in the Big Eight.

What type of memory do you have from the day you were drafted?

It certainly wasn’t going to some big hotel, motel or whatever. I remember sitting in my apartment in West Lincoln Way. I got a call, and it was from the Oilers, and they said, “We’ve drafted you No. 1, and we’ll get back in touch with you with all of the negotiating and all of that.”

The big thing I remember is I couldn’t go and sign right away because I had a commitment to the track and field team. If I did any negotiating or said anything, I was ineligible for college track and field, and I wanted to compete the rest of that year.

After the national college track meet in Baton Rouge, La., we met and signed a contract.

You obviously did track and field and then football in college. What did it take for you to do those two sports in college?

In retrospect, track and field took more time than football, purely because we’d get in cars and vans and busses and go to track meets. For example we drove all the way out to Air Force to the academy out there the week before finals week.

I really do enjoy both sports because they’re comparable and completely opposite. One is a team sport, football, where your performance is dependent on 10 other guys. But in track and field, it’s you against an implement or you against the clock or a height, and you develop a sense that if you didn’t do very well, you couldn’t look to a teammate and blame someone — it was completely your fault.

I really enjoyed both track and field and football for those reasons. 

In football you helped lead the Cyclones to their first bowl game in 1971. Would you say that was your greatest memory as a Cyclone?

Certainly. And [it’s] one that we just had a big reunion in Ames last year where we had guys come back from the Sun Bowl. There were guys I hadn’t seen for 40 years, and we just had a great time.

Anytime you do something — a first — no one can match it. So it’s pretty cool being part of the first bowl game in school history, to be able to say that.

It was very memorable, the bowl itself, but I think the game prior to that against Oklahoma State, where the Sun Bowl committee was in the stands. If we beat them we’d probably get an invite, but if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t. And we beat Oklahoma State 54-0, and I think I ran for four and threw for one.

That was a pretty memorable time, everyone carrying coach [Johnny] Majors off the field and the fans. Certainly the bowl itself was also a good time. 

Back to the NFL quick, what sticks out to you about your NFL career? You had a pretty good season in 1974, I think you scored 5 touchdowns.

Well, initially the first game of that year in 1974, I think I scored three touchdowns, and I probably could have had another one, but it got stopped. Then of course I only scored a couple more the rest of that year. 

I guess what I miss and enjoyed most about professional football is sort of the same stuff you miss about college — it’s the camaraderie.

There are two fellas that I’ve stayed in close touch with, Duane Benson, who was a linebacker, and Ron Yankowski, a defensive lineman. Those two guys I’ve stayed in really good contact with, so I guess in my professional career, it’d be the friendships that have lasted through the ages that have been the neatest thing.

Along with all the anecdotal stories that I’ve picked up over the years that are interesting to some people, but every once in a while are also interesting to my wife, as well.

You probably had a chance to see the Oklahoma State game. Did that bring back any memories from that game in 1971?

Exactly. I think this game certainly was more exciting, the one this last season. But yeah, Oklahoma State has been good to Iowa State in those particular instances.

Finally, what are you up to these days, and what do you enjoy doing with your time?

Well, granted I’m an old son-of-a-gun, but I still work. I’ve been with the same company, Gulf Systems, for 28 years. We make some tools and some polyester strapping, and I sell that kind of stuff for them here in the Houston area.

My biggest thrill and my best pastime has been my three daughters, who have all went and played Division I volleyball — the oldest at Texas State, the middle one at Iowa State and our baby went to Tennessee Chattanooga. So every weekend for many years we were in some big town or little town around the country.

And something very special just three weeks ago, my wife and I are grandparents. Our oldest just had a little baby, so I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the concentration and effort for this guy — my wife and I are going to be seeing how much time we can spend with that granddaughter.