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That ancient amphitheater, Soldier Field in Chicago, was all gussied up for the annual College All-Star Game last week with a fresh coat of paint, new seats and AstroTurf. About the only thing that remained unchanged was the script—the All-Stars lost to the pros, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Colts, 24-17.
Despite the defeat, these All-Stars were different from their predecessors. At least they looked or sounded different. They had a jazzy, brassy air both on and off the field, and Receiver J. D. Hill—late of Arizona State, soon of the Buffalo Bills and at the moment offensive captain of the All-Stars—was the brassiest of the lot. "I take the game seriously all the time," he said, "but I've got to relate it to fun. Victory is beautiful, but it's extra beautiful when you relate it to fun. When you're winning and having fun, you can do anything. Man, there's too many other things in the world that aren't fun, so why take it out of this?"
Ultimately, the Colts did take some of the fun away, but not because the Stars failed to take their pro initiation seriously. The Stars hit hard, very hard, particularly the defensive line and linebackers, yet at the end Baltimore's Tom Matte offered a simple reason for his team's victory. "They were just kids," he said.
Earl Morrall, at 37, knows how to handle kids. Subbing at quarterback for injured John Unitas, he completed 20 of 30 passes and three embarrassingly easy touchdowns. The practiced Colt defense kept the Stars back behind their 37-yard line for the entire second half, and Quarterbacks Jim Plunkett and Dan Pastorini could complete only eight of 24 passes.
On defense, however, the Stars enjoyed their own moments of exuberance. Coaching the rookies for the first time, Blanton Collier ran the toughest, best organized All-Star training camp in years, much as he used to run the Cleveland Browns. He had a first-rate staff that included Green Bay's former All-Pro defensive end, Willie Davis, and Davis' cunning was particularly evident in the sophisticated tactics used by Linemen Julius Adams, Rich Harris and Jack Youngblood and Linebackers Isaiah Robertson and Charlie Weaver. These Stars helped trap Morrall four times and held the Colts to 60 yards rushing.
The Stars scored 10 of their points on a 40-yard field goal by Bob Jacobs, set up by a long penalty against the Colts, and on a 47-yard run of a recovered fumble by Linebacker Jack Ham. Their only sustained drive, 50 yards in nine plays, briefly tied the score 7-7 in the second quarter. In that march former Ohio State Fullback John Brockington carried six times, gaining ground to his right as Blockers Henry Allison, Vern Holland and Bob Moore sealed off the Colts' left side of Bubba Smith, Ray May and Charlie Stukes. Plunkett, who will see action soon for the New England Patriots with Joe Kapp on the lam, threw two important passes, one a short dump up the middle to stumpy Running Back Mike Adamle for a 22-yard gain, and the other a 15-yard bullet to Hill on the goal line that drew an interference call on the desperate Colt cornerman, Jim Duncan.
The interference was only slightly less in the lobby of the Orrington Hotel in Evanston where the Stars roomed during their three weeks of practice at Northwestern University. The Orrington is one of those places with a plastic lobby—flowers and upholstery—and a branch of Harris, Upham & Company, Inc., members New York Stock Exchange, off to one side. All the Social Security types who sit for hours in a theaterlike section just inside the glass door of the brokerage rarely blink, much less twitch a neck muscle, as the quotations trickle across the screen in luminous green. While the Stars were in residence, the old folks would have been in immediate need of Medicare had they taken their eyes off AT&T long enough to observe the crowd in the lobby.
Meandering through the clusters of tiny autograph-seekers and nubile things tightly wrapped in red mini-pants and shrunken jeans were the Stars, wearing all manner of beard, burn, 'stash and Afro. One immense lineman's wardrobe apparently consisted solely of a washed-out pair of bib overalls, but most of his teammates were resplendent in multicolored jump suits, knitted shirts and close-fitting stretch shorts which, had girls been wearing them, would have been called hot pants.
Those good old short-haired boys named Billy Don are not being selected for the Stars anymore. The only major conferences where black players remain oddities, the Southwest and the South Eastern, are usually heavily represented at this game. This year the SWC and SEC contributed a combined total of three players, equaling Grambling's delegation. Of the 52 All-Stars, nearly all of whom were first- or second-round pro draft choices, 31 were black.
The composition of the team, which included players from such unheard-of schools as Dallas' Bishop College, Yankton (S. Dak.) College, William Penn and Northeast Louisiana, also reflected the effectiveness of the NCAA's 1.6 rule. This season's pro rookies were high school juniors when that rule was enacted, and it was no coincidence that nine Stars came from small colleges not bound by NCAA requirements.