Football Short Stories - 11
Other authors entertain us.
"Too Small"
"The Trojan Ten: The 10 Thrilling Victories That Changed the Course of USC Football History," Barry LeBrock (2006)
It is not far geographically from East Los Angeles to Westwood, but in so many ways, the two cities are worlds apart. Growing up in the fifties, an East Los Angeles kid named Mike Garrett was a hard-core UCLA football fan who watched hs heroes play on Saturday afternoons.
While the Bruins were stringing together three straight top-five finishes, Garrett was having some early success of his own on the athletic fields of his community. When he entered Roosevelt High School in the early sixties, a sports star began to take shape, and his college of choice began to take note. In his junior year, UCLA was first in contact and then in close contact. The interest was unmistakable.
And then it was gone.
"UCLA recruited me really hard my eleventh grade year, and then they just went cold on me," he says, looking back with nearly half a century of retrospect. "Many years later, one of the UCLA guys told me that they had backed off because they thought I was too small."
Not all schools were about to make the same mistake. USC's new coach, John McKay, felt strongly that there was enough talent in Southern California alone that he could put together a winning team made up mostly of local players. His focus turned to Roosevelt High and the blossoming 5'9" prep all-American.
"McKay and USC always recruited late," Garrett remembers. "My senior year in high school, they came in and said, 'We want you,' and I said, 'OK. Let's do it.'" And just like that, colors changed, allegiances shifted and USC secured a spectacular superstar in the making who would lead them to new levels of greatness.
A member of the 1962 freshman team, Garrett caught wind of the troubles McKay had during the new coach's first two seasons at USC, and very early on, Garrett understood what lay ahead. one day, early in spring practice, McKay wanted there to be no misunderstanding. Garrett explains, "He had the entire team together and said, 'You sons of bitches are not gonna get fired.'"
Some players were taken aback, but not the bright-eyed freshman. He says, "You have no idea how hard we worked. And that made our history. McKay made modern USC football. We always felt everything on the field. I loved John McKay. I just loved him. He was the first guy I ever met that matched my tenacity in gettin' after it. McKay was a tough guy. Our workouts were very much like Pete Carroll's. We scrimmaged so much. That's when we had 120 guys. Man, it was a meat grinder. If you were faint of heart or you couldn't play with pain or soreness, you couldn't play here."

L-R: Mike Garrett with USC, John McKay, Garrett with Kansas City Chiefs
Former USC coach John Robinson says, "Mike was the fiercest. He was like a bulldog."
Anybody who ever played with him, or even saw him play, speaks glowingly of Mike Garrett's talent.
OJ Simpson: "He was almost kinetic in the way he moved, in his ability to juke guys."
Marcus Allen: "Total scat-back. Moves, speed, strength - the guy had everything."
Anthony Davis: "He was the forefather of the great runners at USC."
Rod Sherman: "He had tremendous balance and tremendous explosion. He also had an enormous amount of enthusiasm. He approached every day in practice like it was game day."
Craig Fertig: "He owes all of his success to me."
Fertig, of course, is known for his sense of humor, and he points out that the only way for a running back to get the ball is for a quarterback to either hand it to him or throw it to him. By that logic, though, Fertig owes all of his success to the centers he played with throughout his career. A bit more seriously, Fertig says, "If I was in a street fight and I could have one guy on my side, I'm takin' Mike Garrett."
Steve Brady, a tailback at USC in 1966 and 1967, says that Garrett is "the shiftiest runner I have ever seen in football. He could fake you out in a hallway."
As USC returned for the 1963 season as national champions and Rose Bowl winners, Mike Garrett was a sophomore determined to play a large role in the Trojans' success in the years ahead, and he got off to a great start. The 1963 Trojans went 7-3, with Garrett establishing himself as an offensive force. He ran for 833y, averaging a whopping 6.5ypc.
The following year was even more impressive as the slippery tailback started to garner national recognition as one of the best runners in the country. Garrett's rushing total increased to 948y, and he was heavily relied on as USC made a run at another Rose Bowl.
Color Them Spartan
The Biggest Game of Them All: Notre Dame, Michigan State, and the Fall of '66
Mike Celizic (1992)
Michigan State had roared through 1965, literally annihilating a tough Big Ten schedule, allowing fewer than 50 yards rushing per game. They had wiped out Notre Dame and Penn State, had beaten UCLA, and had gone to the Rose Bowl. But at the Rose Bowl they had lost to UCLA in their second meeting of that season. The loss cost them number one in the AP poll, which held up its final vote until the top contenders from the National Champ­ionship - Michigan State and Alabama - played their bowl games. They captured UPI's top ranking, taken after the end of the regular season, but the loss to UCLA ... left a bitter aftertaste to a spectacular season.
