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Clearly—and Jaworski still has the films to prove it—the sidesaddle T was the creation of an aberrant mind. But it scored a lot of points. In his senior year, Jaworski was ranked fifth in the country among college-division passers, and Youngstown State put together a 4-4-1 record, its first non-losing season in six years. The Penguins' biggest win that year was a 22-21 squeaker over archrival Akron, a game highlighted by one of the most original trick plays in collegiate history. For 10 plays in a row a wingback went into motion, faked as if he had the ball, then continued out toward the sideline. On the 11th play Jaworski gave him the ball and yelled "Fumble!" No one on Youngstown State blocked; the players turned around and dived into a pile, scrambling furiously like hogs after slop. The Akron players did the same. Some of the Akron boys actually were signaling that they had recovered the ball, jumping up and down and pointing. By that time, of course, the wingback had walked around end and down the sideline 40 yards for a touchdown.
Clearly, it was no small step that Jaworski was taking when he joined the Rams as a second-round draft choice. He was relegated to the taxi squad his first year, but veteran Quarterback John Hadl took him under his wing and got him to move to Marina del Rey, a posh area of L.A. that Jaworski could ill afford. Soon he was saying crazy things like, "They have a place reserved for me in the Hall of Fame; all I need is playing time." Jaworski shudders at the memory.
"My father died suddenly in 1971, and I didn't have that much discipline at that time in my life," he says. "In L.A. I became too much of a free spirit. You know what life out there is like. I wasn't getting a chance to play, so the only way I could let people know I was alive was with my mouth. It wasn't me."
At the end of the 1975 season Jaworski finally got his chance when the sore shoulder of James Harris, then the L.A. quarterback, acted up with two games to go. Jaworski led the Rams to wins over Green Bay and defending NFL champion Pittsburgh, and in the first round of the playoffs quarterbacked L.A. to a 35-23 defeat of St. Louis. By that time Harris was ready again, and, in a move that still baffles Jaworski, the Rams chose Harris to start the championship game against Dallas. By the time Jaworski relieved the ineffectual Harris, Dallas was on its way to a 37-7 romp.
"I asked the coach, Chuck Knox, about the change," Jaworski says, "and he told me it was out of his hands. That's all he needed to say."
The Rams were then owned by the late Carroll Rosenbloom, and the implication was that the order to start Harris had come directly from him. Jaworski, the Polish Rifle, never felt he was Rosenbloom's type of guy. "He wanted a quarterback he could introduce to Jonathan Winters or Don Rickles, a guy who fit the Hollywood image," said one Ram player. Jaworski definitely didn't qualify. Here was this bubbly, grinning kid who finally was showing what he could do, throwing touchdown passes and then chasing his receivers into the end zone to congratulate them. Forty-seven-yard pass, 47-yard sprint by Jaworski and a big hug. It wasn't the L.A. way. The general manager, Don Klosterman, actually tried to get him to stop it.
"He kept telling me about poise under pressure," recalls Jaworski with a giant grin. "I just wasn't very cool. When I made a big play, I got excited about it. I know Unitas and Hadl didn't do that sort of thing, but it just wasn't in me to go, ho-hum, another big play. Maybe someday it will be, when I've won a lot of big games, but it wasn't then and it's still not."
Jaworski has an official Polish rifle mounted on a plaque in his home, which is a rifle with its barrel bent back so that it blows the head off anyone using it. Before the 1976 season he fired that rifle on his career with the Rams by saying he wouldn't sign a five-year, $705,000 contract until it was made clear whether or not he would start. The Rams had signed Rhodes Scholar Pat Haden, and Haden was more the Beverly Hills type. Rosenbloom stopped negotiations with Jaworski, and the Rams started Haden most of the season. Jaworski played in only five games and, at the end of the season, his negotiating rights were traded to the lowly Eagles. His record as a starter with Los Angeles had been 4-0.
The only time Jaworski had played in Philadelphia, in 1975, the Rams had crunched the Eagles 42-3. What he recalls of that game is that the visitors were pelted with golf balls, and the home team with dog bones. Giant dog bones. Still, he was ecstatic to be leaving L.A. Vermeil handed him the starting job, and Jaworski promptly began drawing sidelong glances from his new teammates by talking in not-too-distant terms about the playoffs, even the Super Bowl. "The one thing I had learned from the Rams was the value of a winning atmosphere," he says. "We'd always gone to the playoffs, and I just naturally figured everyone expected to make the playoffs. Some guys thought I was from another planet."
At times it looked as if he were throwing to guys from another planet. He had 21 interceptions in his first year as the Eagles finished 5-9. Over the summer Vermeil put together a horror film of all 21, plus a number of other passes that were close calls. Then the two sat down and watched it. Fifty times. "The majority of those interceptions were caused by me trying to win a game by myself," Jaworski says. "I wasn't mature enough to realize that if you challenge NFL secondaries on every play, you're going to get burned. Dick grabbed me by the seat of my pants and pulled me back down to earth. He became something like the father figure I needed."