THE ETCHEVERRY-MILITARY-ATHLETIC COMPLEX

HUGH HOOD September 1 1971

THE ETCHEVERRY-MILITARY-ATHLETIC COMPLEX

HUGH HOOD September 1 1971

THE ETCHEVERRY-MILITARY-ATHLETIC COMPLEX

HUGH HOOD

It’s his eyes. Paul Gadoury, the PR man for the Alouettes, says. “That’s how Sam grabs you. He minds his own business. To hear him speak, you wouldn’t know he’s around. But his eyes hold you. I see this all the time around the office, with the girls on the staff, with visitors. You watch, it’s the eyes.”

Later in the week I’m watching a TV interview with the sound turned low. Bob McDevitt, a sportscaster on Channel Six, is talking to him. My wife comes into the recreation room, sneaks up behind me and says, “He has terrific eyes.”

They are small but penetrating, thoughtful, concentrated. Sam Etcheverry looks different in the flesh from what you’d expect. Bigger. His hair is shiny black. His coloring is surprising. He isn’t tanned or swarthy as a man who plays or coaches in all weathers might be. Paler skin, the very black hair, husky, only seems short in contrast to those big linemen.

Bob McDevitt says, “At the beginning, Sam was tough to interview. He’s better now.”

A man from the Montreal Gazette says, “Sam is very inward.”

Here he is on Channel Six talking to McDevitt, still not liking the interview situation very much, his head leaning to one side, seeming to squint, answering in complete, thought-out sentences. Sam is a cultivated man, doesn’t hem and haw, answers what you ask him. I note that he answers all questions directly and with relevance, not holding back. He finishes his sentences, giving each a main verb. On TV in black and white his eyes are arresting, his voice is clear, his diction precise and good for broadcast. Traces of a southwestern drawl, an occasional “Ah’ve” for “I’ve.”

At the Autostade the administrative

offices are clumped together in a little rotunda at the main eastern entrance to the stadium, tucked up under the Bonaventure Expressway, heavy traffic whizzing past right overhead. J. I. Albrecht, director of player personnel, Red O’Quinn, general manager, and the publicity people have space here — not the most convenient office space in the world either; all the rooms a crazy lozenge shape because of the design of the stadium.

Sam’s office is some distance away, down in under the stands along a curving tunnel like a bunker in a World War II movie. The walls are painted in the cheerful Alouettes’ colors, red, green and white; every so often there is a large photograph of a team great of the recent past. An enormous metal tube — perhaps a heating conduit — curves along beside us as we approach the head coach’s room, which is small and windowless.

“Is this really going to take two hours?” he asks, a little desperately.

“Yes.”

“Oh. Well. All right then.”

He gets comfortable behind his desk, then talks very freely and openly for as long as any interviewer could reasonably ask. He is inward, I see that, but not withdrawn. He’ll talk.

“A nun just called me from Peterborough, where she teaches, for the Eastern Ontario Teachers’ Association. I’m speaking to them tomorrow night. Tuesday I’m in Kitchener. Wednesday I’m in Brantford — those are sports’ celebrity dinners for charity. I can see you again next Thursday, but I’ve got a dentist’s appointment early in the afternoon.” He stops talking all at once, opens his mouth and indicates a front tooth. “Could we make it four o’clock?”

“Sure, but

continued on page 52

ETCHEVERRY/FROM PAGE 29

why not skip that afternoon?”

“Dentists don’t bother me,” says Sam with a hint of bravado. He grins. In the 1961 season he started 12 of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 14 league games. He’s not afraid of the dentist.

Twelve out of 14 in 1961, and the first five of the 1962 schedule — 17 starts in the National Football League with a club that was figured as a contender, which means that in those two years he was one of the 10 or so best quarterbacks alive. Sitting here in the small room hidden in the guts of the Autostade in the wet spring of 1971, he doesn’t look quite big enough to have accomplished the feat.

“I remember seeing you on CBS against the Giants in New York early in the ’61 season.”

“Sure you remember that game,” says Sam. He is wearing a cherry-colored cardigan with a fuzzy nap which is almost Cardinal colored. “Tell you why. I set an NFL record that afternoon. The centre and I set it between us, I should say. We fumbled the pass from centre five times and recovered it five times. A record. We were having trouble making contact. And at that we won the game 20-10.

“Contact,” he says, “no, I have no contact with Mr. Berger. My contact with the administration is through Red.”

