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Having twin Irish linemen, who enrolled only after a rugged recruiting battle with Notre Dame and other football powers, was a publicity bonanza for USC. Marlin was an end and Mike a guard, so the coach gave them almost matching numbers, 86 and 68. Photographers, columnists and sports cartoonists couldn't get enough of them. They got bit parts in movies. They earned good grades in finance and talked of opening a brokerage, McKeever & McKeever, someday. But they didn't get extensive press coverage and make All-America teams just because they were twins. They were good.
Mike was a bit faster and got slightly better grades. On the field he ranked higher in the defensive statistics (tackles, assisted tackles, etc.), but that was probably because he was in the center of the action while Marlin was out at end, where the other team could more easily avoid him. As juniors they were named Associated Press co-linemen of the week for their play against Baylor. A lot of people thought they were surely the best twin football players ever and maybe the best twin athletes ever.
Although I think they were about equal in ability, Mike certainly managed to be more controversial. He was thrown out of the 1959 Stanford game for unnecessary roughness, which didn't cause much uproar, but after the Cal game at Berkeley the Cal coach accused him of elbowing and piling on Halfback Steve Bates, who suffered a crushed cheekbone, loosened teeth and a broken nose. The ensuing imbroglio was about the most bitter in the long history of San Francisco-L.A. sports ruckuses. Mike denied any premeditated mayhem and his coach backed him up, but USC's president viewed the game films and issued an apology to Cal. Mike got quite a going-over in the press, especially in the Bay Area papers.
In the KA house, of course, he was considered completely innocent. In fact, to this day there are fraternity brothers of mine who won't subscribe to certain national magazines because they think those publications were unfair to Mike. Support went beyond the membership, too. The cook's husband came to pick her up one day looking as if he had run into a locomotive head on. He'd been in a barroom brawl the night before, defending the good name of Mike McKeever.
There were some distinct practical advantages to having plenty of jocks around the house, apart from the value they had in attracting attention and new members and girls. When a UCLA fraternity swiped our charter, the McKeever twins and some other players went across town to retrieve it. They met no opposition. When some idiot was throwing tomatoes at the house, making nice big red splats on the clean white facade, big George Belotti, who was later a center for the Houston Oilers, caught him and dumped the whole crate of tomatoes over his head.
The jocks also helped us to excel in interfraternity competition. They were not allowed to compete against "amateurs" in their specialties, but most of them were terrific in at least one other sport. Arnett won the Row golf tournament. Sam Tsagalakis, a fine placekicker, was good in handball. Fullback Gordy Duvall annually won the interfraternity 100-yard dash and shotput.
Of course, USC was too big a place with too many intercollegiate teams for us to have a corner on the jock market. The great Olympic shotputter Parry O'Brien had been a Phi Psi. The legend was that he was such a fanatic about his specialty that he would get up in the middle of the night and practice by moonlight out in the alley behind the house. A fellow I knew inherited O'Brien's room and there was a neat round hole in one wall where Parry had tossed a shot right through it. Apparently there had been no moon that night.
The Sigma Chis not only had the most beautiful fraternity song, The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, but also the claim that their chapter alone had had more All-Americas (Morley Drury, Jesse Hibbs and so on) than UCLA. We replied, as if it were a vital matter, that they were living in the past and now merely had the front-line animals while KAs were making the long, thrilling TD runs, e.g., Gordy Duvall's 77-yard sprint against Washington and Ernie Merk's 93-yard punt return against Minnesota. And innumerable broken-field classics by Jon Arnett.
Among the multitude of all-world jocks on campus, Arnett was king. First, of course, he had that streamlined, vaguely French movie-star name that just could not belong to any anonymous left tackle. A guy named Jon Arnett had to be a glamorous runner, and he was. He was built low to the ground and could hold the road beautifully while turning corners at top speed, like a sports car. So, naturally he was nicknamed Jaguar Jon, or just Jaguar to the brothers. He had been a good high school tumbler, so if a tackier hit him and didn't grab hold instantly, Jon would do a nifty back-flip with a half-twist, land on his feet like the other kind of jaguar and zip into the end zone. He made so many dazzling runs in one game and scored so often that a brand-new father watching on television vowed. "If he scores one more time, I'm going to name my son after him." Sure enough Jaguar scored again, and thus became the namesake of Jon Arnett Nakamura.
In 1965 Mike Garrett became the first Trojan to win the Heisman Trophy and he certainly deserved it. But Jaguar should have won it almost a decade before. He did not because several Pacific Coast Conference schools were caught making illegal payments to their prize recruits, and the athletes got punished along with the institutions. Arnett, with many others, was restricted to five games in his last season. He chose to play the first through the fifth games, and in that period led the nation with a 125-yards-per-game rushing average, completed eight of 11 passes, kicked seven extra points and, playing in an era of one-platoon football, also led the team in making tackles.