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Tex Maule
September 07, 1964
Gambling on Tittle is only one example of the brinksmanship practiced by Allie Sherman, who also has scrapped his defense.
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September 07, 1964

A Pedantic Professor Who Likes To Buck Long Odds

Gambling on Tittle is only one example of the brinksmanship practiced by Allie Sherman, who also has scrapped his defense.

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"I always wanted to play football," he says. "I wanted to play from as long ago as I can remember. I finally got a chance at Brooklyn College, but before that most of my football was on sand-lots. I played T formation quarterback at Brooklyn College and that was just when the T took over, so I was drafted by the Eagles because everyone wanted a ballplayer who could operate the T."

When Sherman showed up at the Eagle training camp, he was one of eight quarterbacks Greasy Neale was examining. Since Sherman was thin and looked too fragile to play ping-pong, no one thought he would make the club—with the exception of Sherman.

"I used to lie awake nights and worry about it, but I was sure I would make it," Allie says now. He speaks precisely and carefully and he has an undeserved reputation among sportswriters for talking in clich�s. He is fond of certain phrases and they have a ring of Madison Avenue, but when he digs earnestly into a discussion of football the trite phrases disappear. In a dressing room after a Giant game he is apt to discuss the afternoon's action in terms more likely to be used by a pedantic professor. "We were unable to establish continuity in our ground attack," he said once last season. "The impetus of momentum was with the other team."

In an effort to establish continuity in the Giant ground attack this year, Sherman drafted Joe Don Looney, a massive but moody fullback who played for four colleges before being unceremoniously booted off the Oklahoma squad early in the 1963 season. Looney was the Giants' first draft choice; it is safe to say that he would not have been the first draft choice of any other club in the league.

The fact that the Giants added this gamble to the rest of the gambles they have taken since the end of the 1963 season is a tribute to Sherman's predilection for extracting fine wine from sour grapes. Looney spent four days in the Giant training camp before he joined the College All-Star squad. The four days were not particularly indicative of a change of attitude by Looney, who had floored an Oklahoma assistant coach as the immediate prelude to being kicked off the Oklahoma squad.

One afternoon Don Smith, the Giant publicity man, asked Looney to come down to his office to talk to a reporter. Looney refused. Smith sent a messenger back to Looney's room to point out that part of his contract with the Giants requires that he cooperate in public relations, and Looney sent the messenger back with a brief and rude suggestion as to what Smith could do.

"He didn't talk to anyone and he spent most of his time in his room flexing his muscles," one observer at the Giant camp said. "He'll be a problem." Said Sherman, "He looked fine in practice. He can kick the ball very well and he works hard. He has all the physical equipment. Somewhere in his personality is a key you can turn to open him up. Our job is to find the key."

When Looney returned from the All-Star camp with a pulled leg muscle, he still was not overflowing with desire. "He doesn't have a Giant attitude," one player said, and Sherman finally agreed. Allie could not find the Looney key, and now the Colts' Don Shula has the job of hunting for it.

Sherman seldom before has failed to plumb the psyches of football players—both the good and the marginal. He studied them for five years as a second-string quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.

"When I got out of Brooklyn College I had real good grades," he says. "My family didn't want me to be a football player. They thought I was wasting myself. But I sat down and thought the whole thing out and I decided that what I wanted to do in life was coach, and if I wanted to coach, then the best way to learn was to play with the pros. I knew I could make more money doing something else, but my object has never been to make a great deal of money."

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