You don't consider yourself an innovator, an iconoclast.
"I ain't nothing but a winner. I'm a student of the game, sure. I think anybody is if he's making a living out of it—or had better be. But I don't claim fame for any fancy stuff. About all we ever did that was original was maybe put in some drills, like the circle drill, or what they call the bull in the ring, or some of the quickness drills. Quickness is so important because no matter how good you are if you can't get into position to do what has to be done it won't happen. But I don't claim anything else. I'd be dishonest if I did. All I did was join in."
Down through the years?
"When I first started, everybody was using the single wing. Matty Bell and Dutch Meyer and Rusty Russell started spread formations out in Texas, throwing the ball on every down, and that changed some thinking. Don Faurot and Bud and Jim Tatum came out with the split T, which changed football, and changed me. That's what the Wishbone is today, a glamorized split T. After that there was nothing significant until the so-called pro offense, dropback passing and reading defenses, and now the Wishbone, and I've gone along with all of 'em.
"But we've had the players who could make 'em go—I've had more great quarterbacks than all the other coaches put together, and half of that was pure luck. Babe Parilli at Kentucky was luck. Joe Namath was luck. I inherited two or three, like Blanda. And one of the greatest was one nobody heard much of, Roddy Osborne at Texas A&M. I inherited him. Of course, he was a fullback when I got him."
What about the Wishbone? How did you get involved with it, and what makes it so devastating?
"Darrell Royal called me four years ago. Darrell's a great telephone guy; I probably talk $1,000 a year with him. He called and told me about it and how he was going to use it. And after that he added to it and added to it, and then last spring when I knew we couldn't win with what we had, doing what we were doing, I told our coaches, 'What we could win with is the old split T. We may be dull as hell, but we'd win.' You go one step further and you got the Wishbone. I went to see Darrell. And we put it in, and won every game.
"There's still a lot we don't know about the Wishbone, but it's the best I've ever seen. In the old split T, when the quarterback moved out to option on the defensive end, he had to pitch the ball blind, or blind behind him, to the trailing halfback. With the Wishbone it measures out that the halfback winds up about four yards wider and the quarterback can see him. That makes it so much easier. And the big plus is that the whole thing is that much ahead of the pursuit.
"For four or five years we used the drop-back pass. We did everything the pros did—we read, we did everything. Scott Hunter did a heck of a job for a college quarterback, and Steve Sloan was probably the best we ever had for picking something up before the ball was snapped. But it would take us until Thursday to have our game plan. That meant every coach on the staff studying movies till all hours, trying to spot whether this guy lined up with his feet one way or the other, or if they did this or that, trying to get something before the ball was snapped. But now, with the Wishbone, I know our game plan, and I know it for every game, basically. I don't give a darn what they do, I know what we're going to do.
"One major difference in the Wishbone is that you ought to have your best athlete at quarterback. He's got to run, he's got to pass. We had Johnny Musso ready to play quarterback about 10 times last season. I knew sooner or later they were going to start making our quarterback keep the ball. But we kept going, and they didn't do it, and we kept winning, and finally LSU did it on national television. We had Johnny ready to play quarterback that night, but he got hurt. And he never did. In the future our best athlete will be our quarterback."