"I go into very few wealthy homes," Majors said. "I see kids who are hungry, who see football as a means—an education, a career. I don't like arrogance. If I see a father living his frustrations through his boy, or a boy trying to get a guarantee, I tell them, 'You have a chance,' period. Not many kids have their hands put, not as many as you'd think. But I've seen kids who were tickled to death to see you the first time, and two months later you had to crawl in there on your hands and knees."
The car passed quickly through downtown Franklin, pop. 6,500. A weather clock on an office building indicated it was 27�. In the open on the other side of town, the wind got up and shook the car.
"I've always enjoyed recruiting. I like the challenge of winning a boy," Majors went on, "the chance to look him in the eye, to communicate. They asked me at Iowa State, 'How are you going to deal with blacks?' I'd never played with blacks or coached them. I said, 'If they're men, I'll treat them like men. If they're kids, I'll treat them like kids. I'll treat them the way they want to be treated.'
"Every recruit is not a man. We brought in that group four years ago at Pitt—blacks, whites, Polish kids, Italian kids, guys from the South, from the North. They weren't at all close. They were doubtful. Suspicious. We were tough on them at times. Four years later you never saw such respect and love among a group of young men. They'd have practiced till midnight if we'd asked them. They grew up. How much farther, Robbie? Hell, you said 30 minutes."
"We're close, coach." Afraid he had passed the boy's house, Franklin had made a premature turn, became disoriented and was too embarrassed to confess. He kept driving, hoping for a familiar landmark.
Finally, he pulled off into a narrow dirt drive and came to a stop in front of a squat, cinder-block house the washed-out color of an underdeveloped sepia-tone photograph. No shrubbery enhanced the landscape. A solitary swing suspended between two barren trees turned slowly in the wind.
Donnie Evans' father met Majors at the door, a hulking, frowning figure with glasses thick as windshields over hollowed-out eyes. He was wearing green coveralls and was in his stocking feet and his graying hair was almost shaved, causing his bullet-shaped head to appear to thrust up from his shoulders.
Without fanfare, he invited Majors and Franklin inside, as if Coaches of the Year dropped by regularly, and turned down—but not off—the living-room television. A thick-set boy, wearing glasses indicating eyesight as poor as his father's, came out of the kitchen. The father introduced him as Buck, Donnie's brother, undoubtedly a relief to Majors, who took a chair under a large print of the Last Supper. On the opposite wall a 1977 calendar advised to "Insulate Now." The house had the pungent smell of raw sewage. The father explained that the pipes had frozen and the toilets were backed up.
Donnie, the father said, was still milking the cows. "Buck'll get him," he said. Robbie Franklin followed Buck out the door.
Alone with Majors, the father said he had become an avid football fan since Donnie became a sports-page item. His own enthusiasm had surprised him. "I don't understand the game, but I watch it all the time." He said he even took a portable television to the barn on weekends to watch the games. "I been milking those bastards all my life," he said. "The least they can do is let me enjoy it once in a while."