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Before the game at Minnesota, Bussey and King each had carried the ball 52 times in the Lions' first three games. Their finest combined performance came in the Pontiac Silverdome two weeks ago against New Orleans when the Lions ran for 306 yards, Detroit's highest total in 25 years. Bussey set a personal high of 150 yards on 24 carries, while King gained 87 in 14 carries.
"We talk it up and we know exactly what to expect from each other," Bussey says. "We run with the same idea. I prefer my blocker to throw on the defensive man—to make him move one way or another—so I can make my break. That's the same way Horace prefers me to do it for him when I'm downfield blocking and he's got the ball."
"They're a good tandem," Hudspeth says. "You'd hope, of course, that one would be a great big runner, but Horace is the type who gives you many dimensions. He's not going to run over many people, but he's quick getting into the hole, he can hit a little gap and he catches the ball well, so he does open your offense up."
Bussey and King have run together almost from the day King arrived at training camp in 1975 and the Texan made the Georgian feel at home. Off the field they play backgammon, take in concerts and watch movies together. Bussey's wife Kay and King's wife Mitzi also are close, and it is reasonable to expect that Atiya Bussey, nine months, and Kim King, six months, will be trading giggles soon. The Busseys, who also have a 6-year-old son named Cobey, picked the unusual Arabic name for their daughter when she failed to arrive, as scheduled, last Dec. 10. Atiya finally showed up on Jan. 9. She was a late Christmas present, so to speak, thus Atiya, which means gift.
"Their closeness is a real plus," says Wally English, who coaches the Lions' offensive backs. English believes that both Bussey and King can finish the season with at least 1,000 yards. If so, they will triple the membership of Detroit's 1,000-yard club, Steve Owens being the only Lion ever to rush for 1,000 in the team's 43-year history.
King also is intent on upgrading the image of the Lions, a team whose recent history has been fraught with feuds, dissension and second-guessing by Owner Ford. Indeed, being a Lion has not been easy. "Rigid" Rick Forzano, for instance, demanded that his players stand exactly on the yard-line stripes during calisthenics. Hudspeth, who succeeded Forzano after Detroit had lost three of its first four games last season, runs a looser ship but a more complex one. He has changed the Lions offense each week in an apparent attempt to remake Detroit in the Dallas image. To his credit, after the first three weeks of the season the Detroit offense ranked second overall in the NFC and first in rushing.
"When I got traded here," King says, "I asked myself, 'Who do I know who plays for Detroit?' I couldn't think of anyone. I'd never even seen Detroit on Monday Night Football. You think about it, you see the Lions on Thanksgiving Day and that's about the only time. It's a low-profile team. We want to turn that around. That's what I'm hoping for. This town deserves it. They fill up this stadium every Sunday."
"Yeah, they do," says another Lion, "but it's a funky kind of loyalty. They know we're supposed to be professionals, but they come out to see how we're going to screw things up each week. Somehow they get off on that."
King adds, "Sure, I feel good that I'm somewhere near the top. But I want to be on top at the end of the year. I want to help our team."
At last it seems that Detroit has not produced two more Edsels.