I played in the NFL for 10 years, while men who were faster, bigger and stronger than I were cut. Why? A nagging question. I believe the reason was that I was fantastically endowed with intangible qualities. For example, when he was coaching at Baltimore, Don Shula found that I had a better-than-average ability to humor the type of teammate who tends to make Page One by breaking up saloons. Shula knew, too, that if I happened to be broken in half along with the barroom mirror, well, the club would suffer no great loss. Therefore, one summer morning in 1964 he called me to his training-camp office and said, "Hawk, we've just traded with the Steelers for Lou Michaels. How about rooming with him?"
"Absolutely not," I said. Michaels' reputation, which one might summarize as being predictably unpredictable, had preceded him. He's a burly guy with a 5 o'clock shadow on a face that ought to belong to an Arkansas prison guard. As a matter of fact, the Steelers had got rid of him because one night, just as a defensive back named Jim Bradshaw was emerging from the training-camp bathroom whistling a cheerful tune, he walked straight into a left hand thrown by Lou and was put to sleep without having reached bed. I told Shula, "I am not going to room with anyone who's crazier than I am."
"O.K., O.K.," said Shula. "But do this for me—look after him. Sort of keep an eye on him, O.K.?" I gave Shula my word that I'd do what I could.
At a tavern a few days later, as Lou and I sat in a booth drinking a little too much, I began needling him, because I felt intelligent talking to him. I told him he could learn a thing or two from me. This caused him at last to announce, "Let me tell you something. I'm going to tear your head off."
"Well, Lou," I said, "you go right ahead and take your best shot." I leaned over the table and stuck out my jaw. While Lou was getting ready, polishing his left fist with his right hand, I said, "By the way, hasn't anybody told you?"
"Told me what?"
"You mean you don't know?"
"Know what? What're you talking about?"
"Lord! I guess nobody has told you. Lou," I said, "I own the ball club."
"Don't give me that," snapped Lou. "Carroll Rosenbloom owns the club."