Bill Nelsen, the 1962 Trojan quarterback now with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was Bedsole's roommate last year. "At first I couldn't stand him," says Nelsen. "Then I discovered he was really a very self-conscious guy. Very complex. Of course, he's cocky to beat the devil, and that's what most people see. He went to practice when he wanted to in high school and junior college. He was the big-action man. He always got his way. He wore No. 16 all the time, and when he discovered I had No. 16 at Southern Cal, he came up to me and said, 'Do you like that number?' That was the first time I'd ever met him. I told him I liked it fine. And I kept it, too. We became good friends." Nelsen wrote Bedsole a long letter this summer advising him of the importance of a college senior acting like a college senior.
Simonian, who was USC's sports publicist until the success of USC's football team gave him an ulcer last year, says, "Hal's an operator. The first guy to want to check things out when you hit a new town. He gives that Saturday Hero bit, and he means it. He used to say to me, 'O.K., Don, what kind of publicity are you getting me today?' But when the season was over, he was the first to come to me and say he appreciated my efforts."
Bedsole was born in Chicago two weeks after Pearl Harbor and moved as a child with his mother and stepfather, Herbert Lambrecht, and twin brothers to Northridge in the San Fernando Valley. Last year his brother Eddie was killed in a Chicago auto accident. Soon afterward the USC team went to Champaign, Ill., to play the University of Illinois. The week of the game Bedsole came to Simonian. "He was very upset. He told me he had never seen his real father, but he knew he lived in Chicago. He asked me, 'What will I do if some stranger walks up to me and says, "Hello, Hal. I'm your father"?' These are the things that don't show on the surface."
His teammates used to call Bedsole "Prince Hal" in appreciation of his lordly singular ways, his disdain for practice, his disinterest in blocking or tackling, his convenient Mickey Mouse injuries. "I'm injury-prone," Hal explained, "so Coach McKay lets me take it easy during the week." He enjoys the notoriety. " Mike Garrett [sophomore halfback] calls me Primo," he grins. "For primo donna." He goes to great lengths to perpetuate the image. Last year he appeared on the practice field in dark glasses, Hollywood style. Fullback Ben Wilson, then Trojan team captain, got some dark glasses of his own and came out waving his arms and twittering, "Hey, look at me! I'm Hal Bedsole." Bedsole ate it up. But when he became aware before the Colorado game this year that Beathard's practice patterns were using the Come-through Kid more as a decoy than anything else, he was affronted. "You know, Coach," he said to one of Head Coach Johnny McKay's assistants, "when you've got Citation in your stable you race him."
Bedsole went out for the USC baseball team last spring. His motivations were immediately suspect. "Hal will do anything to get out of football practice," said a teammate. Nevertheless, there he was in the starting lineup when the Trojans played the Los Angeles Dodgers in a preseason exhibition. First time up he hit a long double off Ron Perranoski and was thrown out at third trying to stretch it to a triple in the face of frantic signals from the third-base coach. The next time up he drove one against the wall and pulled up short at first. "An all-world record for a single," he said. "This time I was playing it safe." Not really. He engaged in an analysis of the situation with the first baseman and got picked off. A few days later he was back at work on the football field. "I want to learn how to block and tackle," he told End Coach Mike Giddings.
Giddings, a tough ex-marine, says Bedsole never put out as well as he did this spring and fall: "He actually learned some defense." Against Oklahoma, Bedsole had a grim time trying to catch the ball, but he was superb—"for a fellow still learning"—in all other departments: he made two jarring tackles, he blocked an Oklahoma field-goal attempt and he laid the principal block in a touchdown run by Halfback Willie Brown. The truth was that had he not blocked the field goal, USC would have been out of the game long before he muffed his last pass. In USC's 17-14 loss to Notre Dame last week he dropped one sure touchdown pass and let another get through him for an interception that resulted in a Notre Dame score. But he also made three fine catches, one-handing a 43-yarder to keep a Trojan touchdown drive going, and was in on five tackles. He suddenly seems incapable of being anything but very good or very bad.
For Hal Bedsole it was not always so. He cannot remember a time when he was not good at athletics. When he reached junior high he was 6 feet 2 and 195 pounds, could run 100 yards in 10.7 seconds, could take on his twin brothers at the same time and had no trouble getting his way. "I wasn't a bad kid," he says. "I just never made any bones about being good. My philosophy has always been if you want to do something, do it, but I've learned what I always do is give people the wrong idea. Somebody sees you drinking a beer, and two days later they've got you passed out in a bar. I visited the San Francisco 49er camp last summer just because I wanted to, and the next day the story was out that I had been there with my business manager to talk contract. Boy, Coach McKay loved that."
At Reseda High in Northridge, Bedsole was a quarterback on the football team, a catcher on the baseball team and "dabbled in track" (he put the shot 54 feet and in college ran the hurdles when he was in the mood). He eventually quit baseball because he didn't like the coach. He was high school football player of the year in 1959, but the only time McKay saw him play, Reseda lost to Huntington Park, quarterbacked by Craig Fertig, 46 to 6 in the championship game. Fertig is now USC's second quarterback behind Beathard, and, Bedsole says, "every day of my life he reminds me of that game. He relates it to everything I do."
Grades kept Bedsole out of USC immediately so he spent a preparatory year at Pierce Junior College, where he made Junior College All-America at quarterback. This impressed McKay so much that Bedsole was fifth team in his first year at USC. By mutual agreement he kept his quarterback's number—19—and changed his position. He was made an end. "I could see myself throwing a $12,000 scholarship down the tubes," said Bedsole, "but I wanted to play. Anywhere." Said McKay: "Bedsole can be just as good or bad as he wants to be."
Bedsole chose to be quite good. By the end of that first season Don Klosterman, chief scout of the Kansas City Chiefs of the American Football League, was convinced that "He will be the best offensive end in college football by the time he's a senior." Simonian listened to the tributes and began promoting the possibility, wishing at least once a week thereafter that he had not. As Bedsole's wondrous statistics spiraled, so did his untidy reputation. Finally, before the Rose Bowl game last January, he walked out of the Alumni Awards Banquet at the Palladium. Somebody else had been chosen Southern California's lineman of the year. Bedsole, All-America or not, had drawn a blank before 1,000 people, and he was sick with rage and disappointment. He does not take disappointment well. For a time it appeared McKay might demote him right off the Rose Bowl squad, but instead he talked to him—"good and tough"—and let him stay.