"I don't baby my quarterbacks," said Van Brocklin later. "I don't believe in it. But you won't catch me berating them in front of the team either. It's vital to build up confidence in a quarterback and you don't do that by tearing him down in front of people. I like VanderKelen. He has a mind of his own. He's a good thinker. As soon as he learns all the plays he'll be O.K."
"I'm getting my feet on the ground now," said VanderKelen after two days of practice. "Sometimes I have to stop in the middle of the play and ask, 'Is that right?' But it's coming. The guys have been coming around and I'm learning their names. Tarkenton told me to come down and see him any time I had a question. I'll have some as soon as I know for sure what's going on."
The rookies, traditionally, sit at the first table in the cafeteria at the Viking camp, and they are obliged, by tradition, to sing their college songs at the whim of a veteran. On Tuesday, VanderKelen was called on. "Sing, VanderKelen!" "Gosh, look, it's Ron VanderKelen!" "You don't mean the Ron VanderKelen?" "Show us your trophies, VanderKelen!" "Sing!"
In failing baritone, VanderKelen rendered On, Wisconsin
from atop his chair, his right hand over his heart, his grin wide and foolish.
The next night there was a rebellion. The rookies refused to sing anything but On, I-o-way and the veterans, enraged, vowed retaliation. It came with a full-scale water fight that started on the second floor of the dormitories and spilled onto the first. VanderKelen, trapped outside his room, was swamped. "About six guys got me," he said happily. "They were going to shave my head—they'd already got one of the guys and shaved him—but they let me off. The water must have been an inch deep on the second floor. It dripped through the ceiling into Van Brocklin's room. He made us towel it up.
"Thursday we're going to have Rookie Night at the school auditorium. A series of impromptu skits. I'm going to play Van Brocklin. No holds barred. It'll be great."
He said he had been told he probably would start this weekend in the exhibition game at Los Angeles, his first trip there since the Rose Bowl game.
"You know," he said, "I think I might be going to like pro football."