Most of the stars of 1965 were back. George Webster, Charlie Thornhill, and Bubba Smith headed the defense, and HB Clinton Jones, FB Bob Apisa, and E Gene Washing­ton had returned on offense. These were franchise players, and there was enough behind them to form a team that could claim to be one of the best ever. They knew it, and their goal was to fulfill that claim. ...
You could call them arrogant, and they were that, but it was the arrogance of great athletes who knew their own ability. Underlying that arrogance was a rare sense of team unity. Like Notre Dame, the Spartans had great coaching and great personnel, but other teams had had as much without reaching the same heights. It was the sense of family, of being in it not as individuals but as a team, that pushed them to another level. That and the sting of the lone defeat of 1965. ...
Notre Dame had always laid claim to a national recruiting program, but Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty had made the Irish look positively parochial. He had scoured the country from top to bottom and shore to shore and beyond to assemble his team. When he was done, he had three Hawaiians, including a barefoot kicker, Dick Kenney. He had a black quarterback. He had eight blacks - most of them from the South, which was still practically a foreign country - starting on defense.
Blacks had been playing college football for a long time, but seldom in such numbers and seldom in such key positions. Both of Daugherty's captains, Webster on defense and Jones on offense, were black. A lot of people thought white players couldn't or wouldn't perform under black leadership. The same people thought you couldn't win with a black majority. Surely blacks and whites couldn't get along, couldn't find common ground, even on the field of play. But Michigan State took all of that as added incentive. They'd prove those ideas wrong. ...

L-R: Clint Jones, Bob Apisa, Bubba Smith, Duffy Daugherty, Gene Washington, George Webster
In 1950 the National Football League began allowing free substitutions, and two-platoon football began. The NCAA, however, accepted the system only grudgingly and only over a long period of time. ... Gradually, the substitution rules were liberalized. By 1963 it was possible to substitute entire units, but the changes had to be made piecemeal, a limited number of men at a time. ... After that season ... college substitution restrictions finally were dropped entirely. The era of specialization had begun in earnest.
When Ara Parseghian went to Notre Dame in 1964, part of his stunning success could be traced directly to his ability to take advantage of the new rules. ... He put his best all-around athletes on defense and his best skill players ... on offense. Big, fast players went to the defensive line. Big, slower players to the offensive line. His talent was in being able to identify a player's best position. The result was a 9-1 season and instant celebrity status for Parseghian.
Duffy Daugherty didn't catch on quite as quickly. Enamored with offensive football, he didn't give his defense the players it needed to succeed. He also didn't fully use all his players. George Webster, for instance, alternated between offensive and defensive end in 1964, his first varsity season. But because he alternated with Bubba Smith at defensive end, both were seldom in the game at the same time. Meanwhile, Charlie Thornhill, who would become a demon at linebacker, was playing in the offensive backfield, the same position S Jess Phillips first played when he arrived on campus in 1964.
When Daugherty brought in his 1963 freshman class and introduced them to one another, many of them wondered, "What am I doing here?" Even Bubba was in awe as the coaches introduced the players to one another. It seemed that every person in the room was a high school All-American or All State at the least. Smith, who had played anonymously in a black conference, wasn't all anything. One of his high school coaches had told him that when he got to college there would be other big men to compete with. "You might not make it," the coach said.
"I don't care what you or anybody else says, I'm going to make it," Bubba told him.
But now, in this room surrounded by prime beef, Bubba Smith, the human mountain range, had doubts. Maybe the coach had been right. He turned to George Webster ... and said, "Goddamn, George, all these guys are All-Americans." And Webster replied, "Screw it."
"Yeah," Bubba said, the bravado swelling in him, "screw it."

L-R: Ara Parseghian, Charlie Thornhill, Jess Phillips
They received their equipment and started practicing, and soon Bubba and the rest of them knew they could compete. After letting the freshmen work out for a few days, Daugherty liked to bring the best of them over to the varsity practice and feed them to the first team to see what they had. The first batch he called up included Clinton Jones, Gene Wash­ington, and George Webster. Later he added Bubba. From the start the newcomers beat up on the varsity and got in fights with the upperclassmen. They didn't take anything from anyone. Right then they started to think they were something special.
If they were, it didn't show right away. When they became sophomores in 1964 and eligible to play, they looked good on paper but not on the field as they stumbled through a 4-5 season. Before the season ended, stuffed Duffy dummies were being strung up on campus ... One of the few positive things that happened in that forgettable year was the emergence of Charlie Thornhill as a linebacker. ...
From Roanoke VA, Thornhill was one of the greatest high school running backs Virginia had ever seen. He led his team to three straight league titles and scored 219 points in his high school career. He was so good that even though he went to an all-black high school, the local white citizenry flocked to his games to watch him perform. ...
