I informed Pete of Brandt's request. Ten minutes later he was in the basketball office at Jenison Field House. We went to the track office, and I asked the coach, Fran Dittrich, if he would take Pete down to the track and time him. By now Pete was so excited he was practically hyperventilating. I feared the worst. Pete was out of shape, and I thought he would have a bad time in the 40.
Even before Pete and Dittrich started their work, I was back up in the basketball office, calling Brandt again...collect. "Look, how soon do you need this time for the 40?" I said. "I mean, the poor guy hasn't worked out in a month. He's a straight-A student and has probably been studying day and night since the season ended. Can you give him a little time to get himself into condition?"
Brandt said, "Of course. When he's ready, let me know." Just then Pete burst into the office—and burst is the only way to describe it—and shouted, "Four-six! Three times." I still had Brandt on the line, so I said, "Pete just did four-six three times." Brandt replied, "Well, that's probably not right. He's probably about a four-eight. In any case, I'll be up there tomorrow to sign him."
This whole thing was going too fast for me. "Look, Pete's right here," I said. "Why don't you talk to him about that?" I put Pete on the phone, and after he and Brandt exchanged formalities, I heard Pete say, "See you tomorrow."
The next day, there was Gil Brandt of the Dallas Cowboys in our office. He shook hands with everyone, rounded up Pete and took him away to talk business. I would learn later that he offered Pete a choice of two one-year contracts: a $10,000 salary, which was not guaranteed, plus a $1,000 guaranteed bonus, or an $11,000 salary plus a $500 bonus. Pete took the latter offer, and when Brandt asked him why, Pete said, "I plan on making the team. I'll have $500 more when I do." Brandt signed him on the spot.
Before leaving East Lansing, Brandt asked me to do him a favor: He wanted me to find out if Pete, who hadn't played football since high school, could work out with the Spartan football team during spring practice. I told him I would see, but I promised nothing. When I asked coach Hugh (Duffy) Daugherty about it, he said, "Fine with me. Of course, you understand, he'll have the dirtiest jobs out there, and there will be no special favors?" I understood, and so did Pete.
After the six weeks of spring football, I ran into Daugherty. I asked him how Pete had done, and he said, "Are you sure they want him as a defensive back? I mean, first of all, he can't cover anybody. Second, he has yet to tackle anyone. I can't see him making it past the first cut as any sort of defensive back."
Fresh off this dazzling spring display, Pete headed off to Thousand Oaks, Calif., for the Cowboys' preseason camp. Brandt called me regularly to keep me informed of his progress. He told me the Cowboys had discovered what Daugherty had: Gent was no defensive player. So Dallas had shifted him to wide receiver. This made sense. After all, Pete was tall, he had great jumping ability and sure hands, and as a superb offensive basketball player, he was used to reading defenders.
Pete survived cut after cut. Finally, Dallas had one more to go, and it was clear that either Pete or Sonny Gibbs, a second-year quarterback out of TCU, would be it. I figured Gibbs would make the team because he was a Texas boy who had played college ball in Fort Worth. When I shared my reasoning with Forddy, he said, "I wouldn't be so sure. Just remember, Pete Gent is the only player from a Class C Michigan high school [Bangor High] to make it in the Big Ten. He did that on determination. Let's wait and see."
Forddy was right. The Cowboy coaches liked Pete's drive. He had injured his ankle during practice, and when he showed up the next day, he was told to sit out. Knowing it would hurt his chances of making the team if he did that, Pete worked out anyway. When it came time to decide who would be the Cowboys' 40th man, receiver coach Red Hickey remembered this and was one of Pete's strongest advocates.