"The big difference I found in pro ball was that you don't have as much time to make up your mind," Bulaich said. "Against a college team you may run into one or two big fast linemen in a game, but no more. Here everyone is big and fast, so when I see a crack, I have to go right now. If I wait, the crack closes and someone dumps me."
Bill Curry explained what a big, quick, fast back like Bulaich can mean. "With power backs who don't have speed, you have to hold a block on the middle linebacker a lot longer," he said. "Now if I get a piece of him, Boo is gone before he can react. I don't have to bury the middle linebacker all the time. If I can get a stalemate with him, Boo is going to make big yards."
A thoughtful man, Curry disagrees completely with ex-players like Dave Meggyesy and Chip Oliver, who have published books decrying football for its dehumanizing aspect. "I respect their opinions," he said, "but they are generalizing from personal experience, and my personal experience is completely different. We have a closeness and warmth on this team that I don't think you find very often anywhere. Just to give you an example, look at Tom Matte."
He pointed across the dressing room, where Matte was laughing at something another player had said.
"Tom is a great football player," Curry went on. "Maybe a lot of people don't realize how great, but the players on this club do. He's done so many good things. And he could be upset and sulky because a kid like Bulaich came along and started getting a lot of ink. Instead, Tom is blocking better now than he ever has."
Bulaich and Matte have impressive backing from two rookies—Don McCauley, a No. 1 draft pick from North Carolina, and Don Nottingham, a No. 17 pick from Kent State. Both had averaged 4.7 yards per carry going into the Pittsburgh game.
Nottingham, who is known as the Human Bowling Ball, is 5'9�" and weighs 210 pounds. His neck bulges beyond his ears and he has a surprisingly high, squeaky voice. "If you were a bass," Don Klosterman, the Colts' general manager, once told him, "you would weigh 240 pounds."
Nottingham is a formidable runner, since it is very difficult for the giant defensive linemen in pro football to find him and equally difficult for them to get a good grasp on him when they do. He also has tremendous leg drive and an enthusiasm that is reflected in the way he churns for extra yardage. After he was given the game ball for his exploits in Baltimore's 23-3 win over New England, Nottingham was unwilling to let anyone else hold it. "This thing is a piece of gold to me," he said.
Most running backs consider blocking the price they must pay for the opportunity to carry the ball, but Nottingham is atypical. "Sometimes, when I'm not running good and having trouble finding the hole and staying on my feet, I'd rather block," he said. "I guess I've got an unfair advantage as a blocker, because I come in so low the defensive players can't hand-fight me."
Ray May, one of the Baltimore linebackers, found out how tough a blocker Nottingham is in training camp. Nottingham came out leading a sweep and May bent down to fend off his block only to catch Nottingham's helmet on his shoulder. The impact was hard enough to stretch some ligaments in May's shoulder.