NOVEMBER 29, 1965
Dennis Gaubatz, 62, lives in West Columbia, Texas (pop. 4,372), three miles from the house in which he grew up. Every Wednesday he plays dominoes with friends, many of whom he has known since high school. He shares a four-bedroom house with his wife of 43 years, Carolyn, whom he also met in high school. He coaches a youth football team that includes one of his eight grandchildren. In fact, much of his family is within driving distance of West Columbia, which is 45 miles south of Houston.
Talking to Gaubatz, you get the sense that he didn't need to spend much time trying to find himself. The only other place he felt at home was on the football field. After starring at LSU, he played seven years in the NFL, the first two with the Detroit Lions and the rest with the Baltimore Colts.
His days in Baltimore are the ones he remembers most fondly. "In Detroit everybody scattered like a covey of quail after the game," Gaubatz says. "In Baltimore everybody, it didn't matter who, went out together. Most of us ended up at Art Donovan's country club after hours." From 1965 through '69 Gaubatz called the signals for an unheralded Colts defense and left an impression on opposing offenses by clotheslining receivers whenever the opportunity presented itself. "Today I'd be thrown out of the game in two plays," he says. "Back then it was a 15-yard penalty—if the officials caught you. Now it's a fine."
Not only did he share a locker room with Johnny Unitas and play in Super Bowl III against Joe Namath, but he was also captured in verse on the cover of LIFE magazine in December 1968: SINCE GAUBATZ ACTS LIKE THIS ON SUNDAY/I'LL DO MY QUARTER-BACKING MONDAY, wrote Ogden Nash. "He used to come by the locker room," Gaubatz says of the Baltimore poet. "He was a friend of the Colts. We had a lot of friends."
After retiring from the NFL in 1969, Gaubatz remained in the Baltimore area for five years selling construction equipment. But he and Carolyn missed their families, so they moved back to Texas. Dennis worked mostly out of the Freeport office of Dow Chemical as a contracts administrator, checking on construction sites. He retired in 1997, his body worn down from football and fieldwork. Since then he has had his hips and knees replaced. Considering the pain he's endured, Gaubatz has been asked by friends whether, if he could live life over again, he would choose a football career. "I wouldn't even have to think about it," he says. "I thoroughly enjoyed playing."