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All-America, All the Way
Frank Deford
February 21, 1972
Major Pete Dawkins, a man of his times—of good days past and now of the present
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February 21, 1972

All-america, All The Way

Major Pete Dawkins, a man of his times—of good days past and now of the present

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Dawkins bowed his head, believing he had been defeated, but happily another general took a stand in his defense. "You know," he said, "the Army's in a lot of trouble these days, but it's nothing like the mess we could be in if all the women turn against us."

So the battle for longer hair turned; but how much longer? The debate raged. This long and that long, how long for hygiene, and how long for discipline; so long for white people, and so long for black people, and what about sideburns vis � vis ears, which is all the more complicated because hardly anyone is familiar with precise ear terminology except for lobes. (At West Point it is decreed that for Duty, Honor, Country sideburns must terminate at the top of the tragus, which sounds like something you should not be talking about in polite company.)

At the Pentagon the hair dilemma remained unresolved until Major Dawkins devised a strategy. His maneuver may not go down in tactics textbooks along with Jackson's Valley Campaign, but it was a bold stroke just the same. Major Dawkins suggested, "Let's not say how long the hair has to be. Let's just take pictures showing how long." Stunningly, the Dawkins Arrangement was accepted, giving him the honor of fathering the only visual—rather than verbal—regulation in the history of the U.S. Army.

"We must make changes in the Army, if only because everything is changing," Dawkins says. "Too many people in the Army still think that if we can just hold the line, be the last bastion of traditional America, that the country will come to its senses, get its hair cut and form up again around the Army." He shook his head at this hypothesis.

"You know, to much of the military, Vince Lombardi remains the greatest contemporary civilian hero. I believe that he was so genuine that his teams experienced a contagion for winning that overrode the exceptional demands that he placed on players. But I also believe that his methods—arbitrary and imposed—have become anachronistic. But Army people don't want to believe that. It is like, if you were a theologian, trying to apply things to the present that Reinhold Niebuhr said years ago. Possibly, Niebuhr and Lombardi would have had new approaches for this time. It is wrong to assume that their attitudes were ever intended to be pertinent today. Understand, I am not critical of the way Lombardi operated: I am critical of those who continue to hold this model reverently. I know Lombardi's methods will not succeed in the Army today, and I suspect they would have even less of a chance of succeeding in football.

"Kids demand room for expression in sports as much as in anything else. It may sound frivolous, but I don't believe that enough significance has been attached to the popularity of Frisbee. Think of it: it's the ultimate of its kind, a complete free form. There aren't any rules unless you make them up. The fact that so many people everywhere are devoted to such an unstructured sporting expression says something, I think."

In a poll of the 1971 Army football team to determine the players' sporting idol, Dick Butkus was the overwhelming choice.

Captain Dawkins, in 1966, while he was in Vietnam: "This is the big stadium. This is the varsity."

Pete and Judi Dawkins, and their children, Sean, 7, and Noel, 4, live a half-hour's commute from the Pentagon in one of those developments that has streets named for chic colleges. Their house is on Vassar. The Heisman Trophy is in the living room. Until this past year his parents kept it, but now Dawkins feels enough time has elapsed for the sculpture to become a period piece, so he has taken it on. Sean Dawkins has only one observation about it. "Nice carving," he says. Maybe somewhere a developer is naming streets after Heisman Trophy winners.

Most career servicemen move so regularly that they invariably rent housing. The Dawkinses have bought their home, however, because Judi Dawkins comes from the Washington area, and she and the children will stay there when the major is shipped back to the Far East for a year. "It is not just that Pete has to go, like any other husband off on a long business trip," Mrs. Dawkins said. "It is that he might always be away from us." She means that he might be killed.

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