- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Actually, the first guy who convinced me that I couldn't handle anybody I ever met was Bill Willis, who played for Cleveland, and I was on my way down then. They called him The Cat. He was skinny and he didn't look like he should be playing middle guard, but he would jump right over you. Now he might not enjoy my saying this, him being colored and maybe taking it the wrong way, but I'll tell you—the only way I could block him was I'd squat and when he tried to jump over me I'd come up and catch him. Every time, my nose would be right in his armpit—and later I'd tell my wife, "Damn, Gladys, that man perspires. I can't stand it." But that guy was a football player, and don't think he wasn't. Oh, he was a war horse, that Willis.
To show you how I got off to a pretty fair start in pro ball, in 1940 when I was a rookie we won the championship, and that was the famous time we beat Washington 73-0 in the championship game. And I'll tell you how that got started.
Clark Shaughnessy was one of our coaches, see, and Clark Shaughnessy to me is the most brilliant football man that ever lived. Anyway, Washington had just beaten us a couple of weeks before, and so when it came time to play the championship game, Shaughnessy gave us a little lecture. He drew up a play and he said, "This play's gonna work." He told us his reasons, and we were convinced the play was gonna work. Then he said, "Now, then, if it don't, here'll be the reasons why. And I'll give you another play that will work." Well, by the time he finished, all you had to do was open the door. We were ready, 'cause, really, he had us convinced that that first play was gonna do it and if it didn't the other one would. It was an off-tackle play, the first one, and you know, the funny thing about it, the play didn't work at all. At least, not the first time we used it.
Bill Osmanski was carrying the ball, and there wasn't no hole anywhere. So he started backing up, and he slipped way out around the end and headed down the sideline. That was our first play of the game, and it went 68 yards for a touchdown and we went on to kill those guys. We got so much publicity from the game that later all Bill Osmanski wanted to do was run up into the line and then slide out and go around end. I got where I was disgusted with him because he wouldn't run Clark Shaughnessy's play the way it was supposed to be run.
In that Washington game we scored so many times and kicked so many extra points that we started running out of footballs. The extra points were going into the stands, see? Well, after one of those touchdowns, Bob Snyder comes in from the bench and says to me, "Coach said to make a bad pass from center. He said we don't want to kick any more points because we're losing too many footballs." I think it was Snyder who was going to hold for that next extra point, but anyway, I said to him, "I'm going to put that ball right back in your hands, and if you don't want it, drop it. But I'm not going to make a bad pass." So I centered it back there, and he just turned it loose and let it lay on the ground. I don't remember who was kicking—we had a lot of guys kicking extra points that day—but whoever it was, damn if he didn't kick it up through there and lose another ball.
I don't know if you want to put this in your book, and I don't care if you do, but I originated the draw play, along with a lot of other plays. I discovered the draw play because Buckets Goldenberg, who played for Green Bay, could read our quarterback, Sid Luckman, real well. Somehow he could tell when Sid was going to pass. As soon as that ball was snapped, Buckets Goldenberg would pull back and start covering the pass. So I said, "Let's fake a pass and give the ball to the fullback and let him come right up here where I am, 'cause there's nobody here but me." The next year we put that play in, and it averaged 33 yards a try. The fullback would run plumb to the safety man before they knew he had the ball.
I also originated a play that got me even with Ed Neal for beating my head off. I said to Halas one day, "You can run somebody right through there, 'cause Ed Neal is busy whupping my head." I suggested that we put in a sucker play—we called it the 32 sucker—where we double-teamed both of their tackles and I would just relax and let Neal knock me on my back and fall all over me. It'd make a hole from here to that fireplace. Man, you could really run through it, and we did all day. Later Ralph Jones, who had once been a Bears coach and was coaching a little college team, told me he brought his whole team down to watch the Bears play the Packers that day, and he had told them, "Boys, I want you to see the greatest football player that ever lived, Bulldog Turner. I want you to watch this man on every play and see how he handles those guys." But ol' Ralph didn't know about that sucker play, and later he said to me, "Damn if you wasn't flat on your back all day!"
Did you know I got a 48-yard average running with the ball? You bet I do. I knew everybody's assignments and could play every position on the field. One time in Pittsburgh we got in a fight and two or three of our players got kicked out, leaving us shorthanded, and Halas let me go in and play halfback. Gene Ronzani, our quarterback that time, called a real fancy play named Twenty-two Behind. I come on up through that line with the ball and just kept plowing my way and finally got out in the open and scored. It was a 48-yard run, and that's the only time I ran from scrimmage. Walt Kiesling was the Pittsburgh coach at that time, and he was mad. He thought we were making jest of him by using me at halfback, but we weren't. We had run out of players, that's all. After I scored that touchdown, Halas put me back in safety to field a Pittsburgh punt, and I caught the ball and did a little dee-do and started up the sidelines. I went right over next to their bench and got tackled. And as I was laying there, Kiesling come up and kicked me right in the butt just as hard as you ever saw. He thought we were making fun of him, and boy, he let me have it. It was a very unsportsmanlike thing to do.
I never did save any money out of football. I never could save enough money to buy a place. I'd buy one, then have to pay it out. I always owed a lot of money. Some of our guys had good jobs in the off season. They'd go to work for somebody that wanted to hire them because they were players. But I never did capitalize on being a football player. I always came back to Texas in the off season and practiced poverty. But I liked it here and I got a lot of happiness out of coming back. I can't regret doing it.
Anyway, I had me some great times, and along that line I'll tell you just one more story. I believe this was about 1946 or '47. We were playing in Washington against Sammy Baugh, who was in a class by himself. I think Joe Namath is the first that's come along that can throw the ball like Sammy. Anyway, Sammy fired a pass, and I intercepted it on our three-yard line. I started weaving up that field and picking up blockers. First thing I know, I'm about out in the clear and I got up a head of steam. I'm coming down that sideline, getting my blockers and weaving around. I finally decided I'd just dart over to my left, and I did. About that time somebody hit me in the back of the head and jumped on me. Well, it was Sammy Baugh. He was on my back and I was carrying him. I carried him for about seven yards, and I got the ball over the goal line and I looked up and said, "Sammy, I can outrun you, I know that. How did you get back there?"