SI Vault
 
ONE MOMENT IN THREE CAREERS
Rick Telander
December 18, 1978
For the author, the photograph of him failing as a pass defender in the 1971 East-West Game summoned up a painful memory. For Mel Gray, who caught the ball, and Dan Pastorini, who threw it, the recollection is elating
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 18, 1978

One Moment In Three Careers

For the author, the photograph of him failing as a pass defender in the 1971 East-West Game summoned up a painful memory. For Mel Gray, who caught the ball, and Dan Pastorini, who threw it, the recollection is elating

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

"Oh, yeah, man," says Gray, nodding. "I have that same picture in my scrapbook. I'm from the Bay Area, you know, so after the game I got all the local papers. It's funny because I was just looking at that picture this summer. Yeah, that's kind of funny."

I ask him if he remembers me, if I made any impression on him.

"I remember being real happy you fell down," he says, "but, to tell the truth. I didn't know who any of the defensive backs were. It's like when I was running track. The only people I knew were the guys who beat me. I never thought of your name, who you were, even your number."

That's interesting, I tell him, because my number was 85, the same as his now.

"Eighty-five? That's strange for a defensive back."

Yes, it was, I tell him. It was held over from when I had been a wide receiver. I hadn't changed numbers when I changed positions. But what about his 20/21 combination in the photo?

"Twenty-one was my number in college," he says, "so that's why it was on my helmet. I asked for 21 in the game but 20 was the closest they had, I think."

We go into the play with more detail, comparing notes. It had been a post-corner pattern, as I suspected, but the ball had come down over Gray's wrong shoulder, his inside one. We both agreed that the field was wet and sloppy and that the pass was high and not particularly well thrown. Was Pastorini picking on me?

"No, I don't think so," says Gray. "See, that was a play we only ran on the left side. We had other plays just for the right side. Like I said, I didn't know too much about you guys. I remember the coach said that as a group you weren't too fast, but you were quick."

I find that a decent enough comment. I ask him if the play had been a decisive one for him, as it had been for me.

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8