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When they do, Big Boo will be a major contributor. Bulaich is an extraordinarily engaging youngster, with a smile that reveals a gap between his front teeth. He never expected to be a first draft pick, since he spent half his career at TCU sitting on the bench with a variety of injuries, principally muscle pulls.
When he learned he had been picked by the Colts, he sat down and wrote a letter to Unitas, beginning "Dear Mr. Unitas...." He said how happy he was to have been drafted by Baltimore and how much he wanted to do well and what an honor it would be to play with a man like Unitas.
Johnny U's reply was brief and to the point. "Run and block," he wrote Bulaich, and Boo has taken that to heart ever since. For a while, in his rookie season, he had the same miseries he had at TCU, what with a bruised knee, but he still led the Colts in rushing.
In 1970, when he first arrived at preseason camp, the veterans made him welcome, but not without a lot of hazing. "I came up here with cuffs on my pants and button-down collars and the guys got on me a little about that," Bulaich admitted. " Tom Matte said, 'We got to get this guy some new threads,' and I bought a new set of clothes, but I still have the button-down collars and the cuff pants in my closet. When I go to Fort Worth after the season, I get them out and wear them."
The two Colt trainers, Ed Block and Otho Davis, gave him a series of stretching exercises and had him swim to loosen his knotted leg muscles. Block, who has been tending Baltimore football players for years, is well equipped to handle muscle problems. From 1955 to 1965 he was a part-time physical therapist at Baltimore's Kernan Hospital for Crippled Children, which at the time specialized in polio cases.
"We gave Bulaich the exercises, and I worked with him on manual muscle resistance," Block says. "His problem was in the back of his thigh. Two of the big interior muscles were tight and short and they had to be stretched and relaxed. I use manual resistance in these exercises because the machines some trainers use don't have the sense and feel your hands do. When you have the player working his muscles against the resistance of your hands, you can sense when the muscle is too tired, when it is time to stop. I worked with Boo a long time—45 minutes a day, twice a day—and it was monotonous and boring for him, but he stuck with it."
Besides the manual muscle resistance regime with Block, Bulaich did an exercise he still performs. When he joined the Colts, he could not come within a foot of touching the floor with his fingertips while keeping his knees straight. "Now I can put my palms flat on the floor," he said. "Every day I still do the same exercise that loosened my hamstrings. What you do is squat on the floor, kind of like a catcher but with your feet flat, then put your hands flat on the floor and try to stand without moving your hands. It's a great stretching exercise. Try it sometime."
When Bulaich reported to camp this season, his hamstring problems were over, he was much quicker than he had been in college and he ran with just as much speed (he had a legendary 9.6 100 to his credit at TCU). No one kidded him about his clothes anymore and he played so well in scrimmages that the defensive players occasionally broke out in admiring cries of "Boo, Boo, Boo" after he had made a spectacular move.
Bulaich has exceptional balance and the ability to pick a hole very quickly and slide to the openings without sacrificing momentum. "He's sudden," one assistant coach said. "That says it all. Sudden. He's there when the hole opens and gone when it closes."