When Quarterback Doyle Traylor appears in the Orange Bowl against Miami's Hurricanes Saturday evening it will not be entirely through the courtesy of Baylor University. In all fairness, the Johnson & Johnson bandage people and U.S. Steel must share some of the credit.
Traylor, who was the finest schoolboy passer to come out of Texas since Sammy Baugh, is literally pieced together with surgical baling wire and adhesive. The injuries he has received while playing for the Waco Bears could fill a small medical book and might very well have hampered a playing career that promised to surpass anything that has been written about football, fact or fiction.
"Hard luck. That's all the kid has had," says Baylor Coach Sam Boyd. "Never gets hurt in a game, always in practice. He's not brittle or frail like some people say. He just plays harder and has more guts than most and the damndest luck you ever saw."
Watching the effortless grace of his movements on the field it is difficult to believe that Traylor had ever suffered anything more serious than a slight cold. Yet his left ankle, broken last year, is held together with a steel pin; his collarbone, cracked two years before, was mended with more hardware; a vertebra, down low in the hollow of his back, was replaced with a bone graft from his hip; his right fibula, broken two years ago in practice, still has to be taped tightly, carefully, every time he puts on a football suit. And there are the scars from a double hernia and spikings.
October 6, 1957
Despite all his misfortune, Traylor remains the good-humored sparkplug of the Baylor Bears.
"The team goes better with him in there," says Boyd. "They respect him. He has a rare quality of leadership that demands and gets the very best out of a player."
During a practice session at the old rodeo grounds at Waco, about 10 blocks from the quiet Baylor campus, Traylor demonstrated what Boyd meant. His backfield moved into position behind the hulking Baylor line and on the snap of the ball broke like eager cow ponies pounding after a stray steer. As they ran, the backs made yipping noises and their cleats raised little dust puffs which seemed to exaggerate their speed. They would run 15 yards or so, then hustle back to run the play again. Traylor's first unit was always back fastest. Between plays he kept up an incessant chatter, encouraging, kidding, chiding, praising. Once he called for a pass to his right tackle, Charley Bradshaw, a lumbering, 6-foot-6, 240-pound giant. Bradshaw caught the toss with all the awkward grace of a St. Bernard, then beamed while his teammates ragged him. It was illegal but it was fun. And Traylor believes firmly that football should be fun.
THE TALK IN TEMPLE
This is Traylor's last year with the Bears, and he has yet to play a full season. "Maybe I've used up all my bad luck," he says hopefully. "It sure would be nice to play out this year." It would be interesting, too, to see if Traylor could be as effective in college as he was in high school given a chance to play full time. In three years at Temple High School he broke every schoolboy passing record ever set in Texas, surpassing even the great Slingin' Sammy Baugh. He completed 273 of his 506 passes for the staggering total of 5,108 yards and 80 touchdowns. Every college in the country was after him, including Notre Dame, but Doyle, a staunch Baptist, chose Baylor, only 30 miles from home. It was in high school that Traylor first began to have troubles with his back. He wore a cumbersome brace all during his junior year and, despite this handicap, he passed for 34 touchdowns. The folks in Temple still talk about his memorable performance that year.
Although Traylor has spent more time in Waco's Hillcrest Hospital than he has playing football for Baylor, his teammates elected him their co-captain this year as a sign of the affection and esteem in which they hold him. "Thank you all," said Traylor at the banquet. "I know all my friends at Hillcrest are going to be proud of me."
Larry Hickman, Traylor's powerful running mate at fullback, fairly bristled when it was suggested that the team might be overly protective of Doyle when he is in a game. "Shoot, he can take care of his seff better'n anyone on the squad," Hickman drawled. "Doyle's tough. He don't need no protection. Ever time he got hurt in practice, there weren't no way anybody could help gettin' hurt. Like one time I remember his cleats stuck just when he got tackled. Snapped his anklebone just like that. It woulda snapped anybody's ankle with the cleats stuck like that."
Against Villanova in the season opener a fortnight ago, Traylor's defensive play was outstanding, and he showed no signs of holding back for fear of injury. He recovered a Villanova fumble on his own 2-yard line early in the game to stave off a sure score—one that might have ended the game in a 7-7 tie instead of a 7-0 Baylor win. Midway in the third period he made a splendid running interception and returned the ball 40 yards down the sidelines to the Villanova 20. The interception pulled Baylor out of a hole and set up the team's lone score.
"I get a little annoyed when people hint that maybe I'm fragile," he says. "Last time I got hurt—when I broke my ankle—they had to operate and put a pin in it. I asked the doctor then if there was something constitutionally wrong with me. He took all sorts of tests and said I was as sound as anyone he ever examined."
Miami, despite its opening day loss to Houston, is a team Baylor will be pointing for. "You can't hold back and play for next week in this league," says Clyde Letbetter, the right guard who has been drafted by the Green Bay Packers. "You hold back on a team like Miami, and they're going to beat you. When this team gets beat, it gets depressed; and you don't play your best when you're depressed. I'd rather play every game like it was the Sugar Bowl; hard, tough. We'll be out to beat that line on Saturday. Miami's a ground-power team, nothing fancy, nothing tricky. They got two-three good quarterbacks all of them left-handed passers and we got to watch them. A lefty is tricky. They don't have to stop, turn and throw. They just throw...whiz...quick before you know what's happened. They'll stay on the ground mostly, and we feel that any team that stays on the ground, we're gonna stop them sometime."
Traylor, Letbetter, Bradshaw and Hickman are close friends, and though the latter three have accumulated far more playing time than Doyle, they would not think of questioning his judgment on the field.
