In this season's opener against highly favored California, Bass looked like a cross between Red Grange, Rodney the Road Runner and Man o' War. Playing only part of the game he ran 78 yards for one touchdown, gained 215 yards rushing in 24 carries and passed for three conversions. COP won 24-20. The next week, against an Arizona State team which hadn't lost in its last 12 games, Bass left them gasping, and COP walked away with a 34-16 victory. This time he gained 212 yards in 17 tries, scored touchdowns from 45 and 35 yards out, set up another with a 52-yard pass play and threw for another conversion. Again he played only part time. And Saturday night, against Brigham Young, the new wonder boy of college football (in less than 30 minutes of action) scored on a 50-yard dash, sped 135 yards in 12 carries and paced COP to a 26-8 win.
"This kid," says COP Coach Moose Myers, "is the finest runner in football. He has two speeds—fast and faster."
Actually, speed alone would hardly get Bass where he is going the way that he does. "Explosion," says his high school coach, Bob Patterson, "is what this boy has."
Bass starts like a California drag car and accelerates like a rocket. When hit, he resembles nothing quite so much as a rubber ball. He bounces off to one side, feet still churning and, upon landing, takes off again. "I guess," he says, "I just like to stand up." He weaves along behind blockers as if they were wooden pegs and then, spotting an opening, takes off across country on his own. He can also pound the line like a fullback; his size and speed give him tremendous power.
The pros will draft him this winter, although he still has another year of collegiate eligibility, but to get him it is almost certain someone will have to shell out an awful lot of money. "Bass should get $100,000 on a four-year contract," says Myers.
Bass himself isn't so sure. Big league baseball scouts, who offered him almost $50,000 after he hit .371 as a 17-year-old high school outfielder, still send him Christmas cards. And on the advice of Patterson, Dick has been studying speech and phonetics; once football season is over, he will have a disc jockey show on a Stockton radio station. He wants to play football next year, graduate in 1960 and then make up his mind which way to go.
Billy Austin is a pleasant young man with light brown hair, intelligent green eyes and a broken nose, which is about as close as he will ever come to dying for dear old Rutgers. To Austin, college football is neither a way of life nor the means to an end but simply a game which one plays on Saturday afternoons when there are no classes. You get the idea, from watching Austin play, that it is also a whale of a lot of fun, which may be the reason he does it, in his own way, just about as well as Dick Bass.
When Billy completed his football career at Scotch Plains High School in New Jersey, the occasion was marked by complete silence. College recruiters, who have been known to pummel and claw one another into rare beefsteak in pursuit of their prey, usually manage to display marked restraint in their approach to medium-size halfbacks whose teams win only four games in three years. Not that it would have mattered; Austin never once thought that he would become a good college football player, anyway, and couldn't have cared less. He wanted a good education in a pleasant, small-college atmosphere and, turning down scholarship offers from Princeton and Tufts and a scattering of other eastern and New England schools, he stowed away his sweat socks and moved the 10 miles from home to New Brunswick.
For a school which helped invent the game—the first intercollegiate football contest was played there against Princeton in 1869—Rutgers has often exhibited a remarkably casual approach to the whole thing. Eighty-nine years of practice, unkind observers have been wont to claim, haven't improved Rutgers a bit.
RUTGERS TURNS RUGGED