"No, I wasn't scared when they gave me the job. Maybe I was just too dumb to be. Somebody had to take over, and I'd always wanted to be a head coach at a big school, but I certainly never wanted it to happen this way. Jim Tatum's death was the worst thing that ever happened to me.
"You couldn't help being completely devoted to him. Regardless of how you felt about him—and he could make you madder than hell—you always knew that he was on your side. It's hard to put him into words. Of course, he was a big guy and he had a way of attracting attention wherever he went. He was always working so hard that sometimes folks misunderstood him. And of course he did drive hard, but I don't think any of his teams had anything but the utmost respect for him. He was awfully good to a football team."
Hickey sat back, lit a cigarette and turned his thoughts to the team he had helped Tatum groom for the season Tatum would now never see. He talked about Carolina's switch to an Army-style lonely-end offense and about a blessed absence of injuries in preseason workouts, but mostly he talked about a player who could make or break the team: Jack Cummings.
Hickey was a bit worried because Cummings had just gotten out of bed on Wednesday after an attack of tonsilitis but was pleased that he appeared robust enough in eleventh-hour drills.
"Jack is probably as fine a young man as anybody could hope to have on a football team," Hickey said. "I have never seen him do anything that wasn't perfectly right. He is the best passer I have ever been associated with."
Through a long day Hickey looked nothing like a man laboring under extreme pressure, although it would be difficult to exaggerate the intensity of the pressure he must have felt. He even survived in high good spirits the attentions of that salty master of one-upmanship, Frank Howard.
In midafternoon Howard lured Hickey into the visitors' dressing room to meet his squad. "How about it," he inquired gleefully, "shall we whip this little so-and-so now or wait till tomorrow?"
But after Saturday's game Howard was gracious in victory. "I feel damn grateful, happy and good," he said. "I feel malice toward no one. The only thing I hate was that I had to beat a damn fine young coach like Jim Hickey."