SI Vault
 
SUPERMEN OF TROY
Dan Jenkins
September 26, 1966
They all came out to see sophomore Bill Bradley light up the Texas sky, but Super Bill couldn't overcome a fierce Southern California team that suited up quite a few superlatives of its own
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 26, 1966

Supermen Of Troy

They all came out to see sophomore Bill Bradley light up the Texas sky, but Super Bill couldn't overcome a fierce Southern California team that suited up quite a few superlatives of its own

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3

Nothing pleased John McKay more than the Trojans at that moment. " Texas made the right call. I'll guarantee you they're not going to get the four yards running, because we're up there in a goal-line nine-man line," McKay said. "They might have hit us with a long pass, if they wanted to gamble on it. But by punting, they had us right where we didn't want to be. I talked to Frank Broyles at Arkansas earlier in the week," he added, "and asked him what he thought and he said, 'John, you can't run into the middle on Texas. Nobody can.' And I said, 'Well, if we can't, we're in for a long day.' So now we've got to. I thought we won the game right then."

First, Sherman hit for three yards, then he literally pounded past a bevy of Longhorns for six more, and Mike Hull got the one yard that was necessary for a first down at the 12. There were six minutes left. Then USC did it again, getting another first down at the 27 on three running plays. There were four minutes to go. But the next three plays got only nine yards. With two and a half minutes on the clock and fourth and one on USC's own 36, a good defensive play by Texas, a bad snap, a fumble, a penalty, and Super Bill would have been in business. Shouldn't USC punt now? Of course not.

"I've got to have enough confidence in my offensive line to make one yard," said McKay, "or we shouldn't be out there." It made four yards, and Bill Bradley, who had gone in hoping to field a punt and run it to Los Angeles, came off the field to await another Saturday.

Seldom do sophomores come along who create as much preseason, pregame excitement—Royal says insanity—as Bill Bradley did last week. Most of them fail to live up to the unrealistic expectations, notable historical examples being Northwestern's Bill De Correvont back in the 1940s and UCLA's Ronnie Knox in the 1950s. But a few have, such as SMU's Doak Walker. Bill Bradley was surely the most raved-about sophomore since Walker in the Southwest Conference, and even though he had not played a varsity down his fame had spread quickly across the country as Texas prepared for USC.

Bradley, however, had only himself to blame for much of it. At 185 and 5 feet 11, a right-handed passer and left-footed kicker, he had already proved he could dunk a basketball with either hand, broad-jump 23 feet in his first attempt, play shortstop and switch-hit at the plate so proficiently that he had turned down a $40,000 bonus from the Detroit Tigers. On the football field, he could throw with either hand, kick with cither foot and, as one writer put it, "think with either brain."

Bradley had led his high school football team, Palestine, to a state championship in the wildest way possible. Trailing 0-23 in the last half of the big game, Bradley won it 24-23, putting the winning pass in the air left-handed as the final gun sounded. He had led the Texas freshmen to a 4-1 record by running 73, 46, 23 and nine yards for touchdowns and punting for a 43.3 average. And he had added to the scoring legend in Texas' spring game last April, when he raced 73 yards on a punt return for a touchdown the first time he touched the ball. One of the Texas coaches jokingly said, "I'll bet if you ripped off his shirt you'd find an 'S' on his chest." Longhorn Publicist Jones Ramsey said, "He'll always be just plain old Clark Kent to me," and Darrell Royal started having terrible headaches.

Bradley's name was in headlines every day last week before the USC game. "You know," said Royal in the privacy of his elegantly paneled and carpeted office at the University of Texas, "this is the most unfair thing in the world. Bill doesn't have a chance to do what people expect of him. He's got to go out there on national TV against a darn strong team in his very first game and think he's got to be George Gipp or somebody, and all he really is is a sophomore with a lot of potential."

Against all of the pressure, did Royal think Super Bill might be Super Flop? Might he fumble twice, throw a couple of interceptions and punt the ball backwards?

"Oh, no," said Royal quickly. "He won't do that. No sirree, uh-uh. I sure don't expect that. He can run—a smooth, controlled runner, you know, with instinctive subtle moves. And he can punt and he can throw. Not a pretty thrower, but he can get the ball where it's supposed to be. He's probably the most gifted boy we've had around here, but he's a sophomore. He's gonna throw away a lateral or two. He's gonna throw a bad pass instead of taking the three or four yards he would make, and the reason is because of the pressure—because he'll probably feel like he has to score on every play. I do think that, once the abnormal pressure is off, he can become quite a football player. He's a leader and he's got poise."

Joe Bradley, the boy's father, a railroad dispatcher in Palestine whose orange cashmere blazer on game day stepped up dispatchers everywhere in class, had no doubts about Super Son avoiding real embarrassment. "He'll stay cool," said the father. "He's been competing for a long time, from the pee-wee leagues right up to this, and he's always done well under pressure. I'll tell you what I'm more worried about than anything. Baseball's his first love, and he's probably a better shortstop than a quarterback. I just hope baseball will leave him alone, so he can get his education and prove he can be a winning quarterback for Texas."

Continue Story
1 2 3