Mr. Berger is the other Sam. First and second Samuel. In the diamondshaped administration offices with leaking roofs, Sam Berger moves slowly around, as if uncertain he belongs here. “I may open an office in the midtown area; right now I have none,” he says. He calls softly down the passageway to J. I. Albrecht who is talking to one of the girls. “May we use your office?” JI looks at him with mock severity. “Don’t take all afternoon,” he says gruffly. But we do.

Paul Gadoury says, “Mr. Berger is totally democratic. Last night he phoned from uptown and asked me if I wanted one of his tickets for the hockey play-off. We would go together. I had to tell him I’d be down here till late, working. But that’s him, a nice simple man.”

“The CFL, yes, I’m president this year, didn’t you know?”

I didn’t know, and felt discourteous, but Sam Berger makes me feel at ease. “It isn’t an office that gets all that much publicity. None of us are in football for profit primarily, or for personal publicity. Take John Bassett in Toronto. I’m certain he’s not in the Argonauts’ administration to make money. Not primarily, I say. I think everybody in / continued on page 55

s Sam too nice to be a head coach? He replies, 'Tm not nice, not nice at all”

Etcheverry from page 52 / the league would like to do a bit better than break even if we could, that’s natural.” “Who owns the club?”

“I do.”

Short apd sweet.

Then Sam Berger says something that is obviously authentic and richly felt. “From my earliest days, I loved football. I was born and brought up in Ottawa. I went to Lisgar Collegiate. I played football at Lisgar after the first war, about 1920.” He seems to want to convey that he isn’t just an investor. “I played the game myself.” I ask him if the name “Ted Reeve” means anything to him, and see immediately that it does; his face lights up; he knows all about Reeve.

“In those days the ball was fatter and harder to pass; of course there were no forward passes for another 10 years. We didn’t wear the uniforms they do now; some of us wore hockey pants; some of us never owned a helmet, never wore one. I was articled to a lawyer’s office in Toronto, went through Osgoode Hall and was called to the Bar in 1927. I moved back to Ottawa right away, and that first season I bought football tickets and took an interest in the team, the 1927 season.”

Sam Berger gives a loud sigh. “Over 40 years ago.”

I tell him, “My brother-in-law’s dad, Edgar Mulroney, played in the Grey Cup for Ottawa in the late Twenties.”

“I believe I remember . . .”

The centre’s name was Don Gillis, I remember that,” says Etcheverry. “We hadn’t worked together during camp; we didn’t have the rhythm. I didn’t know I was going to start that New York game until I was on the plane from St. Louis, sitting beside Pop Ivy the Cardinal coach. I said, ‘Me?’ and Pop said, ‘You,’ and that was it.”

“Rough afternoon?”

“You talk about rough. When you played the Giants in those days you were mingling with the famous names of football, and I mean really mingling. We scrambled to a win that afternoon, but the Giants got it back the next season in St. Louis. Another fumble on the pass from centre, this time on the two-yard line, when Andy Robustelli broke through. The ball squirted away from me and Sam Huff picked it up and ran it in for the score. They won that game, and after it I was benched.”

“Up till then you’d been firststring?”

“That’s correct. I was unquestionably the starter through the 1961 season and through the Giants game in 1962. Mind you, there’d been a coaching switch. Wally Lemm came in from Houston, and Pop Ivy went to the Oilers in what was practically a trade. I believe that was the first time coaches switched teams like that, between the AFL and NFL. I liked Wally Lemm. It wasn’t owing to Wally that I got benched with the Cardinals. We weren’t winning, and no matter how much they like you, you have to win, and the coach is the first to feel the pressure. I liked Wally and he liked me, but he benched me all the same. Coaching isn’t easy.”

“How did you finish up in the NFL?”

“When I sat on the bench, the rest of the ’62 season, I decided to ask for my release. The St. Louis club had signed a third man at the position behind me and Charlie Johnson, so I guessed I didn’t figure in their plans, and I was right. I was released in August, 1963. There were discussions with a couple of AFL clubs, especially Denver, where they had a flock of Canadian connections. Then during the regular season John Brodie began having arm trouble, so San Francisco brought me out for a look-see. I hadn’t thrown a ball in five weeks while I sat around waiting for a deal to materialize. I didn't show the 49ers much.”

He moves restlessly in the swivel chair, back and forth to left and right. He was born in 1930. How old is George Blanda?

“I always threw the ball with a natural easy motion; it was like breathing. In San Francisco I couldn’t do it. I threw badly. The motion wasn’t there. That was my last season.”

