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"I'm not conceding anything," Gilliam answered. "I'm not in control of the decision situation. I don't decide who starts and who doesn't start. I just do what they tell me."
Ironically, before the game McKay expected that his All-Stars, not the Steelers, would experience the type of quarterback problem that has plagued Noll the past few seasons. One of the All-Star quarterbacks, Freddy Solomon of Tampa, was listed as a wide receiver because the Miami Dolphins intend to try him there as a replacement for the defected Paul Warfield. Another, sidewinder Steve Joachim of Temple, was promptly written off as a "knuckleballer who sets up wrong and then throws off the wrong foot." So McKay was left with only the NFL's No. 1 draft choice, 6'4" Steve Bartkowski of California, a Plunkett-style dropback artist who recently signed a four-year, $625,000 contract with the Atlanta Falcons. Bartkowski, remember, not Bratkowski, as in Son of Zeke.
"Bartkowski did not have a great camp," McKay admitted, "but I know he can throw the football because he always threw it well against USC." Meanwhile, Bartkowski's main receivers—Tight End Russ Francis of Oregon, Split End Pat McInally of Harvard and Flanker Larry Burton of Purdue—represented the strong points of McKay's attack plans. "Of course, we can't just pass the ball," McKay conceded. "We've got to run, too. If you can't run, you can't win. I guess Stagg was the first coach to say that. Sure, the Steelers are good, but they're not a team of destiny. They didn't beat the Dolphins last year. So they held Minnesota to 21 yards rushing in the Super Bowl. We'll certainly gain over 21 yards on the ground against them." Pause. Long pause. Longer pause. "I think."
With the possible exception of Francis, the All-Stars were in a state of surprisingly good humor as they lounged around the air-conditioning units in their hotel rooms Friday afternoon. Francis, however, was threatening to withdraw from the game because a line in his program profile said he had dropped out of Oregon because of "low grades." "I transferred out of there with a 3.24 average," he snarled. "Someone better come up with an apology real quick. And if I ever find the guy who wrote it, I'm going to hang him out that window. How many people are coming to the game? 60,000? And that Howard Cosell will get a program, too, and he'll go tell millions of people that ' Russ Francis, No. 81, College All-Stars, is a dropout from the University of Oregon.' They're making me out to look like an idiot."
The 6'6", 245-pound Francis, who has an excellent chance to start for the New England Patriots, spent his odd hours getting the lowdown on the Boston cultural and social scene from Harvard's McInally, a 6'6" stringbean who sometimes delighted the Stars with his academic wit. When McInally was introduced to a Nebraska lineman at the start of training camp, he boldly asked the Cornhusker if Nebraska was an accredited institution of higher learning. Another day, several Ohio State players were discussing the relative size of the defensive lines in pro football, and when McInally walked by they yelled, "Hey, Harvard, what did your line average?"
"Oh, about 3.8!" McInally shot back.
Bartkowski, meanwhile, was curious about the tactics of Mean Joe Greene and other Steeler defenders. "I sure don't want to flop," he said. "Everyone knows that I was the guy drafted No. 1 by the entire NFL, and I can't afford to fall on my face. No, I'm not worried. Johnny Unitas was the fastest quarterback there ever was at setting up. He did it in 1.3 seconds. I do a steady 1.4, and I'm ready to unload—after setting and taking my step—in 2.0. I sure hope that's fast enough."
"Mean Joe doesn't say much," somebody told Bartkowski, "and L.C. Greenwood gets mad when you dirty his gold shoes. Dwight White likes to do all the mouthing off up front. The guy you really ought to be worrying about is Jack Lambert, the middle linebacker. No. 58."
"Yeah. The Steelers say he's meaner than Mean Joe ever was. They even say that Lambert's so mean he doesn't like himself. Lambert, though, says he doesn't bite fingers the way some middle linebackers used to."