The surprising ease with which the College All-Star football squad defeated the professional World Champion Detroit Lions in Chicago (page 29) and the sudden death in Los Angeles of UCLA's famed coach (page 26) were widely separated events last week which combined to inject football into the summer's news with unusual impact. One of the All-Star players was 22-year-old Jim Phillips of Auburn, a typical product of big-time football and big-time football coaching. In the account which follows, Phillips relates his own experiences with the college game and with some of the men who have helped make it a multimillion-dollar business. He attacks no one, draws few conclusions, and the sensational exposé is not in his intentions. But Phillips' simple story should provide educators, sociologists and the men who control fooball in this country with ample food for thought
The last time Jimmy (Big Red) Phillips cried was a night in December almost five years ago, long before he was an All-America end and a top rookie draft choice for the Los Angeles Rams. It was the night the men from Auburn—the name by which Alabama Polytechnic Institute is generally known in athletic circles—came to his father's house in Alexander City, Ala. to sign him to a four-year football contract.
Jimmy was only 17 then and still had six months to go before graduating from Benjamin Russell High School. He had done extremely well in football that year—he was elected to the All-State team—and his worries about whether he would or would not be able to afford college were apparently over. For the previous four months the colleges had been bidding against each other in an effort to show Jimmy they could afford him. Some of the offers made his head swim, and he wondered if they were quite legitimate. He was an honest boy, and though he wanted desperately to play college football, he also wanted to do the right thing. The more he listened to sales talks from the recruiters—one of them even offered to move his parents to Texas and buy them a new house there—the more confused he became. Until then football had been a game to him. The big-business aspect of collegiate football was new and strange. It made him feel uncertain.
The night the men from Auburn came Jimmy had already made up his mind to accept a scholarship from them, partly because Auburn was closest to his home, partly because Auburn had been the most persistent.
When he signed the contract that night, the Auburn representatives smiled and clapped him on the back. They assured him he would not regret his decision. When they left, the big 6-foot-2, 210-pound redhead stumbled into his bedroom and closed the door, and in a short while there was a muffled sound of sobbing. His mother and father heard him from the living room, but they made no move to comfort him. "Leave him alone for a while, Mother," said Jimmy's father softly. "He needs to blow off a little steam."
The boy cried for a long while until, exhausted, he drifted into a deep sleep. He awoke untroubled on the following morning, ready to play football for Auburn for $79 a month plus free laundry service. Today Jimmy can't recall why he cried.
Since that December night in 1953 Jimmy Phillips has been comparatively untroubled, and fortune has smiled upon him, just as the recruiters from Auburn said it would. He became a star and co-captain of Auburn's 1957 national championship squad and was picked as the best right end in the land last season by 21 All-America selectors—more than had voted for any other player. The Los Angeles Rams thought so highly of him that they made Jimmy their No. 1 draft choice and gave him a bonus to boot. He played in three postseason games at the end of last season and was one of the attractions last week on the College All-Star squad that beat the World Champion Detroit Lions 35—19 at Chicago's Soldier Field. Jimmy is still the same shy, easygoing, moral young man who came out of Benjamin Russell High School four years ago. He has not allowed his collegiate laurels to affect him; he still wears the same size helmet he wore at Benjamin Russell. Yet, since the end of his college football career last fall, a significant and welcome change has come over Phillips: he no longer worries about how much money he is taking to play a game he enjoys, but rather how much he can legitimately earn at it.
A PROWLING HALFBACK
Jimmy Phillips knew football at Auburn was going to be a lot different from what it was at Benjamin Russell High almost before he reported for his first freshman practice session.
"They roomed me with Bobby Hoppe, our halfback," he recalls. "He was kind of unsociable at first, but we seemed to get along even though he had a chip on his shoulder. I remember I was studying in our room one night. Hoppe was out somewhere prowling around. He was like that. You never knew where he was. I was reading and everything was quiet when all of a sudden there's this big explosion and the light goes out and glass flies all over the room. It took me a few seconds to realize someone fired a shot through the window and hit the lamp. I don't mind telling you I was scared. Suddenly the door to the room flew open and someone flipped on the overhead light. It was Hoppe. He stood leaning against the door frame with a gun in his hand, sort of smiling. I knew right then that I never played with anybody like that in high school."