Thornhill was good enough to attract the attention of Notre Dame ... He wasn't impressed with the 10 P.M. lights-out rule or the fact that there weren't any women at school, but he was on the verge of going there anyway when Paul "Bear" Bryant intervened. ...
Bryant couldn't recruit blacks because the University of Alabama was still busy fighting the Civil War, but he could scout them and tell his friends about them. One of his good friends was Duffy Daugherty.
As luck would have it, several years earlier Daugherty had been slavering over a hot young quarterback out of Beaver Falls PA by the name of Joe Namath. Daugherty recruited him heavily and dearly wanted him to run the Spartan offense, but ... he couldn't get Na­math's high school transcript past the Michigan State admissions office. Unable to take Namath himself, he told Bryant about him. Alabama's lofty admissions requirements, which had no place for blacks, proved no obstacle for Namath, who helped the Crimson Tide to a National Championship in 1964, his senior season.
When Bryant saw Thornhill, he thought of Daugherty and the favor he owed him. At a Virginia awards banquet, Bryant sought out Thornhill and told him that before he com­mitted to Notre Dame he would do well to listen to Duffy Daugherty at Michigan State. Thornhill visited the campus and liked it. He especially appreciated the fact that Michigan State allowed women to enroll and didn't make its students turn the lights out at ten.
Tumultuous Times
Football Nation: Four Hundred Years of America's Game from the Library of Congress,
Susan Reyburn (2013)
The 1969 season marked a turning point for many black athletes, who had, the previous summer, witnessed U.S. Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith raise gloved fists at their medal ceremony in Mexico City as a sign of black power. Amid the unraveling of tightly wound cultural values and widespread student unrest, black athletes actiely expressed long-held grievances regarding unequal treatment, hostile locker room environments, and pro­grams whose interest in them expired when their playing eligibility ended. Reacting to a heretofore-unknown type of player was a coach for whom the term "old school" was devised and who was flummoxed by the more freewheeling young men (white and black) who graced his roster and irritated his ulcers. The culture clash between that fraternity of coaches and their charges was even greater when it came to racial matters, and it was why so many players began asking that their teams hire black assistant coaches, who better understood them.
Of the many racial collisions affecting teams nationwide, perhaps the least expected occur­red in Laramie, Wyoming, a year after the Cowboys made their first appearance in the Sugar Bowl. Midway through the 1969 season, Wyoming coach Lloyd Eaton, who prohib­ited players from taking part in student demonstrations of any kind, summarily dismissed all fourteen black players from the squad for wearing black armbands the day before their game against Brigham Young University. The men were protesting the Mormon Church, which owned and operated BYU, for its policy that excluded black males from the priest­hood (a policy that was revoked in 1978). "The demonstrations are not against BYU because it doesn't have any black players - but because it is sponsored by the Mormon Church," said Willie Hysaw, one of the Wyoming Fourteen.

L-R: Lloyd Eaton, Harry Edwards, Sam Cunningham
Their banishment was the talk of the sparsely populated, nearly all-white state, which had high hopes for a fourth consecutive conference championship and a bowl bid. Most residents backed Coach Eaton. On campus, classmates supported the players; the student senate passed a resolution asking that they be reinstated and that student fees to the athletic department be put on hold. Black students at Colorado State suggested that their school not compete with Wyoming until the players were back on the team. The head of the Western Athletic Conference, Wiles Hallock, described the situation as a "crisis." Eaton thought perhaps his players had been egged on by other black students: "Look, most of these players are only marginal students. They come from split homes and poor families. They are usually C students at best, and we're trying as hard as we can to give them an education through football."
The coach's analysis was actually in sync with arguments sociologist Harry Edwards, author of The Revolt of the Black Athlete (1969) and orchestrator of the Olympic protest, was making in his condemnation of standard practices in collegiate athletics. Not only were many of these players brought into completely foreign environments and given little useful guidance, but, wrote Edwards, "lofty academic goals might jeopardize a black athlete's college career and thus wipe out the college's financial investment in him." Scandalous reports in the 1970s, revealing the extent to which so many college athletes - especially blacks, but whites as well - were shepherded through meaningless coursework illustrated the devastating effects of what had once been jokes about jock classes and low expecta­tions. Athletes were completing four years of player eligibility with little progress toward a degree and, in deeply embarrassing cases to both athletes and schools, with the same level of illiteracy they had the day they arrived.
