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After I had been turned down by seven or eight colleges, I was pretty near out of money. So I headed for Lawton, Okla.—for Cameron State Agricultural College. I had heard they kind of took tramp athletes, so I said, "I'll make it to there." I had a dime and a candy bar in my pocket when I got out on the highway. A guy came by in a great big ol' yellow roadster-type car, and he said, "You got any money to help me buy some gas?" I said, "No sir, 10� is all I've got left." He said, "Oh, well. I'll give you a ride anyway." So we didn't drive but about 40 or 50 miles till he pulled in a gas station and says, "Well, if you ain't got any money for gas, I believe I'll let you buy me a cigar." I told him, "I ain't got but that one dime, and if you want it I'll buy that much worth of gas." Then he said, "No. I believe I will let you buy me a cigar." And that fellow spent my last dime for a cigar. My candy bar was the last bite I had to eat for five days and five nights.
I'll tell you how country I was. I got up to Lawton, and I went in there and met the athletic director and the coach and all. I had been better than two days getting there. It was wintertime, and I was half frozen. The coach looked me over and said, "Son, why don't you come over to the cafeteria with us and have lunch?"
Well, that word cafeteria scared me to death. Never heard of it. Didn't know what a cafeteria was. So rather than expose my ignorance, I said, "No, thank you. I just ate before I came in." Which was a lie, because I hadn't eaten in two days. I felt so ignorant that I got out of there and headed for Wichita Falls.
I was two days getting to Wichita Falls, which made five days and five nights without a meal. In the morning I hitchhiked down as far as Throckmorton, and I was starving to death. I walked into a filling station, which also was kind of a grocery store, and I asked, "How much are them apples?" The man had some green apples there and, as I told you, I had bought me some new gloves when I left home and I wanted to find out what I could get most of for my gloves. I said, "I want to trade you my gloves for something to eat."
The man said, "I'll trade you a sack of them apples for your gloves. They're 25� a sack."
That was a big old sack—I'd say half a bushel in there. Well, I was so hungry that I traded him the gloves and I tied into them apples. But I ate only about half an apple and I'm full. I hadn't eaten anything in so long that my stomach just drawed up. And here I got the whole sack. So I was out there hitchhiking and carrying that sack of apples with me, and I thought, "I could have traded for something a lot easier to carry."
Finally a guy stopped and said, "Where you trying to get to?"
"I'm trying to get to Sweetwater," I said. I wanted to get home. "Well, I'm going to Sweetwater," he said. And he took me home. I had been gone three weeks. I walked in the house and Mama started crying.
I guess I looked real bad. I had lost a lot of weight and my eyes were sunk back. My dad laughed and said, "Well, it wasn't so great out there, you seeking your fortune." But I had been out there trying to get myself a scholarship because I wanted to play football. I didn't care about no fortune.
I guess you'd say my pro career really started one day in 1939 when I was a senior at Hardin-Simmons. We rode out to play Loyola of Los Angeles in Gilmore Stadium, Los Angeles, and it held about 20,000 people. Well, we had a sellout crowd. I mean, I never saw so many people in my life. Anyway, I had a super game against those Loyola guys, and boy, we smoked 'em. Now at that time George Richards, who owned the Detroit Lions, had a house in Los Angeles, and what happened, a guy phoned him at halftime and said, "George, you better come out here to the game. There's a guy you ought to be here watching." So when the game was over, George Richards was right there, and he said, "Would you be interested in playing pro football?"