The mild-mannered young man sat hunched over a thick, rare steak, munching happily and listening to a three-piece band play progressive jazz.
"I prefer classical music," he said reflectively through a mouthful of steak. Then, in answer to a question, "I expected the worst and it happened."
The mild, hungry young man was Lee Grosscup. A couple of hours earlier he had risked life and limb quarterbacking the College All-Stars against the Baltimore Colts in hot, humid Soldier Field in Chicago. The worst which had fulfilled his expectations was the 29-0 beating the Colts handed the All-Stars. Grosscup had performed well enough under the circumstances; the circumstances, in this case, were something over a half ton of Colt linemen, under whom Grosscup and the other All-Star quarterbacks spent a good deal of the evening. The Colts proved conclusively that which really requires no further proof: any time the pro team cares enough in this annual charity game, it can beat the All-Stars about as it pleases.
This is no reflection on the All-Stars and certainly none on the very capable All-Star coaching staff, headed by Otto Graham. The 1959 All-Star team was not as good as the 1958 squad, which beat the Detroit Lions, principally because it lacked speed. At a pregame banquet, when someone finished a speech by remarking, "May the better team win," Graham replied, unhappily and prophetically, "It probably will."
August 23, 1959
The reasons for the All-Star defeat are fairly simple. First, the collegians could never contain the massive Colt defensive line. As the game wore on, Graham, who had been sending out four and five receivers on pass plays, kept more and more men in to block. Even when he had seven blockers protecting Grosscup, or Baylor's Buddy Humphrey, or Michigan's Bob Ptacek, or Washington's Bob Newman, the Colts poured through. The All-Star quarterbacks, always hurried and often in the grip of Colt linemen when they threw, could never mount an effective passing offensive. The All-Star running attack shattered against the same line.
Although it is doubtful that the-All-Stars could have done much better under any conditions, they suffered a disastrous blow to their morale late in the first quarter from which they never recovered. With Gross-cup at quarterback and the All-Stars moving as well as they ever did, Houston's Don Brown started a pass pattern and was smashed to the ground by Colt Linebacker Bill Pellington. So severe was the impact that Brown swallowed his tongue. He lay on the ground, jerked spasmodically and finally stopped breathing. Only frantic work by trainers and doctors saved his life. By the time he was carried from the field and taken to the hospital, the game had been delayed 15 minutes, the All-Stars were completely demoralized, and they had been deprived of one of their most effective running backs. A couple of plays later, on fourth down, the All-Star center lofted the ball high over Punter Dave Sherer's head into the end zone and past the end line for an automatic safety, giving the Colts a 2-0 lead which mushroomed to 29-0 in the next 18 minutes.
Given time enough to compose a sonnet on every pass play, Baltimore Quarterback Johnny Unitas picked holes in the eager but often inept All-Star defense. He threw almost casually to Jim Mutscheller, Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore, three of the best receivers in professional football. Once, to add to the confusion in the ranks of the All-Star pass defense, he threw to Halfback L. G. Dupre for one of the three touchdown passes he brought off.
By the time the half ended, the game was over. In the second half Colt Coach Weeb Ewbank took a long look at his rookies and tried out Ray Brown at quarterback. Brown will have to backstop Unitas this season, now that the Colts have dealt George Shaw to the New York Giants. Working with a second-string line and backfield, he seemed good enough, although no one can deny that he is fortunate in having a secure job as a defensive halfback.
Incidentally, the All-Star scouting reports had listed Brown as vulnerable on defense. Brown plays a deep back in the Colt secondary; against the All-Stars he was all over the field, knocking down innumerable passes and intercepting one. His replacement, Rookie John Sample, intercepted a pass, too, and looked capable of fitting into the Colt secondary easily whenever Brown has to fill in for Unitas at quarterback.
