"You can't, not always. It'd be nice if you could see what's in here, see how much it means to a kid, but nobody can do that. Almost anybody, though, can recognize great talent. The one that makes you proudest is the one who isn't good enough to play, but it means so much to him, he puts so much into it, that he does anyway. We've had a lot of those. The ones who have ability and don't use it are the ones who eat your guts out.
"There are four types of players. Players who have ability and know it, who have it and don't know it, who don't have it and know it, and those who don't have it but don't know it. I've had all kinds. Great players like Bob Gain and Steve Meilinger at Kentucky, and Crow and Pardee and Krueger at A&M. Anybody could coach them. One coach can do about as well as another with a Namath or a Stabler. But I don't think one coach will do as well as another with an average guy because you have to reach him. The guys you love are ones like Jimmy Sharpe, who had no ability but sure thought he did, he was a winner, and Jerry Duncan, who loved to practice so much he'd cry if the trainer tried to stop him. Ray Perkins was a winner. His freshman year he had a serious head injury. They put a plate in it. Not many would have come back after that. When they operated it was more a question of whether he would live. Ray stayed out a year, and then came back as a receiver. He'd been a tailback and a defensive safety, and he had had terrible hands. But just on pride and determination he became a receiver. He's playing for the Baltimore Colts right now.
"There are a lot of guys like Perkins who have made it worthwhile for me. Fun people. I guess if you had to pick one you'd pick Lee Roy Jordan. It's a wonder I didn't foul him up, because I tried him at two, three different positions as a sophomore, including offensive tackle, before he became a linebacker. He only weighed 190 pounds, but if he'd done well at offensive tackle I might have left him there and messed up his whole career. I can remember nothing bad about him: first on the field, full speed every play, no way to get him to, take it easy.
"I always said if I needed Jordan or Crow or Krueger or somebody, they'd start walking, but some wouldn't. I've made a lot of mistakes with a lot of players, and some still hate my guts, I'm sure, and I can understand that, too. A football player has to make a lot of sacrifices, and if he's been put through the mill and didn't do much and doesn't have much to look back on that's pleasing I'm not sure he has any reason to think kindly of me. I've made a million mistakes with kids. But at the time it was the only sure way for me, and if I was starting again, and betting my life on it, which you're doing when you're a young fellow, I'd have to go the same sure way.
"There were games I know I've hurt 'em, games where we won in spite of me, or lost because of me and, win of lose, if you don't recognize the mistakes—-mistakes in preparation, mistakes during a game—you're hurting yourself. I've been outcoached, too, and I sure don't forget those times."
Do they live as long as the big victories?
"Longer. Hell, yes, longer. Bob Devaney did a better job than I did in the Orange Bowl this year. Our kids didn't play as well as they were capable, and it wasn't because they didn't want to, it was because I fell down someplace on preparation.
"We had a string going, 21 straight, when we lost to Georgia Tech 7-6 in 1962, and Bobby Dodd outcoached me that day. He prepared his team better, ran the game better. I tried to use two quarterbacks at the same time, Jack Hurlbut under the center and Joe Namath behind him to take a direct snap, and we didn't get anything out of it and wasted all that time preparing."
Had you done that before, used two quarterbacks in the same backfield?
"Yes, before, but not since. The worst decision I made that day was when we went for two after our touchdown and I had Hurlbut do it on a keep and he missed by that much. If I'd given it to Namath, they'd have been back that much deeper on the corners and he might have gotten in."