The Bison Express is not the latest rock group climbing the music charts. And it is not the new shipping company operating out of National Airport.
The title belongs to the potent offensive unit of Howard University's football team. For the past three years, the name belonged to the five linemen who opened enough holes to help Howard gain more than 3,000 yards rushing and passing each season.
This year four year starters Dan Ambrose (center) and Keith Napier (guard) were instrumental in deciding to call the entire offense the Bison Express. The linemen were renamed the "Sweet Hog Engineers."
"Yeah, we're in the trenches doing the sweating," said Ambrose, 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior who has started every game." That's where the games are won, up front."
The Howard coaching staff and running backs would be the first to agree with Ambrose and pat the Sweat Hogs on their broad backs.
Since Doug Porter became head coach and Billy Manning took over as offensive line coach in 1974, the Bison running game has resembled a train instead of the trolley Howard fans had been seeing.
"The offensive line has always been one of our strongest points. It has been consistent for the most part," said Porter, expecting big things again from his front line this season. "It's hard to find good linemen, guys who are not looking for publicity and headlines."
Manning, a top-notch center who played for Peter at Grambling in the '60s, agreed.
"The only way linemen get noticed is when they lead a back across the goal line and the photographer is standing there or when he makes a bad mistake," said Manning, "then everyone looks at his program to find out who he is."
The linemen, who usually wear railroad engineer caps during practice, suffered through a disappointing season last year when the Bison finished 5-5-1. The team totaled only 1,793 in 1975 and 2,167 in '74.
"At times, we didn't put out like we should have," said Napier. "Once you fall way behind in a game, it's hard to give 100 per cent. We had a few young guys last year and we made a few mistakes. This year will be different. This is our (Ambrose) last year together and we plan to go full out every game. We don't plan to be behind."
If the Bison challenge peerennial powers South Carolina State and Morgan State for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, Ambrose, Napier and Co. had better keep the Big Blue Express well oiled and in high gear.
Manning has seen steady improvement each year and feels this year's group may be the finest blockers the school has seen.
Joining Ambrose and Napier (6-1,240), are sophomore tackle Mike Tarver (6-2, 255), the strongest player on the team and junior tackle Maxie Lee and sophomore guard John Jenkins.
And in case one of the Express cars malfunctions Porter and Manning are prepared to hook up one of their experienced reserves or one of 12 recruited freshmen.
"That area was one of our chief concerns. You must have good linemen," said Porter. "Half of our signees this year were linemen."
Manning keeps a chart with a list of objectives for his "Sweet Hogs." The list includes such goals as: score at least two touchdowns per game, provide the quarterback with five seconds to pass, score each time the team penetrates the opponent's 20-yard line and keep mistakes and penalties to a minimum.
Howard runs a Wing-T offense requiring quick linemen.
"We want to have our timing perfect but it takes a lot of hard work," said Ambrose, who was timed in 5:52 in the Bison Mile Run on the first day of practice. He was the fastest line man. "We want to have the best line in the MEAC and there's only way to do it. Sweat in the trenches."
Howard's line set a precendent last year. It was named league Player of the Week last year for an outstanding performance.
Those kinds of honors keep Ambrose and Napier happy and contented. It also could be a short cut to being noticed by the pro scouts, although neither Ambrose nor Napier is optimistic about being selected in the draft next year.
"It's the dream of every college football player to become a pro," said Ambrose. "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I don't give it much thought. Right now, I know this is the last of the two-a day sessions.
They may be over but the hard work for the Sweat Hogs and the Bison Express becomes important Sept. 10 against Florida A&M at Giants Stadium in New Jersey.