Sonny Gibbs is a onetime Boy Scout who saves Indian arrowheads, shoots golf in the 70s, hunts and fishes and can water ski 80 yards on his bare size 13s. "Sandra Rea is the best I ever saw on a slalom," he says proudly. "She goes out of her mind on those skis, you betchy! Boy, what a woman. My parents love her to death."
Gibbs, sometimes called "Grubbs," is easily liked. He is droll without being cocky. He is pleasantly countrified. He can't understand anybody who never heard of Possum Kingdom Lake, where he fishes. He can't understand waitresses who can't understand him. "You thick?" he asks pleasantly. He orders "a buncha" butter. He filches the spare-ribs off Sandra's plate. He makes her blush with kindly references to her slightly bowed legs. "Oh, Sonny," says Sandra indulgently, "hush and tell the man how you saved those two kids from drowning last summer." "Aw, ah was just sittin' up there being a lifeguard," says Sonny, "when I saw these two kids in trouble. A boy and his sister. Man, the horrible expression on those faces. I dove right in and went for the girl and she shouted, "Not me, ya dummy—him!' That's the kinda hero I am."
Gibbs' roommate is the smallest man on the TCU team, 5-foot-9, 155-pound Jerry Jack Terrell, the safety man.
He is genuinely proud of Gibbs' emergence as a responsible, respected TCU team captain. "We were a pretty happy bunch last year, carousing around and all. Before the Tech game we were up half the night—playing poker. Sonny too. But this fall, after we elected him captain, he called us all together and read the riot act: 'No drinking, no smoking, no staying out late. And the first guy I catch is off the team.' He surprised a lot of us, but he meant it."
"I don't rightly know what I'd do if I caught anybody," says Gibbs, grinning. "Jerry Jack's the fighter. Ah'm more a lover type."
Gibbs is a natural athlete, smooth and effortless. He is not fast, nor elusive, but his long stride covers much ground and he hits with great impact. On a team which will pass only in extreme crises, he has had remarkable success: 71 completions for 999 yards in 1961, No. 1 in the Southwest Conference in total offense with 1,198 yards. He throws hard, too hard for lesser receivers, and is stunningly accurate on long passes. Gibbs is not quick getting the ball away, however, and is too slow to be consistently effective on rollouts. But his major flaw would seem to be his reluctance to use himself. He never called a play in high school—the coach did it for him—and he found it "a scary thing" as a TCU sophomore. Now he says he "likes it," but in the season's opener with Kansas he still passed only eight times, completing four as TCU, an improved team over 1961, made an early lead stand, 6-3.
The pairing of Gibbs and Miami's Mira was a natural: Gibbs—deliberate, resourceful; Mira, at 5 feet 11, flashy, quick and exciting. Mira throws right-handed or left-handed. Against Florida last fall, he grappled with a charging lineman with his right arm (his throwing arm), switched the ball to his left and spiraled a seven-yard touchdown pass. He passed for 1,000 yards in 1961.
Mira comes from Key West, a dark-skinned Spanish boy who, unlike Gibbs, is outwardly nervous—he makes a meal of his fingernails—and a practicing hypochondriac, always rooting around the training room for pills and advice. But for all his protestations Mira is durable and tough and most dangerous when under heavy pressure. He runs like a halfback and, if anything, throws harder than Gibbs. His accuracy is uncanny. He was offered $20,000 by the Baltimore Orioles off his high school pitching record (31 wins, 2 losses) but chucked it for an education. "The only way to stop Mira," said a Kentucky scout, "is to tackle him before he gets the ball."
Mira and Miami beat Gibbs and TCU 21-20. Mira threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third, and when one of his passes was blocked he caught it himself and made yardage. Even so, Gibbs was splendid in defeat—he threw a touchdown pass in the final minute that almost pulled another upset. When it was over the two quarterbacks could be seen pushing through the crowd at mid-field to talk. "Ah always wanted to meet you, George," said Gibbs worshipfully. Later he said, " Mira's the greatest college quarterback I've ever seen." Brock would have brained him.