Plunkett has been bulky for a long time, going back to his days at Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. He went both ways as a tackle and was very fast for a big man. One of his coaches remembered that he weighed 235, but Sherm admits he was 280 even then. At Maryland State he did drop down to about 240.
"I got sick or something," he said. "I was younger then."
After being cut by the Cleveland Browns, he spent two years playing at Fort Dix, N.J., learning from Roosevelt Grier and other pros in the service. When he got out he joined Ewbank and the Colts. "I weighed about 270." he said. "Weeb was happy with it. That first year I could run a five-flat 40."
"We could tell how much he weighed by the wrinkles in his neck," said former Colt star Art Donovan. "If he had three wrinkles he weighed 320, and if he had four he weighed 360."
In 1961 the Colts offered Plunkett a $500 bonus if he reported at 275; he missed by 25 pounds. When Weeb got him back for the Jets in 1963, he tried a new scheme. He offered Betty Plunkett $1,000 to get Sherman's poundage down. She didn't collect, either; and Ewbank fined him this time.
Right now, Plunkett is faced with winning his job back from rookie Sam Walton, a 276-pounder from East Texas State. Then he has to keep playing better than Walton and another challenger, Jim Harris, who reported at 303 instead of 275 (he has slimmed to 286), and also was made to pay his own way at camp.
To accomplish these things, Plunkett absolutely must get his weight down. Ewbank has decreed it, and, as Sherm says, "He's the boss. I'll go on one meal a day as long as I can. I've been through this before, just about every year. When I was 286, they wanted me 275. But I'll be able to get down to 300 like he wants—by the time the season starts, if he keeps me."
Besides eating only the evening meal, Plunkett is sweating off some of the surplus in the Jets' two-a-day drills. He runs laps with the team and finishes last. He does jumping jacks, but he does not touch hands above his head. He does eight push-ups or so and ambles through the new plays introduced each session. And, presumably, he's laying off the cheese and crackers at 3 a.m.
Plunkett can take some small comfort in the fact that he is not the only tackle in pro football with a weight problem. The Miami Dolphins' ninth draft choice, 6'7" Sam McDowell of Southwest Missouri State, was required by his contract to report at 295. Instead, he checked in at 371, making Plunkett look like a ballerina by comparison.
"I can't understand it," wailed McDowell. "I only weighed 316 back home in Lebanon."