SI Vault
Bob Boltz
November 16, 1981
Watching the now legendary last-second, court-length drive by Brigham Young's Danny Ainge against Notre Dame in the semifinals of the 1981 NCAA Eastern Regionals evoked memories for me of a similar feat, though in football, not basketball. The time: 1977. The place: Westerville, Ohio. The occasion: Otterbein College's season-ending game against Marietta College. The unlikely hero: a puckish, bespectacled defensive tackle named Joe Bringardner.
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November 16, 1981

Bringo So Loved Football He Kept On Trying When Time Had Run Out

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The true beauty of Bringo's heroic touchdown-saving pursuit wouldn't be appreciated until game films were developed and inspected the next day, because who could have anticipated such a thing? In this respect, Bringo's play was very different from Ainge's. While virtually everyone in the Omni in Atlanta—and in America, for that matter—knew that Ainge had the ability to perform the miracle Brigham Young needed, absolutely no one expected Bringo, of all people, to preserve the shutout for his teammates.

Expectations aside, what the films revealed was a truly remarkable and inspiring effort. At the snap of the ball, Bringo, who had lined up at left defensive tackle, charged across the line of scrimmage to a point about two yards into the Marietta backfield. As Boy ripped through the pack on the other side of the center, Bringo crashed to the ground, cut down by a lunging Marietta lineman. The clock by now read 00:00; time had run out on Bringo's career. So, why didn't he simply lie there? What motivated him to fight to his feet and begin sprinting down the field in what would surely be a hopeless chase?

Whatever moved Bringo—love, instinct, reflex or fate—he reappeared on the screen when Boy was at the Otterbein 30. While several other Otter defenders were abruptly cut down by Pioneer blocks, Bringo's progression toward the northeast corner of the field was straight and uninterrupted. While others slowed, in fatigue or resignation, he sped past them, arms pumping furiously, barreling after the fleeing ballcarrier. At the seven he had Boy in his clutches; at the four he brought Boy to the ground, 54 yards from the line of scrimmage. Bringo had concluded his career where he most wanted and most deserved to be—on the field, at the center of the action.

I saw Bringo last summer for the first time in more than six months. Initially, he seemed every bit as comic and mischievous as he had been in college. But, as we worked our way through a pitcher of beer, I began to detect from time to time an incongruous look of dignity creeping out from behind his old Cheshire-cat grin. I later decided that the barley, hops and bad lighting had played their own jokes on my senses. After all, this was Bringo, the guy who had stacked 500 pounds of rocks against the door to my room in Davis Hall. Nevertheless, as our conversation shifted from reminiscence to the realities of the present, I asked Bringo to account for the amazing success his teams at West Jefferson, have enjoyed. His answer was immediate and direct: "My kids just love to play football more than other kids." And that, you can be sure, is no joke.

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