In the fall at West Point, when the ivy which clambers over the old fort's gray stone walls begins to wither and the leaves drop from the stately elms, the ghosts of Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis have a way of coming back to push aside those of MacArthur and Eisenhower and the many other great men who have marched and studied and lived inside the hallowed walls. This fall, however, Davis and Blanchard are having a hard time getting in. Standing full in their way are a pair of healthy young men who do not resemble ghosts at all. Their names are Pete Dawkins and Bob Anderson and they are the two best halfbacks any football team has had in a dozen years.
Dawkins is a slashing, determined runner with tremendous speed, a sensational pass receiver and a leader, on the field and off. In fact, West Point has never seen his like as a cadet. He is first captain of the corps, captain of the football team, president of his class. In the most rigorous competitive scholastic system yet devised by man, he ranks seventh in a group of 503. He is an artist, sings in the Cadet Choir, plays half a dozen musical instruments and is the highest-scoring defenseman in eastern collegiate hockey. A big (6 feet 1, 195 pounds), angular young man with blond hair and blue eyes and an impish grin, he has somehow been vested with that rare and innate quality of leadership which shines like a beacon, and the tremendous energy to exploit it to a maximum. If Douglas MacArthur were a cadet at West Point these days, Pete Dawkins would have a good adjutant.
Anderson, a handsome young man with brown hair and green eyes, lacks his teammate's electric personality; he is quiet and retiring and simply a nice guy. And the last thing he would consider himself is a brain. Yet he is an even better football player than Dawkins. He is bigger (6 feet 2, and 198 pounds), runs with vastly more power and is almost as fast. He is also perhaps a better passer than even the Army quarterbacks and he can block and play defense. Last year, as a sophomore, Anderson broke Glenn Davis' record by rushing 983 yards, scored 14 touchdowns and was named All-America.
This season, as Army opened its season by smashing aside first South Carolina and then Penn State, Dawkins and Anderson ran wild. Dawkins scored six touchdowns, Anderson one. Anderson also threw two touchdown passes, intercepted a handful thrown by the opposition and made tackles all over the field.
Yet neither is the man of the hour at West Point. This honor is reserved for Lonesome George Carpenter, the exiled end.
The first time you see Carpenter—his real name is Bill and he is a big, good-looking blond kid from Springfield, Pa. who wears No. 87—it is hard to be certain that he actually is a member of the football team. It is more as if he had a working agreement with the squad, and his correct position might better be described as right field (see right). Yet he is the key man in Red Blaik's exciting new offense and before the season is over they may erect a statue in his honor and place it with those of Washington and Thayer and Kosciuszko and Patton, which encircle The Plain. College football hasn't seen anything quite like Lonesome George since the invention of the forward pass.
Banished from the huddle, this Diogenes among flankers spends his Saturday afternoons far out on the horizon while Anderson and Dawkins and the rest of the Army team march gaily up and down opponents' backs and Colonel Blaik clutches his usually dignified sides in spasms of glee. Usually stationed on the starboard beam (Navy will like the expression, although it may not know what to do with him, either), Carpenter races happily around, throwing blocks at anyone who approaches or speeding downfield to draw defenders away from the true course of a play or occasionally hooking back toward the main body of troops to catch a pass. If the interest of the foe in his antics should flag, Carpenter will gallop off by himself and gather in a long throw for a touchdown. To say that his maneuvers have been successful is to understate the case. In two games, the Cadets have scored 71 points. Most of them came at moments when the visitors were goggle-eyed trying to decide whether they should watch the game or Carpenter.
How he knows what to do or when to do it is a better-kept military secret than what made the Explorer go. Nowhere in Carpenter's record is there any hint of extrasensory perception, nor do long wires trail out of his ears as he trots down the field. But he gets the signals from somewhere, although remaining aloof from his teammates, and they must be coming in loud and clear.
Actually, says Blaik, the signal system is very simple—only he won't tell what it is.
"All athletic teams have signals of some kind or another," the colonel says. "Baseball teams have signs for every pitch and play. Look, there are six other linemen and four backs and Bill can pick up the play from any or all of them. Naturally we will switch it around. Certainly the opponents will try to steal signs. But if they have the audacity to think they have it figured out, and miss just once, there we go for a touchdown.