And if he knew what he knows now, he might have used different tactics to get Linebacker John Kirby for the Vikings. But one should bear in mind that the year in question was 1964 and the AFL-NFL war was never hotter. Anyway, there was Thomas, high up in the press box at the Orange Bowl as the Auburn-Nebraska game wound to a conclusion, and there was a San Diego scout standing on the sidelines with what appeared to be a contract stuffed in his top pocket. The scout's name was Al LoCasale, and Thomas knew that the Chargers were after the same prize—Kirby of Nebraska.
Thomas hurried to the press elevator, and was on the field before the game ended. He went over and stood within a short plunge of LoCasale. They exchanged nods. Suddenly the game was over and LoCasale was sprinting onto the field, brandishing the contract and a pen. When Thomas, reacting slower, got to them, Kirby had the pen in his hand. "There was only one thing to do, of course," says Thomas. "I was really sorry later. LoCasale is a little guy."
No one has been able to put together all the details, what with the confusion of the milling crowd and all, but LoCasale wound up on the ground. It was some time before he regained his senses. Thomas led Kirby to a sideline, instructed an assistant to "keep an eye on him." and rushed over to the other sideline to sign an Auburn player.
"Two Minnesota executives were there, and they were supposed to officially sign Kirby. But when I got back to the hotel he wasn't there. The executives were having a drink and moaning in their glasses. 'What happened.' I said. 'He won't sign.' 'Like hell he won't.' I said, 'Where is he?" 'At the Indian Creek Country Club. The Orange Bowl party.' I grabbed a cab and hustled over to Indian Creek. One of John's teammates was coming down the steps. 'He doesn't want to talk to you,' he said. 'Oh, yeah?' I went in and took Kirby by the elbow and directed him outside. He said he had to catch a plane. I said all right, we'll talk it over on the way to the airport. When we got to the airport, I told the driver to keep driving. John still didn't want to sign. A lot of kids were mixed up like that during the war. Finally, he relented. 'Let's go back,' he said, 'and I'll talk it over with my coach. Then I'll sign.'
"And he did, Too, in the lobby of the hotel in front of our two executives, who couldn't believe their eyes, and a Minneapolis columnist named Sid Hartman. Sid, of course, wrote it up well. That's what I call timing. Life is timing." Yeah, and the artichoke method is line unless life calls for a right cross.