Afterward there were scattered appointments as coach or assistant coach, then five years in Montreal with Bache and Company as a customer’s man, and finally in mid-1969 growing rumors that he would coach the Als if the team was sold to Sam Berger. A Berger purchase would bring Red O'Quinn into the Alouettes’ picture and everybody in football knew Red’s coaching choice.

“Red is the management, the best there is, unique in the league. As far as I know, we're the only CFL club to have both a general manager and an assistant general manager in charge of player personnel. Red is GM, and JI is AGM, which gives us top coverage of administrative responsibilities. It also leaves me free to function as coach.”

“When you took the job, Sam, an awful lot of people in town said you were a figurehead, a public relations coach. They were saying you were too nice to be a head coach.”

He says, “I’m not nice, not at all. I’m very impatient. You should ask my wife. I’ll tell you something. On this team I cut players personally. There are some head coaches who can’t make themselves do that. I know of one team where the players are herded into two big rooms at the end of camp, like separating sheep from goats. The ones who are going to get cut are all shoved together in one room. That’s how they find out. Other places, the names are written on a blackboard — you just come in and find the writing on the wall. I cut men myself. I don’t like it. It isn’t a nice thing to do, but it’s my responsibility. I’m no figurehead.

“You would be surprised to see what can happen in professional sport; there have been people who have tried to make trouble, start differences of opinion between me and my coaches. I won’t allow that to get started, and I don’t run the team like a democracy; it can’t be done. You can’t come out to practise, get the players around you and say, ‘All right, men, what would you like to do today?’ ”

I think everybody in this business is looking for a father in a way,” says Red O’Quinn, leaning forward and smiling in the GM’s office, a completely different style of office from Sam’s, with a great big color portrait of Sam Berger, wearing a bright blue suit, looking down from the wall. There are two deep, soft, lounging swivel armchairs, covered in rich velvety black upholstery, in front of the desk, and I’m relaxing in one of them, chatting with Red.

Never known as John William, his given names. Big, big man, five years older than Etcheverry, much taller and heavier, six feet three, played at 195 and weighs 205 this afternoon. He tries to stay around that weight. Really redheaded. According to many observers, the most able general manager in the Canadian league today. Has a Master’s degree in Business Administration with courses in Money and Banking, Economics, Accouting. No fool.

“Football isn’t a democracy,” he says, and I blink and he laughs. “You’ve heard that before.”

“From Sam.”

“I believe it’s true. I have a new rule effective this season. I will not personally / continued on page 58

football men are basically in a father-and-son relationship, says Red O’Quinn

Etcheverry from page 55

bargain with players’ agents. I don’t mind a player conferring privately with his lawyer or agent, but I will not allow an agent, who may know nothing at all about the salary system and the operational costs of pro football, to tell me what a player is worth. I know what he’s worth, and what I can pay. I know what my revenues are and my fixed charges. If I pay too much for salaries, I’m out of business. The biggest threat to pro ball — and its employment opportunities for hundreds of players — is golden-goose salary demands.

“Of course team sport isn’t a democracy. Football cannot be played by a group of individualists. You take Larry Fairholm, Pierre Desjardins, these are self-starter type guys with tremendous self-discipline, which you have got to have. If 32 distinct personalities are going to make it as a team, they have to ignore their personal wishes; they have to evaluate their teammates’ good and bad qualities. They must help one another.”

He repeats this slowly. “They must help one another.

“Football men are basically in a father-and-son relationship. Our organization intends to go along taking that line: we want disciplined young men who want to get a start in a business or professional career when they’ve finished playing. We’re not interested in recruiting stars who will unbalance the team.”

Last night defensive lineman Mike I Webster was on television to announce his difficulties with the Alouettes, an agreeable-looking, softspoken youngster with a round, innocent face. “It has been dehumanizing,” he says. “Pro football is exactly that, dehumanizing. I don’t want to be a backup man at the position. I feel I can start with any other club in the league.”

The interviewer asks, “If you feel that way, why keep playing?”

Mike gives a wise grin. “The money. I’d like to play another few years to establish myself in business. Perhaps after that I’ll write a book and blow the lid off . . .”

“Mike Webster,” says Sam Etcheverry reflectively. “He used that word, eh? I didn’t see the interview.”

“Dehumanizing? Yes. Do you agree, as the other end of the disciplinary process?”

He takes his time over this question, and comes close to speaking his innermost feelings. “It comes back to

the question of the politics of a football team. A team can’t be like a free state. Now you say that you don't admire Vince Lombardi's style. I understand that. You're used to doing what you like.”

