McVea, a high-spirited individualist, is unique in many ways. He is the first much-recruited southern Negro to play on a major-college team in the Southwest, he is the star of the nation's only indoor football team and he is certainly the only All-America candidate in recent memory who has had a near fight with a teammate—a white teammate, at that—in plain view of a Domeful of spectators.
Although the mere sight of a football game in the Astrodome is bizarre enough, a more shocking scene occurred only two weeks ago when McVea and his principal co-star, Kenny Hebert, the excellent Houston split end, got into a scuffle in their own huddle during Houston's 50-6 victory over Wake Forest.
It happened in the second quarter at a time when the Cougars led by three touchdowns and were moving for another. When McVea failed to carry out a fake, Hebert, a fiery type from Pampa, Texas, came raging back to the huddle. He shoved himself up into McVea's face, and before the Astrodome's startled 41,000 began lecturing Warren.
It looked for all the world like professional jealousy, as if the Cougars' leading pointmaker, Hebert, and their leading runner, McVea, were arguing over tomorrow's headlines. And one imagined the following conversation taking place down there on the bright green Astroturf:
Hebert: Knock off the loafing, Back of the Week.
McVea: Excuse me, Leading Scorer, I didn't know you were the coach.
Hebert seemed to push McVea, and McVea quickly bumped Hebert backward with his forearms, a mild sort of pass block. Out came this terrible, embarrassed gasp from the crowd.
Houston Coach Bill Yeoman was appalled. He waited a couple of plays, then took McVea out. McVea went to the sideline and promptly jerked away from Yeoman when the coach tried to put his arm around him, an act which drew another gasp from the crowd.
When McVea did not re-enter the game the rest of the evening, it looked as if Yeoman were disciplining him, but nothing could have been further from the truth. It was McVea himself—out of a combination of anger and dismay—who refused to play anymore. Nor did Yeoman insist, for he is lenient with his Wondrous One, proceeding on the probably sound theory that nothing helps his team quite so much as a happy McVea.
"I was really hot," McVea said two days later as he wandered around Rice Stadium in a nattily tailored gold suit and Paisley tie, watching a pro game between the Oilers and Broncos of the AFL. "I was shocked at Kenny. I guess I was a little embarrassed. The whole thing was over right there in the huddle, and we both apologized to each other. I could have gone back in, but it was 28-0 and they didn't need me."