Last Saturday former Pro Bowl quarterbacks Billy Kilmer and Ken
Stabler boarded a plane for a 10-day trip to visit U.S. troops in
Japan, South Korea, Okinawa and Guam. Joining them was another
onetime NFL quarterback, albeit a more obscure one--George Izo,
60, who's calling the signals on this team because, well, it's
For the last five years Izo has taken former NFL stars to
military bases in South Korea, Japan and Guam in his role as
business development manager for California Sunshine milk. (The
company has a contract with the U.S. government and sent 12
million pounds of its product to overseas bases last year.) Izo
made his first tour with Kilmer, who has made every trip since
then; other fellow travelers have included Paul Hornung and Earl
Morrall. At each stop the players go to the commissary or PX and
sign autographs by the hundreds. Many of the servicemen hadn't
been born when these players were NFL standouts, but the troops
turn out, hungry for a taste of home. "When Hornung was in
Okinawa," Izo says of the former Green Bay Packers great, "there
must have been 50 guys in cheeseheads."
Izo doesn't just run the autograph sessions, he signs as well.
Troops who've read about his career in Stars and Stripes articles
promoting his tour bring copies of the NFL record book for him to
sign. Izo is one of nine players who share the mark for the
longest pass completion, 99 yards. While with the Washington
Redskins in 1963, Izo hooked up with Bobby Mitchell on that play.
Where Izo made his name, however, was at Notre Dame. From 1957
through '59 he threw for 2,095 yards and 18 touchdowns, and led
the Irish to a 20--19 upset of Iowa in his next to last game.
Described by one scout as "the finest pure passer in college
today," Izo was the No. 2 pick in the 1960 NFL draft, by the St.
Louis Cardinals. But he was beset by knee injuries and never
played more than six games in a season while bouncing from St.
Louis to Washington to Detroit to Pittsburgh. He left the pros in
1967 and moved to the Bahamas, joining a business venture that
built condominiums. Five years later he returned to Washington,
D.C., and became a partner in a wholesale food company; he has
worked in the food industry regularly ever since.
Living in Fullerton, Calif., Izo goes to the Notre Dame--USC game
whenever it's played in Southern California. He says he has a
good time even when the Irish lose. At a pregame alumni event
this year Izo and his wife, Deborah, chatted with fellow alum
Regis Philbin (class of '53). "He remembered me," said Izo,
laughing. "He gave me an autograph that said, 'Each day I wish I
was George Izo.'" --Bill Syken
development manager for a California milk company.