"We won the toss," Ringo says when he and Forester come back. "We receive and they have the north goal."
"Good," I say.
I walk down to where Austin and Bengtson have the offensive and defensive lines facing one another. They are reviewing assignments. It is now 12:45. We have been out half an hour, so I send them in, follow them up the ramp and into the dressing room.
When they are all seated in front of their stalls, facing the center of the room, the other coaches and I leave them and go into our room and shut the door.
It is 10 minutes to game time, and these three minutes that will follow, with just the squad members alone in the dressing room, is something I started when I first came here in 1959. I was reaching for anything then, any method that would give them a feeling of oneness, of dependence upon one another and of strength to be derived from their unity, so I told the captains that before each game this period would belong solely to the players.
I do not know what is said in that room. I know that Ringo or Forester, or perhaps both, speak, and that if someone else wants to say something he does. I know that at the end—and this is completely their thought and desire—they all join in the Lord's Prayer.
Someone knocks on our door and the other coaches and I walk back into the room.
Now I have 7 minutes, and I walk among them. I walk to the center of the room, and Fm running through my mind those notes I made on that small pad. I start out by going over, for the offense, the automatic we're going to use, the plays our quarterback will call on the line when he sees that the defensive alignment will negate what he called in the huddle, and I stress our 36 and 50.
"Now, we're going to receive," I say then, "and we've got the south goal. Remember that this club puts their speediest men as third men out from each side and they must be blocked. They must be blocked, so let's take them out of there. Let's impress them, all of them, right on that kickoff.
"I don't have to tell you," I say, "about the importance of this ball game. You know as well as I do that you're meeting today the top contender, and that no one can win it now but you. For two years these people have been on our necks, but if you beat them today you'll be making your own job easier for the rest of this year. For you to do it, though, is going to require a top effort. You know the spirit with which this other club is coming in here. You know that they think they can beat you, that they've said they will. That's why I say it's going to take a top effort.