Ara Parseghian and Frank Broyles were deeply concerned with three-putt greens. Their wives, Katie and Barbara, were much more fascinated with Niagara Falls. And the 7,000 Jaycees who managed not to destroy the city totally during their national convention were too busy hunting for their floats and guitars and red suspenders to notice. But last week the big news in Buffalo was the first football game of the year. It was a good one, and gave the country its first look, in professional surroundings, at the best of last season's college seniors. Most will be pro rookies, and Saturday night they seemed almost to be worth the eight hundred or so zillion dollars the NFL and AFL are paying them to put on uniforms this fall.
The occasion was the fifth annual All-America Game of the American Football Coaches Association, now the best of the college all-star games. If there is a drawback, it is that the game in Buffalo's War Memorial Stadium does not match NFL rookies against AFL rookies—something that would heighten the excitement. Instead, East plays West, and the East won 34-14, with Notre Dame Coach Ara Parseghian defeating Arkansas Coach Frank Broyles—they were Co-Coaches of the Year in 1964—just as he had done on the golf courses all week. But, as everyone knows, it matters not who wins or loses in all-star games but how the individuals play. So the real score was 2-1 in favor of the NFL.
That was the ratio by which the rookies of the older league outshone those of the AFL in a spirited, wide-open game. The countdown on potentially superb rookies also favored the NFL, and the most cheered-up team of all should be the Chicago Bears. The Bears do not have Ken Willard, recently of North Carolina, a 235-pound halfback who is built like a tackle and was rightfully voted the outstanding player for his 133 yards gained. The San Francisco 49ers have him. Nor do the Bears have sidearming John Huarte, the New York Jets' high-salaried passer by way of Notre Dame and the game's most effective quarterback. But they do have Dick Butkus, the massive, mauling Illinois linebacker; Gale Sayers, the darting, bounceup runner from Kansas; and the surprisingly good Jim Jones, a speedy, acrobatic defensive back from Wisconsin. As one envious scout said after watching the three play Saturday night, "The Bears had a hell of a draft."
As Butkus has done throughout his career, he discarded blockers like a man sorting through unappetizing ears of corn, to make repeated tackles. Keying on Sayers, Butkus was the ringleader of an East defense that thoroughly whipped the West's line and made life unpleasant for Broyles's two main quarterbacks, Craig Morton of California and Jerry Rhome of Tulsa, both of whom belong to the growing stable of quarterbacks (10, as of an hour ago) being assembled by the Dallas Cowboys.
Sayers, however, in brief jabs of glory sped into daylight, exhibited his bounding style and left the impression that—once Butkus is on his side—he will give the Bears the kind of runs they have not enjoyed since Willie Galimore's best Sundays.
This is not to detract from Willard, who had 49er Scout Pappy Waldorf beaming. Willard is a bruiser, with good moves despite his size. He breaks tackles and gets outside and drags people along. But he lacks speed, a commodity that was on show in abundance in Buffalo. Olympic Sprint Champion Bob Hayes of Florida A&M was playing flanker, for one thing. But even Hayes looked no faster than the Bears' Jones, who was the fleetest of the defensive backs, nor did he react more quickly than Clancy Williams of the L.A. Rams and Washington State, or Toledo's Jim Gray, who will be a most welcomed Jet. Almost as effective were the big linemen: Jim Norton (250, 49ers), Garry Porterfield (245, Cowboys), Jerry Rush (250, Lions), Bill Curry (235, Packers), Verlon Biggs (250, Jets), Bob Svihus (250, Raiders) and Alphonse Dotson (272, Chiefs).
Parseghian and Broyles, as pessimistic as most college coaches, were disenchanted with the talent throughout the practice sessions at the University of Buffalo. Not that the players lacked ability—indeed, 30 of them were chosen for the American Football Coaches' three All-America teams—but it was difficult to tell much with only a week to work.
"Craig Morton can't throw short and Jerry Rhome can't throw long right now," said Broyles one day.
Parseghian said, "We've got so many injuries I've got to use Roger Staubach on defense." He did, some.
The positive thinking was left to the players, and no one could have found a better Norman Vincent Peale man than Dotson of Grambling College, the Kansas City Chiefs and the West squad. Just to see Alphonse Dotson was an experience for the droves of coaches and spectators who lined the practice fields each day. He stuffs his 272 pounds into a 6-foot-4 frame, and he is the latest giant to be turned out by Grambling Coach Eddie Robinson. Grambling is the small college in Louisiana that gave pro football 320-pound Ernie Ladd and 280-pound Junius Buchanan. In dummy practice Dotson wrecked everything Broyles's team tried. And he talked.
"You know," said Dotson in a soft, high voice, "I jes' hate quarterbacks. At Grambling we didn't play lovey-dovey football. We had a dull scrimmage if there wasn't three or four fights. A Russian doctor taught me the philosophy of the game. I forget his name. Anyhow, he said you should destroy the enemy so unmercifully that he will not be prone to rise again—severely. I am sensitive, really. I paint and I sculpt and I lean more toward the modernistic and cubistic schools, and all in there. But on the football field, well, of course, Coach Robinson will tell you how I put out the three quarterbacks one day, including his son, who got his nose broke. Sometimes he would have to tell me to let the man up because he was a good cat."
Considered by the reporters and visiting coaches to be one of the five most impressive rookies in the Buffalo encampment before the game (ironically, all of them were on the losing West squad, the others being Morton, Sayers, Williams and Baylor's flanker, Larry Elkins), Dotson failed to be the king of the night. He demonstrated that he had endurance by going the entire game at middle guard and often against double-team blocking, but his victims all walked away from the scenes of their accidents.
The football world will have to wait awhile before deciding whether Alphonse Dotson is another Big Daddy Lipscomb. There probably will be an equally long trial period for the illustrious quarterbacks who began earning their illustrious bonuses in Buffalo.
Huarte got $200,000 from the Jets, Morton and Rhome $100,000 each from the Cowboys and—just think—the three of them together equaled what the Jets paid another rookie, Joe Namath, who is still recovering from a knee operation. Huarte cannot do anything well but win. He throws sidearm, but with a curious accuracy. Even when he appears to release the ball with too much haste under the pressure of a rush, and somewhat recklessly, it finds its way into a receiver's hands either by design or deflection. He threw one ball away, which Washington's Rick Redman intercepted for a touchdown, but he threw another away that his old Irish teammate, Jack Snow, caught on the rebound for a touchdown in the proper end zone.
Rhome, not so successful as Huarte, nevertheless looked better than Morton, coolly taking the West to its one legitimate touchdown of the game on a 50-yard drive in which he hit three out of four passes. But the rest of the time Rhome was blitzed by Butkus and another linebacker, Pitt's Marty Schottenheimer, and was lucky the sideline doctors did not have to perform a tracheotomy to retrieve the ball.
Morton, who has such a strong arm that he throws long passes in practice when his team wants to work on punt returns, looked less nimble than spectators had been promised. But he did live up to Frank Broyles's predictions. He threw the short ones into the dirt.
All three quarterbacks complained that they were rusty. Five months from now, when the season is half over, they probably will be just fine. By then the linemen will be pretty tired.