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OPAL TWO IS BACK
John Underwood
April 23, 1973
Through his pain-racked years as a POW, Major Murphy Neal Jones remembered those seasons he played center for Tulane. His idea of a homecoming present would be for the Green Wave to annihilate LSU next fall—something it hasn't done in 24 years
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April 23, 1973

Opal Two Is Back

Through his pain-racked years as a POW, Major Murphy Neal Jones remembered those seasons he played center for Tulane. His idea of a homecoming present would be for the Green Wave to annihilate LSU next fall—something it hasn't done in 24 years

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In the cramped office of the sports information director he thumbs through brochures and old yearbooks, some dating back 14 or 15 years to his playing days. He says he has to get the results of the 1969 and '70 LSU games because he has dinners for four at Antoine's riding on the scores. There had been some pretty heady gambling going on Up There, he says, and a lot of it had been filed to memory, the availability of sports results being what it was. He said he had been able to-extract 21 points in the first game, 17 in the second, from a pilot from LSU.

"You won the second anyway—with the points," says the publicist.

"Hey, O.K. We'll still go to Antoine's."

The major's name appears in three of the brochures, 1957, 1958, 1959: Neal Jones. Baton Rouge, La. Six feet two inches, 208 pounds. Center-linebacker. From the middle of his sophomore year he had been a regular. The brochures describe him as a man who seemed always to be fighting for his job, and winning. A man who hung in there.

"Mississippi State—1957," he says, picking a spot to elaborate. "I played all but two plays. In those days you had to go both ways. I must have drunk a dozen Cokes. I got leg cramps. I was so tired afterward I couldn't eat. The next week, against Alabama, I played 60 minutes. We won that one. I wasn't as tired afterward.

"We were a strange team," he says. "We'd play a great game. Then we'd fall apart. I replayed 'em all in my mind while I was Up There. I mean, every play. It was like mental gymnastics. My sophomore year we should have beaten Army, when they had Pete Dawkins and all those guys. We outplayed 'em, and lost. And Wake Forest. We beat Wake Forest when they had Norm Snead and we held 'em seven downs inside the 10-yard line."

He shakes his head. He is enjoying the chance to reminisce.

"Against Ole Miss my senior year we had won two straight, and Ole Miss was 4-0 and hadn't allowed a point. Right off the bat they fumbled, and we scored. When we were going back upfield my best friend, Leo Young, yells at this Ole Miss player, 'Hey, fella, that's just the first of many.' The guy says, 'You ain't jawin', Mac' We lost 53-7." He laughs. "A strange team."

Spotting a familiar face on a brochure cover, the major says, "where's Richie Petitbon now?" Petitbon had been the star on an otherwise overcast 1958 Tulane team.

"Played for the Redskins last year until he got hurt, but he'll be back. Living in Virginia," says the publicist.

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