The notion that men and boys and high school football players are created equal never crosses a good Texan's mind, but there was a moment last week in Hershey, Pa., in the lobby of the Cocoa Inn on Chocolate Ave., when young Earl Maxfield faced up to this possibility. He quickly squashed it, but first he faced up to it. Maxfield is a tackle, a 245-pound brawny baby boy with a classic football profile. He is thickly muscled. His head rises straight up from his shoulders like the tip end of a cannon shell, all blond and glistening. He was standing in the lobby after lunch with a buddy, an end named Gilbert Ash, debating in which direction to strike out in search of more steak and potatoes, when the subject turned to the game.
"Those Pennsylvania boys are bi-i-i-g," said Maxfield soberly.
"You're 245 and you say that?" said Baylor Scout Pete McCulley, who previously had signed both boys to Baylor scholarships and was there to be neighborly.
"Yessir, I mean to tell you they got some big-uns."
August 22, 1965
"Their backs look like linemen," said Ash, nodding. Finally Maxfield said, "But I tell you one thing, we're quicker. Some of our boys are really swuft. I do mean swuft."
Maxfield and Ash and 31 other Texas teen-agers were in Hershey to settle an issue that arose there last year. The object at that time was to determine which state, Texas or Pennsylvania, grew the best high school football players. It would never cross the mind of a Texan or a Pennsylvanian that Ohio or California or Alabama might have something to say about that. Anyway, it was to be done by matching all-star teams—Pennsylvania's Big 33 against an equal number of Texans. Texas was aflame with indignation when its team lost 12-6, being held to two field goals. Except for Coach Bobby Layne, who would not be suckered into the snickering polemics, Texans contended that their fastest backs had been tied up in an intrastate high school all-star game and could not make the trip. The contention was mostly ex post facto and therefore pooh-poohed in Pennsylvania.
"I have thought a lot about that excuse," said Lefty James, the professorial ex-Cornell coach who has handled the Pennsylvania team for five years. "It is my opinion that it is a lot of baloney."
So what happened this year? Texas loaded up with every Tom, Dick and Harry Swifty it could find, and every fast lineman, and instructed Bobby Layne to get revenge. Even Layne was amazed by the quality of his youngsters. He said to James Harris, a halfback from Brownwood who will go to the University of Houston, "James, is it really true that you run the hundred in 9.5?" "No sir," answered Harris. "I run it in 9.4." The high school coach of Halfback Jerry Levias of Beaumont said that Jerry's statistics were so unbelievable that he had to tone them down every week to make them credible for the press and the public.
So then what happened? Texas ran away with the game 26-10, that's what happened. The Layne offense—a slick, masterful compound of traps, draws, fakes off draws, shotgun passing and running—accounted for 466 yards in total offense. Concerned that his neglect to put in goal-line plays had cost Texas on five touchdown chances the year before, Layne went big for roll-outs and counters, and Texas scored a touchdown in every quarter. Never before had an out-of-state opponent crossed the goal line of a Pennsylvania Big 33 team. When the Texas backs ran around the Pennsylvania ends (and the Pennsylvania linebackers, halfbacks and deep backs) it looked as if the chasers were wearing Army boots. Quarterback Bill Bradley, who is going to play for Texas U.—he is going to play a lot for Texas—scrambled in and out of pockets and clutching Pennsylvanians and passed for two touchdowns. He was Fred Astaire and he obviously didn't want to dance with any sweaty fat ladies. From the beginning the Texas line got the jump and the impetus, consistently driving the heavier Pennsylvanians back a yard before they could react. The Pennsylvania backs ran like linemen, too. More of them should have run like a Pennsylvania end, Ted Kwalick, who made great leaping catches of hurried passes. It was not uncommon to see the swarming Texas defense get as many as six men into a single pileup.
The game was thus a complete retaliative success for Texas, and as an attraction it now takes on the proportions of a major game, easily exceeding anything else done at a high school level. Al Clark, the game director, has had firm offers—challenges—from Ohio and California, and a suggestion from Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns that the game be played as part of a doubleheader in Cleveland, with the Browns and another pro team on the same bill. There is a possibility of national television. Texas interests talk about putting it in the Houston Astrodome. But for the present, Clark prefers the annual traffic jam in Hershey, with the stands overflowing, because the game's proceeds go to a local scholarship fund and he does not want to risk "getting too big." Texas will be invited again, he says. "We now must have the rubber."