None of the Colt weaknesses that All-Star coaches passed along to their players before the game materialized. "The scouting reports said Marchetti was one of the best pass rushers in pro football," Grosscup said, "but that we could gain outside of him. And they said Big Daddy Lipscomb was great at defending his part of the line, but that he didn't put on much of a rush. And that we could take advantage of Ray Brown, and that Carl Taseff came up too fast on play passes." He shook his head. "You forget a lot of that stuff in the heat of the game," he said, "but if those were weaknesses, I'd hate to see the things they're good at."
The Colt players were gracious victors. Big Daddy Lipscomb, who speaks for publication with all the care and diplomacy of a candidate for office, said: "These boys were all potential pros. They were good boys." Gino Marchetti, toweling himself near by, smiled. "Sure they were," he said. "They go to Sunday School every day."
John Unitas, who looks positively scrawny by comparison with giants like Lipscomb and Marchetti, said, "We expected the All-Stars to put on a lot of pressure, but our guys took real good care of me. I always had plenty of time to throw. They gave me beautiful protection."
Milt Davis, who returned an interception for one of the Colt touchdowns, paid equally sincere tribute to the Colt defensive line: "The guys up front were in on their quarterbacks so fast we never had to worry about the long ones. We could play up tight because they never had time for anything but hooks and slants."
Probably the definitive statement was Art Donovan's. Donovan is a 270-pound tackle who has played pro football for nine years and rates as one of the best defensive linemen in the league despite his 34 years. He has a face as Irish as Paddy's pig, an incongruously high, squeaky voice, and a deep affection for his job.
"I would say they were nice boys," he said pontifically. "Nice little boys. But they got an awful lot to learn."
Most of the All-Stars began their postgraduate football studies a couple of days after the game, as rookies on the various teams in the National Football League. Grosscup, who belongs to the New York Giants, flew out of Chicago Saturday morning to Hershey, Pa., where he watched the Giants lose their first exhibition game to the Philadelphia Eagles 21-17.
"I got to start all over," he said before he left. "The Giants use different terminology and a different cadence and I'll be just about starting from scratch."
Saturday's game must have been an interesting one for Grosscup, one of five candidates for the quarterback's job on the Giant team. Coach Jim Lee Howell tested all four of the other candidates—Frank Gifford, who wants to convert from halfback; George Shaw, recent acquisition from the Colts; Don Heinrich, No. 2 behind Charley Conerly for several years, and Conerly himself.
Howell opened the game with Gifford, who was surprisingly capable, mixing short and long passes with keeper plays in which he ran the ball well. Gifford completed three of six passes, Shaw three of 10, Conerly two of four and Heinrich two of six. Probably the most effective of the quartet, though, was Conerly. The aging (38) Giant quarterback marched his team 65 yards in 11 plays in the third quarter for a touchdown and apparently has lost none of the cunning and poise which have made him the Giants' top quarterback for 11 years.
Grosscup, handicapped by his late start, may have a tough time breaking into the Giant lineup. But he is probably the best passer of the five quarterbacks and he is a cool operator under pressure, as he showed abundantly in the time he played against the Colts. He has gained some 20 pounds in the last couple of years, mostly through working with barbells, and, as Otto Graham pointed out after working with Lee in the All-Star camp, he is smart.
He has the additional advantage of being the youngest of the aspirants. Gifford, who would certainly return to his halfback post should he fail in the bid for a quarterback job, is 29; Heinrich, Conerly's well-used understudy, is 28. Shaw, probably the best second-string quarterback in football during the time he watched Unitas play from the Colt bench, is 26.
Howell has said that he will carry only two quarterbacks; and Gifford, before the training camp began, said, "I will have to be good enough to be the No. 1 quarterback or else I will be back at halfback."
Seldom has a pro coach been so pleasantly embarrassed by riches at this position. Regardless of which two quarterbacks he keeps, Howell will have prime trading material in the ones he decides to let go.
Should Grosscup assimilate the Giant offense quickly enough, he will meet some old friends Friday in Dallas, Texas. The Giants play their second exhibition game there against the team which beat them for the championship last year in the best game ever played—the Baltimore Colts.
Again, Grosscup can expect—confidently—the worst.