Howie and Ham
rushed the inside, and Fitzy and Doc were the defensive ends. Howie had the
good lateral movement and Ham didn't have any at all, but that wasn't his
fault. He had this thing wrong with his eyes called tunnel vision, and he could
only see straight ahead. He'd line up on the inside and focus in on the
quarterback and start this sound down inside of him somewhere. It was like the
rumble of a locomotive in a movie trying to stop before going over the open
bridge. It was real quiet when it started and then got louder and louder until
the snap of the ball.
Ham would come
straight, and it made no difference who or how many there were in his way, he
kept coming, with those big forearms out in front of him. If the guy trying to
hold him out went down, that was too bad, because Ham couldn't see down either.
He'd step on him.
But when he'd
drive the quarterback out of the pocket, he'd start yelling, "Where is he,
Howie? Where is he?"
Howie would yell,
"Left," or "Right," and Ham would pivot and start off
Howie or Ham
would usually drive the thrower out, and Fitzy or Doc would nail him. They came
in like a couple of scythes, wide and hard, and if the guy who was getting
chased didn't like the looks of the outside with those two coming, he could
always turn back to the inside and run into Howie or Ham.
If he stayed
straight back behind the center, though, and the receivers were covered, it was
awful, because eventually Ham would get to him. When it was over, Howie would
help the quarterback to his feet while Ham just stood there, breathing. Usually
he was waiting for Howie to show him the way back to the other side of the line
But Doc and Fitzy
were at their best on the sweeps. We ran in this game, too. We had pitchouts,
an off-tackle play, a single and double reverse and an end sweep. You can run
in touch, contrary to what some people think, especially if you have people who
like to pull and block in the open field, and we had that kind.
Other teams in
the league ran, too, and Doc and Fitzy liked that. With good halfbacks behind
them, all they were supposed to do was pressure the man with the ball. This was
their game: no glory, no science, no nostalgia about recapturing a lost youth.
They played because they liked to hit. That was their favorite word.
"Hit!" How they loved the sound of that word.
I remember our
opening game—I'll never forget it. We were playing the Perth Amboy Rod and Gun
Club, and they had this one guy in their rush line who was something. He went
about 250 or 260, and he was made out of rock. All afternoon he had been
getting to me just after I released the ball. They hadn't been really solid
hits, because Howie or Fitzy always managed to be somewhere in between. But it
was just a matter of time, and they knew it, and he knew it and, most of all, I
You didn't do
anything about that sort of thing, though, because of this kind of code we had.
It was a pretty simple thing—you took it or you got out. There was a little
more to the code. You didn't use your fists, except in a fight. The only other
important part was the unspoken rule about how you could "touch" the
guy with the ball.