Clark is the sports editor of the Harrisburg Patriot-News, and this year he celebrated the annual arrival of the game he started by getting pleasantly, tunefully stoned the day before. He wore a cowboy hat three gallons too large and made a genial, ambiguous speech at the foot of the Boies Penrose statue in Harris-burg as the climax of a pregame parade. Clark loves the game and runs it well, and his chief lieutenant, John Travers, can tell you the name, rank and telephone number of every reasonably proficient high school player in the state.
Coaches James and Layne treat the game with deference. "After 35 years of coaching," says James, "my throat still gets dry and my hands get clammy." James, head coach at Cornell for 14 years, is now a pool scout for the NFL. The night before the game, in the lounge at the Cocoa Inn, Layne was asked if he could generate much excitement being a head coach only once a year. His pretty wife Carol said no, that Bobby didn't look forward to it much, "only for about 12 months." (Layne ended 15 years of NFL quarterbacking in 1962. He now takes time off from business interests in Lubbock to help coach the Pittsburgh Steelers during the season.)
"This is a helluva game. It's fun," said Layne. "The kids, all of them are number-oners. Winners. I mean they give it all they've got. And smart? This Bradley kid. You have to say he's kind of spooky, the way he writes with his left hand and throws with the other and kicks with his left foot. But on the first day I'm at the blackboard telling them how most coaches tend to set up most of their plays to the right because it's natural for them to write that way. Bradley says, 'Coach, isn't their fellow named Lefty?' I almost dropped my damned chalk."
The game was sold out in July. If they had printed double the 24,500 tickets they could have sold them, too. Pennsylvania Governor Bill Scranton bet Texas Governor John Connally 1,061 apples (one for each boy who was lured out of the state by a college last fall) on the outcome. Connally, doubling the bet, put up 2,122 pecans. Texans interpreted this as "nuts to you" and laughed over John's cleverness. Connally also pointed out that more high schools—946—play football in Texas than in any other state.
Each player got a plaque, a blanket and a pecan pie for his part, and two nights before the game the chance to whip around the dance floor a few times with the local cupcakes. The cupcakes are known as the Sweet 66, and their ranks swelled to 99 this year because so many wanted to get to that dance. The rival players eat in the same dining room. They ride the same bus, one team following the other, and one day there was shaving cream all over the seats when the Pennsylvania team got on. "Kid stuff," sniffed Mike Reid, a 235-pound fullback from Altoona. "Remember the Alamo!" shouted a Texan in the distance. "Yeah, the Alamo," answered a Pennsylvanian. "That's where all them dumb Texans got massacred."
But the Texans were learning. Jimmy Harris sat down for a round of poker. The cards were dealt and the ante tossed in and Harris carefully went over his hand. "Now tell me, fellows," he said, "how do you play this game?"
The guys with the clipboards and the sunglasses were the college scouts. They came in from everywhere, but were kept hovering for the most part because the rules prohibit proselytizing until the game is over. All 66 boys had made commitments to college teams, but not all colleges subscribe to letters of intent, so the competition continues. Last year a Texas back, Wilmer Cooks, signed to go to UCLA, went to Hershey, where he encountered some powerful persuasion, and wound up a freshman at Colorado. This year the hottest quest was for Halfback Levias. SMU had signed him to be the first Negro in 51 years to play in the Southwest Conference. Nevertheless, UCLA Head Coach Tommy Prothro came to Hershey to have another try. Coaches have ways of getting around the no-contact rule. Prothro called Levias on the telephone. "He seemed cool," said Prothro, dejected.
Many of the Texas players had never been out of Texas before, and might not go again—only two of the 33 signed with schools outside the state, and one of them, Guard Ronnie Bell, had made a sudden switch from Texas to Notre Dame. "Thief," Texas Assistant Russell Coffee said to Notre Dame's John Ray as they sat discussing their recruiting successes in the lounge at the Cocoa Inn. "Thief yourself," said Ray. It is not easy to get a Texas boy to change his mind, said Ray. One of them was pointing out to another how pretty it was here in Pennsylvania, all this lovely scenery and stuff. "I reckon," said the other, "but you can't see it for those dang mountains."
