Tom Clements was reluctant. So was Frank Allocco. But, reporting early to the practice field one day last spring, the two Notre Dame quarterbacks were overcome by the same irresistible urge that hit Sir Edmund Hillary when he first encountered the Himalayas. True, Ara Parseghian's brand-new portable coaching tower, a wondrous custom-made contraption that had just been erected, was not snow-capped, but soaring majestically out of the flat Indiana plains that morning it looked to the young adventurers like a mini-Mount Everest that just had to be climbed.
So, giddy as two freshmen sneaking an illicit beer in Farley Hall, Clements led his backup man up the tower.
Their hastily plotted scheme was to wait atop the edifice until Parseghian and the rest of the team appeared and then Allocco would do his imitation of the old man, pacing and pointing and hollering in an Armenian soprano voice such touching epithets as "Move your tails" and "Pursuit, pursuit." However, the crisp April breeze whistling around in their helmets blew away some of the spunk. Allocco, gazing at the Golden Dome and suddenly remembering his deathly fear of heights, bravely ventured, "Nice view, huh?" Clements, peering intently in the direction of his home in McKees Rocks, Pa., said, "Yeah."
"Pretty high up here," said Frank, gripping the guardrail tightly. [Pause.]
"Yeah," said Tom. [Long Pause.]
"You wanna get down off this thing?" said Frank. [Longer pause.]
"Yeah," said Tom.
So down they came, Clements going first, muttering encouragement to the terrified Allocco and helping him to place his cleats securely on each step. Then, feet once again planted on the good old Indiana terra firma, the two quarterbacks went back to the serious business of defending Notre Dame's national championship.
The lessons to be drawn from this tale are threefold. First, despite all outward appearances, Tom Clements is capable of at least one whimsical moment, however ill-fated, every spring or so. Second, whether the going is up or down, what though the odds be great or small, Tom Clements is a natural leader. And, third, once he gets there Tom Clements is not particularly enamored of the view from the top.
Nevertheless, there he is, the No. 1 quarterback on the No. 1 college football team, climbing into the South Bend firmament as the No. 1 candidate for the Heisman Trophy.