McNally is tall
and lean. He has a strong face and untroubled eyes and a good head of iron-gray
hair. He looks like a scholar or a poet or a contemplative monk in mufti. In
repose, he is a picture of utter relaxation and, moving about, he suggests the
effortless coordination of a cat. Ordinarily, he speaks quietly and briefly, as
though words were not things to be wasted. On occasion, he is not so frugal
with them. In his time, he has drawn street-corner crowds with rousing
recitations of Kipling and has silenced soapbox orators with strange but oddly
plausible arguments for or against any proposition under discussion.
Candidate John F.
Kennedy met him for the first time in Green Bay, during the Wisconsin primary
campaign. "Your name," said Senator Kennedy, "was a household word
in our home." After the election, President Kennedy greeted McNally again
at a White House reception which he attended in the company of his friend Byron
White, then deputy attorney general, now a Justice of the Supreme Court.
evening at the White House, McNally had been around a bit. He had taught
history and economics at his alma mater, St. John's University in Minnesota. He
had entered the University of Minnesota to study for his master's degree at the
age of 50. He had started writing a book on economics, a work still in
progress. He had read law as a clerk in his uncle's law firm. He had run
(unsuccessfully) for sheriff of St. Croix County, Wis., on a platform promising
honest wrestling. He had been an Air Force staff sergeant and cryptographer in
India and China during World War II. He had done a few things calling for less
intellectual challenge. He had tended bar in Shanty Malone's place in San
Francisco. He had been a stickman, a croupier, in a gambling house. He had been
a seaman, a newspaper stereotyper, a miner, a farmhand, a feed salesman, a
floor waxer, a sportswriter, a hotel desk clerk, a pick-and-shovel worker on a
WPA project in Los Angeles during the Depression. He had spent a night in jail
in Havana for fistfighting over a matter of principle. He had walked out of a
hotel in Atlantic City wearing four shirts and two suits and had settled his
bill by mail later on.
In between all
this, he had played some football—a lot of extraordinary football—and it was
the kind of football he played that Jed to his election (along with Jim Thorpe,
Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski, Cal Hubbard and a dozen others) as a charter
member of pro football's Hall of Fame which will be dedicated September 7 at
Canton, Ohio, the birthplace of the National Football League.
His full name, as
entered in the records at Canton, is John Victor McNally. If it rings no bell,
then for John Victor McNally read Johnny Blood—the name he used when he was a
household word with the teen-age Kennedy boys, the name of the legendary
halfback who scored 37 touchdowns and 224 points during his career with the
Green Bay Packers and helped them win four NFL championships. As Johnny Blood,
he played all around the pro circuit and served three seasons as player-coach
of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team for which he once signed his friend,
"I guess you
could say," Justice White said recently, "that if it were not for
Johnny Blood's persuasiveness, I would not have played professional football.
We played together only a year, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but we have kept
in close touch ever since.
"He was a
great teammate. A cheerful fellow, friendly off the field. Nothing fazed him.
Sometimes, although he was player-coach, he might miss a practice and explain
next day that he had been to the library. He was a fine defense man. He was
fast. I tried all season to beat him at 100 yards and couldn't. He was a great
receiver. He thought there wasn't a ball in the air he couldn't catch. I value
him as a friend as much as I admired him as a player."
Don Hutson, a
Hall of Fame man and Johnny Blood's teammate with the Packers, has said of
"I never saw
a fellow who could turn a ball game around as quickly as Johnny Blood. When he
came into a game, the whole attitude of the players changed. He had complete
confidence in himself. He had tremendous football sense."
A man who has
seen all the great backs, from Johnny Blood to Jimmy Taylor of today's Green
Bay Packers, said: