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Coaching, at least as it was practiced then, in the good old days, wasn't exactly like the ministry. The idea wasn't to save all the souls. The ones that got run off were on their own, but the ones who stayed would be affected far out of proportion. Bull Cyclone, like a lot of coaches, especially football coaches, had more impact on many boys' lives than did their fathers. It was all very basic, really. "You either loved him or you didn't stay," says Bill Buckner, Scooba's best quarterback, who is now the coach at Hinds J.C. "He pushed everyone to the point where they either left him or they gave him what they were capable of."
Edwards remembers the year he was captain and a big lineman complained that Sullivan was slugging him. "Nobody hits me, not even my daddy," the lineman said. But Edwards wasn't about to get involved. "Besides, Bull wasn't really hitting the boy," he says. "Just in the solar plexus."
"Yeah," says Bill (Sweet William) Gore, a retired postman who was Bull Cyclone's good friend. "They'd think he was killing a boy out there when all he was doin' was gettin' his attention."
Bull Cyclone's attention-getting took varied forms. One of his favorite tactics was to have his players practice hitting one-on-one, head on, right before a game or, when he was especially irritated, at halftime, or even during time-outs. More often than not, this was very disconcerting to the wide-eyed opposition, not to mention what it did to the bodies of the Scooba players. Often in these drills Bull Cyclone wouldn't tell his players who was supposed to be the ballcarrier and who was supposed to be the tackier. So, starting 20 yards apart, a pair of players would tear into one another. Before such drills, Bull Cyclone also had the habit of saying, "Now, I don't want to see any of you—s standing up, and I don't want to see any of you—s on the ground."
L.C. Jeffries, who played on one of Bull Cyclone's early teams after having seen combat with the Second Infantry in Korea, says, "Sure, we broke some ribs and noses going one-on-one with ourselves at halftime, but understand that what Bull did didn't come out of cruel rural ignorance. He was a smart man and he was playing on the psyche."
Although Bull Cyclone would line up all his players in their star jerseys for the pregame head-ons, he often made sure that his best ones, especially the quarterbacks, who were inviolate in his scheme, never took a lick. When they neared the front of the line, one of the eight or nine scrubs would jump ahead and replace them in the rotation. These unfortunates Sullivan called the "gook squad." Hence when the opposition looked over to see Scooba banging heads, what it unknowingly saw for the most part was the gook-squadders repeatedly laying into each other.
Bull Cyclone made sure, though, that no one on the team felt safe. Sometimes he would advise his players, "I've killed more men than I can stack on this football field." That usually got their attention. One time, when he was mad at Bradberry, he said, "Bradberry, I killed seven gooks with a foxhole shovel. One more sonofabitch like you won't matter."
If these remarks were hyperbolic, their substance was real enough. Sgt. Sullivan had fought the last battles of the Pacific with the First Marines, ending up on Okinawa, where he was wounded on June 16, 1945. Maybe that's why he thought he could demand so much of his players, whose sacrifices couldn't compare with those of the good Americans he had fought alongside, and left behind—and finally, as we shall see, honored. He never quite separated war and football. Flipping through what seems to be a scrapbook dedicated entirely to football, one suddenly comes to a long clipping about Okinawa, with a huge headline: BLOODIEST BATTLE OF THE PACIFIC. Once at halftime Bull Cyclone spread his players along the 50-yard line—"Team! A-ten-shun!"—and marched them to the end zone, military style, to reacquaint them with that foreign terrain.
Bull Cyclone didn't always need a whistle to get his players' attention. He just hollered "Whoaaa!" and everything screeched to a halt. His language, especially in the earlier years, could wilt the blossoms in Mr. Smith's pasture. Grown men listened in awe when he cursed—"Unbelievably vile," says Charlie Box, who was a fullback and no prude. One time, Dick Potter, a referee, felt obliged to penalize Scooba 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct because of how grossly Bull Cyclone had yelled at one of his own players.
But more frightening was his mere presence. He was big all over—ham-hock arms, huge feet, a melon head so large that when he decided to change his game ensemble, switching from a ten-gallon hat to a baseball cap, he had to split the cap in back to get it comfortably on his head. Virginia, a lovely woman, his second wife, who was at his side all the years in Scooba, remembers a player telling her, "Miz Sullivan, we're not afraid of Corch. Why, we reckon ten or twelve of us together could whip him." Players commonly took off their shoes as they passed his room, fearful that they might awaken him from a nap. A lot of times he would tear off his coat in the middle of a game, throw it down, stomp on it and then sort of hurl it back to the bench. Whatever player got in front of it would quickly pass it along, because nobody wanted to be holding it when Bull Cyclone started looking for his coat again. And, to be sure, nobody dared put it on the ground. So the coat would go up and down the bench like a hot potato.