Karl Douglas directed the Javelinas to a 11-1 record and a 32-7 rout of Concordia College of Minnesota in the national title game. Douglas is back again, along with his favorite receivers, Dwight Harrison and Eldridge Small, and defensive stars Margarito Guerrero and Robert Young.
Their names aren't subject to debate at the Speakers' Corner, but they are familiar topics in the students' favorite hangout, the Tejas Room in the union. Familiar also is Henrietta, a real live javelina who roams her cage on a sideline in the stadium. For a while her predecessors enjoyed more freedom. School mascots ran wild through the campus until one day in 1929 when one of them bit Dr. R. B. Cousins, the university's first president. The animal was rabid, and Cousins was rushed away for treatment, while the javelina, from that day on, was sentenced to captivity.
There was a time when Grambling's football players shuttled to games across the dusty, clay countryside in north central Louisiana. The school was just a rumor to the rest of the country. Somewhere down South, it was whispered, a college produced almost as many professional athletes as Notre Dame. Then, in 1968, along came Sportscaster Howard Cosell with a cluster of cameras. The result was an ABC sports special and, consequently, instant recognition. Suddenly Coach Eddie Robinson's Tigers were in demand. In 1968 they drew a crowd of 64,000 to Yankee Stadium (a total of 75,000 people had watched Grambling the entire season before). Last year attendance shot up to 277,000 paid, despite the team's 6-4 record, the worst in a decade. But success at the school is judged by the number of pro draft picks as well as by victories, and last season nine players, a figure equaled only by USC, were selected.
This fall Grambling becomes a full-fledged, unabashed road show performing at huge stadiums in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and, best of all, in Houston's Astrodome. The crowds won't be disappointed.
"This is the finest group of talent I've ever seen at Grambling," says Will Walls, a Pittsburgh Steeler scout. Robinson calls Frank Lewis, a running back, "an instant coachmaker. If he doesn't go in the first round next January there must be some awful good ones around."
Halfback Willie Armstrong, Ernie Ladd's first cousin, and Defensive Tackles Rich Harris and Charles Roundtree are also potential first-round choices. But the Tigers' most exciting athlete, the man to make those huge stadiums vibrate, is Robinson's sophomore quarterback, Matt Reed. He is huge (6'4", 225), and several scouts rate him ahead of Jim Harris, the Grambling graduate who now quarterbacks the Buffalo Bills.
Since publicity descended upon the small. Colonial-style campus, students at Grambling College have, on occasion, voiced dismay over their school's football-factory image. Robinson plans to take five top-ranked scholars along on one of the team's road trips to show it's just not so. "I know they are going to come back impressed," he says. "They're going to realize that our athletes are no different from other students. Just maybe a little bigger." And better traveled.
A century ago a farm-machinery manufacturer founded a school on an Ohio hilltop. Thanks to his assets—$500,000—Buchtel College prospered. In 1893 John W. Heisman, as in trophy, became the school's first paid coach, and in his second season his team defeated Ohio State 12-6 in the only game scheduled that year. Although Buchtel College grew up to be the University of Akron, that victory proved to be the high point of its football history. Heisman departed after his undefeated season, and the Hill-toppers began their descent.