Steve laughs. "I kissed you goodnight on the first date," he says. "Do you remember that? I went back and told my friends it was the best kiss I ever had, that I was in love."
"I felt the same way," she says.
In Terry, Largent found his first true friend, a best buddy he could depend on. They hung out in a booth at The Across The Street hamburger restaurant, drinking milk shakes and eating curly french fries called Suzy Q's. On the night before a football game, after Steve was asleep, Terry would sneak over to his house and leave a box of cookies out on the front porch. Then she would decorate the front of the house with orange and black streamers and banners that read RECEIVE 'EM, STEVE 'EM.
Terry provided the stability Largent had longed for and helped instill in him the confidence he had lacked. Her family gave him comfort. "It was fun to go over to Terry's house, to see her mom and dad getting along," he says. "Her father was always there; I envied that. I practically lived at Terry's house. I was there after school, for dinner and all weekend long."
With her steadying influence Largent developed into an All-State football player. One of his teammates at Putnam City was Pat Ryan, now a quarterback with the New York Jets. Largent was also an All-State catcher for the Pirates baseball team; one of his pitchers was Bob Shirley, now with the New York Yankees.
Largent wasn't recruited by many football powers because he lacked speed and height. He received a scholarship to Tulsa and starred on the school's freshman team. In his junior and senior years he led the nation in touchdown catches, with 14. His success wasn't limited to the playing field. He was selected by the school's alumni board as one of the top eight seniors and was graduated with a degree in biology.
None of that seemed to matter to pro scouts. In high school he had run only 4.85 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and at Tulsa he wasn't that much faster, so the scouts declared him much too slow. Even though he managed to cut that time to 4.65 before the 1976 draft, Largent wasn't selected until the fourth round, by the Houston Oilers.
"There's a difference between being fast and being quick," Largent says. "And there is such a thing as football speed. Track guys run like crazy. But put the guy who holds the world record in the 100 on a football field, get a defensive back to jump in front of him, and he'll probably break his ankles trying to stop or change direction. The way you run on a track—with body-lean and on the balls of your feet—is different from how you run pass routes. To run routes you have to have more body control."
The Houston Oilers were a veteran team coming off a 10-4 season, and Largent knew that he had little chance of catching on. Soon after draft day he went to Houston to negotiate his contract. "I didn't have a clue," Largent says. "Tom Williams, their assistant G.M., said, 'How about incentives for being among the top three receivers in the league?' I said, 'Great.' He had to be thinking, This kid will never do it." Largent showed up at the Huntsville, Texas, training camp, a wide-eyed rookie. "It was an unbelievable scene," he says. "They were just a bunch of good ol' boys—hard drinking, hard knocking and hard talking. I felt so naive.
"Bum Phillips had chili and beer parties for the players on one night and played dominoes with them on another. Bubba Smith and his brother Tody were two wild, wild guys. There was somebody named Dr. Doom [Robert Brazile]. Dan Pastorini had a blowup doll in his locker. And John Hadl roomed with his son—that's how old he was! I'd never played with anybody who had kids.