Once in awhile, athletes simply have the “it” factor: that hard to find and impossible to duplicate presence of a true-born athlete.
Dick Behning, a 1958 graduate of Alpena High School, is one athlete who possessed the drive and desire to stand among the top athletes to walk through the halls of AHS.
He will be inducted into the Alpena Sports Hall of Fame on May 4 along with Mike Kollien, Andy Rohn and John Geddert.
Behning was a multi-sport star at Alpena who earned nine varsity letters in football, track and basketball. His big sport was football where he was a star running back for the Wildcats.
Behning didn’t start out his career as a running back though. Instead, he started as a lineman in junior high.
“I was about four foot tall and four foot wide, so they put me on the line. By the time I hit sophomore, junior year, I grew about two feet so they put me at running back,” he said.
While at Alpena, Behning was selected to the All-Arrowhead Conference first team, also earning a honorable mention All-State award in Class A.
Once Behning graduated high school, sports excellence followed him into college. He was given a full scholarship to the University of Wyoming as a running back.
Behning was a big running back at 5’11” and a lean 192 pounds. His size and speed gave him the kind of power his opponents feared. In fact, he set a kick off record at Wyoming by pulling off a 97-yard kickoff touchdown run.
He became the starting running back in his sophomore year in 1960 with his team utilizing a unique offensive approach.
“We mostly ran a ‘Split T’ offense (an offense which use two running backs) so I worked mostly as a blocker,” Behning said.
Behning was a huge part of Wyoming’s success during his years as a player. He helped lead the Cowboys to three straight Skyline Conference championships.
This type of success meant Behning often saw his name in the press, sometimes to humorous effect.
“One time we played a game in San Jose (California). The next day, I was in the paper as ‘Dick Behning from Alpena, Michigan’ but they spelled ‘Alpena’ as ‘E-l-P-i-n-a (El Pina),’ like it was a town down south of the border or something,” he said with a laugh.
After graduating, he got the chance to try out for the Denver Broncos, but things didn’t turn out how he had hoped.
“I lasted about an hour and a half,” he said, laughing.
Behning went on to become an assistant manager at Montgomery Ward for a few years before working for Proctor and Gamble for over 30 years, retiring in July1999.
Sports went on the back burner for Behning as he focused on his career and family, although he did help coach his son in baseball and football and is still a loyal supporter of the Broncos.
Behning still has a soft spot for Alpena athletics as well.
“I feel really elated, it’s a little bit special after 55 years to be honored for something you did so long ago, to be celebrated like that. I still have a big soft spot for Alpena and to be honored this way by them is a real amazing feeling,” he said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.