"Now, friends, I went out for football 16 days, and they made me a tackle, and the first college game I saw, I played in it.
"They had laughed at me when I went to dress out. Called me a redneck. Now I am country. I can draw up a bucket of water and never disturb the well. I can treat a 50-gallon drum of shell peas with Hi-Life and kill ever' weevil, but won't get enough of Hi-Life on the peas to hurt you when you eat 'em. I can keep a settin' hen from quittin' the nest just by cluckin' to her. I can prepare chitlins fresh creek-slung or stump-whupped.... But can you imagine somebody from downtown McComb, Miss. calling me a redneck?
" 'Course I did put that thigh pad on under my arm and I ain't about to tell you what I did with that athletic supporter. But I played tackle, guard, linebacker, defensive end, offensive end and even some center, and a man I knew wrote to Mississippi State and said, 'Jerry don't know much about football, but he's big and aggressive and come from a good Christian home....' And they gave me a call.
"I got up there to that big Southeastern Conference school where they fly places on airplanes, and there I was alongside a fella who had a whole page in the program about him being a high school superstar. Mentally, it does something to you. But I didn't forget where I was from. The man puttin' out the program came to me and said, 'It says here on the list you from East Fork, Miss. Ain't even a post office there. We're going to put down Liberty.'
"I said, 'No you ain't.' And in that old program it said East Fork, and the next year, when The Progressive Farmer came around home selling subscriptions—and you got a free map when you bought one—for the first time that map had East Fork on it.
"Well, by the time the season started I had gone up against some of them folks that had made all-big this and all-little that in high school, and I had white-eyed them. And I was the first-string tackle. My first game was against Tennessee. I walked out onto the field and heard that horn blow and I thought the City of New Orleans
done jumped the track and run over me. I looked over and saw their coach, General Neyland, standin' on the sidelines and I thought my old Miss'ippi heart was gonna bust. And when Bert Rechichar drawed back and hit me one time with his forearm, I wished it had.
"The whole time I was playing, Miss'ippi State tied one ball game. Didn't win none. And I didn't get named All-America. I did throw Eddie Price of Tulane once for a 15-yard loss. Stuck 'im—oh, I was so proud. I jumped up, just as thrilled, and Shag Pyron, who's now highway commissioner of the Southern District of Mississippi, and who was playin' with me then, said, That's the way to hit the sumbitch.' They th'owed the flag down and stepped off 15 yards, for cussin', and that wiped out the only great play I ever made.
"But listen. In 1947 one Saturday me and a buddy of mine at Southwest Junior College went to New Orleans to see Notre Dame and Tulane. Johnny Lujack th'owed that ball like a clothesline, tkchoookt. Lord! Well, in 1949 I, Jerry Clower, what had growed up without a high school team, lost 11 pounds on the same field, myself, standing right there, where Mr. Lujack had stood."
Before Clower could claim fame of his own, however, he had to get into fertilizer. After his two years at Mississippi State the New York Yankees of the old All-America Conference invited him to a tryout, but he had to find a more reliable way to support himself and his wife Homerline, so he got his bachelor's degree in agriculture and worked as a county agent for a while. Then in 1954 he became a salesman for the Mississippi Chemical Corp., a big, notably progressive fertilizer concern in Yazoo City, where Clower still lives.
"I have been intimately associated with salesmen for 24 years," says Mississippi Chemical Vice-President Charles J. Jackson, "and Jerry is the best salesman I ever saw." But Clower recalls that it took him a while to get his sales pitch down. "I'd go to a co-op meeting and get up and tell them folks how we made homogenized, water-soluble, pelletized, chemically mixed fertilizers. And after making one of them talks I never did get invited back nowhere. So I started telling stories about my beloved Amite County."