It was always touch and go, but for a while there it seemed possible that John Casola just might pull off one of the master switcheroos in sport. A month ago Buffalo waived its 17th-round draft choice, kicking specialist Sal Casola. Discouraged, Sal decided to quit pro football, which was all the encouragement brother John, who had done a little kicking himself several years ago at Marion Institute in Alabama, needed. When Kansas City Coach Hank Strain phoned Sal at the Casola home to offer him a trial, he reached John, instead, and John began the impersonation.
Almost from the beginning, players suspected something fishy. For instance, Sal would fail to answer to his name. He finally explained that he was baptized John Salvatore Casola and that at home they called him John. Then there was the teammate who had gone to the University of Cincinnati and had played against Sal in college. Casola could contribute nothing to the fellow's reminiscences of the game. A few of the curious lurked near the phone when he called home, but they were always stymied. Casola spoke in Italian.
The mask finally came off four weeks ago when Buffalo visited K.C. for an exhibition game. Casola warmed up as far away from the Bills as he decently could, but they saw him and wondered aloud. Said Buffalo Coach Lou Saban to Stram, "What have you been feeding Casola? He must have gained 30 pounds since he left our camp." Said Buffalo Kicker Boris Shlapak, "I don't know who that guy kicking there is, but it isn't Sal Casola."
Next day John confessed. After Stram cooled down, the coach said he wasn't mad a bit. "Actually I admire the man's determination. He came here because he seriously wanted a tryout with a pro club. He's got a strong leg, and in time could become a good kicker, but he'd have to work on his form."
After their interview Stram had a paycheck made out to John to take the place of several issued to Sal that John had feared cashing. Then two weeks ago, along with several other marginal players, John was waived by K.C, under the name of Sal Casola.