Meanwhile, throughout the 1960s, desegregation lurched along in public schools throughout the country. It reached the farthest recesses of the Deep South in the early 1970s. At the University of Alabama, which had black students but no varsity gridders, Southern foot­ball's Lost Cause succumbed to the times and to the USC Trojans. Much has been made of the role Trojan TB Sam "Bam" Cunningham had on Alabama's decision to recruit black players, after he ran roughshod over the Tide in front of their fans, leading USC to a deci­sive victory in the first game of the 1970 season. (Said Virginia Tech coach Jerry Clai­borne: "Sam Cunningham did more for integration in sixty minutes than Martin Luther King did in twenty years.") Yet Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, who bristled at the notion that he was responsible for his team's monochrome appearance, had a black fresh­man in the pipeline and had, he said, invested "$100,000 ... recruiting Negro players all over the country." Considering local history, it was clear why blacks were not swarming to join the program.
Although the revered coach was frequently mentioned as a gubernatorial candidate, not even the influential Bryant could sway the state's powers-that-be to sign black players until the need arose and legal recourse ceased. "You must remember, these were dangerous times, fearful times," Frank A. Rose, the university president, told Howell Raines, an Alabama native then reporting for the New York Times, shortly after Bryant died in 1983. Even before the USC game, Rose and Bryant preferred to quietly urge alumni and busi­ness groups to accept integration rather than publicly call for it. Within fifteen years of the Bear's death, the significance of integration's effect on football was most evident, and the majority of Southeastern Conference players were black.
What a Way to Start Your NFL Career
Archie Manning (as told to Chuck O'Donnell), The Football Game I'll Never Forget:
100 NFL Stars' Stories as selected by Chris McDonnell
September 19, 1971
I was laying in the end zone after diving across the goal line with three seconds remaining in my first NFL game, in 1971 with New Orleans. My one-yard scamper around the left end had capped a dramatic last-minute march down the field, giving us a 24-20 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
Maybe this win would send us toward a Cinderella season. Maybe I would be carried off the field by my teammates. Maybe this was a defining moment for me and the team. Or maybe not.
Lying there, I happened to notice a few referees, talking about the play. As they were discussing whether I had had possession and scored - or whether it was a fumble and we were about to lose - I thought to myself, "You can't take this moment away from us. Please don't take the touchdown away from us." We had worked too hard and come too far to lose like this.
I joined the Saints that season when they made me the second pick overall in the draft. During the offseason, the Saints had traded veteran QB Billy Kilmer to make room for me to take over the starting job. Coming from the Bayou - being drafted out of Ole Miss - I naturally was viewed as the hometown boy who would be a savior of sorts. The Saints hadn't had a winning season in their first four years of existence, and I was supposed to change all that.

Archie Manning hands to Bob Gresham and passes against the Rams in 1971.
While I could see we weren't going to go out and win the Super Bowl, I thought we had the makings of a pretty good team, despite the fact that not one guy on the squad was older than 30. In fact, we had 13 rookies on the roster, and many other players were in their second or third seasons.
While we may have been short on experience, we had plenty of enthusiasm. We were upbeat entering the 1971 season opener against the Rams. They were one of the best teams in the league during that period, led by Roman Gabriel, who was a smart, strong-armed quarterback. Whether he was handing off to 1,000-yard rusher Willie Ellison or throwing to Lance Rentzel or Jack Snow, Gabriel was a superb field general.
The Rams defense was downright scary. On the front line, the team had Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Coy Bacon starting with a young guy named Jack Youngblood - who eventually became an All-Pro himself - coming in to spell them.
As if it weren't bad enough having those guys breathing down your neck, it was an oppressively hot day in New Orleans for that season opener. The teams traded field goals in the second quarter, but we broke out on top in the third quarter. I hit TE Dave Parks with a 6-yard touchdown pass, then Gresham added a 2-yard touchdown run.

L: Roman Gabriel vs Saints; R: Bob Pollard (82) tackles a Ram.
We were sky-high at that point, leading the Rams 17-3. But they weren't about to tuck their tails between their legs. Gabriel rallied his team, and the result was a field goal, a 29-yard TD pass to FB Les Josephson, and a one-yard scoring run by Josephson. Suddenly, our big lead had evaporated into a 20-17 deficit.
Doubt could have easily seeped in, but we just went out there determined to win the game. Starting at our 30 on our final drive, we methodically moved down the field. Mixing mostly passes with a few runs to keep the Rams honest, we got the ball down to the one-yard line.
There was enough time left for just one more play. We called a play where I would roll out to my left and would have the option of throwing the ball or tucking it under my arm and running into the end zone. As I took the ball from center and began to roll, I saw an opening. I told myself that I couldn't throw it - I had to run it. I put my head down and bowled into the end zone, with the ball coming loose at one point.
Was it a touchdown or a fumble? I sat and waited for the call for what seemed like an eternity. When the refs raised their hands into the air to signify a touchdown, it set off a celebration. Our players went wild. We had stolen a 24-20 victory from the mighty Rams.
So, was it really a touchdown? Did I fumble before I crossed the goal line? I honestly don't know - and looking back, I don't really care.