By comparison, Prothro is a hermit. He does not play golf, which in itself makes him almost unique among football coaches, nor does he socialize much. Football is both his work and a hobby. He enjoys staying awake for hours fiddling with various football statistics—such as rating the nation's top teams with his own mathematical formula and figuring ways to get better blocking angles off his shifting T, which is really a disguised single wing. The only other games he can tolerate are bridge and chess. Football consumes his life; he once stayed up for 72 consecutive hours preparing for an opponent.
Though he will seldom volunteer a statement about his teams, Prothro does answer intelligent questions directly and honestly and often with a droll humor that will startle the unsuspecting. Only a few days ago, for instance, he made the comment that he had once again voted for USC as the No. 1 team in the UPI coaches' poll, but when a writer asked him why he thought the Trojans were the best team, Tommy smiled, "I didn't say they were the best team. I said I voted for them as No. 1."
There is an equally distinct difference between the two players who have brought their teams to high national ranking—the halfback, Simpson, who rolls right over you, and the quarterback, Beban, who rolls around you.
For the seven and a half games of the season that Orenthal James Simpson has been whole, he has seemed to possess the finest combination of speed and power within the memory of any pro scout. He rushed for 1,238 yards in that span, and until his mishap in the Oregon game—a sprained instep that knocked him off his feet and onto crutches—he was a good bet to break the NCAA yardage record. Not only did he crash repeatedly into stacked defenses and still wedge his way out and slice and dart for yardage, he caught passes and threw them at the least expected moments.
A mild, warm, talkative transfer from City College of San Francisco who is a junior now, Simpson was at first pretty bewildered by his achievements and his acclaim. He had never really been an endurance runner. Most of his two seasons at CCSF he divided his time between split end and halfback, but still he scored 54 touchdowns, breaking a record set by Ollie Matson.
McKay was not sure whether Simpson would be a tailback or a flanker or a split end when he recruited him. He found out quickly in spring practice. O.J. attended practice only seven days, partly because he wanted to run on the USC 440-yard relay team that set a world record of 38.6 at the NCAA Championships and partly because the coaches had learned all they needed to know.
"We wanted to see if he could take it inside," said McKay. "We ran him seven straight times in one scrimmage, and that was it. He busted people backward."
Still, O.J. never imagined that he would be asked to carry the ball as often as he has. Like 38 times against Notre Dame, 36 against Michigan State and 30 against both Texas and Washington. "I don't get real tired," he says. "Maybe it's because I'm anticipating that on the next carry I'll break clear. I feel like I can go all the way every time, mainly because we've got such a good line."
McKay feels that Simpson, who is 6'1" and weighs 202, is the fastest runner for his size who ever played the game. His 9.4 clocking in the 100-yard dash is an often-mentioned figure, but it is not as impressive as his 4.5 at 40 yards in football shoes. USC's other speedster, Earl the Pearl McCullouch, has done a 4.4, but he is 35 pounds lighter and one of the world's fastest high hurdlers. The two have taken turns beating each other informally in a "football 100," and Simpson has swapped victories with McCullouch in the indoor 60-yard dash.
Simpson, who has been married to his high school sweetheart four months and lives in an apartment three blocks from the USC campus, has attracted almost as much attention with his nickname—Orange Juice—as he has with his statistics. He did not get the name in southern California. He had it in San Francisco, and he is not sure, but he believes it came from some television commercial about orange juice. (His real name, Orenthal, was given him by an aunt, who, he wryly notes, used things like Stewart and James when the time came to name her own children.)