"I was so frightened in that opening game," Jim's mother says. "I was afraid he would look bad. And after he caught the first two, I said, 'Sit down, that's enough.' Shows you how good a judge I am."
The pro scouts are the best judges, and Seymour already has driven many of them out of their usual nonchalance, not to mention their rented cars.
"I'll tell you what," one of them says. "There has never been a kid at his position who has his size, his speed, his moves, his hands and his attitude. He's got to be the most unreal thing that's ever come along. I can't think of a pro club he couldn't start for right now. The only guy who remotely resembles him in the pros is Boyd Dowler. And he's pretty good, isn't he? You know what? I'd take Seymour."
At such praise, the Notre Dame split end is mystified and aghast, although I must tell you that he can wrap a neat four-in-hand knot in his tie, centered, without the aid of a mirror. He has also taught himself to play the guitar and cook almost any dish he wants to eat. There are a lot of people who might rank these talents up there with catching touchdown passes.
"I've dropped too many for everyone to get so excited," Jim says, smiling easily. He is handsome and personable in a Roger Staubach kind of way—scrubbed, wide grin, white teeth, neatly dressed. "There are a lot of things I've got to learn. I haven't even begun to see any variety of defenses yet. And I think I have trouble catching the low passes. I'm working on that."
Seymour also has an uncanny ability to take the ball away from people, which, incidentally, is how he got hurt in the Oklahoma game. He went up between three defenders and came down with a sprain. The only serious wound he ever suffered prior to this was a cleated eye in high school. "That was kind of bad," he says, neglecting to mention that when it happened during the opening game of his senior season, he left the field, had 10 stitches taken and came back—one-eyed—to lead his team to victory.
Seymour's partner, Terry Hanratty, is half Irish and half Italian, a condition that has encouraged Roger Valdiserri, naturally, to tell Parseghian that the quarterback's last name ought to be spelled with an "i." Hanratty comes from an entirely different background than Seymour—a separated family in Butler, Pa. His mother has not yet seen him play, except against Purdue on television, but it is not because she always hoped that he would become a baseball player. "I pushed him in sports all my life," she says. "I wanted him to play baseball, but I always told him, if you want something out of life, you can get it through sports."
Hanratty's father, Eddie, is a sports-loving man himself, who once considered a boxing career. He won 16 of 17 bouts as an amateur, but gave it up because, as he says, "You can wind up on Goofy Street." The father has seen three Notre Dame games, sitting proudly but worriedly in the stands, fearing injury. "He'll see a lot of mountains of men before he's through," says the father, "and I'll have to try to act like I'm not worried about it."
The quarterback was not easily recruited by Notre Dame. His first choice was Penn State, and his second was Michigan State, even though he had an older brother, Pete, who had gone to South Bend on a part-scholarship for track and field. Penn State will tell you that Hanratty's grades didn't measure up, but Notre Dame will tell you that John Ray, also a top recruiter, was the final persuading factor. Hanratty confesses the same.
Terry Hanratty is polite, bewildered, mannerly. He says, "I've just been trying to beat out Coley O'Brien for quarterback, and now all this happens." But that's not all he says. After the spectacular day against Purdue when he completed 16 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns, Hanratty was named Midwest Back of the Week—not the biggest deal in the world. But Hanratty was called into Valdiserri's office and told of the honor, nonetheless. The quarterback, who has sharp features in a narrow face and a black crew cut that lies flat, looked stunned. After a pause, he said slowly, "Boy, I never thought it would all end up like this."