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A Melding of Men All Suited to a T
Ron Fimrite
September 05, 1977
Clark Shaughnessy was a dour theoretician, Frankie Albert an unrestrained quarterback and Stanford a team of losers, but combined they forever changed the game of football
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September 05, 1977

A Melding Of Men All Suited To A T

Clark Shaughnessy was a dour theoretician, Frankie Albert an unrestrained quarterback and Stanford a team of losers, but combined they forever changed the game of football

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Portentously, the winning touchdown in that title game against Santa Barbara High was scored on a play Albert concocted in the huddle. A certain passion for the unexpected would characterize his careers in both college and professional football. The playbooks, even Shaughnessy's thick folios, would never adequately cover the problems he was able to perceive. Even when Albert was going by the book, he appeared to be making up plays on the spot, for he had a habit of standing apart from a huddle and reconnoitering the enemy before rushing dramatically back to his waiting teammates as if seized with sudden inspiration. It was part of the Albert mystique. There have been better quarterbacks, but none with more flair.

Albert was as disheartened as his coaches were by his erratic performance in 1939. "I guess I'm just another of those high school players who can't develop enough for college football," he told his brother Ward.

The losers, coaches and players, met for the first time in March of 1940 in a history classroom on the Stanford quadrangle. The players instantly recognized comic possibilities in this marriage of misfits. "We'd been reading about all those beatings Shaughnessy's team had taken," recalls Fullback Milt Vucinich, now a successful San Francisco businessman, "so we were joking among ourselves that wasn't it just like Stanford to hire somebody like this to coach us." Says Warnecke, "We felt Shaughnessy was only what we deserved."

The sardonic laughter was abruptly squelched when Shaughnessy strode through the classroom door. Standing before them, his back to a large blackboard, he was hardly what the players had expected. A man who could absorb 85-0 beatings should be slump-shouldered, woebegone, but Shaughnessy was militarily erect and trim and, at 6 feet and 190 pounds, as big as many of them.

"Boys," he began, "I am not to be addressed as 'Clark' or, especially, 'Soup.' To you, I am 'Mr. Shaughnessy' or 'Coach.' Nothing else. Now, I have a formation for you that if you learn it well, will take you to the Rose Bowl."

He stepped to the blackboard and sketched out an unusual alignment. The line he depicted was balanced. The quarterback was directly behind the center, actually touching him, and the remaining three backs were in a line behind him. Together, the backs formed the letter T. Shaughnessy began to diagram plays. "If you learn this play well, you will score five touchdowns with it this season," he said, the chalk hurrying across the board. Albert was skeptical but fascinated. "Five touchdowns on one play!" he said to himself. "We hardly scored five touchdowns all of last season."

Among Shaughnessy's more conspicuous talents was a knack for fitting the man to the position. Chuck Taylor had been a blocking back in the Warner system; Shaughnessy made him a guard in the T, a position at which he eventually made All-America. Vic Lindskog, a transfer from Santa Ana Junior College, also came to Stanford as a blocking back; Shaughnessy made him a center, and there he would prosper in professional football.

Shaughnessy was to describe the back-field he inherited as tailor-made for the T. The fullback, Norm Standlee, was a giant for his day at about 220 pounds, but he had the speed to run the ends, a skill never exploited in the single and double wings, but a requirement in the T. On quick openers from the new formation, Standlee would also hit the line at close to full speed, the impact carrying him for certain yardage. As a professional with the Bears and the San Francisco 49ers, he would be considered the quintessential fullback.

Pete Kmetovic had been a tailback in 1939, but he played sporadically because he could not pass well. He became Shaughnessy's left halfback, a remarkably shifty runner who, as the man most frequently in motion, became a superb pass receiver, a heretofore unplumbed talent. Hugh Gallarneau's abilities as a runner and receiver had been wasted in his previous duties as a wingback in the Warner formation. As right half in the T, a 190-pounder with speed and power, he was the perfect complement to Standlee and Kmetovic.

Shaughnessy hired Bernie Masterson, the Chicago Bears' quarterback of the previous season, to coach Albert in the intricacies of ball handling from under the center. In an astonishingly short time, the pupil became the master. Shaughnessy had known from the beginning that Albert would be his quarterback.

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