. In a year of superb linebackers, this junior didn't receive as much recognition as he should have. His size (6'1", 215 pounds) and nose for the ball suggest comparisons with former All-America Derrick Brooks of Florida State. Nguyen started the best defensive play of the postseason when he intercepted a UCLA pass in the Cotton Bowl. He returned the ball 19 yards before lateraling to teammate Brandon Jennings, who completed an 83-yard touchdown dash that gave the Aggies an early lead in their 29-23 loss.
. Though he played wingback and returned punts this season, the lightning-fast freshman is the insider's choice to replace Scott Frost at quarterback for the Cornhuskers. He averaged 16.4 yards every time he touched the ball and showed his versatility in the Orange Bowl when he ran three times for 16 yards, caught a pass for 22 and returned two punts for 22 more. The 6-foot, 185-pound Newcombe, who showed a decent arm as an all-state quarterback in high school, looks as if he might snap in two should someone put a good lick on him. But defenders are going to have to catch him first.
Thinking Man's Coach
The NFL didn't just lose its 10th-winningest coach or the only man to guide a team to four straight Super Bowls when Marv Levy, 72, retired last Wednesday from the Buffalo Bills. It also lost one of the league's few true intellectuals. Levy quoted Byron to his players; in fact, he lifted some of Byron's poem To Thomas Moore for his farewell: "Here's a sigh to those who love me, a smile to those who hate. To whatever sky's above me, here's a heart for every fate." When Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson gloated after Levy's fourth Super Bowl loss, a 30-13 thrashing at the hands of the Cowboys, that "my players are belly-laughing to The Flintstones while he's reading his guys Shakespeare," Levy said, "There should never be any shame in intelligence."
Levy sometimes red-penciled the press releases of Bills p.r. man Scott Berchtold, who said working for Levy was like working for some football centaur—half-professor, half-coach. In October, Berchtold told Levy that Rich Stadium would be unavailable for a couple of days because of a Rolling Stones concert. "All I know about the Rolling Stones," Levy said with a wry smile, "is they gather no moss." Not a surprising comment for a coach who sometimes sang swing tunes to his team after big wins.
If not the father of special teams, Levy was at least their uncle, having been among the first in pro football to exclusively coach them, when he was an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1969. In Buffalo he brought unprecedented sophistication to special teams play. He never met an innovation he didn't like; quarterback Jim Kelly became a genius at running the no-huddle offense because Levy gave him the freedom to try it. For these reasons and a hundred others, it would be a shame if Levy was remembered only because he went 0 for 4 in Super Bowls.
There's the Rub
USA Today last week named its 1997 high school All-USA team. There's no way of saying whether those young stars will go on to glory in the NFL. But at least one, a running back from Spring, Texas, has an endorsement deal awaiting him if he does make it to the pros. His name? Ben Gay.
An American Original
Long before Martina Hingis astounded the tennis world with her precocity, there was Helen Wills Moody. Long before Steffi Graf overpowered opponents with a mighty forehand, there was Helen Wills Moody. Long before Billie Jean King, Chris Evert or Martina Navratilova dominated their sport with distinctive shotmaking and distinctive personality, there was Helen Wills Moody. A giant of America's Golden Age of Sports, the female counterpart to Ruth, Dempsey and Grange, the woman known as Little Miss Poker Face and Queen Helen died last Thursday at a convalescent hospital in Carmel, Calif. She was 92.
Like many female tennis champions, Wills Moody was a prodigy. Growing up in California, she learned the game by watching players at the Berkeley Tennis Club. At age 15, two years after she began playing, she won the girls' national 18-and-under title, and two years later she became the youngest U.S. women's singles champion. She never had a formal lesson and certainly never adopted the conditioning regimen of modern-day players. But from '23, when she won the first of her seven U.S. crowns, until '38, when she won the last of her eight Wimbledon titles, she was almost unbeatable, a force of nature, particularly from the forehand side, who rarely changed expressions or showed an opponent mercy. She once had a streak of 180 matches in elite competition during which she didn't lose a set. "Her footwork didn't have to be great," said tennis great Don Budge, "because she controlled play by hitting the ball so hard."