I had said that I would not have wanted to play for Lombardi because he was too authoritarian and treated his players like robots.

“You never had any contact with Lombardi, did you?” Sam says.

“No. I’m just going by what I read.”

“He was one of Colonel Blaik’s assistants originally, at the Military Academy. I see what you’re getting at, of course. Mike Webster isn’t an undisciplined kid. One really good thing about Mike is this: he always comes and tells me. He talks about it, there’s nothing secret about his feelings and he really wants to play. I consider him third in line at his position.”

“He says he should be starting.”

“Sure he does. Naturally he thinks that if he’s any good. He has to have plenty of confidence in his ability. Mike’s a good football player, but he wasn’t a regular at Notre Dame. He was a starter for the Als under Kay Dalton, but when we came here we figured that the team had to be improved at every position.

“I think Mike has been reading something. ‘Dehumanizing.’ The fact is, he was one of our starting defensive tackles at the beginning of the 1970 season; that’s perfectly correct. Midway through the year I started to use him as the swing reliever for two other players. I moved Ted Collins into Mike’s spot. If you want a plain statement, he was simply not playing as well as Collins. I don’t think he can play as well as Collins.”

“And now he wants to be traded to where he can start?”

“I know, I know, and it won’t be easy to manage. If a man wants to be traded we’ll usually try to accommodate him unless he’s an essential part of our plans. If we can’t fit him in as a starter and there’s a place for him somewhere else, we have no objection to dealing for him. I have never denied a player an opportunity to play if I could avoid it. But in this case the western teams happen to be set at that position, defensive tackle. That leaves the three eastern clubs, six openings for a starting defensive tackle, eh? Mike has to beat some very tough competition in the three cities. Frankly I can’t see him as first string on any club, with the personnel in the league as it stands. ‘Dehumanizing.’

I don’t think so. Take our practices. We don’t overstress conditioning; our workouts are not excessively tough. We aren’t slave drivers. And another thing — there’s no nonsense about drugs in this league. Benzedrine, yes. I’ve seen lots of bennies; it’s no secret that CFL players use bennies. But not in handfuls, not to the point where it becomes a vicious practice. One other thing about the CFL: we don’t have anything like the punishing round-theclock training that they do in the NFL. We play a heavy schedule but I don’t think that the players are as completely used up in our league. You’ll see a player with us working on a graduate degree at the same time. We’ll go along with distractions that an NFL team would not allow.”

Now Sam looks puzzled, maybe a bit upset. “I’ve seen those books that tell you professional sport is cynical exploitation of the athlete and the public. It just isn't true.”

“How do you feel about long hair?”

“I don’t allow excessively long hair on the club. The way we express it is, we want the player to look neat. We don't want shoulder-length hair sticking out from under the helmet.” He pushes his fingers through the hair on the right side of his head. It’s fairly long. “See? Mine isn’t short. It’s longer than some of the players’, and I don’t care how long they wear it in the off-season. What a player does in the off-season is strictly his own affair. But during the season, we have certain rules. Moderate-length haircuts, shirts with ties. I want to see the players neat, and I’ll stick by that. We don’t exploit anybody. We do the best we can for our players. And they have their association and the new pension plan, and top professional advice. Look at what the NFL Players’ Association has accomplished.”

“How about the CFL Association?” “Now we’re getting into Red’s field, and JI’s. Talk to them.”

Before he came back to Montreal, J. I. Albrecht was director of player personnel with the Denver Broncos. With the Alouettes he’s assistant general manager, probably the smartest personnel man in the Canadian game, if the 1970 season is the standard of judgment. On the walls of his office are pegboards displaying the data on players he’s keeping track of. Up behind his desk, where you see them as soon as you enter the room, are framed photographs of three generals: Mac Arthur, Patton and Robert Neyland,

continued on page 60

Eootball, to Albrecht, is like generalship and war

Etcheverry from page 58

who re-

tired from the U.S. Army as a brigadier-general. When the press associations voted at mid-century to choose the greatest college coach of all time, Knute Rockne was at the head of the poll. General Neyland, coach at Tennessee for 27 years, was second.

J. I. Albrecht says, “I believe Rockne was selected as top man because of his untimely death. In my mind, General Neyland is the greatest of all football coaches. My 7-year-old son’s name is Hunter Joseph Neyland Albrecht.” He gestures widely at the three pictures. “My three great heroes, MacArthur, Patton, Neyland.”

“This came up when I was talking to Sam,” I say, “the parallel between coaching and military thought, that coaching tradition that comes from the Military and Naval academies, from Virginia Military Institute and some other schools, the Air Force Academy for one.”

