Alfred's first-string fullback—Alfred's 5'7", 175-pound first-string fullback—approached the visitor. "Have you been to some of the big schools?" the fullback asked.
"Sure," he was told.
"I was just wondering, are they much different from us?"
Not at all, the visitor thought, as he watched the team's field-goal specialist loft another kick toward the practice field's nonexistent goalposts. Take away the scholarships, the tackling dummies, the jock dorms, the assistant coaches, the huge stadiums, the playbooks, the four-team depth at every position, the pressure to win—and the big schools are not at all different from this tiny university in New York's picturesque but poor Allegany County.
This is football as it is played in Division III of the NCAA. Where Hobart is the biggest rival. Where 5,000 fans is a full house. Where the only player to make it in the pros lasted three years with the Chicago Cardinals and later operated Goble's Mobil in Waverly, N.Y. But most of all, this is football as dimple-cheeked, bulldog-faced Alex Yunevich would have it. And Alex has had it this way since 1937. When he went off to war for four years, Alfred just stopped playing.
Alex Yunevich of Bicknell, Ind., is the son of a Lithuanian coal miner whose real name, Janivicius, was lost forever through a clerical error in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Ol' Alex, All-Big Ten fullback on Purdue's unbeaten conference champions of 1929, whose 90-yard run against Centenary in 1931 is still the longest in Boilermaker history.
No active coach matches Yunevich's record of continuous service at one school. Only three have won more games. In three years at what is now Central Michigan and 33 at Alfred, 64-year-old Alex Yunevich has won 65% of his games and endured only six losing seasons.
And this is how it all came to pass: "I was All-State two years in high school. Those 145-pound kids tried to tackle me and I just laughed. I played baseball, too. I had a 10-day trial with the Cincinnati Reds in Keokuk, Iowa but I only lasted three days. I had knocked more balls into the White River than you could shake a stick at. I was the Babe Ruth of Knox County. But when they started throwing sliders in Keokuk it was all over.
"A lot of schools wanted me for football. Georgia guaranteed me a law degree. I should have taken it, because I ended up a jock. My parish priest said, 'Go to Notre Dame.' I tell you, those padres were the best recruiters in the world. But I was going to take the best offer and I got it, brother.
"The corn was sticking out of my ears when I got to Purdue. But those were good years. We won two Big Ten titles, and I met my wife Anne. She was the landlord's daughter. A guy broke my nose twice in one quarter against Wisconsin, but I nailed him later. Got him with a shoulder right in his hip.