This story originally ran in the program for the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner, where Herb Orvis was officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
- A 1971 First-Team All-American and a two-time First-Team All-Big Eight selection.
- A member of the All-Big Eight Decade Team of the 1970s.
- Helped lead the Buffaloes to three straight bowl games and a 24-10 record.
- Coached by Eddie Crowder.
- Becomes the seventh Buffalo player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
When he was 19 years old, rangy Herb Orvis was drafted into the United States Army and wound up becoming an Advanced Infantryman because he was good with a rifle. After basic training in the U.S., his first assignment landed him in the Federal Republic of Germany where he was with the Berlin Brigade.
“I reported for duty and was assigned to the Headquarters Company in Berlin and soon learned part of our responsibility included rotational guard duties at Spandau Prison where Rudolph Hess was imprisoned,” Orvis said of the Nazi War Criminal. “We shared these guard duties with the French, British and Russian Forces. I spent many nights in a tall guard tower pondering my future after the military.”
While stationed overseas, Orvis earned his high school diploma and also was a member of the installation’s traveling football and basketball teams. He played outside linebacker and tight end for the unbeaten Bears football team, often playing much larger posts that could recruit players.
It was during this time in the late 1960s that CU Coach Eddie Crowder was on a government-sponsored coaching tour and discovered Orvis, who also had a chance to play at Army or Michigan. He chose the Buffaloes and was a force from the start, garnering Big Eight Newcomer of the Year Honors in 1969 when he had 75 tackles alone, including nine quarterback sacks.
A year later, the game that put the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Orvis and Colorado on the map was a 41-13 victory over powerhouse Penn State in Boulder. Orvis and the rest of the defense put a clamp on the powerful Nittany Lions running back combination of Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell (a 2004 Hall inductee) and ended Penn State’s 31-game unbeaten streak.
“Colorado’s reputation as a national powerhouse was finally realized,” Orvis recalled. “CU fans went wild and were featured in many national publications.”
Despite suffering a badly sprained ankle early in his senior year of 1971 during a 20-14 victory at Ohio State, the senior captain persevered and finished his career with 189 total tackles, 20 career sacks and 32 tackles for loss, which ranked second in school history at the time.
“He gives us the kind of lift on defense that a Cliff Branch runback does on offense,” said Jim Mora, CU’s interior line coach that 1971 season. “It’s the kind of thing you really can’t explain. It’s electric in its makeup and it sometimes can turn a game around.”
In 1971, CU finished 10-2 and ranked third in the country behind top-ranked Nebraska and No. 2 Oklahoma, the only teams to beat Colorado that season. The old Big Eight is still the only FBS league in history to have the top three ranked teams in the country at the end of the season.
Orvis was selected 16th overall by the Detroit Lions and played for that team from 1972-77 and later for the Baltimore Colts (1978-81). After football, he owned an art gallery, became a citrus grower, and was in the construction business before retiring in 2013.