That's when we started bargaining, and I ended up with the three offensive plays. I'd have settled for one. But that's life and that's football.
On the Tuesday before the game, Buck, the Stephen F. Austin equipment manager, outfitted me as a coach—I got a pair of shorts, two jockstraps, socks, knit sport shirts, the works—before I took the field and got a look at the players. That's when I decided on the spot to resign. In my own brief and ineffective career as a college football player, I'd never seen such quick and fast and strong young men. Fortunately for me, Coach Hess refused my resignation. He's about as laid back as a pillow, so all he did was laugh and say, "Naw, it'll be all right. We won't get you off in no storm."
He didn't know I already had a history of calling plays. When I was playing at John Tarleton Agricultural College in Stephenville, Texas, Bill Mimms and I were the two left ends that alternated taking in plays. Coaches Sandy Sanford and Joe Abbey were calling the plays. About midseason I noticed that one would call a play and then, just before you ran on the field, the other would grab your arm and change the play.
As I was running onto the field in a game against Schreiner Institute, I decided that in my considered opinion we didn't pass enough. As a matter of fact, we'd count a forward fumble that we recovered as a completed pass. Well, I felt it was time to change all that. The play I'd been given by Coach Abbey was a 23, the two back up the three hole. When I got in the huddle I told Tommy Hudspeth, our backup quarterback, that the play was 87 Cross. He gave me a kind of blank look for a second and then said, "What the hell is 87 Cross?"
I said, "It's a pass play. That's when me and Puryear cut across the middle about 10, 12 yards deep, and you hit whichever one is open." Bill Puryear was the right end.
Hudspeth said, after a second, "Oh, yeah, I remember that one. On two. Break!"
Well, I caught the ball for about a 14-yard gain and then headed toward the sideline. Coach Abbey and Coach Sanford were standing there with their arms crossed, and just as I got to the sideline, I heard Coach Sanford say to Coach Abbey, "Nice call, coach."
And Coach Abbey, without batting an eye, said, "Yeah, it looked to me like it'd be open over the middle the way their linebackers were dropping off."
This opened up a whole new world for me. I was like an addict after that. We beat Schreiner, primarily on calls I decided on between the huddle and the sideline. Only once did I nearly get caught. Coach Sanford stopped me one time as I was coming back to the bench after we'd just run a sweep and said, "I thought I sent in 34," which was a dive play. I kind of mumbled, "Must have been some confusion in the backfield."
He said, "Yeah, that'll happen. But, doggone, I wish you boys wouldn't forget and get confused. Hell, we practice this stuff all week." Those words about confusion in the backfield were to come back and haunt me 31 years later.