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Coach Ingwersen made us play every position on offense and defense. But no matter where I lined up, I couldn't seem to avoid the thunderous shots handed out by the two hardest hitters in our section, a freshman guard I remember as "Bull" Durham and a classmate, Tackle Roosevelt Dugger. They not only hit hard but also laughed while inflicting their punishment. Service with a smile.
Durham and Dugger were an equal-opportunity combination. They went after 6'4", 250-pound Wayne Bock as fiercely as they came after me. The "D-Boys," as they called themselves, were always anxious to show Coach Ingwersen what they could do against somebody the size of Bock, and Coach was only too happy to oblige.
Durham and Dugger enjoyed watching others get hit almost as much as they relished belting players themselves. If there were a loud popping of pads across the field, they'd say, "Must be Nitschke." They were referring, of course, to the same Ray Nitschke who later leveled backs from his middle-linebacker position on the Green Bay Packers. Nitschke was only a freshman, but his hitting was already the talk of the campus.
There was one other player in the section who bothered me, though we never banged into one another. He was "Spike" Harvey, a 9.8 100 man and the best running back in the freshman class except for future All-America Bobby Mitchell. It seemed as though I was always at defensive end when Spike carried the ball during our scrimmages. He turned my corner every single time, but that's not what upset me. What got me was that he ran right past me without ever looking at me. I knew I wasn't going to lay a hand on him, much less tackle him, but I would have appreciated at least a glance acknowledging my existence.
He never gave me one, and that hurt as much as any cross-body block from the D-Boys or even the elbow I took to my right cheek on Tuesday of the fourth week of class. By the following Friday the swelling had gone down, but I was left with one whale of a shiner. I decided the world had to see it, which meant going to Bidwell's, the campus hangout. I had seldom set foot in the place, being the only male student on campus who didn't care for beer, but this was a special occasion. I had me a Big Ten bruise.
While trying my best to look natural, I heard a soft voice say, "What happened to you?" A quarter-turn to my right and I was face-to-face with a young Lauren Bacall lookalike.
Like most 18-year-old boys, I hadn't had much experience with beautiful women, but my response wasn't bad under the conditions: "You know, playing football with the big boys."
"You poor thing," she replied. Right then and there I knew why guys played football. I also knew I was going to make it through the full eight weeks.
During the last week of class we were tested: performance drills on Wednesday, a full-scale scrimmage on Thursday and a written final on Friday. I wasn't worried about the final; I was as prepared for that as anyone in the three sections. It was Wednesday and Thursday that concerned me.
My luck couldn't have been worse. I drew Bull Durham for the one-on-one blocking and tackling drill. My spirit vanished. Not only was I not going to pull an A, but I also was going to be seriously injured. We each would have three turns on offense, three on defense. A ballcarrier would attempt to use the blocker to elude the tackier while staying between a pair of dummies set two yards apart.