On the other hand, it has always been open season on Pennsylvania athletes. Of the 33 on this year's team, only 13 agreed to stay in Pennsylvania—six signing on at Penn State, four at Pittsburgh. Others were grabbed off by teams as far away as Arizona State, Minnesota, Wyoming—and Notre Dame.
Like expectant fathers, the scouts sat for hours in the Inn and at the more lively Martini's (the Philadelphia Eagles, who train in Hershey, are instructed not to go to Martini's because it is so lively). At Martini's the conversation ran like this: "The kid chokes, he can't kick." "If he chokes he kicks it 60 yards. He kicks it good it goes a hunnerd." And at Martini's you could also get a line on the game, which happened to favor Texas by 7 points. A Burroughs B-273 computer, fed the facts by Pennsylvanians, picked the home state 20-19.
Layne said if he could not win with this team it would be all his fault. He said he had never seen a better group of high school athletes, and he worked them lightly, '"the way I'd want to work if I were in their place." The players loved him. "But Bobby's having trouble with his coaches," chirped Coffee. "They want to go to bed at night."
It was, as before, Texas speed against Pennsylvania gristle. Pennsylvanians put great stock in their gristle. They considered the point-spread a gift and took all the action they could get. James, however, knew he had troubles. Texas had four backs who could run 100 yards in under 9.8. The fastest he had was a pokey 10.1. To compensate, he put his best men at defensive end and halfback. His fullbacks were as big as most of the Texas linemen, but while there wasn't a soft nose in the bunch neither was there a fast foot.
Probably the only miscalculation Layne made was waiting until the third Texas offensive series to get Bradley in the game at quarterback. (Bradley said he thought he'd never get in, "I'd been so lousy in practice.") By that time Pennsylvania had driven close enough for Fullback Reid (Penn State-bound) to kick a 32-yard field goal. It was late in the first quarter when Texas got possession on the Pennsylvania 25 after a bad punt. On third down Bradley rolled left and impetuously ran ahead of his interference to the nine. A straight dive gained a yard, then Bradley executed one of Layne's goal-line specials—he rolled right, waited for a fraction while Flanker Levias cleared back on the defensive halfback and hit him in the stomach with the ball. Levias curled around the halfback into the end zone.
The same combination—Bradley to Levias, for three yards—got the second Texas score after a 72-yard drive in the second quarter and it was 14-3, but here came Ted Kwalick (Penn State) to make it close again, catching one pass for 14 yards that should have been three feet beyond his reach, and then hand-fighting two Texas defenders in the end zone to complete a 34-yard touchdown pass from Bob Naponic (Illinois). Altogether, Kwalick caught eight of the 14 passes Pennsylvania completed. Penn State Coach Rip Engle was ecstatic.
At the time of the Kwalick touchdown the game was close, and though the Texas superiority at impact in the line was evident a sudden change in initiative might have affected the outcome. But the third quarter removed all doubts. Pennsylvania ran only eight offensive plays the entire 15 minutes, and midway in the period Bradley put together the clinching 90-yard drive. He did it beautifully: a draw, a pass to Levias for 22 yards off a fake draw, the same play for 32 yards (except this time Levias ran a straight fly pattern), a pass out of the shotgun to Harris for 12, a run to the five from the shotgun and, ultimately, a one-yard touchdown plunge by Harris. In the fourth quarter Halfback Ronnie Scoggins (SMU) ran sweeps at the laboring Pennsylvania flanks to account for 69 yards of an 80-yard touchdown drive. Scoggins, the best running back on the field, got 106 yards in 16 carries. He also hustled Levias onto the bus afterward to avoid any further complications with college recruiters.
"Speed—it'll beat you every time," said Notre Dame's Ray at the finish. "In South Bend we say it doesn't help much to have talent if you can't get it to the right place on time. The race is to the swift."
Or the swuft.