Our Putnam Heights Panther unit produced two convicts—one was a burglar who at least was able to do something with his broken-field running ability—and a rather large group of businessmen. Our one serious football player, a lineman, went to Wyoming on a football scholarship. Two weeks after he got there, he hung his tennis shoes on a clothesline and they broke. The temperature that evening was 14 below. When the going got tough, he got going home. He didn't think the Wyoming coach knew much football either. Said they had plenty of material but would never win. The coach was Bob Devaney.
It may be difficult at first to accept 900 little guys out there, going at each other as tough as they can. At age 10, even high school is thousands of bumps away. "By the time a boy gets to high school," says Tulsan Don Chandler, who used to kick footballs for the Giants and Packers, "he has seen it all, the trophies, the letter jackets, the championships. There really isn't much to look forward to." Try to tell that to the 11-year-old quarterback in white tennis shoes, or the tackle with dozens of gold stars on his helmet that stand for admirable behavior in battle.
On game day the Oklahoma girls whirl with pompons, the parents make a Little League baseball crowd seem dull, and coaches pace the sidelines flashing hand signals as if Kansas City were the next step up. The 12-year-old girls wear lipstick to the games, and the 12-year-old boys play like men, and they all get together each week to bring their futures a little nearer.
It is not as George Bernard Shaw said, his tongue firmly implanted in his cheek, that "Youth is wasted on the young." It may have been when there wasn't anything to do but plow some Oklahoma plains. The halfback over there, stutter-stepping and running for the sun, isn't wasting his time, or that of his 10 teammates whom he will credit for making him the hero he is today.
Personally, I think my Panthers could have handled the Raiders. Whether we could have survived the football game until the gang fight is another question, however.