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Fido is not quite the superman he claims to be, but there is evidence that he has a first-rate bird dog's nose for talent. For a brief period in 1959 Fido took French leave from his NFL clients and, according to his version, literally ran the American Football League's first draft meeting; he quickly returned to the NFL because, he says, he could not tolerate Harry Wismer's loud mouth. In the Steeler training camp one night recently, the coaches sat in a dormitory kitchen drinking beer and discussing Fido. Said Backfield Coach Mike Nixon:
"Fido can spot talent all right. He's picked off some real sleepers. I remember four years ago when he was touting Angelo Coia of Southern California. Nobody in the league wanted Coia. Everybody said he had no guts. But Fido kept hollering for him, and finally George Halas gave him the green light to sign Coia for the Bears."
Raising his right hand, Nixon swore he saw Fido sign Coia smack in the middle of a workout for the Copper Bowl game in Arizona. Fido marched briskly onto the field and said to the coach of Coia's squad, "This won't take a minute." Seizing Coia by the elbow, he pulled him out of a huddle, knelt down with the contract on his knee, handed Coia a fountain pen and said, "Sign here, kid." Coia was so shocked he signed. "As you know," said Mike Nixon, " Coia's been a helluva flanker for the Bears."
While Nixon praised Fido, two men in the room scowled. One was Buster Ramsey, a large ex-lineman. Fido had arrived in training camp that day announcing, "Big Daddy Lipscomb died on me over the winter, so I had to come out here and rebuild the Steeler defense from scratch." Buster Ramsey is the Steeler defensive coach.
The other sour-faced man was Will Walls, Pittsburgh's chief scout. Fido categorically denounces all chief scouts as titled know-nothings. "The only trouble with Fido," said Walls, "is he talks so much you wonder how he gets time to look at a player."
Head Coach Buddy Parker came to Fido's rescue. "He signs everyone there is to sign," said Parker. "He's got a good way with boys. He scouts the Los Angeles Rams, and their coaches hate him because he loafs with their players. The Rams think he gets the lowdown from their own players." In point of fact, Sid Gillman, one of a succession of Ram coaches Fido has infuriated, once sighted him entering the Los Angeles Coliseum and ordered ushers to throw him out. Brandishing a ticket and threatening six lawsuits, Fido held his ground.
Fittingly, Fido works out of Hollywood, where he resides with his wife, the actress Iris Adrian, who is frequently seen on late late TV films playing dumb-blonde parts. Her Flatbush-type voice is that of the telephone operator who over the years has given Jack Benny a hard time. ("She was a Ziegfeld queen, the belle of Broadway, a landmark at Leon and Eddie's," Fido proclaims.) Lounging by his swimming pool in a maroon velvet Roman toga, which he "bought cheap" from Anthony Quinn, Fido ruminates on players he has scouted and, from time to time, dashes off such letters as a recent dispatch to the Steeler office in which he mentioned Barron Hilton, owner of the San Diego Chargers of the rival American League. "Spoke at a luncheon here today for Hilton and put them in isles," wrote Fido. "What an offer his league made me! But I turned it down. I always put honor and loyalty before money.... I am holding out six or eight kids I uncovered which an IBM computer can't go find."
A chronic name-dropper, Fido quotes Ed Pauley, the big oilman who once owned shares in the Rams, as saying: "Those other scouts sit in the press box and yell, 'Hey, Murphy! What'd they do on that last play?' Murphy yells back, 'They were in an over-four.' Then the scouts yell, 'What'd the strong side do?' And Murphy says, 'For Pete's sake I'll diagram it for you at half time. I'm busy.' "
Fido makes no secret of his utter contempt for the scouts and coaches who populate pro football. "A bunch of office boys with fancy titles!" he snaps. "They been washing my brain for 30 years. A lot of fakers and phonies! You ask them what do they think of such-and-such a player, and they tell you, 'Wait till I see the films.' I don't need no lousy films. I'll tell you right there. Pete Beathard of USC will be the Heisman Trophy winner this year, but I'm not interested in him. No arm. But McKay's I formation is made to order for him, so all them office boys will think he's great."
Last year's Heisman Trophy winner, Terry Baker of Oregon State, was not as promising a prospect, says Fido, as Bill Nelsen, a quarterback he signed for the Steelers. Nelsen also played in McKay's I formation, but presumably had an arm. "I got you the best quarterback of the lot," Fido told Buddy Parker.