his fans with the classic little-guy-versus-the-system conflict, and they love
him for it. Jet fans first started the "Lou! Lou! Lou!" chants in 1975
when Piccone returned from his maiden walkout. The fans were used to No. 1
draft choices with gimpy knees and Broadway calling cards getting uppity, but a
pint-sized free agent from the Youngstown Hardhats and Bridgeport Jets acting
up? Now that was class. Lou's contract that year was for $15,000, but fines and
the mandatory option year cut had reduced it to $12,900, the lowest figure in
the league. "People were happy to see me back," says Lou, starting to
feel better again. "They could identify with me. After all, I was making
less than your average garbage collector."
now makes closer to $80,000 a year, there are those (besides Lou) who feel he
should get a lot more. Larry Felser of the Buffalo Evening News recently wrote,
"This is the time to tear up Lou Piccone's one-year contract and ensure
that he'll be around here for a long time, doing the grubby things which win
They are grubby
things, too: breaking through wedges, running down punt returners, blocking out
men who often outweigh him by 75 pounds or more. There are some glamorous
duties as well. Piccone comes in and routinely makes clutch catches on third
down; he returns punts; he fills in as a starting receiver. Last year Bob
Chandler and Jerry Butler were sidelined at various times and Lou caught 33
passes for 556 yards and two touchdowns. This year he was injured himself,
straining ligaments in his knee in practice, and missed seven weeks of the
schedule; he returned to the Bills' lineup on Nov. 30.
seventh-year starting receiver gets $120,000 and all he does is catch
passes," says Lou. "I catch passes, too. Plus I know all the receiver
positions—X, Y and Z—the halfback position, and even the tight end. Plus, I'll
go down on kickoffs. Those guys won't touch that."
Lou signs a few
autographs, then thinks of something. "Earlier this year I got
rejected," he says. Excuse me? "On a kickoff against New Orleans I got
buried. I was trying to sift a wedge and instead I got sifted, put out,
rejected. Later, maybe I can show it to you on film. It's quite shocking."
In fact, the scene is so gripping, such a perfect example of the point Piccone
has been trying to make about getting paid for his services, that he decides to
reconstruct it verbally now, without visual aids.
"I was flying
downfield in my normal manner, you understand, but I wasn't in a real good
stance; I was a little flatfooted. Two guys hit me at the same time, one on
each shoulder. They knocked me backwards and buried me in the turf. I put my
feet on one guy's chest to roll him off me—he went about 240, a nice-sized
boy—and my legs were straight in the air, my neck down, when I was suddenly
engulfed by three more bodies. I didn't get the numbers of the vehicles, though
I know from the film that one was Dee Hardison, who'll go 270. There was at
least a thousand pounds on my neck. It was a petrifying hit.
"I lay face
down on the field for a while, out, before they helped me off. Elijah Pitts,
our special teams' coach, implied that it was a questionable hit, not that bad.
Then he came up to me after seeing the film and said he was awfully sorry, that
anybody who could take a lick like that and still play, well, my God."
career has been marked by heavy blows. The day he was traded to the Bills from
the Jets in 1977, he was in the Jets' parking lot in Hempstead, L.I., lamenting
the fact that his brand-new, white-on-white pinstripe Corvette had just been
stolen. Walt Michaels, the head coach, approached him. "Sorry about your
car, Lou," he said, "but I wanted to tell you that you've been traded
to Buffalo." Lou thinks it's funny, now. "I was ripped off and traded
off in one day," he says.
In the locker
room Little Lou is fair game for anyone. "When Lou checked into the NFL,
they only gave him half a computer card," says Guard Conrad Dobler. Hearing
that a reporter is writing an article about Lou, equipment man Chuck Ziober,
only 5'8" himself, says, "I bet it's going to be a short
when Piccone thinks he's getting respect, he discovers he isn't. On a golf
outing last summer he informed second-string Quarterback Dan Manucci that he,
Lou, had just been invited to join the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in