What It Takes To Make a Footballer

DINK CARROLL October 1 1935

What It Takes To Make a Footballer

DINK CARROLL October 1 1935

What It Takes To Make a Footballer



WITH ONLY a couple of minutes left until full time and the score a tie, Queen’s had the ball ten yards out from their own goal-line. They were stalling against time, taking as long as they dared between plays, risking the possibility of having a down called on them for unnecessary delay, but striving desperately to gain a stalemate against Varsity in the latter’s stadium. Varsity were pressing madly forward, sneering at them, taunting them, trying to irk them into acting quickly against their better judgment. The stands were pleading with Varsity to do something and do it fast.

The Queen’s players took their time. They went back into the huddle slowly. They had their own plan. They refused to be hustled. They came out of the huddle, the quarterback called the signals deliberately, the shift started, the ball came out and was handed to the bucking back, and he plunged recklessly at the line. It swayed, braced, and went down. The referee dived in and unscrambled the mass of embattled players on the turf. No gain. Second down and ten to go! Then it began all over again—the slow lineup, the deliberate signals, the shift, and again the plunge. And again no gain.

Now Queen’s were up against it. Now they would have to let go of the ball. Upper shifted back from his position on the tertiary defense to help Coulter, the Varsity safety man, handle the Queen’s kick. The Queen’s team lined up this time in punt formation, with Munro back over his goal-line, hands extended to give his centre a mark to pass to. Only a few seconds remained. Could Queen’s hold off Varsity? The stands had taken up the cry to Varsity: “Block that kick ! Block that kick !”

The ball was passed back to Munro: the blue line swarmed over the tri-color barrier, leaping high in the air with arms upstretched. Munro held the ball until the very last fraction of a second, then dropped it carefully as his leg swished forward. The ball just cleared the upstretched Varsity arms, the tired Queen’s tacklers lashed themselves forward once more to cover the kick.

The ball spiralled to a peak, then fell off sharply, down into the arms of the waiting Coulter. The first Queen’s tackier, almost on top of Coulter, let himself go at the Varsity quarterback. Coulter sidestepped and the man shot past. Coulter bluffed a break to the left, and the next Queen’s man hesitated a fatal second. Coulter changed direction to the right, and in the same motion brought his leg up and sent a low, shooting return kick back over the Queen’s goal-line. A Queen’s back picked up the bounding ball and was immediately drowned in a wave of Varsity tacklers. A moment later the final whistle blew. Varsity’s game!

Quick Thinking

WELL, Coulter had what it takes, all right, to make a stand-out football player. Plenty of things could have happened there to provide a different wind-up to that game. What was it he had that made him do the one thing he should have done in that pinch? Football instinct?

That’s a pretty loose term, isn’t it? You hear it a lot, but it doesn’t seem to mean much when you :ome right down to cases.

No. what Coulter had was imagination. The idea of •etuming that kick didn’t

just come to him after he caught the ball. He had it all figured out ahead of time. He pictured the play from start to finish, just the way it would happen, before it did happen. He knew there was no time to lose; he knew that the quickest way to get the ball back into Queen’s territory was by a return kick; and he knew he had to run to the right to keep his kicking leg free. His imagination was powerful enough and accurate enough to enable him to picture the whole play in his mind and then enact it that way a moment later.

But wait. The drama isn’t over yet. Here’s the epilogue. The locale is the sameVarsity Stadium—the time is two

weeks later; the players are the same two teams as before. Only this time it’s Varsity on the defensive and Queen’s pressing, with only a few moments to go before the final whistle. Again the score is a tie. The championship of the Intercollegiate Union is at stake. It seems too much of a coincidence to be credible, but it’s the truth and it happened only last November. Don’t you remember?

It’s Queen’s ball on the Varsity forty-yard line over near the east sideline. There they go back into a punt formation. There’s Munro again with his hands out for that pass from centre. The same Coulter and the same Upper are back of their own goal-line waiting to receive the punt. That same football-crazy crowd is up there again, begging Varsity to break up the kick. Here comes the pass from centre, and down go the Queen’s tacklers in a flood.

