SI Vault
Jay Cronley
October 23, 1972
There was a time in Oklahoma when 10-year-old football players thought red dog was a puppy and a wishbone something chicken, but today's Pee Wees know all the right answers
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October 23, 1972

Sooner Or Later, Champions

There was a time in Oklahoma when 10-year-old football players thought red dog was a puppy and a wishbone something chicken, but today's Pee Wees know all the right answers

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In recent years, however, college-age football players have been our chief import. On the University of Oklahoma roster for the 1972 varsity-alumni game there were 37 Oklahomans and 34 Texans. Don't get me wrong, they all put their pads on one arm at a time. A few years ago, Darrell Royal of the University of Texas asked the Southwest Conference for protection against Oklahoma's recruiters.

If this year's crop of Pee Wee football players comes along—if the players don't tire of the game before, say, high school—this state's collegiate football recruiters will need little more than a trusty Volkswagen and a petty cash voucher. Pee Wee football does not issue common stock or have a chairman of the board. But it is big. This year, 900 Pees and Wees are participating on 18 teams. They play eight-game schedules and usually in several tournaments. Pee Wee football is big enough to cause both joy and concern.

Think positive. Play fair. Through these doors pass champions. Even if their shoe size is only four.

The Raiders and Lions and Bears have an advantage the Panthers never considered. My cardboard shoulder pads cost $2.95, including tape. It costs $35 and up to equip one of these Pee Wees. Tulsa County built the players a stadium; our field was interrupted by three sidewalks. Our favorite play was a punt which, if it caught the concrete just so, might roll 20 yards.

Today, the Raiders will practice passing the football forward. They also will be working on huddling, but what's the use of huddling if you don't know what to do next. So far, early in the preseason practices, the huddle has been a place to readjust bubble gum and step on a couple of bugs, but all that will change. They will learn that the huddle is not the proper place to run through a couple of choruses of "I wanna carry the ball." The huddle is a place of preparation, devotion and general order. They will hear that an 111-pound right tackle does not carry the football, even if it is his to begin with, except possibly if there is a fumble.

Our huddles used to take some three minutes, more if we could not agree on a play. Our huddle did not break, it dissolved. Once, the entire right side of our line went left, and Johnny White's quarterback sneak lost 33 yards.

The Raiders' huddle uses 20 seconds. All that separates the offense and defense are Band-Aids. Somebody yells, "Red dog." I remember the time when one of them, a cocker, bit our coach and we all cheered. We read "keys," too. Piano keys. Our signals were elementary. "Thirty-seven, 88, 99, 47, 63, give me the ball," worked best. The Raiders' signals include several individual members of the alphabet.

The preliminaries out of the way, the Raiders try a forward pass. You must remember that the hand connected to a 97-pound halfback has a difficult enough time with a handful of M & Ms, to say nothing of a football. The pass takes a funny bounce—off a guard's teeth and into a crowd some four yards downfield. It hangs up there in the air, about two hours the quarterback must have thought, and the play culminates with a defensive back catching a defensive end, who had caught the ball. That, boys, clearly will not do.

It is a Pee Wee League rule that players in the backfield cannot weigh more than 100 pounds, and anybody weighing 126 has all winter to work on his curveball, because 125 pounds is the maximum for any participant. The Putnam Heights Panthers had no such restrictions. Our pregame meal consisted of several sundaes. Our starting halfback had to be towed to the line of scrimmage.

The Raiders break into specialized groups. The punter is being watched. A punt in Pee Wee football is about fourth down and 20 or so yards to go. A fourth and 10 is no match for an endless run. The offensive line is working on blocking dummies. One 105-pound guard bulls into the sandbag, becomes dizzy, shakes it off, then blocks it satisfactorily. Attaboy, Tommy. Dig. Head down. Suck 'em up, Tommy. Attaboy.

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