Hoppe made Phillips' freshman year an exciting one.
"You never knew what that guy was going to do next. He was always prowling around at night, coming in late. One night he walks in the room with a big picture of a Russian soldier he got out of LIFE magazine. He pinned it on the wall and said to me: 'That there's a Russian Communist soldier, Red. I hate the dirty bastards, Red. Know what I'm going to do, Red?' I told him I guessed I didn't know and waited to see what he was up to. He just walked over to his bunk and sat on it, staring at the picture on the wall. I kept watching him, trying to figure out what he was going to do. He must have stared at that picture 10 minutes. Just sitting there and staring. Then all of a sudden he pulls his gun out and empties it at the picture. Then he laughs for a long time. He used that Russian for target practice all year long. Made the room kind of drafty that winter."
Jimmy is reluctant to discuss the offers he received from other schools in the Southeastern Conference, but he made it plain during a recent afternoon of bass fishing at Martin's Lake, Ala. that several SEC schools do not hesitate to offer an athlete far more than conference rules permit.
"I came to Auburn on a regular grant-in-aid scholarship, and I honestly never received anything over that limit," he said. He paused to cast near an old stump sticking out of the water about 10 yards from shore. He did not try to throw the bass bug out with a football pass motion; the action was all in his wrist, a slight flick that sent the long split-bamboo rod into action and whipped the tapered line toward the stump. The bug plopped lightly in the water a few feet from the rotting log. He let the lure sit for several seconds, then made it jump realistically with a flick of the rod tip. He waited, then repeated the action.
"You'd think if there were any bass in this lake they'd be sitting under that stump there, wouldn't you. Guess they're just not biting now." Jimmy fished quietly for about 10 more minutes. It didn't seem as if he were thinking of anything but the fish he was trying to hook somewhere down beneath the murky surface. But when he spoke again, it was of football.
"One of the schools that leads the SEC nearly every year and never gets put on probation practically told me to write my own ticket when they were recruiting me.
"I remember this particular school had me come to visit their campus and see a football game one weekend in the fall of 1953," he continued. "I had already made up my mind I was going to Auburn, but I thought I'd make the trip anyhow to see the game. It was a good game, and afterward some alumni took me out to dinner. They were nice fellows, and they spent most of the dinner telling me about all the bowls I would get to play in if I signed on with them. They also mentioned the advantages of a technical education. After dinner I thanked them and told them I had already decided to go to Auburn. Then one of them asked me what I was getting to sign on with Auburn. I told him a regular scholarship. Then he said to me very frankly, 'If it's money you're worried about, I don't care what they're giving you over there. We'll pay you more.' That was the first big cash offer I got to play college football, and it made me feel guilty. But it prepared me for a conversation I had later with a man who was recruiting for Texas A&M."
By now it was evening. The sun had put a brilliant patina on Martin's Lake all day, but now it was setting behind a pine-covered hill on the western shore. The water was still, its surface broken occasionally by the splash of a hungry bass.
"It's nice to get out here away from football," said Jimmy. "I'd like to own a cabin up here some day. If I do all right with the Rams, maybe I'll buy one."
AN ALL-STAR OFFER