Munro takes plenty of time, and gets off a beauty right down the sideline into the corner. It’s a perfect kick; it couldn’t be better. High enough to give the wings time to cover, and admirably placed in that closed corner ol the field. Now it’s boring toward the earth, and again it’s Coulter who takes it. The first tackier dives and misses. Coulter feints to the right and then—oh, gosh, would you believe it!—he’s slipped partially and gone to his knees. Now he’s up again, but it’s no use; a tackier hits him and then he’s buried back of his goal-line under an avalanche of Queen’s players. There goes the whistle, and it’s all over for another year. Queen’s are the new champions.

That’s irony—what happened to Coulter—or something very much like it. But give a thought to Munro. That was a lovely kick, we’re telling you. He was only about ten yards out from the sideline that time. Certainly it must have occurred to him that the ball might easily go into touch before it reached the Varsity goal-line. If it had, he would have been the goat. There must have been a terrible temptation to play it safe and kick to the open side of the field. But if he had, the fast-breaking Coulter might have taken it on the fly and run right out of the park with it. Nothing like that happened though, did it? No, it did not, because Munro had what it takes, too, and this time it was coolness under pressure—poise, maybe.

A Perfect Play

' I 'HERE WAS a day last fall when Argos were everything their supporters hoped they would be —the day they played Montreal in Toronto. During the first half of that game they were the same disappointing crew they had shown themselves to be on their other starts. Montreal was leading them by a touchdown and a rouge when they emerged for the second half. They had shown flashes of power, but had been going only in fits and starts, making mistakes when they got within scoring distance and throwing away their best scoring chances. But with the resumption of the game something seemed to happen to them. You could almost hear the click. They began a march downfield from a point deep in their own territory. Four times the yardsticks moved, and suddenly everyone realized they had the ball on the Montreal twelve-yard line. The frightened Montreal team tried to pull itself together. They threw back an Argo plunge and an end-run, and then it was Argos’ last down with the ball still twelve yards out. The ball was snapped, and the Argo bucking back tore at the Montreal line. Clark, Argo quarterback, faked a pass and handed the ball to Morris, who went through the other side and crossed the Montreal goal-line standing up. Not a Montreal player laid a finger on him. Argos went on to win the game.

Clark won that football game back there at the turning point by calling the perfect play. It was a simple cross-buck that the Montreal defense had stopped .our or five times in midfield without the slightest trouble. But there on their goal-line, it was the one play Montreal was not expecting, making the deception a hundred per cent perfect. In that crisis Clark had what it takes to win many a football gamt—judgment.

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What It Takes To Make a Footballer

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The Ottawa Big Four team w'as soundly trounced by Argos when it visited Varsity Stadium last season. But all of us who saw that game came away with an unforgettable picture of Abe Eliowitz on the Ottawa backfield. Big Abe, formerly a star on the Michigan State team across the line, had played sensationally in 1933, his first year in Canada. For this game, the Argo defense had been shaped to stop him. For the first three-quarters of the game Abe did everything it is physically possible for a football player to do. He hit the line, he ran the ends, he carried the kicking burden, he flung the passes. And then he went back on the second line of defense and made about sixty per cent of the Ottaw'a tackles. Few football players have ever given a better allround display, and before a hostile crowd at that.

Early in the last quarter came the highlight of the game, if not of the whole season. Ottawa, defending the south goal-line, w'as in possession of the ball about ten yards out from the west sideline near midfield. The Ottawa back field came racing out to the right, in what looked like an end run but suddenly developed into a flea-flicker play, with Abe falling back with the ball to pass. The Argo defense wised up and went in after him. He had no protection. He began to run and fade at the same time. He was tired, too. You could see that. But how he ran! He fled thirty yards across field and another twenty into Ins own territory, the Argo pack swarming at his heels and the crowd in an uproar, sure he was going to lose all that yardage. But. at the exact moment when it seemed he must go down he turned and fired a completed pass forty yards downfield, converting what looked like a twenty-yard loss into a twenty-yard gain. It was the climax to a most impressive display of allround football talent. What he had in great gobs was stamina.