Now we’ve got hold of something that really stirs JI. “It’s a very close parallel,” he says earnestly. “I think of General Neyland as like a father to me. I went to Georgia Military College for my undergraduate degree, majoring in military science, the history of war, strategy and tactics, logistics and supply, all that. I believe it was my military-college background that caused General Neyland to hire me. I graduated at 19. I was barely 20 during my first season at Tennessee under the general. I was with him for three seasons, 1950, 1951, 1952. He had a remarkable won-lost record in those years, and all through his 27 years as head coach. Lifetime, his teams were very nearly unbeatable: 171 wins against 27 defeats and 12 ties. Work that out over 27 seasons. It averages out at approximately seven wins, one loss and half a tie, for 27 years. I know of no head coach at a major school whose record tops that, over that length of time. Think of the consistency those teams had. That’s why I’m a Neyland man, because of that consistency. The general taught a basic, simple, single wing without any frills. Everybody in the game knows the Tennessee single-wing style; you’ll find Neyland men as coaches and assistant coaches and executives everywhere in college and pro ball. My connections in player procurement, at all levels, are through my associations with the general’s men.”

“What do you mean by a Neyland man?”

“Well, you see, there are sort of families of coaching traditions. Suppose a great coach has a long and

successful career like General Neyland at Tennessee, teaching a distinct system. He gets known for his strategy and tactics, and for his success. Then his assistants and scouts become known, and they go on to top jobs in other schools. You could make a map, kind of a geographical picture, of the main coaching traditions and the way they've spread all over the U.S. and into Canada. There are the Neyland men, the men who were Colonel Blaik’s assistants, like Lombardi and Paul Dietzel. A long line of successful coaches came out of Miami, of Ohio, like Ara Parseghian and Frank Clair. Then there’s the tradition of the split-T coaches which stems from Don Faurot. You’ll have to ask Red to tell you about Faurot. There’s the Notre Dame family stemming from Frank Leahy. Red Sanders has had a big influence. I would say that there might be from six to eight of these coaching traditions, likely not more than that. This is the kind of thing that interests me because it’s like military history, which was my field, and because football is like generalship and war.

“I’ve been collecting military aphorisms for years that would apply equally to football. I’m thinking of putting them into a book, if I can find the right collaborator. Here’s one from a fifth-century Chinese writer on war. ‘The essence of success in making war is rapidity of movement.’ Now that, don’t you see, applies equally to coaching. You can see from the pictures behind me,” he gestures over his shoulder again, “that General Patton is one of my personal idols. His European campaign illustrates rapidity of movement as well as any in history.”

“What about logistics?” I ask him. “What control do you have over it? How much do you have to be able to remember?”

He gives this a deliberate and impressive answer. “I have detailed knowledge in my personal memorybank of over 30,000 potential professional football players of the past 20 years. More than that number, because I have material on thousands of players who haven’t graduated yet.”

I find this hard to imagine, and maybe this shows in my face, because JI launches into a detailed justification of his figure. “Here are some figures to jump off from,” he says. “Every year the combined major professional leagues, what used to be the NFL and AFL, draft 468 players on

the 18 rounds

continued on page 63

took over a delicatessen team — it was strictly bologna and hot dogs

Etcheverry from page 60

of the

draft of players graduating from college and university in the given year. Twenty-six teams drafting 18 players apiece, right?”

“Got it.”

“After that there comes the freeagent draft, which is fully as important as the first one, because it includes many players who were not drafted earlier but who are good pro bets all the same. That second draft has to be taken very seriously, and another 500 are drafted there. Makes just about a thousand, right?”

“Right.”

“Over and above that first 1,000 there are the players who don’t get drafted at all for the NFL. They go to help stock other professional leagues, the Atlantic Coast, the Continental. Many players with potential for the Canadian Football League develop their skills for a couple of seasons in one of these minor pro leagues, like Tom Wilkinson or our man Steve Booras, one of our biggest finds last year. We got Steve because his father wrote letters to several CFL teams asking them to look at Steve. I would estimate that the U.S. colleges produce 1,500 professional prospects annually.”

“Then I can believe you when you talk in terms of 30,000 names. I’m convinced. What about the youngsters who haven’t even graduated yet? Do you work as far down as high school?” “Sometimes, but rarely. We pick people up as freshmen, and we start to rate them as soon as we get a line on them. I use a four-class system of grading which really amounts to this: top prospect, prospect, borderline, won’t make it. I’m not fooled too often.”

