A few days hence, football fans from coast to coast will be watching the first major contest of the coming season when the College All-Stars play the pro champion Baltimore Colts in Chicago. They will be paying particular attention to the performance of the All-Stars' passing quarterback, the famous Lee Grosscup, All-America from the University of Utah and No. 1 draft choice for the New York football Giants last season. It will be Grosscup's final appearance as a college player; then he will join the Giants, where he is expected to add new life and vigor to an aging backfield.
It might well be supposed that in the head of a young man like Grosscup football is predominant, first, last and all the time. A player on various college teams ( University of Washington and Santa Monica Junior College) before he hit stardom at Utah, Grosscup is a fast, alert and aggressive back on the playing field, as the picture above shows. Off the field, however, he is a quiet, pleasant, well-mannered youth who seems, if anything, somewhat shy (left). And in his mind football shares a place with, of all things, a secret urge to write.
Some time ago at a New York cocktail party Grosscup confided this unsuspected ambition to a new-found friend, Murray Olderman, a feature writer for the NEA syndicate. Olderman's answer was simple and straightforward: if you want to write, write to me. The result was a correspondence that began early last year and still continues. In his letters Grosscup wrote down anything and everything that preoccupied him at the moment. Taken together, they provide one revealing answer (not necessarily a typical one) to the question: What goes on in the head beneath the helmet of an All-America football player at the height of his youthful fame?
January 15, 1958
I guess I didn't tell you I was planning to write a novel, but that's not unusual because I didn't decide until recently that I wanted to write one. But now I feel I must. Something is alive inside me and I'm burning to release it. This story is not good writing, in fact I've never written anything that I consider good, but someday I will write something good. I'm sure of that. Right now I'm trying to improve my writing by reading. I'm reading everything from Aeschylus to Sherwood Anderson. I just finished reading The Ninth Wave, a recent bestseller by Eugene Burdick. It's a very powerful book and the structure and characters are comparable to my envisioned novel. I've really made up my mind that I want to be a literary man, but next to literature I lean toward some form of vocal communication; acting, public speaking, radio, TV, etc. I'm minoring in speech.
It looks sure now that we will lose Curtice ["Cactus Jack" Curtice, Utah University's head coach] to Stanford, and the official announcement could break any minute. He's already told me in so many words that he's leaving. I sure hate to see him go. I have a chance to sign with the Toronto Argonauts in Canada for a sizable amount of money, but I doubt that I'll do it even with Curtice leaving. Education is the main thought right now. Money will come later. Besides, my teammates elected me co-captain for next season and I feel an obligation to them also. The people here in Utah have treated me great and I'm even going with a Mormon girl who I might end up marrying. However, I'm an agnostic and we're having problems there.
February 8, 1958
Well, I met our new coach Ray Nagel and he really is a great guy. He took me out to dinner last week and talked to me because he heard that I was considering some Canadian pro offers. I assured him that I intended to stay here at Utah. I'll have to learn the movements of a split-T quarterback, but Mr. Nagel assured me we'd be doing plenty of passing. I think we'll have a fabulous team next season because the spirit among the players is really great and we've got a good crop of lettermen returning.
February 23, 1958
At present I'm really up to my ears in books and since I'm not taking any writing courses this quarter, I've kinda gotten out of the swing of things. As I may have told you, I'm carrying 18 units this quarter, including French 2, and I'm working 20 hours a week at a clothing store here in Salt Lake. And, of course, every spare moment I'm throwing that old pigskin and trying to learn how to run the option play so that when Nagel gets up here I won't look like a complete rookie. I ran the split-T when I was a freshman at Washington so I'm really not completely new at the system.
So many things have been happening lately that my creative instincts have really been aroused. I've been scribbling all kinds of notes down and adding them to my file. In my English class this quarter I'm doing a term paper on Hemingway and being rather impressionistic. I'm afraid that old Ernest is putting words in my mouth.