Injurywise I'm still having rib trouble thanks to Nagel's wonderful split-T offense. He says he doesn't believe in practising passing—says it's the QB's responsibility to come out before practice and throw on his own. But as soon as we get two TDs behind he expects me to go in and pull him out of the fire.
You were sure right about the teams pointing for me. Every time I come in the game guys on the other team start shouting: "Here's Bambi, here is our All-America boy—let's get him." It's flattering in a way but it sure makes the going tougher. Especially with an inexperienced line in front of me.
I enjoyed your story in Sport on Anderson and Dawkins and was thrilled by the article on me. It was the best story I've seen about myself. Dad went wild over it. I'm taking some philosophy this quarter along with more acting and English. Got a good schedule. Talked to Cactus Jack when I was in Berkeley this last weekend and he is having his troubles too. He said that he was looking forward to the East-West Shrine game when we could get together again. That will be a real pleasure. As for me I'm counting the days till our December 6 game with Hawaii in the Islands. I've got some contacts over thataway and it should be a riotous stay. Got to cut now.
December 19, 1958
School's out and tomorrow I depart for Frisco to prep for the East-West game. That should be a few laughs with my old dad Pappy Jack calling the shots. My shoulder still hurts but Curtice told me on the phone that if I could throw the "shovel pass" to come on along because I'd be doing him a favor. Quite a guy the "Cacti"—can't think of anyone more fun to play for.
There doesn't seem to be anything permanent wrong with my shoulder but the pain is still hanging on when I throw and I probably won't be throwing like my old self again till next season. Nothing makes me madder than not being able to throw a football to my full capacity. I think I derive some psychological release from throwing a football because I remember that when I was younger, whenever I was depressed about something I'd go out in the backyard or over to the playground and just throw by myself at targets I'd rig up and dream of the day when I'd be throwing before thousands of fans and completing passes at will. I think the most important phase of being a good passer is repetition. The more you throw the better you get, etc. I know there have been times when I've thrown more than 2,000 passes in a single day. I love to threw a football more than anything in the world and when I can't throw it really bugs me out. How's that for a profound literary statement!
The 1958 season was not the best for me injurywise. Prior to my shoulder injury I had a sprained ankle, an infected toe and of course you know about the broken ribs early in the season. Coach Nagel and I definitely had our differences this season, but I do not hold any grudge against the man. He ran the squad the way he felt was best in his own mind and stuck to his principles. I just didn't fit in well with , his plans regarding ball-control football. I'm a passer and gambler by nature. In junior college I once threw on fourth and 34 in my own territory and got the first down. Nagel doesn't buy this type of thinking. He has it down in black and white that if you play the percentages you'll win in the long run. What he forgets, I feel, is that with human beings (mortals) playing the game percentages often go haywire.
I definitely feel that if I had it to do over again I would have jumped to the Canadian League and played with the Toronto Argonauts in 1958. However, I'm glad in a way that I stayed at Utah because I feel that a person often learns more through adversity than through prosperity and this season I was confronted with a great deal of adversity. Nagel's favorite trick was to toss me in the game on third and 12 and tell me to throw a straight drop back pass. I always came through for him but it seemed to no avail because I'd wind up sitting on the bench again as soon as we were out of trouble. I like being a troubleshooter though and I like pressure. I think the true test of a person's character is how well he reacts to pressure. Pressure can tie a person in knots or it can bring out his most admirable qualities. I've always liked to think of myself as being a good pressure player but I don't know if this will hold up in the future. Pro football holds a greater number of variables than I've had to face in college ball and how well I make out in the pros depends a lot on how well I can adapt to my new environment—say I sound like a sociologist now!
I guess I told you that Hawaii was the end. It might not be heaven but it's close to the city limits. The waves at Waikiki break out over a mile and your old dad was cutting some pretty crazy capers on the surfboard. Bumped into one of my beachcomber friends from California over there and we proceeded to take the island by storm. In all it was a fantastic venture and what a treat to come back and head for New York the following weekend. Incidentally thanks for lining me up with all the "freeloads." I haven't learned how to bitch yet, but that will come with experience.
Impressions on the N.Y. Giant football players: Great bunch! Fine gentlemen, very spirited, close knit, good drinkers, great physical specimens. When I first walked into the N.Y. dressing room and saw Roosy Brown [Roosevelt Brown, tackle] undressing I almost turned around and walked out for good. I was about to tell Wellington Mara [the club secretary] that he couldn't offer me enough to play in company that size. But when I saw Heinrich and Conerly [Quarterbacks Don Heinrich and Charles Conerly], I was relieved to find that they were more my size. Harland Svare [defensive end] is an indictment to the unhappily married of America. Imagine: 28 years old, good-looking, talented and still single. How has he done it? He is my new idol. Of course Cliff Livingston [linebacker] falls in the same category.