Well liked and unlikely
There is nothing even slightly offensive when Schloredt talks like this. He is just trying to give the best possible answer to a serious question. One of the reasons he is so popular among his teammates (at the end of last season they voted the honorary title of co-captain to both him and Halfback Don McKeta) is his lack of swagger. "You'd never figure him for a quarterback," happily proclaimed one of the many Seattle alumni who cultivate the friendship of Washington football players as eagerly as actors chase publicity.
For a young fellow who aspired to be a quarterback on a major college football team, Robert Sevey Schloredt picked a good family to be born into. His father, Robert Lee Schloredt, was a grade-school teacher in Deadwood, S. Dak. when Bob arrived on the scene. The elder Schloredt always devoted his nonclassroom hours to coaching the school football and baseball teams, so young Bob grew up in an atmosphere where both schoolbooks and athletics were important, and his father guided him successfully in both directions.
The family eventually migrated to Gresham, where Schloredt grew into a big, hard-muscled boy who was both a good student and an all-state quarterback. Probably because of his bad eye, few of the large western universities courted Schloredt's services as a football player. Until he got some feelers from one of Jim Owens' Washington scouts, he always figured he would go to nearby Oregon, having been an admirer of Norm Van Brocklin, Oregon's outstanding contribution to the world of quarterbacking. However, as Schloredt now recalls, "When I saw the Washington campus I knew I'd like to go to school there, and I'm sure glad I did. It's a good place to get an education." Unlike so many All-America players, that's just what Schloredt is doing, having chosen to major in a predental course.
The case of Bob Schloredt is symptomatic of the new way of football at Washington, but it is not the reason for its success. The major credit must go to Jim Owens, a very large product of Oklahoma City. When Owens took over the football chair at Washington in 1957, things couldn't have been much worse. For years the downtown Seattle alumni and quasi alumni, among the most misguided football zealots anywhere, had been buying players like produce and keeping them handsomely stocked with convertibles and other perquisites commensurate with their touchdown talents. The university finally decided to clean house, but not before it was placed in athletic quarantine by the NCAA.
During the first year of reform Darrell Royal was the coach, but he didn't like it much in Seattle and defected to riper football fields of Texas. When Washington's new athletic director showed up with 30-year-old Jim Owens as the replacement, everyone asked, logically enough, "Who's he?" The answer was that Owens had played football for Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma, spent a year as a professional end for the old Baltimore Colts and then signed on as an assistant coach with Bear Bryant, first at Kentucky, then at Texas A&M. Both Wilkinson and Bryant had advised Washington that there was no more promising coach available than Owens.
After three years of Jim Owens, the fickle Seattle alumni now rate him on an approximate level with the peak of Mt. Rainier. His first achievement was to bring to Washington a bunch of enthusiastic athletes who were bright enough to survive the university's increasingly stiff academic requirements. Unlike his predecessors, he found most of them in the high schools and junior colleges of the Northwest, not in the talent pens of southern California and the Middle West.
Big hopes for slim men
One of Owens' ingenious contributions to the art of recruiting has been the discovery of the gawky tall man, who is likely to be overlooked while in high school. Owens, who is 6 feet 4 inches himself and weighs a solid 220 pounds, knows that if these string beans are fed well and properly conditioned they often grow into more impressive specimens than chunkier types who push them around in their adolescent years The Washington football team now looks as if it were trying to make the stepladder obsolete. This year's starting line averages more than 6 feet 2 inches, and nine of the linemen on the squad are 6 feet 3 inches or better.
After he gets his tall boys enrolled, Owens emphasizes two things: conditioning and enthusiasm. In the brief two hours now available for football practice, the Husky squad spends much of its time on physical drill. For instance, Owens feels that a strong neck is essential to good football not only because it is one of the most potent levers on the body, but also because it is an insurance against many of the more serious football injuries. Already some of the older coaches like Ohio State's Woody Hayes are adopting Owens' neck exercises, and Owens' athletes are advised not to invest heavily in shirts with collars that fit exactly. A Seattle writer said the other day, "I can't remember seeing an Owens player stretched out on the field all last year."