"We go to San
Diego," says Lou.
The Bills will
win in San Diego, beating the Chargers for the first time since 1965, but right
now Lou is still feeling good about the big plays he made against Oakland the
previous Sunday. There was a tackle at the 18-yard line on a kickoff coverage,
a critical third-down pass reception for a first down, and a recovery of a
fumbled punt. All those plays had started Rich Stadium rocking with "Lou!
Lou! Lou!" and had obviously fired up the rest of the Bills.
"Lou can do
that," says Quarterback Joe Ferguson. "He's a clutch player. I'd hate
for him to hear this [Ferguson peers furtively around the locker room], but we
have some third-down plays designed just for him."
Even the really
big Bills look up to Lou. "We do respect him," says Fred Smerlas,
Buffalo's 6'3", 270-pound nose tackle. "He still plays special teams
better than anyone in the NFL, even when they double-team him. I wrestle him
all the time in the locker room, and he's tough to get down."
Piccone is tough.
He's always said that nobody can intimidate him, and the day they can,
"Jeez, I'd better get out of this league." In one game with the Jets,
Lou refused to fair-catch a punt and was mowed under, taking an opponent's
helmet directly in the face, a blow that shattered his nose. On the next
kickoff Lou ran all the way across the field and "ear-holed" his
tackier. "I just wanted him to know I was still in the game. I still want
people to know that."
but he's not little," says Pitts. "He's strong enough to be out
there." Indeed, Piccone has a 17½-inch neck, a 45-inch chest and can press
275 pounds over his head, factors that help him survive each Sunday. He has
worked hard at weight-training and at the skills of his trade. He wears contact
lenses, which have improved his vision, and through years of practice has
developed, according to Coach Chuck Knox, "good hands, good body control
and sharp cuts."
Knox, who came to
the Bills in 1978, has grown to admire the feisty Piccone, and even appreciates
Lou's constant quest for love and money. "Lou will go across the middle,
into the brier patch where it's thick, and come up with the ball," Knox
says. "That inspires a team. It's his self-esteem, really, his concept of
self-worth, that enables Lou to do so well. And we certainly don't want to
destroy that confidence; we want to build on it."
It is nearly
midnight now but Lou has driven out to Rich Stadium with a visitor to locate
the spool of film that contains the mighty hit he received in the New Orleans
game. He finds it and in a coach's empty office sets up a projector and runs
the film forward to the play. There it is now in silent black and white, the
only sounds being the whirring of the projector and the visitor's restrained
gasps. In slow motion Lou is flattened by two opponents, rolled onto his neck,
obliterated by a mass of bodies, folded in half, crushed—indeed, rejected.
One suspects that
a normal person would have been killed by the series of blows. In fact, Lou
appears to be dead as the camera pans away with him still motionless, face down
on the turf. But then, in the next kickoff frame, Lou is back at R-4, flying
down the field in his usual manner, looking for a wedge to sift.
me," says Lou, flipping on the light. "Rocky was fiction. But I'm the
real thing. In abbreviated form, of course." Of course.