"We try to make it a rule not to talk in the huddles," says Traylor. "The guys are pretty good about it, too. I'll call a wrong play every once in a while, and maybe they'll know it won't work, but they try like crazy to make it go."
DOYLE'S IN CHARGE
Letbetter chimed in:
"Now sometimes big Charley [Bradshaw] or me, we'll come back to the huddle and we'll say 'I can move my man pretty good' or 'I can trap this guy,' and old Doyle he'll call the play. But the rest of the time—Doyle, he's in charge and he does all the talking."
On offense, Baylor will be using the air lanes with much more frequency than last year, thanks to Traylor. Last week, for instance, Doyle completed 11 of 15 passes to aid Baylor's 14-6 win over Houston. During a recent practice he spent most of the afternoon throwing short button hooks and spots. "I'd rather throw short," he said, "because nowadays most defensemen won't let a receiver get behind them. They'll let you get the short yardage and play to stop the home run." He had worked up a head of steam under the hot Texas sun. Sweat ran in tiny rivers from under his helmet and converged at his chin to form a little waterfall which splashed down the front of his jersey.
"The important thing when you go back to pass is not to look. You look for your receiver, and the linebacker will have the play just like you sent him a telegram. I run back maybe five or six yards, just as fast as I can, look straight up the middle and then just when I throw I spot my man. The long ones don't work so much any more. You got to pull the defense in with short stuff to set them up for the long one. Maybe you can try for two home runs a game, not much more."
Traylor does not consider himself as good a runner as Louis (Buddy) Humphrey, the second unit quarterback. Consequently he leaves most of the footwork up to his halfbacks and fullback. "When we get down close and need that yard or two for the first down or the touchdown, I'd much rather run my fullback than try a sneak," he will tell you. "I feel a fullback gets a lot more power than a quarterback on a sneak, and I'll call for the fullback most every time."
While Miami has dropped from the national ratings as a result of its surprise loss to Houston in the season opener, the Hurricanes are a team that could spoil the chances for many a Bowl hopeful, and Baylor is again looking forward to a New Year's date. So Saturday's game will be of vital importance to Coach Sam Boyd. Boyd is more than satisfied with his line—the biggest and the most powerful in the Southwest Conference, if not the nation—but is troubled by the lack of a breakaway threat in the backfield. "What we really need," he explains, "is that speed we had with Del Shofner last year. We've got some fast kids but they are either rookies or sprinters. A rookie needs experience. A sprinter—well, a sprinter can run fast but you hit him just a little bit and over he goes. He just don't have the balance. Sure, we got strong runners like Larry Hickman, and, I suppose, if you turn them loose long enough they'll bang away for the yardage. But we haven't got a real breakaway threat. Traylor, now, he's a great passer. Above average on defense. They may think they can pick on him, but he's gonna stay right in there and be tough. He's got determination. Guts."
By Saturday, Boyd may have found himself a replacement for Shofner. A sophomore, Austin Gonsoulin, and a junior, Dick Clark, have shown up extremely well for so early in the season and may earn starting roles.
Miami, on the other hand, will have a new look. After the Houston game Hurricanes Coach Andy Gustafson reached for his pencil and cheerfully stabbed at the names on his roster. The result was, and is, that Baylor will start against the strongest lineup Gustafson can present, and—until this unit drops—it will stand and fight against what many claim is the best pair of lines in college football.
Gustafson even considers the loss to tough Houston a blessing of sorts. At least, the wild-eyed Miami clientele will not be howling for a national championship in every game from now on. And his own protestations about thin reserves were shown to be completely justified. While neither of the two units he employed against Houston rambled far in the face of an efficient defense and excellent pursuit, Miami's number one unit allowed the Cougars only 45 yards in 32 formations; the second group, however, gave the Cougars everything but the water bucket—158 yards in 19 efforts. With two weeks off in which to nurse hurt feelings and bruises, the revamped Hurricane could blow up a real storm for Traylor and company on Saturday night. But it is rather doubtful that the Bears will arrive expecting fair weather.
Acromioclavicular (or shoulder) separation. Missed whole season
Double hernia operation
Right knee punctured by spike
Right fibula broken during scrimmage
Hipbone grafted to base of spine
Left ankle broken in scrimmage. Still wears pin through bone
BAYLOR FAKE AND PASS
This "home run" play is one of Traylor's favorite long passes, though to retain surprise value it can only be used once or twice during a game. Traylor spins right, fakes handoff to fullback (38) going up the middle, then fakes to left half (22) running wide to right. This draws linebackers in close. The ends, meanwhile, break down and out pulling defensive halfbacks to sidelines while right half (44) breaks down the middle. Thus, Traylor has three receivers in the deep, while only two men are covering.
BAYLOR CAN MOVE BY LAND OR AIR
The Bears have everything but a breakaway runner. Quarterback Doyle Traylor (11), one of the finest passers in college football, has four top receivers including Co-Captain Jerry Marcontell (86) so watch for a lot of passing. Fullback Larry Hickman will be in charge of the short yardage. He is a vicious runner and has exceptional balance. The line, with Guard Clyde Letbetter (79) and Tackle Charley Bradshaw (77) is big, strong and tough on both offense and defense.
MIAMI GRINDS ITS YARDAGE ON THE GROUND
Offensively, the Hurricanes are about the same as last year except for a strong fullback; and it is the fullback who makes their drive series go. In John Varone (31) and Joe Plevel (13), Miami has two good, hard-running halfbacks who are also sturdy on defense. Tackles Charlie Diamond (75) and Gary Greaves (71) are the bulwarks of the line, while Quarterbacks Bonnie Yarbrough (11) and Fran Curci (15), both lefties, provide a serious and confusing pass threat.