|Story Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Wiseman part of golden era
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series on the 2007 inductees into the Indian Athletic Hall of Honor, created by the ASU Lettermen’s Club to honor former ASU coaches and athletes. The induction ceremonies take place at the annual Lettermen’s Club banquet Friday night.
By Kevin Turbeville
Sun staff writer
JONESBORO — The mid-1980s were a golden era for Arkansas State University’s football program, a time of conference championships and national playoff trips.
Jim Wiseman savors the success he and his teammates enjoyed between 1984-87. At the time, however, he was too busy to appreciate what the Indians were achieving.
“When you go through it, you don’t get to sit back and enjoy it,” Wiseman said. “Every week there’s a target on your back. Everybody is shooting for you, especially when you start winning.
“In ’84, I think we snuck up on people. People didn’t realize we would be anybody. In ’85, everybody knew there was no sneaking up on anybody, that people were gunning for us. You don’t enjoy it at the time because each week you have to play your best.”
The Indians were often at their best, or at least good enough to win, thanks to Wiseman and others.
Wiseman started all 41 games the Indians played between 1985-87, clearing holes from his center position on the offensive line. He was an honorable mention All-America choice in 1986 and followed up with first-team All-America honors from both the Associated Press and Football News in 1987.
ASU was 37-14-3 during Wiseman’s career with two Southland Conference championships and four Division I-AA playoff trips. The 1986 Indians reached the I-AA championship game in Tacoma, Wash., where they lost to Georgia Southern.
“It was an incredible run, the four years we had, an incredible coaching staff with incredible players,” Wiseman said. “The thing that I cherish the most is the run in I-AA, all four teams going to the playoffs that I was a part of. It was an exciting time.”
While Wiseman is reluctant to tout his role in the Indians’ success, former ASU head coach Larry Lacewell says he shouldn’t be.
“We were a running football team, and the center was so valuable to us because he had very, very tough blocks,” Lacewell said. “He called a lot of our blocks, and his assignment frankly was a little tougher than the other offensive line positions.”
Lacewell said Wiseman, who was listed at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds as a senior, was bigger than most of the centers he had at ASU. Wiseman was also athletic enough to work as a kicker and punter, even scoring 18 points as a redshirt freshman in 1984.
Wiseman made line calls and had the obvious responsibility of snapping every play. Working together was the key to ASU’s success up front, he said.
“You could say the center is the most important part of the line, but we felt as a unit, the O-line, we were the key to the wishbone having success,” Wiseman said. “We had incredible rushing games and I can’t say I was more important than anyone else. I think we all jelled together. If one faltered, there was someone else to pick them up. That’s a testament to the coaching staff and the quality of the people I played around.”
Wiseman said former ASU assistant coach Mike Malham Sr. was the one who found him in Winchester, Mo. Bigger schools wanted Wiseman to walk on, which he said wasn’t feasible financially, and he was looking at a number of lower-division programs before the Indians called.
Malham saw Wiseman late in his senior season.
“He was at my last high school game, and he was there to look at a receiver we were playing against,” Wiseman said. “I guess I happened to have a good game and caught his eye. A month later, I was going home from school, and my high school coach said, ‘Coach Malham called and wants you to come for a visit at Arkansas State.’ I had never heard of them to that point.”
Wiseman learned quickly. He was on ASU’s scout team as a true freshman, taking his lumps along with his classmates.
Ed Troutt still occupied the center position when Wiseman was a redshirt freshman in 1984, but his kicking ability gave him a chance to contribute. He booted four field goals in five attempts, including two at Texas A&M, and made six extra points in eight attempts.
Wiseman was ASU’s full-time center for the next three seasons. There were plenty of good times as the Indians went 9-4 in 1985, 12-2-1 in 1986 and 8-4-1 in 1987, winning the SLC title during their last two seasons in the league.
ASU beat Sam Houston State, Delaware and Eastern Kentucky in the 1986 I-AA playoffs. The EKU contest, a 24-10 ASU victory at Indian Stadium, is one that stands out to Wiseman.
“I still remember how physical the Eastern Kentucky game was in the semifinals of the run to the Diamond Bowl,” said Wiseman, who was first-team All-SLC in 1986. “That was one of the most physical games I was a part of. That was two physical teams slugging it out.”
One of the few disappointments came at the beginning of the 1987 season. Northwestern (La.) State beat ASU 23-20 at Indian Stadium, snapping the Indians’ streak of 20 consecutive home games without a loss.
It was the only home loss of Wiseman’s career. ASU was 24-1-1 at home from 1984-87.
“One of the most disappointing memories is that we lost one game in the stadium,” Wiseman said. “In ’87, we started off the year and lost to Northwest Louisiana. Nobody panicked. It was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get to the playoffs. Let’s get back to work,’ and that’s what we did.”
Competing as an independent, ASU reached the second round of the I-AA playoffs in 1987 before losing at Northern Iowa in Wiseman’s last game.
ASU’s coaching staff later named Wiseman to its All-Decade team for the 1980s.
“We had a bunch of good kids, and he would be the first to tell you he was one of many,” Lacewell said. “Us being a running team, he had to be tough physically and he was that. ... Those guys had to play throughout the ballgames, and he was the kind of guy who do that.”
Wiseman was a graduate assistant under Lacewell for a year, then worked with teens at a local church for two years. He was a volunteer coach at Nettleton for a couple of years and coached at Westside from 1994-2002.
Since 2002, Wiseman has been an assistant coach at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla., under former ASU teammate James Waldrop. He also serves as the head boys’ weightlifting coach.
“That’s a good couple,” Lacewell said. “I bet you one thing — they get after whoever they’re coaching.”