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It was hot, I was nervous and I got sicker and sicker eating those oil-soaked rolls. Finally I threw up—a tremendous flash out the window of the second floor of the dorm, down to where players were walking. The news of No Socks' latest adventure spread fast.
The next day I muffed my chance at defensive back. I was small—160 pounds—but I also proved to be slow. A good speed for 40 yards is 4.5 seconds. I ran it in 5.1. I asked for a second chance. I cut my time to 5.0. That afternoon one of the assistants told me: "Coach Ewbank wants to see you."
In his office Weeb said, "Sorry, Jim, we can't use you." (Ewbank always called me Jim. Over the years I had modified Jerry, my given name, to Jay, but Ewbank chose "Jim." On the other hand, George Sauer always called me "Ray.")
I said, "Wait a minute. Coach. Please. Don't get the wrong idea about my eyes"—I was crazy-conscious of my eyes—"it's a skin condition. I'm actually in good shape. You haven't seen me punt yet. And I can play flanker. You haven't seen me play flanker."
Weeb weakened. "All right," he said, "tomorrow."
After another sleepless night I took my place in the punting group, determined to kill the ball. But the ball just would not die. It went absolutely nowhere. It shanked off my foot. The harder I tried the worse I shanked. It was a nightmare. I said, "I can catch some passes."
Ewbank put me in the receiving line. Dick Wood was throwing. Wood threw me 10 or 11 passes—perfect spirals right in my hands. And I batted them right back out again. I didn't catch a single pass. Ewbank walked away.
I went to the locker room, changed, got into my car and started driving—across the state line and into the coal country of Pennsylvania, through all those little mining towns. That night I pulled into a used-car lot and slept in my car. I drove for two days before I went home.
The minor leagues of football, as little known as they may be, still have their pride. The Jersey Jets of the Atlantic Coast League turned me down without a preamble. They didn't even want to see me work out—I didn't have "enough experience." I approached the Newark Bears. Steve Van Buren, the ex-Eagles star, was the Newark coach—a sharp-eyed guy. I figured I needed some experience fast. I told him I had played for the Ansonia (Conn.) Black Knights. (I had watched them work out a couple of times.)
It was a lucky stroke. I didn't know it but I would have had to get a release from Ansonia to play for Newark. But the Black Knights were out of business. "Defunk." (De-funk is a common cause of team fatalities in the minor leagues.) I signed with the Bears for $35 a game as a place-kicker and flankerback.