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Years after the tragedy, Dutch Meyer said to me, "FOOTBALL taught me a lesson in '35. I sent our lads out there like it was a crusade. They had tears in their eyes when they left the dressing room...and it give 'em butterfingers."
I asked my dad recently what he remembered best about the TCU-SMU game, other than Bobby Wilson catching that pass. He said, "That's the sickest I've ever been in my life, including illness."
You would think that in 1938 Davey O'Brien and his mates would have cured all the illness. I'm sure they cured some. But the Frogs were so good behind little Davey's passing and running and ball-handling magic, they throttled everyone with ease. They never had a real scare in their 10-game schedule and a Sugar Bowl victory over Carnegie Tech. There was no drama.
They received all of the most enviable No. 1's and O'Brien swept the Heisman, Maxwell and Camp awards as the Player of the Year. He weighed only 150 pounds and stood only 5'7", but he bounced off tacklers like a rubber ball, skittered between them and flipped 20-yard laterals like a fast-draw gunslinger. His long passes were beautiful spirals and they seemed to be guided by destiny into the arms of Don Looney, Earl Clark and Johnny Hall. In the meantime, Ki Aldrich and LB. Hale blocked everybody and tackled everybody.
The only suspense about 1938 was whether any of the Frogs or their rich and intimate fans would get drunk enough to fall off the stagecoaches they had hired to parade themselves around New York City when O'Brien went east to collect his awards.
Those of us who stayed home scampered to the picture show downtown to see a newsreel in which O'Brien, in a tuxedo, was given the Heisman and later in the mayor's office shook hands with Fiorello LaGuardia. We saw our immortals and their friends in their cowboy hats riding on the stagecoaches in the newsreel. I assumed from the small gathering of bewildered New Yorkers on the sidewalks that our grid heroes were receiving what the Star-Telegram called a "grand welcome by the Great White Way."
Nobody fell off the stagecoaches. Our nobility was confirmed.
So much for national championships.
Dutch Meyer never found another Sam Baugh or Davey O'Brien, and he almost didn't find the T formation until just before he retired. But Lord love him. In 1951, when everybody but Ethiopia and TCU had gone to the split T, Dutch swiped one last conference title with the old spread and triple wing. A marvelous tailback named Ray McKown would take a long snap and either throw the ball into the unknown or run about 25 yards and hope to get back to the line of scrimmage.
Even Dutch knew it was time for a change. Abe Martin took over in '53 and brought with him an explosive multiple offense and a shrewd facility for recruiting. TCU's modern look had no harm done to it by the presence of a Jim Swink here, a Jim Shofner there and a Bob Lilly over there. Abe gave TCU three conference winners and four bowl teams in his first seven years.