Ken MacLean, running back on Florida State's first football team in 1947, dies at 94

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Ken MacLean could easily be described as a Gator first but a Seminole for life.

MacLean, a running back on Florida State’s first football team in 1947 who returned in the early 1960s as an assistant under Bill Peterson, died Thursday at Capital Regional Medical Center from pneumonia, according to his family.

MacLean was 94.

“He has his athletic body back again, playing on heaven’s team,” granddaughter Morgan MacLean said. “To live (to 94) is a major accomplishment. And we were able to say goodbye.”

MacLean attended the University of Florida following his graduation from Quincy High School in 1944. As a freshman he rushed for more than 180 yards against Georgia, including a record-touchdown run of 91 yards.

After a stint in the military, he returned to Tallahassee and was a prominent student voice behind FSU’s effort to field a varsity football team. MacLean was on the Seminoles’ first team in 1947 and led the team in rushing and receiving. He also had the team’s first reception from quarterback Don Grant.

MacLean was a three-year letterman in 1947, 1948 and 1949 under coaches Ed Williamson and Don Veller.

“Everyone on campus was excited; we had school spirit and football, all of a sudden, became the heartbeat of Florida State University, a rallying point unlike anything before,” MacLean told the Democrat in a 2017 interview.

FSU's first football season was played in 1947.
FSU's first football season was played in 1947.

MacLean’s coaching career included a stint as head coach at Florida High. The team’s “Stingy 11” in the early 1960s did not allow a score until the season’s final game on a punt return against Port St. Joe as it won the mythical state championship.

MacLean joined Peterson’s staff at FSU in 1963, and fellow first-year assistants included Bobby Bowden.

“He was a very talented player and a coach – we had a lot of good times back then,” said Bowden, 91, who returned to FSU in 1976 as the Seminoles’ head coach and led the program to a pair of national championships.

MacLean enjoyed a diverse professional career.

He also directed the Parks and Recreation Department in Jacksonville and was the principal at Florida High, where he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2019, and Havana Middle School.

MacLean married Bess Ringo in 1955 and had four children.

The longtime Tallahassee resident celebrated his 90th birthday in 2017 at the University Center Club inside Doak Campbell Stadium with family and friends.

“I did a variety of things over my 30-plus year career, but it was an exciting career,” MacLean said four years ago. “I changed jobs, but I still stayed pretty close to athletics. It has been a big part of my life.”

Morgan MacLean said her grandfather's television was set on sports.

“He watched sports every day on high blast, wide open in the living room,” she said and laughed.

“He wouldn’t miss anything.”

This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Ken MacLean, player on Florida State's first football team, dies at 94