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They chatted amiably. The father said the family "didn't have to live in this dump, we got another place, a nicer one, not too far away," but it was a way to assure Donnie a better school district for his football. Abruptly, the father turned solemn. Tilting his head forward, he said earnestly, " Coach Majors, I think we got a problem. Woody Hayes was here last weekend and sold Donnie a bill of goods. I want him to go to Tennessee, but Donnie's like his mother. Every time he hears something new he changes his mind."
A flicker of surprise crossed Majors' face (he admitted later he was stunned by the finality of the news), but he spoke calmly. "I appreciate your telling me," he said.
Donnie himself led Buck and Robbie Franklin back into the living room. Even in stained work clothes he was plainly an athlete—powerfully built and lithe, with pleasant good looks; a protruding upper lip made him appear petulant. Brown curls spilled from a red-and-white cap he left on as he took a seat on a sofa, a vantage point from which he could see both the Tennessee coaches and the television set. A Jerry Lewis movie had come on, apparently one the boy had missed. Even without the sound, and in the middle of talking, he seemed able to follow its progress.
Majors started slowly, making a conversation piece out of his winter travels. "I tried to get up here a couple times, Donnie, but our schedules got fouled up. I think you couldn't make it the last time." Then he said how pleased he was that Donnie "had decided to come to Tennessee." The boy did not respond except to say he had made a last-minute trip to Auburn. Majors said he remembered Auburn as a place where there were always nice-looking girls.
"I felt like I was in heaven for two days," the boy said, releasing the television from his gaze and offering his first, small smile.
Majors carried the conversation, gradually saturating the room with the vitality of his personality. It nevertheless seemed clear enough that Donnie Evans had been sorely tempted by Ohio State. He was defensive on the subject of opportunity, of where a lineman might go "to get a pro offer." He said he had been led to believe Ohio State was such a place. He said he had been worried over "stories" about all the big defensive linemen Tennessee had signed.
Majors leaned forward. "Who? What big linemen?"
The only name the boy gave him drew a smile. "Yeah, that boy's from Ohio—and Ohio State didn't even try to get him," Majors said. "Listen, young man, competition will make you a better player and us a better team. Did you ever think of that? I don't think you're the type who's afraid of competition, are you?"
The boy said he wasn't. He shrank from the issue. His gaze wandered back to the television. "That Jerry Lewis is something else," he said.
The visit that Majors hoped would be brief dragged into the second hour. Majors glided effortlessly into a lighter pitch. He seemed genuinely baffled that the boy would consider backing out of his agreement with Tennessee. He said he thought Donnie must be "kidding," just "trying to make Coach Majors' hair gray." He pointed out that Tennessee needed big, quick linemen like Donnie Evans, that the need was "critical," that they were "counting on him," that he should remember the positives of playing "in your own backyard," where "we speak your brogue. Do they speak your brogue in Ohio?" He spoke of the pleasure of "getting in on the ground floor" of a building program. "We are undefeated, untied and unscored on—and we haven't won a game, either."