A Blocked Kick

BRIAN TIMMIS, Hamilton Tiger middle wing, has performed many legendary feats on Canadian football fields, but he never looked any better than on the afternoon of the Tiger-Argo clash in Toronto last year. Though he had been playing the game as long as, if not longer than, any other player in the country, he was again the unanimous choice of the Canadian Press for a middle-wing position on the All-Star team selected at the end of the 1934 season.

Argos started this game with a rush. In no time at all they had scored a converted touchdown and three deadlines, and were leading at half-time by nine to one. It

seemed like a comfortable margin, and nobody in that whole stadium could have had any intimation of what was going to happen. Beginning the third quarter, Argos, despite their lead, refused to ease off but kept applying the pressure, and soon were in possession on the Tigers’ ten-yard line. The ball was over near one of the sidelines, and Clark, Argo quarterback, moved it out in front of the posts by calling an end run. The stage was now set for a placement kick and Argos lined up in kick formation, with two men back on the twenty-yard line, one down on one knee to take the pass from centre, the other getting ready to attempt the kick. The Tiger wing-line was setting itself lor the charge, determined to break through and either block the kick or hustle the kicker so that his aim would be spoiled.

The ball was snapped and the lines came together. The man on the ground took the pass and set the ball down carefully; the kicker stepped forward and swung his leg. But before the ball had time to rise the burly figure of Timmis stormed through in a headlong charge, the ball thumped off his chest and rebounded high in the air off to the right. Wilson, Tiger end, took it on the fly and set out for the Argo goal-line, ninety yards away. Two men got close to him, the first Clark and the other Taylor, the Argo speedster. Wilson outran Clark and, although Taylor caught him on the one-yard line, the impetus of the tackle carried them over the goal-line.

That score put Tigers in the running again and seemed to fill them with what the boys call “the old jinneger.” Only a few minutes later Timmis again broke through the Argo wing-line—reputed to be the best-trained line in the country—again blocked a kick, and again Tigers recovered, leading to another score. Tigers were never headed again that afternoon.

Fighting Spirit

WHILE watching that game we thought more than once of the Tiger-Montreal clash in Hamilton in 1931. W'arren Stevens, now coach of the Toronto Varsity team, was playing quarterback for Montreal that year and making a grand job of it. It was the year the forward pass was introduced into our game and Steve was passing ’em dizzy. Every time the Montreal team took the field the sky seemed to rain footballs. He threw short flat passes just over the line until the defense was drawn up tightly, the backs in close; then he would cross them up by firing long ones over their heads that frequently resulted in touchdowns. Tigers had been trained in a defense for the pass, but it wasn’t any use; they simply couldn’t stop Stevens. The game was one of the most thrilling in the history of Canadian football, being won and lost several times in the last few minutes. Tigers, led by Timmis. played a powerful plunging game, and Montreal, with Stevens doing his stuff, concentrated on a passing attack. It was a pretty duel, with Montreal winning in the end by completing a long pass for a major score.

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As the final whistle blew, the radio announcer dashed down and brought several players to the microphone, Timmis among them. Brian was still out of breath but he managed to gasp, “Gee, dey beat us!” and if you were one of those who heard that message you know what makes Timmis a great football player. He was incredulous. He knew Montreal had finished that game with more points than Tigers, bur he seemed to want to refuse to believe it. What Timmis has in abundance is the competitive spirit or, in plainer English, plenty of the old fight.

On that same Tiger team is a backfield player named Frank Turville. Now there are fairly astute judges of football talent who wouldn’t give you a nickel for Turville, but there are others who think he dominates the entire field. Let’s have a look at his performance on that day we were speaking about a moment ago, the day Timmis twice broke up Argo kicks.

