I can't remember when we began to construct our composite of the National Football League's worst physical specimen—last year a few miles out of Hobart, Ind., I think. Bill Curry was at the wheel. We were driving up to Green Bay, Wis., where Curry was to report to the Packers' training camp, trying to make it where 10 years before he had started his career as a center. (He didn't and now is an assistant coach at Georgia Tech.) He had asked me along for the ride. He was worried about his knee, which he had injured badly when he was with the Houston Oilers in 1973—there was a pin through it and it bore a curved white scar—and we got to talking about great athletes who had succeeded in the NFL despite physical limitations.
"Look at your old pal Alex Karras," Curry said. "The amazing thing about his great play as a Lion tackle was that he couldn't see what he was doing...worst pair of eyes in the NFL. He got to the quarterback by the touch system."
"He refused to wear contact lenses," I recalled. "He tried them once and didn't like what he saw out there on the playing field. He told me that he had come off the field with the defensive unit and sat down on the bench next to Bill Swain, the linebacker, who it turned out had just lost his contact lenses. They joked about it. 'Hey, do you think we're facing in the right direction?' Karras said."
Curry laughed. "Yes, you'd have to give Karras the vote for the worst eyes."
I told Curry that Karras had once told me who had the worst breath in the NFL.
"The worst breath. It belonged to an Italian who played in the line for Los Angeles—Joe Scibelli. Karras said that in his first few NFL seasons Scibelli used to eat something awful on purpose before games and relied very heavily on his bad breath until, of course, he developed into a great player. Then he didn't have to breathe on people that much."
"Well, I tell you who had the worst feet," Curry said. "The worst feet I ever saw in my life belonged to Bubba Smith. They're about 23 inches long and sort of cone-shaped. Remember those pointy-toed shoes that people wore years ago? Well, Bubba's feet were made for those...they'd just slide right in there. He has yellow toenails that crumple under, and they're all wrinkled and just horrid looking. Both feet are perfectly flat; he has no arch whatsoever. He just stands flat down on the floor."
We drove for a while until the steady consideration of Bubba Smith's feet got to me and I said, "Let's move on up the body. Who had the worst calves?"
Curry said, "Well, the worst calves I ever saw—and you'll remember I only speak from experience with four NFL teams [ Baltimore, Green Bay, Houston and Los Angeles]—belong to Rick Volk, who played safety for the Colts when I was with them. It was obvious from the day he got to the Colts that somebody had 'rustled his calves' "