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Nobis may not personally be able to beat Arkansas in Fayetteville on Oct. 16 in a game that could decide the national championship again--it has become a hellacious game, full of folklore heroes like Nobis and more excited, skilled, fundamental hitting than most coaches realize exists. But, barring an injury that could result from Nobis's own hustling endeavors, a nationwide television audience should not have any trouble seeing number 60 trying not to lose. He will be where the ball is or fanatically on his way, fighting harder and enjoying it more because he is simply playing a game the only way he knows how.
"I'll tell you," says Nobis. "We're a good team and so is Arkansas. Lots of guts and pride. Like Alabama. Boy, they had pride and they laughed and were cool and stayed after you, just like we do. That was fun. That's what it's all about. But I know that whoever loses between us and Arkansas is gonna feel some real shame--I mean shame. That's the way it is. Boy, I'd hate to look at the game film on Monday and find out I was responsible for it. I just worry all the time about those films, even when we win. I just know that I dogged it somewhere and my team will see it. I start worryin' when the game's over, and I don't stop until Monday afternoon. Heck, I get tired in a game. Everybody does. That's why I talk to myself out there. I just keep tellin' myself, Don't dog it, don't dog it, please don't dog it."
Nobis wouldn't know how to dog it if he had four legs, a wagging tail and a bowl in front of him. Neither the players nor the coaches have to look at a game film to be certain either. For example, linebacker-end coach Mike Campbell makes phone calls to an Austin radio station for a five-minute interview after each game. He was in the midst of the interview after the Texas Tech game, and he naturally said Nobis played "great." "How do you know?" asked the announcer. "You haven't graded the films." Campbell said, "Because he always does."
The assurance that Nobis is going full-out on every play does not exactly blunt the rest of Texas's defenders, among whom there are other good ones--end Pete Lammons, tackle Diron Talbert, guard Frank Bedrick, linebacker Freddy Edwards--who try to play a game called Beat Nobis to the Ball. Defensive back Jimmy Helms was asked recently how he played the pass, what tips he looked for, what moves and all that. "Aw," he said. "I just watch Nobis. He's where everything is."
Even in the spring it was true. Nobis passed up a midsemester vacation to stay in Austin and get in the proper condition for spring training, a rite that is usually deemed as much fun for proved athletes as a lecture on John Stuart Mill. But Nobis realized that most of Royal's coaching is done in the spring, and there would, after all, be some action. "Tommy is one of those people who is really sort of unhappy unless he's tackling somebody," grins quarterback Marvin Kristynik, who is Nobis's roommate and co-captain associate.
There sure was some tackling in Texas's spring game, in which Kristynik and Nobis divided the squad between them. Most of it was by the linebacker. Once, in a violent, three-play spasm, Nobis slammed ballcarriers out-of-bounds on opposite sidelines for no gain, and then he intercepted a pass. One of the runners he literally dazed was Kristynik, who finally got up and smiled and turned to Royal, saying, "It's true, Coach. Tommy's an All-America."
Up in the press box that evening where a gaggle of conference newspapermen were covering the game--they do that in Texas; they cover spring games and write for days about them--Longhorns publicist Jones Ramsey was questioned on why he thought Nobis was putting forth so much effort in so meaningless a contest, why he would risk injury.
"Well," said Ramsey, "it's the only game we got scheduled today."
There are believers everywhere, not the least of whom is Kristynik, who swaggers with a confidence Royal loves despite his so-so arm and lack of speed, and who has somehow directed 14 victories out of the 15 games in which he has been "Darrell's boy."
Example: Texas was leading Tech by only 7-0 in the rain and was deep in its own territory, needing one yard on a third down, when Royal sent in orders for Kristynik to run the option and pitch the ball out to the fine halfback Phil Harris.