The first Argo touchdown came as the direct result of one of Turville’s kicks being blocked. Whose fault was that? Well, maybe it was Turville’s and maybe it wasn’t. But here’s something you might like to know that might help you form an opinion. Turville has a habit of running a halfdozen steps with the ball before kicking it. The Argo coach, Lou Hay man. had observed this little idiosyncrasy of Turville’s and figured out that it should be a cinch to break through on him. The week before that game Argos developed a plan to rush Turville, hoping to block kicks on him or, failing that, to hustle him so much he might foozle a few.

According to this plan, an Argo player, Frank Tindall, was to crouch behind his own left-middle and left-inside wings when Tigers fell back into a kick formation. These linemen were to take their men out and clear the way for Tindall. This would let him through directly on Turville’s right foot, his kicking foot, and hamper him no end. Argos rehearsed this play all week. Sure enough, on the third down after the kick-off, Tindall tore through on Turville and smothered his kick, while a team-mate scooped up the loose ball and ran for a touchdown. The thing had worked out, and the Argo players were jubilant. Playing confidently, they tallied again right away and looked as though they might go on to pile up a huge score.

But what about Turville? Many a player would fold up like a busted accordion for the rest of the afternoon after getting away to a start, like that. But Turville is the best hindrunner you ever saw. He shortened his kicking address and began getting his punts away perfectly. He began taking desperate chances and getting away with them. The Tigers settled down to their regular brand of football, which isn’t bad, as other teams in the Big Four can tell you. Then came another bad break—one of Turville’s blind passes to Jeffers was recovered on the Tigers’ ten-yard line by Argos. Then came Brian Timmis’s wild charge, resulting in a blocked kick and Wilson’s ninety-yard dash to a touchdown. A few minutes later, when Timmis blocked another kick. Tigers were thrown back on their first two attempts to advance the ball. On the final down Turville went back to try a placement kick. He must have been near the forty-five-yard line, and the goal posts looked a mile away. People in the stands began to shout wamingly to the Argo players, “Watch the fake!”

Argos apparently felt that way about it, too, for they held off as though they expected the kick to be faked and an attempt made to run the end or forward pass. They did not rush Turville and he took lots of time. Too late, the Argo wingline realized that it was no fake. The arc of the ball’s flight was low, but there was plenty of leg-drive

behind it. and fifteen yards from the crossbar it seemed suddenly to rise, clearing the bar with room to spare. For a moment the crowd was stunned, seeming to find it hard to believe that the attempt had succeeded. When it did grow vocal, Turville had turned his back and was trotting back to his position for the kick-off, as if it were an everyday occurrence and not the most phenomenal placement seen in that stadium in years. There may be other kickers in Canada who could duplicate that feat, but that’s beside the point. The point is that there isn’t another who would have attempted it.

Time and again that afternoon Turville caught Box’s towering punts in full stride, risking fumbles to get a flying start, and ran them back for appreciable gains. Or he would catch a punt, draw the tacklers to him like flies, then shoot a bold pass out over their heads to Jeffers or whoever happened to be back with him, and let that player away for twenty and thirty-yard gains. Games swing on such audacious, chancetaking moves, and Turville’s play is crammed with them. So, of course, one Saturday he’s a hero and the next a bum. But the most distinguishing feature of his play is daring, and there’s room for it on any football field.

A Beautiful Play

"TDEGINA ROUGH RIDERS came east again last fall to battle Sarnia Imperials in the Dominion final. The Western team made a firm bid, but lost because they could produce no one to match kicks with Sterling or the inspired defensive play of Beach. For us the bright spot of the day was Perry’s performance in the Sarnia backfield. We had been hearing about him for a long time, but had never seen him play. From the opening whistle, then, it was Perry we were ■watching.

