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Lou Little stands six feet two inches, weighs 220 pounds and gives the impression of a man whose body has never been out of peak condition. Handball in the winter months helps take care of that. Fishing and golfing in the summer give him a tanned, healthy look that is the envy of his former players who now work in offices. He is an exponent of moderation in most things; he smokes only four or five cigarets a day, drinks very little and rarely stays up late. Where eating is concerned, he is only moderately moderate. He can down a steak that would normally serve four.
If Little has any personal vice, it is probably clothes. Friends estimate that he must own 50 suits. He expects his players to dress as neatly, if not as extravagantly as he does, and the penalty for appearing at training table without a shave has often been the forfeit of a complimentary ticket to a New York Football Giants game.
Perhaps the greatest compliment ever paid Little came in 1947 when Yale asked him to become its director of athletics and head football coach. Petrified at the thought of losing him, two prominent Columbia graduates?Major General William J. (Wild Bill) Donovan and New York District Attorney Frank S. Hogan?arranged a meeting between Lou and General Eisenhower, who had been announced as incoming president of the university.
Nothing could have been better calculated to change Little's mind. General Eisenhower shook his hand warmly and reminded him that they had once coached against each other in 1924 when Eisenhower's Fort Meade team played Georgetown. Little was amazed at Eisenhower's memory of the details of the game. Then, in a more serious vein, General Eisenhower told him that he had been one of the people with whom he had looked forward to working. "You aren't going to let me down, are you?" he asked. Little's ideas of leaving Columbia ended right there.
NO SILVER LINING
Since then, Columbia's best season was in 1951, when the Lions won five games and lost only three?not exactly the kind of record that sends football coaches into flights of ecstasy. This season has been his worst in a long while. Many of Little's admirers had hoped for something more fitting in the way of a tribute this year to commemorate his silver anniversary at Columbia.
But Lou Little's record will never be compiled in a record book, for he has been to the hundreds of boys who have played under him much more than coach. Any attempt to sum up his wins and losses will have to reckon with the effect he has had on the lives of those boys?now men?who knew him not only on the practice field and at the sidelines of a game but as a crusading taskmaster who called them into his office when their grades were slipping, who advised them on courses of study and who, in more than one case, literally preached them into a profession.
Of the 11 starters on the 1948 team, seven are now in the professions. Joe Karas, Gene Shekitka and John Nork are doctors. Rossides, the passing star of the 1947 Army upset, is a lawyer in New York. Henry Briggs, Clyde Hampton and John Olson are engineers. Of the remaining four, two?Bill Lockwood and Adam Rakowski?are businessmen. Only two are still in football. Charlie Klemovich is a prep school coach and Lou Kusserow plays professionally with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Canadian League. Columbia authorities hold that there is nothing unusual about the '48 team. It is representative of most. In a normal year an average of two players go into medicine, two into education and one each into engineering and law.
And this is Little's real record, the men who have gone on from Columbia College into graduate or professional schools and from there into worthwhile careers. Scattered throughout the country though they are, Little has never lost touch with the men who won their letters on his teams. Four times a year, he sits down and writes a letter to them all, sending news from Columbia, bringing them up to date with news of each other. Once a year, he sends each the addresses of all the others, urging them to keep in touch.
When the final score of Little's wins and losses at Columbia is added up, it will have to include a lot more than football games. And if his players of the past?his greatest rooting section?have anything to say about it, it will.