It was 1982, and Dusty Loveless's first-grade teacher was on the horn. "Better come down to the school, quick," she said to Dusty's mom. "Your son hurt some of his classmates, a few pretty seriously."
"My Dusty?" gasped Anette Loveless. "That's not like him. He's so sweet. There's not a mean bone in his body."
"Your Dusty wasn't trying to be mean," said the teacher. "We'd asked him to push the merry-go-round, but he spun it so fast that all the kids flew off."
Twelve years later Loveless is still pushing kids around. Wherever Oklahoma's 6'1", 300-pound noseguard plays, he leaves an imprint—a deep imprint. He delivered one of his biggest hits in June at the High School All-America Bowl in Allen-town, Pa. The unlucky target Loveless ran down was Chris Floyd, a blue-chip tailback now headed for Michigan. "Everything in his helmet popped out—his earpiece, his mouthpiece, his head," recalls Loveless. "He got up and slowly walked the other way. He wasn't going anywhere to play, though."
Last fall at Norman High, where he was referred to as King Crunch, Loveless ran the 40 in 4.85 seconds, bench-pressed 435 pounds and was named Oklahoma's high school defensive player of the year. In his three-year schoolboy career, as the linchpin of a defensive unit that billed itself Partners in Pain, he racked up 272 tackles, 71 of which went for 324 yards in losses. "The thing I love about playing D is smashing people to the ground," says Loveless gleefully. "Sometimes they get up slow, sometimes they get up slow and walk the other way, and sometimes...sometimes they don't get up."
Anette knew her son would be a Sooner, sooner or later. She remembers walking into Dusty's kindergarten class to cries of, Switzer. How's Coach?"
Mom took Dusty aside. "What's going on?" she asked.
"I told everybody Barry Switzer's my dad," he said.
Even after Switzer was forced out as Oklahoma coach in 1989, Loveless continued to feel the lure of his hometown campus, although for a while this winter he did toy with the seditious thought of going to Nebraska. But he chickened out three days before his scheduled visit. "Nebraska's recruiters kept pestering me on the phone," he says. "They kept saying I'd get a better education, work with a better strength coach, even have better weather. They just made me feel crunchy."
So Dusty had his father, Terry, who knows a little about football himself, tell the Cornhuskers he wouldn't be coming. Father and son haven't played football together since Loveless fils broke one of Loveless père's ribs in a backyard pickup game three years ago, but the 37-year-old Terry has figured out a way to exact his revenge. Two years ago he quit his trucking job and enrolled full time at Oklahoma City Community College. A 5'8", 190-pound psych major, Terry hopes to transfer to Oklahoma in 1995 and is actually threatening to try out for the Sooners. "I just want to suit up for one practice," he says. "I'll get one cheap shot in on Dusty and leave."
If he does, he'd better leave fast, or he'll receive the same treatment from his son that Big Eight running backs are in for this fall.