Sarnia opened with a stiff wind behind them. Playing their usual conservative game, they kicked frequently on the first down, ringing up two singles and a field goal in the first fifteen minutes. Perry didn’t have much chance to show. But things livened up in the second quarter when the teams changed around. To begin with, the Regina safety man fumbled a kick in his own territory and it was Sarnia’s ball on the Regina forty-yard line. Now they would have to open up. Beach faked a smash at the line and the Sarnia backfield swung out behind him on an end-run, Perry carrying the ball. Paterson, his own teammate, was outside him, and the Regina outside secondary defenseman, fearful of a pass, kept in between Perry and Paterson. Pern,' played it just right. He faked a pass to Paterson and then cut in. The Regina man, duped, then abandoned Paterson and went after the flying Perry. There was no one between Perry and the goal-line now but the Regina safety man. As he reached the safety man, Paterson came up alongside him. Perry drew the tackle and passed to Paterson, who romped over for a touchdown. By faking the pass, he held that secondary just long enough to exclude him from the action and saved Paterson for the final pass. It was a beautiful play, all the possibilities being clearly seen by Perry and brilliantly executed.

Perry has speed, a change of pace and a deceptive cross-step—all the natural attributes of a great broken-field runner—but he is alert and knowing besides, heavily endowed with football brains. He kept showing it all afternoon. Once, carrying the ball on an end-run, having gained about fifteen yards, he found himself smack up against the sideline, the tacklers driving in on him from an unescapable angle. What Perry did was to run deliberately out of bounds. He could not get away; he knew that and he knew, too, that if he took the tackle it would be a savage one. What was the point? There was nothing to be gained and something to be risked, so he simply avoided it. That was smart.

On another occasion he gathered in a punt near the sideline. The kick was short and well covered; the tacklers were waiting there for the ball to come down. He took the catch facing in toward the field, made a jump backward in the direction of the sideline, then wheeled around, turning his back directly on the tacklers, and ran around them for a ten-yard gain, being brought down almost in the centre of the field. He used his head when he took that catch. If he had muffed the ball, the way he was facing he would have had a chance to recover; otherwise it would have gone off him into touch. By feinting toward the sideline he sucked the tacklers in, and was able to get around them into the open field where there was plenty of room. Had he feinted first toward the open field, the only place left for him to go would have been into touch. Now it was Sarnia’s ball, first down, without the disadvantage of having to start a play jammed up against the sideline. From any angle, that was smart football.

Love of the Game

ALL THESE men, you see, have some particular quality that makes their play stand out on the field, but they also share one quality in common. The late Jeff Russell possessed it so strongly that now, though it’s almost ten years since he was leading Montreal teams, his name is still alive in Canadian football. It is not an accident that a Jeff Russell Memorial Trophy is awarded each year to the most valuable player in the Interprovincial Union, or that Number 1 on the Montreal Big Four team, the last team he played for. is reserved in his memory. If you ever saw him play you must, remember how joyfully he used to smack the line, romp around the ends, dive under plunges or chase end-runs

from his position on the secondary defense. Fast, rangy, hard-hitting and well-poised, he gloried in the rugged contact the game offered. He was one of football’s “naturals,” and it gave you a big lift just to watch him.

There was an incident which occurred while he was still in college which may give you some idea of the appeal the game held for him. It was a Saturday afternoon before the intercollegiate season opened and the McGill squad had had an early practice in Molson Stadium. Coming down from the field, we took a short cut through the university grounds. Some kids w'ere playing punt on the campus.

“Hey, Jeff!” one kid yelled, throwing the ball to him. “Come on and play on our side.”

Jeff set down his books and kicked it back. The rest of the group kept on walking. We were down through the gates at the end of the campus before we noticed there was someone missing.

“Where’s Russell?” somebody asked.

We looked back. He had taken off his coat and was out in the middle of the campus playing with the kids.

“Let him go,” the first fellow said. “He’s nuts. He’ll be there all afternoon.”

He certainly loved the game, and so do all the good ones. You have seen the player who looks as though he had everything— build, speed and mechanical ability — but who never quite comes through. That’s the spark he lacks, and it’s this love of the game for its own sake that is the real quid pro quo in the making of great players.