“Ever?”

“I’ve been fooled.”

He points at the enormous sheets of pegboard on the walls to right and left of his desk, well up where he can readily scan them. In the holes are little metal hooks and hanging from the hooks are round cardboard discs with light metal rims, with writing on them in different colors.

“Those with blue lettering are what I consider blue-chip prospects. Those in green are prospects, not quite blue-chip. Black lettering: Canadian prospects. Red lettering: blue-chip but underclassmen.”

I can see plenty of tags with red lettering. All tags have full data on the player, written on either side.

“You seem to keep up on under-

classmen pretty well.”

“That’s it,” says II, enjoying himself. “We’re like an auto manufacturer; we’re working today on the 1974 model. I like to have a full history on a boy so we can judge if he’ll grow any more, that sort of information.”

“It looks scary to me — I mean somebody having all that information on you, three years before you know about it.”

“We don’t make any harmful use of it,” says II, “and it’s all perfectly public. It’s a matter of keeping careful track, and it’s my job to collect as much information as I can. And besides ...”

“. . . besides, football isn’t democratic.”

“Right. But it isn’t a dictatorship either. I told you I felt like a son toward General Neyland. Be sure you get Red to talk about Don Faurot.”

“Don Faurot,” says Red, reminiscing in the GM’s big chair. “That was at lacksonville during the war, 1943. I was just 18, a big high-school graduate, I didn’t know much about anything. I came down from Asheboro, North Carolina, and joined the naval air service. I played two years at lacksonville Naval Air Station — the lacksonville Flyers — under Coach Faurot. The really memorable thing about Don Faurot is that he originated the split T, which immediately caught on with a number of other coaches at major schools — lim Tatum taught it at Maryland, Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, and it got into the Canadian game via Edmonton and had a big influence on the theory of offense in our league. It’s an attack that’s ideally suited to the Canadian game because of our wider field and the lateral motion of the quarterback. You can still see its influence in Canadian pro ball. After I played for Don, I got in four years of varsity ball at Wake Forest. So I actually played six years of college ball and 10 of pro, two years with the Chicago Bears and eight with the Alouettes.”

“Very extensive background.”

“Yes, I have a few contacts. So has II. We try to keep in touch.”

“Were you abreast of the Montreal situation before you came down here?”

“Long before. The day Mr. Berger took over officially as owner we changed 18 of the 20 names on the Alouettes’ negotiation list, on the basis of our consultations before the purchase.”

“You and I. I. Albrecht?”

“Correct. Some people say we

bought the Grey Cup; that isn’t true at all. We scouted the Grey Cup. We had scouted players who went on that negotiation list before the sale was close to completion, people like Ed George and Steve Smear. We kept a skeleton team from the previous regime, a bare 10 players. We found the other 22 for ourselves. We were all set to move when the club changed hands. Everybody worked on it, II perhaps most of all, but Sam and I worked on it too.”

“When we came in,” says II squarely, “this team had the worst personnel I’ve ever seen, absolutely. Strictly delicatessen: bologna and hot dogs.”

Sam says, “We have the ownership, the management, the personnel, all new and top quality. The rest of it is up to me.”

“Sam, looking at things today, with George Blanda still in there at 43, do you ever think that maybe you quit too soon?”

This question brings back that rueful smile. “Sure, I’ve thought that. I had opportunities to play after I left San Francisco. I had offers from Regina and Montreal the same season, 1963. But Bob Shaw, who was coaching in Regina, didn’t want to meet my salary terms, and at Montreal they asked me to come on a tryout basis.” Remembering this, he shows annoyance. “I expected to come on a tryout basis, you see, but I didn’t feel that they had to put it in so many words.” He thinks over the intervening years. “There were the Katz brothers and their franchise in the Continental League, the Rifles, in 1964. And in 1965 I was an assistant coach with the Alouettes under lim Trimble. People seem to have forgotten that, lim had me coaching the defensive backs for some reason, maybe to keep Bernie and me out of each other’s way. Finally, in 1966, lohn Newman approached me to play for the Montreal Beavers. To tell the truth, I couldn’t see myself making my comeback in that league. After that I wasn’t involved with the game. I wouldn’t be able to play now; a year or two away from the game and you’re finished for good. Sometimes I stop beside a park and hear touch football players counting the seconds, ‘One steamboat, two steamboats’ or whatever they say, and it seems to me like they’re hurrying the count. Of course I’m thinking of the fellow who has to get the ball into the air. He hasn’t that much time.” ■